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23051  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nigeria on: January 12, 2012, 05:06:38 PM
A spree of bomb blasts and machine-gun attacks attributed to an Islamic militia targeting Nigeria's Christians—and apparent reprisal attacks against Muslims—have stoked fears the government is powerless to halt escalating religious violence in Africa's most populous country.

As the militia, Boko Haram, was blamed for more attacks on Wednesday, the government's move to end a fuel subsidy brought thousands of protesters to the streets of Lagos for a third day. Nigeria's largest oil-worker union, meanwhile, threatened to shut down the country's offshore oil platforms.

Analysts say such a shutdown could cut production in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, by one-quarter within weeks—or sooner if security forces guarding the facilities sympathize with union demands.

Thousands fled for protection Wednesday to an army barracks near Nigeria's southern city of Benin, after a mob of young men torched a local mosque the day before, said a Nigeria Red Cross spokesman.

The attack killed at least five and appeared to be in response to Christian killings in Nigeria's mostly Muslim north by Boko Haram, the spokesman said.

The attorney general, Mohammed Bello Adoke, encouraged Nigerians to stay put, saying government would address the insecurity.

So far, no mass exodus on religious lines has taken place. But many Nigerians saw in the recent tit-for-tat killings a threat of religious pogroms that recalled the country's most violent period, the 1967-70 civil war. During that conflict, about two million Nigerians migrated back to their region of origin to escape the violence.

"It is scary...a dark omen," said Anthony Chigbo, chief executive of public opinion polling company, Gallup Polls Nigeria Ltd., who said he had witnessed some truckloads of men migrating back to the north. "There is total national insecurity."

Violence resumed Wednesday when gunmen shot dead four people in the northeastern town of Pokiskum, where on Tuesday suspected Boko Haram members shot and killed people in a bar, Reuters reported.

At least 61 people have died in the past week in attacks that appear to stem from the group's warning for Christians to leave Nigeria's north. In a YouTube video posted Tuesday, the group's spiritual leader, Imam Abubakar Shekau, warned of more attacks against Christians, who include President Goodluck Jonathan.

"We are also at war with the Christians because the entire world knows what they did to us," he said, reclining between AK-47 assault rifles under the title "Message to Goodluck Jonathan."

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sin," says it is avenging the 2009 death of the sect's leader while in police custody. But its motives for issuing increasingly menacing statements in the past year against Christians living in the nation's mostly Muslim north remain unclear.

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CloseAssociated Press
 
Imam Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram's spiritual leader, warned of more attacks against Christians.
.Boko Haram's taunts and attacks appear aimed at exposing government weakness in Nigeria, highlighting the shaky grip officials have over one of Africa's largest economies and most populous nations, with 155 million people.

The Muslim sect has ramped up attacks despite a state of emergency the president declared late last year. The attacks have emboldened the group against security forces that have flooded the northern regions but that have largely failed to gather enough intelligence to prevent targeted killings of Christians and police through car bombs, drive-by shootings and church raids.

On Sunday, Mr. Jonathan told reporters that members of Boko Haram had infiltrated his executive arm as well as the legislature and the judiciary.

"Our security services are trying," he said.

A Boko Haram spokesman, who identifies himself as Abul Qaqa, has claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for a string of attacks. Security officials wonder if Mr. Qaqa is one person, or several, each taking on the identity of the spokesman in an internal rivalry within the sect.

On Jan. 1, Mr. Qaqa, speaking to local media by phone, warned that millions of Christians living in the north had just a few days to resettle in Nigeria's south. Meanwhile, former separatist militants in Nigeria's oil-rich south have threatened retaliatory attacks against Muslims in the mostly Christian region.

The Nigerian government struggle to stem religious violence comes as it grapples with unrest linked to the elimination of a popular fuel subsidy.

The subsidy was supposed to be the first in a series of major reforms. But it has caused gas prices to double, spurring tens of thousands of protests under an "Occupy Nigeria" movement. Nigeria's top two labor unions have added muscle to the protest movement, demanding full restoration of the subsidy.

On Wednesday, for the second time this week, the loosely organized movement thronged the highways of Lagos, Nigeria's most populous city. In the city of Kaduna, they defied a government-imposed curfew. Both Nigeria's House of Representatives and its Senate have asked the president to restore the 1.2 trillion-naira ($7.5 billion) annual subsidy. Mr. Jonathan, the president, has so far refused.

23052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Barnes: Mitt needs something bigger than himself on: January 12, 2012, 03:18:01 PM
second post

By Fred Barnes
Mitt Romney is rolling to the Republican presidential nomination. He's the first Republican other than a sitting president to win both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Yet he just began confronting the greatest threat to his quest for the presidency—an explosive issue that could diminish the Republican Party's prospects for defeating President Obama.

The issue is Mr. Romney's record as an investor and corporate-turnaround artist at Bain Capital from 1984 to 1999. That experience is the heart of his campaign for the White House, the source of his claim to be uniquely qualified to invigorate the economy and create jobs.

But increasingly Mr. Romney is accused, as boss of Bain, of buying battered companies to loot and bankrupt them, firing thousands of workers while making millions himself. The charge is bad enough. That it's now coming not just from Democrats but from two of his Republican rivals—former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry—makes things worse.

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Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney
.One can imagine TV ads aired by Mr. Obama's re-election team that feature clips of Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Perry and possibly ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman attacking Mr. Romney on his Bain record. The ads would be a double-barreled assault on Mr. Romney's success as a businessman and on Republicans as the party of corporate wheeler-dealers and the uncaring rich.

The Bain issue surfaced last weekend, too late to have any noticeable impact on Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, won by Mr. Romney in impressive fashion. Though favored to win, Mr. Romney exceeded expectations.

That wasn't all. After nearly upsetting Mr. Romney in Iowa last week, former Sen. Rick Santorum was seen as a candidate around whom conservatives might rally in New Hampshire. But they failed to elevate him or anyone else as the conservative alternative to Mr. Romney. Mr. Santorum was nosed out by Mr. Gingrich for fourth place.

By winning, Mr. Romney has history on his side. Both other non-incumbent candidates who have won Iowa and New Hampshire—Jimmy Carter in 1976 and John Kerry in 2004—have gone on to capture their party's nomination. And if Mr. Romney wins the South Carolina primary on Jan. 21, he'd be close to locking up the nomination. He currently leads the polls in the Palmetto State, but with the Bain assault his path could be interrupted or reversed.

Related Video
 Larry Sabato on the New Hampshire primary results and what to watch for in South Carolina.
..An outside super PAC backing Mr. Gingrich plans to spend nearly $3.5 million on television in South Carolina, with Bain its chief subject. It has acquired a 28-minute film that denounces Mr. Romney as a "predatory corporate raider." The private equity firm is also likely to get considerable attention in two nationally televised debates in South Carolina.

Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Perry insist Mr. Romney veered from "traditional capitalism" at Bain. Campaigning in South Carolina, Mr. Perry has been drawing a distinction between "venture capitalism" and the "vulture capitalism" he says was practiced by Mr. Romney.

This isn't the first time the Bain issue has been exploited against Mr. Romney. In 1994, he sought Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts, pulling even in polls weeks before election day. Kennedy responded with television spots of workers laid off at a company, American Pad & Paper, once owned by Bain Capital. The ads worked. Mr. Romney lost, 59% to 41%.

But the Bain angle has a twist today, as the essentially left-wing critique has been adopted by conservative Republicans. It's as if a Democratic challenger to President Obama attacked his health-care plan with arguments borrowed from Republicans and conservatives. As it is, Mr. Obama has no Democratic opponent.

Mr. Romney is reluctant to defend his conduct at Bain, perhaps fearing that would only add fuel the issue. On Tuesday night he zinged "desperate Republicans" for echoing Mr. Obama's strategy to "put free enterprise on trial. . . . This is such a mistake for our party and our nation. This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy." But that was it. Otherwise, Mr. Romney's speech focused on Mr. Obama.

Messrs. Gingrich and Perry appear untroubled by the potentially broad impact of their offensive against Mr. Romney and Bain. But "the consequences of this are serious," says Republican consultant Frank Luntz, as "seeds" planted now could lead to a GOP "disaster" in November.

Consider the damage if Mr. Romney, whom at least a plurality of Republicans regard as their most electable candidate, ultimately lost the nomination because of Bain. The party, left with a nominee whom Mr. Romney had beaten twice, would be angrily split, its enthusiasm gone. Or consider if Mr. Romney is nominated but is weakened by the Bain attacks. That's more likely, and it too would be divisive.

Mr. Romney bears some of the blame for the awkward situation. Candidates for president normally build their campaigns on a big idea. Mr. Gingrich's is that he would crush Mr. Obama in debates and win the election. Mr. Perry's is that he would extend the economic success of Texas to the entire nation. Mr. Romney's is himself, the man whose skill at economic revival was on display at Bain. This is an invitation to attacks.

What Mr. Romney needs is a bigger idea to deflect attention from Bain. He's treated the economy as susceptible to his personal care. That's insufficient. A bold plan for economic growth, especially a controversial plan with sweeping tax reform, might work. But if not that, then at least do something that dwarfs Bain—and do it soon.

Mr. Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard and a commentator on Fox News Channel.

23053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sundry WSJ on Mitt and Bain on: January 12, 2012, 03:13:34 PM

By NEIL KING JR., BRODY MULLINS and DANNY YADRON
CHARLESTON, S.C.—Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney tried to slam the door Wednesday on criticism of his business record at Bain Capital, arguing his sweeping victory in New Hampshire repudiated that line of attack.

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney tried to slam the door Wednesday on criticism of his business record at Bain Capital, arguing his sweeping victory in New Hampshire repudiated that line of attack. Neil King has details on Campaign Journal.
But the debate over Bain—a proxy for a broader argument about the rough and tumble of market capitalism—looks set to continue through the next primary in South Carolina, a state with a pronounced populist streak that is possibly the last chance for Mr. Romney's rivals to slow his march toward the nomination.

Newt Gingrich, one of the harshest critics of Mr. Romney's Bain years, acknowledged Wednesday that it was a tough argument, but his campaign said he has no plans to back off. A group supporting Mr. Gingrich's candidacy, Winning our Future, continued to hammer the issue, as did Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who described Mr. Romney as a "vulture capitalist" while spotlighting factories in South Carolina where he said Bain had cut jobs during Mr. Romney's tenure.

Supporting Mr. Romney were a number of Republicans, including two of his rivals for the nomination, who rallied around the former Massachusetts governor, raising the possibility that the spat could in fact strengthen his hand. "Capitalism without failure isn't capitalism," GOP candidate and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told an audience of mostly students in Columbia, S.C. He was joined by Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who said bashing Bain was a mistake.

 
The Republican nomination fight, careening into the Palmetto State, is opening philosophical and tactical divides within the GOP. Some Republicans see the attacks on Mr. Romney as undermining the party's traditional defense of markets and rugged capitalism, as well as their likely nominee, while also playing into the hands of Democrats seeking to make hay out of many of the same issues.
Conservative commentators have criticized Messrs. Perry and Gingrich for attacking Mr. Romney's business credentials, saying they were mimicking the Occupy Wall Street movement and channeling the Obama administration.
At a campaign event in Spartanburg, an audience member urged Mr. Gingrich to "lay off" attacking Mr. Romney's time at Bain. Dean Glossop said he was a longtime admirer of Mr. Gingrich and opposed Mr. Romney's candidacy, but he said the attacks on Mr. Romney's private-sector career were counterproductive.

At the event, Mr. Gingrich said he agreed that it was a difficult argument to make and turned to blaming President Barack Obama for making it difficult for Republicans to talk about capitalism. Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond said Mr. Gingrich "agreed it was tough to argue, not that he will back off."
Afterward, Mr. Glossop, 47, said of Mr. Romney: "Let's not criticize his success as a capitalist; rather we should criticize his failure as a conservative."
Driving the attack on Mr. Romney isn't just the tactical advantage viewed by some of his rivals, but a shift in the GOP that has been evident since before the 2010 midterm elections. As the tea party has energized the Republican base, the party as a whole has been willing to countenance populist arguments more commonly associated with outlier candidates of past years such as Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot.
According to a compilation of thousands of interviews conducted for The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in 2011, blue-collar workers now are slightly more likely to call themselves Republicans than Democrats. And when Americans were asked last fall whom to blame for the country's economic problems, Republicans pointed a finger at Wall Street bankers just as often as Democrats did.
Still, the results in both Iowa and New Hampshire suggest that Mr. Romney isn't hurt by these trends as much as some of his opponents may think. In both states, polls of voters suggest he had solid support among both self-proclaimed conservatives and tea-party supporters. Exit polls in New Hampshire showed that Mr. Romney won convincingly among both groups.
Bain Capital was a pioneer in the business of buying up companies with the idea of turning them around and selling them for a profit. The firm notched some big successes, and Mr. Romney has claimed it helped create 100,000 jobs. Its tactics, however, which often included job cuts, have become tinder for a debate that has been consuming the party leading up to the South Carolina vote Jan. 21.
The theme hit a chord with a growing camp within the GOP that sees Bain as a kind of elite capitalist club out of sync with the idea that anyone can succeed with hard work. They say Mr. Romney's years as a private-equity manager at Bain could weigh on his candidacy, especially amid signs of rising antagonism toward financial elites.
"I support capitalism, but if somebody does anything that's kind of questionable, then we have the right to ask all the questions," said Jean Hampton, vice chairman of Carolina Patriots, a tea-party group based in Myrtle Beach.
It was a message Mr. Perry in particular hit hard on Wednesday. "I understand restructuring…but the idea that we can't criticize someone for these get-rich-quick schemes is not appropriate from my perspective," the Texas governor told voters at a restaurant rally in Lexington.
Rivals of Mr. Romney acknowledged Wednesday that South Carolina likely represents the last place to knock him off his stride. Messrs. Perry and Gingrich once enjoyed strong footholds here, but both did poorly in the first two contests and are running low on money and momentum. Mr. Gingrich nabbed less than 10% of the votes in New Hampshire and Mr. Perry a meager 1%.


Hitting back at his opponents, Mr. Romney said on several cable TV programs Wednesday that his resounding victory in New Hampshire proved the attacks against him not only fell flat, but backfired.
Speaking to reporters later, Mr. Romney said he was prepared to face questions about his time at Bain but was surprised the volleys came from Republicans. "We've understood for a long time that the Obama people would come after free enterprise," he said after he boarded his campaign plane to South Carolina. "Little surprised to see Newt Gingrich as the first witness for the prosecution."
The feud has astonished some of the state's top business figures. Barry Wynn, one of South Carolina's most prominent Republicans and chief executive of the private investment group Colonial Group Inc., said he found the attacks hard to stomach.
"The whole thing smacks of desperation and is anathema to what most Republicans believe," Mr. Wynn said. Pushing back, he and around a dozen other longtime Republicans plan to endorse Mr. Romney as a group Thursday morning.
One risk to the party comes from alienating Wall Street firms that after decades of support for Democrats have started to venture into the GOP fold. Managers and employees of hedge funds, for example, directed a majority of their contributions to the GOP during the most recent midterm election season, a pattern not seen since 1996, when the industry was much smaller.
Some finance executives said they were watching Mr. Romney's response closely, hoping he defends their business.
"What we're more curious about is how hard Romney will fight back against this line of attack," said Todd Klein, who helps run Legend Ventures LLC, a private-equity firm that invests in younger companies. "The open question in our minds is what kind of 'scrapper' Romney will be and whether he will play defense or offense on this issue."
Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said the attacks could get real purchase in the state, where unemployment is nearly 10% and the average person earns less than $30,000 a year.
"If Romney ends up appearing to be Gordon Gekko saying 'greed is good,' that causes him major problems in South Carolina," Mr. Harpootlian said.
One fund-raiser for Mr. Perry, who is close to the campaign, said he thought that the attacks on Mr. Romney were "deplorable" and that it was time for the party to begin coalescing around a candidate.
However, a "super PAC" supporting Mr. Gingrich released a 28-minute film called "King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town," which features interviews with distraught people who say they lost their jobs at companies taken over by Bain.
The pro-Gingrich group, Winning our Future, said it plans to spend as much as $3.4 million on ads attacking Mr. Romney in South Carolina, many of them based on footage from the film.
In a written statement, the group drew a distinction between Wall Street and what it called traditional forms of capitalism. "Wall Street and true free enterprise are divorced as never before," the group said.
Some members of the buyout industry said that for all his criticisms of Bain, Mr. Gingrich once benefited from the business as an adviser to Forstmann Little & Co. That firm led lucrative takeovers of Dr Pepper Co., Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., Topps Co. and others, deals that helped make its recently deceased founder, Theodore Forstmann, a billionaire.
Mr. Forstmann was critical of the heavy use of borrowed money by some in the industry, calling these rivals "barbarians."
As an adviser to the firm, Mr. Gingrich attended meetings two or three times a year, though he didn't spend much time working on the firm's deals, according to a person close to the matter.
"The private-equity bashing by Newt is most ironic," says Scott Higbee, a partner at Partners Group, a Boston-based firm that invests about $25 billion in private-equity firms including Bain and Carlyle. "It seems like a case of a cornered animal grasping to maintain relevancy."
Mr. Gingrich's campaign didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
—Gregory Zuckerman and Carol E. Lee contributed to this article.


By Brody Mullins
Newt Gingrich struck a populist note at a South Carolina campaign event Thursday, saying that as president he would demand an accounting of federal funds that went to Wall Street during the financial crisis.

 “We deserve some kind of accounting,” Mr. Gingrich said at The Palmetto Senior Show at the Columbia fairgrounds. “The American people have a right to know…where every penny went to find out who got the money and why they got the money,” he said.
Mr. Gingrich’s comments are his latest effort to tap into the populist sentiment in South Carolina ahead of the state’s Jan. 21 primary and draw a clear distinction between himself and his chief rival, Mitt Romney. Mr. Gingrich has come under fire from some conservatives here for attacking Mr. Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, a private equity firm the former Massachusetts governor had headed.
These conservatives say that the Republican Party should be the defender of capitalism and free markets – not criticizing Mr. Romney for making a personal fortune at his private equity firm.
Today, Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, made it clear he will not defend capitalism in all forms. “When you have crony capitalism with politicians taking care of their friends, that’s not capitalism,” he said in an apparent reference to the government’s financial bailouts.
In a line that drew some applause, Mr. Gingrich referred to financial institutions as “these extraordinary wealthy institutions.”
By Jennifer Levitz


Republican star and Fox News political analyst Sarah Palin said criticism of Mitt Romney‘s record at Bain Capital by some Republican rivals is fair game and that voters should get “proof” of the 100,000 jobs Mr. Romney said he helped create while he headed the private equity firm.
In an interview with Fox host Sean Hannity Wednesday, Ms. Palin was asked about Texas Gov. Rick Perry‘s comments that Mr. Romney had practiced “vulture capitalism” rather than venture capitalism at Bain. Fox and The Wall Street Journal are owned by News Corp.
“I don’t agree with attacks on free-market capitalism at all but I don’t believe this is really what is at the heart of Gov. Perry’s criticism of Romney and his time at Bain,” the former Alaska governor replied.  “This isn’t about a politician making huge profits in the private sector. I think what Gov. Perry is getting at is that Gov. Romney has claimed to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain and you know, now people are wanting to know is there proof of that claim.”
Gov. Palin’s comments add to the turmoil among Republicans: Is the GOP shooting itself in the foot and making things easier for Democrats down the road by criticizing Mr. Romney’s business record?
Mr. Palin, who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2008, has not publicly endorsed a candidate but her husband, Todd Palin, earlier this week endorsed candidate Newt Gingrich, who has been blasting Mr. Romney over his record of cutting jobs while at Bain.
Ms. Palin said it is fair for candidates to ask Mr. Romney to “own up to the claim being made” about jobs “because so many of us are concerned with what is going on Main Street as well as Wall Street.”
“That is fair. That is not negative campaigning,” she said.
23054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Big Stratfor Analysis on: January 12, 2012, 02:52:25 PM
Annual Forecast 2012
January 11, 2012 | 0609 GMT


Stratfor
There are periods when the international system undergoes radical shifts in a short time. The last such period was 1989-1991. During that time, the Soviet empire collapsed. The Japanese economic miracle ended. The Maastricht Treaty creating contemporary Europe was signed. Tiananmen Square defined China as a market economy dominated by an unchallenged Communist Party, and so on. Fundamental components of the international system shifted radically, changing the rules for the next 20 years.

We are in a similar cycle, one that began in 2008 and is still playing out. In this period, the European Union has stopped functioning as it did five years ago and has yet to see its new form defined. China has moved into a difficult social and economic phase, with the global recession severely affecting its export-oriented economy and its products increasingly uncompetitive due to inflation. The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq has created opportunities for an Iranian assertion of power that could change the balance of power in the region. The simultaneous shifts in Europe, China and the Middle East open the door to a new international framework replacing the one created in 1989-1991.

Our forecast for 2012 is framed by the idea that we are in the midst of what we might call a generational shift in the way the world works. The processes are still under way, and we will therefore have to consider the future of Europe, China and the Middle East in some detail before drawing a conclusion. The 2012 forecast is unique in that it is not a forecast for one year in a succession of years, all basically framed by the same realities. Rather, it is a year in which the individual forecasts point to a new generational reality and a redefinition of how the world works.

2012 may not be the conclusion of this transformative process. Neither was 1991 the conclusion. However, just as 1991 was the year in which it became clear that the old world of the Cold War no longer functioned, 2012 is the year in which it will become clear that the Post-Cold War world has come to an end, being replaced by changed players and changed dynamics.

Europe
The European Union and eurozone will survive 2012, and Europe's financial crisis will stabilize, at least temporarily. However, Stratfor expects Europe to continue its long, painful slide into deepening recession. We expect accelerating capital flight out of peripheral European countries as investors in Europe and farther afield lose confidence in the European system. We expect financial support measures to be withdrawn on occasion to maintain pressure on governments to implement fiscal reforms, which will lead to financial scares.

However, the driving force behind developments in Europe in 2012 will be political, not economic. Germany, seeing an opportunity in the ongoing financial crisis, is using its superior financial and economic position to attempt to alter the eurozone's structure to its advantage. The core of this "reform" effort is to hardwire tight financial controls into as many European states as possible, both in a new intergovernmental treaty and in each state's national constitution. Normally, we would predict failure for such an effort: Sacrificing budgetary authority to an outside power would be the most dramatic sacrifice of state sovereignty yet in the European experiment -- a sacrifice that most European governments would strongly resist. However, the Germans have six key advantages in 2012.

First, there are very few scheduled electoral contests, so the general populace of most European states will not be consulted on the exercise. Of the eurozone states, only France, Slovakia and Slovenia face scheduled national elections. Out of these three, France is by far the most critical: The Franco-German partnership is the core of the European system, and any serious breach between the two would herald the end of the European Union. If Germany is to compromise on its efforts for anyone, it will be for France, and if France needs another country in order to secure its own position in Europe, it needs Germany. Consequently, the two have chosen to collaborate rather than compete thus far, and we expect their partnership to survive the year. Luckily for the German effort, French elections will be at the very beginning of the ratification process, so any possible modifications to the German plan will come early.

Second, Germany only needs the approval of the 17 eurozone states -- rather than the 27 members of the full European Union -- to forward its plan with credibility. That the United Kingdom has already opted out is inconvenient for those seeking a pan-European process, but it does not derail the German effort.

Third, the process of approving a treaty such as this will take significant time, and some aspects of the reform process can be pushed back. European leaders are expected to sign the new treaty in March, and the rest of the year and some of 2013 will be used to seek ratification by individual countries. Amending national constitutions to satisfy Germany will be the bitterest part of the process, but much of that can be put off until 2013, and judgment by European institutions over how the revision process was handled comes still later. Such delays allow political leaders the option of pushing back the most politically risky portions of the process for months or years.

Fourth, the Germans are willing to apply significant pressure. Nearly all EU states count Germany as the largest destination for their exports, and such exports are critical for local employment. In 2011, Germany used its superior economic and financial position as leverage to help ease the elected leaderships of Greece and Italy out of office, replacing them with unelected former EU bureaucrats who are now working to implement aspects of the German program. Similar pressures could be brought to bear against additional states in 2012.

Those most likely to clash with Germany are Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands and Spain. Ireland wants the terms of its bailout program to be softened and is threatening a national referendum that could derail the ratification process. Finland's laws require parliamentary approval by a two-thirds majority for some aspects of ratification. The normally pro-European government of the Netherlands is a weak coalition that can only rule with the support of other parties, one of which is strongly euroskeptic. Spain must attempt the most painful austerity efforts of any non-bailout state if the reform process is to have credibility -- and it must do so amid record-high unemployment and a shrinking economy. Also, if Greece decides to hold new elections in 2012, European stakeholders will attempt to ensure that the new government in Athens does not end its collaboration with the European Central Bank (ECB), European Commission and International Monetary Fund. None of these issues will force an automatic confrontation, but all will have to be managed to ensure successful ratification, and the Germans have demonstrated that they have many tools with which to compel other governments.

Fifth, the Europeans are scared, which makes them willing to do things they would not normally do -- such as implementing austerity and ratifying treaties they dislike. Agreeing to sacrifice sovereignty in principle to maintain the European economic system in practice will seem a reasonable trade. The real political crisis will not come until the sacrifice of sovereignty moves from the realm of theory to application, but that will not occur in 2012. In many ways, the political pliability of European governments now is all about staving off unbearable economic catastrophe for another day.

The economic deferment of that pain is the sixth German advantage. Here, the primary player is the ECB. The financial crisis has two aspects: Over-indebted European governments are lurching toward defaults that would collapse the European system, and European banks (the largest purchasers of European government debt) are broadly insolvent -- their collapse would similarly break apart the European system. In December, the ECB indicated that it was willing to put up 20 billion euros ($28 billion) a week for sovereign bond purchases on secondary markets to support struggling eurozone governments, while extending low-interest, long-term liquidity loans to European banks in unlimited volumes. The bond program is large enough to potentially purchase three-fourths of all expected eurozone government debt issuances for 2012, while the first day of the loan program extended 490 billion euros in fresh credit to ailing banks.

Together these two measures make a eurozone financial meltdown highly unlikely in 2012, but they will greatly degrade European competitiveness and efficiency. That will be a problem for another time, though. For now, ECB actions are buying economic and political breathing room: economic in that austerity efforts can be somewhat softer than they would otherwise need to be, and political in that there is a feeling that Germany is willing to compromise somewhat on the issues of budgetary discipline today in order to achieve its broader goals of budgetary control tomorrow. Therefore, while the financial support is not exactly buying good will from other European states, it is certainly buying time.

As the ratification process proceeds, European hostility toward Germany and Brussels will increase. Internationally, the key theme will be states attempting to protect themselves from what they see as a growing -- and unwelcome -- German intrusion into their internal affairs. At the national level, the deepening recession will translate into general anger toward the government's announced austerity measures. The relative dearth of elections will deny that anger its normal release valve of centrist opposition parties, emboldening nationalist and extremist movements and leading to social unrest.

Political and financial turbulence will persist within this framework as Germany negotiates the new treaty with other eurozone countries. Though the core of these negotiations is a highly contentious abdication of national fiscal sovereignty, Europe is highly likely to adopt the new treaty since a perceived failure would dramatically accelerate the collapse of EU political structures and implementation will not happen in 2012.

Former Soviet Union
Russia's Challenges
In 2012, the Kremlin will face numerous challenges: social unrest, restructuring Russia's political makeup (both inside and outside of the Kremlin) and major economic shifts due to the crisis in Europe. The social unrest seen at the end of 2011 will continue festering throughout the presidential elections in 2012. Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin will have to reshape the political landscape from one dominated by his party to one that accounts for the increasing support for the nationalists and a new class of young, liberal activists. Simultaneously, Putin will restructure his inner circle of Kremlin loyalists, who have allowed infighting to divert their attention from their roles in tackling Russia's social unrest and financial problems. None of this will significantly diminish Putin's authority. The Kremlin will also have to adjust its economy in 2012 to accommodate changes in previous plans involving billions of dollars in investments from Europe in some of Russia's most strategic sectors. The crisis in Europe means any such investments will be significantly reduced, so the Kremlin will have to restructure the economic plans for its modernization and privatization programs and fund many of the projects itself. Putin will be able to navigate through these obstacles, though they will take up much of the Kremlin's attention. None of these factors will fundamentally change Russia's direction either domestically or in its foreign policy.

Russian Resurgence
Russia will continue building its influence in its former Soviet periphery in 2012, particularly by institutionalizing its relationships with many former Soviet states. Russia will build upon its Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan as it evolves into the Common Economic Space (CES). This larger institution will allow the scope of Russia's influence over Minsk and Astana, as well as new member countries such as Kyrgyzstan and possibly Tajikistan, to expand from the economic sphere into politics and security as Moscow lays the groundwork for the eventual formation of the Eurasian Union, which it is hoping to start around 2015.

As Ukraine's chances to grow closer to the European Union decrease, Kiev will realize that Moscow is the only outside power it can turn to. Russia will be able to take advantage of Ukraine's inability to maneuver and will gain access to strategic Ukrainian assets, possibly including minority control in its natural gas transit system. However, Ukraine will continue to resist the institutionalization of Russia's influence via the CES by maintaining a degree of cooperation with the West.

In the Baltic countries -- which, unlike other former Soviet states, are committed members of NATO and the European Union -- Russia's ultimate goal is to neutralize the countries' pro-Western and anti-Russian policies, a goal it will make progress toward in Latvia in 2012. It will face setbacks in Lithuania, but Lithuania will not be able to seriously challenge Russia's maneuvers in the region because of ongoing difficulties for its primary supporters: NATO and the European Union.

Russia and the West
Russia will continue managing various crises with the West -- mainly the United States and NATO -- while shaping its relationships in Europe. Moscow and Washington will continue their standoff over ballistic missile defense and U.S. support for Central Europe, and Moscow will react to the ongoing row by increasing security pressure on Central Europe and bolstering its economic presence in the region. Russia will use these crises as an opportunity to deepen divisions among the Europeans, between the Europeans and the United States, and within NATO while promoting the perception that Russia is being forced to act aggressively. The security situation will become tenser, and Russia will attempt to push these crises with the United States to the brink without actually rupturing relations -- a difficult balance.

Russia will also use the financial and political crises in Europe to bolster its influence in strategic countries and sectors. Moscow and Berlin will continue their close relationship, especially in the areas of economics and security, but Russia will focus more on Central Europe in areas of security and energy and in picking up assets. There is no real counter to Russia in Europe, as the Europeans will be absorbed with domestic and EU issues. But this does not mean Russia has a free pass, as it must still manage the domestic effects of its neighbors' crisis.

Central Asia
Numerous factors will undermine Central Asia's stability in 2012, but they will not lead to a major breaking point in the region this year. Protests over deteriorating economic conditions will occur throughout the region, particularly in Kazakhstan, though these will be contained to the region and will not result in overly disruptive violence. Serious issues in Kazakhstan's banking sector could lead to a financial crisis, though the government will be able to manage the difficulties and contain it during 2012 by using the oil revenues it has saved up.

The more pressing problem is the rising Islamist militancy in the region. Sporadic attacks will continue in Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan could see an increase in attacks. However, these attacks will not achieve their strategic goal of overthrowing regimes or coalesce into a transnational movement capable of destabilizing the region. In addition to these security tensions, looming successions for the longtime leaders in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will create political tensions, but barring the death of either leader, no major political upheavals are expected.

Middle East
Iran and the Saudi Dilemma
Iran's efforts to expand its influence will be the primary issue for the Middle East in 2012. The U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq has rendered Iran the pre-eminent military power in the Persian Gulf, but Tehran cannot count on the United States being as constrained beyond this year, and Turkey, Iran's natural regional counterweight, is rising steadily, albeit slowly. Iran's efforts to consolidate and extend its regional influence must therefore accelerate this year before its window of opportunity closes. Iran will still be operating under heavy constraints, however, and will therefore be unable to fundamentally alter the politics of the region in its favor.

Iran's regional expansion will be felt most deeply by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi royals now doubt that the United States has the ability or the willingness to fully guarantee Riyadh's interests. Adding to Saudi Arabia's vulnerabilities, the Gulf Cooperation Council states fear that if Iran is not contained within Iraq, it will exploit continued Shiite unrest in Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia's Shia-concentrated, oil-rich Eastern Province. In 2012, Saudi Arabia will lead efforts to shore up and consolidate the defenses of Gulf Cooperation Council members to try to ward off the threat posed by Iran, but such efforts will not be a sufficient replacement for the United States and the role it plays as a security guarantor. A critical part of Iran's regional agenda for the year will be to force Riyadh into an accommodation that benefits Iran and allows Saudi Arabia some reprieve. This could lead to temporary truces between the two adversaries, but given Iran's constraints and limited timetable, Saudi Arabia is more likely to stay committed to the U.S. security framework in the region -- for lack of better options.

Turmoil in Iraq and Syria
The effects of Iran's expansion efforts will be most visible in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, Iran's main challenge is to consolidate Shiite power among several competing groups. As Iraq's fractured Shiite leadership tries to solidify its influence with Iranian support, Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish factions increasingly will be put on the defensive. This ethno-sectarian struggle and the security vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal will degrade Iraq's overall security conditions. Meanwhile, Turkey will attempt to contain the spread of Iranian influence in northern Iraq by building up political, economic, military and intelligence assets.

In Syria, the ultimate goal of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States will be to disrupt Iran's Shiite arc of influence by trying to crack Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime. However, without direct foreign military intervention, the Syrian regime is unlikely to collapse. Al Assad will continue to struggle in trying to stamp out domestic unrest. The regime's limited options to deal with the crisis will force Syria to further rely on Iran for support, which will allow Tehran to reinforce its presence in the Mediterranean.

Stratfor cannot rule out the remote possibility that the al Assad clan will be coerced into a political exit. Such an outcome would risk inciting a sectarian struggle within the regime. Iran's goal is for Syria to maintain a regime -- regardless of who leads it -- that will remain favorable to Iranian interests, but Iran's ability to influence the situation is limited, and finding a replacement to hold the regime together will be difficult. It should be noted that the battle for Syria cannot take place without spilling over into Lebanon. In that regard, Lebanon faces a difficult year as proxy battles intensify between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Levant.

Turkey's Struggles
Overwhelmed by instability in its periphery, Turkey will continue to face significant challenges to its regional ascendency. Despite its rhetoric, Turkey will not undertake significant overt military action in Syria unless the United States leads the intervention -- a scenario Stratfor regards as improbable -- though it will continue efforts to mold an opposition in Syria and counterbalance Iranian influence in Iraq. Ankara will thus work to maintain a decent bilateral relationship with Tehran despite growing tensions between the two. Economic conditions in Europe will slow Turkey's economic growth, Kurdish militancy in Turkey will remain a significant threat, and concerns over Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's health could turn the government's focus inward as it tries to work through a contentious set of proposed constitutional changes. On the foreign policy front, Turkey will try to influence the rise of political Islamists, particularly in Egypt and Syria, but Ankara's own constraints will prevent it from taking meaningful steps in that regard.

Egypt's Political Transition
Egypt's turbulent political transition likely will give rise to a parliament with a significant Islamist presence, thereby complicating the ruling military elite's hold on power. However, the democratic transition will be a partial one at best; the country's fractious opposition and impotent parliament will continue to suffer from internal divisions and will be unable to overrule the military on issues of national strategic importance. Thus, the military will remain the de facto authority of the state.

Concerns over the country's struggling economy will outweigh the military's concerns over its political opposition. Egypt's preoccupation with its economic and political issues will undermine its ability to patrol its Sinai buffer, leading to increased tensions with Israel. However, both sides will continue to maintain the peace treaty that has been the foundation of Israeli-Egyptian relations for the past generation.

The Hamas Agenda
Hamas will take advantage of the slowly growing political clout of Islamists throughout the region in hopes of presenting itself to neighboring Arab governments and the West as a pragmatic and reconcilable political alternative to Fatah. These moves will help protect Hamas from the potential regime crisis in Syria (where its politburo is based) and bolster its relationships with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Hamas will be on alert for tactical opportunities to undermine security in the Sinai Peninsula with the hope of creating a crisis between Egypt and Israel.

Egypt's preoccupations and Hamas' expanded room to maneuver will incentivize the Jordanian leadership to strengthen its ties with Hamas. It will also allow Jordan to manage its own unrest by building more credibility among Islamists, leverage its relations with Fatah and keep a tab on Hamas' actions as the Jordanian monarchs adjust to changing regional dynamics.

East Asia
Three things will shape events in East Asia: China's response to the economic crisis and possible social turmoil amid a leadership transition; the European Union's debt crisis and economic slowdown sapping demand for East Asia's exports; and regional interaction with the U.S. re-engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.

The 2008 financial crisis exposed the inherent weaknesses of the Chinese economy, which, like its East Asian powerhouse predecessors, largely was based on a growth model driven by exports and government-led investment. While Beijing had been aware for some time of the need to shift toward a more balanced economic model, the continued slump in Europe and fears of another global slowdown have forced the government to face the challenges of economic restructuring now, rather than constantly staving them off. Even in the best of times, the redirection of an economy the size of China's would be difficult, but the pressure for change comes amid a leadership transition, when Beijing is particularly sensitive to any disruptions. With the politburo lineup changing in October and the new state leaders taking office in early 2013, the Communist Party of China (CPC) is focused on maintaining social stability to preserve the legacy of the outgoing leadership and solidify the legitimacy of the incoming leadership.

A rapid drop in economic growth poses a serious threat to China in 2012; a modest slowdown is widely expected this year due to the weakening export sector, a slump in the real estate market, and investment and risks to the banking system. Beijing is betting the decline will remain at a manageable level -- at least for a year of transition. The sharp drop in demand from Europe will harm the export sector in particular, with growth likely reduced to single digits. This declining external demand will threaten the already weakened export-oriented manufacturing industry, which has experienced rising costs in labor, raw materials and utilities as well as appreciating currency on top of its already thin-to-nonexistent profit margins. China will seek to compensate in part by refocusing on exports to the United States and expanding in emerging markets in Southeast Asia, Latin America or Africa, though this will not fully make up for the drop-off from Europe. Moreover, growing trade protectionism because of the economic downturn and political considerations -- especially the upcoming U.S. election season -- will likely put Chinese manufacturers at the center of trade frictions, making their position even more vulnerable. Beijing will employ traditional tools including targeted credit, tax reductions and direct subsidies to mitigate the risks of rising unemployment and bankruptcy in the financially strained manufacturing sector.

While Beijing knows that rolling out another massive fiscal stimulus and bank loans as it did in 2008-2009 is unsustainable and would put the economy at risk, it sees few other short-term options and thus will use government-led investment to sustain growth in 2012. Beijing will resume and launch a number of large infrastructure projects even at the expense of overcapacity and lack of productivity. However, accounting for around 10 percent of gross domestic product and a quarter of fixed investment, the decline in the real estate sector due to Beijing's tightening measures since 2010 represents one of the largest threats to Beijing's effort to stabilize growth. With affordable housing projects -- Beijing's plan to offset the negative consequences from falling real estate prices and weakening investment -- unlikely to reach their designated goal, Beijing may have to selectively relax its real estate tightening policy in 2012 while trying to avoid overcompensating by causing a sharp market rebound or property price inflation. The ruling Communist Party had promised it would bring these issues under control; its failure to do so could undermine the Party's credibility.

The continued high-level credit boom combined with the need to work out nonperforming loans (NPL) from the 2008-2009 stimulus will bring China into heightened NPL risk. The actual NPL ratio may rise as high as 8-12 percent in the next few years. At least 4.6 trillion yuan ($729 billion) out of a government-estimated local debt of 10.7 trillion yuan is set to mature within two years, and Beijing expects 2.5 trillion to 3 trillion yuan of the total risk to turn sour. The NPL risk, the 2.1 trillion-yuan debt from investment in the railway system and the massive informal lending from the shadow banking system that grew significantly during Beijing's credit tightening pose a systemic risk to the banking sector. Beijing may have to take some pre-emptive actions, such as refinancing measures or capital injections, in 2012 to ensure Chinese banks are able to maintain confidence in China's financial system. China's leaders, faced with near-term stabilizing options and long-term deep reforms, will choose the former, postponing the crisis but amplifying it when it becomes unavoidable in the future.

Given the economic uncertainty and political sensitivity surrounding the leadership transition, political elites in Beijing will attempt consensus at the highest levels. As it learned from the Tiananmen Square incident, CPC factional infighting exploited at a sensitive time is a serious risk, and we expect to see measures to ensure ideological and cultural control throughout the Party and down through the rest of society. Meanwhile, the priority to ensure a smooth transition means Beijing will be much less tolerant of actions that could spread instability, though Beijing is also cultivating pre-emptive methods for social control, such as community-level management or providing carefully controlled outlets for expressing grievances to better manage the country's social frustration, which will likely be exacerbated by the deteriorating economic situation.

Internationally, China will continue to accelerate its resource acquisition and outward investment strategy. As domestic problems mount, China may use external disputes to ease public dissatisfaction. Anticipating U.S. economic and trade pressure due to the electoral season and strategic encroachment in China's periphery, Beijing will focus its attention on reducing miscalculation and stressing interdependence in its relations with Washington while clarifying its response to the U.S engagement. Meanwhile, China will balance nationalistic initiatives with maintaining neighborly relations -- particularly with the South China Sea claimant countries, India and Japan -- and countering perceived moves by the United States to constrain China's economic influence in the region and lines of supply. The South China Sea claimant countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, will respond by accelerating their military purchases, taking advantage of the U.S. re-engagement efforts to hedge against China.

Most Asian countries -- which showed a strong economic recovery throughout 2010 and early 2011 -- will experience reduced growth amid the global economic slowdown. As the most important economic partner to many countries, China will increase its economic assistance and trade to Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries to leverage its influence. Beijing hopes to again project economic power in the region through aid, the import of consumer goods, currency swaps and regional trade agreements, but Beijing's role may also face challenges by renewed interest from other nations -- for example, the United States and Japan.

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has increased uncertainty on the Korean Peninsula. The first six months of the year will be critical as the unity of the regime is tested amid the leadership transfer. The leadership structure between civilian and military elements was established in recent years to strengthen the role of the Workers' Party of Korea as one of the pillars of power and to rebalance the military's role, but the process was not yet complete at the time of Kim's death. North Korean leaders are unlikely to fundamentally change the direction of Pyongyang's foreign policy in the near term. Their attention initially will be focused internally, and they will seek to avoid any sudden shift in policy that could destabilize the regime or significantly increase foreign pressure. China will look to make a push to ensure even greater influence on the Korean Peninsula during the transition period. In addition, bilateral discussions with the United States on resuming the six-party nuclear talks were showing progress before Kim's death, and Pyongyang is likely to restart these discussions sometime during the year.

South Asia
The U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan will not maintain sufficient force levels long enough to militarily defeat the Taliban -- and their various factions -- or pacify the country. But the Taliban will not be in a position to drive the United States and its allies from the country by force. Force structure choices must be made in 2012 to define the war effort through 2014, but the United States and its allies will continue to combat the Taliban in 2012 even as Afghan forces increasingly bear the brunt of the war effort. The United States will continue to consider a political accommodation with the Taliban, but such accommodation is unlikely to be reached this year.

The most important development in South Asia is Pakistan's ongoing political evolution. While other states, including Iran, are interested in shaping the future political landscape of Afghanistan, Pakistan continues to be at the heart of the Afghan war. As such, U.S.-Pakistani tensions will intensify in 2012 as the United States reaches an understanding with Pakistan, which will have to deal with the situation in the region after the United States leaves. Political, religious, ethnic and ideological tensions will intensify inside the country, and these will affect Pakistan, Afghanistan and U.S.-Pakistani relations moving forward.

Latin America
Mexico
Through the first half of 2012, Mexico will be enmeshed in campaigning for its July 1 presidential election. The country faces the possible end of what will be 12 years of rule by the National Action Party (PAN). Faced with public condemnation of rising violence, the PAN has lost a great deal of credibility over the past five years, something likely to benefit the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the newly unified Revolutionary Democratic Party. We expect no major legislative action under the administration of outgoing President Felipe Calderon as the three main parties compete for public approval. The new president takes office Dec. 1, meaning most of the new administration's major policy moves will not occur until 2013.

Regardless of any change in party, Mexico's underlying challenges will remain. The country's drug war rages on, with Los Zetas having consolidated control over most of Mexico's eastern coastal transportation corridor and the Sinaloa cartel having done the same in the west. Both cartels have a significant, growing presence in Central America and relations with South American organized crime. We expect the cartels to intensify their efforts to extend control over regional supply chains in 2012, although the Mexican cartels will remain dependent on relationships with local organized crime in other transit and producing countries. Despite significant territorial control in Mexico by Sinaloa and Los Zetas, numerous smaller criminal entities are still struggling for access to key transport hubs such as Acapulco. Meanwhile, the two main cartels will continue to attack each other in critical transit cities such as Veracruz and Guadalajara.

Continued inter-cartel competition among Mexico's diverse criminal groups will prevent any kind of alliance between Los Zetas and Sinaloa that allows them to abandon violence in favor of more profitable smuggling conditions. Similarly, the government faces severe constraints on its counter-cartel activities. It cannot afford to be seen publicly backing away from attempts to rein in violence. At the same time, any significant uptick in military offensives against the cartels carries the risk of intensifying the violence. The government will therefore attempt to emphasize social and economic policies while maintaining its current, high-tempo counter-cartel strategy.

Brazil
Brazil will spend 2012 focused on mitigating shocks to trade and capital flows from the crisis in Europe. However, with only 10 percent of Brazil's gross domestic product dependent on exports, Brazil is much less vulnerable than many other developing countries. In politics, Brazil will remain focused on trying to strike a balance between growth and inflation during the expected slowdown with judicious fiscal outlays and monetary expansion. Brazil will thus remain primarily focused on domestic issues through 2012. Trade protectionism will play a strong role in efforts to shield vulnerable industries. With global trade slowing, China will look for alternative export markets; these two trends will drive increased bilateral tensions between China and Brazil over the next year. Key Brazilian domestic issues will include ongoing city and border security initiatives; social welfare programs; infrastructure construction; and the development of, and politics surrounding, Brazil's petroleum reserves.

Venezuela
Uncertainty surrounding the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez makes it difficult to forecast the precise direction of Venezuelan politics in 2012. There will certainly be continued speculation about a potential successor from the Chavista elite, and growing dissatisfaction with the status quo among Chavez's base will be a prominent political force. Meanwhile, the political opposition parties -- which at this point appear prepared to unite behind a single candidate to be selected in February -- will make their most credible play for power in a decade. Under these conditions, the 2012 election will serve as a disruptor of Venezuelan politics. While the exact details of the outcome are unpredictable, 2012 will likely see some sort of power transition away from Chavez.

Regardless of who holds power at the end of the year, 2012 will continue to be characterized by growing domestic economic uncertainty, periodic infrastructure failure and poor distribution of basic goods. Dissatisfaction with these and other socio-economic issues will drive further protests, but the majority of political action will be centered on the election.

Cuba
Cuba's slow and cautious transitional measures can be expected to continue in 2012. Key reforms such as making credit and private property available to individuals are under way, and similar reforms, including attempts to loosen travel restrictions, can be expected in the next year. Cuba's ultimate international challenge is to balance the liberalization demands of the United States with its need for subsidized Venezuelan oil. A sudden disruption of these shipments is unlikely, but a political shift in Venezuela could force Cuba to reach out to the United States as a much more powerful -- but also more politically invasive -- economic partner.

Sub-Saharan Africa
Somalia
In 2012, a containment strategy will solidify against Somali jihadists -- both the transnationalist group al Shabaab and its nationalist rival, the Somali Islamic Emirate. This strategy will have three elements. The first will feature African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces consolidating their presence in Mogadishu. These forces include peacekeepers from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti, and additional forces from Sierra Leone will be deployed soon.

In the second part of the strategy, Kenyan troops will strengthen the cordon along the Kenyan border with southern Somalia. The 4,000 Kenyan troops there, nominally part of AMISOM, will hold territory and interdict Somali jihadists moving about the area. Lastly, Ethiopian forces will fortify a cordon along Ethiopia's border with central Somalia, also attempting to hold the territory and interdict jihadists.

To deny the Somali militias propaganda material, AMISOM, the Kenyans and the Ethiopians will not push deep into Somali territory to engage the jihadists. Instead, local militias employing guerrilla tactics will fight the jihadists within the containment zone. The combined efforts will successfully disrupt the jihadists' lines of supply, but they will not bring about their defeat. The United States will continue covert action in the Somali theater. U.S. special operations forces and unmanned aerial vehicles will collect and share intelligence with the Somali government and its allies. Additionally, U.S. forces in East Africa and the Horn of Africa will remain poised to strike high-value Somali jihadists or senior al Qaeda targets, should the opportunity arise.

Nigeria
Nigeria will see sustained militant violence in its northern region. Aggrieved political elites in the north, believing the government of President Goodluck Jonathan stole political power from them, will seek to use the Boko Haram militant group to their advantage. As part of their campaign to regain political power in 2015 national elections, these northern politicians will provide Boko Haram with arms and funding while protecting it politically.

This will enable the group to carry out frequent attacks on Nigerian government and civilian targets in its core area of operations in the country's northeast and northwest. Boko Haram will also conduct operations in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, but these will be rare. Boko Haram's statements will be jihadist and fierce, but the nature of its support will prevent it from carrying out attacks that would trigger an international response and result in a loss of leverage for northern Nigeria's political elite, such as transnational operations or attacks against foreign political or commercial facilities in Nigeria.

The Niger Delta in the south will also see a slow but steady return to militant violence. Though the Jonathan administration has stated that it will serve only from 2011 to 2015, divisions will start to emerge within the Jonathan camp over whether a single term is sufficient. Like their peers in northern Nigeria, political elites in the Niger Delta region, including Jonathan, will start reactivating alliances with regional militant groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

Attacks by MEND or other Niger Delta militants in 2012 will be infrequent and ultimately will not threaten oil production. However, they will form the basis for a counter-campaign by the Niger Delta political elite to demand political patronage while the region's elite decides whether to run for the ruling party's nomination for the presidency in the next elections.

Sudan
Domestic opposition in Sudan and South Sudan will prevent both governments from signing a legally binding oil revenue-sharing accord. Instead, they will accept the continuation of ad hoc agreements regarding the distribution of oil revenues. Additionally, U.N. peacekeepers will maintain their deployments in South Sudan and Darfur to respond to border clashes between militias on both sides of the Sudan-South Sudan border. It will take much of the year, but Khartoum and Juba will settle into an informal understanding over border demarcation.

South Africa
South Africa will remain focused on internal rivalries that will inhibit its ability to consolidate its influence in the southern African region. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) will contend with internal rivalries as it moves toward a leadership convention and election in December 2012. South African President Jacob Zuma will be working to secure a second term as ANC president, a post that would effectively make him the party's candidate for South African president in 2014 elections. Simultaneously, the Zuma camp will work to ensure that no rival faction in the ANC gains enough momentum to challenge Zuma.

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23055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman: The Hack on Stratfor on: January 12, 2012, 02:38:57 PM
By George Friedman

In early December I received a call from Fred Burton, Stratfor's vice president of intelligence. He told me he had received information indicating our website had been hacked and our customer credit card and other information had been stolen. The following morning I met with an FBI special agent, who made clear that there was an ongoing investigation and asked for our cooperation. We, of course, agreed to cooperate. The matter remains under active investigation.

From the beginning I faced a dilemma. I felt bound to protect our customers, who quickly had to be informed about the compromise of their privacy. I also felt bound to protect the investigation. That immediate problem was solved when the FBI told us it had informed the various credit card companies and had provided those companies with a list of compromised cards while omitting that it had come from us. Our customers were therefore protected, as the credit card companies knew the credit cards and other information had been stolen and could act to protect the customers. We were not compelled to undermine the investigation.

The FBI made it clear that it expected the theft to be exposed by the hackers. We were under no illusion that this was going to be kept secret. We knew our reputation would be damaged by the revelation, all the more so because we had not encrypted the credit card files. This was a failure on our part. As the founder and CEO of Stratfor, I take responsibility for this failure, which has created hardship for customers and friends, and I deeply regret that it took place. The failure originated in the rapid growth of the company. As it grew, the management team and administrative processes didn't grow with it. Again, I regret that this occurred and want to assure everyone that Stratfor is taking aggressive steps to deal with the problem and ensure that it doesn't happen again.

From the beginning, it was not clear who the attackers were. The term "Anonymous" is the same as the term "unknown." The popular vision of Anonymous is that its members are young and committed to an ideology. I have no idea if this is true. As in most affairs like this, those who know don't talk; those who talk don't know. I have my theories, which are just that and aren't worth sharing.

I was prepared for the revelation of the theft and the inevitable criticism and negative publicity. We worked to improve our security infrastructure within the confines of time and the desire to protect the investigation by not letting the attackers know that we knew of their intrusion. With the credit card information stolen, I assumed that the worst was done. I was wrong.

Early in the afternoon of Dec. 24, I was informed that our website had been hacked again. The hackers published a triumphant note on our homepage saying that credit card information had been stolen, that a large amount of email had been taken, and that four of our servers had been effectively destroyed along with data and backups. We had expected they would announce the credit card theft. We were dismayed that emails had been taken. But our shock was at the destruction of our servers. This attack was clearly designed to silence us by destroying our records and the website, unlike most attacks by such groups.

Attacks against credit cards are common, our own failures notwithstanding. So are the thefts of emails. But the deliberate attack on our digital existence was a different order of magnitude. As the global media marveled at our failure to encrypt credit card information, my attention was focused on trying to understand why anyone would want to try to silence us.

In the days that followed, a narrative evolved among people claiming to speak for Anonymous and related groups. It started with looking at our subscriber list and extracting corporate subscribers who were now designated as clients. The difference between clients and subscribers is important here. A client is someone you do customized work for. A subscriber is simply someone who purchases a publication, unchanged from what others read. A subscriber of The New York Times is not its client. Nevertheless, some of the media started referring to these subscribers as clients, reflecting the narrative of those claiming to speak with knowledge of our business.

From there, the storyline grew to argue that these "clients," corporate and government, provided Stratfor with classified intelligence that we reviewed. We were no longer an organization that analyzed the world for the interested public, but rather a group of incompetents and, conversely, the hub of a global conspiracy. The media focused on the first while the hacking community focused on the second.

This was why they stole our email, according to some of them. As one person said, the credit cards were extra, something they took when they realized they could. It was our email they were after. Obviously, we were not happy to see our emails taken. God knows what a hundred employees writing endless emails might say that is embarrassing, stupid or subject to misinterpretation. What will not appear is classified intelligence from corporations or governments. They may find, depending on what they took, that we have sources around the world, as you might expect. It is interesting that the hacker community is split, with someone claiming to speak for the official Anonymous condemning the hack as an attack on the media, which they don't sanction, and another faction defending it as an attack on the rich and powerful.

The interpretation of the hackers as to who we are -- if indeed that was their interpretation -- was so wildly off base as to stretch credulity. Of course, we know who we are. As they search our emails for signs of a vast conspiracy, they will be disappointed. Of course we have relationships with people in the U.S. and other governments and obviously we know people in corporations, and that will be discovered in the emails. But that's our job. We are what we said we were: an organization that generates its revenues through geopolitical analysis. At the core of our business, we objectively acquire, organize, analyze and distribute information.

I don't know if the hackers who did this feel remorse as they discover that we aren't who they said we were. First, I don't know who they actually are, and second, I don't know what their motives were. I know only what people claiming to be them say. So I don't know if there is remorse or if their real purpose was to humiliate and silence us, in which case I don't know why they wanted that.

And this points to the real problem, the one that goes beyond Stratfor's own problem. The Internet has become an indispensible part of our lives. We shop, communicate, publish and read on it. It has become the village commons of the planet. But in the village commons of old, neighbors who knew and recognized each other met and lived together. Others knew what they did in the commons, and they were accountable.

In the global commons, anonymity is an option. This is one of the great virtues of the Internet. It is also a terrible weakness. It is possible to commit crimes on the Internet anonymously. The technology that enables the Internet also undermines accountability. Given the profusion of technical knowledge, the integrity of the commons is in the hands of people whose identities we don't know, whose motives we don't understand, and whose ability to cause harm is substantial. The consequence of this will not be a glorious anarchy in the spirit of Guy Fawkes, but rather a massive repression. I think this is a pity. That's why I wonder who the hackers actually are and what cause they serve. I am curious as to whether they realize the whirlwind they are sowing, and whether they, in fact, are trying to generate the repression they say they oppose.

The attempt to silence us failed. Our website is back, though we are waiting for all archives to be restored, and our email is working again. Our failures have been reviewed and are being rectified. We deliberately shut down while we brought in outside consultants to rebuild our system from the ground up. The work isn't finished yet, but we can start delivering our analyses. The handling of credit cards is being handed off to a third party with appropriate capability to protect privacy. We have acted to help our customers by providing an identity theft prevention service. As always, we welcome feedback from our supporters as well as our critics.

We are fortunate that we have the financial resources and staff commitment to survive the attack. Others might not. We are now in a world in which anonymous judges, jurors and executioners can silence whom they want. Take a look at the list of organizations attacked. If the crushing attack on Stratfor is the new model, we will not be the last. No security system is without flaws even if it is much better than Stratfor's was.

We certainly expect to be attacked again, as we were last week when emails were sent out to members from a fake Stratfor address including absurd messages and videos. Our attackers seem peculiarly intent on doing us harm beyond what they have already done. This is a new censorship that doesn't come openly from governments but from people hiding behind masks. Do not think we will be the last or that we have been the first.

We will continue to publish analysis and sell it to those who believe it has value. To our subscribers who have expressed such strong support, we express our deepest gratitude. To our critics, we assure you that nothing you have said about us represents a fraction of what we have said about ourselves. While there is much not to be proud of in this affair, I am proud beyond words of all my dedicated colleagues at Stratfor and am delighted to return our focus to analyzing critical international affairs.

To all, I dedicate myself to denying our attackers the prize they wanted. We are returning to the work we love, dedicated to correcting our mistakes and becoming better than ever in analyzing and forecasting how the world works.

We have acted to help our customers by providing an identity theft prevention service.

As always, we welcome feedback from our supporters as well as our critics.

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23056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2006 Fed transcripts show Bernanke clueless as to coming housing bubble pop on: January 12, 2012, 02:31:07 PM
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and most of his colleagues showed little concern when house prices started to decline in 2006, predicting “a soft landing” in the then-strong U.S. economy, transcripts from the central bank released Thursday show.


Bloomberg News
Fed Chairman Ben S. BernankeBernanke, who took over from Alan Greenspan as Fed chairman in February 2006, is cautious in making forecasts about housing and the wider economy. But, together with then New York Fed chief Timothy Geither, he believes the slowdown in housing is healthy and likely to end well.

Few central bank officials look overly worried just a few months before the storm hit, leading to the worst recession since the Great Depression. There are expectations, however. At the May 2006 meeting, for example, Fed Governor Susan Bies brings the discussion back to housing and her growing worries about mortgages. At the following meeting in June, Janet Yellen, the Fed vice chairwoman who headed the San Francisco Fed in 2006, appears to be the most concerned about housing.

The transcripts, available on the Fed’s website, provide full details of Fed officials’ individual views during the eight Federal Open Market Committee Meetings, with the traditional five-year lag (the minutes, released three weeks after FOMC meetings, only give a summary.)

Highlights of the transcripts include:

JAN. 31: Alan Greenspan, who took over as Fed chairman in 1987, is chief for the last time during the meeting of the Fed’s decision-making body. Fed officials spend much of their time praising him. “I’d like the record to show that I think you’re pretty terrific, too,” says Timothy Geithner. “And thinking in terms of probabilities, I think the risk that we decide in the future that you’re even better than we think is higher than the alternative.”

MAR. 27-28: In Bernanke’s first meeting as Fed chairman, housing looms as a risk, but officials haven’t grasped the severity of the threat. The Fed’s chief economist, David Stockton, offers some ominous warnings. “Right now, it feels a bit like riding a roller coaster with one’s eyes shut,” when discussing his forecast for a modest slowdown in housing. “We sense that we’re going over the top, but we just don’t know what lies below.” Later, he notes that housing is “the most salient risk” to the economy. “I just don’t know how to forecast those prices,” he says of housing prices.

“Again, I think we are unlikely to see growth being derailed by the housing market, but I do want us to be prepared for some quarter-to-quarter fluctuations,” Bernanke says. He identifies housing as a crucial issue, but adds that he agrees “with most of the commentary that the strong fundamentals support a relatively soft landing in housing.

Timothy Geithner, who is now Treasury Secretary and was then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, doesn’t see the parallel risks building in the financial system. “Equity prices and credit spreads suggest considerable confidence in the prospect for growth,” he says. “Overall financial conditions seem pretty supportive of the expansion.”

In terms of policy, Bernanke picks up where predecessor Greenspan left off: with another quarter-point boost in interest rates, and a hint of more to come.

But he puts a modest stamp of his own on the Fed’s closely watched post-meeting statement, by including a more explicit view of where the nation’s economy is headed. The statement’s forecast that economic growth appears likely “to moderate to a more sustainable pace” may be an early, though small, sign of his efforts to make the central bank’s thinking more transparent.

MAY 10: Fed officials spend a lot of time discussing rising energy prices and risks to inflation and agree to raise short-term interest rates by 0.25%. Susan Bies, a Fed governor, tries to bring the discussion back to housing and her growing worries about mortgages. She looks enlightened in retrospect in a discussion about the risks that increasingly exotic mortgages pose to consumers and banks.

Bies points in particular to negative amortization loans, in which household loan balances get bigger and not smaller over time. “I just wonder about the consumer’s ability to absorb shocks,” she warns. “The buildup of home equity and the ability to borrow against it have helped individual homeowners when they have had layoffs, medical problems, divorces-all the things in life that create month-to-month problems for cash flow. With the growth of negative amortization, home equity is not being built up anymore.” She sums up with a ominous warning: “The growing ingenuity in the mortgage sector is making me more nervous as we go forward in this cycle, rather than comforted that we have learned a lesson. Some of the models the banks are using clearly were built in times of falling interest rates and rising housing prices. It is not clear what may happen when either of those trends turns around.”

Bernanke acknowledges the risks, but doesn’t sound overly worried: “So far we are seeing, at worst, an orderly decline in the housing market; but there is still, I think, a lot to be seen as to whether the housing market will decline slowly or more quickly. As I noted last time, some correction in this market is a healthy thing, and our goal should not be to try to prevent that correction but rather to ensure that the correction does not overly influence growth in the rest of the economy.”

JUNE 28-29: In summarizing Fed officials’ views, Bernanke notes how it’s getting more and more difficult to make forecasts, describing the economic situation as “exceptionally complicated.” Since housing is particularly hard to project, Bernanke calls it “an important risk and one that should lead us to be cautious in our policy decisions.”

The Fed raises interest rates to 5.25% from 5% at this meeting, the 17th increase in a row. But for the first time since it began raising rates from a low of 1% in June 2004, the Fed doesn’t explicitly say another rate increase was under consideration.

AUG. 8: Bernanke reminds his colleagues that the Fed has not been “terribly successful with soft landings” in the economy. Then he adds: “We have a chance to get one.” Janet Yellen, the Fed vice chairwoman who headed the San Francisco Fed in 2006, appears to be the most concerned about housing, warning that the housing slowdown could become an “unwelcome housing slump.” The central bank leaves rates unchanged at this meeting after two years of steady increases. Geithner wants to cite housing weakness as a factor, but the majority is against that.

SEP. 20: The Fed cites housing and energy declines in holding interest rates steady. However, chief economist Stockton says that the economy “bends but doesn’t break” under one Fed forecasting scenario of a housing slump. “So far the collateral damage from the downturn in housing has been limited, and for the most part, we expect it to remain that way, at least for a time,” he says. Bernanke notes there’s a split on how housing is viewed at the Fed, with some expecting a deep correction while others believe incomes and rates will support housing. Here’s how he sums it up: “the economy except for housing and autos is still pretty strong, and we do not yet see any significant spillover from housing.”

OCT. 24-25: Fed officials spend most of the meeting talking about how to improve their communication with the public, a topic still obsessing them that will be the focus of the upcoming FOMC meeting this month. Officials are mired in an extensive debate about the words employed in the policy statement. They also devote significant time to airing views on whether the central bank should adopt an inflation target, a matter still unresolved to this very day.

The market’s long struggle to divine meaning from certain words is mirrored inside the Fed. Officials struggle to choose the right words to associate with their economic views. Geithner flags the “dictionary” issues before them, amid a conversation about what a word like “moderate” might mean when applied to the FOMC’s expectations of growth. He asks, “have we used that phrase in the recent past in a way that would allow the reasonably informed outside person to interpret it that way?” That leads to Vincent Reinhart, who was then an FOMC monetary policy advisor, to say “I don’t know.”

DEC. 12: The meeting that closes out the year sees policymakers showing little rising awareness of the storm coming their way. Indeed, much of the conversation officials have was about employment and inflation. Some of the evidence of rising weakness in housing was seen largely as a correction for past excess, rather than the genesis of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Boston Fed boss Cathy Minehan then observes her district was seeing a slowdown in housing, but she saw no great concern in this development. The Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker notes a mixed housing picture: he doesn’t see any great catastrophe coming the sector’s way. Cleveland Fed leader Sandra Pianalto flags some borrowers’ increased difficulty in getting mortgages in her region. Then Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn says rising inventories in manufacturing was “a bit more troubling” than the cooling in housing activity he’d seen.

Fed Governor Bies once again looks ahead of the curve. She says “the amount of leverage in each housing deal may still need some correction going forward, and so we may see some slowdown in the volume of dollars that are funded through mortgage lending.” She also says that in markets there is a realization “that a lot of the private mortgages that have been securitized during the past few years really do have much more risk than the investors have been focusing on.”

Bernanke fails to see any major problem brewing in housing based on his comments in the transcripts, once again predicting a “soft landing” for the economy.

23057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on UAVs/Drones on: January 12, 2012, 02:21:45 PM
One of the most iconic images of the American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- as well as global U.S. counterterrorism efforts -- has been the armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), specifically the MQ-1 "Predator" and the MQ-9 "Reaper." Unarmed RQ-1 Predators (which first flew in 1994) were flying over Afghanistan well before the 9/11 attacks. Less than a month after the attacks, an armed variant already in development was deployed for the first time.

In the decade since, the Predator has clocked more than a million flight hours. And while U.S. Air Force procurement ceased in early 2011 -- with more than 250 airframes purchased -- the follow-on MQ-9 Reaper has already been procured in numbers and production continues. Predators and Reapers continue to be employed in a broad spectrum of roles, including close air support (CAS), when forward air controllers communicate with UAV operators to release ordnance with friendly troops in the vicinity (CAS is one of the more challenging missions even for manned aircraft because of the heightened risk of friendly casualties). Officially designated "armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long endurance, remotely piloted aircraft," the second to last distinction is the Predator and Reaper's principal value: the ability to loiter for extended periods, in some cases for more than 24 hours.

This ability affords unprecedented situational awareness and physical presence over the battlefield. The implications of this are still being understood, but it is clear that it allows, for example, the sustained and constant monitoring of main supply routes for attempts to emplace improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or the ability to establish a more sophisticated understanding of high-value targets' living patterns. In addition, live, full-motion video for ground controllers is available to lower and lower echelons to an unprecedented degree.

As the procurement of Predators and Reapers and the training of operators accelerated -- particularly under the tenure of former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, beginning in 2006 -- the number of UAV "orbits" skyrocketed (an orbit is a single, continuous presence requiring more than one UAV airframe per orbit). There are now more than 50 such orbits in the U.S. Central Command area of operations alone (counting several maintained by the larger, unarmed RQ-4 "Global Hawk"). The U.S. Air Force expects to be capable of maintaining 65 orbits globally by 2013, with the combined total of flight hours for Predator and Reaper operations reaching about 2 million around the same time. In 2005, UAVs made up about 5 percent of the military aircraft fleet. They have since grown to 30 percent, though most are small, hand-launched and unarmed tactical UAVs.

The Counterterrorism Value
One of the most notable uses of the Predator and Reaper has been in the counterterrorism role, both as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform and as an on-call strike platform. These armed UAVs are operated both by the U.S. Air Force and, in some cases (as with operations conducted over Pakistan), the CIA. Even before the 9/11 attacks, the armed Predator then in development was being considered as a means not only of keeping tabs on Osama bin Laden but also of killing him. Since then, armed UAVs have proved their worth both in the offensive strike role against specific targets and as a means of maintaining a constant level of threat.

The value of the counterterrorism ISR that can be collected by large UAVs alone is limited since so much depends on how and where they are deployed and what they are looking for. This mission requires not only sophisticated signals but also actionable human intelligence. But as a front-line element of a larger, integrated collection strategy, the armed UAV has proved to be a viable and enduring element of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy worldwide.

The ability to loiter is central and has a value far beyond the physical capabilities of a single airframe in a specific orbit. Operating higher than helicopters and with a lower signature than manned, jet-powered fighter aircraft, the UAV is neither visibly or audibly obvious (though the degree of inconspicuousness depends on, among other things, weather and altitude). Because UAVs are so discreet, potential targets must work under the assumption that an armed UAV is orbiting within striking distance at all times.

Such a constant threat can place considerable psychological pressure on the prey, even when the predator is large and loud. During the two battles of Fallujah, Iraq, in April and November of 2004, AC-130 gunships proved particularly devastating for insurgents pinned in certain quadrants of the city, but AC-130s were limited in number and availability. When it was not possible to keep an AC-130 on station at night (in order to keep the insurgents' heads down), unarmed C-130 transports were flown in the same orbits at altitudes where the distinctive sound of a C-130 could be clearly discerned on the ground, thus maintaining the perception of a possible AC-130 reprisal against any insurgent offensive.

Indeed, it is difficult to overstate the psychological and operational impact of this tactic on a group that experiences successful strikes on its members, even if the strikes are conducted only rarely. Counterterrorism targets in areas where UAVs are known to operate must work under tight communications discipline and constraints, since having their cellular or satellite phone conversations tapped risks not only penetration of communications but immediate and potentially lethal attacks.

The UAV threat was hardly the only factor, but consider how Osama bin Laden's communiques declined from comparatively regular and timely videos to rare audiotapes. In 2001, bin Laden was operating with immense freedom of maneuver and impunity despite the manhunt already under way for him. That situation changed even as he fled to Pakistan, and the combination of aggressive signals as well as UAV- and space-based ISR efforts further constrained his operational bandwidth and relevance as he was forced to focus more and more on his own personal survival.

The UAV threat affects not only the targeted individuals themselves but also their entire organizations. When the failure to adhere to security protocols can immediately yield lethal results, the natural response is to constrict communications and cease contact with untrusted allies, affiliates and subordinates. When the minutiae of security protocols start to matter, the standard for having full faith, trust and confidence among those belonging to or connected with a terrorist organization become much higher. And the more that organization's survival is at stake, the more it must focus on survival, thereby reducing its capacity to engage in ambitious operations. On a deeper level, there is also the value of sowing distrust and paranoia within an organization. This has the same ultimate effect of increasing internal distrust and thereby undermining the spare capacity for the pursuit of larger, external objectives.

The Evolving Geography
While armed Predators first operated in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater, it was the darkest days of the Iraq War, at the height of the violence there from 2005 to 2007, that saw the strongest demand for them. As the main effort shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan, UAV operations began to shift with them. While UAVs will remain in high demand in Afghanistan even as the drawdown of forces continues there in 2012, the end of armed UAV operations in Iraq and the continued expansion of the U.S. Air Force's Reaper fleet mean that considerable bandwidth is being freed up for operations in other parts of the world. (In Iraq, some UAVs may continue to be operated over northern Kurdish areas in coordination with Turkey, and some private security contractors are operating a small fleet of unarmed UAVs as part of protection efforts in coordination with the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service.)

There are obvious diplomatic and operational limitations to the employment of armed UAVs. Diplomatically, however, they also have demonstrated some value as an intermediate step between purely clandestine operations run by the CIA and the overt deployment of uniformed personnel and manned aircraft. Operationally, while Predators and Reapers lack the sort of low-observability profile of the RQ-170 (one of which was lost over Iran in 2011), UAVs lack pilots and pose no risk of human personnel being taken captive. A UAV that crashes in Iran has far fewer political ramifications than a piloted aircraft, making its deployment an easier decision for political leaders.

Indeed, the last decade has seen the maturation of the armed UAV, including its underlying architecture and doctrines. And while more than 50 Predators and Reapers have been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan and in training over the past decade, the aircraft are now essentially as safe and reliable as a manned F-16C/D but far cheaper to procure, maintain and operate. And over the next 10 years, the Pentagon plans to grow its UAV fleet about 35 percent. The U.S. Air Force plans to buy 288 more Reapers -- 48 per year from now through 2016 -- and money for UAVs has remained largely untouched even as budget cuts intensify at the Pentagon.

So while armed UAVs are merely one tool of a much broader and more sophisticated counterterrorism strategy, they can be expected to be valuable for the foreseeable future, and employed in areas of the world beyond Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen (even along the U.S.-Mexico border in an unarmed role for border patrol and counternarcotics missions). And despite an enormous breach in U.S.-Pakistani relations following the deaths of two dozen Pakistani military personnel in a cross-border incident in November and the consequent ejection of the CIA from Shamsi airfield in Pakistan (from which it had operated armed UAVs since October 2001), existing UAV orbits have been largely maintained. On Jan. 10, the first strike on Pakistani territory since November took place in North Waziristan agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

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23058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 12, 2012, 02:19:50 PM
Speaking only as a humble civilian my sense of things is that these things have always happened, that we do them far, far less than others, and the new technologies make covering them up harder and give them mass dissemination in an instant.  Who amongst the greater public knows that Abu Graib was expossed through internal Army procedures and released to the press by the Pentagon?

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The Pakistani military issued a press release Wednesday criticizing remarks that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani made to China’s People’s Daily Online. Pakistan’s Supreme Court is probing allegations that the civilian government sent a memo seeking U.S. assistance to reverse the military’s domination over the state. In an interview with the newspaper, Gilani had said the chief of the country’s army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, and the head of the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, acted unconstitutionally in statements they submitted to the court. The statement from the military’s public relations directorate warned that Gilani’s comments to the Chinese newspaper entailed “very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.”

On the same day, Gilani fired the Defense Ministry’s senior-most bureaucrat -- a retired three-star general with close ties to military leadership -- accusing him of “gross misconduct” and illegal action.

These two events, the latest in a standoff between the country’s civilian and military leaders that began when the memo controversy surfaced last October, are being read internationally as signs that the military is working once again to force a civilian government out of office. Since Pakistan’s first coup in 1958 -- a mere 11 years after independence -- three more have followed, in 1969, 1977 and 1999, and have ushered in long periods of military rule. Even during the longest period of civilian rule, from 1988 to 1997, the security establishment constitutionally ousted three elected governments, in 1990, 1993 and 1996.

Considering that history, it is not unusual that the military would try to get rid of the current government. That said, much has changed since the last coup, which brought former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to power a little more than 12 years ago. Since that time, it has been difficult for the military to dispose of a government it does not like. The proliferation of private media and rise of civil society during Musharraf’s rule, the popular uprising that helped bring about the military dictator’s fall from power, and the judiciary’s emergence as a power center have greatly complicated matters for Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex.

The current military leadership knows that present domestic and international circumstances make a classic coup unviable. And at any rate, the military does not wish to seize power and with it inherit the responsibility for addressing the social, economic and security issues plaguing the country. The military would much rather see the government ousted through constitutional means.

The constitutional option is also not presently viable. In the past, the military would align with the presidency and opposition parties in parliament to counter the government. But Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari leads the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. And while opposition parties in parliament would like to reap the benefits of a weakened ruling party, they are unwilling to see the army gain the upper hand.

That leaves the Supreme Court, which has taken a clear stance against the civilian administration and is pressing the president and others in the government on corruption charges.

However, even a Supreme Court ruling against it would not necessarily bring about the government’s ouster. For that to happen, parliament needs to vote down both the prime minister and the president -- and the arithmetic of such a theoretical vote right now favors the ruling party. So even as it retains a great deal of power, the military cannot oust governments as easily as it has done in the past.

Even if the government is forced to call early elections and is unable to complete the term set to expire in about a year, a shift in the civil-military power dynamic is undeniably in the making in Pakistan. Given the historical trend, the military will not become subordinate to civilians anytime soon -- while the country’s political parties have yet to demonstrate they are a coherent lot capable of effective governance. That said, the military’s ability to dominate the polity is no longer what it once was.

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23059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury; Dec. retail numbers on: January 12, 2012, 11:12:20 AM

Retail sales grew 0.1% in December To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 1/12/2012
Retail sales grew 0.1% in December (0.3% including upward revisions to October/November). The consensus expected an increase of 0.3%. Retail sales are up 6.5% versus a year ago.
Sales excluding autos fell 0.2% in December (-0.1% including upward revisions to October/November). The consensus expected an increase of 0.3%. Retail sales ex-autos are up 6.0% in the past year.
 
The increase in retail sales in December was led by autos and building materials. The biggest declines were for gas stations and general merchandise stores.
 
Sales excluding autos, building materials, and gas declined 0.2% in December. But, these sales are up at a 5.3% annual rate in Q4 versus the Q3 average. This calculation is important for estimating real GDP.
 
Implications:  Retail sales grew less than the consensus expected in December, but are still consistent with solid economic growth. Surprisingly, autos were the strongest part of sales, which signals less discounting in that sector in December than previous reports suggest, a bullish sign of consumer demand for big-ticket items. The other strong sector for sales in December was building materials, which may have been a function of unusually warm weather in much of the country. The largest drag on December sales was at gas stations, due to lower prices at the pump. Sales were also down at general merchandise stores and for electronics/appliances, which probably reflects steep discounting amid Christmas sales competition. Overall sales are up in 17 of the last 18 months. Sales declined ex-autos, but that’s the first time in 19 months. This kind of consistent and continuous growth is very rare.  Typically, retail sales have three or four negative months every year, even in good years.  “Core” sales, which exclude autos, building materials, and gas, fell for the first time in 17 months, but “core” sales for Q4 were up at a 5.3% annual rate versus the Q3 average.  In other recent retail news, chain store sales continue to look good, up 3.3% versus a year ago according to Redbook Research and up 2.8% according to International Council of Shopping Centers.  Remember, these figures show same-store sales; total sales are up more than that.  In other news this morning, initial claims for unemployment insurance increased 24,000 last week to 399,000. The four-week average is 382,000, which is much closer to the underlying trend.  Continuing claims for regular state benefits rose 33,000 to 3.63 million. The economy is getting better, but it never does so in a straight line.
23060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams, 1776 on: January 12, 2012, 11:08:19 AM
"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it." --John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776
23061  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Wheel Chair hero on: January 11, 2012, 10:00:04 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMyjVpag8os&feature=youtube_gdata_player&noredirect=1
23062  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America on: January 11, 2012, 05:50:23 PM


CAIR's Manipulation Tactics in Tampa
IPT News
January 11, 2012
http://www.investigativeproject.org/3381/cair-manipulation-tactics-in-tampa
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As news of a terrorist plot by a radical Islamist in Tampa emerged Monday, the propaganda machine that is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) launched into action, repeating its mantra of accusations against the FBI and offering excuses for the plotter. It's a common pattern for an organization that positions itself between the public, government, and terrorist suspects, trying to control dialogue about Islamist terrorism suspects and cynically manipulating its own relationship with the government.
Local media played into CAIR's plan, with the Tampa and St. Petersburg daily newspapers and television affiliates turning to the group for reaction, despite its own tainted record.
Early responses to Sami Osmakac's plot from two of CAIR's non-Florida representatives showed a disdain for the government's arrest of another "innocent" Muslim suspect.
Executive Director of CAIR San Francisco Zahra Billoo, stated that she was "wondering how much of the thwarted terror plot in Florida was seeded by the FBI, [a]ppreciating that even the MSM mentioned the informants." Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan, released a tweet saying, "It is not the job of civil rights groups to be commending the FBI on their use of informants, given the FBI's history."
CAIR's Tampa Executive Director Hassan Shibly, both cast doubt on the government and tried to pretend violence doesn't exist in radical Islamist ideologies.
"The weapons and explosives were provided by the government. Was he just a troubled individual, or did he pose a real threat?" Shibly asked Monday. He backed off Tuesday, saying "It doesn't look like something we would pursue" in part because the Muslim community alerted authorities in the first place.
He also cast the role of the Muslim community as critical, while claiming that the community's trust was violated by the actions of the government. "I mean he seemed to be a disturbed individual. He was actually an outcast from the Muslim community. He was banned from several of the mosques and it was the mosque that brought him to the attention of the FBI," Shibly said in an interview with the local Fox News outlet, in contradiction to the criminal complaint that shows an informant tipped off the government. He likewise expressed "concern about a perception of entrapment," even while saying that Osmakac was "no friend or supporter of the Muslim community."
"I think the fear at the point is that he was just mentally disturbed...I think that community members hoped that by reporting him, he could get the proper assistance," Shibly told an interviewer.
Apart from casting doubt on whether Osmakac was truly a threat, Shibly also repeated the mantra that religion should be ignored as a factor in the radicalization the terrorism suspect. When asked about Osmakac's statement that he wanted his death to be in an Islamic way, Shibly parried and claimed Osmakac had nothing to do with Islam.
"For me it's meaningless. It is very disturbing you know [the suspect's statement] "to die in an Islamic way," Shibly told FOX Tampa Bay. "Again, that is completely meaningless for me as a Muslim. You know Islam teaches peace and justice. It does not teach wanton violence which is what this guy was allegedly promoting."
The affiliate did not push back when Shibly expressed concerns over whether the FBI "edged on" Osmakac into a violent plot he otherwise would not have pursued. It's a standard CAIR line used to undermine public confidence in a terror-prosecution even though it has never held up in court. (For more on Shibly, click here.)
Other cases reflect the usual pattern of manipulation by CAIR.
Billoo, who immediately cast doubt on the Tampa case, reacted to the December 2010 arrest of a man who wanted to blow up a Portland Christmas tree lighting event by accusing the FBI of exaggerating the threat because it was "looking for a sensational story." Last fall, CAIR-Michigan chief Dawud Walid downplayed an arrest in an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington because a Drug Enforcement Administration informant played a key role. "If Holder hadn't announced so many 'foiled' plots that were really FBI provocateur led, I'd be more inclined to believe this #Iran plot biz," Walid said in a Twitter post.
Deadline pressure is never easy and reporters know that CAIR rarely turn away a microphone or a chance at appearing in the newspaper. But it's mystifying to see reporters routinely ignore CAIR's duplicity about law enforcement support, coupled with its own documented history in a terrorist-financing network, to accept the group's talking points so blindly.

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23063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romney victory speech on: January 11, 2012, 05:31:38 PM
Somehow I missed that one Andrew cheesy

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/romney-delivers-victory-speech-unlike-obama-i-will-never-apologize-for-the-greatest-nation-in-the-history-of-the-earth/
23064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: Romney needs 9-9-9 on: January 11, 2012, 04:17:53 PM
9-9-9: THE KEY TO REPUBLICAN VICTORY
By DICK MORRIS
Published on DickMorris.com on January 11, 2012

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Two facts emerge from the New Hampshire Primary with ominous implications for the GOP in 2012:
 
•  Pat Caddell reports that there were 25,000 fewer votes in the New Hampshire Republican Primary this year than in 2008, even though there was a Democratic contest between Obama and Hillary to siphon votes away from the GOP contest that year. 
 
•  And exit polls show that Ron Paul won half of the votes of those under 30 in the New Hampshire contest.  It is Ron Paul - with his message of fundamental economic change - not Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum - with their anti-Obama message that is spreading on American campuses, competing for the very heart of the Obama base.
 
Both data point to an enthusiasm gap for the 2012 Republican nominee that could be dangerous.  As the campaigns descended into negative advertising, a decreased turnout was a predictable consequence.  But the rallying of young people to Ron Paul suggests that the Republicans need more than just an anti-Obama message.  After all, young people understand that the pre-Obama economy was bad and that the recession began before Obama was even running for president. They realize that their future depends on an affirmative program, not just on repeal of the Obama laws and regulations.
 
But, while we need the enthusiasm that Ron Paul ignites, we do not need Ron. Another Ronald -- Reagan - built the Republican majority by baking the three disparate wings of the Republican Party into one political layer cake.  He combined the national security conservatives with the evangelical social populists and the free market economy advocates into a force that won at the polls.  Ron Paul is seeking to deconstruct the Reagan coalition by embracing economic conservatism while shunning the evangelical social agenda and the concerns of the national security voters.  His recipe is one for a massive defeat.
 
But you don't need to embrace Ron Paul's nutty foreign policy and self-flagellation in blaming terrorism on our own policies to get the restructuring that our economy needs. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 program will do the trick.  It can appeal to the young Ron Paul voters offering them the kind of basic economic change that they seek.  By transferring the locus of taxation from production to consumption, 9-9-9 can create jobs by incentivizing the creation of wealth.  The Obama focus on economic stimulus that catalyzes demand for products and services often creates jobs in China more than it does in the United States.
 
Cain is planning a new effort to promote his 9-9-9 plan now that his candidacy is over.  It could not come at a better time for the Republican Party. (Those wishing to join should go to www.cainconnections.com.)  He is doing a bus tour and the rounds of television shows to push his substantive agenda.  And, in the process, can breathe enthusiasm back into Republican ranks.
 
9-9-9 will satisfy the libertarian impulse that underscores Paul's appeal, particularly to the young.  It will simplify the tax code so that it is a means of raising government revenue, not of promoting social engineering.  Tax laws won't tell us what to buy, where to invest, and how to live.  Instead, it will leave these decisions to each us.
 
9-9-9 offers an agenda to repair the flaws in the economy that led to the stagnation of the late years of the last decade before Obama even arrived on the scene.  It will make America a land of incredible business opportunity, luring innovators and job creators to the nation with what would then be the lowest maximum personal income tax rate on earth.  The repeal of the capital gains tax will eliminate the barrier that stands between innovation and capital and will encourage the kind of explosion of economic growth that we need.
 
If Mitt Romney is to be the nominee, he needs a better message than his current reliance on his private sector credentials and his desire to oust the current Administration.  His flat tax ideas have not ignited a wave of enthusiasm nor will they.  They are yesterday's ideas.  He needs 9-9-9.  The Republican Party needs it. And America needs it as well.
23065  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Neg interest rates & weird Europe-- what implications for US? on: January 11, 2012, 12:39:27 PM


European financial markets have gotten very strange. Greece's one-year government bond yield hit 376% yesterday, while Germany, Switzerland and the U.K. sold short-term debt this week at yields below 0%. That means investors are effectively paying the latter governments for the privilege of lending to them. Reuters also reported Monday that blue-chip firms like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer are lending to struggling European banks, turning the usual creditor-debtor relationship on its head.

At this point, flying saucers over the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum in Rome wouldn't surprise anyone.

There's a serious point here. The longer Europe's crisis lumbers on, the more distortions it creates in credit markets across Europe, not merely in the distressed South. The big uncertainties—will the euro zone break up? will the European Central Bank step in?—are causing capital to flee troubled markets for safer shores. But in the financial world, a flight to safety is a clear warning sign for both the trouble spots and the safe havens.

Take those negative sovereign yields. The governments that sell debt at below-zero rates get to borrow on hugely favorable terms. Germany joined the negative-yield club on Monday, but the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland and the U.K. have all seen their borrowing costs dip below zero at various points in the past few months.

The more important implication is that investors are so risk-averse that they'd rather lose a little money keeping funds with a reasonably solvent national treasury than potentially lose much more in private markets. Consider the calculation from the buyer's perspective: When yields are negative, bondholders can only make a capital gain if yields drop even further below zero.

That should have policy makers in Berlin and London quaking in their boots, not celebrating the good performance (at least by comparison) that has caused them to be perceived as safe. When yields on Japanese government bills turned negative in 1998, the radical pessimism it suggested soon proved to presage a broader economic downturn.

As for Europe's banks, the fact that they are taking loans from their clients is only one sign of their plight. Before Christmas, the ECB offered banks hundreds of billions in cheap three-year loans, but evidence since then suggests that lenders are turning around and parking that cash right back at the central bank. Banks still aren't comfortable lending to each other, and the ECB can only pick up the slack for so long.

That means it's still up to the politicians to heed the now almost-Biblical warning signs. (Plague of locusts, anyone?) Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy met in Berlin on Monday. They took their first announcement of the year as an opportunity for more sweeping promises about Europe's new fiscal pact, which will almost certainly include a tax on financial transactions among other "decisive" measures. It is time for Europe's leaders to act more like leaders and less like politicians moving step by step and going nowhere.

23066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ-- Laffer: The Buffet Rule on: January 11, 2012, 12:36:19 PM
By ARTHUR B. LAFFER
The political season has barely begun, and yet we already know that class warfare will be President Obama's key issue in the 2012 general election. It's even reared its ugly head in the Republican primaries, with the candidates trying to paint front-runner Mitt Romney as a cold-hearted capitalist and Rick Santorum proposing targeted tax breaks for the "working class" manufacturing sector.

But none in the GOP can compare with the progressive intelligentsia's obsession with tax increases on the rich to raise revenues and achieve social justice. In a New York Times op-ed last August, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett famously asked Congress to "stop coddling the super-rich," complaining that his effective tax rate was half that of the other people in his office. He then instructed Washington to raise tax rates on millionaires and billionaires like him and retain the employee payroll tax cut on those "who need every break they can get."

Waving Mr. Buffett's op-ed for all to see, Mr. Obama wasted no time in proposing a surtax on millionaires called the "Buffett Rule." Putting aside all the oohing and ahhing over Mr. Buffett's selflessness, his effective tax rate on his true income would hardly budge if this "Buffett Rule" were applied. What's worse, raising the highest tax rates would most likely worsen the budget deficit and lead to a further weakening of the economy. Everyone would suffer.

Mr. Buffett stated in his op-ed that he paid $6,938,744 in total income and payroll taxes in 2010, representing 17.4% of his taxable income, which puts his taxable income just under $40 million. Although certainly a fantastic sum, $40 million actually understates Mr. Buffett's income in 2010 by more than 250-fold.

Mr. Buffett's net worth rose by $10 billion in 2010 to $47 billion, according to Forbes Magazine. That increase, an unrealized capital gain, is part of his total income by any standard definition, including the one used by the Congressional Budget Office. After also including a $1.6 billion gift to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Buffett's true income in 2010 was much closer to $11.6 billion than the $40 million figure cited in his op-ed. Hence his true effective tax rate was only 6/100ths of 1% as opposed to 17.4%. And these are just the additions to his income that we know about.

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Barack Obama awards the presidential Medal of Freedom to Warren Buffett, February 2011.
.The "Buffett Rule" would not tax the vast majority of his shielded income, including either his unrealized capital gains, which are currently taxed at zero percent, or charitable contributions, which are tax deductible. If the "Buffett Rule" were applied as President Obama proposes, then Mr. Buffett's federal tax bill would have been $14.4 million, rather than the $6.9 million he actually paid. As a fraction of his true income, his effective tax rate would only have risen from 6/100ths of 1% to 12/100ths of 1%.

Mr. Buffett's donation to the Gates Foundation goes to the heart of my critique of his public call for higher tax rates on the rich. Just look at the second contractual condition for his ongoing pledge to the Gates Foundation: "The foundation must continue to satisfy the legal requirements qualifying Warren's gift as charitable, exempt from gift or other taxes."

In other words, if his gift weren't tax sheltered he wouldn't give it. So much for "shared sacrifice."

Incidentally, I'm not the first to question Mr. Buffett's commitment to "shared sacrifice" in balancing the federal budget. In a 2007 CNBC interview, when asked why he shelters his money through tax-free strategies rather than writing big checks to Uncle Sam, Mr. Buffett responded: "I think that on balance the Gates Foundation, my daughter's foundation, my two sons' foundations will do a better job with lower administrative costs and better selection of beneficiaries than the government."

So Mr. Buffett thinks he and his family can put their money to better use than the government can. I guess he's really not so different from the rest of us after all.

Mr. Buffett also stated in his op-ed that in his 60 years working with investors he has yet to see anyone "shy away from a sensible investment . . . even when capital gains rates were 39.9% in 1976-77." Mr. Buffett's choice of 1976-77 is prescient because the economy in 1977 was a basket case. The official Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rate was 7.1%, consumer price inflation was 6.7%, and the S&P 500 dropped a whopping 17% after adjusting for inflation. Indeed, 1977 is a good illustration of the type of economy Mr. Buffett's policies would deliver.

He also said in his op-ed that "people invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off." To make his point he compares the 1980-2000 period when 40 million jobs were created to what's happened since 2000 with lower tax rates and fewer jobs created.

Surprisingly, Mr. Buffett is actually trying to cite the phenomenal growth during the Reagan-Clinton period of 1980-2000 as a result of high taxes. But the facts reveal that the 1980s and '90s should be used as Exhibit A for why Mr. Buffett's proposals are dead wrong. Between 1980 and 2000, the top marginal income tax rate was slashed to 39.6% from 70%, and between 1977 and 1997 the capital gains tax rate was cut to 20% from 39.9%.

When it comes to raising tax revenues by raising tax rates on the rich, Mr. Buffett would again appear to be on the wrong side of the argument. Between 1921 and 1928, the top marginal income tax rate fell to 25% from 73%. During this period, tax receipts from the top 1% of income earners rose to 1.1% of GDP from 0.6% of GDP. The top income tax rate dropped to 70% from 91% after the Kennedy tax cuts began in 1964, while tax receipts from the top 1% of earners rose to 1.9% of GDP from 1.3% of GDP in the period 1960 to 1968. By the way, these periods were two of the biggest booms in U.S. history.

Guess what was the third period of boom? Since 1978, the top earned income tax rate fell to 35% from 50%, the top capital gains tax rate fell to 15% from 39.9%, and the highest dividend tax rate fell to 15% from 70%. After taking office in 1993, President Clinton virtually eliminated the capital gains tax from the sale of owner-occupied homes and cut government spending as a share of GDP by the largest amount ever.

Meanwhile, the top 1% of earners saw their tax payments climb to 3.3% of GDP in 2007 from 1.5% of GDP in 1978, while the bottom 95% saw their tax payments drop to 3.2% of GDP in 2007 from 5.4% of GDP in 1978. Why would Mr. Buffett want to reverse these numbers?

Of course, cynics and die-hard progressives might object to the above evidence on the grounds that it was driven by an explosion of income gains. But that's largely the point.

Mr. Laffer, chairman of Laffer Associates and the Laffer Center for Supply-Side Economics, is co-author, with Stephen Moore, of "Return to Prosperity: How America Can Regain Its Economic Superpower Status" (Threshold, 2010).

23067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Movies on: January 11, 2012, 11:04:56 AM
Conrad and Summerlin both have more than a passing interest in drawing.

Sounds like I should look for this book.
23068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams, 1776 on: January 11, 2012, 11:03:51 AM
"If there is a form of government, then, whose principle and foundation is virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better calculated to promote the general happiness than any other form?" --John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776
23069  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ joins our conversation on: January 11, 2012, 11:00:12 AM
About the best that can be said about the Republican attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital is that President Obama is going to do the same thing eventually, so GOP primary voters might as well know what's coming. Yet that hardly absolves Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and others for their crude and damaging caricatures of modern business and capitalism.

Bain's business model is little more than "rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company," says Mr. Gingrich, whose previous insights into free enterprise include years of defending the taxpayer-fed business of corn ethanol.

A super PAC supporting the former House Speaker plans to spend $3.4 million in TV ads in South Carolina portraying Mr. Romney as Gordon Gekko without the social conscience. The financing for these ads will come from a billionaire who made his money in the casino business, which Mr. Gingrich apparently considers morally superior to investing in companies in the hope of making a profit.

Mr. Perry, who has no problem using taxpayer financing to back his political allies in Texas, chimes in that "I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips, whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out. Because his company Bain Capital, with all the jobs that they killed, I'm sure he was worried he'd run out of pink slips."

Politics isn't subtle, and these candidates are desperate, but do they have to sound like Michael Moore?

***
We have our policy differences with Mr. Romney, but by any reasonable measure Bain Capital has been a net job and wealth creator. Founded in 1984 as an offshoot of the Bain consulting company, Bain Capital's business is a combination of private equity and venture capital. The latter means taking a flyer on start-ups that may or may not pan out, something that neither Mr. Gingrich nor Mr. Obama seem to find offensive when those investments are made by Silicon Valley firms in "clean energy."

One Bain investment during Mr. Romney's tenure was to back an entrepreneur named Tom Stemberg, who was convinced he could provide savings for small-business owners if they were willing to shop at a store instead of taking deliveries. Today, the Staples chain of business-supply stores employs 90,000 people.

Bain also backed a start-up called Bright Horizons that now manages child-care centers for more than 700 corporate clients around the world. Many other venture bets failed, but that's capitalism, which is supposed to be a profit and loss system.

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Mitt Romney at Bain's offices in Copley Plaza in 1990.
.The loss part is what seems to trouble the Gingrich-Perry-Obama critics, especially in Bain's private-equity business. Like some 2,300 other such U.S. equity firms, Bain looks to buy companies that are underperforming or undervalued and turn them around.

Far from "looting," this is a vital contribution to capitalism and corporate governance. One of the persistent gripes of the left is that too many CEOs make too much money even as their companies flounder. Private-equity firms target such companies or subsidiaries, replace their management, and try to unlock the underlying value in the enterprise.

Private equity helps to promote dynamic capitalism that creates wealth, rather than dinosaur capitalism of the kind that prevails in Europe and futilely tries to prevent failure. Sometimes this means closing parts of the company and laying off employees, but the overriding goal is to create value, not destroy it.

A Wall Street Journal news story this week reported that Bain in the Romney era differed from many equity firms in buying more young and thus riskier companies. This contributed to a higher rate of bankruptcy or closure—22%—for companies held by Bain after eight years.

Bain disputes the Journal's calculations, but one test of overall success is whether investors keep entrusting a firm with their money. Mr. Romney and his colleagues raised $37 million for their first fund in 1984. Today, Bain Capital manages roughly $66 billion. Its investors include college endowments and public pension funds that have increased their investments in private equity to get larger returns than stocks and bonds provide. The people who benefit from those returns thus include average workers.

Bain's turnaround hits include Sports Authority and tech-research outfit Gartner Inc., which was once a small division of an advertising firm and is now a public company worth more than $3 billion. Another success was Steel Dynamics, which used Bain money to build a new steel factory and now employs 6,000 people.

The tougher questions for Mr. Romney involve the cases in which Bain took early payouts in dividends and management fees after purchasing existing businesses that ultimately went bankrupt. There are several in this category, including another steel company called GSI, though its hundreds of job losses were far fewer than the jobs created at Steel Dynamics.

The medical-equipment maker once known as Dade International is now much larger than it was when Bain bought it in the 1990s. But Mr. Romney's company later sold its stake, and heavy debts taken on during the Bain years forced Dade to spend two months in bankruptcy in 2002 and cost 2,000 jobs. The company later resumed its rapid growth, and Siemens bought it in 2007 for $7 billion.

Certainly Bain Capital made sure that its investment partners were paid first, but the larger truth is that the invisible hand worked pretty well. Notice that because the overall job statistics for Bain investments are by all accounts positive, many critics attack the Romney record with claims about private equity in general. The left is cheering a study commissioned by the Census Bureau that found that companies bought by private-equity firms suffer more job losses soon after a buy-out than similar firms that didn't experience buy-outs.

But this is hardly surprising since the companies were acquired in part because they were underperforming. The critics also don't mention that the Census study found that firms acquired in private-equity transactions created more new jobs in the ensuing decade. Imagine what might have happened if Chrysler or GM had been bought by private equity two or three decades ago. They might have been turned around much earlier, at far less pain to fewer workers, and without any taxpayer cost.

***
The larger political point is that Mr. Romney has a good story to tell if he is willing to elevate this ugly rumble into a debate over free enterprise and America's future. This is not Mr. Romney's strength, as he prefers to talk in personal terms ("I'm an optimist!") or to lapse into his default mode as the corporate technocrat. This invites personal attacks in return and it leads him into mistakes like this week's gaffe that "I like being able to fire people who provide me services."

Mr. Romney needs to rise above the personal and base his claim to office on a defense of the system of free enterprise that has enriched America over the decades and is now under assault. Mr. Obama will attack Mr. Romney as Gordon Gekko because the President can't win by touting his own economic record. Mr. Romney's GOP opponents (with the admirable exception of Rick Santorum) are embarrassing themselves by taking the Obama line, but Mr. Romney should view this as an opportunity to stake his campaign on something larger and far more important than his own business expertise.
23070  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: T. Friedman: Political Islam without Oil on: January 11, 2012, 10:55:50 AM
With the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the even more puritanical Salafist Al Nour Party having stunned both themselves and Egyptians by garnering more than 60 percent of the seats in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, we’re about to see a unique lab test for the Middle East: What happens when political Islam has to wrestle with modernity and globalization without oil?

Islamist movements have long dominated Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both the ayatollahs in Iran and the Wahhabi Salafists in Saudi Arabia, though, were able to have their ideology and the fruits of modernity, too, because they had vast oil wealth to buy off any contradictions. Saudi Arabia could underutilize its women and impose strict religious mores on its society, banks and schools. Iran’s clerics could snub the world, pursue nuclearization and impose heavy political and religious restrictions. And both could still offer their people improved living standards, because they had oil.

Egypt’s Islamist parties will not have that luxury. They will have to open up to the world, and they seem to be realizing that. Egypt is a net importer of oil. It also imports 40 percent of its food. And tourism constitutes one-tenth of its gross domestic product. With unemployment rampant and the Egyptian pound eroding, Egypt will probably need assistance from the International Monetary Fund, a major injection of foreign investment and a big upgrade in modern education to provide jobs for all those youths who organized last year’s rebellion. Egypt needs to be integrated with the world.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose party is called Freedom and Justice, draws a lot of support from the middle classes and small businesses. The Salafist Al Nour Party is dominated by religious sheiks and the rural and urban poor.

Essam el-Erian, the vice chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s party, told me: “We hope that we can pull the Salafists — not that they pull us — and that both of us will be pulled by the people’s needs.” He made very clear that while both Freedom and Justice and Al Nour are Islamist parties, they are very different, and they may not join hands in power: “As a political group, they are newcomers, and I hope all can wait to discover the difference between Al Nour and Freedom and Justice.”

On the peace treaty with Israel, Erian said: “This is the commitment of the state — not any group or party — and we have said we are respecting the commitments of the Egyptian state from the past.” Ultimately, he added, relations with Israel will be determined by how it treats the Palestinians.

But generally speaking, he said, Egypt’s economic plight “is pushing us to be concerned about our own affairs.”

Muhammad Khairat el-Shater, the vice chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood and its economic guru, made clear to me over strawberry juice at his home that his organization intends to lean into the world. “It is no longer a matter of choice whether one can be with or against globalization,” he said. “It is a reality. From our perspective, we favor the widest possible engagement with globalization through win-win situations.”

Nader Bakkar, a spokesman for Al Nour, insisted that his party would move cautiously. “We are the guardians of Shariah,” he told me, referring to Islamic law, “and we want people to be with us on the same principles, but we have an open door to all the intellectuals in all fields.” He said his party’s economic model was Brazil. “We don’t like the theocratic model,” he added. “I can promise you that we will not be another dictatorship, and the Egyptian people will not give us a chance to be another dictatorship.”

In November, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, an independent Salafist cleric and presidential candidate, was asked by an interviewer how, as president, he would react to a woman wearing a bikini on the beach? “She would be arrested,” he said.

The Al Nour Party quickly said he was not speaking for it. Agence France-Presse quoted another spokesman for Al Nour, Muhammad Nour, as also dismissing fears raised in the news media that the Salafists might ban alcohol, a staple of Egypt’s tourist hotels. “Maybe 20,000 out of 80 million Egyptians drink alcohol,” he said. “Forty million don’t have sanitary water. Do you think that, in Parliament, I’ll busy myself with people who don’t have water, or people who get drunk?”

What to make of all this? Egyptian Islamists have some big decisions. It has been easy to maintain a high degree of ideological purity all these years they’ve been out of power. But their sudden rise to the top of Egyptian politics coincides with the free fall of Egypt’s economy. And as soon as Parliament is seated on Jan. 23, Egypt’s Islamists will have the biggest responsibility for fixing that economy — without oil. (A similar drama is playing out in Tunisia.)

They don’t want to blow this chance to lead, yet they want to be true to their Islamic roots, yet they know their supporters elected them to deliver clean government, education and jobs, not mosques. It will be fascinating to watch them deal with these tugs and pulls. Where they come out will have a huge impact on the future of political Islam in this region.

23071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Another hit in Iran on: January 11, 2012, 10:43:23 AM
An assailant on a motorcycle attached magnetic bombs on Wednesday to the car of an Iranian university professor specializing in petroleum, killing him and wounding two others, an Iranian semiofficial news agency reported.

The attack closely resembled earlier attacks on scientists allegedly connected to Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

The killing of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was similar to previous apparent assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists that Tehran has blamed on Israel and the United States. Both countries have denied the accusations.

Mr. Roshan, 32, was inside the Iranian-assembled Peugeot 405 car together with two others when the bomb exploded near Gol Nabi Street in north Tehran, Fars reported. It wasn't immediately clear if Mr. Ahmadi was involved in Iran's nuclear program.

Fars described the explosion as a "terrorist attack" targeting Roshan, a graduate of the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.

A similar bomb explosion on Jan. 12, 2010, killed Tehran University professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics professor. He was killed when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded near his car as he was about to leave for work.

In November 2010, a pair of back-to-back bomb attacks in different parts of the capital killed one nuclear scientist and wounded another. The slain scientist, Majid Shahriari, was a member of the nuclear-engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran and cooperated with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. The wounded scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi, was appointed head of Iran's atomic agency.

The United States and other countries say Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons technology. Iran denies the allegations, saying that its program is intended for peaceful purposes
23072  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romeny received $10M debt forgiveness for Bain Capital on: January 11, 2012, 10:42:22 AM
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/01/10/1053376/-Mitt-Free-Enterprise-Romney-sought-and-received-federal-bailout-for-Bain
============

Upright
"For the past year, the question has been whether Mitt Romney would be acceptable to the Republican party. ... Some pundits continue to dream of a great conservative hope who will enter the race and save us from Romney -- perhaps even at a brokered convention. But the voters have now had two opportunities to speak. Two thirds of voters in New Hampshire said they were satisfied with the field. Romney has won a solid victory there. He succeeded with Tea Party supporters and self-described conservatives. And now Newt Gingrich has offered Romney a gift. By attacking him from the left as a heartless tycoon, he has given Romney the chance to campaign as the defender of capitalism and free markets. ... While it's too early to say the race is sewn up, it is looking very good for Mitt Romney." --columnist Mona Charen
"Whatever chance at a comeback Speaker Gingrich and Governor Perry had went up on the pyre they lit with their attacks [against Romney], on Bain specifically and free-market venture capital generally. The recognition that one cannot defend capitalism while attacking capital is spreading. Blaming Bain for layoffs is like blaming the lifeboats for being late to the Titanic. No matter how you judge their performances, we are a whole lot better for having venture capitalists at hand, even when they don't bat anywhere near 1.000." --radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt




==========
FWIW, I'd like to see more about Romney's Bain Capital record before make a decision.
23073  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Movies on: January 11, 2012, 08:33:29 AM
A good read for a smart 12 year old boy?
23074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 10, 2012, 06:45:58 PM
One reason Mitt Romney has had trouble pulling away from the Republican pack isn't just the strength or persistence of his opponents. It's also the changing nature of the party itself.

As Republican voters went to the polls Tuesday in New Hampshire, they were casting ballots within a party that has become steadily more blue collar, populist and driven by voters who are as much independents as Republicans. Those factors explain the rise of Ron Paul in New Hampshire and the wave that Rick Santorum rode into the state from his strong showing in Iowa—as well as the harsh attacks fellow Republicans launched on Mr. Romney's record as a financier at Bain Capital.

Stereotypes often die hard, which certainly is true in politics—and nowhere more true than in the perceptions of the two major parties. The image of the Democrats as the party of the working class and the Republicans as the party of the capitalist class has some basis in reality, but not nearly so much as a century ago when those perceptions became entrenched.

Consider a few data points that illustrate what Republican voters really look like today:

• When the thousands of interviews conducted in last year's Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls are combined, Americans who call themselves blue-collar workers actually were slightly more likely to identify themselves as Republicans than Democrats, and the two parties were split evenly among those with family incomes of $30,000 to $75,000.

• When the Journal/NBC News poll asked Americans in November who was responsible for the country's current economic problems, Republicans were precisely as likely as Democrats to blame "Wall Street bankers."

• In the 2008 presidential election, even as Republican nominee John McCain was losing the national vote by seven percentage points to Barack Obama, he won among white voters without a college degree—a reasonable definition of working-class whites—by 18 percentage points.

All that suggests a Republican party with a different kind of base than popularly imagined. It seems fair to trace the start of the GOP's evolution to this stereotype-busting condition back to the rise of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and his creation of a bloc of "Reagan Democrats."

Those were working-class voters who had stuck with the Democratic party for decades out of a sense the Democrats were looking out for their economic needs, but who moved to the Republicans because of their more conservative stance on cultural and social issues.

Then in 1996, Pat Buchanan started to put a populist economic overlay on this evolution by rousing his so-called pitchfork brigades of followers to win the New Hampshire primary. He also showed the limits of his movement by failing to win a single state after that.

In more recent years, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty—himself briefly a presidential candidate this cycle—identified the growing working-class contingent within his party by arguing the GOP should be explicitly designing economic policies to appeal to "Sam's Club Republicans."

Finally, two years ago, the tea-party movement arose and, in large measure, attached itself to the Republican party. That accentuated the populist, anti-establishment and anti-Wall Street impulses that already were flowing through the party.

All that formed the backdrop for the 2012 primary in New Hampshire, as well as Mr. Romney's struggle to maintain the position he long ago established as the prohibitive favorite there. Mr. Santorum nearly won Iowa's caucuses while emphasizing his conservative social positions as well as the blue-collar sensibilities and working-class empathy he inherited as the grandson of coal miners.

And Mr. Paul rode his libertarian, anti-big-bank, anti-establishment message into a much stronger position in New Hampshire than he enjoyed just four years ago, when he won less than 8% of the state's vote. In a period when the share of voters who identify themselves as neither Democrats nor Republicans but rather as independents is rising, Mr. Paul's ability to draw independents into GOP primaries and caucuses has changed the game.

It was against that backdrop that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich attempted to get a slice of the GOP's populist action by launching a harsh, 11th-hour attack on Mr. Romney's record as a private-equity executive at Bain Capital, painting him as a predatory capitalist who used the power of money to strip companies and toss blue-collar workers out of their jobs.

The fact that there was almost no difference between that line of attack and the one a liberal Democrat, Ted Kennedy, used against Mr. Romney in a 1994 Senate race says much about how the party has changed in the ensuing years—and why Mr. Romney will continue to hear such attacks after New Hampshire, even from fellow Republicans.

23075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Does this mean Hillary will make a good president? on: January 10, 2012, 06:38:59 PM

http://www.notechmagazine.com/2011/1...liticians.html


Castration Might Bring Us Better Politicians

"The major role of the eunuch in ancient societies was a political one. Eunuchs were the perfect guardians of harems and provided safe companions and secretaries for royal ladies. They could also be entrusted with the very highest offices of state with no fear that they would want to muscle in and start their own dynasties. Less susceptible than other men to corruption and persuasion by sexual means, they were the ideal politicians and civil servants. Their reputations could not be sullied by the accusations of rape, paternity suits and other scandals that so often blight the careers of public figures."

"The first civilization deliberately to select eunuchs as officers of state was the Assyrian Empire, which dominated the Near East during the early first millenium BC. The practice was continued by its successors, including the Persian Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great (559-529 BC) who, according to the Greek writer Xenophon, 'selected eunuchs for every post of personal service to him, from the doorkeepers up'. Eunuchs were becoming powerful in China during the same period. They were especially influential under the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD), when some held tremendous power simply because of their looks, and it was normal for emperors to have as many male favorites as the recommended magical number of wives. But most were of the professional variety, trained for a career in government."

"The Roman civil service also employed eunuchs, despite the bans on castration imposed by various emperors. And, although the custom was condemned by the Church, the zenith of 'eunuch power' in the Roman world actually came after it was Christianized, under the Eastern Roman (Byzantyne) Empire, which ruled from Constantinople (Istanbul) between AD 395 and 1453. Thousands of young men entered public service by being castrated, providing the empire with some of its most distinguished state secretaries, generals and even Church leaders."
23076  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Nat Geo show : Fight Club No Limits on: January 10, 2012, 06:17:48 PM
I suspect they put him in there for just that reason  cheesy
23077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: January 10, 2012, 03:21:24 PM
Excellent find CCP.

We search for Truth.  Lets keep an eye on this.
23078  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Movies on: January 10, 2012, 03:18:48 PM
I want to see that!

At the complete other end of the spectrum is Martin Scorcese's "Hugo" to which we took our children this past weekend.  Slow, thoughtful, no chase scenes, no cute smartass children, and ultimately quite powerful.  Recommended!
23079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: January 10, 2012, 03:12:53 PM
"Mr. McConnell, a former federal judge, is a professor of law and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution."

"Incidentally, if his credentials didn't indicate this, McConnell is real, real smart and an influetial scholars and jurist."

Yup.

"It even appears that it got no opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel in advance of the action—a sure sign the administration understood it was on shaky legal ground." is true, than Obama totally fu$#ed up."

Yup.

Although an alternate analysis also suggests itself here-- that he doesn't give a fornication, just like he didn't when he ignored the bankdruptcy laws and fuct the secured creditors of GM.
23080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris on Romney and Bain Capital on: January 10, 2012, 03:08:58 PM
WILL BAIN DERAIL ROMNEY?
By DICK MORRIS
Published on DickMorris.com on January 10, 2012

Printer-Friendly Version
The short answer is: No!  People, particularly Republicans, understand the difference between capitalism and safety-net socialism.  They are even savvy enough to have heard of Schumpeter's doctrine of the "gales of creative destruction" that blow through our economy. They grasp that if we save everyone's job and everyone's pension and everyone's company, we will become so ossified, so indebted, so burdened that we will never be able to create any new jobs or wealth.
 
They get it that to attract capital to turn around ailing companies, you need either to have a very good lobbyist who makes mega campaign contributions or a good enough return on capital to attract private investors.  Obama is trying the first way.  Romney did the second.  Republicans get this.
 
They also understand that Romney was scarcely a "predator" as Rick Tyler, spokesman for the new anti-Romney movie, describes him.  Critics zero in on GS Technologies, a steel company that, like more than forty others, went bankrupt in the late 90s or the early years of the new century.  Was Romney a "predator?" Was Bain Capital?  What predator would make an initial investment of $8 million and then up its investment to $16 million in an effort to turn the failing company around?  What "predator" would merge the company with a stronger one in an effort to preserve it in a highly competitive global marketplace?
 
Was Romney a "predator" when GS went bankrupt in 2001?  He had left Bain in 1999.  The decision to deny the GS workers their pensions and health benefits was Bain's, not Romney's.  He was out of the picture by then.
 
And what of the more than one hundred thousand people who have jobs and pensions and health insurance because of Romney's work at Bain Capital?  What of the winners and the survivors who far outnumbered the losers during Romney's Bain Capital years?
 
For Republicans to be attacking a Republican for winning in the free market and for turning companies around so they make a profit (without public subsidy) is a sad sight.  They will come to rue their criticisms.  Bain will not become the bane of Romney's existence!
23081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Fed's Housing Policies on: January 10, 2012, 09:49:18 AM
These columns have defended the independence of the Federal Reserve from attacks on the right and left, but after last week the central bank is on its own. It's impossible to defend the Fed's rank electioneering as it lobbies for more political and taxpayer intervention in the housing market—just in time for the election campaign.

This extraordinary political intrusion came in the form of a 26-page paper that the Fed sent to Capitol Hill last Wednesday, without invitation, graciously offering what Chairman Ben Bernanke called a "framework" for "thinking about certain issues and tradeoffs." He was underselling his document. The paper is a clear attempt to provide intellectual cover for politicians to spend more taxpayer money to support housing prices.

In case there was any doubt on this point, New York Fed President William Dudley put them to rest Friday when he called specifically for bridge loans for jobless borrowers, more government-assisted refinancings, a new program for principal reductions for underwater borrowers, and floated the possibility of getting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into the rental housing business. Your average HUD secretary wouldn't dare go this far.

As America's central bank, the Fed is responsible for monetary policy and bank regulation. During and since the financial panic, and in the name of preventing a meltdown, the Fed has bought mortgage-backed securities to provide liquidity for housing and keep down mortgage rates. This is a form of credit allocation and should be winding down, though it is at least arguably within the emergency purview of monetary policy.

It is a far different matter to tell Congress and the executive branch that they ought to rescue homeowners who borrowed more than they can afford to repay, or strong-arm banks to loosen credit standards for borrowers, or further entrench government-sponsored enterprises (Fan and Fred) that have already cost taxpayers $142 billion in losses. These are core political questions that belong to elected officials.

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and New York Fed President William Dudley.
.The intrusion is especially ill-timed because it looks like an attempt to further isolate Edward DeMarco, Fannie and Freddie's politically beleaguered regulator. House Republicans have closed off another housing bailout from Congress, so Administration officials and Capitol Hill Democrats are desperate to unleash Fannie and Freddie to spend even more to rescue underwater homeowners.

Their main obstacle is Mr. DeMarco, who has bent a little to accommodate the Treasury's expanded refinancing program but rightly says he has a legal mandate to protect taxpayers. The Fed white paper acknowledges that committing more taxpayer money to its housing brainstorms could stick Fan and Fred with more losses, but it suggests this is worth promoting a faster housing recovery. How about we put that gamble to a taxpayer vote? In any event, it's disgraceful for the Fed to contribute to the mau-mauing of a fellow regulator.

The advice to let Fan and Fred rent out foreclosed properties they own until prices rise also goes against the lesson of previous housing recoveries. Prices recover faster—recall the Resolution Trust Corp. after the savings and loan bust—when the government sells property as quickly as possible, so prices can find a bottom. The last thing housing markets need is an extended Fannie and Freddie inventory overhang.

The Fed also suggests having Fan and Fred weaken their standards for loan modifications and expand an existing refinancing program to include private-insurance-backed mortgages participate. But weak lending standards is part of what created the subprime mortgage mess. No wonder the mortgage bankers, the homebuilders and the rest of the housing lobby greeted the Fed's white paper with enthusiasm. They'd love to see Fannie and Freddie more politically and economically entrenched so reformers can't slowly reduce their market dominance.

The Fed will no doubt justify all of this by claiming that the larger economy can't recover until housing does. Yet this confuses cause and effect. Housing recoveries don't lead economic recoveries; they occur as part of the larger recovery as incomes begin to rise and consumer confidence grows. It's precisely this "housing must save the day" mentality that caused the Fed to keep interest rates too low for too long after the dot-com bust and 9/11. This promoted the housing bubble and led to the mania and crash. By force-feeding a housing recovery, the Fed is misallocating resources that will make the expansion less durable.

The Fed's economic timing is especially curious given Friday's encouraging jobs report for December. Manufacturing is expanding and the economy is showing signs that the modest expansion may be self-sustaining. Aside from a European meltdown and a 2013 tax increase, the main threat to this growth is if Washington maintains its habit of willy-nilly intervention in housing, health care, energy and everything else.

We recently attempted to add up the number of housing-support programs that the federal government has implemented since prices began to fall five years ago. We counted 16. Maybe Washington should do nothing for a change, let foreclosures take their natural course, allow the surplus supply of houses to clear, and see if that works. It can't do any worse.

Beyond the policy errors, the larger issue is the political independence of the Fed itself. Its Board of Governors is now dominated by Obama appointees who share the interventionist designs of their colleagues in the White House. Mr. Dudley is a White House and Treasury man. Mr. Bernanke may feel surrounded, but we'd have thought he'd have more respect for the integrity of his institution.
23082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Independent Vote on: January 10, 2012, 09:01:52 AM
By DAVID BRADY
AND DOUGLAS RIVERS
More Americans now call themselves independents than Democrats or Republicans, and New Hampshire, the site of Tuesday's GOP primary, is no different. About 40% of Granite State voters are not registered in either major political party, and our best estimate is that the share of independents nationally has grown to 42% from 35% over the past three years. That 7% of the electorate is big enough to have changed the outcome of any of the last five presidential elections—and this is not necessarily good news for the GOP.

Barack Obama carried independents by an eight-point margin in the 2008 exit poll—and Republicans carried them by a 19-point margin in the 2010 midterms. Thus GOP candidates may be tempted to believe the independents' disaffection with the president that cost Democrats control of the House will lead inexorably to a Republican presidential victory this year.

 Paul Gigot on Rick Santorum's economic plan and what to expect out of New Hampshire on Tuesday.
.Not so fast. In the first place, Republicans benefited from a low Democratic midterm turnout. According to exit polls, there were about equal numbers of Democratic and Republican voters in the midterm, unlike 2008 when Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans by seven percentage points (39% to 32%). Republicans can't count on a low Democratic turnout in 2012 and there are still more registered Democrats than Republicans. To win in 2012, it's good enough for Democrats to split the independent vote. Republicans need to carry a clear majority. And there are significant policy disagreements between independents and the Republican base.

Take, for example, a YouGov survey conducted on Dec. 22. After the economy (which all voters said was their No. 1 concern), the next most important issues for Democrats are Social Security, Medicare and the environment. For each, their preference is for the federal government to do more. For Republicans, the next most important issues are the budget deficit, taxes and immigration and, for the first two, they want the federal government to do less.

Independents, on the other hand, say that health care and education are more important. They tend to worry about what the federal government does in each area, but unlike the Republican base they are not opposed in principle to federal action.

On ObamaCare, for example, independents oppose repeal 40%-33% while Republicans favor 62%-23% and Democrats oppose 46%-27%, according to a Nov. 12 YouGov survey. And in an Oct. 29 YouGov survey, independents opposed cutting federal education spending 56%-20% while Republicans favored reductions 39%-29%. Democrats opposed cutting spending 67%-8%.

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right, speaks during a campaign stop on January 9 in Hudson, New Hampshire.
.Independents are usually closer to Republicans than Democrats on the general issue of the size of government and government spending. In a Nov. 22 YouGov poll, 76% of independents favored decreasing federal spending and almost half would include entitlements within these cuts.

On the other hand, they are closer to Democrats on raising taxes: 36% of independents favored increasing taxes across the board versus 43% of Democrats and 7% of Republicans.

Moreover, a Sept. 27 YouGov poll revealed overwhelming support for raising taxes on the wealthy: 55% of independents favored raising taxes on families earning over $250,000 (versus 43% of Democrats and 7% of Republicans), and 72% of independents favored raising taxes on families earning more than $1 million (versus 88% of Democrats and 46% of Republicans).

Among the leading Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney has consistently done the best among independents nationally. He normally splits the independent vote with President Obama (38% to 38% in the Dec. 22 YouGov poll), while Newt Gringrich trails among independents by 13 points. But to win, Mr. Romney would have to do better than split the independent vote.

Neither President Obama nor the eventual Republican nominee has the independent vote locked up. How the candidates explain their plans to get the economy moving, and the crucial trade-offs among deficits, jobs and the safety net will determine how the crucial independent vote goes in the 2012 election. Preaching to the choir of Republican primary and caucus voters may well be necessary to win the nomination. But independents hold the key in November 2012.

Mr. Brady is deputy director of the Hoover Institution and a professor in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Mr. Rivers is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor of political science at Stanford. He is also chairman of YouGov America, a survey and research company.
23083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: MIA on Executive Overreach on: January 10, 2012, 08:58:44 AM
By MICHAEL MCCONNELL
One reason so many Americans entrusted Barack Obama with the presidency was his pledge to correct the prior administration's tendency to push unilateral executive power beyond constitutional and customary limits.

Yet last week's recess appointments of Richard Cordray as the first chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three new members to the President's National Labor Relations Board—taken together with other aggressive and probably unconstitutional executive actions—suggest that this president lacks a proper respect for constitutional checks and balances.

The Obama administration has offered no considered legal defense for the recess appointments. It even appears that it got no opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel in advance of the action—a sure sign the administration understood it was on shaky legal ground.

It is hard to imagine a plausible constitutional basis for the appointments. The president has power to make recess appointments only when the Senate is in recess. Several years ago—under the leadership of Harry Reid and with the vote of then-Sen. Obama—the Senate adopted a practice of holding pro forma sessions every three days during its holidays with the expressed purpose of preventing President George W. Bush from making recess appointments during intrasession adjournments. This administration must think the rules made to hamstring President Bush do not apply to President Obama. But an essential bedrock of any functioning democratic republic is that the same rules apply regardless of who holds office.

It does not matter, constitutionally, that congressional Republicans have abused their authority by refusing to confirm qualified nominees—just as congressional Democrats did in the previous administration. Governance in a divided system is by nature frustrating. But the president cannot use unconstitutional means to combat political shenanigans. If the filibuster is a problem, the Senate majority has power to eliminate or weaken it, by an amendment to Senate Rule 22. They just need to be aware that the same rules will apply to them if and when they return to minority status and wish to use the filibuster to obstruct Republican appointments and policies.

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President Obama alongside Richard Cordray, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Jan. 4.
.Moreover, in this case, two of the recess appointees to the National Labor Relations Board had just been nominated and sent to the Senate on Dec. 15—two days before the holiday. So it is simply not true that they were victims of Republican obstructionism, even if that mattered.

Some of the administration's supporters have tried to argue that the pro forma sessions are a sham and thus that the Senate has been in recess since Dec. 17. Aside from the fact that these sessions are not, in fact, a sham—the Senate enacted the payroll tax holiday extension, President Obama's leading legislative priority, on Dec. 23 during one of those pro forma sessions—the plain language of the Constitution precludes any such conclusion.

Article I, Section 5, Clause 4 requires the concurrence of the other house to any adjournment of more than three days. The Senate did not request, and the House did not agree to, any such adjournment. This means that the Senate was not in adjournment according to the Constitution (let alone in "recess," which requires a longer break).

Others have argued that the president can make recess appointments during any adjournment, however brief, including the three days between pro forma sessions. That cannot be right, because it would allow the president free rein to avoid senatorial advice and consent, which is a major structural feature of the Constitution. He could, for example, make an appointment overnight, or during a lunch break. In a brief in the Supreme Court in 2004, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe dismissed as "absurd" any suggestion that a period of "a fortnight, or a weekend, or overnight" is a "recess" for purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause.

This is not the first time this administration has asserted unilateral executive power beyond past presidential practice and the seeming letter of the Constitution. Its slender justification for going to war in Libya without a congressional declaration persuaded almost no one, and its evasion of the reporting requirements of the War Powers Resolution—over the legal objections of Justice Department lawyers—was even more brazen. According to the administration, not only was our involvement in Libya not a "war" for constitutional purposes; it did not even amount to "hostilities" that trigger a reporting requirement and a 60-day deadline for congressional authorization.

Indeed, the Obama administration has admitted to a strategy of governing by executive order when it cannot prevail through proper legislative channels. Rather than work with Congress to get reasonable changes to President Bush's No Child Left Behind education law, it has used an aggressive interpretation of its waiver authority to substitute the president's favored policies for the law passed by Congress. When the president's preferred cap-and-trade legislation to limit carbon emissions failed in Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would proceed by regulation instead. And when Congress refused to enact "card check" legislation doing away with secret ballots in union elections, the president's National Labor Relations Board announced plans to impose the change by administrative fiat—one of the reasons Senate Republicans have tried to block appointments.

The English philosopher John Locke, who so influenced our Founding Fathers, wrote that a "good prince" is more dangerous than a bad one because the people are less vigilant to protect against the aggrandizement of power when they perceive the ruler as beneficent.

I fear many Democrats are falling into this trap. They like President Obama and his policies, and they are willing to look the other way when it comes to constitutional niceties. The problem is that checks and balances are important, precedents created by one administration will be exploited by the next, and not all princes are good.

Mr. McConnell, a former federal judge, is a professor of law and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

23084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ nails it on: January 10, 2012, 08:48:37 AM
A funny thing happened on the way to the New Hampshire primary: ABC moderator George Stephanopoulos embarrassed himself on national television with questions plainly intended to embarrass the Republican candidates. Therein lies a lesson.

On Saturday night, Mr. Stephanopoulos stepped outside the role of honest interlocutor when he pursued Mitt Romney with the issue on nobody's lips or legislative agenda: whether states have the right to ban contraception. Likewise, fellow moderator Diane Sawyer, who asked Republicans what they would say, "sitting in their living rooms," to a gay couple.

As the audience appreciated—they booed after Mr. Stephanopolous's sixth follow-up—these questions were designed less to illuminate than to paint Republicans as people who hate gays and are so crazy they might just ban contraception if elected.

For conservatives, this is nothing new. Conservatives are used to a world where the referees often seem to be playing for the other team. In this case, however, the responses from the candidates were revealing.

Rick Santorum essentially answered directly, opposing the Supreme Court's definition of privacy and defending traditional marriage. On the question about gays, Newt Gingrich called marriage between a man and a woman a defining part of our civilization. He then turned the question back on Ms. Sawyer, wondering why the press never asks about how same-sex marriage is driving the Catholic Church out of the adoption business. As for state bans on contraception, Mr. Romney noted that no state was in fact proposing to do so, "and asking me whether they could do it or not is kind of a silly thing."

If this were an academic exercise, Mr. Santorum might score highest. Even those who disagree with him would concede that his answers were on point. He knows what he believes and why, and he does not run away when asked to defend the hard position.

Mr. Gingrich's answer showed why he remains popular among many Republican quarters despite his considerable baggage. Unlike those who strike conservative voters as too polite or deferential to lordly media figures, Mr. Gingrich calls bias by its name. And he was right to point out that there are serious consequences (such as adoption) to the legalization of same-sex marriage that the news media mostly choose to ignore.

Nevertheless, Mr. Romney trumped. He didn't shy away from the substance, confirming that he favors repeal of Roe v. Wade and explaining the constitutional way to oppose court decisions when you believe one has been wrongly decided. But when he dismissed the whole line of questioning as "silly," he made Mr. Stephanopoulos look ridiculous.

That's something to remember going forward. Yes, it's unfair that Democratic candidates such as President Obama can count on the media to amplify their biases against Republicans.

Bias, however, is a fact of American political life. Merely complaining about it doesn't move the ball.

No one appreciated this more than Ronald Reagan. Today we remember the Gipper as a popular and beloved American figure. That's not the way he was presented to the American public when he was running against Jimmy Carter in 1980. Back then, Mr. Reagan was cast as a divisive, Neanderthal warmonger itching to push the nuclear button.

President Carter played to this image. A "MacNeil/Lehrer Report" after the single presidential debate that year noted that Mr. Carter had used the word "dangerous" six times. Another observer added that the president had also called Reagan "heartless," "insensitive," "misleading," "disturbing" and "irresponsible."

Mr. Reagan didn't let it get to him. When Mr. Carter implied Mr. Reagan was against Medicare because he opposed all efforts to help provide decent health care for American citizens, Mr. Reagan smiled and shook his head. Then he issued four devastating words that have now entered the political lexicon: "There you go again."

There's a good lesson here. Whatever else we know about 2012, we know we will have many more Stephanopoulos moments ahead. Though it might be more satisfying to thunder against the injustice, there are other, possibly more effective ways to expose the bias.

On the social issues especially, the media narrative is that Republicans are obsessed. The truth is that at a time when millions of Americans can't find work, when our Middle East policy is in turmoil, when the future of Mr. Obama's signature legislative achievement—health care—is in question, every Republican in the running is itching for the opportunity to talk about how he would address these things.

In sharp contrast, it was Mr. Stephanopoulos and Ms. Sawyer who showed themselves consumed with nonexistent initiatives on contraception and what you might say to gay friends who are sitting in your living room. Saturday night on ABC, we saw this bias in its full, condescending form.

We also saw something less well appreciated: that a Republican candidate can turn it to his advantage.
23085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: companies fined for not using fuel that does not exist on: January 10, 2012, 08:30:49 AM
Ya can't make this stuff up  rolleyes

WASHINGTON — When the companies that supply motor fuel close the books on 2011, they will pay about $6.8 million in penalties to the Treasury because they failed to mix a special type of biofuel into their gasoline and diesel as required by law.

At the South Dakota plant, Poet is testing its technology and the economics of producing ethanol from plant waste.
But there was none to be had. Outside a handful of laboratories and workshops, the ingredient, cellulosic biofuel, does not exist.

In 2012, the oil companies expect to pay even higher penalties for failing to blend in the fuel, which is made from wood chips or the inedible parts of plants like corncobs. Refiners were required to blend 6.6 million gallons into gasoline and diesel in 2011 and face a quota of 8.65 million gallons this year.

“It belies logic,” Charles T. Drevna, the president of the National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association, said of the 2011 quota. And raising the quota for 2012 when there is no production makes even less sense, he said.

Penalizing the fuel suppliers demonstrates what happens when the federal government really, really wants something that technology is not ready to provide. In fact, while it may seem harsh that the Environmental Protection Agency is penalizing them for failing to do the impossible, the agency is being lenient by the standards of the law, the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

The law, aimed at reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, its reliance on oil imported from hostile places and the export of dollars to pay for it, includes provisions to increase the efficiency of vehicles as well as incorporate renewable energy sources into gasoline and diesel.

It requires the use of three alternative fuels: car and truck fuel made from cellulose, diesel fuel made from biomass and fuel made from biological materials but with a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases. Only the cellulosic fuel is commercially unavailable. As for meeting the quotas in the other categories, the refiners will not close their books until February and are not sure what will happen.

The goal set by the law for vehicle fuel from cellulose was 250 million gallons for 2011 and 500 million gallons for 2012. (These are small numbers relative to the American fuel market; the E.P.A. estimates that gasoline sales in 2012 will amount to about 135 billion gallons, and highway diesel, about 51 billion gallons.)

Even advocates of renewable fuel acknowledge that the refiners are at least partly correct in complaining about the penalties.

“From a taxpayer/consumer standpoint, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense that we would require blenders to pay fines or fees or whatever for stuff that literally isn’t available,” said Dennis V. McGinn, a retired vice admiral who serves on the American Council on Renewable Energy.

The standards for cellulosic fuel are part of an overall goal of having 36 billion gallons of biofuels incorporated annually by 2022. But substantial technical progress would be needed to meet that — and lately it has been hard to come by.

Michael J. McAdams, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Association, said the state of the technology for turning biological material like wood chips or nonfood plants straight into hydrocarbons — instead of relying on conversion by nature over millions of years, which is how crude oil originates — was advancing but was not yet ready for commercial introduction.

Of the technologies that are being tried out, he added, “There are some that are closer to the beaker and some that are closer to the barrel.”

The Texas renewable fuels company KiOR, for example, has broken ground on a plant in Columbus, Miss., that is supposed to start turning Southern yellow pine chips into 11 million gallons a year of gasoline and diesel components in the fourth quarter of 2012, although Matthew Hargarten, a spokesman, said, “Obviously, timelines change.”

Mr. McGinn of the council on renewable energy, defends the overall energy statute. Even if the standards for 2011 and 2012 are not met, he said, “I am absolutely convinced from a national security perspective and an economic perspective that the renewable fuel standard, writ large, is the right thing to do.” With oil insecurity and climate change related to greenhouse gas emissions as worrisome as ever, advocates say, there is strong reason to press forward.

The oil industry does not agree.

Mr. Drevna of the refiners association argued that in contrast to 2007, when Congress passed the law, “all of a sudden we’re starting to find tremendous resources of our own, oil and natural gas, here in the United States, because of fracking,” referring to a drilling process that involves injecting chemicals and water into underground rock to release gas and oil.

What is more, the industry expects the 1,700-mile Keystone Pipeline, which would run from oil sands deposits in Canada to the Gulf Coast, to provide more fuel for refineries, he said.

But Cathy Milbourn, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, said that her agency still believed that the 8.65-million-gallon quota for cellulosic ethanol for 2012 was “reasonably attainable.” By setting a quota, she added, “we avoid a situation where real cellulosic biofuel production exceeds the mandated volume,” which would weaken demand.

The underlying problem is that Congress legislated changes that laboratories and factories have not succeeded in producing. This is not for want of trying, and efforts continue.

One possible early source is the energy company Poet, a large producer of ethanol from corn kernels. The company is doing early work now on a site in Emmetsburg, Iowa, that is supposed to produce up to 25 million gallons a year of fuel alcohol beginning in 2013 from corn cobs.

And Mascoma, a company partly owned by General Motors, announced last month that it would get up to $80 million from the Energy Department to help build a plant in Kinross, Mich., that is supposed to make fuel alcohol from wood waste. Valero Energy, the oil company, and the State of Michigan are also providing funds.

Yet other cellulosic fuel efforts have faltered. A year ago, after it was offered more than $150 million in government grants, Range Fuels closed a commercial factory in Soperton, Ga., where pine chips were to be turned into fuel alcohols, because it ran into technological problems.

Airlines have had marginally more success with renewable fuels, but mostly because they have been willing to pay huge sums for sample quantities. Alaska Airlines said recently it had paid $17 a gallon. Lufthansa plans to fly a Boeing 747 from Frankfurt to Dulles International Airport near Washington using 40 tons of a biofuel mix.

23086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Newt's big backer on: January 10, 2012, 08:22:42 AM
Pravda on the Hudson seeks to guide us to the "proper" conclusions , , , rolleyes  cheesy

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

MANCHESTER, N.H. — For weeks this winter, as Newt Gingrich’s presidential hopes faltered under the weight of millions of dollars in attack ads paid for by backers of Mitt Romney, a small group of Gingrich supporters quietly lobbied for help from one of the richest men in America: Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino owner and Mr. Gingrich’s longtime friend and patron.
Mr. Romney’s supporters were also calling, imploring Mr. Adelson to stay out of the race.
By the time Mr. Gingrich limped into New Hampshire, some of his top backers had given up on Mr. Adelson and begun prospecting elsewhere, including among erstwhile supporters of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, to finance a counterattack.
But on Friday, the cavalry arrived: a $5 million check from Mr. Adelson to Winning Our Future, a “super PAC” that supports Mr. Gingrich. By Monday morning, the group had reserved more than $3.4 million in advertising time in South Carolina, a huge sum in a state where the airwaves come cheap and the primary is 11 days away. The group is planning to air portions of a movie critical of Mr. Romney’s time at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he helped found.
The last-minute injection underscores how last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance has made it possible for a wealthy individual to influence an election. Mr. Adelson’s contribution to the super PAC is 1,000 times the $5,000 he could legally give directly to Mr. Gingrich’s campaign this year.
Several people with knowledge of Mr. Adelson’s decision to donate to Winning Our Future said that it was born out of a two-decade friendship with Mr. Gingrich, his advocacy on behalf of Israel and his turbulent months as a presidential candidate.
“His friend needed his help,” said a close associate of both men, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing Mr. Adelson’s ire. “It’s more than anything else a loyalty thing. And he believes strongly in his platform and in Newt’s candidacy.”
Ron Reese, a spokesman for Mr. Adelson, declined to comment for this article.
At a stop in New Hampshire on Monday, Mr. Gingrich, who complained bitterly about the wealthy Romney supporters who helped send him to a fifth-place finish in Iowa, said Mr. Adelson was operating on his own.
“If he wants to counterbalance Romney’s millionaires,” Mr. Gingrich said, “I have no objection to him counterbalancing Romney’s millionaires.”
But for Mr. Gingrich, the donation could be both boon and burden: Mr. Adelson comes with potential liabilities. His main source of income, casinos, could upset some social conservatives. That he operates in China could rankle isolationist voters, while some of his views on Israel are hawkish by mainstream Republican standards.
Mr. Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands, also faces a federal investigation for possible violations of a federal antibribery law, relating to operations in the Chinese gambling district of Macau, the company acknowledged last year. The company has said the investigation stems from the allegations of a disgruntled former employee.
The aid is also likely to intensify public scrutiny of Mr. Adelson, 78, who has invested millions of dollars in conservative causes over the years but prefers to keep his political activities private.
The relationship between Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Adelson dates to the mid-1990s and first centered on their common animosity for labor unions.
Mr. Adelson was building his newest resort casino, the Venetian, and became embroiled in a battle with a local culinary union trying to organize his employees. The conflict soured further when Mr. Adelson helped finance a campaign in Nevada to pass legislation curtailing the ability of labor unions to automatically deduct money from members to finance political activities.
Aides to Mr. Adelson turned to Mr. Gingrich — known for his criticism of labor unions — for advice, said George Harris, who worked for Mr. Adelson at the time. Aides to Mr. Gingrich, then the House speaker, helped Mr. Adelson hone his antiunion pitch, and Mr. Gingrich was invited to Las Vegas to speak and be honored with a fund-raiser.
Mr. Gingrich endorsed the Nevada legislation. He also backed other legislation in 1998 to preserve tax deductions beneficial to the industry.
“They hit it off immediately,” Mr. Harris recalled Monday, explaining that he helped broker the introduction. “They became friends, pals, as they had a great deal in common.”
Mr. Adelson became one of Mr. Gingrich’s most important patrons, donating $7 million to a political committee founded by Mr. Gingrich in 2006, American Solutions, whose direct-mail lists and advocacy of Social Security privatization and greater oil exploration were critical building blocks to Mr. Gingrich’s presidential campaign.
Mr. Adelson allowed Mr. Gingrich the use of his personal aircraft, and the two occasionally met for meals and spoke often by phone, a former aide to Mr. Adelson said.
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But the two shared views about much more than domestic issues. Both men have long been staunch American allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Mr. Adelson owns a free daily newspaper in Israel that is credited with helping Mr. Netanyahu return to power in 2009.
In May 2010, the cover of a special section of the paper featured a full-page photograph of Mr. Gingrich in front of an American flag, with Mr. Gingrich criticizing the Obama administration for not moving more aggressively against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Evading the confrontation with evil may bring a second Holocaust,” Mr. Gingrich wrote in the article. “The mistakes made by the White House will exact a terrible price.”
This willingness to publicly criticize American policy toward Israel — during the Bush and Obama administrations — has distinguished Mr. Gingrich from his Republican rivals, said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Israel under President George W. Bush. Those views often echoed Mr. Adelson’s.
Early on, Mr. Adelson was expected to play a central role on Mr. Gingrich’s campaign, perhaps as finance chairman. But in June, the campaign seemed to implode, with the resignations of his campaign manager and a half-dozen senior advisers.
Within days, though, Mr. Gingrich rebooted his campaign, speaking at a fund-raiser for the Republican Jewish Coalition, where Mr. Adelson sits on the board.
In December, Becky Burkett, the former chief fund-raiser for American Solutions, formed Winning Our Future. Mr. Tyler came aboard as a senior adviser. Rumors soon floated that Mr. Adelson would give the group as much as $20 million — but were quickly denied by Mr. Adelson.
In the days before the Iowa caucuses, as Mr. Gingrich’s poll numbers fell under a withering assault from Restore Our Future, a super PAC backing Mr. Romney, supporters of other Republican candidates said they urged Mr. Adelson to hold back or even endorse a different candidate
People close to the men disagreed on whether Mr. Adelson always intended to support Mr. Gingrich or only came around in recent days, as his supporters came to believe that only a major infusion of money could salvage the campaign.
But when Mr. Gingrich declared in a December interview that Palestinians are an “invented” people — meaning they had no historical claim to have their own state and that they remain committed to destroying Israel — it inspired a new round of enthusiasm for him among many conservative American Jews.
“Not many others are willing to say that, but it is a tragic truth,” said Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America
Mr. Adelson echoed Mr. Gingrich’s comments within days in an interview with Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.
“Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and you will hear why Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people,” Mr. Adelson said.
Fred Zeidman, a Texas energy executive who is another prominent Jewish political contributor and a supporter of Mr. Romney, said he was among those who called Mr. Adelson, and they talked about why he was still backing Mr. Gingrich.
“As long as Newt is in the race, we are going to be with Newt,” Mr. Adelson replied, according to Mr. Zeidman, in a conversation they had in December. “We can’t abandon him now.”
23087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Prescient understatement from Madison, Federalist 49, 1788 on: January 10, 2012, 08:13:51 AM
"It may be considered as an objection inherent in the principle, that as every appeal to the people would carry an implication of some defect in the government, frequent appeals would in great measure deprive the government of that veneration which time bestows on every thing, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability." --James Madison, Federalist No. 49, 1788
23088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 10, 2012, 08:04:55 AM
Following up on my post of last night:

Political junkie that I am while I was searching for the Sunday morning debate I ran across Newt in a NH townhall meeting.

In my opinion, NONE of the candidates come close to the level that this man operates at.

He told a story of the his time with President Reagan based upon a riff of "Lions don't hunt chipmunks, they hunt zebras and antelopes" with the idea that a lion hunting chipmunks would starve-- this being a metaphor for choosing a few big themes and not sweating the smaller issues.  Hard to convey with my words here, but it was very effective.  As he built the theme and worked with it the audience, my son, and I sat in close attention.

23089  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 10, 2012, 12:03:02 AM
Newt spoke at some length on this on Hannity tonight.  I thought he was in fine form.  I thought he nicely distinguished the creation destruction of capitalism in contrast to a specific case he mentioned from Romney's Bain Capital wherein BC put in $30M and took out $180M , , , and the company went bankrupt.

To be precise the issue is not the field of venture capital, it is how one acts.  Newt is specifically accusing Mitt of having acted badly on more than one occasion.  No one that I am aware of has researched this point with regard to Newt's involvement w Fortstman et al.

Speaking of Newt's past:  Concerning the FMs, I caught something recently where he said he had been restrained from talking about certain things with the FMs due to a confidentiality agreement, but that he was now free to speak and would be soon.   With most politicians my natural reaction would be to roll my eyes, but with Newt I remember how he let literally DECADES go by with this terrible meme ou there that he had divorced his dying wife, only for us to discover quite recently through his daughter that it wasn't true!!!!  That the wife had wanted to divorce him (who could blame her  cheesy ) and that she had just gotten news that she wasn't dying and that in point of fact she is still alive!!!  Only when the daughter and the wife gave permission to speak, did he let it come out.  In my opinion, what he did as a man here is rather remarkable-- and it is why I am willing to take a wait and see attitude when he says he has not spoken until now about the FMs due to confidentiality  issues.
23090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Press Romney and Huntsman on Second Amendment on: January 09, 2012, 05:39:09 PM
Romney, Huntsman Stonewall Gun Owners

As New Hampshire voters get set to head to the polls, Mitt and Jon Huntsman continue to ignore requests from gun owners that he return the GOA candidate questionnaire.
 
Thank to your efforts, we’ve heard from most of the Republican candidates, including Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. But Romney and Huntsman continue to turn a deaf ear to the Second Amendment community.
 
Romney’s stonewalling is no surprise. After all, he is on record supporting a semi-auto ban and waiting periods for gun purchases. Still, he has the audacity to travel around the country claiming to be a supporter of the Second Amendment.
 
If he truly has “changed his spots,” then why not commit in writing to support specific Second Amendment issues?
 
For instance, would he veto a semi-auto ban, something he signed into law as Governor of Massachusetts? Will he reverse the Obama administration’s support of the massive UN small arms treaty? And what about executive orders, gun owner registration, and a host of other issues important to gun owners?
 
Jon Huntsman views on gun rights are largely unknown, but as the former Utah governor creeps up in the polls in New Hampshire, gun owners are becoming increasingly interested in his positions.
 
Huntsman said over the summer that he would “absolutely veto” a semi-auto ban, but he has not elaborated further.
 
There are some 100 million gun owners in America. It is outrageous for ANY candidate for elected office to ignore this vast segment of the population.
 
ACTION: Please contact the Romney and Huntsman campaigns and urge them to complete the GOA candidate questionnaire.
 
Romney campaign contact info
 
Email: info@mittromney.com
 
Phone: (857) 288-3500
 
Huntsman campaign contact info
 
Webform: http://jon2012.com/contact
 
Phone: (603) 836-5643
23091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gov. Christie frees Brian Aitken on: January 09, 2012, 05:30:27 PM



Dear Marc F.,

Thanks to the action of tens of thousands of National Association for Gun Rights’ members, New Jersey gun owner Brian Aitken was able to spend Christmas 2010 with his family.

But for a long time this story looked like it would have a grim ending...

Mr. Aitken was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison in New Jersey for never actually committing a crime.

After moving from Colorado, Aitken was careful to follow every absurd gun law in New Jersey to a “T”.

His efforts were in vain as he was promptly imprisoned for violating those same laws after a judge threw out most of the evidence proving Aitken’s innocence.

In prompt response, I launched a series of e-mails asking National Association for Gun Rights members to sign a petition demanding Governor Christie pardon and release Mr. Aitken.

National Association for Gun Rights’ members answered the call and unleashed an avalanche of real political pressure.

Volunteers on the ground in New Jersey personally delivered more than 25,000 petitions to Governor Christie’s office.

As Senator Everett Dirkson once said "when I feel the heat, I see the light."

And pro-gun Americans lit the fire that forced a spotlight of attention on Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.

 

It's tough for any politician not to notice that many signatures.

And the Monday after delivery, Mr. Aitken's sentence was fully commuted and he was released from prison to spend the holidays with his family.

You read that correctly: Governor Christie felt the pressure of Second Amendment supporters like you and freed Brian Aitken from prison.

That's the kind of fight you can expect as a member of the National Association for Gun Rights.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a full pardon, and that's why I am keeping my eye on New Jersey.

Governor Christie shows all the signs of a man who could attempt to secure the Republican nomination for a White House run, and you and I must get him on the record as saying that the gun laws in places like New Jersey are a slap in the face to its citizens.

Simply commuting the sentence of an innocent man isn't enough by itself.

Political insiders are keenly aware of how much the votes of Second Amendment supporters can make a difference in a national election.

But people like Governor Christie have spent their political careers in places like New Jersey where they've tried to play both sides of the fence.

He needs to be aware of the fact that the rest of this country will not tolerate offenses to our Constitutional liberties.

Nor will they allow Gestapo-style kangaroo courts where law-abiding citizens go to prison with stiffer sentences than drug dealers and rapists for exercising their basic freedoms.

Members and activists from the National Association for Gun Rights are driving this point home by holding Governor Christie's feet to the fire with petitions from across the country.

He now has to contend with the simple fact that, in less than a week, you and other members of the National Association for Gun Rights were able to blast out 25,000 petition signatures as well as print them and deliver them directly to his office.

Applying political pressure does make a difference, especially when the pressure is crate after crate of petitions dumped on a governor's desk.

And Mr. Aitken spent his Christmas with his family instead of behind bars.

If you want to get involved in the next battle for the Second Amendment, stay connected and look for alerts from the National Association for Gun Rights.

Yours in Freedom,

 
Dudley Brown
Executive Director
National Association for Gun Rights

P.S. Click here to help the National Association for Gun Rights continue to fight for people like Brian Aitken by making a donation.
23092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: January 09, 2012, 05:27:28 PM
Anwar found not guilty  smiley
23093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Bacteria did it on: January 09, 2012, 05:26:53 PM
A fortuitous combination of ravenous bacteria, ocean currents and local topography helped to rapidly purge the Gulf of Mexico of much of the oil and gas released in the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010, researchers reported on Monday.

After spewing oil and gas for nearly three months, the BP PLC well was finally capped in mid-July 2010. Some 200,000 tons of methane gas and about 4.4 million barrels of petroleum spilled into the ocean. Given the enormity of the spill, many scientists predicted that a significant amount of the resulting chemical pollutants would likely persist in the region's waterways for years.

According to a new federally funded study published Monday by the National Academy of Sciences, those scientists were wrong. By the end of September 2010, the vast underwater plume of methane, plus other gases, had all but disappeared. By the end of October, a significant amount of the underwater offshore oil—a complex substance made from thousands of compounds—had vanished as well.

"There was a lot of doomsday talk," said microbiologist David Valentine of the University of California at Santa Barbara and co-author of the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But it turns out "that the ocean harbors organisms that can handle a certain amount of input" in the form of oil and gas pollutants, he said.

A year ago, Dr. Valentine and other scientists published a paper describing how naturally occurring bacteria had apparently devoured much of the toxic chemicals released in the BP spill. That federally funded study, published in the journal Science, triggered disbelief among other researchers who questioned whether microbes could gobble up that much gas and oil so quickly.

Dr. Valentine and his colleagues have now used a computer model to explain just how that scenario might have played out. "The skepticism was certainly one of the contributing factors that spurred us to go and do this [new] study," he said.

It was an intricate challenge. The first step was to estimate the flow rate of the various hydrocarbons from the well over the 87 days that the spill continued. The researchers identified 26 classes of such chemicals; they then had to figure out which of these chemicals stayed in the deep plume that remained more than 1,000 meters underwater, and which ones rose up to the surface. For example, in the plume, certain chemicals dissolved completely in the water, including the methane gas, while some of the oil droplets were atomized and remained suspended in the water. A lot of the surface oil evaporated or washed up on Gulf shorelines.

Next, the scientists set about identifying the main species of oil-and-gas-eating bacteria that lived in the deep Gulf. They identified 52 main species of such microbes. The scientists also estimated how quickly the bacteria consumed oil and gas, and how much the bacteria colonies grew.

The final step was to model the complex movement of the water in the Gulf to determine where the oil and gas—and the bacteria—got transported. Igor Mezic, a colleague of Dr. Valentine's and also a co-author, had published a study in 2011 predicting where the BP oil slick had spread. That analysis included data from the U.S. Navy's model of the Gulf's ocean currents and observations of the water's movements immediately after the spill and for several months after it ended.

The UC Santa Barbara researchers decided to marry their two computer models—the one about the spill-eating bacteria with the one that captured the movement of water. When they ran the joint model, they found that it helped to explain the puzzle of the rapidly vanishing oil spill.

The model showed that the topography in the Gulf had played a vital role. Since the gulf is bounded on three sides by land—north, east and west—the water currents don't flow in a single direction as in river. Instead, the water sloshes around, back and forth, as if it were trapped in a washing machine.

An initial population of bacteria encountered the spill near the BP well, its population grew, and then it was swept away by the ocean currents. But when the water circled back—that washing-machine effect—it was already loaded with these hungry bacteria, which immediately went on the attack again, mopping up another round of hydrocarbons. These repeated forays over the BP well, by the ever-growing bacterial populations, sped up the rate at which the methane and offshore oil got devoured.

Dr. Valentine suggested that oil companies ought to ascertain the currents, water motion and native microbial community in the water before embarking on any major offshore drilling project. "Then, if there is an event, we'd be many steps ahead of understanding where the oil may go and what the environment's response may be," he said.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Office of Naval Research.

Write to Gautam Naik at gautam.naik@wsj.com

23094  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US seeks Chinese cooperation on: January 09, 2012, 05:15:55 PM
By BOB DAVIS, WAYNE MA and JEREMY PAGE
BEIJING—U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is likely to get a skeptical hearing in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday as he presses leaders to reduce purchases of Iranian oil and explains tough new U.S. sanctions rules meant to hobble Iran's financial sector.

Chinese officials are wary about cutting off a major source of supply, as are their counterparts in Tokyo, which Mr. Geithner will visit after Beijing. In China's case, the issue is also overlaid with nationalist politics. It doesn't want to be seen as succumbing to increased U.S. pressure to punish another nation, particularly when the latest effort was driven by the U.S. Congress, not a new United Nations agreement.

Indeed, if the European Union goes through with plans to cut off oil imports from Iran, and China were one of its few big buyers left, Beijing could find itself in a strong position to wring commercial concessions from Iran on a series of oil-industry contract disputes. The U.S. and Europe have been trying to press Iran to scrap a nuclear-weapons program; Iran says it isn't developing such weapons.

"To the U.S., the Chinese will be passive-aggressive," says Patrick Chovanec, a business professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University. "They won't tell the U.S. they're not going along, but implicitly it will be 'You don't tell us what to do.' "

Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai bluntly dismissed the new U.S. sanctions effort. "These issues cannot be resolved through sanctions," he said at a media briefing on Monday. "Negotiations are also needed to solve the issue."

President Barack Obama recently signed into law a measure he initially opposed that would bar from U.S. financial markets foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank, which plays a critical role in facilitating trade with Iran. One way for a nation to get an exemption is to show a "significant reduction" in Iranian oil imports. The law would increase pressure on Chinese financial institutions that finance Chinese business deals in Iran.

The administration says it won changes in the legislation before it became law to give it more flexibility. "We encourage everyone that trades with Iran to significantly reduce their oil imports," said a Treasury official.

U.S. officials say China has been abiding by the requirements of U.N.-approved sanctions, but they have been trying to encourage Beijing to go further by—among other things—instructing Chinese banks not to deal with any Iranian counterparts engaged in the country's weapons program.

Even before the new law, Washington believed that China's largest banks were becoming increasingly cooperative with U.S. sanctions efforts. But Washington is still concerned that Iran is seeking new "access points" to international finance through smaller banks in Hong Kong and mainland China.

In September, David Cohen, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, visited China and Hong Kong to persuade local officials and bankers to help strengthen the sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Since then other U.S. officials have had discussions on sanctions with Chinese oil companies and Chinese government agencies.

In 2011 through Nov. 30, China's oil imports from Iran rose roughly 30% from the year-ago period. China imports about 11% of its crude oil from Iran, making Iran its No. 3 supplier after Saudi Arabia and Angola.

Since December, though, exports have begun to fall compared to a year earlier. Industry analysts doubt that's the result of U.S. pressure. Rather, negotiations between China United Petroleum & Chemicals Co, known as Unipec, and the National Iranian Oil Co., over commercial issues have dragged on longer than expected, they say.

But U.S. pressure may have played a role in China slowing down the pace of investment in oil and gas projects. Chinese oil firms are concerned about being hit by U.S. sanctions, say energy executives in Beijing. Even so, the more isolated Iran becomes economically, the more leverage Beijing may have in its various disputes with Iran. In 2010, China was Iran's largest oil import market, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, with Japan No. 2.

China is caught between its extensive commercial relations with Iran and its need to keep strong ties to the U.S. economy, said Pang Zhongying, director of Nankai University's Institute of Global Studies. "China has no choice but to prepare for the worst and try to avoid Chinese losses" in the U.S.-Iran showdown, he said.

Appearing to give in to the U.S. would play poorly at home for Chinese officials. "It will only take a few years before China is faced with zero oil," said a posting on an online forum of People's Daily, the Communist Party's newspaper. "By that time, the U.S. and EU will be strangling us."

Mr. Geithner's visit will mark a rare opportunity to discuss the issue with the two men who are expected to spearhead the new leadership of the Communist Party following a once-a-decade power transition beginning later this year.

On Wednesday, he is expected to meet Vice President Xi Jinping, the man due to take over as party chief in October or November this year, as well as Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who is widely expected to become premier after the leadership change.

U.S. officials are keen to gain to as much access as possible this year to the two men, about whom little is known outside the party elite. Mr Geithner's visit will also allow both sides to discuss preparations for Mr Xi's expected visit to the U.S. later this year, probably in February.

23095  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / How Often to Fight? on: January 09, 2012, 04:43:53 PM
How much to fight?
By Guro Crafty Dog/Marc

One of the questions that I am asked from time to time is “How much, how often, should I fight?”

As is always the case, “Only you are responsible for you” but perhaps some of the following ruminations may be of help to some of those with this question.

As many of you may know, The Dog Brothers came into being over the three day Memorial Day weekend of 1988 (for our non-American friends, this is the last weekend in May).   As our Creation Story goes, what began as hard sparring on day one evolved into true fighting somewhere on the second day.  Eric was already at that level, but had had to hold back with the rest of us because we weren’t ready yet to go there.   

If I were to pick the one fight where it happened, it would be the one between Arlan (to become Salty Dog) and Philip (to become Sled Dog) on the afternoon of the second day—which can be seen in the “Power” DVD of the Real Contact Stickfighting” series.   By the third day, every one was there and stepping out to fight no longer was a big deal—a powerful experience this is!

The process of going out to fight again and again for three days is a transformational one.  That said, our three day session of 1988 was not repeated until twenty years later!!!  (more on that some other day).

I am reminded of a passage from one of Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan books wherein Carlos learns that unlike the many times Don Juan had him take psychedelic mushrooms, another apprentice had been given them only once.   Carlos asked Don Juan why he had been give the mushrooms so many times.

“Because you’re stupid” came the answer—the point being that the other apprentice had learned what the experience had to offer right away and that for Carlos the amount of time it took him to forget the lessons of the mushrooms was rather short.  (I’m riffing here on our aphorism that “Intelligence is the amount of time it takes to forget a lesson.”) In short, he was stupid-- while the other apprentice was moving forward, he was still at the same lesson and his health being burdened with the costs thereof.  Or to put more succinctly, as Mongrel did in the “Power” DVD, “Some of the guys seem to like getting hit, but me, I think after a couple of times I get the gist of it.”

The risks of fighting too much, too frequently, for too long are obvious: becoming emotionally overwhelmed, becoming burnt out, getting injured too much or too lastingly (including brain damage) and in general paying a price too high to be consistent with the idea of longevity as a warrior.

In equal measure the risks of fighting too infrequently and too little are obvious:  to not truly experience what you can do, and what it takes to do it to someone else; to not truly experience the crucible of higher consciousness through harder contact— in short to not have the place within you that is forever young to call upon as warrior needing to defend his land, woman, and children.

The moth-and-the-flame nature of this dynamic is obvious and balance is not a constant over time, but for those who travel our path there is a time where each of us one tests himself as much as makes sense for him.

What triggers these ruminations is the return of Salty Dog after many years away. 

One of the advantages of the Dog Brothers tribal structure is that the natural ebb and flow the various clans of the Tribe tends to balance out and the Tribe flourishes.   And so it is that the Tribe is there for Arlan/Salty Dog and we are there for him as he returns.
It HAS been a long time since he has been  around  (10-14 years as best as I can recall) and so for the many of us who have gotten involved since then, I’d like to say the following:

While Top Dog is the best we have ever seen, one of the reasons we know this is because he fought Salty Dog during the days the Dog Brothers’ reputation was forged.    Although Top Dog usually had the edge, the challenge was always there—successfully too from time to time!  As I said in the voiceover to one of their fights on one of our DVDs, he was “the Joe Frazier to Top Dog’s Mohammed Ali”.

While the fights of the Dog Brothers Gatherings are usually the ones that appear in our DVDs (mostly because DB Inc hired the cameraman and the serious professional camera necessary to use footage in a DBMA DVD), plenty of serious fighting was done in the early days in small get-togethers, often at Salty’s home in Santa Fe, NM.   The now famous footage of Top and Salty fighting siniwali wherein Salty gets dropped and has blood spurting out of his head and is bandaged up to the point of “looking like a Sikh” was in a small park up the street from Salty’s house.  Wild Dog, Sleeping Dog, Rain Dog, and Poi Dog (who later on moved to the Hawaii Clan, the Hermosa Clan, and the NoHo Clans) all got their start there.

Salty Dog is also the one who brought Krabi Krabong to the table.  As those of you who also follow DBMA know, KK is part of our “Los/Dos Triques” blend and that that one of the fighting structures I teach is named “the Salty Game” precisely because it draws so much on what Salty does.

So, for those of you who are at a point in your warrior trajectory where it makes sense for you to fight more than you are now with someone who can take you further than you are now, know that the Salty Dog is having a fight weekend on Saturday March 3-4.  If you are interested get in touch with Arlan “Salty Dog” Sanford at 505-795-0986 or at saltydog@cybermesa.com

Also, for those you looking for more fighting, of course there is the legend himself, the Top Dog, in Houston TX.   At random intervals he too organizes fight days and he can be reached at eric.knaus@ronek.com

To round things out, there are also the “Beat the Crap out of Cancer” days.  Started by Growling Dog of Toronto, and having spread also to the NoHo Clan in the LA area and Dog Terry and other DBMA folks in the IL area, these too  are good days, and those looking to get started may find the wider variety of fighting options make for a good idea.  Stay in touch via our newsletter, our forum, the DBMA FB page, and the DBMA Association for notification about upcoming events.

Of course, in all of this, as is always the case with anything having to do with us, “Stickfighting is dangerous.  Injuries will happen (No deaths so far!) Only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times.  No suing no one for no reason, for nothing, no how, no way. If you can’t agree to this, you should just watch.”   

“The greater the dichotomy, the profounder the transformation: Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact” © DBI
Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny
Guiding Force
23096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Chomsky on: January 09, 2012, 04:29:36 PM
Andrew:

GM is our point man for this and at the moment he is on the road for a week or two so this will need to wait until his return.

Thank you,
Marc
23097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GM on: January 09, 2012, 04:28:37 PM
FYI, GM is on the road for a week or two.
23098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury to our GM: Give it a rest already! on: January 09, 2012, 04:28:07 PM
Nonsense Arguments About Jobs To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 1/9/2012
The better the employment reports get, the more ridiculous the assertions from those who deny the improvement.
Take Friday’s report, which was the best since the economic recovery started. Private payrolls rose 212,000, while the number of hours per worker and earnings per hour went up as well. As a result, total workers’ earnings are more than keeping pace with inflation. Even the unemployment rate went down again and is now at 8.5%, almost a full point below where it was a year ago.
 
These numbers are pretty good. Nonetheless, anyone who stated the obvious, and pointed out the good news, was berated by media and especially in the blogosphere. Our observation is that most of these arguments against optimism are driven by politics and border on the ridiculous.
 
One claim is the numbers are being manipulated by the government to help President Obama…if President Bush was in office, unemployment would be 12%.
 
But if the numbers are being manipulated, they’re doing a pretty poor job. Why not claim a higher growth rate for civilian employment – which usually happens anyhow in normal recoveries – which would let them show some combination of a lower unemployment rate or higher labor force participation rate? And why would they usually have to revise up their payroll numbers after the initial report each month? Wouldn’t they want the good news out as soon as possible? Of course, we point this out knowing full well that the conspiracy crowd already thinks we are part of the conspiracy.
 
Another argument is that the “real” unemployment rate is 15.2%, not 8.5%.  This is a reference to the Labor Department’s U-6 rate, which includes discouraged workers, marginally attached workers, and those working part-time who say they want full-time jobs.  But as we have explained many times before, since its inception in 1994, the “real” unemployment rate (U-6) is always, in both good times and bad, higher than the regular unemployment rate – by between 65-85%.  Right now it’s 79% higher.  In other words, the so called real unemployment rate tells us nothing we wouldn’t otherwise know by just looking at the regular unemployment rate.
 
Others are saying the unemployment rate is down only because people are leaving the labor force. This has resonated lately, because the labor force has contracted by 170,000 in the last two months. But those monthly numbers are volatile and the jobless rate is down 0.9 points from a year ago, during a period when the labor force expanded 780,000, or 0.5%.
 
One recent claim is that a “real” recovery would have 250,000 jobs per month. This is a made up number which means nothing other than “we aren’t there yet.” We all want more growth, not less. But, just because the number of new jobs has not reached a non-scientifically based threshold means nothing.   Let’s not make up reasons to be disappointed when the numbers are getting a little bit better every month.
 
Some pessimists notice that this past month, a job category for couriers & messengers was up 42,000, so that shows some problems when these jobs disappear next month. But the same temporary pop in couriers & messengers happened last December and job creation accelerated this year. Moreover, don’t let that one category deflect attention from the fact that every major category of jobs increased in December, from construction and manufacturing to retail and leisure.
 
We get it. The job market isn’t perfect. We wish we were back at 5% unemployment right now and there are plenty of reasons to point fingers and argue that things should, and could, be better. We do that plenty. But using each monthly employment report as a pretext to put forward spurious  arguments and vent about our national state of affairs, which we all knew about in the days before each report as well, suggests an attempt to politicize the economic data. And as we all know, facts and politics don’t always mix very well.
23099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: National Defense Authorization Act NDAA on: January 09, 2012, 04:15:08 PM
BD:

May I ask you for your assessment of the sections and BO's interpretation thereof?

TIA,
Marc
23100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The congnitive dissonance of the left on: January 09, 2012, 04:04:34 PM
I'm with ya Doug in my amazement at how divorced "the story" is from reality. angry
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