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23051  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon: White House insists on losing the war on: August 19, 2010, 07:30:02 PM
Michael Yon White House Insists on Losing WarAFP: White House says Afghan deadline 'non-negotiable'
www.google.com
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin — The White House said Monday that July 2011 was a "non-negotiable" deadline for starting a US withdrawal from Afghanistan, while insisting that President Barack Obama and his top general in Kabul were on the same page.
23052  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Registered Fighters for the Sept 2010 Gathering on: August 19, 2010, 02:50:32 PM
Chimmed Kunzang is on the official list.

At the moment it shows 14 fighters.
23053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sounds good to me , , , on: August 19, 2010, 12:34:31 PM
My savy friend Rick N. writes:

"I think that Nicholas Taleb had the best idea for working out the housing debacle.  The creditor banks must exchange the now unsecured part of their debt for equity in the devalued real estate.  Re-write the loan balances and payments based upon the current market values and let the owners and the banks share in any future gains in proportion to the amount of the write-down versus the original mortgage balance.  Don’t subsidize the banks with federal aid for the write-down but don’t require them to post more capital on their books.  Reduce the individuals’ cost bases to the new amount and let capital gains be calculated from the lower amount.  This should help reduce the demand for money and permit excess liquidity to be withdrawn over time."

Some other savy responses:
Rick,

The banks cannot write down the balances of the loans to current market values.  To do so would be to immediately cause reserve issues, and the FDIC would have to walk in and close the banks.  That would happen to every bank in the country.  You cannot just say that the banks don't have to worry about the lack of capital reserves in this case.  Heck, they are all insolvent anyway.

Then, the government would have to "bail-out" the banks with trillions of dollars of taxpayer money.  You know what that means.

What about all the homeowners who are not underwater with their properties?  Even in California, only 1 in 4 are underwater.  So, the other homeowners get screwed.

Then, what about the privately securitized loans?  That amounts to at least 40% of the loans.  Would they be required to do the same?  Write down to fair market value?  Then each investor would lose their money.  The remaining Trusts would become insolvent.

What about the Contracts Clause in the US Constitution?  A forced write-down by the government would be unconstitutional. 

One can simply say that this and that should be done, but the realities are much different.

The only way that the Housing Crisis will  end is for the government to get out of the way and let the foreclosures continue.  Let the private sector approach the banks, using people who understand how to save banks with new capitalization and then selling off the bad loans for 25-30 cents on the dollar.

Get it over fast, instead of this drip, drip, drip.
==========================


Remember the Chrysler Bond Holders got ¼ of what the unsecured debtor the UWA. Contracts schmontracts, this bunch of redistributionist doesn’t give a rat’s ass for contract law.

 

What about the Contracts Clause in the US Constitution?  A forced write-down by the government would be unconstitutional.

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

Then, the government would have to "bail-out" the banks with trillions of dollars of taxpayer money."


That may be what our idiots in Washington would do, but it's not what they "have" to do and not what they should do. According to Hussman's arithmetic, in most cases corporate bond holders wouldn't even be totally wiped out in a normal restructuring -- and depositors would lose nothing. This bailing out of bankers has been done not for the sake of "us," but for the sake of the bailed out bankers.


Pat, you are so right when you say this problem has to be resolved by the private sector. All of this interest rate manipulation, government purchases of Fannie and Fredie, leveraged bank purchases of Treasuries, federal guarantees of this and that ... it's all distorting pricing throughout the economy and wrecking havoc with the distribution of capital and the entire productive system. Nothing is going to work quite right until our government disengages itself in a significant way. If, instead, the government continues to double up on its bet we can start to worry about a serious calamity.


Rick, I don't much like Taleb's suggestions as you are presenting them simply because it is yet another "central planning" solution. If the banks can and want to renegotiate mortgages, they are free to do that in the context of free exchange -- we don't need some kind of national policy decision on that point. This whole debacle has been caused, from top to bottom, by bad ideas implemented by government.


To use Bass's tired cliche, everything the government and the Fed have done so far has only "kicked the problem down the road." Nothing is getting straightened out, in fact many problems are being exacerbated. Sure, some prices have adjusted in apparently the right direction (house prices have fallen, for example) but these new prices are determined by the myriad of distortional policies in place, not by free people entering into voluntary exchanges on unfettered markets.


Tom
===============

Neither Taleb nor I advocate a governmentally forced work-out.  It should be voluntary and done under the provisions of each contract that permit amendments with the written mutual consent of the parties.  Work-outs like this are done all of the time when debt is swapped for equity.  That does not violate the Constitution’s contract clause.  In fact, to the extent that government subsidies create a different incentive, one could argue that the subsidies themselves and the GSE’s themselves effectively violate the contracts clause.

 

The reserve issue is governmental regulation.  The equity in the secured assets provides an offset to the lost value of the loan.  And, what is the alternative?  Kicking the can further down the road?

Rick

PS: I’m curious about why every responder so far has assumed that Taleb’s proposed solution was “governmental” or “central planning.”  The only governmental involvement would be waivers by the banking regulators of any reserve capital requirements.  Everything else in the proposal is an appeal for a mutually agreed upon debt-for-equity swap between debtor and creditor as the best way for both parties to deleverage
===========

23054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat 8/16 on: August 19, 2010, 10:25:48 AM
Mexico Security Memo: Aug. 16, 2010
August 16, 2010 | 2123 GMT
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Televisa Grenade Attacks
Members of Los Zetas attacked the local television affiliates of the Televisa media company in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, and Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, late Aug. 14 and early Aug. 15. The attackers used hand grenades in the Monterrey attack and 40 mm grenade launchers in Matamoros. The attacks reportedly caused minor damage to both buildings and injuries in Monterrey, where paramedics examined two people who received superficial wounds inside the Televisa station.

The Televisa Matamoros station, located on the corner of Manuel Cavazos Lerma Boulevard and Calle Fresno in the Paseo Residencial colony, was attacked first, at around 9 p.m. local time Aug. 14. An unknown number of armed men reportedly fired upon the building with a grenade launcher from a nearby pedestrian bridge. A grenade detonated near the second story of the building, causing minor damage to building’s facade. The Televisa Monterrey building, located on Calle Albino Esparza, was attacked at approximately 1:15 a.m. local time Aug. 15. A member of Los Zetas traveling in a pickup truck reportedly threw a fragmentation hand grenade as the truck passed near the building’s entrance. The grenade detonated under a Toyota Tacoma that was parked along the street, causing significant damage to the Tacoma and minor structural damage to the front of the Televisa building. The windows were blown out of a photography studio across the street from the Televisa Monterrey building.

This is the third known attack on the Televisa Monterrey building that Los Zetas have conducted in the past two years. The same facilities were attacked with gunfire and a fragmentation grenade the night of Oct. 12, 2008 — the same night of an attack on the U.S. Consulate. Then on Jan. 6, 2009, the same tactics were employed in another attack on the Televisa building, though a narcomanta was left at the scene saying in Spanish, “Stop reporting on us. Also report on narco officials. This is a warning.”

The morning of Aug. 14, members of the Mexican military reportedly shot and killed the leader of Los Zetas in Monterrey, known only as “El Sonrics,” and three other members of Los Zetas in a car chase and firefight in southern Monterrey, though there has been no official confirmation of the incident. (El Sonrics is thought to have taken over as leader of Los Zetas in Monterrey after Hector “El Tori” Luna Luna and his brother, Esteban “El Chachis” Luna Luna, were captured by Mexican military forces in June and July, respectively.) As the firefight reportedly began, up to 13 major intersections in the Monterrey metropolitan area reportedly were blocked off by members of Los Zetas, who had hijacked vehicles and positioned them in the middle of the intersections. This is a common tactic that Los Zetas use when a high-value member of the organization is under pressure or has been captured by Mexican security officials. It is currently unclear if El Sonrics’ reported death is directly related to the attacks on the Televisa Monterrey and Matamoros locations, but Televisa’s coverage of the firefight earlier in the day could have provoked a retaliatory attack from Los Zetas.

Televisa is the largest media conglomerate in Latin America outside of Brazil. It has perhaps the largest viewing audience throughout Mexico and therefore shapes the perception of millions of Mexican citizens. This degree of influence makes Televisa an obvious target as criminal groups seek to manipulate the coverage of organized crime-related incidents. Televisa has been the focus of several organized crime-related attacks; most recently, a Televisa news crew was kidnapped in Durango state July 26 by members of the Sinaloa cartel under orders from its leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, to force the crew to broadcast prepared messages, photographs and videos from the Sinaloa cartel. The crew was rescued by a Federal Police operation July 31. The July 26 kidnapping and these recent attacks in Monterrey and Matamoros underscore a recognition by the cartels of the amount of influence Televisa coverage on their activities has and their willingness to attempt to influence and coerce certain aspects of that coverage.

Federal Police Hunt ‘La Barbie’
Nearly 300 Mexican Federal Police agents, with support from a helicopter, launched a series of raids on luxury apartment buildings in the Bosque de Las Lomas colony of western Mexico City in search of former Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) enforcer Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal the afternoon of Aug. 9. Valdez, a U.S. citizen, has been locked in a heated battle with former BLO lieutenant and current Cartel Pacifico Sur leader Hector “El H” Beltran Leyva over territory that was under BLO control before the death of BLO leader Arturo Beltran Leyva in December 2009 — primarily in Morelos, Mexico and Guerrero states.

The operation targeting Valdez is similar to other large operations that netted other high-value cartel targets like Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Simental. The Aug. 9 operation indicates that Mexican intelligence and security forces are closing in on Valdez, and the most wanted U.S. citizen in Mexico could be captured in the very near future. An operation like this likely would not have been organized without ample, time-sensitive, actionable intelligence on Valdez’s exact location. Cartel figures’ organizational rivals often provide such information to authorities, and Valdez has plenty of rivals.





(click here to view interactive map)
Aug. 9

Unidentified gunmen ambushed a prison transport vehicle in Tlaltizapan, Morelos state, killing a prisoner. A guard was killed and another was injured during the attack.
Two dismembered bodies were discovered in trash bags in Amecameca, Mexico state. The victims’ eyes had been taped shut and a message signed with the initials “FM” was discovered near the bodies.
Aug. 10

Police freed a kidnapping victim and arrested two suspected kidnappers from a residence in the Sagitario II neighborhood of Ecatepec, Mexico state.
Police discovered two severed legs believed to belong to a woman’s body floating near a dike in Toluca, Mexico state.
Colima state Gov. Mario Anguiano Moreno said that the deaths of three policemen in Manzanillo, Colima state, could be due to a local power struggle between La Familia Michoacana and the Nuevo Milenio cartel. Anguiano Moreno cited the testimony of suspects in custody to back his claims.
Aug. 11

Soldiers freed four kidnapping victims held in a residence in southern Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.
Five people were killed on a ranch in Villa Ahumada, Chihuahua state. The victims had all been shot to death, and shell casings of various calibers were found near the bodies.
Unidentified gunmen killed the nephew of former National Action Party leader Manuel Espino in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. The victim, identified as Hugo Francisco Zamora Ochoa, was killed in a parking lot as he entered his vehicle.
Aug. 12

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a man and a woman from their residence in the Barrio del Parque neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The attackers reportedly shot at the house for approximately 30 minutes before leaving with the two victims.
Aug. 13

Police arrested five suspects allegedly linked to the kidnappings of three journalists in Durango state. The suspects, who are allegedly members of the Sinaloa cartel, were arrested in Ciudad Lerdo, Durango state.
Hector Alvarez Sandoval, the lead homicide investigator of the municipal police in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes state, was assassinated as he sat inside his vehicle outside his home.
Aug. 14

Around 300 Federal Police support agents arrived in Gomez Palacio and Ciudad Lerdo, Durango state, bringing the total number of Federal Police in the Comarca Lagunera region to nearly 500.
Federal Police detained four members of the Los Fabila kidnapping group in simultaneous operations in Guanajuato state.
A brief firefight erupted in north Morelia, Michoacan state, resulting in the death of one man. Reports indicate that the victim was able to wound two of his attackers.
Aug. 15

A group of Los Zetas hit men reportedly killed seven people in the Los Altos region of Jalisco state before returning to Zacatecas state.
U.S. Custom and Border Protection officials seized a total of 136 kilograms (nearly 300 pounds) of cocaine from a Dodge Nitro attempting to cross the Reynosa-Hidalgo International Bridge along the Tamaulipas state-Texas border.
The bodies of six men were found in the back of a pickup truck in the small village of Tierra Alta near the Oaxaca-Veracruz state line. Two of the victims had single gunshot wounds to the back of the head, and the other four were reported to have had several gunshot wounds across their bodies.
23055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / M1 Garand importation blocked on: August 19, 2010, 09:47:50 AM
Obama bans over 100,000 rifles
David Kopel • August 18, 2010 12:09 am

According to The Korea Times, the Obama administration has blocked efforts by the South Korean government to sell over a hundred thousand surplus M1 Garand and Carbine rifles into the United States market. These self-loading were rifles introduced in 1926 and 1941. As rifles, they are especially well-suited to community defense in an emergency, as in the cases of community defense following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Along with AR-15 type rifles, the M1 rifles are the quintessential firearms of responsible citizenship, precisely the type of firearms which civic responsibility organizations such as the Appleseed Project teach people how to use.

According to a South Korean official, “The U.S. insisted that imports of the aging rifles could cause problems such as firearm accidents. It was also worried the weapons could be smuggled to terrorists, gangs or other people with bad intentions.”

Regarding the second objection, any firearm lawfully imported into the United States would eventually be sold by a Federal Firearm Licensee who, pursuant to the background check system imposed by Congress (and endorsed by the NRA) would have to contact federal or state law enforcement to verify that the gun buyer is not prohibited from possessing firearms. Accordingly, the risk that the South Korean surplus guns might fall into the hands of gangsters or other bad people is exactly the same as with the sale of any other retail firearm in the United States. Notably, neither the M1 Garand nor the M1 carbine are concealable, and the M1 Garand is long, heavy, and bulky. Accordingly, the criminal utility of such guns is relatively low.

The second Obama administration objection is accidents. But in fact, increasing gun density in the United States has been associated with steeply declining rates of gun accidents. In 1948 there were .36 guns per person. (That is, about one gun for every three Americans.) By 2004, there was nearly one gun for every American. In 1948, there were 1.6 fatal gun accidents per 100,000 persons. By 2004, the rate had fallen by 86%, so that there were .22 fatal accidents per 100,000 persons. (For underlying data, see Appendix B of my amicus brief in Heller.)

Legally, it is indisputable that the guns are importable. Being over 50 years old, the rifles are automatically “Curios and Relics” according to federal law. 27 CFR section 478.11. Accordingly, they are by statutory definition importable. 18 USC section 925 (e)(1). Notwithstanding the law, the Obama administration has the ability to pressure the South Korean government to block the sale of the guns.

President Obama was elected on the promise that he supported individual Second Amendment rights. His administration’s thwarting of the import of these American-made rifles is not consistent with that promise.

http://volokh.com/2010/08/18/obama-b...-100000-rifles
23056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: August 19, 2010, 09:37:41 AM
By Tzvi Freeman
Depression, anxiety and pessimism damage the channels of blessing from Above.

The Zohar explains that there is a lower world -- our world -- and there is a higher world. Our world is meant to continuously receive from that higher world, but always according to our personal state of mind.

If we are glowing with joy and vitality, then that world shines upon us in its full glory.

But if it we wallow in depression and anxiety, then we can only receive the metered trickle that squeezes through a constricted channel.

That is why King David said, “Serve G-d with joy!” Because your joy here draws upon you another joy from above.
23057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Social insecurity: on: August 19, 2010, 09:31:40 AM


Social Insecurity
by Paul Cwik on August 13, 2010

Oh joy, oh joy! It has finally arrived! You wouldn't believe how excited I was to receive a letter from the Social Security Administration. In the letter, they dutifully showed me how much taxable income I have ever made. (Is it me, or is there something really creepy about that?) They showed me how much I have paid in taxes and how much my employer also "paid." Then they showed me how much my payment would be if I retire at full retirement (67 years old — not 62 or 65 like you may have heard) and if I delay "collecting" until I turn 70.

It is no secret that I turn 40 this year. That means I have another 30 years of work in front of me. I have (for fun) just taken an online life-expectancy survey, and it says that I will live until the age of 86. So let's assume that these numbers are correct. I will work for another 30 years and then have 16 years to spend it all.

According to the Social Security Administration, I will receive $2,522 a month during those 16 years. The value of that money when I turn 70 is a present-annuity-value calculation. For the purpose of this example, let's pick an easy interest rate of 5% per year. So the value of the Social Security payments (compounded monthly) for 16 years at annual rate of 5% is $335,444.57. In other words, for me to privately do the same as Social Security, I will need to have $335,444.57 in cash when I turn 70 and deposit it in a security that has a 5% annual return.

To take this example a step further, how much money would I have to set aside each year at an annual compounded rate of 5% to hit this target? Using some "quick math," we see that I would have to set $5,048.91 aside each year. Well, this does not seem too unreasonable. One might think that this is equivalent to putting away the maximum of $5,000/year in an IRA, and one would not be wrong for thinking that way.

Unfortunately, there is a larger point that has been missed. I have already been taxed for all of the previous years that I have worked. The Social Security Administration informs me that I have currently sunk a little more than $80,000 into this governmental pyramid scheme. Setting aside any interest I could have received over the past 21+ years, let's assume that they give me a lump sum payment today of $80,000.

Suppose that I take that $80,000 and put it into a security that gives me an annual return of 5% and I do not add another single cent. How much would I have when I turn 70? $345,752.00! I have already exceeded the target needed for the Social Security Administration to fulfill its "promise" to me.

Alas, I do not think that it will do me any good to write a letter to the Social Security Administration explaining that I have reached my target and that they no longer need to tax me. In fact, the letter states, quite explicitly, that I must maintain my current earning rate to collect the stated numbers. So at this point any additional taxes that come from me are just wealth extractions with no benefit to me.

You may think that this is a bad deal for me, and it is, but it is going to be much worse for those who are younger than I. At least I am still making a positive rate of return, somewhere between 2% and 2.5%.

A person born in 1988 making $30,000/year can expect to receive $1,539/month in the year 2058. The Social Security Administration says that he is expected to live until the ripe old age of 87. So that's another 17 years after retiring at the age of 70. The annuity present value of $1,539/month for 17 years at an annual rate of 5% is $212,938.88. In order to hit that target, he would have to set aside $1,132.50/year in a 5% security. This amount is only 3.775% of his $30,000 annual income.

Social Security and Medicare taxes are 15.3% of his income. If he invested that 15.3% of his income instead, he would be investing $4,590. Supposing that this annual contribution was invested each year for the next 48 years and the principal was collecting 5% interest, instead of the Social Security value of $212,938.88, he would have $863,036.55! That's a little more than four times the return that Social Security is "promising."

Or, to drive the nail home, he is paying $4,590 a year and is getting a future value of only $212,938.88. If he simply took that money and buried it in the dirt, he would have, after 48 years, $220,320! The bottom line is that, for today's 21-year-old, Social Security is a negative return.

Paul Cwik is associate professor of economics at Mount Olive College. See Paul Cwik's article archives.
23058  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Gurkhas and their Kukris on: August 19, 2010, 08:50:16 AM
Mick:

I like the bend him over with the kick and then split his skull part of the combo, but, NOT that this is an area of any substantial knowledge on my part, but these are the first kukri moves I have seen that stop at centerline.  Given the mass of the tool it makes sense to me that most moves carry through.
23059  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: August 19, 2010, 08:18:26 AM
I need to get the invitation out! 

I am just back from the Euro Gathering.  It will take me a day or three to do so.
23060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 19, 2010, 08:13:15 AM
Looks like "Our man in Iraq" will be going back , , ,.  Our prayers for his safety and the success of his good work, and our gratitude for the reports he will be sending back.

PS:  He sent this to me while I was out of town. 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/08/AR2010080801923.html
23061  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pres. Clinton from the memory hole on: August 19, 2010, 08:11:55 AM
Nice find on that clip of President Clinton.
23062  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pelosi, in line behind Biden on: August 19, 2010, 08:05:56 AM
Is this country becoming a banana republic right before our eyes or what?

http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/...wtc-mosque-op/

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, called for an investigation of those who are protesting the building of the Ground Zero Mosque on Tuesday. She told San Francisco's KCBS radio:
AUDIO
"There is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some. And I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded," she said. "How is this being ginned up that here we are talking about Treasure Island, something we've been working on for decades, something of great interest to our community as we go forward to an election about the future of our country and two of the first three questions are about a zoning issue in New York City." (h/t Kristinn)

Calls to investigate the funding for those proposing the $100 million "Cordoba House" have fallen on deaf ears, though, as New York's Mayor Mike Bloomberg has described such an investigation as "un-American."

Ms. Pelosi called the Ground Zero mosque an "urban development decision" for New Yorkers to work through. Her remarks happened on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, parting ways with President Barack Obama on the issue. Mr. Reid suggested the mosque should be built somewhere else.
23063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In our near future on: August 19, 2010, 07:35:03 AM
Undocumented Imam's Refusal to Perform Interracial Gay Handicapped Wedding Leads to Charges of Racism

NEW YORK - Charges of racism, sexism, and religious discrimination filled the air this afternoon outside the just-completed Cordoba House, the gleaming new $100 million 15 story mosque and Islamic cultural center near the ruins of New York's World Trade Center, following a tense 5-hour standoff prompted by the mosque's refusal to host a wedding between a lesbian African-American woman and her blind white transgendered partner.

Over 200 NYPD officers and multicultural crisis counselors were bused to the site to quell the simmering 17-way tensions between Muslim, Black, LGBT, immigrant, disabled, and lawsuit community activists. The scene was punctuated by outbursts of pushing and shoving, including a brief confused intramural scuffle among members of Reverend Louis Farrakan's Nation of Islam, but the only serious injuries reported was a hernia suffered by a legal aide distributing plaintiff's briefs. The incident resulted in one arrest, a 7-year old girl who was seen operating a lemonade stand without a permit.

According to witnesses, the standoff began at 11 AM EDT when Eleanor Davis, 38, and her partner Mary Markowicz, 43, entered Cordoba House and requested the use of the mosque for a wedding ceremony. They were escorted from the building, but quickly returned with a 9th District Court of Appeals injunction ordering the mosque's Imam to perform the ceremony, citing the US Supreme Court's Kelo and Proposition 8 decisions. They were barred at the door by security guards who countered with their own injunction citing First Amendment religious protections.

Following the incident, Davis, who is African-American, called a press conference on the sidewalk in front of the Cordoba House to complain of racial and gender discrimination. She was eventually shoved from the podium by Abdul Mohammed-Haq, the Mosque's controversial Yemeni Imam who is currently battling a federal deportation case against the ICE, who countered with complaints of profiling discrimination by Davis and Markowicz. Within minutes the streets in front of the center were filled with chanting protesters from the Gay, Muslim, Black and handicapped communities. A disaster was narrowly averted when the Reverend Al Sharpton's limousine rammed a parked EMS ambulance before it could careen through the crowd.

Amid the growing crisis, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a SWAT team of negotiators from the city's Multicultural Affairs Office parachuted to the scene. A brief truce was reached when negotiators pointed out to the Imam Markowicz's status as a pre-op transexual, obviating his religious objections to performing a same-sex marriage. But tensions erupted again after Markowicz - who is legally blind - tried to enter the mosque with a seeing-eye guide dog.
Multicultural Paratroopers eventually persuaded Markowicz to leave his/her dog outside the mosque during the ceremony. Cordoba House officials reluctantly agreed to allow the couple inside for continued negotiations, but a brief melee ensued after Markowicz lit a marijuana cigarette in the lobby. Mohammed-Haq angrily demanded that police arrest him/her for violating New York's anti-smoking ordinance, but Markowicz quickly produced a prescription for medical marijuana for his/her glaucoma condition. In turn, he/she demanded police arrest Mohammed-Haq for violating the National Health Care Access Act, and for failure to post braille No Smoking signs. The angry Imam was restrained by police before he could unsheathe his scimitar, and lodged a complaint against Davis and Markowicz for violating New York's official Immigration Sanctuary Act.
As the center lobby filled with police, community leaders and lawyers, filing charges and counter-charges, a near-riot erupted outside when wedding reception catering trucks began arriving from Porky's 34th Street Barbecue and Midtown Liquors.

By late afternoon, federal, state, city, and borough courts reported over 1400 lawsuits filed related to the incident. Mayoral Spokesperson Karen Sternthal said that Bloomberg would be seeking emergency federal funding for an Appelate Judge troop surge to cope with the load, but expressed hopes that a "peaceful, mutually agreeable, transfat-free resolution" could be worked out between all parties.

"The good news is that this will be all worked out right here in New York," noted Sternthal. "And there's no other place this open minded."

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk...eapalooza.html
23064  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 19, 2010, 07:16:05 AM
Grateful for a wonderful trip:  my son travelling with me to spend some time with his grandmother and on to Switzerland, for the people I trained, the two days of the Gathering, my seminar, and to be home united with my family.
23065  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: August 19, 2010, 07:14:03 AM
HOME!!!
23066  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Euro Gathering 8/13-14, 2010 on: August 19, 2010, 07:13:17 AM
IIRC there were 40 fighters on Friday and 45 on Saturday.
23067  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Registered Fighters for the Sept 2010 Gathering on: August 19, 2010, 07:10:59 AM
Just back from the Euro Gathering and am beginning to catch up.

Yutthana "Toki" Tokijkla
Gordon Walker
23068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: August 14, 2010, 08:46:31 PM
May I ask you to please post the JB pension piece in the California thread?
23069  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Euro Gathering 8/13-14, 2010 on: August 14, 2010, 08:30:32 PM
Another stellar day today.

There were 40 fighters yesterday and about 45 today. 

Much to report, but I am on a crummy laptop and it is 03:30 here anyway and I have a seminar to teach at 11:00.

HCTCH!

TAC! 
23070  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 14, 2010, 08:26:40 PM
Grateful for some wonderful time with my son.
23071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: August 14, 2010, 01:38:56 AM
May I suggest that this piece better belongs in the Housing thread?
23072  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: August 14, 2010, 01:31:55 AM
Thank you very much for taking the time to put that post together.

I note that one of the legs of Stratfor's analysis of the US's geopolitical position in the world includes the ability to project serious force anywhere in the world with impunity via our aircraft carrier groups.

23073  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Euro Gathering 8/13-14, 2010 on: August 14, 2010, 01:16:46 AM
The Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering yesterday was simply outstanding!

Today the Open Gathering.

TAC!
23074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: August 13, 2010, 01:39:48 AM
I would restate that as "That is the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment".
23075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: August 13, 2010, 01:30:59 AM
So, BBG, what do you make of this piece?
23076  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: August 13, 2010, 01:23:26 AM
The site wanted to run something on my computer but I wouldn't let it do so. Coincidentally, the page is coming up blank for me.  May I ask for a summary of the material at p. 12 et seq?
23077  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Euro Gathering 8/13-14, 2010 on: August 13, 2010, 12:38:10 AM
The DBMA Camp has been underway for a few days now.  Guro Lonely is in fine form and I am impressed by the general skill level I am seeing on the part of Camp participants.  The Camp is being held at a beautiful campsite on the banks of a river.  Additional fighers are arriving each day.  The energy is building , , ,

The Adventure contintues!  Higher consciousness through harder contact!
23078  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Registered Fighters for the Sept 2010 Gathering on: August 13, 2010, 12:33:53 AM
The form from Jesus of AZ arrived today.
23079  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: August 12, 2010, 05:41:05 PM
Although it is really horrible, I finally have internet connection.  Hope to post a bit tomorrow.
23080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: August 12, 2010, 05:37:25 PM
Finally have internet connection and hope to be able to post a bit tomorrow.

The connection and the keyboard are really lousy so my posts will be very brief.
23081  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Old, Old School Martial Arts / H2H Articles on: August 08, 2010, 10:25:52 PM
Mick:

Very good idea for a thread.  I am on the road at the moment, but I look forward to giving these a proper read when I get back.
23082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: August 08, 2010, 10:20:39 PM
To me Boener epitomizes the sort of Rep that has led the Reps into the cul de sac in which they find themselves.

OTOH Ryan seems quite promising.
23083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, corruption etc. on: August 08, 2010, 10:08:54 AM
I am on my mom's apple computer and don't know how to do cut and paste on it, but in today's WSJ's Political Diary it says it looks like absentee ballots were used in the city of Bell CA's very lightly voted election to push through the changes necessary for the mayor to make $800k and the police chief to make nearly $500k.
23084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: August 07, 2010, 07:06:47 PM
Unlikely to have gone through the Suez Canal; so from NK, around the Horn of Africa, through Gibralter, and east to Lebanon?  That's a very long trip , , ,
23085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: August 06, 2010, 11:59:39 AM
Freki:

Outstanding recall on your part!  The article you post has many details that I did not know.

Please refresh my memory if you can:  wasn't this the same cluster that had Bernie Schwartz of Loral Satellites donating $345,000 to President Clinton (perhaps a personal meeting was involved?)
23086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: August 06, 2010, 11:55:34 AM
Interesting question.  I am not aware of Iran having any , , ,
23087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: August 06, 2010, 11:50:03 AM
Very interesting article, but may I suggest double checking anything from that site?  IMHO it has a poor track record for accuracy.
23088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: August 06, 2010, 11:40:04 AM
Interesting.

Trivia:  George Gilder called this over ten years ago back when he was evangelizing for Qualcom's technology.
23089  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: August 06, 2010, 11:14:46 AM
A bit of thread drift here cheesy  Perhaps this would be better on the Citizen-LEO thread on the Martial Arts forum?
23090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: August 06, 2010, 06:55:42 AM
An Israeli friend with an interesting background has posted the following on another forum:
=============================
I have had a long briefing from a contact at home. Look for a major war breaking out at the end of the month.

Evidence is building that shows things are marching toward a major war.

1. Hizbullah has dug tunnels into northern Israel.

2. Hizbullah has 60,000 rockets many with chemical war heads.

3. USA aircraft carrier was supposed to head back to USA and is waiting at Malta

4. Israeli satellite captured photos of submarine off loading weapons to Hizbullah in Northern Lebanon intelligence later showed weapons were special chemical weapons engineered to
eat through protective equipment. This agent may now be loaded on Hizbullah rockets.

5. Israel Air Force training in long range missions, jets, helicopters which would suggest commando raids a long way from home.

6. IDF reserves called up and trained at an abnormal pace.

7. Israel delivers letter to UN, Lebanon and USA showing where Hizbullah has hidden rocket in civilian areas. Israel tell Hizbullah to move the weapons or we will hit them where they are.

8. Israeli subs sitting off Iran

9. IAF has airbase in Saudi Arabia

10. Israeli intelligence has captured data showing Hizbullah will attack Israel at months end, objective to take out IAF bases so our planes cannot hit Iran.

What will Obama do?
23091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese anti-carrier missile on: August 06, 2010, 06:04:54 AM
Hat tip to PC who posted this in the China thread:

By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press Writer Eric Talmadge, Associated Press Writer – Thu Aug 5, 5:43 pm ET
ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON – Nothing projects U.S. global air and sea power more vividly than supercarriers. Bristling with fighter jets that can reach deep into even landlocked trouble zones, America's virtually invincible carrier fleet has long enforced its dominance of the high seas.

China may soon put an end to that.

U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China — an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles).

___

EDITOR'S NOTE — The USS George Washington supercarrier recently deployed off North Korea in a high-profile show of U.S. sea power. AP Tokyo News Editor Eric Talmadge was aboard the carrier, and filed this report.

___

Analysts say final testing of the missile could come as soon as the end of this year, though questions remain about how fast China will be able to perfect its accuracy to the level needed to threaten a moving carrier at sea.

The weapon, a version of which was displayed last year in a Chinese military parade, could revolutionize China's role in the Pacific balance of power, seriously weakening Washington's ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea. It could also deny U.S. ships safe access to international waters near China's 11,200-mile (18,000-kilometer) -long coastline.

While a nuclear bomb could theoretically sink a carrier, assuming its user was willing to raise the stakes to atomic levels, the conventionally-armed Dong Feng 21D's uniqueness is in its ability to hit a powerfully defended moving target with pin-point precision.

The Chinese Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to the AP's request for a comment.

Funded by annual double-digit increases in the defense budget for almost every year of the past two decades, the Chinese navy has become Asia's largest and has expanded beyond its traditional mission of retaking Taiwan to push its sphere of influence deeper into the Pacific and protect vital maritime trade routes.

"The Navy has long had to fear carrier-killing capabilities," said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the nonpartisan, Washington-based Center for a New American Security. "The emerging Chinese antiship missile capability, and in particular the DF 21D, represents the first post-Cold War capability that is both potentially capable of stopping our naval power projection and deliberately designed for that purpose."

Setting the stage for a possible conflict, Beijing has grown increasingly vocal in its demands for the U.S. to stay away from the wide swaths of ocean — covering much of the Yellow, East and South China seas — where it claims exclusivity.

It strongly opposed plans to hold U.S.-South Korean war games in the Yellow Sea off the northeastern Chinese coast, saying the participation of the USS George Washington supercarrier, with its 1,092-foot (333-meter) flight deck and 6,250 personnel, would be a provocation because it put Beijing within striking range of U.S. F-18 warplanes.

The carrier instead took part in maneuvers held farther away in the Sea of Japan.

U.S. officials deny Chinese pressure kept it away, and say they will not be told by Beijing where they can operate.

"We reserve the right to exercise in international waters anywhere in the world," Rear Adm. Daniel Cloyd, who headed the U.S. side of the exercises, said aboard the carrier during the maneuvers, which ended last week.

But the new missile, if able to evade the defenses of a carrier and of the vessels sailing with it, could undermine that policy.

"China can reach out and hit the U.S. well before the U.S. can get close enough to the mainland to hit back," said Toshi Yoshihara, an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College. He said U.S. ships have only twice been that vulnerable — against Japan in World War II and against Soviet bombers in the Cold War.

Carrier-killing missiles "could have an enduring psychological effect on U.S. policymakers," he e-mailed to The AP. "It underscores more broadly that the U.S. Navy no longer rules the waves as it has since the end of World War II. The stark reality is that sea control cannot be taken for granted anymore."

Yoshihara said the weapon is causing considerable consternation in Washington, though — with attention focused on land wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — its implications haven't been widely discussed in public.

Analysts note that while much has been made of China's efforts to ready a carrier fleet of its own, it would likely take decades to catch U.S. carrier crews' level of expertise, training and experience.

But Beijing does not need to match the U.S. carrier for carrier. The Dong Feng 21D, smarter, and vastly cheaper, could successfully attack a U.S. carrier, or at least deter it from getting too close.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned of the threat in a speech last September at the Air Force Association Convention.

"When considering the military-modernization programs of countries like China, we should be concerned less with their potential ability to challenge the U.S. symmetrically — fighter to fighter or ship to ship — and more with their ability to disrupt our freedom of movement and narrow our strategic options," he said.

Gates said China's investments in cyber and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, along with ballistic missiles, "could threaten America's primary way to project power" through its forward air bases and carrier strike groups.

The Pentagon has been worried for years about China getting an anti-ship ballistic missile. The Pentagon considers such a missile an "anti-access," weapon, meaning that it could deny others access to certain areas.

The Air Force's top surveillance and intelligence officer, Lt. Gen. David Deptula, told reporters this week that China's effort to increase anti-access capability is part of a worrisome trend.

He did not single out the DF 21D, but said: "While we might not fight the Chinese, we may end up in situations where we'll certainly be opposing the equipment that they build and sell around the world."

Questions remain over when — and if — China will perfect the technology; hitting a moving carrier is no mean feat, requiring state-of-the-art guidance systems, and some experts believe it will take China a decade or so to field a reliable threat. Others, however, say final tests of the missile could come in the next year or two.

Former Navy commander James Kraska, a professor of international law and sea power at the U.S. Naval War College, recently wrote a controversial article in the magazine Orbis outlining a hypothetical scenario set just five years from now in which a Deng Feng 21D missile with a penetrator warhead sinks the USS George Washington.

That would usher in a "new epoch of international order in which Beijing emerges to displace the United States."

While China's Defense Ministry never comments on new weapons before they become operational, the DF 21D — which would travel at 10 times the speed of sound and carry conventional payloads — has been much discussed by military buffs online.

A pseudonymous article posted on Xinhuanet, website of China's official news agency, imagines the U.S. dispatching the George Washington to aid Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

The Chinese would respond with three salvos of DF 21D, the first of which would pierce the hull, start fires and shut down flight operations, the article says. The second would knock out its engines and be accompanied by air attacks. The third wave, the article says, would "send the George Washington to the bottom of the ocean."

Comments on the article were mostly positive.
23092  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: August 06, 2010, 04:17:41 AM
What is your legal reasoning there?
23093  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Viaje on: August 06, 2010, 02:02:19 AM
Salgo en ocho horas y regreso el 19 de Agosto (NY and Suiza).  Mientras yo no este', no hagan nada que no hiciera yo  wink
23094  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: August 06, 2010, 02:00:45 AM
I leave in the 8 hours for a two week trip (NY and Switzerland) and return on the 19th.  I will be here intermittently during that time.
23095  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: August 06, 2010, 02:00:13 AM
I leave in the AM for a two week trip (NY and Switzerland) and return on the 19th.  I will be here intermittently during that time.
23096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No Lame Duck Congress! on: August 05, 2010, 11:32:16 PM
http://www.americansolutions.com/lameduck/
23097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Body scans stored? on: August 05, 2010, 02:48:06 PM
I interrupt the witty repartee for this:

August 4, 2010 4:00 AM PDT
Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images

by Declan McCullagh

 TSA's X-ray backscatter scanning with "privacy filter"
(Credit: TSA.gov)

For the last few years, federal agencies have defended body scanning by insisting that all images will be discarded as soon as they're viewed. The Transportation Security Administration claimed last summer, for instance, that "scanned images cannot be stored or recorded."

Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.

This follows an earlier disclosure (PDF) by the TSA that it requires all airport body scanners it purchases to be able to store and transmit images for "testing, training, and evaluation purposes." The agency says, however, that those capabilities are not normally activated when the devices are installed at airports.

Body scanners penetrate clothing to provide a highly detailed image so accurate that critics have likened it to a virtual strip search. Technologies vary, with millimeter wave systems capturing fuzzier images, and backscatter X-ray machines able to show precise anatomical detail. The U.S. government likes the idea because body scanners can detect concealed weapons better than traditional magnetometers.

This privacy debate, which has been simmering since the days of the Bush administration, came to a boil two weeks ago when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that scanners would soon appear at virtually every major airport. The updated list includes airports in New York City, Dallas, Washington, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, and Philadelphia.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to grant an immediate injunction pulling the plug on TSA's body scanning program. In a separate lawsuit, EPIC obtained a letter (PDF) from the Marshals Service, part of the Justice Department, and released it on Tuesday afternoon.
These "devices are designed and deployed in a way that allows the images to be routinely stored and recorded, which is exactly what the Marshals Service is doing," EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg told CNET. "We think it's significant."

William Bordley, an associate general counsel with the Marshals Service, acknowledged in the letter that "approximately 35,314 images...have been stored on the Brijot Gen2 machine" used in the Orlando, Fla. federal courthouse. In addition, Bordley wrote, a Millivision machine was tested in the Washington, D.C. federal courthouse but it was sent back to the manufacturer, which now apparently possesses the image database.
The Gen 2 machine, manufactured by Brijot of Lake Mary, Fla., uses a millimeter wave radiometer and accompanying video camera to store up to 40,000 images and records. Brijot boasts that it can even be operated remotely: "The Gen 2 detection engine capability eliminates the need for constant user observation and local operation for effective monitoring. Using our APIs, instantly connect to your units from a remote location via the Brijot Client interface."
 TSA's millimeter wave body scan
(Credit: TSA.gov)

This trickle of disclosures about the true capabilities of body scanners--and how they're being used in practice--is probably what alarms privacy advocates more than anything else.

A 70-page document (PDF) showing the TSA's procurement specifications, classified as "sensitive security information," says that in some modes the scanner must "allow exporting of image data in real time" and provide a mechanism for "high-speed transfer of image data" over the network. (It also says that image filters will "protect the identity, modesty, and privacy of the passenger.")

"TSA is not being straightforward with the public about the capabilities of these devices," Rotenberg said. "This is the Department of Homeland Security subjecting every U.S. traveler to an intrusive search that can be recorded without any suspicion--I think it's outrageous." EPIC's lawsuit says that the TSA should have announced formal regulations, and argues that the body scanners violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable" searches.

For its part, the TSA says that body scanning is perfectly constitutional: "The program is designed to respect individual sensibilities regarding privacy, modesty and personal autonomy to the maximum extent possible, while still performing its crucial function of protecting all members of the public from potentially catastrophic events."

Declan McCullagh has covered the intersection of politics and technology for over a decade. E-mail Declan.
__________________
www.NoPoliticalLemmings.com
23098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Border Clash on: August 05, 2010, 12:39:05 PM
The Regional Context of the Israeli-Lebanese Border Clash

Any clashes on the Israeli-Lebanese border normally involve Hezbollah guerillas. The last such incident happened four years ago and resulted in the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war. Tuesday, though, in an odd turn of events, Lebanese army personnel appeared to have opened fire on Israeli troops engaged in routine maintenance of the border fence. The Israeli troops responded with small arms as well as artillery and attack helicopters. A brief skirmish followed. Three Lebanese troops, one Israeli soldier and a journalist lost their lives in the clash.

Since the war in the summer of 2006 — especially given its outcome in which Israel could not decisively defeat Hezbollah — there has been a constant fear as to when the next war would take place between Israel and pro-Iranian Lebanese Shia Islamist movement guerillas. But in the latest skirmish, from very early on, both the Israelis and Hezbollah relayed that the clash was a minor incident that would not lead to a major escalation. Later in the day, though, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that his group could respond to any Israeli attack on Lebanese army forces in the future.

There are various reports suggesting that Tuesday’s clash may have been engineered by Hezbollah to deflect attention away from the fact that the group is being implicated in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri. There are also reports that indicate that the opening of fire on the Israeli troops may have been the decision of a local commander. The precise reasons notwithstanding, we have an anomalous situation where Lebanese armed forces soldiers engaged in a rare attack on Israeli Defense Forces.

Not only was it a rare event, its timing was extremely intriguing. It took place at a time when there are multiple significant developments taking place. First and foremost, the clash took place within days of the joint visit of Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar al Assad to Beirut — an unusual and unprecedented development. Abdullah’s trip to Syria and then Beirut is part of Riyadh’s efforts to pull Damascus out of the Iranian orbit and undermine Tehran’s ability to use Hezbollah as a proxy to expand its influence within the Arab world. While the Saudis have to a certain degree been successful in their efforts to create problems for Hezbollah — and by extension the Iranians — Tehran can be expected to do everything in its power to ensure that its premier regional proxy remains a formidable force within Lebanon.

“The clash was not only a rare event, its timing was also extremely intriguing.”
Hezbollah provides the Islamic republic with a significant amount of the leverage it needs to negotiate with the United States on Iraq and the nuclear issue. And we are seeing that both issues are fast approaching key impasses. At the end of this month the United States is scheduled to complete the drawdown of its forces from Iraq. At the same time, Tehran and Washington have reached a critical stage in their nuclear negotiations, where it appears the two sides could engage in some serious talks.

One of the key hurdles blocking a U.S.-Iranian understanding on these issues is that it raises fears among Washington’s allies in the Arab world (particularly Saudi Arabia) and Israel. In other words, the United States is having a hard time balancing its need to deal with Iran and maintain its commitments to the Arab states and Israel. A U.S.-Iranian settlement of sorts is far more problematic for the Israelis than the Arab states. This is because Israel’s immediate region has grown increasingly hostile in recent years. It has to deal with a Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip, a Turkey that is no longer an unquestioning ally of the Jewish state and an Egypt in transition.

Israeli fears about Egypt were heightened Monday when a couple of artillery rockets apparently fired from the Sinai landed in the Israeli port city of Eilat. A few days prior to that, Palestinian militants fired rockets from the Gaza Strip that struck the Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Sderot — the first in the area in quite a while. Thus, the Israelis experienced security incidents from three different directions in as many days.

The biggest threat undoubtedly comes from Hezbollah during a time when Iran is growing increasingly assertive given the United States’ need to negotiate with the Islamic republic. Although Tuesday’s incident on the Israeli-Lebanese border does not currently appear likely to flare up into a major conflict, it remains the main issue in the region, especially given the fact that the United States and Iran are gearing up for what could be a serious round of talks. From the point of view of the Israelis, those talks could undermine Israel’s national security interests.
23099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post: Alexander on Newsweek on: August 05, 2010, 12:33:36 PM
Alexander's Essay – August 5, 2010

The Fundamental Transformation of Newsweek and America
Common Threads of Delusion and Demise

"During the course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been leveled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare. These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted..." --Thomas Jefferson
Freedom of the press is codified in the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights ("Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of ... the press") because our Founders rightly understood that a free and impartial press was a vital component of Essential Liberty.

However free, the press has rarely risen to the challenge of impartiality, not even during earliest days of our Republic. Thomas Jefferson observed as president, that the nation's newspapers "serve as chimnies to carry off noxious vapors and smoke." With the advent of the 24-hour "news" cycle, the press has never been more partisan than it is today.

Hence in 1996, when we launched The Patriot Post, one of our primary objectives was to break the mainstream media's chokehold on public opinion. Since our inception, The Patriot has devoted much-needed attention to the threat that a partial press poses to liberty, even receiving the Accuracy in Media Award for Grassroots Journalism for our efforts.

The Leftmedia's threat to liberty has been perilous in recent years, while we've been at war with a formidable adversary -- Jihadistan and its terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters around the world.

By way of confirmation that our foreign Jihadi enemy understand the power of the American Leftmedia as an instrument of propaganda, as do domestic Leftist politicos, consider this authenticated communiqué between Osama bin Laden's chief lieutenant, Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi at the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom: "I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media."

In the midst of that critical period for OIF, one of the most egregious Leftmedia print propagandists, Newsweek, under the leadership of its (now former) editor Jon Meacham, ran defeat and surrender cover stories with headlines like "We're losing...", in which Meacham claimed the expertise to chart a retreat from Iraq before total defeat.

The unmitigated arrogance of such positions notwithstanding, surely Meacham understood that such cover stories serve only to embolden our enemy, which results in the deaths of America's uniformed Patriots on the warfront. Some call giving "aid and comfort" to the enemy, "treason." At best, it brands Meacham with the same stripes as Hanoi Jane Fonda.

Meacham, whose "golden boy" career was christened by a benefactor heiress of The New York Times, became editor of Newsweek in late 2006, 10 years into his stint with the magazine. He then promptly set about to transform the magazine into an elitist tabloid for those who want to read, in his words, "what I'm interested in."


MeachamOf that transformation, columnist Jeff Goldberg punned, "[T]he redesigned Newsweek. (Now with even more Meacham!)"

While dragging Newsweek deeper into the Leftist abyss, Meacham insisted, "We're not a partisan magazine. ... I am not a reflexive lefty. Far from it." At the same time, he editorialized, "Obama is essentially a centrist."

One trademark characteristic of most "reflexive lefty" elitists in media and politics is that their capacity for introspection is short circuited by pathological narcissism. Thus, they self-righteously believe they embody the "spirit of the people," and perceive themselves to be centrist, just much smarter than the masses whose devotion they desire.

Narcissists with Obama-like charisma can create a cult following among their devotees, which is sustainable until enough of them open their eyes and realize that the emperor has no clothes.

When asked recently, "Think of one of your least favorite people in Washington and describe what makes that person so unappealing," Meacham responded, "Total lack of self-awareness." At least he can see it in others.

Of his plan to fundamentally transform Newsweek, Meacham said, "It's hugely counterintuitive. The staff doesn't even understand it."

Apparently, it was so "counterintuitive" that Meacham's readers didn't understand it either.

According to Business Insider, "Newsweek's negligible operating loss of $3 million in 2007 (its first year under the Meacham plan) turned into a bloodbath: the business lost $32 million in 2008 and $39.5 million in 2009. Even after reducing headcount by 33 percent, and slashing the number of issues printed and distributed to readers each week, from 2.6 million to 1.5 million, the 2010 operating loss is still forecast at $20 million."

Consequently, Newsweek was sold this week to another Lefty, billionaire Sidney Harman (hubby to Leftcoast Rep. Jane Harman), who agreed to assume the glut of debt accumulated since Meacham took the helm. The winning bid? One dollar. No kidding. Given all the debt Harman took on, another bidder, Fred Drasner (former CEO of US News and World Report) quipped, "I think he paid a very full price."

I took note of the sale not because of Meacham's abysmal performance at Newsweek (most of the antique print media outlets are in financial trouble) but because 25 years ago I arranged payment of Jon's tuition at a very fine private high school that his family could not afford. At the time, he was a polite, adroit teenager, a Young Republican cheerleader for Ronald Reagan with a promising future.

While I had hoped that my investment in his education would produce a good return for our national heritage of Liberty and its extension to our posterity, I also realize that some seeds fall upon fertile ground and some upon the rocks. Instead of a stalwart constitutionalist, Jon, under the stewardship of various Leftmedia employers, lost his bearing and veered Left. (I recently wrote Jon and asked for a refund of that tuition, but got no response. Perhaps it was because of the salutation, "Dear Jon.")

Further, I was struck with the similarities between Jon's delusional vision to transform Newsweek as a microcosm of Obama's failed vision for the "fundamental transformation of America." Both visions reveal unbridled arrogance and an underlying contempt for those who are just not smart enough to see it their way, and both set a course for demise.

In a recent essay on Obama, Meacham wrote that if not for "a series of counterintuitive bets," he would not be president. Unfortunately for the nation, Obama's bets are meeting with the same disastrous fate as Meacham's bets at Newsweek. Fortunately for the remaining employees of Newsweek, Harman bailed them out, while Red China is bailing out (Read: "taking ownership of") America.

Thomas Jefferson concluded, "[T]he press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood," asserting that partisanship undermines the vital role of a free and impartial press in defense of liberty against tyranny. In the case of Newsweek, Meacham and company betrayed that trust, and his readers, like a growing number of Obama's supporters, unsubscribed.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post
23100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / unsustainable -2 on: August 05, 2010, 11:45:16 AM
Has the Scheme Run its Course?

The above example describes how the money-laundering scheme is playing out in the food distribution sector, but the same concept can be applied to the electricity, medicine and energy sectors. The priority of many officials working in the state-owned electricity company EDELCA is to enrich themselves through a similar money- laundering scheme in which they can exploit and arbitrage the exchange-rate regime, place exorbitant orders for parts, airbrush their books and then pocket the difference. Unlike the engineers working on the power plants, state electricity officials ordering parts lack technical knowledge and have no interest in consulting the engineers when placing the orders. The result is a mishmash of parts and equipment collecting dust in warehouses while power rationing continues across the country. Even more alarming is the fact that Brazilian engineers for Eurobras, a Brazilian-German-Venezuelan consortium, abandoned their work on Venezuela’s Guri dam in May after having failed to receive their paychecks from EDELCA. The work they were doing — the implementation of larger and more efficient hydroelectric turbines — was highly specialized and crucial to Venezuela maintaining its electricity output. Yet EDELCA, having already reaped its profits from placing the contract orders for the parts, apparently had little motivation to come up with the funds to allow these workers to finish the job. This is why, despite better-than-expected rainfall over the past couple months, Venezuela remains mired in an electricity crisis since the dilapidated electricity infrastructure is incapable of keeping up with demand.

The money-laundering scheme is prevalent in many strategic sectors, but the food sector brings especially unique benefits to the money launderers while raising the stakes for the Venezuelan leadership. Since food is perishable, it readily lends itself to hoarding and “screw ups” when it goes rotten, requiring more orders, more dollars and more imports. By contrast, while one can still make money by importing a dozen hydroelectric turbines or an expensive new oil rig, there are only so many excuses for having ordered the wrong piece of equipment, and the black market for such equipment is not nearly as good as the black market for food (which, again, is essential for survival).

While this elaborate racket has kept a good portion of state officialdom financially content, the warehouses full of rotten food, expired medicine and unused electricity equipment, along with the gross neglect and disrepair of the Guri dam — a vital piece of the country’s electricity infrastructure — indicate that the state is losing control over the “essential” sectors. In short, this racket has become so prevalent that it is now threatening the core stability of the state. This is why, despite the obvious political risk of exacerbating food shortages and basic supplies by increasing the costs for importers, the Venezuelan regime has put most of its effort in the past month into cracking down on the “speculators” in the parallel market. The cost of not doing something about these speculators has proved to be higher than the cost of alienating political supporters in the lead-up to legislative elections in September.

When the food scandal recently broke, the government was quick to name its scapegoat: former PDVAL President Luis Pulido, who, along with several other officials, has been arrested and put on trial for corruption. The Chavez regime is using PDVAL as an example to others who have taken the money-laundering scheme to dangerous levels. Many of those who are most deeply entrenched in the racket and have been less conscious of the long-term risk to the state are the more radical officials within the Chavez government, who are now being sought out by Cuban intelligence services working in league with the upper echelons of the Venezuelan regime. But these efforts could be too little too late. Cracking down on speculators who are operating outside the state’s jurisdiction may alleviate part of the problem and provide the state with a cover to expand its control over key sectors, but what of the vast numbers of speculators working within the state, particularly those higher up the chain who could pose a real threat to the regime’s hold on power?

Indeed, the government’s most recent attempts to rein in this food scandal are already showing signs of floundering. A June 26 ban on unregulated food sales passed in the wake of news about the scandal was revoked shortly thereafter by the president himself, who called on authorities to target the “food mafias” behind the gaming scheme as opposed to the sellers on the streets. The problem with such a directive is that those involved in the food mafias are likely to involve members high up in the regime, which makes the likelihood of enforcement questionable. The government is also introducing new legislation that aims to sideline speculators from the gaming process by changing the currency-for-food transactions altogether. The draft legislation, entitled the Organic Law for the Promotion and Development of the Community Economic System, calls for food in local communes to be “bought” and “sold” primarily through bartering. For exchanges of non-equal value, the legislation calls on communes to create their own currencies (independent of the bolivar) to buy and sell food on the local level. The local communes’ strategy is encompassed in a package of legislation dubbed “People Power,” which aims to undermine state and city governments while augmenting the power of community councils (220 local communes have been listed by the government thus far.) The majority of members of these communes would come from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV,) thereby providing the regime with direct access to small, local governing bodies that will stay loyal to PSUV interests.

Though the idea of sidelining money launderers from the cash-based food industry makes strategic sense from the point of view of a government trying to reverse the crippling side-effects of this gaming scheme, a number of pitfalls can already be seen in this legislation. Introducing dozens of alternative currencies for a specific sector will further complicate the already-complicated two-tiered currency exchange regime that differentiates between essential and non-essential foods, while undermining an already-weak bolivar by cutting the local currency out of the food trade. A proliferation of local currencies also means additional layers of bureaucracy will be necessary to manage and implement the new law, and more bureaucracy in Venezuela means more potential for corruption. The local food currency would also eventually have to be transacted into bolivars, and deep-seated corruption in the higher levels of the institutions responsible for such large-scale transactions could end up greatly undermining the primary objective of the plan to root out speculation. In short, the government is still treating the symptoms, and not the cause, of this money laundering scheme and the proposals made thus far to rein in speculators look to have a number of shortcomings.


The Legal Battle

A crackdown within the regime’s inner circle to rein in this racket could turn politically explosive, especially when senior members of the Chavez government already appear to have piles of evidence stacked against them in U.S. courts. In mid-May, Chavez publicly warned in a speech broadcast on state television station Venezolana de Television that a U.S. district judge in Miami may soon be ordering the arrest of Chavez, Vice President Elias Jaua, Minister of Planning and Finance Jorge Giordani and other members of the president’s inner circle, “instead of the real culprits.” Chavez’s unusual warning is yet another manifestation of how the state’s money-laundering scheme has grown too large and too loud for the regime to manage. Venezuelan businessman and banker Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, for example, was a close associate of Venezuelan political elites like Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello and the president’s older brother, Adan Chavez. Barrueco is believed to have used his main business front, the Proarepa Group, to open a number of offshore accounts in the Caribbean, Lebanon, Europe and elsewhere to store funds looted from the state oil firm and its subsidiaries. Barrueco’s operation eventually got too exposed and he became a liability for the regime, leading to his reported arrest in November 2009. But silencing Barrueco alone will not assuage the regime’s concerns over the evidence sitting in courts in Miami and New York that could implicate senior members of the Chavez regime.


Other Beneficiaries

Considering the prevalence of the black market, it would appear logical that the country’s unsustainable currency arrangement is benefiting a number of other illicit actors. For those state entities experiencing cash-flow problems, local drug dealers (who have expertise swapping currency at multiple rates in multiple places) are believed to be providing local currency to at least some of these firms and thus filtering their drug money through the exchange-rate regime. The drug revenues are also strongly believed to form the basis of Venezuela’s financial support for U.S.-designated terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) — allegations which are now regaining steam following Colombia’s recent decision to release new evidence of Venezuelan support for FARC and ELN rebels.

Driving the U.S. interest in this issue is the connection between Venezuela’s money- laundering scheme and Iran. In recent years, in an effort to escape the heavy weight of economic sanctions, Iran has turned to Venezuela to facilitate Iran’s access to Western financial markets. Banco Internacional de Desarrollo (EBDI) is a financial institution based in Caracas that operates under the jurisdiction of the Export Development Bank of Iran, designated as a sanctions violator by the European Union as recently as July 27 and by the U.S. Treasury Department in October 2008 for providing financial access to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a major force in the Iranian economy and the prime target of the U.S. sanctions campaign. Though the extent to which Iranian money is funneled through Venezuelan channels is unclear, evidence has been building in the United States that reveals murky transactions among IRGC-owned companies, a Caracas-based EBDI subsidiary, PDVSA entities in Europe and the Caribbean and even banks in Lebanon. And with the U.S. sanctions effort accelerating in Washington, any state willing to enforce the sanctions and crack down on IRGC-affiliated entities can shut down these financial loopholes at any point. STRATFOR cannot quantify the Iranian-Venezuelan money-laundering connection, but any such connection to the IRGC would be a red flag for U.S. Treasury officials looking to fortify sanctions against Iran.

Combined with the developing money-laundering and drug-trafficking cases in Miami that threaten to implicate senior members of the Venezuelan regime, the Iranian link is yet another tool that Washington could use to pressure the Venezuelan government should the need arise. Putting the significant enforceability issues of such court cases aside, the district court attorneys preparing these cases against the Chavez government would not be able to launch them without the permission of the Obama administration, given the diplomatic fallout that could follow. So far, there are no indications that the administration is looking to pick this fight with Chavez, but the mere threat that Washington is now able to hang over the Chavez regime’s head is enough to make the Venezuelan leader nervous, hence his public warning to his constituents that Washington is preparing a grand conspiracy against him. The nightmare scenario for Caracas is one in which the White House chooses to expose the charges against the regime and use the evidence to justify a temporary cutoff of the roughly 12.5 percent of U.S. crude oil imports (47 percent of Venezuelan crude exports) that the United States receives from Venezuela for just enough time to crack the regime. Though Venezuela is far down on the U.S. foreign-policy priority list, making such a scenario extremely unlikely for the moment, Venezuela’s vulnerability to Washington’s whims is increasing with each day that this money- laundering scheme shows signs of unraveling.

In addition to the money-laundering scheme explained above, the Venezuelan economy is currently dealing with a rash of other problems:

The devaluation has only been partly effective and the short-term benefits have largely run their course. Devaluing helps recalibrate the bolivar by bringing it closer to its true (lower) value, but it does not address the underlying causes of continued bolivar weakness. Therefore the bolivar remains overvalued and the supply of foreign exchange (U.S. dollars) to the market is still restricted. Cracking down on the parallel market and regulating it will likely lead to the emergence of another black market. Consequently, the fixed exchange rate will again become overvalued, which will eventually require further devaluation (most likely after the September elections), which will generate more inflation.
These problems are forcing the government to take increasing control of and/or regulate large sectors of the economy, while state-owned companies that control the most strategic sectors are having cash-flow problems and are unable to manage these sectors.
The currency regime has given rise to widespread fraud and corruption; the scheme described above is just the most visible one. There is undoubtedly more corruption and fraud permeating the system, exacerbated by the multi-tiered exchange rate and the government’s restricting access to it.
The economy is becoming increasing reliant on PDSVA oil revenues while the non-oil economy buckles. Venezuelan non-commodity exports are too expensive, and the government must increase its imports of goods to make up for domestic production shortfalls. This makes the economy increasingly reliant on the dollar revenues generated by the state-owned oil company, which has experienced declining production for almost a decade.
All these problems combined are raising the political stakes for the Venezuelan government. The government’s response to the crisis has been to bolster its control of the economy — particularly its control over the most strategic sectors — in an effort to slow the economic decline. The government has shut down or nationalized hundreds of businesses in the wake of January’s devaluation for various stated reasons, including price gouging, hoarding and speculation. More recently, the government made sweeping changes to the mandate of the Venezuelan Central Bank to vastly expand its influence over the real economy. And in an effort to both clean the books and root out the speculators, hundreds of brokerage firms have been shut down by the state. Without the technical skills and basic logistical ability to manage enlarged state enterprises, however, the state is exacerbating the very symptoms it is trying to treat. Venezuela still has dollars to draw from the central bank and the state development fund Fonden to delay its day of reckoning, but it can no longer conceal the unsustainability of this economic regime.


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