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23101  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 90 year old badass on: January 05, 2012, 10:42:31 AM
90-year-old man, suspect injured in shootout during burglary attempt
A Marin County burglar picked the wrong house to target late Wednesday morning when he ended up in a gun battle with a 90-year-old World War II-veteran that left both men hospitalized.
At around 10:45 a.m., police said the intruder -- 30-year-old Samuel Cutrufelli -- may have been trying to commit a burglary that turned into a shootout with elderly but well-armed property owner Jay Leone at the house on Via La Cumbre.
"He was home alone when his door was kicked open," Twin Cities Police Sgt. Mike Norton told KTVU. "The suspect entered and basically took him captive. The victim was able at one point to arm himself with a firearm and shoot the suspect three times. The suspect had his own fire arm. He was able to shoot the victim one time."
Police said Leone shots hit the intruder in the torso, arm and leg.
Friend and neighbor Scott Chalstrom told KTVU Leone is a former sheriff's deputy and physically fit.
"I'm shocked," said Chalstrom. "This is not the type of area you have this type of stuff going on in."
Police said the suspect fled, but called police himself less than a mile away, claiming to have shot himself accidentally.
KTVU spoke with a woman who was just steps away when the shooting started. Sara Navon rents a downstairs room in the house where the shooting took place.
She said she was not surprised that her landlord -- a former military man who also worked in law enforcement -- fought off the suspected intruder with deadly force.
Navon didn't know it at first, but her 90-year-old landlord was in a fight for his life just one floor above her in the Greenbrae home where they both live.
"I shouted for him 'Jay! Jay!'" said Navon. She also called 911.
Leone had been shot in the face, but Navon said his act of bravery made good on a promise he made to her years ago.
"He always told me," remembered Navon. "Sometimes I would be scared. He said 'Don't worry. I'm above and I have a weapon. I was the best sniper.  I'm good.' And I said 'Ok!'"
Police said both men are in stable condition at Marin General Hospital.
On Wednesday night, Navon was staying with friends. She spoke with KTVU by phone after she visited Leone in the hospital. She said the bullet went through his cheek, but surprisingly did not break any bones.
"It was very difficult for him to talk," said Navon. "He was in good spirits."
Sgt. Norton told KTVU he was very impressed with Leone, saying that the 90-year-old was able to tell police what happened while he was in the ambulance.
The suspect Cutrufelli will be charged with burglary and attempted murder.
23102  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DVD of Dog Brothers PPV show coming soon on: January 05, 2012, 10:35:26 AM
Woof All:

I am informed that the requisite time has passed and that we may now market directly the DVD of the PPV show of last year on our website.  Hard to say exactly how long this will take to actualize, but know that the process is underway.

Crafty Dog/Marc

23103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion and theocratic politics on: January 05, 2012, 10:16:33 AM
Muslim Brotherhood Realities New and Old
by Steven Emerson

IPT News
January 5, 2012
The votes still aren't fully counted in Egypt, but the Obama administration has seen enough to reverse long-standing and well-rooted policies to shun the theocratic, global Caliphate-minded Muslim Brotherhood, whose philosophy spawned terrorist movements from Hamas to al-Qaida.
High level meetings between American and Brotherhood officials reflect a "new political reality here [in Egypt], and indeed around the region," the New York Times reported in a front-page article Wednesday, "as Islamist groups come to power."
What is astounding and dangerous about the new U.S. recognition is the fact that Brotherhood leaders became more openly radical and militant once Mubarak was thrown out, issuing incendiary speeches calling for "martyrdom" operations against Israel and aligning with Hamas and other terrorist groups. Yet as the New York Times wrote, the Obama administration accepts as truthful "the Brotherhood's repeated assurances that its lawmakers want to build a modern democracy that will respect individual freedoms, free markets and international commitments, including Egypt's treaty with Israel," the Times reported.
But there's another reality that seems overlooked. And that's the Brotherhood's history of deception and duplicity, policies that reflect its modus operandi in gaining legitimacy in Egypt and around the world but still promoting a militant agenda. While some MB officials may tell American officials they will respect individual liberties and honor Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, it's not hard to find massive evidence that paints a different and more disturbing picture.
As we reported last week, the Brotherhood is poised to dominate the next Egyptian government after vowing last spring that it sought no such power. The group's deputy chief says the Brotherhood "will not recognize Israel under any circumstances" and may place the peace treaty before voters in a referendum.
Earlier this year, it tried to hide its bylaws and their calls for "need to work on establishing the Islamic State" from English-reading audiences, striking them from its website. Last week, however, Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie gave an address reminding followers of the agenda laid out by Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. "It begins with the reform of the individual and then to start building the family and society, then the government; then the rightly guided caliphate, then instructing the world; instructing guidance, wisdom, truth and justice."
Brotherhood members must see their electoral success as a huge step in the direction of creating "the rightly guided caliphate." The United States would be foolish to differ.
It also would be foolish to overlook the Brotherhood's record.
After American commandos killed Osama bin Laden, the Brotherhood told English language audiences "one of the reasons for which violence has been practised in the world has been removed," Reuters reported. In Arabic, however, they referred to the mass-murdering al-Qaida founder with the honorary term of Sheikh and called him a shaheed, or martyr. The statement also criticized the American attack as an assassination.
Despite their reputations among some in the West as supposed moderates, Brotherhood officials routinely endorse terrorism. Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group in control of Gaza, declares itself to be the Brotherhood's Palestinian branch. Its peaceful intent includes recent reiterations of its commitment to violent jihad and its vow never to accept the state of Israel's right to exist.
"Our presence with the Brotherhood threatens the Israeli entity," Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said last month.
For all the talk of the Brotherhood renouncing violence, the Associated Press noted that "it supports Hamas in its 'resistance' against Israel."
But the Brotherhood's threat of violence is not limited to actions against Israel. Influential Brotherhood theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi endorsed kidnapping and killing American civilians in Iraq in 2004 as an "obligation so as to cause them to leave Iraq immediately."
More recently, Qaradawi has called on Muslims to acquire nuclear weapons "to terrorize their enemies" and sanctioned killing Israeli women because they serve in the army. He has prayed to be martyred while killing a Jew.
Incredibly, there has been no American confirmation or denial of an Indian newspaper report last week which indicated Qaradawi is helping broker peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, which itself is scandalous.
But this is the same administration whose Director of National Intelligence called the Brotherhood "a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence," during a February congressional hearing. James Clapper tried to walk this back in subsequent statements, but his assessment flew in the face of all the Brotherhood has said about itself since its founding in 1928, beginning with its motto:
"God is our goal, the Quran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our way, and death in the service of God is the loftiest of our wishes."
There are good reasons why the United States does not deal with Iran or recognize Hamas government in Gaza: Granting unilateral recognition to totalitarian political movements or governments only emboldens their terrorist ideologies. Shunning, boycotting and ostracizing totalitarian movements and regimes that still promote violent ideologies and policies is the only proven way of undermining their legitimacy and containing them, short of military action. The Brotherhood, which supports the terrorist Hamas, can mouth to the West all the platitudes about peace it can muster. But the record of its actions and its statements in Arabic shows the emptiness of such words.
Here is Badie, the supreme guide, in October, following Israel's decision to release more than 1,000 prisoners, many of them Hamas killers, in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit: "The deal also proved that Israel only understands the language of force and resistance. This language is able, with God's permission, to liberate the Palestinian people suffering under the captivity of the Zionists."
Deception is part of the Brotherhood's modus operandi in America as well. Evidence in the largest terror-financing trial in U.S. history shows the Muslim Brotherhood created a network of Hamas-support organizations here, operating as the "Palestine Committee."
One exhibit, a 1991 "Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America," described the Brotherhood's work in the United States as a "kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all religions."
Court records provided "ample evidence" placing the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its founders in the Palestine Committee, but CAIR refuses to acknowledge those connections. The evidence prompted the FBI to cut off communication with CAIR, but plenty of U.S. politicians and policymakers continue to engage the group.
Even if U.S. government officials accept the premise that the Brotherhood is a new reality in international relations, it is profoundly troubling that the U.S. would unilaterally grant new-found legitimacy without extracting demonstrable concessions that the Brotherhood has truly changed its policies. We still carry great leverage, supporting Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid each year and through economic support from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Beyond the leverage of financial support, there are many options for the U.S. to pursue, as it did through an international boycott organized against South Africa when it existed as an apartheid state.
In legitimizing the Muslim Brotherhood more than any other previous administration, the U.S. undermines genuine secular and pluralist parties, admittedly in the minority in Egypt, but which hold out the only hope for alternatives to the empowerment of authoritarian policies of Islamist regimes. In the entire history of Islamist regimes taking over or winning by elections, there has never been an Islamist regime that has ever given up power peacefully.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration's embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt parallels its embrace of Muslim Brotherhood American branches and front groups whose officials say nice things on American television, yet continue to covertly spread the ideology of, and in many cases funded, Islamic militancy and terrorism. Throughout its history, Brotherhood groups and leaders around the world starting with al-Banna, its founder, in Egypt, have spread the incendiary conspiratorial doctrine that the West, Christians, Jews and infidels have secretly conspired to suppress Islam since 1095, the year of the first Crusade. And in the age of instant worldwide communications, this delusional paranoia that non-Muslims – especially the West, Jews and Christians are waging a war against Islam – has become the No. 1 factor in motivating Islamic terrorists to carry out their attacks. In Egypt as in the United States and Europe, Brotherhood leaders blamed Israel, Jews and the United States for the 9/11 attacks. Nearly every Islamic terrorist arrest in the United States has been described by Islamist leaders as evidence of a "war against Islam."
The Muslim Brotherhood, where ever it is around the world, from Cairo to Chicago, seeks to gain legitimacy thru a campaign of deception and penetration of western regimes and institutions. It defies common sense to grant unilateral legitimacy to the Brotherhood without demanding concrete actions to openly disavow its support for Islamic terrorist groups or stopping the spread of its mass incendiary message that there is a war against Islam.
Wittingly or unwittingly, the United States has now become a de facto enabler of a militant ideology that ultimately seeks the destruction of our own way of life.
Related Topics: Hamas, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), The Muslim Brotherhood  |  Steven Emerson

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23104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Solyndra on Rails on: January 05, 2012, 07:56:18 AM
California Governor Jerry Brown has a big dream about a very expensive train—$98.5 billion to be precise, running from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Neither the ballooning cost of building it, nor growing public opposition, nor a string of negative expert assessments have cooled the Governor's ardor. So that leaves the California legislature to derail this boondoggle.

The case for the bullet train was iffy from the start and is now beyond salvation. A withering report this week from a state-appointed panel ought to drive the last nail in. The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group, asked to judge the project, declared it "not financially feasible." It said the rail route's first leg, in the Central Valley between Merced and Bakersfield, would be especially noneconomic. And it asked the legislature not to approve Governor Brown's plans to issue the first $2.7 billion batch of bonds this month to start construction on the 520-mile network.

The panel blew up just about every assumption offered about California's answer to the French TGV. The current cost estimate, already triple what was sold to voters in 2008, will likely come in even higher. Federal, much less private, financing won't be forthcoming. Projections for passenger traffic and revenues are unrealistic. The state auditor, the inspector general, California's watchdog Legislative Analyst's Office, the U.S. House Transportation Committee, among others, arrived at similar conclusions.

Four years ago, when they approved a $9 billion bond issue, California's voters backed the project based on false advertising. If the referendum were held today, according to a Field poll last month, they'd vote it down by a two-to-one margin. Two-thirds of Californians want another say. The Golden State seems to flirt with bankruptcy every year, and voters appear to understand better than their politicians that a huge infrastructure project of dubious value may not be a good idea.

Governor Brown won't hear of such fiscal realities. His spokesman said the peer review study "does not appear to add any arguments that are new or compelling enough to suggest a change in course."

Let's not forget that his supporters in the unions, who picked up the tab for the 2008 bond campaign, love this Solyndra on rails. So does the Obama Administration, which wants to make an high-speed rail example out of California. The Golden State would merely burnish an unfortunate reputation for fiscal lunacy unless legislators, who are at last starting to raise doubts, get off this ride.

23105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Baraq's Non-recess appointments on: January 05, 2012, 07:53:44 AM
Remember those terrible days of the Imperial Presidency, when George W. Bush made several "recess appointments" to overcome Senate opposition? Well, Czar George II never did attempt what President Obama did yesterday in making recess appointments when Congress isn't even on recess.

Eager to pick a fight with Congress as part of his re-election campaign, Mr. Obama did the Constitutional equivalent of sticking a thumb in its eye and hitting below the belt. He installed Richard Cordray as the first chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and named three new members to the National Labor Relations Board. He did so even though the Senate was in pro forma session after the new Congress convened this week.

A President has the power to make a recess appointment, and we've supported Mr. Obama's right to do so. The Constitutional catch is that Congress must be in recess.

The last clause of Section 5 of Article 1 of the Constitution says that "Neither House" of Congress can adjourn for more than three days "without the Consent of the other" house. In this case, the House of Representatives had not formally consented to Senate adjournment. It's true the House did this to block the President from making recess appointments, but it is following the Constitution in doing so. Let's hear Mr. Obama's legal justification.

Democrats had used a similar process to try to thwart Mr. Bush's recess appointments late in his term when they controlled both the House and the Senate. Prodded by West Virginia's Robert C. Byrd, who has since died, Majority Leader Harry Reid kept the Senate in pro forma session. Some advisers urged Mr. Bush to ignore the Senate and make recess appointments anyway, but he declined. Now Mr. Reid is supporting Mr. Obama's decision to make an end run around a Senate practice that he pioneered.

Some lawyers we respect argue that a pro forma session isn't a real Congressional session, and that's certainly worth debating. But that isn't the view that Mr. Reid or then-Senator Obama took in 2007-08, and it would certainly be an extension of Presidential power for the chief executive to be able to tell Congress that he can decide when Congress is really sitting and when it isn't. In any event, that still wouldn't explain the violation of the language in Section 5 above.

These appointments are brazen enough that they have the smell of a deliberate, and politically motivated, provocation. Recall the stories over the New Year's weekend, clearly planted by the White House, that Mr. Obama planned to make a campaign against Congress the core of his re-election drive. One way to do that is to run roughshod over the Senate's advice and consent power and dare the Members to stop him.

Mr. Cordray's appointment also plays into Mr. Obama's plan to run against bankers and other plutocrats. The President justified his appointment yesterday by saying that Senate Republicans had blocked Mr. Cordray's nomination "because they don't agree with the law setting up the consumer watchdog."

Yet he knows that Senate Republicans haven't called for the dissolution of the consumer financial bureau, or personally attacked Mr. Cordray, as Democrats like to claim. Republicans have said they'd be happy to confirm him if Mr. Obama agrees to reforms of the bureau that would make it more accountable to elected officials and subject to Congressional appropriations. As it stands, the bureau is part of the Federal Reserve but Mr. Cordray sets his own budget and doesn't report to the Fed Chairman. His rule-makings also don't need to worry about such inconvenient details as bank safety and soundness.

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President Obama with Richard Cordray in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on Wednesday.
.The bureau has been up and running since July and is already pushing the boundaries of its examination powers. With Mr. Cordray on board, he says the bureau can now begin to issue rules, including oversight of nonbank institutions and the ability to define what constitutes an "abusive" act or practice, an invention of the Dodd-Frank financial reform that will surely lead to mischief.

As Ohio Attorney General, Mr. Cordray was tight with the tort bar and launched a barrage of national lawsuits worthy of Eliot Spitzer. His new job might be a nice populist springboard for running for Ohio Governor, should he choose to do so. Look for Mr. Cordray to announce new and controversial rules or enforcement actions, oh, say, around Labor Day.

As for Mr. Obama's three NLRB appointees, he only notified Congress of his intent to nominate them on December 15. The Senate hasn't had time to hold a single confirmation hearing. The nominees, two Democrats and one Republican, will give the labor board a quorum that it wouldn't have had with the December 31 expiration of the term of previous recess-appointee Craig Becker.

Under this Administration, the supposedly nonpartisan NLRB has become a partisan arm of Big Labor, and that will probably continue this election year. Appointee Sharon Block is the Labor Department's Congressional liaison and former aide to Ted Kennedy. Richard Griffin is general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Remember a year ago when Mr. Obama was talking about "regulatory relief" and moving toward the political center? He even sent us an op-ed.

Congress can't do much immediately to stop these appointments, but it ought to think creatively about how to fight back using its other powers—especially the power of the purse. However, private parties will have standing to sue if they are affected by one of Mr. Cordray's rule-makings, and that's when the courts may get a say on Mr. Obama's contempt for Congress.

23106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 predictions on: January 05, 2012, 07:49:48 AM

Presenting an annual investment outlook is a hazardous task. At the start of 2011, investors were warned to eschew the bond market. Pundits described the low yields of U.S. Treasuries as a "bond market bubble." In fact, if you had bought 30-year U.S. Treasury bonds at the start of the year when they yielded 4.42% and held them through 2011, when the yield had fallen to 2.89%, you would have earned a 34% return.

Meanwhile, U.S. stocks stayed flat, Europe and Japan declined by double digits, and emerging markets suffered even greater losses. Last year again demonstrated that it is virtually impossible to make accurate short-term predictions of asset returns.

But it is possible to make reasonable long-term forecasts. Let's start with the bond market. If an investor buys a 10-year U.S. Treasury bond and holds it to maturity, he will make exactly 2%, the current yield to maturity. Even if the inflation rate is only 2%, the informal target of the Federal Reserve, investors will have earned a zero rate of return after inflation.

With a higher inflation rate, U.S. Treasurys will be a sure loser. Other high-quality U.S. bonds will fare little better. The yield on a total U.S. bond market exchange-traded fund (ticker BND) is only 3%. Bonds, where long-run returns are easy to forecast, are unattractive in the U.S. and Japan, as well as in Europe, where defaults and debt restructurings are likely.

Long-run equity return forecasts are more difficult, but they can be estimated under certain assumptions. If valuation metrics (such as price-earnings ratios) are constant, long-run equity returns can be estimated by adding the anticipated 2012 dividend yield for the stock market to the long-run growth rate of earnings and dividends. The dividend yield of the U.S. market is about 2%. Over the long run, earnings and dividends have grown at 5% per year.

Thus, with no change in valuation, U.S. stocks should produce returns of about 7%, five points higher than the yield on safe bonds. Moreover, price-earnings multiples in the low double digits, based on my estimate of the earning power of U.S. corporations, are unusually attractive today.

Stocks were losers to bonds in 2011. But don't invest with a rear-view mirror. U.S. stocks, available in a broad-based index fund or ETF, are more attractive than bonds today. The same is true for multinational corporations throughout the world.

Investors in retirement, who desire a steady stream of income, can purchase a portfolio through mutual funds or ETFs tilted toward stocks paying growing dividends, with yields of 3% to 4%. And some areas of the bond market are attractive for investors who want some fixed-income investments. Tax-exempt funds that trade on exchanges (so called closed-end investment companies) that take on moderate amounts of short-term debt to increase the size of their portfolios have yields of 6% to 7%, and emerging-market bond funds have generous yields.

Emerging markets offer the best prospects for both equity and bond returns over the next 10 years. A number of fundamental factors favor the emerging economies. While Europe and the U.S. struggle with debt-to-GDP ratios of 100% or more—and Japan's ratio is 250%—the fiscal balances of the emerging economies are generally favorable, and debt ratios are low. Low debt levels encourage economic growth.

Demography also favors the emerging economies. Dependency ratios (nonworking age to working age population) are far more favorable in emerging markets. Soon Japan will have as many nonworkers as workers, and Europe and the U.S. are not far behind. Emerging markets, such as India and Brazil, will continue to have two to three workers for every nonworker. Even China, with its one-child policy, will have favorable demographics and a large potential labor force until at least 2025. Countries with younger populations tend to grow faster.

Natural-resource-rich countries will also benefit over the decade ahead. The world has a finite amount of natural resources and the relative prices of increasingly scarce resources will rise. Countries such as Brazil, with abundant oil and minerals, as well as water and arable land, will benefit from the world's increasing demand.

Emerging stock markets were among the worst performers in 2011 despite their favorable economic performance and future outlook. Hence their stock valuations are unusually attractive relative to developed markets. Historically, emerging-market equities had price-earnings multiples 20% above the multiples for the S&P 500. Today, those multiples are 20% lower. And emerging-market bonds have significantly higher yields than those in developed markets.

Much worry has been expressed about real-estate prices and construction activity in China. "It's Dubai times 1,000," says one hedge-fund manager who predicts an economic collapse. Obviously, an end to China's growth would be a significant blow to the world economy.

But parallels to the U.S. real-estate bust and the resulting damage to the economies and financial institutions of the Western world seem unwarranted. The absorption of vacant space remains extremely high in China, where hundreds of millions more people are expected to move from farms to cities. And unlike the U.S., where people bought new homes with little or nothing down, Chinese buyers make minimum down payments of 40% on a new home (and 60% on a second home).

In the U.S., savings rates fell to zero, and consumer-debt levels tripled relative to income. In China, savings rates as a percentage of income are one-third.

Most important, the government has the wherewithal and the flexibility to stimulate the economy and recapitalize banks if necessary. China has a debt-to-GDP ratio of only 17%. China's growth will slow down from the breakneck pace of the last several years. But it will continue to grow rapidly, and a meltdown of the Chinese economy is highly unlikely.

The U.S. housing bust has made the single-family home an extremely attractive investment. House prices have fallen sharply, and 30-year mortgages are available for people with good credit at rates below 4%. Housing affordability has never been better.

Whatever the specific mix of assets in your portfolio at the start of 2012, you would do well to follow one crucial piece of advice. Control the thing you can control—minimize investment costs. That is especially important in a low-return environment. Make low-cost index mutual funds or ETFs the core of your portfolio and ensure that any actively-managed investment funds you purchase are low-expense as well.

Mr. Malkiel is the author of "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" (10th ed., paper, W.W. Norton, 2012).

23107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Attack ads in American History on: January 05, 2012, 07:41:52 AM
There are only two ways to win an election: Persuade people to vote for you or persuade them to vote against your opponent.

And while negative campaigning is routinely decried, it is also routinely practiced and has been since nearly the beginning of politics in this country. The reason is simple enough—it usually works. As Newt Gingrich discovered in Iowa, negative TV ads can drive down poll numbers alarmingly fast.

The negative ads these days are often tough, but they're nowhere near as vicious as early examples, when opponents were routinely "drenched in calumny," to use Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen's memorable phrase about the ordeals of Richard Nixon.

George Washington was twice elected president unanimously, but the election of 1796, between Vice President John Adams and former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, was a mudfest. The candidates themselves did not campaign at all, as was then the custom, but their surrogates in the party press knew few restraints.

Benjamin Franklin Bache (the grandson of his namesake) referred to the short and dumpy Adams in his newspaper, Aurora, as "His Rotundity," whose appearance was so much "sesquipedality of belly." Federalist newspapers returned fire, accusing Jefferson, an admirer of the French Revolution, of being a blood-thirsty Jacobin, an atheist, and a coward for having fled Monticello in the face of advancing British troops during the Revolutionary War, when he was governor of Virginia.

The ad hominem attacks got worse in the 19th century. In 1828, people working for John Quincy Adams published handbills attacking his opponent, Andrew Jackson, and Jackson's wife and mother.

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Newt Gingrich is only one in a long list of negative campaign targets.
.Rachel Jackson's divorce from her first husband was, unknown to her, not yet final when she married Jackson, making the marriage technically bigamous. "Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?" one handbill asked. Another claimed that Jackson's mother had been a prostitute for British troops during the Revolution. Rachel Jackson died shortly after the election of 1828. President Jackson regarded her death as resulting from the vituperation heaped upon her.

Truth has always been optional in negative campaigning. In 1840, when Democratic President Martin Van Buren ran for re-election against Whig Party candidate William Henry Harrison, Van Buren was accused of being an aristocrat, living the high life in the White House, eating off golden plates, while the country suffered through a terrible depression. In fact, Van Buren was the son of a poor tavern keeper and had to work his way up.

Harrison was derided by opponents as a "log cabin and hard cider" man, but the Whig Party happily adopted the insult, portraying their candidate as a man of the people. Actually, Harrison was born at Berkeley, one of Virginia's grandest plantation houses, the son of a Virginia governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

It wasn't the only time that negative campaigning backfired. North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole's successful opponent in 2008, Kay Hagan, saw her lead double after the Dole campaign ran ads depicting her (falsely) as an atheist.

In the election of 1884, when it was found out that Grover Cleveland had been paying child support for a child born out of wedlock, Republicans gleefully began chanting "Ma! Ma! Where's my pa? Gone to the White House. Ha! Ha! Ha!" But Cleveland's honest taking of responsibility was viewed by many as a plus. And when a supporter of Cleveland's opponent, James G. Blaine, described the Democrats as the party of "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion," it cost Blaine Catholic votes in New York, a state that he narrowly lost. Had he carried it, Blaine would have won the election.

Perhaps the most famous negative ad in modern political history was in 1964. President Lyndon Johnson was already running well ahead of Sen. Barry Goldwater on Sept. 7 when what is remembered as the "Daisy ad" ran in the middle of the NBC Monday Night Movie. It showed a 4-year-old girl in a field picking the petals off a daisy as she counts them, rather inaccurately. When she got to nine, a male voice takes over, counting back down, as though for a missile launch. The little girl turns to look at the sky and the camera zooms in on her eye. When the counting reaches zero, there is a blinding flash of light and the mushroom cloud of a nuclear bomb.

Lyndon Johnson's voice then says, "These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die." Another voice then said, "Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home."

The ad, sharply criticized, was pulled after that single airing. But it was frequently replayed in news and conversation programs. So the Johnson campaign got credit for pulling the ad while still having it widely disseminated. It was devastatingly effective because it played into the idea, already being discussed, that the sometimes bellicose Goldwater could not be trusted to keep the Cold War cold. When Walter Mondale ran similar ads against Ronald Reagan 20 years later, they were completely ineffective because people were comfortable with Reagan's stewardship of the nuclear arsenal. Negative ads can intensify an existing perception of a candidate. They can seldom create one.

The presidential election of 2012 is likely to be unusually contentious even by recent American standards. The negative ads will probably start early and run often. Some of them will, undoubtedly, be unfair, tendentious, intellectually dishonest, mean-spirited and downright ugly. And some of them are likely to be very effective. Let's hope they will not stoop to the personal insults or smearing of innocent individuals as they so often did in the early 19th century.

Mr. Gordon is the author of "An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power" (HarperCollins, 2004).

23108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: 31 killed in prison fight on: January 05, 2012, 07:38:14 AM
Associated Press
CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico—A vicious fight among inmates armed with makeshift knives, clubs and even stones left 31 people dead in a prison in a drug cartel-plagued state in northern Mexico, authorities said.

Another 13 prisoners were wounded in the brawl in the penitentiary in the Gulf Coast city of Altamira, Tamaulipas state's Public Safety Department said in a statement.

The fight started when a group of inmates burst into a section of the prison they were banned from and attacked the prisoners housed there, the department said.

Local media said the fight was between members of the rival Gulf and Zetas drug cartels but authorities wouldn't confirm the reports. Tamaulipas state has been the scene of bloody turf battles between the two former allies.

Tamaulipas state officials said many of the dead were killed with makeshift knives. A state official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation said several of the inmates were beaten to death with clubs or stones.

Soldiers and marines managed to regain control of the prison, the official said.

The safety department said 22 of the inmates killed were serving sentences for state crimes and nine for federal offenses. It gave no other details.

The port of Altamira in southern Tamaulipas, near the border with the state of Veracruz, is in a region that has seen a spike in drug-violence in the last two months. Authorities say the port is used to bring in cocaine and precursor chemicals used to make methamphetamine into Mexico.

In 2010, four inmates at the Altamira prison were killed when an armed gang stormed the penitentiary as 11 inmates were being transferred. Authorities did not confirm reports that the raid was an attempt to free prisoners. Gang raids on prisons are common in Tamaulipas.

23109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Progress towards AIDs vaccine on: January 05, 2012, 07:34:36 AM
The quest for a vaccine against AIDS is gaining momentum, with research published Wednesday identifying promising new candidates that protected monkeys against a powerful strain of the virus and that soon could be tested in humans.

The study, published in the online edition of the journal Nature, also shed light on how the first human vaccine to have conferred limited protection against the AIDS virus may have worked.

In the research, several experimental vaccines partially prevented infection in monkeys from a highly potent, highly immune-resistant strain of simian immunodeficiency virus, an unusual finding, researchers said. SIV is similar to human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and SIV infection in monkeys resembles HIV infection in humans.

Decades of Progress and Setbacks
Recent advances have followed years of frustration in HIV research and prevention.

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..The new vaccines, combining two different technologies to generate an immune response, reduced the chances that a monkey would be infected by the virulent SIV strain in each exposure by 80% to 83%, compared with a placebo. The vaccines also significantly reduced the amount of virus in the blood of monkeys who did become infected.

The protection was only partial—most of the vaccinated monkeys eventually became infected after multiple exposures. Still, the study was among the first to prevent infection against a virulent, highly immune-resistant SIV strain.

Plans are under way for clinical trials of a human-adapted version of one of the vaccines used in the monkeys, said Dan Barouch, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and lead author of the study. The vaccine will be tested in people both in the U.S. and internationally, including in populations in Africa where HIV infection rates are high, he said.

"There's more hope than ever before that an AIDS vaccine might be possible," said Dr. Barouch.

The findings are part of a renaissance in AIDS research, with multiple vaccine candidates under exploration and a landmark study published last year showing that AIDS drugs can reduce the spread of HIV from an infected person to others. But HIV researchers still don't fully understand how to prevent infection.

Vaccines, which work by spurring the body's ability to produce antibodies or immune cells, are considered the holy grail of AIDS research, because of the powerful role they played in eradicating smallpox and eliminating or sharply reducing the spread of other infectious diseases.

About 34 million people globally are infected with HIV, with about 2.7 million more infected each year, according to United Nations estimates.

In 2009, results of the first HIV vaccine to confer any protection against HIV were announced, after a large clinical trial in Thailand. That vaccine reduced the chances of infection only 31%, and prompted some controversy when one analysis found the results weren't statistically significant.

Still, the results helped rejuvenate the field. The latest study helps explain what many scientists suspected after the Thai trial: that the surface protein of the HIV virus, or its envelope, is involved in preventing infection.

"It clearly demonstrated you need to make antibodies against the outer coating of the virus," said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the part of the National Institutes of Health that oversees AIDS research and co-funded the latest study.

"It confirms what was seen in the Thai trial was real," said Louis Picker, associate director of the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, who reviewed the study led by Dr. Barouch but wasn't involved in it.

One strength of the study, said Dr. Fauci, was that the researchers made their vaccines with one strain of SIV and infected monkeys with another—replicating a likely real-world scenario, because the ever-mutating AIDS virus comes in many strains.

Many previous studies have used the same virus, but "that's not the way the real world works," he said. "There are so many different varieties of HIV out there. You've got to protect the person against potentially any strain."

While monkey models are considered highly reliable in HIV research and the findings resemble those of the Thai trial in humans, HIV researchers cautioned that it won't be known whether these vaccines work in humans until they are tried.

"HIV is progressively revealing its secrets and each time it gets us closer to the goal, but this isn't like a basketball game where it's the last two minutes," said Bruce Walker, a veteran HIV researcher and director of the Ragon Institute, an enterprise of Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. Ragon Institute helped fund the latest study and has raised $11 million of about $22 million needed for the clinical trials, Dr. Walker said.

Mark Schwartz, chairman and founding partner of MissionPoint Capital Partners, a private equity firm, donated $1 million of his own funds, together with his wife Lisa, toward the clinical trials. "Is it risky in a venture capital kind of way? Yes, it is," he said. But, he said," Ultimately, we think the real payoff is going to be in a vaccine."

23110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Back of the bus , , , on: January 05, 2012, 07:31:04 AM
TEL AVIV—For years, Israeli women have been pressured into moving to the rear of public buses serving strictly religious Jews. Now, in confrontations reminiscent of the era of Rosa Parks, women are pushing back.

Doron Matalon, an 18-year-old soldier, says she was standing at the front of the No. 49a municipal bus after an overnight shift at her Jerusalem base on Wednesday morning last week when an ultra-Orthodox man ordered her to move back.

"I said that I have the right to sit here," she says. "Then a commotion ensued, and other people gathered around and started shouting….It was scary."

The conflict drew national media attention and highlighted the growing tensions in Israel as the population of once-insular ultra-Orthodox Jews has surged beyond the urban enclaves of Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, where they have lived for decades.

As the Orthodox seek jobs and housing in other areas, they are increasingly interacting with mainstream Israelis who see their strict code of religious practice to be coercive, and a threat to Israel's democracy.

"It's a slippery slope. What starts with women boarding the bus in the back because of modesty can end up with women not voting," says Mickey Gitzin, the director of Be Free Israel, a nonprofit that promotes religious pluralism. "It could turn Israeli society into a segregated society in which women don't have a place in public life."

In the past week, public outrage peaked following a TV report on the harassment of an 8-year-old girl by ultra-Orthodox men, in the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Shemesh. The men spat on the girl and called her a prostitute for dressing in a way they considered to be immodest.

That spurred thousands of people to demonstrate against the segregation of women on Tuesday, Dec. 27; a counterprotest two days later ignited clashes in Jerusalem and in Beit Shemesh.

Haredi rabbis of Beit Shemesh said the women of their community observe modesty rules voluntarily because they are for women's honor and Judaism orders the separation of men and women in the public sphere.

Many ultra-Orthodox object to segregation, but have gone on the defensive. "The problem is that they want to make a secular state in the Holy Land. That's what creates the friction," said Israel Eichler, a parliament member from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party.

Mr. Eichler alleged that Israel's secular media is focusing on the ultra-Orthodox treatment of women as a way of indirectly attacking a political ally of the Haredis—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly denounced segregation. Last week he insisted that "women will sit in every place."

Haredi political parties wield outsized clout because they often function as kingmakers of Israeli coalitions by moving between right and left, though their outlook is more in keeping with right-wing coalitions.

For decades, Israel's Haredi sects kept at a distance from the mainstream, congregating in self-contained ghettos. Their religious ideology rejected the foundations of the secular Jewish state even as they participated in its politics.

Because they made up a relatively small percentage of the population, they were allowed to avoid army service and oversee schools that shed elements of state curriculum, and lobbied for public subsidies that enabled graduates to continue religious study rather than pursue jobs.

In the 14 years since the first public buses went into operation in Jerusalem, exclusion and segregation efforts have expanded to include men-only sidewalks in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, separated waiting rooms at some health clinics, and the gradual disappearance of women from billboard advertisements in Jerusalem.

With Haredi birthrates double the average Israeli family, ultra-Orthodox Jews are poised to surge from around 10% of the country's population. Economists say the status quo, where most Haredi men don't work, will eventually drag down the economy because the government won't be able to afford the rising cost of so many men staying out of the workplace.

The bus lines that initially served only ultra-Orthodox communities eventually spilled over into mixed areas. As the number of segregated bus lines grew into the dozens and complaints emerged, the liberal Israel Religious Action Center, an affiliate of the U.S. Reform Jewish movement, petitioned the Supreme Court to ban segregation on buses.

In a ruling in January 2011, the court said that while forced segregated buses were illegal in principle, it would be possible to allow them to operate for one year on a voluntary basis.

The ruling highlighted a dilemma for Israel's government in determining how to handle diverse religious and national groups that reject many of its basic principles.

"The deeper question is how does a democracy deal with separatist fundamentalist communities in its midst," said Yossi Klein Halevi, a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. "Israel's great domestic challenge is to figure out the balance between allowing cultural autonomy and reinforcing its sovereign authority."

With the one-year trial period about to end, the petitioners say they plan to press the Supreme Court again.

For Ms. Matalon, it might be too late. She says she fears riding the bus and hasn't returned for fear of harassment.

"It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last time," she says.

23111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science and Military Issues on: January 05, 2012, 07:25:29 AM

This needs to be seen in the context of the recent posts here
23112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 05, 2012, 07:22:30 AM
OUCH!!!  cheesy
23113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Pressure increasing on: January 05, 2012, 07:18:52 AM
Unable to get that to open BD.
LONDON -- U.S. sanctions against Iran's central bank, if combined with an increasingly likely European oil embargo, are likely to significantly dent Tehran's oil revenue.

But though experts say the sanctions' impact probably will sink in only gradually, they already have started to drive Iran's currency down.

"We could see anywhere between a 5% and 30% decrease in Iranian oil revenue this year, depending on whether the EU enacts an embargo and how aggressively U.S. sanctions are applied," said Trevor Houser, a partner at New York-based economic-research company Rhodium Group.

Until now, existing sanctions against Iran's controversial nuclear program have capped its oil-and-gas production but were offset by buoyant crude prices. But the new measures are directly targeting Iran's oil sales, increasing its transaction costs while potentially forcing the country to sell oil at discounted prices, experts said.

The views come as tensions between Iran and the West have escalated in recent days. The Islamic Republic has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz -- through which about a third of global seaborne oil exports transit.

That hasn't stopped U.S. President Barack Obama from signing Saturday new legislation sanctioning banks settling oil trades with the Central Bank of Iran. And it emerged Wednesday that the European Union has agreed in principle on an embargo against Iranian oil.

The impact of the measures would be felt only progressively.

The U.S. sanctions against the central bank come with a wide range of exemptions and a grace period of six months. The EU is also debating about how many months it would wait to implement the sanctions and if long-term supply deals should be allowed to be completed.

Yet existing sanctions against Iran already have increased the transaction cost and complexity of buying Iranian goods.

Mohammad Nahavandian, president of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, recently admitted that "sanctions [have been] raising the transaction costs" of buying oil.

Nigel Kushner, chief executive of Whale Rock Legal, a London law firm specializing in international trade and sanctions, said buyers of Iranian products -- for instance petrochemicals -- now routinely use barters against non-oil commodities instead of payments.

But the accumulation of sanctions will make its most-critical impact only once a European oil embargo is finalized.

In a report, Mark Dubowitz, executive director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies -- which is pushing for more Iran sanctions -- said the narrowing of Iranian oil-crude buyers would cut Iran's oil revenue by 7.8% to 8.5% if only Europe stops buying Iranian crude, while there would be a reduction of 37.7% to 41.5% if China is left as the only buyer.

Still, Iran has much leeway to survive tightening pressure. Its external debt stands at 5.4% of its gross domestic product for its 2010/2011 annual budget, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Yet Iran, neighboring Middle-East countries, has also increased its spending to assuage social tensions. Its budget for 2011/2012 is based on an oil price of $81.50 a barrel, compared to $75 a barrel the previous year.

Though officials have shrugged off the impact of new sanctions, the local currency -- the rial -- lost 12% early this week.

Rhodium's Houser said the ability for Iran's Central Bank to intervene will only weaken as sanctions bite.

"That leaves Tehran with two undesirable options for curbing inflation that could, if it gets out of hand, lead to political unrest--significantly raise domestic interest rates or make deep cuts in government spending," he said.

Write to Benoit Faucon at

23114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: January 05, 2012, 06:22:42 AM
"The freedom and happiness of man ... [are] the sole objects of all legitimate government." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thaddeus Kosciusko, 1810

"A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the objects of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means, by which those objects can be best attained." --Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

"The pyramid of government-and a republican government may well receive that beautiful and solid form-should be raised to a dignified altitude: but its foundations must, of consequence, be broad, and strong, and deep. The authority, the interests, and the affections of the people at large are the only foundation, on which a superstructure proposed to be at once durable and magnificent, can be rationally erected." --James Wilson
23115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Santorum on DADT on: January 04, 2012, 09:44:23 PM
23116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rachel Maddow on: January 04, 2012, 09:26:07 PM
23117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: January 04, 2012, 07:38:21 PM
The thing I was hoping to communicate with those articles was that the science is more diverse than your original post commenting on solar flares and related matters concerning sun fluctuations affecting the earth's average temperature.

"At any rate, all discussions of AGW in my mind are overly concerned with actual temperature changes and not sufficiently concerned with the underlying science as I have indicated before.  We all know that measuring temperature changes on the planet earth is difficult but the underlying science isn't.  I haven't seen a good rebuttal of the underlying sciences because everyone has been too focused on temperatures themselves." 

I confess I'm having trouble with this.  What I'm getting out of it is that the theory doesn't need confirmation with actual results  huh   

"These are the things that may keep AGW from being a big deal, but it doesn't address AGW itself."

Again I'm confused.  IF AGW is swamped by other factors and thus is not a big deal, then why put our government, or worse yet, the UN in charge of the weather-- financed by the US taxpayer?!?

23118  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA: How to fight the taller fighter? on: January 04, 2012, 04:12:41 PM
Good comments PC.

Tom:  Any fight in particular?  URL?
23119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: January 04, 2012, 11:47:19 AM
Helping the people agaisnt the savagery of SH was but one of the reasons we went in. 

Geopolitical factors were another reason.  Amongst the variables in this regard was the benefit of sitting on Iran's western border should it be necessary to prevent them from going nuclear.  This variable remains quite pertinent, but IMHO we have made a major mistake in throwing this away.

Another reason was to drain the swamp of the political stagnation of Arab world which enabled and stimulated Islamic Fascism and for Iraq to set an example of what an Arab country could accomplish.  I count my memory as being amongst those who remember the great joy in which the elections we enabled were held.  However this too has been thrown away by a president who has clearly signalled we are getting the F out of there, regardless of the promises we have made. 

The whilrlwinds of change that we see in the region now I think would have a far more promising quality than what we see now if we were to have stood strong and clear in our commitments in the aftermath of the Surge.
23120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 04, 2012, 11:40:00 AM
Thanks for the excerpt but I'm hoping for the whole thing  smiley
23121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Steyn: Going where no civilization has gone before on: January 04, 2012, 10:55:03 AM
"Public debt has increased by 67 percent over the past three years, and too many Americans refuse even to see it as a problem. For most of us, '$16.4 trillion' has no real meaning, any more than '$17.9 trillion' or '$28.3 trillion' or '$147.8 bazillion.' It doesn't even have much meaning for the guys spending the dough: Look into the eyes of Barack Obama or Harry Reid or Barney Frank, and you realize that, even as they're borrowing all this money, they have no serious intention of paying any of it back. That's to say, there is no politically plausible scenario under which the 16.4 trillion is reduced to 13.7 trillion, and then 7.9 trillion and, eventually, 173 dollars and 48 cents. At the deepest levels within our governing structures, we are committed to living beyond our means on a scale no civilization has ever done." --columnist Mark Steyn
23122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Modification/Reversal on: January 04, 2012, 08:50:09 AM
What do we make of this?
23123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Recommended reading for Baraq on: January 04, 2012, 08:23:00 AM
second post of morning

Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz last week, in response to U.S. and European Union moves to apply sanctions on its oil industry. Only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, the strait sees the passage of roughly 28 tanker ships a day, half loaded, half empty. Some 17 million barrels of oil—20% of oil traded in the world—go through this chokepoint. If Iran really could close the strait, it would do great damage to the world economy. But it would also damage its own already shaky economy because Iran relies on the strait to deliver oil exports to China and other customers.

In any case, closing the strait is not nearly as easy as Adm. Habibollah Sayari, commander of the Iranian Navy, would have it. He said that closing the strait is "as easy as drinking a glass of water." Actually it would be about as easy as drinking an entire bucket of water in one gulp.

Iran tried this trick before and failed miserably. In 1984, during the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein attacked Iranian oil tankers and the Iranian oil-processing facility at Kharq Island. Iran struck back by attacking Kuwaiti tankers carrying Iraqi crude and then other tankers in the Persian Gulf. In 1987, after years of growing disruptions in this vital waterway, President Ronald Reagan responded by offering to reflag Kuwaiti tankers with the U.S. flag and provide U.S. naval escort. Iran shied away from direct attacks on U.S. warships but continued sowing mines, staging attacks with small patrol boats, and firing a variety of missiles at tankers.

On April 14, 1988, the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts struck an Iranian mine; no sailors were killed but several were injured and the ship nearly sank. The U.S. Navy responded by launching Operation Praying Mantis, its biggest surface combat action since World War II.

Half a dozen U.S. warships in two separate Surface Action Groups moved in to destroy two Iranian oil platforms. The Iranians responded by sending armed speedboats, frigates and F-4 aircraft to fire at the U.S. warships.

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The Iranian navy firing a missile in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday.
.In defending themselves, the American vessels sank at least three Iranian speedboats, one gunboat and one frigate; other Iranian ships and aircraft were damaged. The only major U.S. loss occurred when a Marine Corps Sea Cobra helicopter crashed, apparently by accident, killing two crewmen.

The war all but ended less than three months later when the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes mistakenly fired a surface-to-air missile at an Iranian passenger airliner that it had mistaken for a fighter jet. The plane was destroyed and 290 people killed. Although this was an accident, the Iranian regime was convinced that Washington was escalating the conflict and decided to reach a truce with Iraq.

The greatest loss suffered by U.S. forces during this whole conflict occurred in 1987 when an Iraqi aircraft fired an Exocet missile that hit the frigate USS Stark, killing 37 sailors and injuring 21. (Saddam Hussein claimed this was an accident.)

The Iranians had little to show for their efforts: Lloyd's of London estimated that the Tanker War resulted in damage to 546 commercial vessels and the deaths of 430 civilian mariners but many of those losses were caused by Iraq, not Iran. While these attacks temporarily disrupted the free passage of oil, they did not come close to closing the strait.

Despite the unveiling of a new antiship cruise missile called the Qader, Iran's conventional naval and air forces—on display during the Veleyat 90 naval exercises in the Persian Gulf which ended Monday— are still no match for the U.S. and its allies in the region. The U.S. alone has in the area two carrier strike groups, an expeditionary strike force (centered around an amphibious assault ship that is in essence a small aircraft carrier), and numerous land-based aircraft at bases such as Al Udied in Qatar, Al Dafra in the United Arab Emirates, and Isa Air Base in Bahrain. The U.S. and our Arab allies (which are equipped with a growing array of modern American-made equipment such as F-15s and F-16s) could use overwhelming force to destroy Iran's conventional naval forces in very short order.

Iran's real ability to disrupt the flow of oil lies in its asymmetric war-fighting capacity. Iran has thousands of mines(and any ship that can carry a mine is by definition a mine-layer), a small number of midget submarines, thousands of small watercraft that could be used in swarm attacks, and antiship cruise missiles. If the Iranians lay mines, it will take a significant amount of time to clear them. It took several months to clear all mines after the Tanker War, but a much shorter period to clear safe passages through the Persian Gulf to and from oil shipping terminals.

Antiship cruise missiles are mobile, yet those can also be found and destroyed. Yono submarines are short-duration threats—they eventually have to come to port for resupply, and when they do they will be sitting ducks. U.S. forces may take losses, as they did with the hits on the USS Stark and Samuel B. Roberts, but they will prevail and in fairly short order.

The Iranians must realize that the balance of forces does not lie in their favor. By initiating hostilities they risk American retaliation against their most prized assets—their covert nuclear-weapons program. The odds are good, then, that the Iranians will not follow through on their saber-rattling threats.

But this heated rhetoric does suggest how worried the Iranians are about the potential impact of fresh sanctions on their oil industry. All the more reason for the Europeans to proceed with those sanctions.

Mr. Russell, a navy captain, is a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2010-2011 he was chief of staff to U.S. Navy Central Command/Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. Mr. Boot is a senior fellow in national security studies at the council.

23124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cranial-Rectal Interface of Intel Agencies on: January 04, 2012, 08:18:53 AM

Whether or not it wins an Oscar, the movie adaptation of John Le Carre's 1974 novel "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" demonstrates the power of the classic spy story about the struggle of a fallen intelligence officer to uncover a high-level mole. The obstacle to finding the mole is the intelligence service itself, which attempts to rid itself of the mole hunter. It doesn't want to admit that it has been gulled—a story that's all too rooted in reality.

Consider, for example, the findings of an internal CIA investigation in 1995. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the CIA's inspector general examined how in the late 1980s and early 1990s the CIA had incorporated Russian disinformation into its own reporting. He discovered that over those years the KGB had dispatched at least a half-dozen double agents who provided disinformation cooked up in Moscow to their CIA case officers. Between 1986 and 1994, some of this data had routinely been passed to Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in reports with a distinctive blue stripe to signify their importance.

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 .When the inspector general traced the path of this disinformation, he found that the "senior CIA officers responsible for these reports had known that some of their sources were controlled by Russian intelligence." CIA Director John Deutch, who had received the blue-border reports when he was deputy secretary of defense, told Congress that the CIA's failure to disclose that the intelligence emanated from KGB-controlled agents was "an inexcusable lapse."

The only way that the KGB could have duped the CIA for years was by modifying its data so that it would continue to seem plausible—and that required some form of feedback. As it later turned out, the KGB had no fewer than three moles in American intelligence capable of providing such feedback: In the CIA it had Aldrich Ames starting in 1985. And in the FBI the KGB had both Robert Hanssen since 1978 and Earl Edwin Pitts starting in 1987. They survived as moles—Hanssen for 22 years—because of the sort of institutional blindness, born out of bureaucratic fear, so well described in Le Carre's novel.

These double agents came to light largely because of the defections from the KGB that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, under more normal circumstances, entrenched bureaucracies can be expected to resist reappraisals of their past work, especially where careers are at stake. The intelligence community's 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran is a case in point.

Based on intelligence, including reports from agents and defectors, that an Iranian nuclear weapon-design program—code-named Project 111—had ended, the NIE declared: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program," including "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium enrichment." The intelligence community took at least partial credit for this success by attributing Iran's change to "increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work."

Today no one, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, believes that Iran gave up its nuclear weaponization ambitions. Indeed we now know from satellite imagery and other means that in 2003 the regime was secretly completing a new uranium-enrichment facility at Fordo, 20 miles north of the holy city of Qom. That was after it closed down Project 111, which in any case had been compromised by a laptop stolen from Iran and smuggled into Turkey and then into CIA hands.

Nor can the CIA rely on its own espionage apparatus, because a communications accident in 2004 compromised most, if not all, of its agents in Iran: The CIA inadvertently sent a list of its operatives to a double agent, a disaster described by the reporter James Risen in his book "State of War." As a result, the CIA could not be sure how much of the data it received from those operatives was disinformation.

Yet, as far as is known, the CIA has still never reappraised the sources and methods that led to its conclusion that Iran had abandoned its quest for a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Epstein's latest book is "James Jesus Angleton: Was He Right?" (EJE Publications, 2011).

23125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Epstein: Rent control and the 5th on: January 04, 2012, 08:09:11 AM

People who don't live in New York City probably haven't confronted the market-distorting injustices of rent control and similar rent-stabilization laws. But they may recall their outrage in 2008 upon reading that New York Rep. Charles Rangel worked the system by paying a total of $3,894 a month for four rent-stabilized luxury apartments in Harlem, about half the market price.

Remarkably, a serious constitutional challenge to rent-control and stabilization laws may finally be in the works. The challenge arises from James and Jeanne Harmon, who own a town house on West 76th Street in New York City. The upper floors are occupied by tenants who are entrenched under New York's rent-stabilization law, paying rents at only a fraction of the value of their units. Mr. Harmon, a most persistent man whom I have from time to time advised, is attempting to strike down this law.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals blew off his suit in March, but Mr. Harmon has filed petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court, and, miracles of miracles, the high court has asked New York City and the tenants to respond. His story has been sympathetically featured in the New York Times, the Daily News and the New York Post. Perhaps there is still some life in the challenge to rent controls. There darn well ought to be.

In broad and emphatic language, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides that "no person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Rent control collides with the last prohibition, the "takings clause."

All versions of rent-control laws share a single dominant characteristic: They allow a tenant to remain in possession of property after the expiration of a lease at below-market rents. New York even gives the tenant a statutory right to pass on the right to occupy the premises at a controlled rent to family members who have lived with them for two or more years. The tenants in Mr. Harmon's complaint pay rent equal to about 60% of market value.

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 .The Second Circuit recognized that the Harmons would be entitled to just compensation when their property is subject to a "permanent physical occupation." But following the Supreme Court decision in Yee v. City of Escondido (1993), the court insisted that "government regulation of the rental relationship does not constitute a physical taking." That comes as a real surprise to the Harmons when they hear footsteps each night above their bedroom.

Supreme Court decisions dating back to Block v. Hirsh (1921) hold that once a landlord has let a tenant onto the premises for a year, the legislature can extend that lease indefinitely. In so doing, the court undermined the most basic proposition of property law—namely, that property interests are defined by both space and time. Traditional common law rightly treated the tenant who overstayed his lease as a trespasser whom the landlord could evict at will. Rent control upends this relationship.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia exposed the deeply antidemocratic nature of rent control in Pennell v. City of San Jose (1988). If the government thinks some high social end is served by allowing tenants to sit on someone else's property in perpetuity, then it should use public funds, after democratic deliberation, to buy or lease the premises for market value which it can then lease out to particular tenants. The correct way to handle this issue, he wrote, is by "the distribution to such persons of funds raised from the public at large through taxes," and not to use "the occasion of rent regulation to establish a welfare program privately funded by" landlords.

Mr. Harmon's grievance should resonate on social as well as personal grounds. Rent control and rent stabilization are inimical to the long-term health of New York City. Ordinary tenants paying market rents contribute their fair share to the public treasury. By contrast, rent-controlled tenants on lifetime leases who have a specially privileged legal status are a constant drain on the community, discouraging investment in residential rental real estate by posing a persistent if inchoate threat of subjecting future properties to rent control.

Mr. Harmon is asking the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution and make right a long-standing wrong. It should take up his invitation and do so.

Mr. Epstein is a professor of law at New York University and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

23126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 04, 2012, 08:05:41 AM
Newt had a great concession speech last night.  URL anyone?  (GM?)

As I see it at the moment, Newt is the only alternative to Romney and I have been reminded in recent days just how tepid and timid Romney's economic plans are. 
23127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Brown Power on: January 04, 2012, 08:02:47 AM

Try as government usually does, it's hard to keep the U.S. economy down. That's the message of yesterday's announcement of some $4.8 billion in new foreign investment in America's booming shale oil and gas industry.

France's Total SA will invest $2.3 billion in Chesapeake Energy Corp. assets to explore the Utica shale formations in Ohio, while China Petrochemical Corp. will spend $2.5 billion in a joint venture with Devon Energy to explore oil and gas projects from the Tuscaloosa Marine shale in Alabama and Mississippi to the Niobrara in Colorado.

These investments continue the trend of global energy dollars returning to the U.S. as the shale revolution continues. Once-small (now big) U.S. companies like Chesapeake led the way, U.S. majors like Exxon and Chevron have joined the party, and now foreigners are following.

The investments are all the more notable because natural gas prices are down to $3 per thousand cubic feet from $5 a year ago. Most drilling booms are associated with rising prices. The risk is that low prices will lead to a washout, but the shale boom may be a paradigm shift that remakes the U.S. energy industry.

The new investors contribute capital that allows their U.S. partners to exploit their shale assets more quickly and thoroughly. The additional capital is all the more necessary as the extent of America's shale energy deposits become clearer. The Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania and West Virginia has been promising for years, but the Utica play may turn out to be as lucrative.

In return, foreign companies get access to what they expect to be attractive economic returns and the chance to learn how to tap shale rock. Total, for instance, has exploration interests in Argentina, Denmark and Poland. Sinopec no doubt has its eye on China's untapped shale formations.

The biggest winner is the U.S. economy. Chesapeake estimates its deal alone could create 25,000 high-paying jobs within the next few years. The drilling boom has created a growing market for businesses that service oil drillers, such as steel-pipe producers. Low natural gas prices are also a boon for consumers and are creating new opportunities for industries that use natural gas as a feedstock, such as chemical and fertilizer plants that only five years ago would have gone overseas.

The animal spirits unleashed by all this are so great that even the Obama Administration might not be able to dampen them. New York state still has a ban on the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, but sooner or later Albany's revenue needs will trump its anticarbon pieties. If President Obama wants to help his re-election chances, he'll stop wasting tax dollars on losers like Solyndra and "green jobs" and start talking about the brown jobs that are already multiplying in the private economy.

23128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Over to you Baraq on: January 04, 2012, 07:59:54 AM
If there were a diagnostic list for the symptoms of a regime gone rogue, Iran would tick off every box. Taking hostages? Check. Sponsoring terrorism? Check. Covertly pursuing nuclear weapons? Check. Under international sanctions? Check. Repressing its own people? Another check.

Then there is Iran's threat to the freedom of the seas. "We recommend to the American warship that passed through the Strait of Hormuz and went to the Gulf of Oman not to return to the Persian Gulf," Iranian army chief Ataollah Salehi said Tuesday, adding darkly that "The Islamic Republic of Iran will not repeat its warning." The Iranians have also been conducting naval exercises and test-firing ballistic and cruise missiles.

As Bradley S. Russell and Max Boot write nearby, the last time Tehran interfered with shipping in the Persian Gulf, during the so-called Tanker War of the 1980s, it didn't exactly come out the winner. The "American warship" that Tehran is now threatening, the USS John C. Stennis, is a Nimitz-class carrier whose air wing alone is more capable than the entire Iranian air force. If the mullahs are serious about carrying out their threats, they're dumber than we thought.

All this bluster is almost certainly a reaction to new U.S. sanctions that target Iran's oil trade—60% of the economy—via its central bank. These, finally, are sanctions with real bite, assuming President Obama doesn't use the waiver written into the law to dull their impact.

Meantime, the best response to Iran's threats would be to send an American aircraft carrier back through the Strait of Hormuz as soon as possible, with flags waving and guns at the ready. If it can't be the Stennis, the USS Eisenhower would drive home the message.

23129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: GOP's not so great communicators on: January 04, 2012, 07:52:30 AM
second post of AM

Although a lot of Republicans keep wishing otherwise, running the federal government is nothing at all like running a business. Presidents don't hire or fire members of Congress, and only a few thousand of the more than one million civilians that the federal government employs serve at the chief executive's pleasure. An aptitude for reviewing business plans or a talent for wooing investors—useless.

Presidents must instead govern by getting the rest of us to see things they way they see them. They need to interest, move and compel us. In a word, they need to be good speakers.

Which brings us to Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and the rest of the GOP field. As the candidates continue their scramble, a scorecard:

Test One: Does anybody really want to listen to this person?

Some politicians are simply a pleasure to hear. Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats still hold up. His voice is sonorous. His manner is warm and engaging. Ronald Reagan's delivery proved so enjoyable that once, drafting a speech for him on education, I worked in a long passage from Tom Sawyer purely for the pleasure of listening to the president read Mark Twain.

How many candidates has this campaign produced to whom you would listen just for fun? Only one, Herman Cain, and it may be awhile before we hear from him again.

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CloseChad Crowe
 .Mr. Romney? Bland. Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul? Either forgettable or grating. Only Mr. Gingrich commands listeners' attention, yet his is the command of the factory whistle. You don't enjoy Mr. Gingrich, exactly. You just can't not listen to him.

Mr. Gingrich gets a C, each of the others, a D. This raises a problem: the need to grade these candidates on a curve.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush possesses a sweet, easy delivery; Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Rep, Paul Ryan both bring zeal and conviction to their every utterance; Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey—but you see the point. None of the GOP's most gifted speakers is running. We must therefore recalibrate. Mr. Gingrich gets an A-minus. Each of the others, a B-plus.

Test Two: Why is that candidate wagging his finger at us?

Ronald Reagan told stories, cracked jokes and limned the values all Americans share. "Vote for me," he in effect argued, "because I'm one of you." Jimmy Carter and Michael Dukakis by contrast sounded like policy wonks, talking less about broad values than about the details of government programs. "Vote for me," each in effect argued, "because I'm smarter than you."


 Rick Santorum's message of the traditional family as a fundamental economic unit played well at a pre-caucus campaign stop at Des Moines Christian School, where supporters included the 21-member Duggar family of TLC fame.
..For their membership in the Carter/Dukakis school of wonkishness, Messrs. Romney and Gingrich both get Cs. They don't always talk down to us. But at moments they can't help themselves.

Jon Huntsman? A grade of D. He hectors. He lectures. He waves his unusually long index finger in the air like everyone's least-favorite professor.

For their membership in the Reagan school, Mrs. Bachmann and Messrs. Santorum and Paul deserve As. They come across as regular people. Ron Paul may lose audiences when he champions isolationism or denounces the Fed, but even then he seems like somebody's excitable uncle, not an intellectual snob.

Rick Perry merits a special word. He's relaxed, appealing, a regular guy, a committed student in the Reagan school . . . and yet. Although President Reagan might intentionally fumble for a moment as he answered a question—Reagan once explained to a friend of mine that he wanted people to be able to see that he was thinking matters through, just as they would do if they were in his position—he never turned in a performance quite like Gov. Perry's debate lapse. The governor of Texas, as you will recall, lost his train of thought for 53 seconds, then blurted "Oops." Appearing normal differs from appearing addled. Mr. Perry's grade: C.

Test Three: Folks, this is serious.

Gravitas. Weight. Substance. Which of the GOP candidates demonstrates that he is equal to the moment? Who shows that in asking his fellow Republicans to place him in a line of succession that includes Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, he understands the fundamental solemnity of the undertaking?

The most important test, this is also the most subjective. After listening to speeches, debates and interviews for lo these many months, I have concluded that just two candidates pass: Messrs. Romney and Gingrich.

Mr. Romney has of course flipped and flopped. While he now refers to himself as "a conservative businessman," he claimed as recently as 2002 that he was instead a "moderate and . . . my views are progressive." Why hasn't he been laughed out of the race for this sort of thing? For one reason: When he speaks about the economy, the issue most on Americans' minds, he conveys depth of knowledge, the sense that he genuinely understands how to promote growth, and the flintiness to take the fight to President Obama.

Mr. Gingrich? Yes, I know. During the last few weeks the Republican establishment has formed a United Front Against Gingrich, insisting that the former House speaker is manic, childish, flighty and unstable. Perhaps on the evidence of Mr. Gingrich's more than three decades as a public figure the establishment has a case. On the evidence of his performance during this campaign, you couldn't prove it.

Mr. Gingrich has popped off a few times, but so have all the others. What has distinguished the former speaker has been his poise, his good humor, his intelligence and, particularly during the debates, his seriousness.

"Down one road," Mr. Gingrich said recently, describing the choice voters will face next year, "is a European . . . system in which politicians and bureaucrats define the future. Down the other road is a proud, solid reaffirmation of American exceptionalism." Vivid, memorable and true. Mr. Gingrich may yet put up a fight.

For gravitas, give Messrs. Romney and Gingrich both As.

The Most Improved Award.

When in 1953 John Kennedy and Barry Goldwater became freshman senators, Goldwater used to recall, Kennedy proved an awkward and hesitant speaker. Eight years later, Kennedy delivered an inaugural address that still rings. Speaking well is a skill. People can get better at it.

Not Messrs. Romney, Gingrich or Paul. At their ages, and with their experience, they are what they are. Mr. Perry's most recent debate performances represented a dramatic improvement over his catastrophic early appearances, however, and if Mr. Huntsman hasn't relaxed, exactly, he certainly has become less stiff.

Honorable mention here goes to Rick Santorum. Early in the race he seemed too tight, too intense and too often testy. In recent days, as he rose in the polls in Iowa, he seemed to gain the self-confidence he needed to relax, suddenly displaying poise and even, from time to time, an almost Reaganesque charm.

Keep your eye on Mr. Santorum. Before this is over, he might not even need to be graded on the curve.

Mr. Robinson, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and an editor of

23130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Romney and the VAT tax on: January 04, 2012, 07:44:51 AM
In a recent interview on these pages, presidential candidate Mitt Romney refused to rule out a value-added tax (VAT). He suggested that this hidden form of a national sales tax—which is embedded in the prices of goods and services during the production process—might be appropriate, particularly as a way of financing other tax cuts.

He's not the only Republican to speak favorably of a VAT. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan featured a flat tax and national sales tax. Very few people realized, however, that the final 9 was a VAT. And Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a favorite of the tea party thanks to his bold reforms to modernize Medicare and Medicaid, includes a VAT in his "Roadmap" plan, where it helps finance other reforms such as eliminating the corporate income tax.

What's going on here?

Most Republican supporters are drawn to the VAT for relatively benign reasons. It is a single-rate system, like the flat tax, for raising revenue, so it does not raise the possibility of class-warfare demagoguery. The VAT also doesn't hit savings and investment. And there are no distorting and corrupt loopholes. So there's a lot to like about the levy—or would be, if there were some practicable way of substituting a VAT for taxes on income.

Others assume that taxes eventually will be increased and they'd prefer to raise revenue in a less-destructive fashion. Better to impose a small VAT, the arguments go, than allow higher marginal tax rates on personal and corporate income to distort and discourage work effort and growth-enhancing investment.

These are legitimate motives, but it's important to look at what we can actually expect, not what some imagine in theory.

The most important thing to realize is that many people in Washington want bigger government, and a VAT is a necessary condition for that to happen. Simply stated, there is no way to turn America into a European-style welfare state without this new source of revenue.

But what about financing bigger government with higher income taxes, particularly on the wealthy? Though they'd never admit it publicly, smart left-wingers understand that there are two powerful reasons why soak-the-rich tax increases won't raise much revenue.

First, there aren't enough wealthy people to finance big government. According to IRS data from before the recession, when we had the most rich people with the most income, there were about 321,000 households with income greater than $1 million, and they had aggregate taxable income of about $1 trillion. That's a lot of money, but it wouldn't balance the budget even if the government confiscated every penny—and if it did, how much income do you suppose would be available in year two?

Second, higher tax rates don't raise as much revenue as expected. Upper-income individuals are far more likely to rely on interest, dividends and capital gains—and it is much easier to control the timing, level and composition of capital income, so as to avoid exposing it to the tax man.

This doesn't mean that those on the left won't push for class-warfare tax increases—they will. But their main motive will be politics, not raising revenue.

And that's why, looking at the long-run fiscal situation, the left needs a VAT. It's is the only realistic way to collect the huge amount of revenue that will be necessary to finance the mountainous benefits promised by our entitlement programs. Which is exactly what happened in Europe, where welfare-state policies only became feasible after VATs were adopted, beginning in the late 1960s.

In this country, some manufacturers are willing to overlook the VAT's flaws because the tax is "border adjusted." This means that there is no VAT on exports, while the tax is imposed on imports. For mercantilists worried about trade deficits, this is a positive feature that they claim will put America on a "level playing field."

But that misunderstands how a VAT works. Under our current tax system, American goods sold in America don't pay a VAT—but neither do German-produced goods or Japanese-produced goods that are sold in America because their VAT tax is rebated on exports. Meanwhile, any American-produced goods sold in Germany or Japan are hit by a VAT, as are all other goods.

In other words, there already is a level playing field. To be sure, there will also be a level playing field if America adopts a VAT. But it won't make any difference to international trade. All that will happen is that the politicians in Washington will get more money whenever any products are sold.

Unsurprisingly, President Obama is favorably inclined toward a VAT, having recently claimed that it is "something that has worked for other countries." And yet it's unlikely that the president would propose a VAT, in large part because he is fixated on class-warfare tax hikes. If he did, almost every Republican in Congress would be opposed, even if only for partisan reasons.

But what if a VAT sympathizer like Mr. Romney wins next November and decides that his plan for a lower corporate tax rate is only possible if accompanied by a VAT? There will be quite a few Republicans who like that idea because they want to do something nice for their lobbyist friends in the business community. And there will be many Democrats drawn to the plan because they realize that they need this new source of revenue to enable bigger government.

That's a win-win deal for politicians and a terrible deal for taxpayers.

Mr. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

23131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good WSJ analysis on: January 04, 2012, 07:37:45 AM

Iowa's corner of the electorate cast the first verdict of the 2012 Presidential campaign Tuesday night, and the results look more like an opening skirmish than the coronation for Mitt Romney that much of the media had prepared.

As we went to press Wednesday morning, the polls showed a dead heat between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, with Ron Paul a close third and Newt Gingrich a distant fourth. Mr. Romney retains a huge lead in New Hampshire, which votes January 10, but his failure to win a larger share of the vote than he did in 2008 suggests that GOP voters don't view the former Massachusetts Governor as inevitable.

Many Republicans—especially party elites—have been coalescing around Mr. Romney as the most "electable" candidate, by which they seem to mean the one with the fewest obvious flaws. But electability is a slippery concept, especially 10 months from November. Democrats said the same thing about John Kerry in 2004, while the media were convinced that a right-wing former movie actor was unelectable in 1980. Voters would do better to drop the pundit game theory and choose the best potential President.

On that score, Mr. Romney deserves credit for his doggedness and discipline. However uninspiring, those are useful traits in a candidate or a President. The man who rescued the 2002 winter Olympics has proven he can assemble a team and adapt to the blows of a modern campaign. He has been ruthless in attacking the competitors who were his biggest threats, Rick Perry and Mr. Gingrich, attacking from the right or left if it worked.

Yet Iowa's flirtation with so many "non-Romney" candidates shows that a majority of Republicans still find him less than convincing. The media want to attribute this to anti-Mormon bias. But the polls show that Mr. Romney's Mormonism is a much bigger issue among Democrats than within the GOP.

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CloseAssociated Press
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum
.The real issue is that Mr. Romney is a cautious, conventional politician in a year when many GOP voters want someone willing to fight for bolder change. On the economy in particular, Mr. Romney is offering the least ambitious plan for growth. Mr. Romney unveiled his 59-point jobs plan in September, and if you can remember two of them you'll win most family trivia contests. His refusal to rule out a value-added-tax is also troubling, especially if Democrats ever won the House during his Presidency.

Mr. Romney's great advantage is that he faces a divided field of conservative competitors, none of whom has been able to consolidate support. That certainly includes Mr. Paul, despite his Iowa showing. The reality is that no candidate with Mr. Paul's super-dovish views on national security can win the Republican nomination. We doubt he could have won it even during the isolationist heyday of the 1930s, but in a world of global terrorism, WMD and Iran, he will not beat Mr. Romney.

Yet Mr. Paul's support has less to do with Mr. Paul himself than with his general antipathy for the political status quo. More than the other candidates, Mr. Paul seems sincere in his desire to chop Washington down to size. He is honest in his constitutionalism even if he often sounds too cranky in expressing it. Tapping the frustration and enthusiasm of Mr. Paul's voters will be crucial to any GOP campaign in 2012, and to successful governing in 2013. The other candidates shouldn't dismiss it.

Mr. Santorum will get the biggest bump out of Iowa, coming from nowhere in the final weeks to finish strong. The former two-term Pennsylvania Senator played the tortoise by visiting all 99 counties and pressing social and moral issues. He has also been impressive in debates, especially on foreign policy.

But to be more than an Iowa flash, he'll need to broaden his message to include economic growth and a jolt of optimism. In his moral fervor Mr. Santorum can sometimes sound like a charter member of the cast-the-first-stone coalition, when most voters prefer a more tolerant traditionalism.

More important, he has rarely talked about his larger economic agenda, other than to stress his desire to "revive manufacturing." The U.S. should make and export everything it competitively can, but manufacturing now accounts for only 11% of the U.S. economy. Mr. Santorum would cut the corporate tax rate to zero for manufacturers but only to 17.5% from 35% for other companies.

The justification for this favoritism seems more political than economic, a play for blue-collar voters who often work in manufacturing. How will Mr. Santorum distinguish this from President Obama's favoritism for Solyndra or electric cars? The Pennsylvanian's overall tax outline is better than this, including a reform that would reduce individual rates to only two, of 10% and 28%, albeit with few details. To beat Mr. Romney, he'll need to broaden his message and make growth a major theme.

As for the rest of the field, Michele Bachmann's sixth place finish means she would have to continue running on willfullness alone. Mr. Perry wants to fight on to South Carolina on January 21, but his weak Iowa finish after spending so much money should give him pause. Jon Huntsman will have to break through in New Hampshire, and his tax reform plan gives him a favorable contrast with Mr. Romney. Mr. Gingrich will also try to revive his candidacy by contrasting his views with those of Mr. Romney, whom he calls a "Massachusetts moderate."

Iowa's caucuses have missed nearly as many future Presidents as they've picked, so Tuesday's vote was hardly the last word. Our sense is that the eventual GOP nominee would benefit from a good, hard slog.

23132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stanley Jordan on: January 04, 2012, 07:16:50 AM
23133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Militias rumble on: January 04, 2012, 07:15:06 AM
TRIPOLI—Two Libyan militias once allied against Moammar Gadhafi battled for nearly two hours in central Tripoli, leaving four dead and a renewed sense of unease across a capital where the nascent government has struggled to maintain authority.

The clash on Tuesday underscored the festering security gaps facing the country as interim leaders try to create a central military command that can embrace or shut down the hundreds of neighborhood militias that remain, armed and unpaid, after toppling Gadhafi last year.

In a step toward establishing control, the government on Tuesday named a former rebel commander to the coveted post of chief of staff of the new Libyan army.

Rival commanders had been maneuvering to get one of their own local leaders named to the position, and interim authorities were concerned that an appointment could exacerbate regional tensions.

Tensions broke out in Tripoli on Tuesday, unrelated to the announcement, when a brigade of former rebel fighters from Misrata sought to take custody of several criminal suspects held in the capital and return them to their coastal city approximately 200 miles to the east.

A militia from the Tripoli neighborhood of Sidi Khalifa forced the retreat of the Misratans, capturing at least two of those left behind when the larger unit fled with their dead. The melee stopped traffic for hours in central Tripoli and blocked access to one of the city's busiest hospitals.

By evening, military commanders sought to reassure residents of the capital that the fighting was over and that calm had been restored.

However, rebel militias from several other Tripoli districts, incensed over what they viewed as an invasion of their city, had set up checkpoints and patrols around intersections leading out of the capital. Rumors swirled that the Misrata brigade would return after nightfall to seek vengeance for their fallen.

Libya's interim government succeeded last month in forcing revolutionary militias from other towns out of Tripoli, a city of two million people. The militias had helped liberate the capital in August and then took up strategic positions around the city while their political leaders lobbied for government posts.

Interim leaders also succeeded in banning most heavy weapons from the streets of the capital.

Yet at night, the sprawling city becomes a hive of heavily guarded enclaves, most districts possessing their own weapons stockpiles and deploying their local guardsmen to stand post at the major intersections leading to their homes. Street fighters remain well armed, the city flush with weapons that were used by rebels and government forces during last year's battle.

There has been little progress by the government on consolidating and demobilizing militias into a central command, as politicians gingerly maneuver the geographic and tribal tensions that have burst forth since the fall of the former dictator.

A senior interim government official said the promotion to army chief of staff of Yousef al-Mangoush, whose family originally hails from Misrata but has strong ties with the eastern city of Benghazi, should help alleviate some regional concerns.

Mr. Mangoush quit his career as an officer in Gadhafi's army years ago, and rose to become one of the most prominent rebel commanders on the eastern front of the rebellion in 2011.

Mr. Mangoush, who has served as a deputy defense minister since last month, told Libyan television in an interview after his appointment on Tuesday that he hopes to instill pride and discipline into a new national army. "A crucial issue [missing in Libya] is organization and order" in fighting units, he said.

The U.S. has offered advice and support on the process of establishing a central security force, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the delineation of power between the National Transitional Council, the interim legislative body, on the one hand and the interim government and cabinet on the other is sometimes unclear. A new election commission is supposed to be announced this month and to set a date for elections, likely in June.

Security concerns haven't significantly obstructed Libya's vital oil sector, nor have scuffles between militias endangered vital infrastructure, such as refineries or ports.

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Armed Libyan militiamen on Tripoli's Zawiya after Tuesday's skirmish.
.The country is pumping approximately one million barrels of oil a day.

But a lack of central command and control almost certainly escalated the street battle on Tuesday, as three additional military organizations descended on the Sidi Khalifa neighborhood in attempts to mediate between rivals rumbling like street gangs, albeit with heavy weapons.

The battle began before noon Tuesday on Zawiya Street in front of the office complex of Gadhafi's former spy chief Abdullah Senussi and close to one of the city's largest hospitals.

The Misrata brigade swept into central Tripoli in their distinctive black pickup trucks with antiaircraft guns mounted in the back, and gathered in front of the former spy chief's office, where Tripoli rebels have operated a makeshift prison.

Doctors at the hospital and witnesses said gunmen from the local neighborhood then swarmed into the street.

The Misratans demanded that the rebel force in charge of the building hand over several wanted men to Misrata's control, according to witnesses.

The syncopated pop of automatic rifles quickly escalated with the boom of antiaircraft weapons and other heavy machine-gun fire as pedestrians fled for cover.

Other Tripoli brigades soon arrived on the scene, closing the major intersection near the hospital complex in efforts to minimize injuries from indiscriminate fire.

Local mosques began sending amplified messages to the district. "Libyans, stop killing Libyans," sang one man on the mosque loudspeaker.

Soon after, the neighborhood militia fired off a barrage of celebratory gunfire. About 90 minutes after the showdown began, the Misrata fighters fled the scene. The men from Sidi Khalifa then paraded down the street with two prisoners. "This is Tripoli. You don't mess with Tripoli," yelled one man as he beat one of the prisoners with the butt of an AK-47 rifle.

Tripoli Military Council commander Abdelhakim Belhadj declined to answer questions about who was to blame for the battle, or give details about the dispute over the wanted men. He said the Misrata fighters "didn't act in accordance with the law" in the incident.

A representative of Misrata for the National Transitional Council said the Misrata brigade had been calling for re-enforcements from the coastal city before the Tripoli and Misrata commanders met to cool tensions.

It was unclear the identities of the men whom the Misrata fighters wanted to take into custody. Some witnesses said they were criminals wanted for killing people in Misrata during the revolution. Others said the Misrata gunmen wanted to free members of their own brigade who had scuffled with the Sidi Khalifa neighborhood in the past and had been arrested by that neighborhood's fighters.

23134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Speed train hits bump on: January 04, 2012, 07:06:38 AM
SAN FRANCISCO—California's ambitious plan for a high-speed rail system hit a big roadblock Tuesday, as an independent panel urged lawmakers to deny authorizing the issuance of $2.7 billion in bonds to kick off the $98.5 billion project.

The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group—which the state legislature appointed to analyze funding for the rail system—questioned the California High-Speed Rail Authority's plan to start construction without any assurance of future funding from the federal government, among other factors.

Moving ahead "represents an immense financial risk" for California, the group said in its report, echoing concerns from critics who say the project could leave state taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in future costs. The panel appeared to leave the door open to supporting state funding in the future, if the rail authority addresses its concerns. While the report isn't binding, it puts pressure on California lawmakers as they decide whether to release billions of dollars in state bonds for the project.

Mark DeSaulnier, chairman of the California State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, said the report is "not good news" for the high-speed rail plan.

"I definitely think the state needs a very robust but realistic rail plan, and high-speed rail will hopefully be part of it, but the way we're going now it looks like it's not going to happen," the Democrat said in an interview, adding that if the decision to appropriate funds for the current plan "came in front of us right at this moment, I would most likely vote against it."

The proposed plan, which has attracted the support of Gov. Jerry Brown, called for breaking ground this year by spending $6 billion in federal and state funds to lay track for high-speed trains in the rural Central Valley, as an initial step in a broader project for a bullet train linking San Francisco to Southern California.

A spokesman for Mr. Brown, Gil Duran, reiterated the governor's support for the rail plan, saying the report "does not appear to add any arguments that are new or compelling enough to suggest a change in course."

Under the plan, the Central Valley track could be incorporated into existing Amtrak service until more funding becomes available to extend the high-speed rail line.

The federal government has already provided $3.3 billion of the $6 billion required for the Central Valley construction. For the remaining $2.7 billion, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has asked the state legislature to appropriate bond funds early this year.

The legislature's decision could have far-reaching consequences, not only for the state funds but also for the federal funds already earmarked for the project. The federal government requires that its portion be used by September 2017 or else forfeited, and the rail authority estimates that work must begin in fall 2012 for the funds to be used in time.

The rail authority sharply criticized the independent panel's report. The group failed to consider the risks of not proceeding with the rail plan, such as "lost opportunities for funding" and "the even greater costs of meeting the state's mobility needs in the absence of high-speed rail," Thomas J. Umberg, chairman of the rail authority, wrote in a rebuttal sent to legislators.

California's bullet-train effort got its start in 2008, when 53% of voters approved a bond measure that authorized the state to sell nearly $10 billion in general-obligation bonds to finance high-speed rail, which would be made available when appropriated by the legislature.

Since then, public opinion has cooled, partly because of a rising price tag for the overall project and questions about the plan's viability.

The Field Poll, a research group primarily active in California, found in a December survey that 59% of Californians would reject the bond package if the vote were held again.

The proposed California system—with trains racing from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two-and-a-half hours, compared with driving time of about six hours with no traffic—has taken center stage in the debate over bringing high-speed rail to the U.S. Proponents argue that high-speed rail would bolster the nation's aging transportation infrastructure and would be better for the environment than relying on cars.

President Barack Obama has sought to use the California effort as a showcase, in hopes of gaining support for similar projects around the country.

But another high-profile rail plan in Florida fizzled out last year after Republican Gov. Rick Scott rejected federal funds in a much-publicized move. And Republicans in Congress have pushed back against more funds for high-speed rail as part of a broader resistance to increased government spending. That has raised questions about whether enough funding will materialize for bullet trains in California, which had earlier planned to rely largely on federal funds, and elsewhere.

23135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: China takes aim at US Navy on: January 04, 2012, 06:56:52 AM

By JULIAN E. BARNES in Washington, NATHAN HODGE in Newport News, Va., and JEREMY PAGE in Beijing

The USS Gerald R. Ford was supposed to help secure another half century of American naval supremacy. The hulking aircraft carrier taking shape in a dry dock in Newport News, Va., is designed to carry a crew of 4,660 and a formidable arsenal of aircraft and weapons.

But an unforeseen problem cropped up between blueprint and expected delivery in 2015: China is building a new class of ballistic missiles designed to arc through the stratosphere and explode onto the deck of a U.S. carrier, killing sailors and crippling its flight deck.

Since 1945, the U.S. has ruled the waters of the western Pacific, thanks in large part to a fleet of 97,000-ton carriers—each one "4.5 acres of mobile, sovereign U.S. territory," as the Navy puts it. For nearly all of those years, China had little choice but to watch American vessels ply the waters off its coast with impunity.

Now China is engaged in a major military buildup. Part of its plan is to force U.S. carriers to stay farther away from its shores, Chinese military analysts say. So the U.S. is adjusting its own game plan. Without either nation saying so, both are quietly engaged in a tit-for-tat military-technology race. At stake is the balance of power in a corner of the seas that its growing rapidly in importance.

Pentagon officials are reluctant to talk publicly about potential conflict with China. Unlike the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Beijing isn't an explicit enemy. During a visit to China last month, Michele Flournoy, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, told a top general in the People's Liberation Army that "the U.S. does not seek to contain China," and that "we do not view China as an adversary," she recalled in a later briefing.

Nevertheless, U.S. military officials often talk about preparing for a conflict in the Pacific—without mentioning who they might be fighting. The situation resembles a Harry Potter novel in which the characters refuse to utter the name of their adversary, says Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think tank with close ties to the Pentagon. "You can't say China's a threat," he says. "You can't say China's a competitor."

China's state media has said its new missile, called the DF-21D, was built to strike a moving ship up to about 1,700 miles away. U.S. defense analysts say the missile is designed to come in at an angle too high for U.S. defenses against sea-skimming cruise missiles and too low for defenses against other ballistic missiles.

Even if U.S. systems were able to shoot down one or two, some experts say, China could overwhelm the defenses by targeting a carrier with several missiles at the same time.

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Close.As such, the new missile—China says it isn't currently deployed—could push U.S. carriers farther from Chinese shores, making it more difficult for American fighter jets to penetrate its airspace or to establish air superiority in a conflict near China's borders.

In response, the Navy is developing pilotless, long-range drone aircraft that could take off from aircraft carriers far out at sea and remain aloft longer than a human pilot could do safely. In addition, the Air Force wants a fleet of pilotless bombers capable of cruising over vast stretches of the Pacific.

The gamesmanship extends into cyberspace. U.S. officials worry that, in the event of a conflict, China would try to attack the satellite networks that control drones, as well as military networks within the U.S. The outcome of any conflict, they believe, could turn in part on who can jam the other's electronics or hack their computer networks more quickly and effectively.

Throughout history, control of the seas has been a prerequisite for any country that wants to be considered a world power. China's military buildup has included a significant naval expansion. China now has 29 submarines armed with antiship cruise missiles, compared with just eight in 2002, according to Rand Corp., another think tank with ties to the military. In August, China conducted a sea trial of its first aircraft carrier—a vessel that isn't yet fully operational.

Michael Auslin: Defense Boost Ends Tokyo Drift
.At one time, military planners saw Taiwan as the main point of potential friction between China and the U.S. Today, there are more possible flash points. Tensions have grown between Japan and China over islands each nation claims in the East China Sea. Large quantities of oil and gas are believed to lie under the South China Sea, and China, Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations have been asserting conflicting territorial claims on it. Last year, Vietnam claimed China had harassed one of its research vessels, and China demanded that Vietnam halt oil-exploration activities in disputed waters.

A few years ago, the U.S. military might have responded to any flare-up by sending one or more of its 11 aircraft carriers to calm allies and deter Beijing. Now, the People's Liberation Army, in additional to the missiles it has under development, has submarines capable of attacking the most visible instrument of U.S. military power.

"This is a rapidly emerging development," says Eric Heginbotham, who specializes in East Asian security at Rand. "As late as 1995 or 2000, the threat to carriers was really minimal. Now, it is fairly significant. There is a whole complex of new threats emerging."

Beijing's interest in developing anticarrier missiles is believed to date to the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1996. The Chinese government, hoping to dissuade voters in Taiwan from re-electing a president considered pro-independence, conducted a series of missile tests, firing weapons into the waters off the island. President Bill Clinton sent two carrier battle groups, signaling that Washington was ready to defend Taiwan—a strategic setback for China.

The Chinese military embarked on a military modernization effort designed to blunt U.S. power in the Pacific by developing what U.S. military strategists dubbed "anti-access, area denial" technologies.

"Warfare is about anti-access," said Adm. Gary Roughead, the recently retired U.S. chief of naval operations, last year. "You could go back and look at the Pacific campaigns in World War II, [when] the Japanese were trying to deny us access into the western Pacific."

In 2004, Chinese President Hu Jintao unveiled a new military doctrine calling for the armed forces to undertake "new historic missions" to safeguard China's "national interests." Chinese military officers and experts said those interests included securing international shipping lanes and access to foreign oil and safeguarding Chinese citizens working overseas.

At first, China's buildup was slow. Then some headline-grabbing advances set off alarms in Washington. In a 2007 test, China shot down one of its older weather satellites, demonstrating its ability to potentially destroy U.S. military satellites that enable warships and aircraft to communicate and to target bases on the Chinese mainland.

The Pentagon responded with a largely classified effort to protect U.S. satellites from weapons such as missiles or lasers. A year after China's antisatellite test, the U.S. demonstrated its own capabilities by blowing up a dead spy satellite with a modified ballistic-missile interceptor.

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Close.Last year, the arms race accelerated. In January, just hours before then U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sat down with Chinese President Hu to mend frayed relations, China conducted the first test flight of a new, radar-evading fighter jet. The plane, called the J-20, might allow China to launch air attacks much farther afield—possibly as far as U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam.

The aircraft carrier China launched in August was built from a hull bought from Ukraine. The Pentagon expects China to begin working on its own version, which could become operational after 2015—not long after the USS Gerald R. Ford enters service.

American military planners are even more worried about the modernization of China's submarine fleet. The newer vessels can stay submerged longer and operate more quietly than China's earlier versions. In 2006, a Chinese sub appeared in the midst of a group of American ships, undetected until it rose to the surface.

Sizing up China's electronic-warfare capabilities is more difficult. China has invested heavily in cybertechnologies, and U.S. defense officials have said Chinese hackers, potentially working with some state support, have attacked American defense networks. China has repeatedly denied any state involvement.

China's technological advances have been accompanied by a shift in rhetoric by parts of its military. Hawkish Chinese military officers and analysts have long accused the U.S. of trying to contain China within the "first island chain" that includes Japan and the Philippines, both of which have mutual defense treaties with the U.S., and Taiwan, which the U.S. is bound by law to help defend. They now talk about pushing the U.S. back as far as Hawaii and enabling China's navy to operate freely in the western Pacific, the Indian Ocean and beyond.

"The U.S. has four major allies within the first island chain, and is trying to starve the Chinese dragon into a Chinese worm," Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan, one of China's most outspoken military commentators, told a conference in September.

China's beefed up military still is a long way from having the muscle to defeat the U.S. Navy head-to-head. For now, U.S. officials say, the Chinese strategy is to delay the arrival of U.S. military forces long enough to take control of contested islands or waters.

Publicly, Pentagon leaders such as Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said the U.S. would like to cultivate closer military-to-military ties with China.

Privately, China has been the focus of planning. In 2008, the U.S. military held a series of war games, called Pacific Vision, which tested its ability to counter a "near-peer competitor" in the Pacific. That phrase is widely understood within the military to be shorthand for China.

"My whole impetus was to look at the whole western Pacific," says retired Air Force Gen. Carrol "Howie" Chandler, who helped conduct the war games. "And it was no secret that the Chinese were making investments to overcome our advantages in the Pacific."

Those games tested the ability of the U.S. to exercise air power in the region, both from land bases and from aircraft carriers. People familiar with the exercises say they informed strategic thinking about potential conflict with China. A formal game plan, called AirSea Battle, now is in the works to develop better ways to fight in the Pacific and to counter China's new weapons, Pentagon officials say.

The Navy is developing new weapons for its aircraft carriers and new aircraft to fly off them. On the new Ford carrier, the catapult that launches jets off the deck will be electromagnetic, not steam-powered, allowing for quicker takeoffs.

The carrier-capable drones under development, which will allow U.S. carriers to be effective when farther offshore, are considered a breakthrough. Rear Adm. William Shannon, who heads the Navy's office for unmanned aircraft and strike weapons, compared the drone's debut flight last year to a pioneering flight by Eugene Ely, who made the first successful landing on a naval vessel in 1911. "I look at this demonstration flight…as ushering us into the second 100 years of naval aviation," he said.

The Air Force wants a longer-range bomber for use over the Pacific. Navy and Air Force fighter jets have relatively short ranges. Without midair refueling, today's carrier planes have an effective range of about 575 miles.

China's subs, fighter planes and guided missiles will likely force carriers to stay farther than that from its coast, U.S. military strategists say.

"The ability to operate from long distances will be fundamental to our future strategy in the Pacific," says Andrew Hoehn, a vice president at Rand. "You have to have a long-range bomber. In terms of Air Force priorities, I cannot think of a larger one."

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CloseRicky Thompson
The USS Gerald R. Ford, designed to serve for the next 50 years, under construction in Newport News, Va.
.The U.S. also is considering new land bases to disperse its forces throughout the region. President Barack Obama recently announced the U.S. would use new bases in Australia, including a major port in Darwin. Many of the bases aren't expected to have a permanent American presence, but in the event of a conflict, the U.S. would be able to base aircraft there.

In light of China's military advances and shrinking U.S. defense budgets, some U.S. military officers have begun wondering whether the time has come to rethink the nation's strategic reliance on aircraft carriers like the USS Ford. A successful attack on a carrier could jeopardize the lives of as many as 5,000 sailors—more than all the troops killed in action in Iraq.

"The Gerald R. Ford is just the first of her class," wrote Navy Captain Henry Hendrix and retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Noel Williams in an article in the naval journal Proceedings last year. "She should also be the last."

Write to Jeremy Page at and Nathan Hodge at and Julian E. Barnes at

23136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / T. Friedman on: January 04, 2012, 06:40:28 AM
Not often do I find TF to be worthy of posting here (understatement  cheesy ) but today is an exception.

So Much Fun. So Irrelevant.
Published: January 3, 2012
Two things have struck me about the Republican presidential candidate debates leading up to the Iowa caucuses. One is how entertaining they were. The other is how disconnected they were from the biggest trends shaping the job market of the 21st century. What if the 2012 campaign were actually about the world in which we’re living and how we adapt to it? What would the candidates be talking about?

Surely at or near the top of that list would be the tightening merger between globalization and the latest information technology revolution. The I.T. revolution is giving individuals more and more cheap tools of innovation, collaboration and creativity — thanks to hand-held computers, social networks and “the cloud,” which stores powerful applications that anyone can download. And the globalization side of this revolution is integrating more and more of these empowered people into ecosystems, where they can innovate and manufacture more products and services that make people’s lives more healthy, educated, entertained, productive and comfortable.

The best of these ecosystems will be cities and towns that combine a university, an educated populace, a dynamic business community and the fastest broadband connections on earth. These will be the job factories of the future. The countries that thrive will be those that build more of these towns that make possible “high-performance knowledge exchange and generation,” explains Blair Levin, who runs the Aspen Institute’s Gig.U project, a consortium of 37 university communities working to promote private investment in next-generation ecosystems.

Historians have noted that economic clusters always required access to abundant strategic inputs for success, says Levin. In the 1800s, it was access to abundant flowing water and raw materials. In the 1900s, it was access to abundant electricity and transportation. In the 2000s, he said, “it will be access to abundant bandwidth and abundant human intellectual capital,” — places like Silicon Valley, Austin, Boulder, Cambridge and Ann Arbor.

But we need many more of these. As the world gets wired together through the Web and social networks, and as more and more sensors run machines that are talking to other machines across the Internet, we are witnessing the emergence of “Big Data.” These are the mountains of data coming out of all these digital interactions, which can then be collected, sifted, mined and analyzed — like raw materials of old — to provide the raw material for new inventions in health care, education, manufacturing and retailing.

“We’re all aware of the approximately two billion people now on the Internet — in every part of the planet, thanks to the explosion of mobile technology,” I.B.M.’s chairman, Samuel Palmisano, said in a speech last September. “But there are also upward of a trillion interconnected and intelligent objects and organisms — what some call the Internet of Things. All of this is generating vast stores of information. It is estimated that there will be 44 times as much data and content coming over the next decade ...reaching 35 zettabytes in 2020. A zettabyte is a 1 followed by 21 zeros. And thanks to advanced computation and analytics, we can now make sense of that data in something like real time.”

The more information and trends you are able to mine and analyze, and the more talented human capital, bandwidth and computing power you apply to that data, the more innovation you’ll get.

When eight doctors from around the world can look at the same M.R.I. in real time, said Levin, it enables the acceleration of small breakthroughs, which is where big breakthroughs eventually come from. Big bandwidth, he added, would enable these same doctors doing high-risk surgery to practice the life-saving procedures in advance over network-enabled simulators, leading to better results, new kinds of surgical innovations and new forms of medical education. Big bandwidth, combined with 3-D printers, would also allow for the rapid prototyping of all kinds of manufactured products that can then be made anywhere.

Right now, though, notes Levin, America is focused too much on getting “average” bandwidth to the last 5 percent of the country in rural areas, rather than getting “ultra-high-speed” bandwidth to the top 5 percent, in university towns, who will invent the future. By the end of 2012, he adds, South Korea intends to connect every home in the country to the Internet at one gigabit per second. “That would be a tenfold increase from the already blazing national standard, and more than 200 times as fast as the average household setup in the United States,” The Times reported last February.

Therefore, the critical questions for America today have to be how we deploy more ultra-high-speed networks and applications in university towns to invent more high-value-added services and manufactured goods and how we educate more workers to do these jobs — the only way we can maintain a middle class.

I just don’t remember any candidate being asked in those really entertaining G.O.P. debates: “How do you think smart cities can become the job engines of the future, and what is your plan to ensure that America has a strategic bandwidth advantage?”

23137  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / MMA: How to fight the taller fighter? on: January 04, 2012, 06:27:11 AM
The recent fight between Jon Bones Jones and Lyoto Machida got me thinking.

Just how does one fight a fighter like JBJ?  He had a ten and a half inch reach advantage! shocked  With his agility, striking skills, and clinch game, just what the hell does a plausible strategy against him look like?

23138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: January 04, 2012, 12:52:27 AM
That's rather pithy  smiley
23139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sun science on: January 04, 2012, 12:27:47 AM

What do you make of these?

Reply #12 by BBG: Cosmic Radiation and Warming

Reply #24 by BBG Solar Activity very low

Reply #182 by BBG Solar Flucutations Drive Earth's Climate

23140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Zbigniew B; Yascha Mounk on: January 03, 2012, 07:33:28 PM
Since his time as Carter's NSC man,  I have held ZB in low regard. That said, I think that was a genuinely perceptive piece that articulates quite well some inchoate intuitions of mine.  It deserves considerable reflection IMHO.

May I ask you to post it in full here in case it gets lost where it currently is?

Here's another serious worthy read of similar depth:
When the West found itself lacking for serious rivals after the collapse of the Soviet Union, an era of optimism dawned on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., political scientist Francis Fukuyama dreamed about the "end of history," an inexorable convergence toward liberal democracy. Meanwhile, in Europe, a few philosophers and Eurocrats entertained a similar dream of their own: the comforting idea that their continent was a natural blueprint for the rest of humanity. Going even further than Mr. Fukuyama, they predicted that the world wouldn't just converge on some generic form of liberal democracy—but rather on its European incarnation, complete with an aversion to military force, a generous welfare state and the post-national form of sovereignty embodied by the European Union.

But as Walter Laqueur argues in "After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent," this dream was delusional from the start. Mr. Laqueur's case seems easy to make in these times. We have all become well-acquainted with Europe's woes, from the sovereign-debt crisis to the danger that disagreements about how to handle it might tear the political institutions of the EU apart.

In this loosely linked series of thematic essays on Europe's troubles, Mr. Laqueur paints an even starker portrait. For him, the current crisis is but the most visible manifestation of a deeper malaise. Economically, he argues, many European countries had been faring badly even before 2008, with provisions for health care and pensions having become unsustainable. Militarily, Europe has long been virtually irrelevant on the global stage. And politically, far-right insurgents such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Pia Kjaersgaard in Denmark had uprooted traditional party structures, even as the idea of a continent-wide super-state—which had once enjoyed the enthusiastic support of European elites—has grown deeply unpopular.

Most important of all are two intertwined worries about immigration and depopulation. Because of low birth rates, Europe is shrinking precipitously. If current trends continue, Mr. Laqueur says, 100 years from now Europe's population "will be only a fraction of what it is today, and in two hundred, some countries may have disappeared."

There is only one way out: immigration. But, according to Mr. Laqueur, this isn't a viable solution. With anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim parties ever more popular, few countries are likely to open themselves up to further foreigners. What is more, Mr. Laqueur believes that the immigrants already in Europe are so poorly integrated and so unskilled that the most likely newcomers—relatives of those already there—would do more harm than good.

Enlarge Image

Close.After the Fall
By Walter Laqueur
(St. Martin's, 322 pages, $26.99)
.Many prophets of decline build a case for pessimism only to show, in a soaring finale, how to bring about redemption. But Mr. Laqueur's gloom is not sweetened by easy fixes. Though he moots various possible responses—less Muslim immigration, less welfare, more nationalism—he does not seem to think any of them will avert the "decline of a continent" or the "end of the European Dream."

Much of Mr. Laqueur's diagnosis is convincing, and he can be deft, erudite and persuasive. And yet his book has serious shortcomings, from inflammatory descriptions of Europe's immigrants (young Turks in Germany supposedly speak a language consisting of only "three hundred words, a third of fecal or sexual origin") to a meandering prose style at times reminiscent of a hastily prepared undergraduate lecture course (two chapters on depopulation are largely identical).

Most important, Mr. Laqueur overstates both how steep Europe's decline is likely to be and how thoroughly it will dash the dreams of ordinary Europeans. Most Europeans, even among the elite, are hardly holding their breath for Djibouti to turn into Denmark. Indeed, if ordinary Europeans cherish a European dream at all, it is a much more modest one: that Europe's next five decades may yet turn out to be as peaceful and affluent as as Western Europe has been for the past five decades. Is this hope equally delusional?

According to a spate of fashionable writers, in America as well as in Europe, it is. If the years following the end of the Cold War now seem an era of dreams, then our current moment may one day be known as the era of nightmares. Just as Mr. Fukuyama and others once predicted that the West's ideas would soon be ascendant the world over, so commentators like Niall Ferguson are now fretting about the West's descent into irrelevance.

Worse still, they point out something that Mr. Laqueur strangely neglects to mention—namely, that the U.S. faces many of the same challenges as Europe: political dysfunction, high debt, broken pension and health-care systems, large-scale immigration, dependence on foreign energy, and, of course, competition from India and China.

Like Mr. Laqueur, our current doomsayers are very good at portraying the scale of the threats we face. They may be vindicated sooner than we'd like. Even so, none of them have made a definitive case for all-encompassing pessimism. If the West does experience a steep loss of status, the resultant adjustments will be painful. But so long as we retain enough defensive capability to thwart outside meddling and enough economic productivity to take advantage of living and trading in a richer world, we might be able to weather our decline rather better than expected. After all, the law of comparative advantage reminds us that, because free trade allows us to profit from increased productivity elsewhere, a relative loss of standing need not mean an absolute decline of living standards.

In that sense, the embattled dream that most Europeans truly care about might not be such a bad model for Europe's—and indeed America's—future after all. Even if, one day, we will no longer be able to impress faraway nations with the might of our armies, hope remains that we can still provide our citizens a decent life.

Mr. Mounk is a doctoral student in political theory at Harvard and the founding editor of The Utopian.

23141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: January 03, 2012, 07:22:50 PM
Racebaiting grifter scumbag. angry
23142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Arab Democracy on: January 03, 2012, 06:59:39 PM
By Matthew Kaminski
Egypt left a couple of enduring images to finish the year of Arab tumult. There were the long lines of patient faces, each waiting to cast the first meaningful ballot of a lifetime. There was also the young woman at a Cairo protest, beaten to the ground, her black abaya pulled back over her head to reveal a blue bra. A conscript's boot stomps down on her exposed torso.

Arab brute or Arab voter? It's an easy choice, no matter what the Middle East's experiment with democracy brings. And in Egypt, peaceful elections are throwing up distressing results. In the first two of three stages of parliamentary elections, Islamists have won around 70%; more than a quarter of the vote went to Salafists who practice Osama bin Laden's creed of Islam. Liberals trail behind.

Yet any sort of civilian rule looks better with each day under the hard-knuckled generals, who took over in February from Hosni Mubarak, a general himself. On Thursday, supposedly interim military rulers raided the offices of 17 pro-democracy nonprofit groups, including three funded by the United States. A week before, security forces killed more than a dozen demonstrators.

So, no, elections and new rulers aren't the primary threat to Egypt's stability or future. But certainly the election rout by Islamists frames the challenge ahead. Democracy's success depends in large measure on how Islam (and its self-styled political avatars) adapts to and coexists with pluralistic, free politics. This may require a Muslim reformation, which is no small matter. But then democracy may be the surest route to one.

Islamists have done well before in elections in Turkey and Indonesia, the closest that the Muslim world gets to mature democracies. Hardline parties in Indonesia reached a high mark in 2004, at 21% of the vote, but have fallen off since. After a few turns at the polls, says Anies Baswedan, president of Paramadina University in Jakarta, "people don't vote for you because you're Muslim. People ask, what are you going to deliver for us?"

This is what explains the electoral dominance of Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP), not its roots in political Islam. In the past decade under the AKP, Turkey escaped an IMF-run intensive-care ward and became the world's fastest-growing economy. The rigid Kemalist secularism enforced by a dominant military was partly dismantled. In its place has emerged a more dynamic society, more tolerant of differences. The AKP does have a mild-to-festering authoritarian streak, depending on whom you believe, but that's rooted in Turkish as much as Islamist political culture.

In any case the appeal of political Islam, which grows when religiosity is repressed by nominally secular regimes, tends to diminish over time in Muslim countries with freer politics. Why?

When the state isn't hostile to religion, ideological Islam isn't a bankable political issue. Elections usually turn on more pedestrian matters. The AKP re-election campaign last June was all about the thriving economy.

By supporting Islamist candidates, Egyptians aren't voting for theocracy. Conservative lower- and middle-classes make up majorities that, for decades, were shut out of the establishment. To them, the Islamist brand suggests opposition to corruption and a common touch. For many, a vote for Islam was the most obvious rebuke to the ancien regime in a first free election.

Egypt begins this journey with serious handicaps, and comparisons with Turkey, Indonesia or Tunisia, which launched the Arab Spring early last year, can only stretch so far. Tunisia has a large, educated middle class. Most significantly, perhaps, it also has empowered women who tend to work. October elections were a good mirror to this society and the vote split evenly between moderate Islamists and secular liberal parties. Salafists there are a fringe—unlike in Egypt, where what is now the second-largest party threatens Egypt's large Coptic Christian minority and demands the imposition of Shariah religious law.

Islam can make for an ill fit with modern civil society. You might read almost anything into the Quran and Hadiths, a million or so sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. Some find inspiration for a free market; others for stoning. Muhammad warned against ghuluw (extremism) and pleaded for qist (balance) in religion, yet in recent decades the loudest voices within Islam ignored that advice.

Iranian mullahs, Saudi virtue squads and bin Ladens have drawn on Islam's stricter precepts to justify their totalitarianism. Shariah imposes many religious duties and punishments that are outdated. It doesn't set out rights that deserve protection. It makes few allowances for minorities or dissenters, the sine qua non of liberal democracy.

Political Islam, a good case can be made, is itself a perversion—the reformation in reverse. Calls for Shariah to become state law emerged only in the 20th century, as a result of Islam's encounter with the West. The Quran is politically agnostic and says nothing about the preferable form of government.

After the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928, political Islam grew out of the Arab world's experiments with Western-style nationalism and socialism. In his recent book "Islam Without Extremes," Turkish author Mustafa Akyol calls Islamists the "illegitimate sons" of the Muslim world's hardcore secularists. Like Marxists or Fascists, Islamists want to relegate "Islam to a collectivist 'system,' devoid of personal religiosity." From Mr. Akyol's religious perspective, for mere mortals to claim to establish rule by God is sacrilege.

The Muslim Brotherhood probably won't be easily dissuaded. If a future Egyptian or Libyan state is to be built in part on Quranic laws, however, it depends on which aspects of the Quran are chosen. Abdulkarim Soroush, an Iranian religious philosopher, proposes to selectively apply the Quran and Hadiths. This way, he says, Islam can be "humanized."

Mr. Soroush's prescriptions make him a notable Muslim Luther in waiting. After the Iranian revolution, he was Ayatollah Khomeini's leading propagandist and adviser. He broke with Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's current supreme leader, and now lives in suburban Washington, D.C., exile. His experience of the Islamic Republic inspired one of the most thorough critiques of what happens when Islam intrudes into political life. He says the clerics became the worst kind of rulers, feeling "a right and a duty" to impose tyranny. "Islamic democracy" isn't the goal, and it makes no more sense than "Islamic technology." What Muslim countries need, he says, is a "just and democratic Islam."

Imagine a society that respects religious invocations to dress or eat a certain way without imposing them. America is one; not France, whose state-dominated secularism was the model for so many Muslim leaders of the last century. The U.S. is the more religiously vibrant country. Mr. Soroush, who has a wide following in Iran, says that a mosque-state separation serves Islam best. "A religious society becomes more religious as it grows more free and freedom loving, as it trades diehard dogma with examined faith," he writes in his collection of essays, "Reason, Freedom and Democracy in Islam" (2000). "This is the spirit that breaks the tyrannical arm of religious despotism and breathes the soul of free faith in the body of power."

New Arab leaders will have enough headaches of government to occupy them for years. Islam will be just part, hopefully small, of the story of those who undertake democratic reform. Yet this may also be the best chance for another overdue experiment to reconcile Islam with modern politics. No faith that makes strong demands on its practitioners necessarily dooms itself to tyranny. As the former Polish dissident and writer Adam Michnik rather impishly says, "If Judaism can co-exist with democracy, any religion can."

23143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Super PAC boomerangs on: January 03, 2012, 04:52:07 PM

Here come the Presidential primaries, and right on schedule here come the campaign-finance scolds. The latest target of the folks who deplore the role of money in politics are so-called super PACs, or political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited funds as long as they don't coordinate with a candidate. What we really have here is another progressive reform boomerang.

In the common media wisdom, super PACs are a result of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling. This is said to have created a "loophole" that the super PACs have exploited to evade campaign-finance restrictions on the money that candidates can raise on their own.

The real loophole is the U.S. Constitution. The High Court merely restored the right of corporations and unions to exercise their First Amendment right to political speech, which includes the right to assemble to support candidates with money. Congress had illegally restricted that right with McCain-Feingold, which was the latest attempt to do the impossible and banish money from politics.

This is the history of the campaign-finance movement going back to Watergate and before that to the progressive era. Congress passes some limit on campaign fund-raising or spending, but the candidates and their supporters find a way around the law, often after the courts strike down one provision or another. Then the reformers say we need new laws to plug the holes their old laws failed to plug. Some people have wasted their lives playing this unconstitutional game of whack-a-mole.

The super PACs were inevitable as long as the politicians reacted to Citizens United by maintaining strict limits on donations to individual candidates. Under current law, a donor can give $2,500 for a primary and another $2,500 for the general election per candidate.

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 .The effect has been to reduce political competition by helping the well-heeled who can fund themselves, or the well-connected who can call upon networks of money men to bundle $5,000 contributions. A candidate who touches a populist nerve today can also compensate by tapping tens of thousands of small donors over the Internet. But it's easier to set up a super PAC that allows unlimited donations and spending.

The charade is that these PACs must be formally independent of candidates, even if everyone knows the candidates they are backing. The Restore Our Future super PAC has spent well north of $1 million in Iowa pounding Newt Gingrich on behalf of Mitt Romney. Yet when Mr. Gingrich faulted the ads, Mr. Romney was obliged to do a Sergeant Schultz of "Hogan's Heroes" act and claim he knew nothing about it—though Restore Our Future is run by former Romney aides who don't need to be told how they can help Mr. Romney.

Thus have the campaign-finance scolds also reduced political accountability. The candidates can deny responsibility for any attack ads while their super PAC allies savage their opponents. When candidates have to take responsibility for their advertising, they are likely to be more careful about the rhetoric and facts.

To his credit, Mr. Romney got to the heart of the matter when he told MSNBC that "We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these super PACs." If candidates could raise unlimited funds the way they once could, super PACs wouldn't be needed.

We also might get more and better candidates who are currently put off by the burden of raising money in $2,500 increments or less. To raise $10 million at $2,500 a pop requires 4,000 donors, if everyone gives the maximum. Assuming an improbable success rate of one donation for every two calls, that's 8,000 phone calls. Then multiply that by three because it's assumed that a competitive primary run requires upwards of $30 million or more. That's a lot of phone calls.

President Obama's campaign has boasted that it will have as much as $1 billion to spend this campaign year, and you can bet his super PACs will come out swinging at the GOP nominee as soon as that choice is clear. The Republican nominee had better have more than one super PAC spending on his behalf as early as March if he doesn't want to suffer the fate of Bob Dole in 1996 when Bill Clinton bludgeoned him unfairly on Medicare.

In our raucous, media-saturated democracy, candidates need to raise such sums to inform voters and break through mainstream media distortions. The campaign-finance obsessives want the corporations that run the New York Times, the Washington Post and NBC to be able to spend whatever they want to influence campaigns via their reporting and commentary, but they want to deny that same right to others. The next time you hear someone denounce super PACs, remember they are denouncing what their own misguided reforms made necessary.

23144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ's Strassel on Romney on: January 03, 2012, 04:04:33 PM
Clinton, Iowa

Voters aren't convinced by Mitt Romney. They're not certain of his convictions; they wonder if he is the leader for these times; they're not sold on his policies or his personality. Yet voters may be about to make the former Massachusetts governor the Republican nominee for the presidency. Mark this down as the triumph of strategy over inspiration.

As Iowans head to their caucuses Tuesday, Mr. Romney has come from behind to lead in the polls. A victory here—where he was once written off—followed by a coup in New Hampshire could well knit up the nomination. That outcome would be the result of a lot of luck, mistakes by his rivals, and a shrewd—and ruthless—campaign by Mr. Romney himself.

If there has been one threat to the governor, it has been the gaping opening for a candidate to his right. Mr. Romney is hardly an easy fit with the GOP base—from his past flip-flops on issues like abortion, to his weak tax proposals, to his concoction and defense of RomneyCare, the Massachusetts health plan that was the model for ObamaCare. The threat of President Obama and his determination to create an entitlement state, combined with the dismal economy, have voters eager for a bold conservative leader.

The Romney luck was that no such obvious reformer got into the race. Notable Republican governors—Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie—who could have run on executive experience and pro-growth track records took a pass. A younger, ideas generation—Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio—decided it was too soon for a run. This helped clear the field.

Not that the Republicans in the race were without resources. Each had the opportunity to unite a conservative coalition but fell from self-inflicted wounds. Tim Pawlenty—as a conservative governor from Minnesota and with his long planning for a presidential run—ought to have posed the greatest challenge. But his waffling on RomneyCare and his overemphasis on the Iowa straw poll (which he lost to Michele Bachmann) sucked the air out of his campaign. His bigger mistake may have been bowing to these defeats, misjudging the opportunity for a comeback in a muddled GOP field.

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Mitt Romney at a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Dec. 30.
.Rick Perry, also with a state success story to sell, entered the race at a near-perfect time. Yet he failed to do his homework and lost voter confidence with his bumbling debate performances. Ron Paul has inspired the limited-government crowd, even as his refusal to modulate his isolationist views has capped his potential.

Rick Santorum, he of dour countenance, chose a narrowly focused campaign, and until recently it had earned him only a narrow audience. He's now experiencing a surge on the back of evangelical support and a formidable ground organization, which might propel him to a strong Iowa finish. But his slow start, and subsequent poor fund raising, will hamper him in upcoming states.

Mrs. Bachmann made herself unpresidential. Herman Cain, 9-9-9 notwithstanding, forgot the rule about vetting one's own past. Jon Huntsman has failed to lead with his strong suit, namely a strong growth record in Utah.

The man who has lately posed the greatest threat to a Romney victory is the come-from-behind Newt Gingrich, whose snappy debate performances and policy insights touched a conservative chord. His pro-growth message has been a strong final argument but may not be enough to reverse weeks of damaging TV ads. The candidate was initially powerless to rebut the attacks, given his campaign's own major mistake—neglecting its fund raising and organizing.

Which gets us to Mr. Romney's campaign savvy. The governor lost the nomination in 2008 because of his lack of focus and a reputation for conveniently shifting message. Let's just say he learned something.

Throughout this campaign, he's resisted scattershot criticism of rivals, instead carefully pinpointing his biggest threats from the right and homing in on their biggest weaknesses. With Mr. Pawlenty, that job was relatively easy. Mr. Romney stepped back to allow the Minnesotan to implode, his restraint even earning him praise as "presidential."

A greater insight into the Romney machine came with Mr. Perry, whose threat resided in his broad credentials with a conservative audience. Mr. Romney's response was to target a relatively obscure liability—Mr. Perry's modest policy of letting young illegals pay in-state college tuition—and then to elevate it and tear it apart. Romney ads were brutal, comparing Mr. Perry to Barack Obama and Mexican President Vicente Fox on immigration, suggesting that the Texas governor would open the illegal floodgates. It proved a deal killer for many conservatives.

Next up was Mr. Gingrich, whose December surge, particularly among tea party voters, posed a late-game threat. Team Romney was quick to drill into its rival's "tons of baggage," including marital infidelity, the money he accepted from Freddie Mac and, again, the accusation that he supports "amnesty for illegal aliens." Between these and other attack ads, Mr. Gingrich's support was halved in little more than a week.

This is where four years of planning come in handy. Mr. Romney built a campaign war chest and a pro-Romney super PAC. The Romney campaign and the outside organization could spend millions on ads and mailers taking down rivals, allowing the candidate to remain above the fray and concentrate on his more positive message.

That message, by contrast to 2008, has been focused, unwavering, relentless. Mr. Romney has taken positions and stuck with them, even if it has meant defending the likes of RomneyCare. In Iowa, New Hampshire and everywhere else, voters have heard—again, and again, and again—the same two messages: He has the business and management experience to competently turn around the country, and he is the most electable against Mr. Obama.

That has seeped in, especially as voters must now make a selection—voters like 54-year-old Jane Lawler, who came to hear Mr. Romney speak at Homer's Deli here. Mrs. Lawler was leaning toward Mr. Gingrich, but her husband argued that the former House speaker "couldn't gather the troops and get it done." She now agrees. "In the end, I'm looking for someone who can beat Obama," and she notes the need for someone with Mr. Romney's "business acumen."

So while Mr. Romney may not excite them, while he may not be ideal, in light of the other candidate's problems, and given the election stakes, voters are buying his argument that he is, well . . . good enough. Which is why, barring a surprise, or a late entrant, Mr. Good Enough—through good fortune, dogged determination, and the skillful elimination of his rivals—may end up grabbing the conservative ring in this all-important election year.

Then the harder job starts. Mr. Obama may be hobbled by a poor economy and unpopular policies, but he is a first-order campaigner. He will energize his base, and his Republican opponent will have to do the same. It will not be enough for Mr. Romney to argue against Mr. Obama; he will have to inspire Republicans and independents to vote for his own vision.

Mr. Romney offers decent policies, and he's proven himself a hard worker, with growing campaign skills. The question is whether a victory in the primary will give him the confidence to break out, to take some risks, and to excite a nation that wants real change. In a presidential election, good enough might not be enough to win.

Ms. Strassel writes the Journal's Potomac Watch column.

23145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scheuer endorses RP on: January 03, 2012, 03:47:55 PM
23146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Proposed electoral rules on: January 03, 2012, 03:12:23 PM
TRIPOLI—Libya's electoral commission released for public debate a draft election law that will oversee the country's first post-Gadhafi vote this summer, sparking a vigorous national discussion on Monday in a country hungry for input into their democratic transition.

The 15-page proposed law to elect the National General Committee covers important issues such as a minimum voting age and the eligibility requirements for candidates for seats in what will be a 200-person legislative body primarily given the task of creating a new national constitution.

Poll Positioning
A draft election law excluding certain candidates is sparking controversy. Among groups excluded are Libyans who:

Hold positions in the national interim government, local municipal or military councils.
Worked in Moammar Gadhafi's security agencies or as political commissars in his regime.\
Benefited monetarily or received improper educational standing from the regime.
Didn't immediately support the popular revolution to topple Gadhafi.
Source: WSJ research
 .The draft law also promises a 10% quota of seats for women, suggesting the law's authors have responded to weeks of blistering public criticism that the country's interim governing authorities have neglected women's rights.

Yet the document doesn't tackle several issues that could cloud the election, namely the formula that will be used to divide the country into voting districts and apportion seats to those districts. It also doesn't include language to create political parties, which were forbidden under Moammar Gadhafi's rule.

The interim legislative authority, known as the National Transitional Council, hasn't made public the criteria it uses for choosing its own representatives, who act in the name of specific municipal areas, or the formula to choose the number of representatives from each city.

The 200-strong body formed after the national election will be in charge of writing a new constitution, overseeing a national referendum on the constitution and overseeing governmental affairs until a third vote will be held to elect a permanent government as outlined in the new constitution.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Libya's acting head of state and leader of the NTC, praised the experiment in public discourse as a first step toward a more transparent Libya.

"Everything is open for discussion," Mr. Abdul Jalil said in a news conference Monday evening in response to a question about the electoral process.

The proposed electoral law appears most ambitious—and controversial—in laying out more than 20 classes of people who will be prohibited to stand as candidates in the vote, which is likely to be held in June, according to NTC members.

Among those prohibited from running for office are officials who worked in Gadhafi-era security apparatus or the political committees known as the Revolutionary Committees, which made up a key part of his inner circle; those convicted of criminal offenses and Libyans who held the rank of ambassador or consul general during the dictator's reign.

Other categories are more ambiguous, prompting questions from legal experts about whether the wording and tone of the draft law would exacerbate social tensions between Libyans who actively fought for the revolution and many who stayed on the sidelines.

For example, one article prohibits candidates standing for office if they have benefited monetarily from the regime or received diplomas or university degrees "without merit," an apparent reference to government officials who may have used their positions of power to advance their or their children's careers.

"That criteria could be used against three-quarters of the country," said Massaoud El Kanuni, a Libyan lawyer specializing in constitutional law. "How are we going to follow a path of national reconciliation if so many people are excluded from [the country's] future?"

Hours after being posted online, the draft document went viral, as the Libyan Twittersphere and local bloggers—both of which have emerged as a vital part of the civil discourse in post-Gadhafi political landscape—digested what they see as an initial step on their road to democracy.

One of the most widely discussed issues online was the quota of women, as well as imprecise language that appears to stipulate that no Libyan with dual nationality could run for election.

Many expatriate Libyans who have played prominent roles in both fund raising and fighting for the revolutionary forces posted angry comments online about what they see as a perceived bias in the draft law against the thousands of citizens living abroad after they and their families were forced into exile as political dissidents.

"They start with the wrong foot by assigning only 20 seats for women out of a total of 200 seats and end with discriminating against Libyans with other nationalities," commented one person on Facebook.

Libyans have a two-week period to register their concerns and amendments with the electoral commission—a process that will also occur online via email—with the final law expected to be announced by Jan. 23, after the electoral committee takes a week to review comments.

23147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Over to you Baraq on: January 03, 2012, 03:09:58 PM
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's army chief on Tuesday warned an American aircraft carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf in Tehran's latest tough rhetoric over the strategic waterway, part of a feud with the U.S. over new sanctions that has sparked a jump in oil prices.

Gen. Ataollah Salehi spoke as a 10-day Iranian naval exercise ended near the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf. Iranian officials have said the drill aimed to show that Iran could close the vital oil passage, as it has threatened to do if the U.S. enacts strong new sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.

The strait, leading into the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea, is the only possible route for tankers transporting crude from the oil-rich states of the Persian Gulf to markets. A sixth of the world's oil exports passes through it every day.

 Iran threatens to take action if the U.S.Navy moves an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf after Tehran test fires long range missiles. Video: Reuters.
.Oil prices rose to over $101 a barrel Tuesday amid concerns that rising tensions between Western powers and Iran could lead to crude supply disruptions.

The jump came a day after Iran test-fired a surface-to-surface cruise missile as part of the maneuvers, prompting Iran's navy chief to coast that the strait is "completely under our control."

Gen. Salehi's warning for the U.S. aircraft carrier not to come back seemed aimed at further depicting the strait and the Gulf as under Iran's domination, though there was little way to enforce his warning without military action. The strait is divided between Iran and Oman's territorial waters, and international law requires them to allow free passage through it.

"We recommend to the American warship that passed through the Strait of Hormuz and went to Gulf of Oman not to return to the Persian Gulf," Gen. Salehi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

He said Iran's enemies have understood the message of the naval exercises, saying, "We have no plan to begin any irrational act but we are ready against any threat."

The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and another vessel exited the Gulf through the Hormuz Strait a week ago, after a visit to Dubai's Jebel Ali port, according to the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The Fleet did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Gen. Salehi's warning.

Pentagon press secretary George Little issued a written statement Tuesday saying that the U.S. Navy presence in the Gulf is in compliance with international law. And he said it is intended to maintain what he called a "constant state of high vigilance" in order to ensure the flow of sea commerce.

Iran's sabre-rattling over the strait and the Gulf has come in response to U.S. preparations to impose tough new sanctions that would ban dealings with Iran's Central Bank. That would deeply hurt Iran's oil exports since most countries and companies use the bank to conduct purchases of Iranian crude. Iran relies on oil revenues for around 80% of its budget, meaning a cut-off would be devastating to its already weakening economy.

President Barack Obama has signed the sanctions into law but has not yet enacted them. The sanctions would be the strongest yet by the U.S., aimed at forcing Tehran to back of its nuclear program, which many in the West say is intended to produce a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the claim, saying its program is peaceful.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said Tuesday that is country wants Europe to agree on similar sanctions against Iran by Jan. 30 to show its determination to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. He told the French television station i>TELE that there is "no doubt" that Iran is continuing with plans to build a bomb.

Iran's naval maneuvers took place over a 1,250-mile stretch of water beyond the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, as well as parts of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, according to Iranian officials.

A leading Iranian lawmaker said Sunday the maneuvers served as practice for closing the strait if the West enacts sanctions blocking Iranian oil sales. Top Iranian officials made the same threat last week.

23148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: January 03, 2012, 12:42:30 PM
"I believe it has been ruled out that changes in solar output are responsible for this one."

I have posted in this thread more than once over the last few years about the variations in solar flares/output being perhaps responsible in part or whole for what AGW folks are attributing to humans.   I am unaware of anything contrary to this.
23149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: 2012 predictions on: January 03, 2012, 12:19:50 PM
We Were Too Optimistic To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 1/3/2012
A year ago, we predicted 4% real GDP growth in 2011 and a 14,500 Dow by year-end. We were too optimistic.
Real GDP grew just 1.2% annualized during the first three quarters of 2011. This will climb to about 1.75% if the consensus forecast is right about Q4. The Dow finished the year at 12,218, well off its high for the year of 12,928.
This isn’t the first time we have missed a forecast, and it won’t be the last. And the good news is that our optimism actually paid off. Back in September, when the stock market had corrected by about 16% and conventional wisdom had completely bought into the idea of a double-dip recession, we held to our convictions. We begged investors to hold the line and maintain positions in stocks.
It worked. The economy avoided recession and accelerated, while the stock market had one of its best October’s ever. Those who hung in there did no worse than money market funds. Yes, already over-valued gold was up 10% for the year, while municipal and Treasury bonds had nice returns, but holding a diversified stock portfolio, especially of dividend paying stocks, did not hurt anyone.
So here we go again. For 2012, we are forecasting 3% real GDP growth and an 18% rise in broad stock market prices. We expect the Dow Jones Industrial Average to rise to 14,500, with the S&P 500 targeted for 1475.
All the reasons for our optimism are still in place. The Fed is accommodative. Government spending has peaked and is declining as a share of GDP. And the most important driver of growth – technology and productivity (Schumpeter’s creative destruction) – is robust and relevant.
We do not believe deleveraging is holding back the economy. The private sector is still paying down debt, but doing so more slowly than before. As a result, purchasing power can grow faster than income, not slower.   
We do not worry about consumer confidence. We do not subscribe to the view that the US is on the cusp of a collapse in the dollar and hyper-inflation. We don’t believe that there is a fundamental weakness in the economy.
The story isn’t complicated. When government tilts toward redistribution, the growth rate of potential GDP slows down. This hurts job creation. Big government always hurts economic performance. We should have more fully accounted for this in our forecast last year.
Some will ask: Then how can you forecast 3% growth in 2012? The answer is relatively simple. 1) The Fed is even more accommodative today than it was last year. 2) Government spending will be basically flat in 2012 for the third consecutive year. 3) Technology continues to advance. These developments mean the tailwinds are stronger at the same time the headwinds are diminishing.
That’s enough reason for us to maintain our optimism for the year ahead. Let’s try it again in 2012.

The ISM manufacturing index increased to 53.9 in December To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 1/3/2012
The ISM manufacturing index increased to 53.9 in December from 52.7 in November, beating the consensus expected gain to 53.5. (Levels higher than 50 signal expansion; levels below 50 signal contraction.)
The major measures of activity were mainly higher in December, and most remain well above 50. The production index gained to 59.9 from 56.6 and the new orders index rose to 57.6 from 56.7. The employment index also increased to 55.1 from 51.8, while the supplier deliveries index remained unchanged at 49.9.
The prices paid index increased to 47.5 in December from 45.0 in November.
Implications: Great reports again today on manufacturing and construction.  December data was stronger than expected and the manufacturing sector has now grown for 29 straight months.  And just in case you still think a double-dip is possible, the new orders index came in at a very strong 57.6 in December.  This was the third consecutive monthly increase, and suggests more growth in manufacturing ahead. The employment index was also a bright spot rising to 55.1, the highest level in 6 months.  This supports our forecast for a 175,000 gain in December private sector payrolls.  The one sub-index that remains weak is inventories.  The reluctance of manufacturers to accumulate inventories may hold back GDP in the short term, but we view this reluctance to build inventories as temporary.  On the inflation front, the prices paid index rose to 47.5 in December. A reading below 50 is a welcome sign, but we don’t expect it to last.  Monetary policy is very loose and, in effect, getting looser as the economy accelerates.  In other news this morning, construction increased 1.2% in November (1.1% including a slight downward revision for prior months).  The gain easily beat consensus expectations of 0.5% and was led by home building (both new homes and improvements) and government projects (power plants and bridges).  Commercial construction was unchanged in November.  Given favorable weather for much of the country in December, look for more good construction figures a month from now.
23150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SEAL Sniper in action on: January 02, 2012, 11:00:56 PM
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