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23151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: October 04, 2011, 08:21:54 PM
The Obama health-care plan passed 18 months ago, and its cynicism still manages to astonish. Witness the spectacle surrounding one of its flagship new entitlements, which is eliciting some remarkable concessions from its drafters.

The Health and Human Services Department recently shut down a government insurance program for long-term care, known by the acronym Class. HHS also released a statement claiming that reports that HHS is shutting down Class are "not accurate." All HHS did was suspend Class policy planning, told Senate Democrats to zero out Class funding for 2012, reassigned Class's career staffers to other projects and pink-slipped the program's chief actuary. Other than that, it's full-speed ahead.

HHS is denying what everyone knows to be true because everyone also knows that the Class entitlement was not merely created to crowd out private insurance for home health aides and the like. Class was added to the bill because it was among the budget gimmicks that Democrats needed to create the illusion that trillions of dollars of new spending would somehow reduce the deficit.

Benefits in the Class program, which was supposed to start up next year, are rigged by an unusual five-year vesting period. So the people who sign up begin paying premiums immediately—money that Democrats planned to spend immediately on other things, as if the back-loaded payments to Class beneficiaries would never come due. The $86 billion or so that would have built up between 2012 and 2021 with the five-year lead is supposed to help finance the rest of ObamaCare. The Class program would go broke sometime in the next decade, but that would be somebody else's problem.

 .Opponents warned about this during the reform debate, and people on HHS's lower rungs were telling their political superiors the same thing as early as mid-2009, according to emails that a joint House-Senate Republican investigation uncovered.

In one 2009 note, chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster—a martyr to fiscal honesty in the health-care debate—wrote that "Thirty-six years of actuarial experience lead me to believe that this program would collapse in short order and require significant Federal subsidies to continue." He suggested that Class would end in an "insurance death spiral" because the coverage would only be attractive to sicker people who will need costly services. It could only be solvent if 230 million Americans enrolled, which is more than the current U.S. workforce.

An HHS Office of Health Reform official, Meena Seshamani, rejected Mr. Foster's critique because "per CBO it is actuarially sound." But of course CBO only scores what is presented to it, no matter how unrealistic. Despite this false reassurance, later even one HHS political appointee took up Mr. Foster's alarms, writing that Class "seems like a recipe for disaster to me."

In February of this year, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finally admitted the obvious, testifying at a Congressional hearing that, gee whiz, Class is "totally unsustainable" as written. By then Class had become a political target of vulnerable Senate Democrats looking to shore up their fiscal bona fides, despite voting for it when they voted for ObamaCare.

Bowing to this political need, Mrs. Sebelius has repeatedly promised to use her administrative discretion to massage Class's finances until it is solvent. But given that the office doing that work has now been disbanded, this evidently proved impossible, as the critics claimed all along.

All of this would seem to make repealing Class an easy vote for Congress, but, this being Washington, it isn't. Since the CBO says Class's front-loaded collections cut the deficit to the tune of that $86 billion, HHS has to pretend that the program is still alive to preserve these phantom savings.

Some Republicans are also nervous about repealing Class because, under CBO's perverse scoring, they'll be adding $86 billion to the deficit. Others would prefer not to repeal any of ObamaCare until they repeal all of it, on grounds that some of it might survive if the worst parts go first.

So an unaffordable entitlement that will be a perpetual drain on taxpayers may continue to exist because of a make-believe budget gimmick that everyone now admits is bogus. Congress can't reduce real future liabilities because it would mean reducing fake current savings.

This is literally insane. It's rare to get a political opening to dismantle any entitlement, much less one as large as Class. House Republicans ought to vote to repeal it as soon as possible as an act of fiscal hygiene, forcing Senate Democrats to vote on it and President Obama to confront (even if he won't acknowledge) the fraud he signed into law.

23152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Contempt on: October 04, 2011, 08:18:10 PM

Nixon was tricky. Ford was clumsy. Carter was dour. Reagan was sunny. Bush 41 was prudent. Clinton felt your pain. Bush 43 was stubborn. And Barack Obama is . . .

Early in America's acquaintance with the man who would become the 44th president, the word that typically sprang from media lips to describe him was "cool."

Cool as a matter of fashion sense—"Who does he think he is, George Clooney?" burbled the blogger Wonkette in April 2008. Cool as a matter of political temperament—"Maybe after eight years of George W. Bush stubbornness, on the heels of eight years of Clinton emotiveness, we need to send out for ice," approved USA Today's Ruben Navarrette that October. Cool as a matter of upbringing—Indonesia, apparently, is "where Barack learned to be cool," according to a family friend quoted in a biography of his mother.

The Obama cool made for a reassuring contrast with his campaign's warm-and-fuzzy appeals to hope, change and being the ones we've been waiting for. But as the American writer Minna Antrim observed long ago, "between flattery and admiration there often flows a river of contempt." When it comes to Mr. Obama, boy does it ever.

We caught flashes of the contempt during the campaign. There were those small-town Midwesterners who, as he put it at a San Francisco fund-raiser, "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who are not like them." There were those racist Republicans who, as he put it at a Jacksonville fund-raiser, would campaign against him by asking, "Did I mention he's black?" There was the "you're likable enough, Hillary," line during a New Hampshire debate. But these were unscripted digressions and could be written off as such.

Enlarge Image

 .Only after Mr. Obama came to office did it start to become clear that contempt would be both a style and method of his governance. Take the "mess we have inherited" line, which became the administration's ring tone for its first two years.

"I have never seen anything like the mess we have inherited," said the late Richard Holbrooke—a man with memories of what Nixon inherited in Vietnam from Johnson—about Afghanistan in February 2009. "We are cleaning up something that is—quite simply—a mess," said the president the following month about Guantanamo. "Let's face it, we inherited a mess," said Valerie Jarrett about the economy in March 2010.

For presidential candidates to rail against incumbents from an opposing party is normal; for a president to rail for years against a predecessor of any party is crass—and something to which neither Reagan nor Lincoln, each of them inheritors of much bigger messes, stooped.

Then again, the contempt Mr. Obama felt for the Bush administration was merely of a piece with the broader ambit of his disdain. Examples? Here's a quick list:

The gratuitous return of the Churchill bust to Britain. The slam of the Boston police officer who arrested Henry Louis Gates. The high-profile rebuke of the members of the Supreme Court at his 2010 State of the Union speech. The diplomatic snubs, petty as well as serious, of Gordon Brown, Benjamin Netanyahu and Nicolas Sarkozy. The verbal assaults on Wall Street "fat cats" who "caused the problem" of "10% unemployment." The never-ending baiting of millionaires and billionaires and jet owners and everyone else who, as Black Entertainment Television's Robert Johnson memorably put it on Sunday, "tried rich and tried poor and like rich better."

Now we come to the last few days, in which Mr. Obama first admonished the Congressional Black Caucus to "stop complainin', stop grumblin', stop cryin'," and later told a Florida TV station that America was losing its competitive edge because it "had gotten a little soft." The first comment earned a rebuke from none other than Rep. Maxine Waters, while the second elicited instant comparisons to Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech. They tell us something about the president's political IQ. They tell us more about his world view.

What is it that Mr. Obama doesn't like about the United States—a country that sent him hurtling like an American Idol contestant from the obscurity of an Illinois Senate seat to the presidency in a mere four years?

I suspect it's the same thing that so many run-of-the-mill liberals dislike: Americans typically believe that happiness is an individual pursuit; we bridle at other people setting limits on what's "enough"; we enjoy wealth and want to keep as much of it as we can; we don't like trading in our own freedom for someone else's idea of virtue, much less a fabricated concept of the collective good.

When a good history of anti-Americanism is someday written, it will note that it's mainly a story of disenchantment—of the obdurate and sometimes vulgar reality of the country falling short of the lover's ideal. Listening to Mr. Obama, especially now as the country turns against him, one senses in him a similar disenchantment: America is lovable exactly in proportion to the love it gives him in return.

Hence his increasingly ill-concealed expressions of contempt. Hence the increasingly widespread counter-contempt.

23153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Al Shabaad claims bombing credit on: October 04, 2011, 08:15:24 PM

In the Somali capital of Mogadishu today a suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device, or VBIED, detonated in Mogadishu killing upwards of 100 bystanders. The Somali jihadist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for that VBIED.
The VBIED in Mogadishu detonated inside a government compound and the bystanders that became casualties of that attack were waiting in line to apply for university scholarships abroad. Now, that al Shabaab claimed responsibility for this attack is interesting. In August al Shabaab had to withdraw its forces from Mogadishu and the loose alliance that comprised al Shabaab withdrew to their respective home areas or strongholds.
Now in the case of the transnationalist faction of al Shabaab led by a couple of individuals — on the one hand there’s al-Afghani; on the other hand there’s Godane Abu Zubayr — they pulled their insurgent forces back to the southern city of Kismayo, but a withdraw of insurgent forces from Mogadishu does not mean the defeat of al Shabaab or does not mean that al Shabaab cannot carry out attacks in Mogadishu.
Mogadishu is a very large and spread out city — its resident population is estimated at 2 million — and it’s a very chaotic city under little control of the security forces present there. There are about 9,000 African Union peacekeepers and a few thousand Somali government soldiers in Mogadishu, but these approximately 12,000 forces cannot effectively patrol, let alone secure, Mogadishu.
Now al Shabaab. Within this loose alliance, there are elements that are fighting for nationalist agenda aims, fighting for turf in Somalia, fighting for political recognition or political patronage. There are other internationalist elements of al Shabaab — the Godane faction, the al-Afghani faction — that want to create in Somalia an extension of the broader al Qaeda area of operation. And these jihadist elements of al Shabaab interact and cooperate with al Qaeda elements found elsewhere.
The al Shabaab transnationalist faction still has the full capability of using small unit tactics to carry out terrorist operations in Mogadishu, and they have stated this full intent to do so, espousing jihadist rhetoric despite the pullback from Mogadishu, that they will continue their fight against the Somali government. And so we should expect full well that this faction of al Shabaab will continue terrorist tactics in Mogadishu and elsewhere in southern Somalia to demonstrate their livelihood and their intent to remain a vanguard Somali jihadist group.
23154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The heat is on heh heh heh on: October 04, 2011, 02:56:52 PM
Third post of day

EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans are calling for a special counsel to determine whether Attorney General Eric Holder perjured himself during his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Operation Fast and Furious, Fox News has learned.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, was sending a letter to President Obama on Tuesday arguing that Holder cannot investigate himself, and requesting the president instruct the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel.
The question is whether Holder committed perjury during a Judiciary Committee hearing on May 3. At the time, Holder indicated he was not familiar with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program known as Fast and Furious until about April 2011.

"I'm not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks," Holder testified.
However, a newly discovered memo dated July 2010 shows Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, told Holder that straw buyers in the Fast and Furious operation "are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to the Mexican drug trafficking cartels."
Other documents also indicate that Holder began receiving weekly briefings on the program from the National Drug Intelligence Center "beginning, at the latest, on July 5, 2010," Smith wrote.

"These updates mentioned, not only the name of the operation, but also specific details about guns being trafficked to Mexico," Smith wrote in the letter to Obama.

"Allegations that senior Justice Department officials may have intentionally misled members of Congress are extremely troubling and must be addressed by an independent and objective special counsel. I urge you to appoint a special counsel who will investigate these allegations as soon as possible," Smith wrote.
In response to the release of the memos, a Justice Department official said that the attorney general "has consistently said he became aware of the questionable tactics in early 2011 when ATF agents first raised them publicly, and then promptly asked the (inspector general) to investigate the matter."
The official added that in March 2011, Holder testified to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee of that development, and regularly receives hundreds of pages, none of which contained information on potential problems with Fast and Furious.

"The weekly reports (100 + pages) are provided to the office of the AG and (deputy attorney general) each week from approximately 24 offices and components. These are routine reports that provide general overviews and status updates on issues, policies, cases and investigations from offices and components across the country. None of these reports referenced the controversial tactics of that allowed guns to cross the border," the official said.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., "of all people, should be familiar with the difference between knowing about an investigation and being aware of questionable tactics employed in that investigation since documents provided to his committee show he was given a briefing that included the fast and furious operation in 2010 – a year before the controversy emerged," the official continued.

Issa told Fox News on Tuesday morning that Holder saying he didn't understand the question rather than he didn't know of the program is not a successful defense to perjury.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, added that months before Holder testified -- on Jan. 31 -- he came to Grassley's office, where Grassley gave him a letter detailing the investigation of Fast and Furious.

"If he read my letter, he knew on January 31," Grassley told Fox News. "He probably actually knew about it way back in the middle of last year or earlier.
Grassley said since he's not a lawyer he's not going to make a judgment on whether Holder committed perjury.

"But I can tell you this. They're doing everything they can, in a fast and furious way, to cover up all the evidence or stonewalling us. But here's the issue, if he didn't perjure himself and didn't know about it, the best way that they can help us, Congressman Issa and me, is to just issue all the documents that we ask for and those documents will prove one way or the other right or wrong."

FILE: Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill May 3 before a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.
23155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yuan on: October 04, 2011, 02:52:41 PM
Also see entries in today's China-US thread:


Section: General News - A renewed dispute is looming between Beijing and Washington about the competitive advantages in global trade that China enjoys thanks to its government's rigid control and valuation of its currency, the yuan, also known as the Renminbi [RMB].

In Washington, the U.S. Senate is threatening to legislate trade sanctions against China because of the issue.

By fixing its exchange rate for the yuan below the market value, Beijing keeps its exports cheaper for foreign consumers, providing Chinese manufacturers with a considerable competitive advantage in global trade.

The Economic Policy Institute in the United States reported last week that, since 2001, China's use of exchange rate controls has contributed to the loss of nearly 3 million American jobs.

Sense of entitlement

Arthur Kroeber is managing director of GK Dragonomics. He argues that China sees its undervalued currency and trade surplus as a right - and a key part of its national economic development.

There is no other demonstrated way to become a rich and powerful country other than, at your early stage, to promote exports. One of the tools to promote exports is to run an undervalued exchange rate," said Kroeber. "The Chinese take the view that, 'Everyone else who has gotten rich has used the same technique... we want to get rich; we have the same rights as everyone else.'

Because Beijing's economy depends heavily on exports, Janet de Silva, the dean of the Ivey Business School in Hong Kong, said it is difficult to predict how Beijing might liberalize currency.

If China were to move to full convertibility, the RMB would appreciate greatly, perhaps as much as 20 percent against the U.S. dollar, making Chinese exports less viable, said de Silva.

To level the playing field between U.S. and Chinese manufacturers, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this week that work will soon begin on a bipartisan bill that would make it easier for China to be labeled a currency manipulator and for trade sanctions to be imposed on Chinese goods.

Pros, cons of trade sanctions

Although many U.S. business groups oppose such legislation for fear of sparking a full-blown trade war with China, Diana Choyleva, of Lombard Street Research, understands the rationale for the bill.

Unfortunately, in the short-term, the U.S. faces a sharp downturn. So, in an election year... protectionist voices are on the rise again. You can imagine; the easiest entity to blame would be the foreigner. And, in this case the U.S. would be right, said Choyleva.

China disagrees that its exchange rate is contributing to American economic woes.

During the recent International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, Chinese officials have been keen to point out that the yuan has in fact been gradually appreciating for some time, and this week reached its highest rate since 2005.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei rejected that the exchange rate was affecting the trade balance between China and the United States. He said China hopes the United States will refrain from politicizing the exchange rate and trade issues.

China's aversion to liberalized yuan

Chinese officials have been reluctant to liberalize the yuan because it likely would reduce the competitiveness of Chinese exports and fuel job losses, which could lead to social unrest.

But keeping the yuan under tight government control also carries costs. It means China's currency is not internationally traded, so many global businesses continue to price goods and contracts in dollars.

Analyst Kroeber said Chinese concerns about the stability of the dollar are becoming a catalyst for Beijing to try to internationalize the use of the yuan.

He said that the goal of the Chinese leadership, 10 or 20 years from now, is to create an internationally accessible bond market large enough to make the Chinese yuan a reserve currency like the dollar.

What they've been trying to do is increase the use of renminbi for settling and invoicing trade. If you have concerns about the currency in which your trade is denominated, traditionally U.S. dollars, using your own currency is a good solution to that, said Kroeber.

Strategic use of 'dim sum' bonds

China still restricts foreign investors from broad participation in its economy, but is using Hong Kong as a gateway for investment through programs such as dim sum bonds. These are yuan-denominated debts sold in Hong Kong since 2009 and named after a tasty appetizer much loved in China.

Dim sum bonds are attractive to global brands, such as Tesco and BP, as well as Chinese companies interested in raising and investing money through bonds that have lower repayment rates than those denominated in U.S. currency.

Professor de Silva said foreign and domestic investors in the debt tolerate yields as low as 1.7 percent in the belief they will make more gains as the yuan continues to appreciate.

If we look over the past year, RMB appreciation to the U.S. dollar is around six percent. And, the forecast over the next five years is about four percent per year. So if you take the 1.7 percent yield, plus that four percent yield, it starts to look quite attractive, said de Silva.

Although investors may be banking that the yuan will rise in value, there are still serious doubts about whether a truly liberalized yuan will become a reality anytime soon. As the yuan develops into a more globalized and mature medium of exchange and store of value, Chinese leaders indicate that currency policy will continue on their terms, and not those of China's trading partners. - VOA

23156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Holder and the Marc Rich pardon on: October 04, 2011, 02:45:58 PM
A little trip down memory lane  evil
23157  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: October 04, 2011, 02:27:38 PM
"As an example, were these complaintants isolated female drivers stopped by the accused officer at night, or were they girlfriends of known gang members who were searched as part of an arrest of those gang members? (Often female gang associates are used to carry weapons, knowing they are less likely to be frisked by male officers) Knowing that would be important. Criminal groups will often complaint-bomb effective officers to take them out of service. Was that what happened here? There is not enough information in the article to make an informed judgement."

"You are a powerful and effective advocate who can relentlessly back up what he says with specifics-- a VERY rare quality"  grin 

I would offer that you remember that you have invested A LOT of living and a lot of time developing your thinking about these issues-- a lot more than most people.  Be gentle with them as you enlighten them/me  cheesy
23158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yuan on: October 04, 2011, 01:25:55 PM
Economics continues as not so strong link in Stratfor diagnostic chain

Rhetoric and Reality in U.S.-China Currency Tensions
The U.S. Senate voted Monday to advance a bill pressuring China to stop undervaluing its currency. This paves the way for the bill, titled the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011, to receive a final vote as soon as this week. A STRATFOR source said the bill may pass the Senate but likely will fail in the House of Representatives, despite the currency issue having some bipartisan support. This includes the support of a few Republican presidential candidates who, though normally against trade regulations, are tying China’s rising economic power to domestic unemployment and U.S. President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy.
“The U.S. domestic situation may be conducive to using the China issue for political gain.”
China always makes a good target for American officials seeking to demonstrate their worth in the political and foreign policy arenas or as a distraction from domestic economic issues that are not easy to resolve. As the U.S. electoral cycle gets into gear, the currency bill may serve as a gauge of potential interest in raising China’s economy as a campaign issue. The bill itself is not entirely new. Lawmakers have been accusing China of undervaluing the yuan and engaging in unfair trade practices for years, but these accusations often serve more as sounding boards for the campaigners or as ways to negotiate within Congress for other issues of interest. The current bill brings a few new elements to the table, but it still amounts to little more than a domestic political message linked to Obama’s jobs plan, rather than a serious attempt to change Chinese trade practices.
Beijing has embarked on a relatively steady appreciation of the yuan since shifting to a managed peg in 2010. This is still insufficient for many observers, but Chinese authorities have domestic reasons for wanting to avoid any rapid shift in the yuan’s value. The Obama administration is mostly satisfied with this slower pace of appreciation and has refrained from using levers available to pressure China for any more rapid adjustments.
However, the U.S. domestic situation may be conducive to using the China issue for political gain. When there is a tough economic problem at home that cannot be resolved easily or quickly, it is often politically expedient to blame a foreign power of unfair practices. The rhetoric alone can often serve as a rallying point for political support.
Whether the bill is a serious attempt to curtail trade or just a source of renewed rhetoric, China must still respond based on the potential implications rather than the likelihood of passage or action. This creates another minor bump in the already bumpy road of U.S.-Chinese relations. As China’s power increases, and its economy pushes Chinese interests farther from home, it is increasingly in competition with Washington. This is not aggressiveness per se, but the natural result of a large and emerging power moving into the sphere of an existing power. But the more China reaches, the more insecure it feels. This makes Beijing particularly sensitive to any perceived encirclement campaign or economic pressure by Washington.
Meanwhile, perhaps not coincidentally, as China’s economic influence expands, the United States is pursuing a policy of economic and political re-engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. Two elements of this re-engagement are the U.S. participation in the East Asia Summit, in which the United States will be participating for the first time as a full member, and the U.S.-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade zone designed to increase U.S. competitiveness in the Asia-Pacific region and tap into Asia’s continuing economic growth. These fit U.S. interests even in the absence of an expanding China, but from Beijing’s perspective, they are clearly aimed at containing and rolling back Chinese political and economic gains.
What concerns China most, however, is Washington’s growing commitment in disputes regarding the South China Sea, which is increasingly becoming the core security issue for the entire region. Obama will be touring Asia in November and will deliver a speech at the East Asia Summit. The speech could have an impact similar to that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010 at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum, which changed the regional dynamic regarding maritime disputes when Clinton said it was in the United States’ “national interest” to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Ultimately, Washington will want the summit to go beyond its normal energy- and economy-centered focus and address regional security issues, giving the United States a forum to counterbalance Beijing’s influence in that arena.
China is an easy target for U.S. politicians in rhetoric but far less so in the reality of regional competition. What bears watching is whether China reads moves such as the currency bill as rhetorical, and thus issues a measured response, or whether Beijing attaches more significance to the move and counters disproportionately. Beijing clearly wants a good domestic environment to pave the way for its own leadership transition in 2012. Depending upon domestic issues in China, particularly an economic slowdown and social stability concerns, Beijing could determine it beneficial to ratchet up tensions with the United States.

SHANGHAI—China's angry response to a U.S. Senate vote to move ahead with a bill to punish Beijing for keeping the value of its currency low reflects domestic pressures on the leadership to act tough, but is unlikely to result in any precipitous action, analysts and economists say.

China's reaction Tuesday to the 79-19 vote was swift and coordinated.

Money's Worth
U.S. Senate Moves to Punish China on Yuan
China Real Time: How to Value a Currency
.Journal Community
..The People's Bank of China cautioned in a statement that passage of the bill won't resolve U.S. domestic economic difficulties but could instead "seriously affect" China's continuing exchange-rate reform and even lead to a trade war. It said that with inflation factored in, the yuan has appreciated "greatly" and is close to a balanced level.

China's Foreign Ministry said the bill violates rules of the World Trade Organization, while the Ministry of Commerce described it as "unfair" and in violation of international practice.

Economists say they don't expect the angry words will translate into policy shifts or retaliation, at least not while the fate of the bill is up in the air. Even though the vote advanced in the Democrat-controlled Senate, it faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House.

"I don't think China will make any big move in response," said UBS economist Wang Tao, adding she believes there is only a small chance the bill will become law.

"China won't yield to the pressure from the U.S. or change its gradual approach to yuan exchange-rate reform," Ms. Wang said.

The Senate bill seeks to impose tariffs on exports from countries with undervalued currencies. Supporters of the bill complain that China's yuan is undervalued, making its products cheaper on world markets. They say a higher yuan would boost U.S. exports and create thousands of American jobs. Opponents say the measure would accomplish little besides infuriating China, and that the U.S.-Chinese relationship faces far bigger issues.

Senior Chinese officials have become increasingly forceful in their approach to the U.S. since the global recession, with many convinced that China is now in the ascendant and the U.S. is in permanent decline. Some feel China has the upper hand as the largest holder of U.S. debt—and the only major economy still growing rapidly.

Chinese leaders say the U.S. is to blame for plunging the world into crisis as a result of economic mismanagement, and resent moves that America has taken to boost its recovery, including buying bonds to hold down interest rates —so-called quantitative easing—which they argue is debasing the U.S. dollar and pumping up inflation in China and other emerging economies.

Pressure on the Chinese leadership also is coming from a nationalistic public outraged by continued U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and a more forceful U.S. diplomatic engagement with Southeast Asia, where several countries are in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Still, balanced against Chinese assertiveness is a strong desire by China's leaders to avoid upsetting the relationship with the U.S. ahead of 2012, when there will be presidential elections in America and a leadership transition in China. They need external stability to focus on delicate transition politics.

Chinese leaders also recognize that in a globalized economy, their own fate is closely linked to that of the U.S., and a trade war would likely be as damaging to China as the U.S.—perhaps even more so given China's greater reliance on exports.

But under the surface of harsh response to the Senate vote, Beijing left the door open for reconciliation, reiterating its long-standing pledge to continue exchange-rate reforms. That is likely a sign of lingering hopes that the Republican-controlled U.S. House will vote down the currency bill.

Indeed, both the Foreign Ministry and central bank also repeated Tuesday Beijing's standard rhetoric that China will continue to increase the yuan's flexibility over time.

There are indications Beijing has been trying to keep the yuan's appreciation intact despite mounting global economic uncertainties caused by the debt woes in Europe and slowing growth in the U.S. In the face of heavy yuan selling last week, triggered by risk aversion and concerns that the Chinese economy will have a hard landing, the central bank kept supporting the yuan's value by setting the currency higher through a daily reference exchange rate.

At 6.3859 yuan to the dollar ahead of China's week-long National Day holiday, the yuan was down 0.1% against the U.S. currency in September, but up 6.9% since June 2010, when China ended its currency's two-year peg to the dollar.

The Senate's vote appeared to have little notable impact on the yuan in the less restricted offshore Hong Kong market, where the currency mostly tracked its regional peers and remained more or less steady versus the dollar on Tuesday.

The Senate vote puts the White House in a delicate position. Like previous administrations, the Obama White House is wary of antagonizing Chinese leaders, whose cooperation it needs not just on economic issues but also on an array of national security matters. But criticizing China remains popular with the public, and many Democrats, including those from big industrial states, say China's currency policy is unfair to U.S. workers.

"They use the rules of free trade when it benefits them, and spurn the rules of free trade when it benefits them," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), a major sponsor of the bill. "For years and years and years, Americans have grimaced, shrugged their shoulders, but never done anything effective" to stop these policies.

Opponents of the bill say that instead of potentially sparking a trade war, the U.S. should face its own problems, such as the burgeoning federal budget deficit. "It's like we know what we've got to do but we won't do it," said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.). "It's like we've got to find a bogeyman."

Because House leaders are reluctant to bring up the bill, its future is uncertain. The House overwhelmingly passed a similar bill in September 2010, when Democrats controlled the chamber, but GOP leaders argue today that the new bill could have unintended consequences.

—Stefanie Qi and Andrew Browne contributed to this article.

23159  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: October 04, 2011, 12:31:56 PM

You are a powerful and effective advocate who can relentlessly back up what he says with specifics-- a VERY rare quality.

My larger point here is how the average good, well-intentioned citizen reading the morning paper that someone with SEVEN complaints of this nature was sent out with a badge and a gun might feel.  Not surprising that they might have a WTF? reaction.

Sometimes THIS is the person you are communicating with here on the forum.
23160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Patriot Post on: October 04, 2011, 12:27:44 PM
Fellow Patriot,
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23161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Precise solutions in an imprecise world on: October 04, 2011, 11:38:50 AM
By George Friedman
An important disconnect over the discussion of the  future of the European Union exists, one that divides into three parts. First, there is the question of whether the various plans put forward in Europe plausibly could result in success given the premises they are based on. Second, there is the question of whether the premises are realistic. And third, assuming they are realistic and the plans are in fact implemented, there is the question of whether they can save the European Union as it currently exists.
The plans all are financial solutions to a particular set of financial problems. But regardless of whether they are realistic in addressing the financial problem, the question of whether the financial issue really addresses the fundamental dilemma of Europe — which is political and geopolitical — remains.
STRATFOR has examined the plans for dealing with the financial crisis in Europe, and we find them technically plausible, even if they involve navigating something of a minefield. The eurozone’s bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, would be expanded in scope and reach until it can handle the bailout of a major state, the default of a minor state and a banking crisis of unprecedented proportions. Given assumptions of the magnitude of the problem and assuming general compliance with the plans, there is a chance that the solution we see the Germans moving toward could work.
The extraordinary complexity of the plans being floated in Europe is important to note. It is extremely difficult for us to understand the specifics, and we suspect the politicians proposing it are also less than clear on them. We have found that the more uncertain the solution, the more complex it is. And the complexity of the European situation is less driven by the complexity of the economics than by the complexity of the politics. The problem is relatively easy: Banks and countries under massive financial pressure almost certainly will default without extensive aid. By giving them money, default can be avoided. But the political complexity of giving them money and the opposition by many Europeans on all sides to this solution contributes to the complexity. The greater the complexity, the more interests can be satisfied and — ultimately — the less understanding there is about what has been promised. Some subjects require complexity, and this is one of them. The degree of complexity in this case tells another tale.
The Foundation of the Crisis
Part of that tale is about two dubious assumptions at the foundation of the crisis. The first is the assumption that interested parties are genuinely aware of the size of the financial problems, and to the extent they are aware of it, that they are being honest about it. Ever since 2008, the singular truth of the financial community globally has been that they were either unaware of the extent of the financial problems on the whole or unaware of the realities of their own institutions. An alternative explanation is, of course, willful ignorance. This translates as the leaders being fully aware of the magnitude of the problem but understating it to buy time or to position themselves personally for better outcomes. It could also simply be a case of their being engaged in helpless hopefulness — that is, they knew there was nothing they could do but remained hopeful that someone else would find a solution. In sum, it combined incompetence, willful deception and willful delusion.
Consider the charge that the Greeks falsified financial data. While undoubtedly true, it misses the point. The job of bankers is to analyze data from loan applicants and to uncover falsehoods. The charge against the Greeks can thus be extended to bankers. How could they not have discovered the Greek deception?
There are two answers. The first is that they didn’t want to. The global system of compensation among financial institutions — from home mortgages to the purchase of government bonds — separates the transaction from the outcome. In other words, in many cases bankers are not held responsible for the outcome of the loan and are paid for the acquisition and resale of the loan alone. They are therefore not particularly aggressive in assessing the quality of a given loan. Frequently, they work with borrowers to make their debt look more attractive.
During the U.S. subprime crisis, in the mortgage crisis in Central Europe and in the sovereign debt and banking crisis in Europe, the system placed a premium on transactions, immunizing bankers from the repayment of loans. The validity of the numbers systematically were skewed toward the most favorable case.
More important, such numbers — not only of the status of loans but also about the economic and social status of the debtors — inherently are uncertain. This is crucial because part of the proposed European solution is the imposition of austerity on debtor nation states. The specifics of that austerity and its effect on the ability to repay after austerity heavily depend on the validity of available economic and social statistics.
There is an interesting belief, at least in the advanced industrial countries, that government-issued statistics reflect reality. The idea is that the people who issued these statistics are civil servants, impervious to political pressure and therefore likely providing accurate data. A host of reasons exists for looking at national statistics with a jaundiced eye beyond the risk of politicians pressuring civil servants.
For one, collecting statistics on a society is a daunting task. Even small countries have millions of people. The national statistical database is based on the assumption that all of the transactions and productions of these millions can be measured accurately, or at least measured within some knowable range of error. This is an overwhelming undertaking.
The solution is not the actual counting of transactions — an impossible task — but the creation of statistical models that make assumptions based on various methodologies. There are competing models that provide different outcomes based on sampling procedures or mathematical models. Even without pressure from politicians, civil servants and their academic mentors have personal commitments to certain models.
The center of gravity of our global statistical system, particularly those of advanced industrial countries, is that the selection of statistical models is frequently subject to complex disputes of experts who vehemently disagree with one another. This is also a point where political pressure can be applied. Given the disagreements, the decision on which methodology to use — from sampling to reporting — is subject to political decisions because the experts are divided and as contentious as all human beings are on any subject they care about.
And this is the point at which outside decisions are made, based on outcome, not on the subtleties of mathematical modeling. There is a connection between the numbers and reality, but the mathematics of a bailout rests on a statistical base of sand. It is always assumed that this is the case in the developing world. This creates a certain advantage, in that it is understood that the statistics are unreliable. By contrast, the advanced industrial countries have the hubris to believe that complex mathematics has solved the problem of knowing what hundreds of millions of people in billions of transactions actually have done.
A Culture of Opaque States
Compounding this challenge, the European Union has incorporated societies on its periphery that never have accepted the principle that states must be transparent, a problem exacerbated by EU regulations. Southern and Central Europeans always have been less impressed by the state than Germans, for example. This is not simply about paying taxes but about a broader distrust of government, something deeply embedded in history. Meanwhile, regulations from Brussels, whose tax and employment laws make entrepreneurship and small business ownership extraordinarily difficult, have forced a good deal of the economy “off the books,” aka, underground.
While not an EU state, Moldova — said to be the poorest country in Europe — is an instructive example. When I visited it a year ago, the city (and villages outside the city) were filled with banks (from Societe Generale on down) and BMWs. There was clear poverty, but there also was a wealth and vibrancy not captured in intergovernmental statistics. The numbers spoke of grinding poverty; the streets spoke of a more complex reality.
What exactly is the state of the Greek, Spanish or Italian economy? That is hard to say. Official statistics that count the legal economy suffer from methodological uncertainty. Moreover, a good deal of the economy is not included in the numbers. One assessment says that 10 percent of all employees are off the books. Another says 40 percent of Greeks define themselves as self-employed. A third estimates that 40 percent of the total Greek economy is in the grey sector. When evaluating what tries to remain hidden, you’re reduced to guesswork. No one really knows, any more than anyone really knows how many illegal immigrants are participating in the U.S. economy. The difference, however, is that this knowledge is of profound importance to the entire EU bailout.
The level of indebtedness and the ownership of the debt of European banks and countries are as murky as who held asset-backed securities in the United States. Yet there is a precise plan designed to solve a problem that can’t be quantified or allocated. The complexity and precision of the plan fails to recognize the uncertainty because the governments and banks are loath to admit that they just aren’t certain. The banks have grown so big and their relationships so complex that the uncertainty principle parallels the state’s. The United States — where the same governing authority handles all fiscal, monetary and social policies — powered through such uncertainties in the 2008 financial crisis by sheer mass and speed. Europe, with dozens of (often competing) authorities, so far has found it impossible to exercise that option.
The countries that face default and austerity have no better understanding of their own internal reality than the financial institutions understand their own internal reality. Greek numbers on the consequences of austerity for government workers do not take into account that many of those workers show up to work only occasionally while working another job that is not taxed or known to the state statistical services. Thus, one has a complete split between the state and banking systems’ ability to honor debt obligations, the insistence on austerity and the social reality of the country.
Germany has always been different. Ever since the early 19th century German philosopher Georg Hegel declared the German civil service had ended history, the idea of the state as the embodiment of reason has meant something to Germans that it did not mean to others — in both a noble and a horrible sense. We are now at the noble end of the spectrum, but the idea that the state is the embodiment of reason still doesn’t capture the European reality. The Brussels bureaucracy is based on the German view that a disinterested civil servant can produce rational solutions that partisan politicians and self-interested citizens could not.
The founding concept of the European Union involves joining nations that do not share this view, and even find it bizarre, with a nation for which it is the cultural core. This has created the fundamental existential issue in the European Union.
The realization that the rational civil servants of Brussels and Berlin have failed to create systems that understand reality strikes at German self-perceptions. There is a willful urge to retain the perception that they understand what is going on. From the standpoint of Southern and Central Europe, the realization that the Germans genuinely thought that the states on the EU periphery had reached the level of precision of the German civil services (assuming Germany had in fact reached that stage), or that they even wanted to, is a shock. Their publics, which saw the European Union as a means of getting in on German prosperity without undergoing a massive social upheaval putting the state and the civil service — disciplined and rational — at the center of their society, experienced an even greater shock.
The political and geopolitical problem is simply this: Germany is unique in Europe in terms of both size and values. It tried to create a free trade zone based on German values allied with France that looked at the world in a much more complex way. The crisis we are seeing, which Germany is trying to solve with extraordinary complexity and precision, rests on a highly unstable base. First, the European banking system, like the American banking system, does not understand its status. Second, the entire mathematics of national statistics is inherently imprecise. Third, the peripheral countries of the European Union have economies that cannot be measured at all because their informal economies are massive. The fundamental principles and self-conception of Germany and Central Europe diverge massively. The elites of these countries might like to think of themselves as Europeans first — by the German definition — but the publics know they are not, and they don’t want to be.
The precision of the bailout schemes reveals the  underlying misunderstanding of reality by Europe’s elites, and specifically by the Germans. To be more precise, this is willful misunderstanding. They all know that their precision rests on a foundation of uncertainty. They are buying time hoping that prosperity will return, mooting all of these problems. But the problem is that a precise solution to a vastly uncertain problem is unlikely to return Europe to its happy past. Reality — or rather the fundamental unreality of Europe — has returned.
In some sense, this is no different from the United States and China. But the United States has its Constitution and the Civil War’s consequences to hold itself together in the face of this problem, and China has the Communist Party’s security apparatus to give it a shot. Europe, by contrast, has nothing to hold it together but the promise of prosperity and the myth of the rational civil servant — the cultural and political side of the underlying geopolitical problem.
23162  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: October 04, 2011, 10:22:08 AM
There's a report in today's Left Angeles Times that the same PD has sent back out on patrol an officer with seven groping complaints against him.  To the ordinary citizen reading his morning paper, this, in conjunction with the dead homeless guy charges against the officers, reads like maybe this is a department that doesn't really police its own.
23163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: October 04, 2011, 03:32:07 AM
That's very interesting and by all means pursue it, but IMO the question presented about Perry and "Niggerhead" remain.  I am quite surprised at how he is letting this story linger without a direct personal response from him.
23164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That fellow who engineered the Marc Rich pardon may need one of his own on: October 04, 2011, 12:03:04 AM
Gunwalker: Holder Appears To Be Fast, Furious, and Finished

News documents indicate that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder more than likely perjured himself in congressional testimony about Operation Fast and Furious earlier this year.

October 3, 2011 - 7:57 pm - by Bob Owens

News documents indicate that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder more than likely perjured himself in congressional testimony about Operation Fast and Furious earlier this year.

Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News and William LaJeunesse of Fox News have been the only mainstream media reporters diligently working on the most important scandal in White House history, and it is no surprise that they concurrently released information indicating that the attorney general, who claimed in direct testimony on May 3 of this year in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he first heard about Operation Fast and Furious “over the last few weeks,” had actually been briefed on the program in a memo by the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center almost a year earlier on July 5, 2010.

A copy of the heavily redacted weekly report posted by CBS News offers direct evidence that not only was the attorney general briefed on Operation Fast and Furious, but that he was briefed on it regularly and was well aware that the program was sending thousands of weapons into the hands of the Sinaloa cartel:

From July 12 through July 16, the National Drug Intelligence Center Document and Media Exploitation Team at the Phoenix Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCTDETF) Strike Force will support the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ Phoenix Field Division with its investigation of Manuel Celis-Acosta as part of OCDETF Operation Fast and Furious. This investigation, initiated in September 2009 in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Phoenix Police Department, involves a Phoenix-based firearms trafficking ring headed by Manual Celis-Acosta. Celis-Acosta and [redacted] straw purchasers are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels. They also have direct ties to the Sinaloa Cartel which is suspected of providing $1 million for the purchase of firearms in the greater Phoenix area.
That excerpt stated what the task force would do in the near future, while the same language was used later in the report to show what the task force had done that week:

From July 6 through July 9, the National Drug Intelligence Center Document and Media Exploitation Team at the Phoenix Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCTDETF) Strike Force will support the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ Phoenix Field Division with its investigation of Manuel Celis-Acosta as part of OCDETF Operation Fast and Furious. This investigation, initiated in September 2009 in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Phoenix Police Department, involves a Phoenix-based firearms trafficking ring headed by Manual Celis-Acosta. Celis-Acosta and [redacted] straw purchasers are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels. They also have direct ties to the Sinaloa Cartel which is suspected of providing $1 million for the purchase of firearms in the greater Phoenix area.
Attorney General Holder’s eventual criminal defense attorney is certain to state that the attorney general is provided with dozens of reports each week, and that is within the realm of reasonable doubt that he simply overlooked or did not remember the specifics of this memo.

Prosecutors would likely cast doubt on such a claim, citing the fact that the report was named Operation Fast and Furious, that it referred to the number of guns walked by the program at that time (1,500), and that it even noted how much they thought the Sinaloa cartel had budgeted for weapons ($1 million). They will then note that this information was cited twice in each weekly report for both current and future operations.

The prosecutors will more than likely be able to state with a great degree of certainly that Holder was provided this information in x number of weekly reports spanning y number of months in a report that only cites the most important National Drug Intelligence Center cases.

It will be very interesting to see if the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has the ability or interest to imprison a sitting attorney general for contempt of Congress, which would in and of itself bring up a question of separation of powers, as it would require Congress having the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia attempting to arrest and imprison a member of the executive branch. This is more than likely a moot point, however, as Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa expressed in a conference call with new media representatives that he would call for the appointment of an independent special prosecutor, who would be given the power to pursue criminal charges that carry a much longer prison sentence than the maximum one year that Congress may impose for contempt.

Another communication acquired by Attkisson and LaJeunesse shows a series of emails between two Department of Justice officials, Jason Weinstein, deputy assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division, and Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit James Trusty.

The two men discuss Operation Fast and Furious in conjunction with another gun-walking operation based in Tucson (OFF was in Phoenix) and a third, unnamed gun-walking operation.

Trusty wrote to Weinstein:

Looks like we’ll be able to unseal the tucson case sooner than Fast and Furious (although this may be the difference between Nov and Dec). It’s not clear how much we’re invlvoed in the main F and F case, but we have Tucson and now a new, related case with [redacted] targets. It’s not going to be any big surprise that a bunch of US guns are being used in MX, so I’m not sure how much grief we get for “gun walking.” It may be more like, “Finally, they’re going after people who sent guns down there.”
The Trusty email confirms that senior Department of Justice officials were aware of not just Operation Fast and Furious, but that Operation Fast and Furious was a gun-walking operation; Trusty used that exact phrase. The news of the Tucson operation is the second confirmation of that gun-walking operation (Operation Wide Receiver), which was first revealed in a Friday afternoon document dump by the White House.

There is scant reference to the third operation, and it is unclear if this is another Arizona-based case or one of the Texas-based gun-walking operations that was also mentioned in passing in the O’Reilly email released Friday as “last year’s TX effort.”

In the flurry of documents released in the past several days, top officials of the Department of Justice are confirmed talking about at least three and as many as four gun-walking operations, dramatically raising the probability that gun-walking was known throughout the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and State, as well as the White House.

These documents seem to convincingly argue that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder knowingly perjured himself in congressional testimony. As Holder knew, it is likely that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, whose agents were also part of the task force, received similar weekly reports from either her direct reports or U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, a close personal confidant who was her chief of staff while she was Arizona’s governor and who was appointed U.S. attorney through Napolitano’s influence. State should have been informed as they would have to waive what are clear violations of the Arms Export Control Act, but there is not any evidence yet that Secretary of State Clinton was involved in the operations.

It is starting to appear that Eric Holder might soon find himself thrown under the proverbial bus. It now seems only a matter of time before we discover who was driving a bus that seems destined for the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas.
23165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck: Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities on: October 03, 2011, 07:02:22 PM
Declaration of Rights & Responsibilities
As the American Declaration of Independence clearly states, when in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to band together and collectively declare their rights and responsibilities to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle and bind them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should disclose the causes which impel them to such.

Therefore let us declare that we still hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But with those rights come responsibilities.
In order to continually experience life, liberty and happiness as promised, nature’s God demands obedience to His law to protect those rights. This is where we have fallen short and therefore, in order not to lose the blessings of freedom, the people of the world must turn from the sole focus on rights, and recognize the inherent and required responsibilities that we have.

Among the responsibilities to which we must adhere to maintain our God given rights are honor, courage and vigilance.
Over time, we believe that these basic human responsibilities have been trampled, and replaced with degradation, fear and apathy.

But when a long train of abuses of the people and conscience by the media and by other segments of society, pursuing the same path of reducing them to ridicule, scorn and even sub-human status, it is their right, it is their DUTY, to peacefully, but vehemently take a stand.

AdvertisementMen want to be king, and the more we concentrate on our rights and the more we are told not to worry about our responsibilities, the more we lose our rights.

Just as physics show, for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. The time has come to declare that at least for the western world human rights are generally accepted and moving in the right direction however a new movement is required a movement of human responsibility.

The media, politicians and large institutions both academic and political have been lying to us, and we must demand the truth be told.

With that demand, comes the responsibility that we tell the truth first, in ourselves. Too many of us delegate our responsibility to the media…and too many believe there is no personal responsibility at all.

Political correctness has polluted our language and clouds our every discussion.

What was once accepted as good and right, is now considered bad and evil, and that which was bad and evil is now presented to the world as good and decent.

Opposing thoughts or opinions are referred to as crazy, insane, non-factual and utterly without merit. Furthermore, we are told, they should not even be heard.

Now, the time has come to take a stand by exhibiting the traits – honor, courage and vigilance.

What is honor? It is being honest in all of our dealings. It is showing loyalty and fairness, and being a beacon of integrity in all our beliefs and actions. It is showing respect for others.

Ruth honored Naomi when she told her that she would not leave her. That she would go wherever Naomi went, that she would live where Naomi lived and die where Naomi died. Her God would be Naomi’s God.

Courage is the ability to face danger, criticism or scorn – not without fear, but while overcoming fear to deal with that which comes our way.

When no one else in the Kingdom wanted to face the mighty giant, Goliath, young David was willing. David must have felt fear at the sight of his foe, but overcame it, and courageously vanquished his enemy.

Vigilance is being watchful for all forms of treachery and tyranny, lies and deceit. The person in the watchtower, waiting all night, suddenly sounding the alarm that the enemy is coming. The careful observer of the markets and economies who proclaims to the world, all is not well, there is trouble ahead and the outspoken critic of the powerful, going against societies’ grain, warning that all is not as we’re being told. These are the vigilant.

We implore all people to stand with these characteristics – honor, courage and vigilance.

To that end, we must restore honor in our own lives. Seek after the truth. Declare right now, that no longer will we simply accept what is told us by the media or anyone else.

The media has the responsibility to tell the truth, we have the responsibility to learn it.

Stand with courage, even if it means the end of our jobs, the end of our positions in life…or even the end of our very lives.
We must have the courage to be peaceful, while recognizing the courage to defend and respond to threats and/or attacks when necessary.

Turn the other cheek when possible.

We must be vigilant. We must think the unthinkable. The holocaust occurred because no one could imagine it, but evil never sleeps, and neither must we.

As Edmund Burke said, “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” We must DO something. Stand watch. Speak up. Become involved.

Thus, we the people do hereby declare not only our rights, but do now establish this bill of responsibilities.

1. Because I have the right to choose, I recognize that I am accountable to God and have the responsibility to keep the 10 commandments in my own life.

2. Because I have the right to worship as I choose, I have the responsibility to honor the right of others to worship as they see fit.

3. Because I have freedom of speech, I have the responsibility to defend the speech of others, even if I strongly disagree with what they’re saying.

4. Because I have the right to pursue happiness, I have the responsibility to show humility and express gratitude for all the blessings I enjoy and the rights I’ve been given.

5. Because I have the right to honest and good government I will seek out honest and just representatives when possible. If I cannot find one then I accept the responsibility to take that place.

6. Because I have the God given right to liberty, I have the personal responsibility to have the courage to defend others to be secure in their persons, lives and property.

7. Because I have the right to equal justice, I will stand for those who are wrongly accused or unjustly blamed.

8. Because I have the right to knowledge, I will be accountable for myself and my children’s education…to live our lives in such a way that insures the continuation of truth.

9. Because I have the right to pursue my dreams and keep the fruits of my labor, I have the responsibility to feed, protect and shelter my family, the less fortunate, the fatherless, the old and infirm.

10. Because I have a right to the truth, I will not bear false witness nor will I stand idly by as others do.

Unconditionally, while maintaining my responsibility to compassionately yet fiercely stand against those things that decay the natural rights of all men. And for the support of this declaration, and with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence we mutually pledge to each other our lives, fortunes and sacred honor.

23166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 11 minutes with Cain fielding thoughtful questions. on: October 03, 2011, 03:47:16 PM!
23167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Market disagrees today with Wesbury on: October 03, 2011, 03:27:16 PM

The ISM manufacturing index rose to 51.6 in September To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 10/3/2011
The ISM manufacturing index rose to 51.6 in September from 50.6 in August, easily beating the consensus expected decline to 50.5. (Levels higher than 50 signal expansion; levels below 50 signal contraction.)
The major measures of activity were mostly higher in September. The production index rose to 51.2 from 48.6 and the employment index increased to 53.8 from 51.8.  The new orders index was unchanged at 49.6 and the supplier deliveries index rose to 51.4 from 50.6.
The prices paid index rose to 56.0 in September from 55.5 in August.
Implications: Today’s reports on manufacturing and construction show absolutely no sign of recession. Not only did the ISM manufacturing index beat consensus expectations, but it climbed to its highest level in three months.  The September index reading of 51.6 shows that growth in the manufacturing sector is accelerating, not declining.  An index level of 51.6 correlates with 3.2% real GDP growth according to the Institute for Supply Management, which publishes the report.  Given recent market volatility and fears of potential defaults in Europe, many regional manufacturing surveys have been beaten down.  But like today’s ISM report (and Friday’s Chicago PMI), we expect these manufacturing surveys to bounce back, as they often reflect sentiment rather than real business activity during times of uncertainty.  In other news this morning, construction spending increased 1.4% in August, easily beating consensus expectations of a 0.2% decline.  Including revisions to prior months, construction spending was up 1.2%.  The largest gain in August came from state and local construction, particularly high schools and bridges.  Home building rose due to both single-family construction and home improvements.  A gain in commercial construction was led by power plants.
23168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Panetta blames Israel on: October 03, 2011, 03:23:02 PM
23169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Koreans upping their game on: October 03, 2011, 03:21:25 PM

We have seen a lot of activity in the South China Sea with questions of Chinese expansionism, responses by other countries and tensions building that region. We have seen the Japanese, the Indians, the Vietnamese getting strongly involved. But it is not just in the South China Sea that we are seeing maritime activity in the Asia-Pacific. The South Koreans right now are looking at two new projects— a new naval base on Ulleung island, just west of the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima island, and a new base on the large southern island of Jeju, which would give the South Korean navy much more rapid and greater access to the South China Sea and beyond.
The two bases in some ways are very different. The base on Ulleung-do is focused on rapid reaction to get South Korean naval vessels to the disputed Dokdo islets. This is a dispute between Japan and South Korea that has been going on for quite a while but ultimately is not a very strategic dispute, it is more of a public relations issue. The Jeju base, however, would be a very large facility. This is a facility that would be able to host Aegis destroyers, it would be able to host aircraft carriers. This really is where we see the major expansion potentially taking place for the South Korean navy.
We have been watching an evolution in South Korean military development for the past decade or so. One of the things in particular is the decision by the South Koreans to create, if not an independent military force that is non-reliant upon the U.S., at least a force that is strong, that is capable and that focuses on issues of importance to the Korean strategic interest rather than necessarily just retaining themselves as a force designed to back up or support U.S. interests in the region and the U.S. protection of South Korea from North Korea.
The naval expansions we have seen in South Korea have been a big part of this. South Korea is a major trading nation. South Korea is about twelfth largest economy in the world. A lot of that is based on trade, a lot of that is based on access to resources, access to markets, and therefore ultimately South Korea feels somewhat vulnerable in its supply lines and in finding a way to ensure that it has the ability to secure its resource acquisitions and its overseas operations.
The South Koreans are certainly not carrying out this expansion in isolation. They do have an eye on what is going on around them. They have noticed the big changes in the Chinese navy and the more assertive nature of Chinese maritime security interests. They have watched the Japanese who very quietly have been developing a pace within the region and remain, aside from the United States, probably the single strongest navy in the Asia-Pacific region. And they are looking in general at an area that is growing more tense, is growing somewhat more contested and that has become a lot more active both for exploration of potential undersea resources but also in the sense of nationalistic defense of claims territories.
In the short term, certainly on the issue of the base on Ulleung Island, this has the potential to continue to rankle relations with Japan. But those are largely manageable relations, it is really the naval base in Jeju that seems to be the most significant. This puts the South Korean navy probably more active within the South China Sea, maybe even onto the Indian Ocean as they look particularly at the energy supply lines. But it also puts them in a place where in the South China Sea, which is ultimately a very small place, a very cramped place, it is an area that we are seeing a lot of maritime activity, we are seeing a lot of ships in the area, we are seeing a lot of aircraft in the area, we are seeing a lot of countries that are really trying to push their interest or their claims of ownership. And having this much activity in that area really leaves it open to not only the possibility but perhaps the likelihood of some unintentional conflicts in the not-too-distant future.
23170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / politics of 999 on: October 03, 2011, 11:34:30 AM
second post of day


WASHINGTON—Herman Cain's tax-overhaul plan is helping fuel a boomlet in the polls, but conservatives are divided over its proposed national sales tax while liberals worry that his proposal would penalize lower earners.

The Republican presidential candidate wants to scrap the current system—with its income-tax rates as high as 35% for individuals and corporations—and replace it with a system that combines a 9% personal flat tax, a 9% corporate flat tax and a 9% national sales tax.

The plan would eliminate the estate tax as well as current taxes on investment income, in an effort to boost investment and the economy. The Cain plan also would eliminate the payroll tax that hits many working-class Americans hard, and instead fund entitlement programs such as Social Security from the new revenue structure.

The longtime corporate executive also would largely curb the special income-tax deductions and credits that help many people of all income levels, as well as many businesses, substantially reduce their tax bills.

Some tea-party activists say the plan was a factor in Mr. Cain's recent lopsided victory in a Florida presidential straw poll, and reflects his penchant for bold ideas.

 WSJ's John McKinnon looks at Herman Cain, despite winning Florida's presidential straw poll, is having difficulty lining up conservative support for his economic plan. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
."This would be turning our tax system on its head, starting all over again," said Pam Wohlschlegel, director of the Palm Beach County Tea Party. "And a lot of people are ready to do that." She thinks the plan would make it harder to duck taxes, thus boosting collections.

Some conservatives also cheered the plan's effort to make the U.S. system more consumption-based by taxing sales. That could make the system more business-friendly, they believe, boosting economic growth and adding to government revenue.

"From what I've seen, it's the best plan in the Republican field right now," said Kevin Hassett, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a former adviser to Sen. John McCain. "We could easily expect an extra percent or so in [economic] growth from a plan like this."

There have been few expert appraisals of Mr. Cain's proposal. One conservative tax expert, Gary Robbins, said it would produce the same amount of revenue as the current system, and possibly 15% more.

But some conservatives worry that it is risky to institute a consumption tax while the federal income tax remains in place, because the government could slap taxpayers with both.

"If it was being introduced tomorrow, I'd have concerns about having both on the books at the same time, and would be screaming bloody murder," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group. But for now, he views Mr. Cain's plan as the beginning of a broader conversation about tax policy.

Retailers likely would fight a big federal sales tax, known as a consumption tax, out of concern that it could slow consumer spending. "We think this is going to hurt demand and is not going to be good for our industry," said Rachelle Bernstein, vice president of the National Retail Federation.

Liberals, meanwhile, worry that the sales tax would wind up shifting more of the tax burden to middle-class and working-class Americans. "It would be the biggest tax shift from the wealthy to the middle-class in the history of taxation, ever, anywhere, and it would bankrupt the country," said Michael Ettlinger, vice president for economic policy at the Center for American Progress, a think tank.

Mr. Cain's camp says the concerns are generally overblown. Rich Lowrie, a senior economic adviser to Mr. Cain, acknowledged the risk of adding a new tax while the old one remains in place. But he noted that the Cain camp views the plan as a transition to a pure national sales tax system. At least the 9-9-9 system would put all taxpayers on the same side when it comes to raising rates, he said.

By contrast, the current system tends to pit higher-income earners—who pay the majority of income taxes—against lower-income earners, who often escape the income tax but sometimes pay a large share of their income in payroll taxes.

"What we do structurally is get all taxpayers on the same side of the rope pulling together" against higher rates, Mr. Lowrie said. "Now [politicians] can't pit half of the country against the other half."

As for progressives' concerns, the plan likely would include a provision to shield people below the poverty level from its tax on purchases.

The plan combines features of various tax plans that appeal to conservatives, including the flat-rate income tax and the FairTax, a kind of national sales tax. The plan's ultimate aim would be to move to the FairTax and scrap income tax altogether. Mr. Cain is a longtime supporter of the FairTax.

23171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rick "N-head" Perry on: October 03, 2011, 11:12:29 AM
Reports of Perry-- while governor yet!- leasing a hunting camp called "Niggerhead" are, and should be in my opinion, the final nail in the coffin of the Perry candidacy.

a) Decent human beings simply refuse to associate with the word.  Period.
b) The lack of political judgment displayed by Perry in this matter is simply astounding.
c) It is hard to think of a better way to confirm in the popular mind the hoary slanders of the Left, their running dog Pravdas, and the chattering class about the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement as being racist.
d) Imagine what Baraq and his minions will be doing with this.

23172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 03, 2011, 09:27:01 AM
Exactly so.

And here we have the disappearance of the discipline imposed on both spending and monetization!

This is not good.  How are ordinary people to protect themselves from this war on savings and money itself?
23173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Everybody knows who I am on: October 03, 2011, 09:22:20 AM
Obama goes in to Bank of America

President Obama walks into the Bank of America to cash a check. As he
approaches the cashier he says "Good morning Ma'am, could you please
cash this check for me"?

Cashier: "It would be my pleasure sir. Could you please show me your ID?"

Obama: "Truthfully, I did not bring my ID with me as I didn't think
there was any need to. I am President Barack Obama, the President of
the United States of America!"

Cashier: "Yes sir, I know who you are, but with all the regulations,
monitoring, of the banks because of imposters and forgers, etc I must
insist on seeing ID."

Obama: "Just ask anyone here at the bank who I am and they will tell
you. Everybody knows who I am."

Cashier: "I am sorry Mr. President but these are the bank rules and I
must follow them."

Obama: "I am urging you please to cash this check."

Cashier: "Look Mr. President this is what we can do: One day Tiger
Woods came into the bank without ID. To prove he was Tiger Woods he
pulled out his putting iron and made a beautiful shot across the bank
into a cup. With that shot we knew him to be Tiger Woods and cashed
his check. Another time, Andre Agassi came in without ID. He pulled
out his tennis racquet and made a fabulous shot whereby the tennis
ball landed in my cup. With that spectacular shot we cashed his check.

So, Mr. President, what can you do to prove that it is you, and only
you, as the President of the United States?"

Obama stood there thinking, and thinking and finally says: "Honestly,
there is nothing that comes to my mind. I can't think of a single
thing I can do."

Cashier: "Will that be large or small bills, Mr. President?"
23174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is Cain a contender? on: October 03, 2011, 09:20:26 AM
23175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: October 02, 2011, 11:08:06 PM
That sounds fair to me.

BTW he was also on FOX's Chris  wuzzhisname Williams? today too.  I thought he handled himself very well.
23176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CAIN on TARP on: October 02, 2011, 03:17:56 PM
23177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Truman--We may not see his like again on: October 02, 2011, 02:16:13 PM
Sorry, no citation for this one:

 Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many, or more important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 42 Presidents preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.
When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service following them. When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale.."

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don 't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise." As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food. Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale. (sic. Illinois )

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!
23178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: October 02, 2011, 12:20:12 PM
third post of day:

White House sends Hill Fast & Furious docs, but withholds some

The White House sent another installment of documents to Congress on Friday detailing White House staffers' knowledge about the controversial "Operation Fast & Furious" gunrunning probe run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.

However, the chief counsel to President Barack Obama, Kathryn Ruemmler, indicated that the White House was withholding an unspecified number of internal e-mails exchanged among three National Security Staff aides.

"These internal NSS emails are not included in the enclosed documents because the [Executive Office of the President] has significant confidentiality interests in its internal communications," Ruemmler wrote in a letter to House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The letter, posted here, was obtained Friday by POLITICO.

The latest batch of 102 pages of records partially duplicated information previously sent to Congress and didn't appear to include any smoking guns showing that White House officials were aware that the operation involved allowing hundreds or thousands of guns to flow essentially unimpeded from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels.

"As today's production makes clear, none of the communications between ATF and the White House revealed the investigative law enforcement tactics at issue in your inquiry, let alone any decision to let guns 'walk,'" Ruemmler wrote in response to a letter to Issa and Grassley sent to National Security Adviser Tom Donilon earlier this month.
(Sure... And we're supposed to believe that's also the case with that "unspecified number of internal e-mails" the White House chose to withhold from Congress - you know, due to "significant confidentiality interests", or something. Right.)
New Fast and Furious docs released by White House

WASHINGTON - Late Friday, the White House turned over new documents in the Congressional investigation into the ATF "Fast and Furious" gunwalking scandal.

The documents show extensive communications between then-ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office Bill Newell - who led Fast and Furious - and then-White House National Security Staffer Kevin O'Reilly. Emails indicate the two also spoke on the phone. Such detailed, direct communications between a local ATF manager in Phoenix and a White House national security staffer has raised interest among Congressional investigators looking into Fast and Furious. Newell has said he and O'Reilly are long time friends.

ATF agents say that in Fast and Furious, their agency allowed thousands of assault rifles and other weapons to be sold to suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels. At least two of the guns turned up at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.

ATF Manager says he shared Fast and Furious with the White House

The email exchanges span a little over a month last summer. They discuss ATF's gun trafficking efforts along the border including the controversial Fast and Furious case, though not by name. The emails to and from O'Reilly indicate more than just a passing interest in the Phoenix office's gun trafficking cases. They do not mention specific tactics such as "letting guns walk."

A lawyer for the White House wrote Congressional investigators: "none of the communications between ATF and the White House revealed the investigative law enforcement tactics at issue in your inquiry, let alone any decision to allow guns to 'walk.'"

Among the documents produced: an email in which ATF's Newell sent the White House's O'Reilly an "arrow chart reflecting the ultimate destination of firearms we intercepted and/or where the guns ended up." The chart shows arrows leading from Arizona to destinations all over Mexico.

In response, O'Reilly wrote on Sept. 3, 2010 "The arrow chart is really interesting - and - no surprise - implies at least that different (Drug Trafficking Organizations) in Mexico have very different and geographically distinct networks in the US for acquiring guns. Did last year's TX effort develop a similar graphic?"

The White House counsel who produced the documents stated that some records were not included because of "significant confidentiality interests."

Also included are email photographs including images of a .50 caliber rifle that Newell tells O'Reilly "was purchased in Tucson, Arizona (part of another OCDTF case)." OCDTF is a joint task force that operates under the Department of Justice and includes the US Attorneys, ATF, DEA, FBI, ICE and IRS. Fast and Furious was an OCDTF case. An administration source would not describe the Tucson OCDTF case. However, CBS News has learned that ATF's Phoenix office led an operation out of Tucson called "Wide Receiver." Sources claim ATF allowed guns to "walk" in that operation, much like Fast and Furious.

Congressional investigators for Republicans Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) have asked to interview O'Reilly by September 30. But the Administration informed them that O'Reilly is on assignment for the State Department in Iraq and unavailable. (How convenient.)

One administration source says White House national security staffers were "briefed on the toplines of ongoing federal efforts, but nobody in White House knew about the investigative tactics being used in the operation, let alone any decision to let guns walk."
23179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / DOJ considering abolishing ATF on: October 02, 2011, 12:18:16 PM
second post of the day:

Looks like the Obama administration is willing to go far in order to get rid of the evidence - which would make sense, considering the seriousness of the crime.

Bombshell: DOJ Considering Elimination of ATF
By Katie Pavlich

Multiple sources, including sources from ATF, DOJ and Congressional offices have said there is a white paper circulating within the Department of Justice, outlining the essential elimination of ATF. According to sources, the paper outlines the firing of at least 450 ATF agents in an effort to conduct damage control as Operation Fast and Furious gets uglier and as election day 2012 gets closer. ATF agents wouldn’t be reassigned to other positions, just simply let go. Current duties of ATF, including the enforcement of explosives and gun laws, would be transferred to other agencies, possibly the FBI and the DEA. According to a congressional source, there have been rumblings about the elimination of ATF for quite sometime, but the move would require major political capital to actually happen.

“It’s a serious white paper being circulated, how far they’d get with it I don’t know,” a confidential source said.

After a town hall meeting about Operation Fast and Furious in Tucson, Ariz. on Monday, ATF Whistleblower Vince Cefalu, who has been key in exposing details about Operation Fast and Furious, confirmed the elimination of ATF has been circulating as a serious idea for sometime now and that a white paper outlining the plan does exist.

Sounds great right? Eliminating ATF? But there is more to this story. Remember, low level ATF field agents, like ATF whistleblower John Dodson, were uncomfortable conducting Operation Fast and Furious from the beginning, but were told by high level officials within ATF that if they had a problem with the operation, they could find a job elsewhere.

“Allowing loads of weapons that we knew to be destined for criminals, this was the plan. It was so mandated,” ATF Whistleblower John Dodson said in testimony on Capitol Hill on June 15, 2011.

In fact, not only were the ATF agents forced to carry out the operation, they were told to go against what they had been taught in training.

“This operation, which in my opinion endangered the American public, was orchestrated in conjunction with Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley. [Emory Hurley is the same Assistant U.S. Attorney who previously prevented agents from using some of the common and accepted law enforcement techniques that are employed elsewhere in the United States to investigate and prosecute gun crimes.] I have read documents that indicate that his boss, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, also agreed with the direction of the case,” Special Agent Peter Forcelli said in testimony on Capitol hill on June 15, 2011.

“I recall my first days at the ATF academy, where it was drilled into us as new agents that under no circumstances would any firearms, in any investigation, leave the control of ATF. Instructors stressed that even if a weapon was lost “by accident,” the agent was still subject to termination,” former ATF Attaché to Mexico Darren D. Gil said in testimony on June 15, 2011.

ATF field agents weren’t the problem with Operation Fast and Furious, high ranking officials within ATF and the Department of Justice were and still are. DOJ would eliminate ATF only to take the heat off of the Obama Administration. By eliminating the bureau, it makes it seem like DOJ is taking Operation Fast and Furious so seriously, they decided to “clear out the corruption, clean house,” however, it would only be a distraction away from the people at the top of the investigation. In fact, evidence shows the DOJ has been stonewalling the Oversight Committee investigation into the operation to protect Obama political appointees.

“It was very frustrating to all of us, and it appears thoroughly to us that the Department is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the Department,” former ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson, who has since been moved to a position within DOJ, said of his frustration with the Justice Department’s response to the investigation in transcribed closed door testimony with the Oversight Committee in July 2011.

When I called the Department of Justice last week (five times) to request the white paper and receive a comment surrounding the idea of eliminating ATF, I received the following response: “Everyone is away from their desk right now.”

Up to this point, the Department of Justice has denied all allegations or involvement in Operation Fast and Furious, yet journalists and the House Oversight Committee have proved allegation after allegation to be true. For example, during a Congressional hearing in July, former ATF Special Agent in Charge William Newell, who has since been promoted to a position within the Justice Department, denied that his agency was trafficking guns to Mexico, despite overwhelming evidence and testimony from other ATF agents proving otherwise.

“At no time in our strategy was it to allow guns to be taken to Mexico,” Newell said on July 26, 2011, adding that at no time did his agency allow guns to walk.

We’ve heard this was a low level, “rogue” operation, turns out high level officials in the Justice Department, DEA, FBI, DHS, and even members of the White House national security team knew about Operation Fast and Furious.

Last week, ATF offered 400 agents buy outs to avoid budget cuts and is expecting 250-275 agents to take the offer through Voluntary Early Retirement. These buyouts come at a convenient time for the Justice Department, which can eliminate ATF, then say it’s because of budget cuts, when really, it’s to cover their tracks. 
23180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lott on: October 02, 2011, 12:04:11 PM
Media Silence Is Deafening About Important Gun News

By John Lott

Murder and violent crime rates were supposed to soar after the Supreme Court struck down gun control laws in Chicago and Washington, D.C.   Politicians predicted disaster. "More handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence," Washington’s Mayor Adrian Fenty warned the day the court made its decision. Chicago’s Mayor Daley predicted that we would "go back to the Old West, you have a gun and I have a gun and we'll settle it in the streets . . . ."  The New York Times even editorialized this month about the Supreme Court's "unwise" decision that there is a right for people "to keep guns in the home."

But Armageddon never happened. Newly released data for Chicago shows that, as in Washington, murder and gun crime rates didn't rise after the bans were eliminated -- they plummeted. They have fallen much more than the national crime rate.

Not surprisingly, the national media have been completely silent about this news.

One can only imagine the coverage if crime rates had risen. In the first six months of this year, there were 14% fewer murders in Chicago compared to the first six months of last year – back when owning handguns was illegal. It was the largest drop in Chicago’s murder rate since the handgun ban went into effect in 1982.

Meanwhile, the other four most populous cities saw a total drop at the same time of only 6 percent.  Similarly, in the year after the 2008 "Heller" decision, the murder rate fell two-and-a-half times faster in Washington than in the rest of the country.  It also fell more than three as fast as in other cities that are close to Washington's size. And murders in Washington have continued to fall.  If you compare the first six months of this year to the first six months of 2008, the same time immediately preceding the Supreme Court's late June "Heller" decision, murders have now fallen by thirty-four percent.

Gun crimes also fell more than non-gun crimes.

Robberies with guns fell by 25%, while robberies without guns have fallen by eight percent. Assaults with guns fell by 37%, while assaults without guns fell by 12%.

Just as with right-to-carry laws, when law-abiding citizens have guns some criminals stop carrying theirs.

The benefit could have been even greater. Getting a handgun permit in Chicago and Washington is an expensive and difficult process, meaning only the relatively wealthy go through it.

Through the end of May only 2,144 people had handguns registered in Chicago. That limits the benefits from the Supreme Court decisions since it is the poor who are the most likely victims of crime and who benefit the most from being able to protect themselves.

The biggest change for Washington was the Supreme Court striking down the law making it illegal to have a loaded gun. Over 70,000 people have permits for long guns that they can now legally used to protect themselves.

Lower crime rates in Chicago and Washington, by themselves, don’t prove that gun control increases murders, even when combined with the quite familiar story of how their murder rates soared and stayed high after the gun bans were imposed.

But these aren’t isolated examples. Around the world, whenever guns are banned, murder rates rise.

Gun control advocates explained the huge increases in murder and violent crime rates Chicago and Washington by saying that those bans weren’t fair tests unless the entire country adopted a ban.

Yet, even island nations, such as Ireland and the U.K. -- with no neighbors to blame -- have seen increases in murder rates. The same horror stories about blood in the streets have surrounded the debate over concealed handguns.  Some said it was necessary to ban guns in public places. The horror stories never came true and the data is now so obvious that as of November, only one state, Illinois, will still completely ban law-abiding from carrying concealed handguns.

Forty-one states will have either permissive right-to-carry laws or no longer even require a permit.

The regulations that still exist in Chicago and Washington primarily disarm the most likely victims of crime.

Hopefully, even the poor in these areas will soon also have more of an opportunity to defend themselves, too.

John R. Lott, Jr. is a Fox contributor and the author of the revised third edition of "More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010)."
23181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 02, 2011, 11:36:17 AM
Pete DuPont has been thinking and writing about these issues for years and it shows in his ability to make his point buttressed by simple, powerful, bottom-line data.
23182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The congnitive dissonance of the left on: October 02, 2011, 11:33:05 AM
All true, but also worth noting is how bad the Republican offering was.  For example, just what do you think McCain would have done for/to the economy?
23183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 02, 2011, 10:50:48 AM
The insight in that piece is a good one to keep in mind.

What did you make of the bond vigilante piece I posted?
23184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We are on a roll! on: October 01, 2011, 10:11:43 AM
Marc:  I'm guessing we got a goodly amount of intel out of the raid that killed OBL.

KABUL, Afghanistan – NATO says it has captured a senior leader of the Al Qaeda - and Taliban-allied Haqqani terror network operating inside Afghanistan .
NATO announced on Saturday that the coalition forces seized Haji Mali Khan during an operation in eastern Paktia province, which borders Pakistan. The alliance called it a significant milestone in the fight against the terror group.
NATO identified Khan as an uncle of Siraj and Badruddin Haqqani, two of the son's of the network's aging leader Jalaludin Haqqani.  The Pakistan-based network is affiliated to both the Taliban and Al Qaeda and has been described as the most serious security threat in Afghanistan.
23185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Awlaki Kill on: October 01, 2011, 10:07:18 AM
Based in great part upon Charles Krauthammer's analysis:

The Constitution provides for defending the country from insurrection, which by definition includes warring by citizens.   George Washington himself put down Shay's Revolt.  Lincoln put down the South-- with truly massive kills of uniformed soldiers, none of whom were arrested, read their rights, and given a trial.   (I might add that spies were promptly shot and/or hung)  Here we have American citizens waging war on the United States as part of a transnational religious fascist movement.  The US Congress has recognized the existence of this war/conflict and Awlaki was an egregious and highly active actor in the waging of this war.  This included participation in the recruitment and planning of the Crispy Weiner bomber attack on American soil.  Frankly, this seems like a slam dunk to me.  Two ears, one bullet , , , or a missile up the ass.

Works for me.
23186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: October 01, 2011, 09:55:10 AM
Lets take this to the Legal Issues of the War on Islamic Fascism thread
23187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Perry, Paul on: October 01, 2011, 02:45:05 AM
Perry had a decent interview tonight on the Bret Baier Report.  He pointed out he had stopped illegals getting drivers licenses, required voter ID, and put Texas Ranger boots on the ground to defend the border-- and that the State had overhwhelmingly voted to let illegals pay in-state tuition-- a decision he defended on the basis of the Tenth Amendment, and added that other states were free to do as they saw fit.

OTOH Paul has returned to his usual orbit with his condemnation of the Alwaki kill as illegal.  I suspect this will cool the flirt that has been going on between him and a goodly number of people.
23188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: A trip down memory lane on: October 01, 2011, 02:41:34 AM

Outside Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 25 years ago this week, an angry young man named Abdul Wahab Quanat recited his prayers, walked onto a farm field near a Soviet airfield, raised a Stinger missile launcher to his shoulder and shot his way into history.

It was the first time since the Soviet invasion seven years earlier that a mujahedeen fighter had destroyed the most feared weapon in the Soviet arsenal, a Hind attack helicopter. The event panicked the Soviet ranks, changed the course of the war and helped to break up the USSR itself.

Enlarge Image

CloseGetty Images
A mujahedeen fighter fighter aims a Stinger missile at a passing airplane in 1988.
.Today, Mr. Wahab is general manager of the Afghan central-bank branch near the Khyber Pass, a middle-age man who carries tinted bifocals in his vest pocket and chooses Diet Pepsi over regular. Mr. Wahab and the two other Stinger gunners at the airfield that day—Zalmai and Abdul Ghaffar—have now joined the post-jihad establishment. Mr. Zalmai is sub-governor of Shinwar District, and Mr. Ghaffar is a member of parliament.

They nurse a gauzy nostalgia for the joys of being young jihadists. "Those were good, exciting times," Mr. Wahab says. "Now I'm a banker. It's boring."

The Soviet invasion touched off three decades of violent swings in Afghanistan, from socialism to warlordism to Islamic fundamentalism to today's flawed democracy. Amid this tortured history, the U.S. makes occasional appearances—including its mid-1980s decision to supply the mujahedeen with Stingers—the consequences of which often weren't apparent until much later.

At the time, the Soviets and their Afghan allies were on the offensive, thanks to the Hinds. Heavily armored, the helicopters were indifferent to ground fire as they strafed and rocketed mujahedeen and civilians alike. In 1986, the Reagan administration and its congressional allies put aside qualms about dispatching missile launchers. The move likely contributed to the Soviet withdrawal. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, faced with an imploding domestic economy, was already seeking an exit from a costly war.

There's no straight line from the U.S. move to arm the mujahedeen to 9/11 and the 2001 American invasion, but the decision has echoed through the subsequent decades of turmoil. After Kabul's fall, and with American attention elsewhere, the mujahedeen fell on each other. Messrs. Ghaffar and Zalmai squabbled over money and weapons.

Enlarge Image

CloseMichael M. Phillips for The Wall Street Journal
AAbdul Wahab Quanat shows how he fired the first Stinger missile at a Soviet Hind helicopter 25 years ago.
."I disarmed his men, and he disarmed my men," says Mr. Zalmai. (They have since reconciled, and Mr. Ghaffar's daughter married Mr. Zalmai's nephew.)

The Taliban emerged on top, and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency spent years trying to recover 600 unused Stingers, including 53 that found their way to Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader who hosted Osama bin Laden during the 9/11 attacks, according to the book "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll.

Key figures from that era, including those who received U.S. support, have ended up on the other side. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the ruthless head of the fundamentalist Hezb-e-Islami mujahedeen, provided the Stinger gunmen. Among Mr. Hekmatyar's other backers was bin Laden, who paid Arab militants to fight in the Afghan jihad and in doing so earned the trust of the Taliban.

As Mr. Wahab remembers, the Pakistani officials who were acting as a conduit between the U.S. and the Afghan fighters packed him and nine other Hekmatyar fighters into the back of a truck, covered it in a tarp so they wouldn't see where they were going, and took them to a training camp in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

For a month, they practiced with dummy Stingers aimed at a hanging light. Pakistani officers then handed over real missiles to the eight successful graduates. One team headed to Kabul to shoot down troop-transport planes. The other, headed by Mr. Ghaffar, an engineer by training, was dispatched to go after the Hind helicopters.

As they parted, one Pakistani instructor tearfully called Mr. Wahab a "holy warrior" and reminded him to hit the switch that arms the missile's heat-seeking device. After a two-day walk, the fighters spent the night of Sept. 25 in an abandoned village on the outskirts of Jalalabad. The next afternoon, Mr. Ghaffar and his men knelt down for prayers and then made their way into a farm field, where they spotted about 10 helicopters returning to the airfield.

The best student at Stinger camp, Mr. Wahab took the first shot. The missile made a whirring noise that changed tone as it locked onto a Hind. Mr. Wahab recited a prayer. "In the name of Allah, the supreme and almighty, God is great." He recalls the Hind's tail rotor breaking off, while the front section burst into flames and plummeted to earth, cockpit first.

"I'll never forget that moment," he says now. "Those helicopters had killed so many people, left so many orphans."

Messrs. Ghaffar and Zalmai fired next. Mr. Wahab says neither missile hit a Hind; Mr. Ghaffar's, he says, hit the ground, while Mr. Zalmai forgot the heat-seeker-arming switch.

Mr. Ghaffar remembers one missile hitting a helicopter, but says it could have been either one. Mr. Zalmai says he can't recall for certain but admits he's not a great marksman. (The CIA reported that three helicopters had gone down.)

What is certain is that Mr. Ghaffar then shouldered a spare Stinger and this time sent a Hind crashing to earth. Mr. Wahab recalls mujahedeen cheering when the helicopters went down. Terrified that the Soviets would send tanks after them, the three scampered back to Pakistan.

Mr. Ghaffar dined out on his success for months, meeting with the CIA and having tea in Peshawar with Rep. Charlie Wilson, the late Texas Democrat and relentless champion of the mujahedeen.

The Ghaffar team had proved the Stingers so effective that the CIA sent some 2,300 more. Soon the mujahedeen were shooting down helicopters, transport planes and jets in large numbers. "If we hadn't used them correctly, they probably wouldn't have provided any more Stingers for the Afghan jihad," says Mr. Ghaffar. One Soviet squadron lost 13 of 40 planes in the year that followed, 10 to Stingers. The final Soviet troops retreated from Afghanistan in 1989, and the mujahedeen took Kabul in 1992.

"We wrote history—I miss those days," says Mr. Ghaffar, now 54. A member of parliament, he denies accusations by some locals that he has become a land-grabbing power broker.

Mr. Zalmai, who estimates his age at 50, barely had a beard when he took to the mountains in 1980. He smiles when he remembers blowing the tracks off of Soviet tanks. "I was good at it," he says. He admits that his memories are filtered through the haze of age and two brain-jarring attempts on his life during the current insurgency.

As a local administrator, Mr. Zalmai spends a good deal of time these days complaining that the Americans failed to consult him about plans to raze one government office to build another.

"When you're young, you're emotional about everything," Mr. Zalmai says of his days as a jihadist. "When you're old, everything can be solved by talking."

After the Taliban takeover, Mr. Wahab fled to Pakistan, where he ran a fabric shop. After the Taliban fell, he returned to Afghanistan and landed the central-bank job. Now 49, he supervises commercial banks adjacent to the Khyber Pass, through which mujahedeen weapons and fighters once flowed.

"When I was a mujahedeen on a mountaintop, I'd see the lights of Jalalabad and wish I were there," Mr. Wahab says. "Now when I'm in Jalalabad, I miss being in a stone hideout in the mountains with the mujahedeen."

Mr. Wahab has little patience for today's insurgents. "We had an enemy—the Russians," he says. "These suicide bombers today attack Americans and Muslims. What's the point?"

23189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: The latest crime wave on: October 01, 2011, 02:30:48 AM
By MICHEAL FLAHERTY In case you needed further proof of the American education system's failings, especially in poor and minority communities, consider the latest crime to spread across the country: educational theft. That's the charge that has landed several parents, such as Ohio's Kelley Williams-Bolar, in jail this year.

An African-American mother of two, Ms. Williams-Bolar last year used her father's address to enroll her two daughters in a better public school outside of their neighborhood. After spending nine days behind bars charged with grand theft, the single mother was convicted of two felony counts. Not only did this stain her spotless record, but it threatened her ability to earn the teacher's license she had been working on.

In January, Ohioan Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in jail, three years of probation, and 80 hours of community service for having her children attend schools outside her district. Gov. John Kasich reduced her sentence last month.

Ms. Williams-Bolar caught a break last month when Ohio Gov. John Kasich granted her clemency, reducing her charges to misdemeanors from felonies. His decision allows her to pursue her teacher's license, and it may provide hope to parents beyond the Buckeye State. In the last year, parents in Connecticut, Kentucky and Missouri have all been arrested—and await sentencing—for enrolling their children in better public schools outside of their districts.

These arrests represent two major forms of exasperation. First is that of parents whose children are zoned into failing public schools—they can't afford private schooling, they can't access school vouchers, and they haven't won or haven't even been able to enter a lottery for a better charter school. Then there's the exasperation of school officials finding it more and more difficult to deal with these boundary-hopping parents.

From California to Massachusetts, districts are hiring special investigators to follow children from school to their homes to determine their true residences and decide if they "belong" at high-achieving public schools. School districts in Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey all boasted recently about new address-verification programs designed to pull up their drawbridges and keep "illegal students" from entering their gates.

Other school districts use services like, which provides "the latest in covert video technology and digital photographic equipment to photograph, videotape, and document" children going from their house to school. School districts can enroll in the company's rewards program, which awards anonymous tipsters $250 checks for reporting out-of-district students.

Only in a world where irony is dead could people not marvel at concerned parents being prosecuted for stealing a free public education for their children.

In August, an internal PowerPoint presentation from the American Federation of Teachers surfaced online. The document described how the AFT undermined minority parent groups' efforts in Connecticut to pass the "parent trigger" legislation that offers parents real governing authority to transform failing schools. A key to the AFT's success in killing the effort, said the document, was keeping parent groups from "the table." AFT President Randi Weingarten quickly distanced her organization from the document, but it was small consolation to the parents once again left in the cold.

Kevin Chavous, the board chairman for both the Black Alliance for Educational Options and Democrats for Education Reform, senses that these recent events herald a new age for fed-up parents. Like Martin Luther King Jr. before them, they understand "the fierce urgency of now" involving their children's education. Hence some parents' decisions to break the law—or practice civil disobedience.

This life-changing decision is portrayed in Betty Smith's 1943 novel, "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn," also adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. In the novel, Francie Nolan is the bright young daughter of Irish immigrants living in Brooklyn's Williamsburg immigrant ghetto in the early 20th century. An avid reader, Francie is crushed when she attends her local public school and discovers that opportunity is nonexistent for girls of her ilk.

So Francie and her father Johnny claim the address of a house next to a good public school. Francie enrolls at the school and her life is transformed. A teacher nurtures her love for writing, and she goes on to thrive at the school. Francie eventually becomes an accomplished writer who tells the story of her transformation through education.

The defining difference between the two schools, writes the novel's narrator, is parents: At the good school, "The parents were too American, too aware of the rights granted them by their Constitution to accept injustices meekly. They could not be bulldozed and exploited as could the immigrants and the second-generation Americans."

Were Francie around today, she'd be sad but not surprised to see how little things have changed. Students are still poisoned by low expectations, their parents are still getting bulldozed. But Francie wouldn't yield to despair. She would remind this new generation of courageous parents of the Tree of Heaven, from which her story gets its title—"the one tree in Francie's yard that was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement." The tree, the narrator adds, "liked poor people."

The defenders of the status quo in our nation's public schools could learn a lot from that tree.

Mr. Flaherty is president and cofounder of Walden Media, which coproduced the 2010 documentary "Waiting for 'Superman.'"

23190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / It was only ten years ago today, that Al Alwaki was the voice of moderate Islam on: October 01, 2011, 02:10:00 AM
Bret Baier Report tonight reported that after 911 Pravda on the Hudson, Pravda on the Potomac, NPR and other usual suspects interviewed and lauded Al Alwaki as a voice of moderate Islam.  Only POTP had the class to mention this in today's reports on his most excellent kill.
23191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SCAF stalling on elections? on: October 01, 2011, 02:07:31 AM
Middle East analyst Bayless Parsley examines the decision to hold Egypt’s first elections since the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Egypt’s ruling military council finally announced a list of dates on Tuesday for the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections. The announcement came as a slight relief to the large number of Egyptians who have been expressing growing concerns that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) was on the verge of delaying the elections yet again. But popular sentiment against military rule in Egypt is still on the rise. Though we are now one step closer to the first elections of the post-Mubarak era, it does not change one fundamental fact: the Egyptian regime is doing what it can to hold onto power, despite publicly championing a looming transition to democratic rule.
Tuesday’s constitutional declaration put to bed growing fears amongst a wide swathe of the Egyptian opposition that the ruling military council was on the verge of delaying yet again setting exact dates for when the elections will be held. The same group of generals that came into power in Feb. with promises to relinquish control to a civilian government within six months are still running the show, and even the Muslim Brotherhood – which for a long time had avoided publicly criticizing the military – has begun to display that it, too, is tiring of SCAF rule. STRATFOR has long said that the military council does in fact want to hold elections, but that it would take its time to ensure that it doesn’t lose control of the process.
The parliamentary polls will be divided into elections for the lower house and the upper house, which is known as the Shura Council. There will be six stages in total, three for each, and the whole process will run from Nov. 28 until March 11, 2012. And though the format of the elections has not yet been finalized, it is looking like the military is going to mandate that roughly 70 percent of the seats be reserved for a list-based system, which is akin to voting for a party ticket, and the rest be reserved for an individual candidate system. Everyone in the Egyptian opposition – from the Muslim Brotherhood to other Islamists to the secular parties – is opposed to anything but a purely list-based system because they feel that allowing individual candidates to run will simply give an advantage to the wealthy former members of the Mubarak National Democratic Party (NDP) regime. But this may be exactly what the military council wants to ensure.
By now, most Egyptians who took joy in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak have woken up to the fact that there really was not such a fundamental change in the country as may have appeared during the height of the Arab Spring. Accusations from Islamists and secularists alike that the military is trying to “hijack the revolution” have become commonplace, while state security has arguably become more intrusive in the Egyptian society, rather than less so. The ongoing criminal trials for Mubarak, his sons, and other high-ranking former NDP officials, meanwhile, are largely going nowhere, and it is the military council that ensures this, as well.
The issue of setting dates for the elections– and the antipathy that it generated towards military rule- was something that brought a bit of unity to a highly fractured opposition. Providing a degree of certitude that the vote will soon take place was a way for the military to ensure that such unity does not grow too strong. This is the game the SCAF feels it must play to maintain the balance in a country over which it wants to maintain control.
23192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / JDN to WSJ: This guy must be wrong-- he does not have a degree on: October 01, 2011, 01:59:52 AM
Harold Hamm, the Oklahoma-based founder and CEO of Continental Resources, the 14th-largest oil company in America, is a man who thinks big. He came to Washington last month to spread a needed message of economic optimism: With the right set of national energy policies, the United States could be "completely energy independent by the end of the decade. We can be the Saudi Arabia of oil and natural gas in the 21st century."

"President Obama is riding the wrong horse on energy," he adds. We can't come anywhere near the scale of energy production to achieve energy independence by pouring tax dollars into "green energy" sources like wind and solar, he argues. It has to come from oil and gas.

You'd expect an oilman to make the "drill, baby, drill" pitch. But since 2005 America truly has been in the midst of a revolution in oil and natural gas, which is the nation's fastest-growing manufacturing sector. No one is more responsible for that resurgence than Mr. Hamm. He was the original discoverer of the gigantic and prolific Bakken oil fields of Montana and North Dakota that have already helped move the U.S. into third place among world oil producers.

How much oil does Bakken have? The official estimate of the U.S. Geological Survey a few years ago was between four and five billion barrels. Mr. Hamm disagrees: "No way. We estimate that the entire field, fully developed, in Bakken is 24 billion barrels."

If he's right, that'll double America's proven oil reserves. "Bakken is almost twice as big as the oil reserve in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska," he continues. According to Department of Energy data, North Dakota is on pace to surpass California in oil production in the next few years. Mr. Hamm explains over lunch in Washington, D.C., that the more his company drills, the more oil it finds. Continental Resources has seen its "proved reserves" of oil and natural gas (mostly in North Dakota) skyrocket to 421 million barrels this summer from 118 million barrels in 2006.

"We expect our reserves and production to triple over the next five years." And for those who think this oil find is only making Mr. Hamm rich, he notes that today in America "there are 10 million royalty owners across the country" who receive payments for the oil drilled on their land. "The wealth is being widely shared."

One reason for the renaissance has been OPEC's erosion of market power. "For nearly 50 years in this country nobody looked for oil here and drilling was in steady decline. Every time the domestic industry picked itself up, the Saudis would open the taps and drown us with cheap oil," he recalls. "They had unlimited production capacity, and company after company would go bust."

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CloseZina Saunders
 .Today OPEC's market share is falling and no longer dictates the world price. This is huge, Mr. Hamm says. "Finally we have an opportunity to go out and explore for oil and drill without fear of price collapse." When OPEC was at its peak in the 1990s, the U.S. imported about two-thirds of its oil. Now we import less than half of it, and about 40% of what we do import comes from Mexico and Canada. That's why Mr. Hamm thinks North America can achieve oil independence.

The other reason for America's abundant supply of oil and natural gas has been the development of new drilling techniques. "Horizontal drilling" allows rigs to reach two miles into the ground and then spread horizontally by thousands of feet. Mr. Hamm was one of the pioneers of this method in the 1990s, and it has done for the oil industry what hydraulic fracturing has done for natural gas drilling in places like the Marcellus Shale in the Northeast. Both innovations have unlocked decades worth of new sources of domestic fossil fuels that previously couldn't be extracted at affordable cost.

Mr. Hamm's rags to riches success is the quintessential "only in America" story. He was the last of 13 kids, growing up in rural Oklahoma "the son of sharecroppers who never owned land." He didn't have money to go to college, so as a teenager he went to work in the oil fields and developed a passion. "I always wanted to find oil. It was always an irresistible calling."

He became a wildcat driller and his success rate became legendary in the industry. "People started to say I have ESP," he remarks. "I was fortunate, I guess. Next year it will be 45 years in the business."

Mr. Hamm ranks 33rd on the Forbes wealth list for America, but given the massive amount of oil that he owns, much still in the ground, and the dizzying growth of Continental's output and profits (up 34% last year alone), his wealth could rise above $20 billion and he could soon be rubbing elbows with the likes of Warren Buffett.

His only beef these days is with Washington. Mr. Hamm was invited to the White House for a "giving summit" with wealthy Americans who have pledged to donate at least half their wealth to charity. (He's given tens of millions of dollars already to schools like Oklahoma State and for diabetes research.) "Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, they were all there," he recalls.

When it was Mr. Hamm's turn to talk briefly with President Obama, "I told him of the revolution in the oil and gas industry and how we have the capacity to produce enough oil to enable America to replace OPEC. I wanted to make sure he knew about this."

The president's reaction? "He turned to me and said, 'Oil and gas will be important for the next few years. But we need to go on to green and alternative energy. [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu has assured me that within five years, we can have a battery developed that will make a car with the equivalent of 130 miles per gallon.'" Mr. Hamm holds his head in his hands and says, "Even if you believed that, why would you want to stop oil and gas development? It was pretty disappointing."

Washington keeps "sticking a regulatory boot at our necks and then turns around and asks: 'Why aren't you creating more jobs,'" he says. He roils at the Interior Department delays of months and sometimes years to get permits for drilling. "These delays kill projects," he says. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission is now tightening the screws on the oil industry, requiring companies like Continental to report their production and federal royalties on thousands of individual leases under the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules. "I could go to jail because a local operator misreported the production in the field," he says.

The White House proposal to raise $40 billion of taxes on oil and gas—by excluding those industries from credits that go to all domestic manufacturers—is also a major hindrance to exploration and drilling. "That just stops the drilling," Mr. Hamm believes. "I've seen these things come about before, like [Jimmy] Carter's windfall profits tax." He says America's rig count on active wells went from 4,500 to less than 55 in a matter of months. "That was a dumb idea. Thank God, Reagan got rid of that."

A few months ago the Obama Justice Department brought charges against Continental and six other oil companies in North Dakota for causing the death of 28 migratory birds, in violation of the Migratory Bird Act. Continental's crime was killing one bird "the size of a sparrow" in its oil pits. The charges carry criminal penalties of up to six months in jail. "It's not even a rare bird. There're jillions of them," he explains. He says that "people in North Dakota are really outraged by these legal actions," which he views as "completely discriminatory" because the feds have rarely if ever prosecuted the Obama administration's beloved wind industry, which kills hundreds of thousands of birds each year.

Continental pleaded not guilty to the charges last week in federal court. For Mr. Hamm the whole incident is tantamount to harassment. "This shouldn't happen in America," he says. To him the case is further proof that Washington "is out to get us."

Mr. Hamm believes that if Mr. Obama truly wants more job creation, he should study North Dakota, the state with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 3.5%. He swears that number is overstated: "We can't find any unemployed people up there. The state has 18,000 unfilled jobs," Mr. Hamm insists. "And these are jobs that pay $60,000 to $80,000 a year." The economy is expanding so fast that North Dakota has a housing shortage. Thanks to the oil boom—Continental pays more than $50 million in state taxes a year—the state has a budget surplus and is considering ending income and property taxes.

It's hard to disagree with Mr. Hamm's assessment that Barack Obama has the energy story in America wrong. The government floods green energy—a niche market that supplies 2.5% of our energy needs—with billions of dollars of subsidies a year. "Wind isn't commercially feasible with natural gas prices below $6" per thousand cubic feet, notes Mr. Hamm. Right now its price is below $4. This may explain the administration's hostility to the fossil-fuel renaissance.

Mr. Hamm calculates that if Washington would allow more drilling permits for oil and natural gas on federal lands and federal waters, "I truly believe the federal government could over time raise $18 trillion in royalties." That's more than the U.S. national debt, I say. He smiles.

This estimate sounds implausibly high, but Mr. Hamm has a lifelong habit of proving skeptics wrong. And even if he's wrong by half, it's a stunning number to think about. So this America-first energy story isn't just about jobs and economic revival. It's also about repairing America's battered balance sheet. Someone should get this man in front of the congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee.

Mr. Moore is a member of the Journal's editorial board.

23193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pithy quote. on: October 01, 2011, 01:56:02 AM

"Fathom the hypocrisy of a government that requires every citizen prove they are insured ......... but not prove they are a citizen."
23194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Where are the Bond Vigilantes? IMPORTANT READ on: October 01, 2011, 01:41:15 AM
IMHO this article has genuine insight and explains something important which has been a mystery to me:


In past decades, tense political disputes over actual or projected fiscal deficits induced sharp increases in interest rates—particularly on long-term bonds. The threat of economic disruption by the so-called bond market vigilantes demanding higher interest rates served to focus both Democratic and Republican protagonists so they could more easily agree on some deficit-closing measures.

For example, in 1993 when the Clinton administration introduced new legislation to greatly expand health care without properly funding it ("HillaryCare"), long-term interest rates began to rise. The 10-year rate on U.S. Treasury bonds touched 8% in 1994. The consequent threat of a credit crunch in the business sector, and higher mortgage rates for prospective home buyers, generated enough political opposition so that the Clinton administration stopped trying to get HillaryCare through the Congress.

In the mid-1990s, Democrats and Republican cooperated to cap another open-ended federal welfare program—Aid to Families with Dependent Children—by giving block grants to the states and letting the states administer the program. Interest rates came down, and the Clinton boom was underway.

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CloseChad Crowe
 .In contrast, after the passage of ObamaCare in March 2010, long-term bond rates remained virtually unchanged at around 3%. This was despite great doubt about the law's revenue-raising provisions, and the financial press bemoaning open-ended Medicare deficits and the mandated huge expansion in the number of unfunded Medicaid recipients. Even with great financial disorder in the stock and commodity markets since late July 2011, today's 10-year Treasury bond rate has plunged below 2%. The bond market vigilantes have disappeared.

Without the vigilantes in 2011, the federal government faces no immediate market discipline for balancing its runaway fiscal deficits. Indeed, after President Obama finally received congressional approval to raise the debt ceiling on Aug. 2, followed by Standard & Poor's downgrade of Treasury bonds from AAA to AA+ on Aug. 5, the interest rate on 10-year Treasurys declined even further.

Since Alexander Hamilton established the market for U.S. Treasury bonds in 1790, they have been the fulcrum for the bond market as a whole. Risk premia on other classes of bonds are all measured as so many basis points above Treasurys at all terms to maturity. If their yields are artificially depressed, so too are those on private bonds. The more interest rates are compressed toward zero, the less useful the market becomes in reflecting risk and allocating private capital, as well as in disciplining the government.

To know how to restore market discipline, first consider what caused the vigilantes to disappear. Two conditions are necessary for the vigilantes to thrive:

(1) Treasury bonds should be mainly held within the private sector by individuals or financial institutions that are yield-sensitive—i.e., they worry about possible future inflation and a possible credit crunch should the government's fiscal deficits get too large. Because private investors can choose other assets, both physical and financial, they will switch out of Treasurys if U.S. public finances deteriorate and the probability of future inflation increases.

(2) Private holders of Treasurys must also be persuaded that any fall in short-term interest rates is temporary—i.e., that the Fed has not committed itself to keeping short-term interest rates near zero indefinitely. Long rates today are the mean of expected short rates into the future plus a liquidity premium.

The outstanding stock of U.S. Treasury bonds held outside American intergovernment agencies (such as the Social Security Administration but excluding the Federal Reserve) is about $10 trillion. The proportion of outstanding Treasury debt held by foreigners—mainly central banks—has been increasing and now seems well over 50% of that amount. Since 2001, emerging markets alone have accumulated more than $5 trillion in official exchange reserves. And in the last two years the Fed itself, under QE1 and QE2, has been a major buyer of longer-term Treasury bonds to the tune of about $1.6 trillion—and that's before the recently announced "Operation Twist," whereby the Fed will finance the purchase of still more longer-term bonds by selling shorter-term bonds. So the vigilantes have been crowded out by central banks the world over.

Central banks generally are not yield-sensitive. Instead, under the world dollar standard, central banks in emerging markets are very sensitive to movements in their dollar exchange rates. The Fed's near-zero short-term interest rates since late 2008 have induced massive inflows of hot money into emerging markets through July 2011. This induced central banks in emerging markets to intervene heavily to buy dollars to prevent their currencies from appreciating versus the dollar. They unwillingly accept the very low yield on Treasurys as a necessary consequence of these interventions.

True, in the last two months, this "bubble" of hot money into emerging markets and into primary commodities has suddenly burst with falls in their exchange rates and metal prices. But this bubble-like behavior can be traced to the Fed's zero interest rates.

Beyond just undermining political discipline and creating bubbles, what further economic damage does the Fed's policy of ultra-low interest rates portend for the American economy?

First, the counter-cyclical effect of reducing interest rates in recessions is dampened. When interest rates dipped in the past, at least part of their immediate expansionary impact came from the belief that interest rates would bounce back to normal levels in the future. Firms would rush to avail themselves of cheap credit before it disappeared. However, if interest rates are expected to stay low indefinitely, this short-term expansionary effect is weakened.

Second, financial intermediation within the banking system is disrupted. Since early 2008, bank credit to firms and households has declined despite the Fed's huge expansion of the monetary base—almost all going into excess bank reserves. The causes are complex, but an important part of this credit constraint is that banks with surplus reserves are unwilling to put them out in the interbank market for a derisory low yield. This bank credit constraint, particularly on small- and medium-size firms, is a prime cause of the continued stagnation in U.S. output and employment.

Third, a prolonged period of very low interest rates will decapitalize defined-benefit pension funds—both private and public—throughout the country. In California, for example, pension actuaries presume a yield on their asset portfolios of about 7.5% just to break even in meeting their annuity obligations, even if they were fully funded.

Perhaps Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke should think more about how the Fed's near-zero interest rate policy has undermined fiscal discipline while corrupting the operation of the nation's financial markets.

Mr. McKinnon is a professor at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institution for Economic Policy Research.

23195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Student Loan takeover by Feds running into trouble on: October 01, 2011, 01:38:37 AM
When critics warned about rising defaults on government-backed student loans two years ago, the question was how quickly taxpayers would feel the pain. The U.S. Department of Education provided part of the answer this month when it reported that the default rate for fiscal 2009 surged to 8.8%, up from 7% in 2008.

This rising default rate doesn't even tell the whole story. The government allows various "income contingent" and "income-based" repayment options, so the statistics don't count kids who were given permission to pay less than they owed. Taxpayers shouldn't expect relief any time soon. Thanks to policy changes in recent years and fraudulent government accounting, the pain could be excruciating.

Readers who followed the Congressional birth of ObamaCare in 2010 may recall that student lending was the other industry takeover that came along for the legislative ride. Private lenders used to originate federally guaranteed loans, but the new law required all such loans to come directly from the feds. Combined with earlier changes that discouraged private loans sold without a federal guarantee, the result is a market dominated by Washington.

The 2010 changes did not happen simply because President Obama and legislators like Rep. George Miller and Sen. Tom Harkin distrust profit-making enterprises. The student-loan takeover also advanced the mirage that ObamaCare would save money.

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CloseAssociated Press
 .Thanks to only-in-Washington accounting, making the Department of Education the principal banker to America's college students created a "savings" of $68 billion over 11 years, certified by the Congressional Budget Office. Even CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf admitted that this estimate was bogus because CBO was forced to use federal rules that ignored the true cost of defaults. But Mr. Miller had earlier laid the groundwork for this fraud by killing amendments in the House that would have required honest accounting and an audit.

Armed in 2010 with their CBO-certified "savings," Democrats decided they could finance a portion of ObamaCare, as well as an expansion of Pell grants. But as Bernie Madoff could have told them, frauds break down when enough people show up asking for their money. That's happening already, judging by recent action in the Senate Appropriations Committee, where lawmakers apparently realize that the federal takeover isn't going to deliver the promised riches.

To preserve Team Obama's priority of maintaining a maximum Pell grant of $5,550 per year and doubling the total annual funding to $36 billion since President Obama took office, Democrats recently decided to make student-loan borrowers pay interest on their loans for their first six months out of college. Washington used to give the youngsters an interest-free grace period. Taxpayers might cheer this change if the money wasn't simply being transferred to another form of education subsidy. But it seems almost certain to raise default rates as it puts recent grads under increased financial pressure.

None of these programs has anything to do with making it easier to afford college. Universities have been efficient in pocketing the subsidies by increasing tuition after every expansion of federal support. That's why education is a rare industry where prices have risen even faster than health-care costs.

This is also the rare market where the recent trend of de-leveraging doesn't apply. An August report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that Americans cut their household debt from a peak of $12.5 trillion in the third quarter of 2008 to a recent $11.4 trillion. Consumers have reduced their debt on houses, cars, credit cards and nearly everything except student loans, where debt has increased 25% in the three years.

Perhaps this is because most federal student loans are made without regard to income, assets or credit history. Much like the federal obsession to finance a home for every American regardless of ability to pay, the obsession to finance higher education for every high school student ignores inconvenient facts. These include the certainty that some of these kids will take jobs that don't require college degrees and may not support timely repayment.

For this school year, even the loans that pay on time aren't necessarily winners for the taxpayer. That's because of a 2007 law that Mr. Miller and Nancy Pelosi pushed through Congress—and George W. Bush signed—that cut interest rates on many federally backed student loans. Stafford loans, the most common type, have been available since July at a fixed rate of 3.4%, barely above the historically low rates at which the Treasury is currently borrowing for the long term. The student loan rates are scheduled to rise back to 6.8% next year. But if our spendthrift government ends up borrowing money above 7% and lending it to kids at 6.8%, taxpayers will suffer even before the youngsters go delinquent.

Efforts to clean up this debacle are stirring on Capitol Hill, with House Republicans moving to limit Pell grants to students who have a high school diploma or GED. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn would go further and have government leave the business of subsidizing the education industry via student loans and let private lenders finance college. That may be too radical at the moment, but it won't be if taxpayers ever figure out how much subsidized loans will cost them.

23196  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / #2! on: October 01, 2011, 01:35:23 AM
Woof All:

We are pleased to announce the second school in the DBMA School Program with Dog Rick in Texas.  Details of the first seminar will be announced soon.

Guro Crafty
23197  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Cauliflower Ears in BJJ on: October 01, 2011, 01:33:41 AM
23198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: Storyteller in Chief on: September 30, 2011, 09:16:37 PM

At a symposium in Colorado at which thoughtful people from many professions spoke, and later in conversation with people who care about books in California, two things we all know to be true became more vivid to me.

The first is that nobody is optimistic about the world economy. No one sees the Western nations righting themselves any time soon, no one sees lower unemployment coming down the pike, or fewer foreclosures. No one was burly: "Everything will be fine, snap out of it!" Everyone admitted tough times lie ahead.

The second is that everyone hungers for leadership. Really, everyone. And really, it is a hunger. They want so much to be able to respect and feel trust in their political leaders. Everyone hungers for someone strong, honest and capable—as big as the moment. But the presidential contest, the default topic when Americans gather, tended to become somewhat secondary. Underlying everything was a widespread sense among Democrats and Republicans, lefties and righties, that President Obama isn't big enough, and that we don't have to argue about this anymore. There was also a broad sense that there is no particular reason to believe any one of the Republicans is big enough, either.

Actually, I saw a third thing. There is, I think, a kind of new patriotism among our professional classes. They talk about America now and their eyes fill up. With business people and doctors and scientists, there used to be a kind of detachment, an ironic distance they held between themselves and Washington, themselves and national problems. "The future of our country" was the kind of earnest topic they wouldn't or couldn't survey without a wry smile. But now I believe I see a deep yearning to help, to do the right thing, to be part of a rebuilding, and it is a yearning based in true and absolute anxiety that we may lose this wonderful thing we were born into, this America, this brilliant golden gift.

At the end of Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie," Tom, the narrator, tells us he never stopped thinking of his sister and his mother and their sadness, for "I was more faithful than I intended to be." That, I think, is the mood taking hold among members of what used to be called the American leadership class—slightly taken aback by their love for America, by their protectiveness toward her.

Enlarge Image

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The president reads 'Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters' by Barack Obama.
.The untapped patriotism out there—if it were electricity, it would remake the grid and light up the world. And it's among all professions, classes and groups, from the boardroom to the Tea Party meeting to the pediatric ICU.

We think patriotism reached its height after 9/11, but I think it is reaching some new height now, and we're only beginning to notice.

And here we turn to politics. Are those running for president aware of the fix we're in? I'm not sure they are. For one thing, if they knew, they wouldn't look so dementedly chipper. And they wouldn't all be talking about The Narrative. Which is all I heard once I came back East.

The Narrative has nothing to do with what is actually happening in the country. That would make too much sense. The Narrative is the story of a candidate or a candidacy, or the story of a presidency. Everyone in politics is supposed to have one. They're supposedly powerful. Voters believe them.

Everyone in politics should stop this. For one thing, a narrative is not something that can be imposed, it is something that bubbles up. It's something people perceive on their own and then talk about, and if it's true, the talk spreads.

Here I return to Ron Suskind's book, "Confidence Men." As noted last week, Mr. Suskind has been criticized for getting quotes and facts wrong. But the White House hasn't disputed his interview with Mr. Obama, who had some remarkable things to say.

It turns out he too is obsessed with The Narrative. Mr. Suskind asked him why his team had difficulty creating a policy to deal with unemployment. Mr. Obama said some of it was due to circumstances, some to the complexity of the problem. Then he added: "We didn't have a clean story that we wanted to tell against which we would measure various actions." Huh? It wasn't "clean," he explained, because "what was required to save the economy might not always match up with what would make for a good story."

Throughout the interview the president seems preoccupied with "shaping a story for the American people." He says: "The irony is, the reason I was in this office is because I told a story to the American people." But, he confesses, "that narrative thread we just lost" in his first years.

Then he asks, "What's the particular requirement of the president that no one else can do?" He answers: "What the president can do, that nobody else can do, is tell a story to the American people" about where we are as a nation and should be.

Tell a story to the American people? That's your job? Not adopting good policies? Not defending the nation? Storytelling?

The interview reflects the weird inability of so many in political leadership now to acknowledge the role in life of . . . reality.

Overthinking the obvious and focusing on the artifice and myth of politics is a problem for all political professionals, including Republicans. Sarah Palin was out there this week trying to impose her own narrative: that she's all roguey and mavericky and she'd win if she ran, but she's not sure the presidency—"the title"—wouldn't dull her special magic. It was like Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard." She's still big, it's the presidency that got small.

More Peggy Noonan
Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns

Click here to order her book, Patriotic Grace
.But this is mostly a problem for the Democratic Party at the national level, and has been since the 1980s. It reflects a disdain for the American people—they need their little stories—and it springs from an inability to understand the Reagan era. Democrats looked at him and the speeches and the crowds and balloons and thought: "I get it, politics is now all show biz." Because they couldn't take Reagan's views and philosophy seriously, they couldn't believe anyone else could, either. So they explained him through a story. The story was that Reagan's success was due not to decisions and their outcomes but to a narrative. The narrative was "Morning in America": Everything's good, everyone's happy.

Democrats vowed to create their own narratives, their own stories.

Here's the problem: There is no story. At the end of the day, there is only reality. Things work or they don't. When they work, people notice, and say it.

Would the next president like a story? Here's one. America was anxious, and feared it was losing the air of opportunity that had allowed it to be what it was—expansive, generous, future-trusting. It was losing faith in its establishments and institutions. And someone came out of that need who led—who was wise and courageous and began to turn the ship around. And we saved our country, and that way saved the world.

There's a narrative for you, the only one that matters. Go be a hero of that story. It will get around. It will bubble up.

23199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sounds good to me on: September 30, 2011, 12:04:17 PM
23200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Japan-Philippines & the South China Sea on: September 30, 2011, 11:47:10 AM

A military cooperation agreement between Japan and the Philippines indicates the countries are going beyond their traditional economic ties and elevating security-related matters. The move comes as Japan’s role in regional security appears to be expanding and as Tokyo, looking to rebuild its influence in Southeast Asia, may consider greater involvement in territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

During Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s visit to Japan from Sept. 25 to Sept. 27, the Philippines and Japan signed a military cooperation agreement to expand joint naval exercises and regular talks between maritime defense officials. The agreement moves the countries’ relationship beyond their traditional economic ties and into the realm of security. Aquino had said prior to his visit that he would also seek backing from the Japanese government on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Though it has avoided direct involvement in South China Sea disputes, Japan’s interest in the South China Sea is long-standing and pragmatic, linked to its immediate geographic concerns: securing access to trade routes and to resources the archipelago lacks. Earlier this year, tensions in the South China Sea heightened between China, the Philippines and Vietnam as Beijing increasingly asserted its territorial claims. Just as Japan sees China’s rapidly expanding influence as a challenge to Tokyo’s historically strong position in Southeast Asia, it also sees China’s dominance in the South China Sea as a threat to its critical sea-lane and to its own strategic sphere. As other countries with claims in the South China Sea seek partnerships to boost their positions, and as the United States renews its engagement in the region, Tokyo could use maritime disputes in the South China Sea to reassert itself in Southeast Asia.

Japan’s Interest in Southeast Asia
Japan has been active in the South China Sea since industrialization prompted the country to secure trade routes and seek resources. This ran parallel to Japan’s militarization and expansion in its periphery. Japan began mining in the Spratley Islands as early as 1918 and occupied the Spratleys and the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea during World War II as part of its deployment in the Asia-Pacific.

(click here to enlarge image)
After the war, Japan’s policy was to become an economic leader in Southeast Asia, largely through aid and investment, and to build trust among the region’s nations with a limited military doctrine. From 1977 to 1992, Japan’s development aid to Southeast Asian countries increased from $1.42 billion to $50 billion. During this period, Japan retained considerable influence over Southeast Asia and remained greatly involved in regional affairs.

However, since the 1990s, Japan’s influence in the region has declined considerably because of domestic economic and political constraints and increasing challenges from regional rivals, particularly China. This does not mean the South China Sea is no longer important to Japan. The import of crude oil and raw materials is critical to the energy- and resource-poor country (Japan’s current dependence on foreign oil sources is nearly 100 percent, and approximately 88 percent of its supplies pass through the South China Sea). Furthermore, the Strait of Malacca is a crucial shipment point for Japanese goods going to foreign markets. Yet Japan’s limitations, along with waning U.S. interest in the region, allowed China to use its expanding political and economic influence to project itself as a rising power in Southeast Asia.

Regional Concerns About China
Over the past five years, China’s blue-water strategy and military expansion have led to concerns among Southeast Asian nations about a Chinese military buildup and renewed tensions over the South China Sea. These developments have also attracted attention from Japan, which sees China’s increasing assertiveness over the waters as a possible threat to Japan’s supply lines. Japan has its own territorial disputes with China, over the Senkaku Islands (known in China as the Diaoyu Islands) in the East China Sea, and has engaged in frequent rows with Beijing over joint exploration projects. For Japan, China’s military buildup and sovereignty claims in the South China Sea not only suggest similar approaches could be used in Beijing’s territorial disputes with Japan but also indicate that China wants to play a more dominant role in Southeast Asian affairs.

Previously, Japan was reluctant to directly challenge China on the South China Sea, but recently Tokyo has become more vocal on regional issues, particularly regarding the South China Sea. Since tensions in the sea reached new heights earlier this year, Japan has several times voiced concern about China’s dominance of the waters at Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gatherings and assisted claimant countries calling for greater attention to regional security issues.

Japan also seems to have accelerated its efforts to increase Washington’s security interests in the South China Sea, as demonstrated by Tokyo’s attempt to formulate a framework for U.S.-Japanese cooperation along with ASEAN countries to pressure China to abide by international rules. Japan also put forth an initiative for cooperation with the United States and South Korea to defuse tensions in the South China Sea, and a proposal for U.S.-Indian-Japanese talks on regional security issues. Furthermore, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) deployed to the South China Sea earlier this year for a small joint military exercise with the U.S. and Australian navies off the coast of Brunei.

Japan’s Possible Changing Role
Several changes have made it possible for Japan to use tensions in the South China Sea to take a stronger stance against China. First, thanks to renewed U.S. interest in Asia-Pacific affairs, Japan — the strongest U.S. ally in the region — has been under pressure from Washington to play a greater role in regional affairs in order to counterbalance China. Japan in the past decade has gradually shifted away from the U.S. security umbrella and begun taking more responsibility for its defense. This, along with China’s growing economic clout and military modernization and expansion in the region, has caused both Washington and Tokyo to rethink their relations with Beijing. Japan’s interest in protecting its sea-lane from an encroaching China has given Tokyo one more motive to take a greater role in regional security.

Second, Japan can be expected to continue gradually expanding the role of the JMSDF to address energy supply line vulnerability and the general threat posed by China — both of which are growing in importance. The JMSDF is considered among the most sophisticated and capable naval forces in the world, but lingering memories of World War II and public perceptions of the Japanese military have strongly impeded its expansion. These perceptions show signs of gradually shifting, making it easier for Tokyo to argue for humanitarian and overseas deployments (as seen with the JMSDF’s disaster response following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami). China’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea, therefore, could help justify JMSDF operations. So far, the JMSDF’s expanding role largely has been focused on disaster relief or peacekeeping missions, but anti-piracy missions off the Somali coast and an air force base in Djibouti demonstrate Tokyo’s intention to increase the JMSDF’s peaceful presence overseas. Bilateral JMSDF training with Southeast Asian countries could be the start of greater military involvement in the South China Sea in particular.

Finally, Japan has also been pursuing both bilateral and multilateral security relationships with other countries in the region, with U.S participation. Tokyo has forged defense cooperation with countries including the Philippines and Vietnam — both of which have territorial claims in the South China Sea — and  India, which has a strategic interest in containing China’s expanding sphere of influence. Some defense-related bilateral summits and trilateral talks involving the United States have also been proposed. Southeast Asian countries with territorial claims in the South China Sea believe working with Japan could increase their leverage in negotiations with China, drawing international attention to the territorial disputes. Moreover, working with Japan is an immense opportunity for the Philippines.

Despite Japan’s apparent interest in the South China Sea as part of its strategy to regain influence in Southeast Asia amid China’s increasing aggressiveness, Tokyo appears to be taking a cautious approach to avoid risking greater tensions with Beijing. It is not yet clear whether the new Japanese government wants to take an assertive stance against China on maritime issues. So far, the new Cabinet does not seem to be planning any bold moves in this area. Before taking a major step toward reinterpreting its role in Southeast Asia, Tokyo might have to garner the political will and intent to fit into the broader U.S. strategy for the region.

Read more: Japan Taking a New Role in the South China Sea? | STRATFOR
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