Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941
on: December 07, 2009, 12:01:14 PM
Remembering Pearl Harbor
"December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. ... Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory. ... With confidence in our armed forces -- with the unbounded determination of our people -- we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God." --Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat far removed from today's crop of defeatists
On that fateful "Day of Infamy," 353 Japanese planes attacked a military target killing 2,390 American servicemen and civilians and wounding 1,282. The attack sank or damaged eight battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers and one minelayer and destroyed 188 aircraft. It took four years and the full military-industrial capability of the United States to defeat Japan. It is with honor and respect for those who died or suffered terrible injuries that Sunday morning that we should never again fall into the slumber that allowed such a tragedy as Pearl Harbor -- or the attack on Sept. 11, 2001 -- again.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Announcement
on: December 07, 2009, 11:41:42 AM
As some of you may have noticed, I enjoy naming things in a way I find
humorous. For example, in our "Kali Tudo" (tm) subsystem a particular
movement is named "The Dracula" (see our first KT DVD for an intro to this
In this regard, this past weekend I named a particular Dracula-based
combination as "Dracula brings the stake, hammer, and cross." The stake is a
particular uppercut (often done as a bolo punch) followed by a hammerfist
and a cross. Rhythmically it is a triplet and it is devastatingly
effective-- as the
saying goes "No brag, just fact." In training you must be careful not to
or knock your partner out!
Punning horrifically, using the homonym "steak" for "stake" I start riffing
about wanting your steak well done, medium, rare, or bloody , , , and
humorously someone asked how Dracula could use a cross. I explained that
many years ago there was a movie called "The Fearless Vampire Slayers" by
Roman Polanski (yes the one who hides in Europe from US rape charges
concerning drugging a 13 year old girl) which starred Sharon Tate (who was
later murdered by the Manson family). Anyway, there is a scene where a
vampire bursts through Sharon Tate's window and she, bosom bursting out of
her nightie, whips out a cross and holds it towards the vampire to repel him
and the vampire responds in a heavy Yiddish accent "Ach! Haff you gott ze
wrong vampire!"... As Dracula I can bring the cross, unaffected by it,
precisely because I am Jewish." Then, in an example of the strange,
deranged erudition that runs through the DBMA tribe someone brought the
following to my attention:http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/011025_Vampires.html#fn0
someone else "Why did Dracula cross to the head? Because he already threw
the stake and hammer."
But, as I so often do, I digress , , ,
Anyway, the larger point here is that it is a matter of deep fascination to
me to see the formulas of the Art begin to reveal themselves to me. Since
its inception in our "Kali Tudo" (tm) DVD, the Dracula Game has continued to
grow and to deepen into one of the most important and formidable games
within Kali Tudo; but as fun as it can be to blow someone's mind in MMA
sparring, the deeper point as I see it is in the reification of the promise
of the Art to have "consistency across categories"-- that our movements are
the same whether we know if the opponent/enemy has a weapon or not.
In the real world there often will not be time to discern whether a furtive
movement is the load of a punch or the access of a weapon and select either
a response for an empty handed attack or a weapon attack. Thus we seek
"consistency across categories" i.e. our movements are essentially the same
regardless of the fight in which we find ourselves. In "the interface of
gun, knife, empty hand" (a "Die Less Often" fight in DBMA parlance) it is
of profound help not to need to know whether the opponent/enemy has a weapon
in his hand in order to select the correct response. Our movement is the
same and the quicker for not having to make that determination. In the
split-second realities of DLO situations, this is vital! Furthermore not
only does the Dracula work really well in MMA, it is also a fundamental
close-quarter DLO technique, including for IFWA (In Fight Weapon Access).
In this regard I would like to mention that this winter's DBMA Training Camp
approaches soon-- February 6-7 to be precise at the Boxing Works Gym in
Hermosa Beach (Los Angeles) CA.
This winter's camp will include the Dracula Game and more-- including guest
instructor Kenny Johnson, whom I via Rigan Machado. Kenny is a world class
MMA Wrestling coach. For example, he was the MMA Wrestling Coach on Team
Noguiera on Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter". He coaches Anderson Silva,
and others of that ilk.
We got to know each other when I asked him for a lesson to help me
with certain wrestling based questions I had (re "the Rico" and also my
lousy underhooks) He was intrigued by what I was doing and we began light
sparring and exchanging knowledge. This has continued. A month or two ago
he came by my Monday "Kali Tudo" class. We taught together and the rapport
was really good. I think people will really enjoy this camp with the two of
us working together.
We know that with a camp that you must travel to us, so as we always do in
DBMA, we are keeping our cost to you down. The cost of the camp will be
$200. The LEO discount will be 15%. For active duty service personnel the
discount will be 25% and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan the discount will
be 50%. Anyone with combat citations, the camp will be free.
For up to date conversation about the camp, the thread of record ishttp://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1955.0
Walk as warriors for all our days!
Guro Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dracula and the Stake
on: December 07, 2009, 10:06:40 AM
As some of you may have noticed, I enjoy naming things in a way I find humorous. For example, in our "Kali Tudo" (tm) subsystem a particular movement is named "The Dracula" (see our first KT DVD for an intro to this material).
In this regard, this past weekend I named a particular Dracula-based combination as "Dracula brings the stake, hammer, and cross. Punning horrifically I start riffing about wanting your steak well done, medium, rare, or bloody , , , Someone asked how Dracula could use a cross.
"Many years ago there was a movie called "The Fearless Vampire Slayers" by Roman Polanski (yes the one who hides in Europe from US rape charges concerning drugging a 13 year old girl) and starring Sharon Tate-- who was later murdered by the Manson family , , , but I digress (as I so often do). Anyway, there is a scene where a vampire bursts through Sharon Tate's window and she, bosom bursting out of her nightie, whips out a cross and holds it towards the vampire; the vampire responds in a heavy Yiddish accent "Ach! Haff you gott ze wrong vampire!"...
"As Dracula I can bring the cross, unaffected by it, precisely because I am Jewish."
Then, in an example of the strange erudition that runs through the DBMA tribe someone brought the following to my attention:http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/011025_Vampires.html#fn0
The Right Vampire?*
Jewish Free PressOctober 25, 2001, pp. 8-9.
Dan, Joseph. The Esoteric Theology of Ashkenazi Hasidism. Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1968.
Trachtenberg, Joshua. Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion, Temple Books. New York: Atheneum, 1970.
In that 1967 film classic "the Fearless Vampire Killers," there is a memorable scene in which a lady tries in vain to fend off the vampire Shagal by waving a cross at him. The creature of the night, with an unmistakable Yiddish intonation, retorts "Boy have you got the wrong vampire!"
Indeed, the literary and cinematic depiction of vampires, from Dracula onwards, has been so strongly imbued with Christian symbolism that the very idea of a Jewish vampire makes an easy target for such comedic moments; notwithstanding the tragic medieval blood libels that charged Jews with using Christian blood in the preparation of Passover matzah.
Nevertheless, the study of medieval Jewish texts teaches us that a belief in vampire-like creatures was very intense in certain Jewish communities. Not surprisingly, this belief tended to surface in settings where it was also prevalent among their non-Jewish neighbours. That the concept was of foreign origin is also indicated by the non-Hebrew names by which the fearsome creatures were designated.
Most of the Jewish references to vampires are contained in the writings of the Hasidei Ashkenaz, a mystical pietistic movement that flourished in thirteenth-century Germany. The monsters were usually female, and were referred to as estries. The term is French, and derives from strix, a Latin word for a night-owl. The ancient Romans believed that the owls consume human blood, and Petronius tells a scary tale about a certain Cappadocian who was snatched away by a strix, and later found dead. The striges were said to be terrible women who could turn themselves into dreadful birds of prey, with huge talons, misshapen heads and breasts full of poisonous milk. In medieval folklore, they continued to be associated with screech owls
Cannibalistic behaviour typified the medieval German estries, who were believed to have a special fondness for the flesh of children. During the Middle Ages, the striges were given a Christian interpretation, and they were perceived as servants of Satan and his demons. They were usually portrayed as witches who practiced sorcery and flew through the air.
Several chilling stories about them were preserved by the Hasidei Ashkenaz, especially in the most important collection of the group's lore, Rabbi Judah the Pious's Sefer Hasidim.
According to Sefer Hasidim, the Talmud was referring to estries when it spoke about beings who were created at twilight on the first Friday, and whose bodies were not completed when God ceased working at the onset of the Sabbath.
A different theory was proposed by the fifteenth-century commentator Rabbi Menahem Zioni. Basing himself on midrashic sources, he claimed that it was the builders of the Tower of Babel who were transformed into vampires, werewolves, wood- and water-spirits, and sundry monsters.
The same author speaks of men and women who, by anointing their bodies with special oils, are able to fly. They must, however, return home before the break of dawn.
The sixteenth-century exegete Rabbi Obadiah Sforno speculated that supernatural beings like demons could not consume normal food. It follows, therefore, that their diet consists of the most subtle and spiritual substance, and this must be blood, which the Torah equates with the power of life. By extension, humans who desire to befriend the spirits will offer them blood; while those who aspire to partake of supernatural powers are likely to consume blood themselves.
In one story that appears in Sefer Hasidim, a woman who was an estrie fell ill, and was watched over during the night by two unsuspecting ladies. When one of the guardians dozed off, the patient suddenly stood up and began to unravel her hair. In true Dracula-like style, the estrie tried to fly off and to suck out the blood of the slumbering lady. Fortunately, her alert companion managed to cry out and wakened her, and the two of them were able to seize the estrie and prevent her from carrying out her nefarious scheme.
The Sefer Hasidim had no doubt that the estrie's survival depended on her success in slaying her victim. If prevented from doing so, the estrie perished. "This is because a being who was created from blood needs to swallow blood from flesh."
The medieval texts prescribe several different ways to restrain the estries--none of which involve crosses, holy water or wooden stakes. They could be controlled by the imposing of an oath upon them. Furthermore, since their powers were somehow dependent on the loosening of their hair, they could be rendered harmless if the hair was somehow held in check. And if a known estrie was included in the prayer for the sick that is recited in the synagogue, then the congregation was cautioned not to respond "Amen"!
Although an estrie could be injured by a physical blow, the effect of the blow could be undone if she was allowed to eat bread and salt belonging to her assailant. Conversely, bread and salt also worked as an antidote to injuries inflicted by the estrie.
At first glance, it is hard to imagine how anyone would be stupid enough to offer bread and water to an estrie after taking the trouble to attack her. However, we must bear in mind that the creatures were capable of morphing themselves into different forms, and therefore were not easy to recognize. Rabbi Zioni described this ability in detail, and noted that they had a special propensity for turning into cats.
Sefer Hasidim records a case of a suspected estrie who had assumed feline form. However, a certain Jew recognized her true identity (the source does not indicate how), and struck her. On the following day, a lady asked him for some bread and salt, and the imprudent Jew would have complied, had it not been for an old man who appeared on the scene and warned him of his folly.
As with our familiar vampires, the malevolent power of the estries did not cease with their deaths. For this reason, it was important to examine their corpses very carefully. Rabbi Eliezer Rokeah states that if the estrie has her mouth open when she is buried, you may be certain that she will continue to devour children for a year after her death. In order to curtail such anti-social behaviour, it is crucial to stuff her mouth with earth.
Most of the Hebrew descriptions of estries seem to assume that the creatures were not Jewish. However, at least one story implies otherwise.
Thus, we read in in Sefer Hasidim about some students who wanted to inflict capital punishment on women who were accused of baby-eating. The rabbi reminded them that, while in exile, Jewish courts did not have such authority. He did, however, suggest that an announcement be issued in the synagogue, in the presence of the suspects, that if any harm should befall the children, then they would have their teeth filed on the stones surrounding the well. If the accused were in fact guilty, then the ordeal would result in their inevitable deaths.
Of course, the fact that the estries in this story attended synagogue proves that they were Jews--and observant Jews at that!
To the best of my knowledge, Jewish sources have not recorded any vampire sightings for several centuries now. Nor is there any truth to the widespread rumours that the blood-suckers have been recruited as fundraisers for the United Jewish Appeal.
Nevertheless--purely as a precaution--parents are advised take some precautions the next time a sweet old bubbeh tells them that their precious infant looks "sweet enough to eat."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Grant: The loss of the gold standard
on: December 07, 2009, 08:50:33 AM
Ben S. Bernanke doesn't know how lucky he is. Tongue-lashings from Bernie Sanders, the populist senator from Vermont, are one thing. The hangman's noose is another. Section 19 of this country's founding monetary legislation, the Coinage Act of 1792, prescribed the death penalty for any official who fraudulently debased the people's money. Was the massive printing of dollar bills to lift Wall Street (and the rest of us, too) off the rocks last year a kind of fraud? If the U.S. Senate so determines, it may send Mr. Bernanke back home to Princeton. But not even Ron Paul, the Texas Republican sponsor of a bill to subject the Fed to periodic congressional audits, is calling for the Federal Reserve chairman's head.
I wonder, though, just how far we have really come in the past 200-odd years. To give modernity its due, the dollar has cut a swath in the world. There's no greater success story in the long history of money than the common greenback. Of no intrinsic value, collateralized by nothing, it passes from hand to trusting hand the world over. More than half of the $923 billion's worth of currency in circulation is in the possession of foreigners.
View Full Image
President Richard M. Nixon after his Aug. 15, 1971, speech which established that dollars could not be exchanged for gold.
.In ancient times, the solidus circulated far and wide. But it was a tangible thing, a gold coin struck by the Byzantine Empire. Between Waterloo and the Great Depression, the pound sterling ruled the roost. But it was convertible into gold—slip your bank notes through a teller's window and the Bank of England would return the appropriate number of gold sovereigns. The dollar is faith-based. There's nothing behind it but Congress.
But now the world is losing faith, as well it might. It's not that the dollar is overvalued—economists at Deutsche Bank estimate it's 20% too cheap against the euro. The problem lies with its management. The greenback is a glorious old brand that's looking more and more like General Motors.
You get the strong impression that Mr. Bernanke fails to appreciate the tenuousness of the situation—fails to understand that the pure paper dollar is a contrivance only 38 years old, brand new, really, and that the experiment may yet come to naught. Indeed, history and mathematics agree that it will certainly come to naught. Paper currencies are wasting assets. In time, they lose all their value. Persistent inflation at even seemingly trifling amounts adds up over the course of half a century. Before you know it, that bill in your wallet won't buy a pack of gum.
For most of this country's history, the dollar was exchangeable into gold or silver. "Sound" money was the kind that rang when you dropped it on a counter. For a long time, the rate of exchange was an ounce of gold for $20.67. Following the Roosevelt devaluation of 1933, the rate of exchange became an ounce of gold for $35. After 1933, only foreign governments and central banks were privileged to swap unwanted paper for gold, and most of these official institutions refrained from asking (after 1946, it seemed inadvisable to antagonize the very superpower that was standing between them and the Soviet Union). By the late 1960s, however, some of these overseas dollar holders, notably France, began to clamor for gold. They were well-advised to do so, dollars being in demonstrable surplus. President Richard Nixon solved that problem in August 1971 by suspending convertibility altogether. From that day to this, in the words of John Exter, Citibanker and monetary critic, a Federal Reserve "note" has been an "IOU nothing."
From the Solidus to the Euro
A guide to currencies through the ages.
Art Resource, NY
A gold coin introduced around A.D. 310, early in the reign of Emperor Constantine I. In the Byzantine currency system, it was the prime coin against which other coins could be exchanged and was used in international trade and major payrolls. Its use continued into the 11th century, when Constantine IX began debasing it.
The U.K. currency is the oldest currency still in use. Its paper form was introduced when the Bank of England was formed in 1694.
American Numismatic Society
The Coinage Act of 1792 affirmed the dollar as the U.S. currency unit and specified that each was to equal the value of the Spanish milled dollar and was to contain 371 4/16 grains of pure, or 416 grains of standard, silver.
Deutsche Bundesbank/Getty Images
This common currency for 16 European Union countries launched on Jan. 1, 1999, replacing, among others, Italy's lira, Germany's Deutsche mark and France's franc. The euro erased most of Western Europe's monetary borders.
.To understand the scrape we are in, it may help, a little, to understand the system we left behind. A proper gold standard was a well-oiled machine. The metal actually moved and, so moving, checked what are politely known today as "imbalances." Say a certain baseball-loving North American country were running a persistent trade deficit. Under the monetary system we don't have and which only a few are yet even talking about instituting, the deficit country would remit to its creditors not pieces of easily duplicable paper but scarce gold bars. Gold was money—is, in fact, still money—and the loss would set in train a series of painful but necessary adjustments in the country that had been watching baseball instead of making things to sell. Interest rates would rise in that deficit country. Its prices would fall, its credit would be curtailed, its exports would increase and its imports decrease. At length, the deficit country would be restored to something like competitive trim. The gold would come sailing back to where it started. As it is today, dollars are piled higher and higher in the vaults of America's Asian creditors. There's no adjustment mechanism, only recriminations and the first suggestion that, from the creditors' point of view, enough is enough.
So in 1971, the last remnants of the gold standard were erased. And a good thing, too, some economists maintain. The high starched collar of a gold standard prolonged the Great Depression, they charge; it would likely have deepened our Great Recession, too. Virtue's the thing for prosperity, they say; in times of trouble, give us the Ben S. Bernanke school of money conjuring. There are many troubles with this notion. For one thing, there is no single gold standard. The version in place in the 1920s, known as the gold-exchange standard, was almost as deeply flawed as the post-1971 paper-dollar system. As for the Great Recession, the Bernanke method itself was a leading cause of our troubles. Constrained by the discipline of a convertible currency, the U.S. would have had to undergo the salutary, unpleasant process described above to cure its trade deficit. But that process of correction would—I am going to speculate—have saved us from the near-death financial experience of 2008. Under a properly functioning gold standard, the U.S. would not have been able to borrow itself to the threshold of the poorhouse.
Anyway, starting in the early 1970s, American monetary policy came to resemble a game of tennis without the net. Relieved of the irksome inhibition of gold convertibility, the Fed could stop worrying about the French. To be sure, it still had Congress to answer to, and the financial markets, as well. But no more could foreigners come calling for the collateral behind the dollar, because there was none. The nets came down on Wall Street, too. As the idea took hold that the Fed could meet any serious crisis by carpeting the nation with dollar bills, bankers and brokers took more risks. New forms of business organization encouraged more borrowing. New inflationary vistas opened.
Not that the architects of the post-1971 game set out to lower the nets. They believed they'd put up new ones. In place of such gold discipline as remained under Bretton Woods—in truth, there wasn't much—markets would be the monetary judges and juries. The late Walter Wriston, onetime chairman of Citicorp, said that the world had traded up. In place of a gold standard, it now had an "information standard." Buyers and sellers of the Treasury's notes and bonds, on the one hand, or of dollars, yen, Deutschemarks, Swiss francs, on the other, would ride herd on the Fed. You'd know when the central bank went too far because bond yields would climb or the dollar exchange rate would fall. Gold would trade like any other commodity, but nobody would pay attention to it.
I check myself a little in arraigning the monetary arrangements that have failed us so miserably these past two years. The lifespan of no monetary system since 1880 has been more than 30 or 40 years, including that of my beloved classical gold standard, which perished in 1914. The pure paper dollar regime has been a long time dying. It was no good portent when the tellers' bars started coming down from neighborhood bank branches. The uncaged teller was a sign that Americans had began to conceive an elevated opinion of the human capacity to manage financial risk. There were other evil omens. In 1970, Wall Street partnerships began to convert to limited liability corporations—Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette was the first to make the leap, Goldman Sachs, among the last, in 1999. In a partnership, the owners are on the line for everything they have in case of the firm's bankruptcy. No such sword of Damocles hangs over the top executives of a corporation. The bankers and brokers incorporated because they felt they needed more capital, more scale, more technology—and, of course, more leverage.
In no phase of American monetary history was every banker so courageous and farsighted as Isaias W. Hellman, a progenitor of an institution called Farmers & Merchants Bank and of another called Wells Fargo. Operating in southern California in the late 1880s, Hellman arrived at the conclusion that the Los Angeles real-estate market was a bubble. So deciding—the prices of L.A. business lots had climbed to $5,000 from $500 in one short year—he stopped lending. The bubble burst, and his bank prospered. Safety and soundness was Hellman's motto. He and his depositors risked their money side-by-side. The taxpayers didn't subsidize that transaction, not being a party to it.
In this crisis, of course, with latter-day Hellmans all too scarce in the banking population, the taxpayers have born an unconscionable part of the risk. Wells Fargo itself passed the hat for $25 billion. Hellmans are scarce because the federal government has taken away their franchise. There's no business value in financial safety when the government bails out the unsafe. And by bailing out a scandalously large number of unsafe institutions, the government necessarily puts the dollar at risk. In money, too, the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone. Debased banks mean a debased currency (perhaps causation works in the other direction, too).
Many contended for the hubris prize in the years leading up to the sorrows of 2008, but the Fed beat all comers. Under Mr. Bernanke, as under his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, our central bank preached the doctrine of stability. The Fed would iron out the business cycle, promote full employment, pour oil on the waters of any and every major financial crisis and assure stable prices. In particular, under the intellectual leadership of Mr. Bernanke, the Fed would tolerate no sagging of the price level. It would insist on a decent minimum of inflation. It staked out this position in the face of the economic opening of China and India and the spread of digital technology. To the common-sense observation that these hundreds of millions of willing new hands, and gadgets, might bring down prices at Wal-Mart, the Fed turned a deaf ear. It would save us from "deflation" by generating a sweet taste of inflation (not too much, just enough). And it would perform these feats of macroeconomic management by pushing a single interest rate up or down.
It was implausible enough in the telling and has turned out no better in the doing. Nor is there any mystery why. The Fed's M.O. is price control. It fixes the basic money market interest rate, known as the federal funds rate. To arrive at the proper rate, the monetary mandarins conduct their research, prepare their forecast—and take a wild guess, just like the rest of us. Since December 2008, the Fed has imposed a funds rate of 0% to 0.25%. Since March of 2009, it has bought just over $1 trillion of mortgage-backed securities and $300 billion of Treasurys. It has acquired these assets in the customary central-bank manner, i.e., by conjuring into existence the money to pay for them. Yet—a measure of the nation's lingering problems—the broadly defined money supply isn't growing but dwindling.
The Fed's miniature interest rates find favor with debtors, disfavor with savers (that doughty band). All may agree, however, that the bond market has lost such credibility it once had as a monetary-policy voting machine. Whether or not the Fed is cranking too hard on the dollar printing press is, for professional dealers and investors, a moot point. With the cost of borrowing close to zero, they are happy as clams (that is, they can finance their inventories of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities at virtually no cost). The U.S. government securities market has been conscripted into the economic-stimulus program.
Neither are the currency markets the founts of objective monetary information they perhaps used to be. The euro trades freely, but the Chinese yuan is under the thumb of the People's Republic. It tells you nothing about the respective monetary policies of the People's Bank and the Fed to observe that it takes 6.831 yuan to make a dollar. It's the exchange rate that Beijing wants.
On the matter of comparative monetary policies, the most expressive market is the one that the Fed isn't overtly manipulating. Though Treasury yields might as well be frozen, the gold price is soaring (it lost altitude on Friday). Why has it taken flight? Not on account of an inflation problem. Gold is appreciating in terms of all paper currencies—or, alternatively, paper currencies are depreciating in terms of gold—because the world is losing faith in the tenets of modern central banking. Correctly, the dollar's vast non-American constituency understands that it counts for nothing in the councils of the Fed and the Treasury. If 0% interest rates suit the U.S. economy, 0% will be the rate imposed. Then, too, gold is hard to find and costly to produce. You can materialize dollars with the tap of a computer key.
Let me interrupt myself to say that I am not now making a bullish investment case for gold (I happen to be bullish, but it's only an opinion). The trouble with 0% interest rates is that they instigate speculation in almost every asset that moves (and when such an immense market as that in Treasury securities isn't allowed to move, the suppressed volatility finds different outlets). By practicing price, or interest-rate, control, the Bank of Bernanke fosters a kind of alternative financial reality. Let the buyer beware—of just about everything.
A proper gold standard promotes balance in the financial and commercial affairs of participating nations. The pure paper system promotes and perpetuates imbalances. Not since 1976 has this country consumed less than it produced (as measured by the international trade balance): a deficit of 32 years and counting. Why has the shortfall persisted for so long? Because the U.S., uniquely, is allowed to pay its bills in the currency that only it may lawfully print. We send it west, to the central banks of our Asian creditors. And they, obligingly, turn right around and invest the dollars in America's own securities. It's as if the money never left home. Stop to ask yourself, American reader: Is any other nation on earth so blessed as we?
There is, however, a rub. The Asian central banks do not acquire their dollars with nothing. Rather, they buy them with the currency that they themselves print. Some of this money they manage to sweep under the rug, or "sterilize," but a good bit of it enters the local payment stream, where it finances today's rowdy Asian bull markets.
A monetary economist from Mars could only scratch his pointy head at our 21st century monetary arrangements. What is a dollar? he might ask. No response. The Martian can't find out because the earthlings don't know. The value of a dollar is undefined. Its relationship to other currencies is similarly contingent. Some exchange rates float, others sink, still others are lashed to the dollar (whatever it is). Discouraged, the visitor zooms home.
Neither would the ghosts of earthly finance know what to make of things if they returned for a briefing from wherever they were spending eternity. Someone would have to tell Alexander Hamilton that his system of coins is defunct, as is, incidentally, the federal sinking fund he devised to retire the public debt (it went out of business in 1960). He might have to hear it more than once to understand, but Congress no longer "coins" money and regulates the value thereof. Rather, it delegates the work to Mr. Bernanke, who, a noted student of the Great Depression, believes that the cure for borrowing too much money is printing more money.
Walter Bagehot, the Victorian English financial journalist, would be in for a jolt, too. It would hardly please him to hear that the Fed had invoked the authority of his name to characterize its helter-skelter interventions of the past year. In a crisis, Bagehot wrote in his 1873 study "Lombard Street," a central bank should lend without stint to solvent institutions at a punitive rate of interest against sound collateral. At least, Bagehot's shade might console itself, the Fed was faithful to the text on one point. It did lend without stint.
If Bagehot's ghost would be chagrined, that of Bagehot's sparring partner, Thomson Hankey, would be exultant. Hankey, a onetime governor of the Bank of England, denounced Bagehot in life. No central bank should stand ready to bail out the imprudent, he maintained. "I cannot conceive of anything more likely to encourage rash and imprudent speculation..., " wrote Hankey in response to Bagehot. "I am no advocate for any legislative enactments to try and make the trading community more prudent."
Hankey believed in the price system. It might pain him to discover that his professional descendants have embraced command and control. "We should have required [banks to hold] more capital, more liquidity," Mr. Bernanke rued in a Senate hearing on Thursday. "We should have required more risk management controls." Roll over, Isaias Hellman.
So our Martian would be mystified and our honored dead distressed. And we, the living? We are none too pleased ourselves. At least, however, being alive, we can begin to set things right. The thing to do, I say, is to restore the nets to the tennis courts of money and finance. Collateralize the dollar—make it exchangeable into something of genuine value. Get the Fed out of the price-fixing business. Replace Ben Bernanke with a latter-day Thomson Hankey. Find—cultivate—battalions of latter-day Hellmans and set them to running free-market banks. There's one more thing: Return to the statute books Section 19 of the 1792 Coinage Act, but substitute life behind bars for the death penalty. It's the 21st century, you know.
James Grant, editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, is the author, most recently, of "Mr. Market Miscalculates" (Axios Press).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF
on: December 07, 2009, 08:34:14 AM
Proofreading is a dying art, wouldn't you say?
Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter
This one I caught in the SGV Tribune the other day and called the Editorial Room and asked who wrote this. It took two or three readings before the editor realized that what he was reading was impossible!!! They put in a correction the next day.
I just couldn't help but send this along. Too funny.
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert SaysNo crap, really? Ya think?
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Now that's taking things a bit far!
Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
What a guy!
Miners Refuse to Work after Death
No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-so's!
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
See if that works any better than a fair trial!
War Dims Hope for Peace
I can see where it might have that effect!
If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
Who would have thought!
Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain;PoliceSuspect Homicide
They may be on to something!
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?
Man Struck By Lightning:Faces Battery Charge
He probably IS the battery charge!
New Study of Obesity Looks for LargerTest Group
Weren't they fat enough?!
Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
That's what he gets for eating those beans!
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Do they taste like chicken?
Local High SchoolDropoutsCut in Half
Chainsaw Massacre all over again!
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
Boy, are they tall!
And the winner is....
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
Did I read that right?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article
on: December 06, 2009, 09:00:03 PM
Let the puns begin-- I named a Dracula combination today: "The Dracula brings the stake, hammer, and a cross."
Would you like your stake well done, medium, rare, or bloody?
How can Dracula use a cross without it hurting him? In my case, I am Jewish.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / part 2
on: December 06, 2009, 10:37:49 AM
part 2 of third post of morning:
Page 4 of 6)
Mr. Gates and others talked about the limits of the American ability to
actually defeat the Taliban; they were an indigenous force in Afghan
society, part of the political fabric. This was a view shared by others
around the table, including Leon E. Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., who
argued that the Taliban could not be defeated as such and so the goal should
be to drive wedges between those who could be reconciled with the Afghan
government and those who could not be.
With Mr. Biden leading the skeptics, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Gates and Admiral
Mullen increasingly aligned behind a more robust force. Mrs. Clinton wanted
to make sure she was a formidable player in the process. "She was determined
that her briefing books would be just as thick and just as meticulous as
those of the Pentagon," said one senior adviser. She asked hard questions
about Afghan troop training, unafraid of wading into Pentagon territory.
After a meeting where the Pentagon made a presentation with impressive
color-coded maps, Mrs. Clinton returned to the State Department and told her
aides, "We need maps," as one recalled. She was overseas during the next
meeting on Oct. 14, when aides used her new maps to show civilian efforts
but she participated with headphones on from her government plane flying
back from Russia.
Mr. Gates was a seasoned hand at such reviews, having served eight
presidents and cycled in and out of the Situation Room since the days when
it was served by a battery of fax machines. Like Mrs. Clinton, he was
sympathetic to General McChrystal's request, having resolved his initial
concern that a buildup would fuel resentment the way the disastrous Soviet
occupation of Afghanistan did in the 1980s.
But Mr. Gates's low-wattage exterior masks a wily inside player, and he knew
enough to keep his counsel early in the process to let it play out more
first. "When to speak is important to him; when to signal is important to
him," said a senior Defense Department official.
On Oct. 22, the National Security Council produced what one official called
a "consensus memo," much of which originated out of the defense secretary's
office, concluding that the United States should focus on diminishing the
Taliban insurgency but not destroying it; building up certain critical
ministries; and transferring authority to Afghan security forces.
There was no consensus yet on troop numbers, however, so Mr. Obama called a
smaller group of advisers together on Oct. 26 to finally press Mrs. Clinton
and Mr. Gates. Mrs. Clinton made it clear that she was comfortable with
General McChrystal's request for 40,000 troops or something close to it; Mr.
Gates also favored a big force.
Mr. Obama was leery. He had received a memo the day before from the Office
of Management and Budget projecting that General McChrystal's full
40,000-troop request on top of the existing deployment and reconstruction
efforts would cost $1 trillion from 2010 to 2020, an adviser said. The
president seemed in sticker shock, watching his domestic agenda vanishing in
front of him. "This is a 10-year, trillion-dollar effort and does not match
up with our interests," he said.
Still, for the first time, he made it clear that he was ready to send more
troops if a strategy could be found to ensure that it was not an endless
war. He indicated that the Taliban had to be beaten back. "What do we need
to break their momentum?" he asked.
Four days later, at a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Oct. 30, he
emphasized the need for speed. "Why can't I get the troops in faster?" he
asked. If they were going to do this, he concluded, it only made sense to do
this quickly, to have impact and keep the war from dragging on forever.
"This is America's war," he said. "But I don't want to make an open-ended
Bridging the Differences
Now that he had a sense of where Mr. Obama was heading, Mr. Gates began
shaping a plan that would bridge the differences. He developed a
30,000-troop option that would give General McChrystal the bulk of his
request, reasoning that NATO could make up most of the difference.
"If people are having trouble swallowing 40, let's see if we can make this
smaller and easier to swallow and still give the commander what he needs," a
senior Defense official said, summarizing the secretary's thinking.
The plan, called Option 2A, was presented to the president on Nov. 11. Mr.
Obama complained that the bell curve would take 18 months to get all the
troops in place.
He turned to General Petraeus and asked him how long it took to get the
so-called surge troops he commanded in Iraq in 2007. That was six months.
"What I'm looking for is a surge," Mr. Obama said. "This has to be a surge."
Page 5 of 6)
That represented a contrast from when Mr. Obama, as a presidential
candidate, staunchly opposed President Bush's buildup in Iraq. But unlike
Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama wanted from the start to speed up a withdrawal as well.
The military was told to come up with a plan to send troops quickly and then
begin bringing them home quickly.
And in another twist, Mr. Obama, who campaigned as an apostle of
transparency and had been announcing each Situation Room meeting publicly
and even releasing pictures, was livid that details of the discussions were
"What I'm not going to tolerate is you talking to the press outside of this
room," he scolded his advisers. "It's a disservice to the process, to the
country and to the men and women of the military."
His advisers sat in uncomfortable silence. That very afternoon, someone
leaked word of a cable sent by Ambassador Eikenberry from Kabul expressing
reservations about a large buildup of forces as long as the Karzai
government remained unreformed. At one of their meetings, General Petraeus
had told Mr. Obama to think of elements of the Karzai government like "a
crime syndicate." Ambassador Eikenberry was suggesting, in effect, that
America could not get in bed with the mob.
The leak of Ambassador Eikenberry's Nov. 6 cable stirred another storm
within the administration because the cable had been requested by the White
House. The National Security Council had told the ambassador to put his
views in writing. But someone else then passed word of the cable to
reporters in what some in the process took to be a calculated attempt to
head off a big troop buildup.
The cable stunned some in the military. The reaction at the Pentagon, said
one official, was "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" - military slang for an expression
of shock. Among the officers caught off guard were General McChrystal and
his staff, for whom the cable was "a complete surprise," said another
official, even though the commander and the ambassador meet three times a
A Presidential Order
By this point, the idea of some sort of time frame was taking on momentum.
Mrs. Clinton talked to Mr. Karzai before the Afghan leader's inauguration to
a second term. She suggested that he use his speech to outline a schedule
for taking over security of the country.
Mr. Karzai did just that, declaring that Afghan forces directed by Kabul
would take charge of securing population centers in three years and the
whole country in five. His pronouncement, orchestrated partly by Mrs.
Clinton and diplomats in Kabul, provided a predicate for Mr. Obama to set
out his own time frame.
The president gathered his team in the Situation Room at 8:15 p.m. on Nov.
23, the unusual nighttime hour adding to what one participant called a
momentous wartime feeling. The room was strewn with coffee cups and soda
Mr. Obama presented a revised version of Option 2A, this one titled "Max
Leverage," pushing 30,000 troops into Afghanistan by mid-2010 and beginning
to pull them out by July 2011. Admiral Mullen came up with the date at the
direction of Mr. Obama, despite some misgivings from the Pentagon about
setting a time frame for a withdrawal. The date was two years from the
arrival of the first reinforcements Mr. Obama sent shortly after taking
office. Mr. Biden had written a memo before the meeting talking about the
need for "proof of concept" - in other words, two years ought to be enough
for extra troops to demonstrate whether a buildup would work.
The president went around the room asking for opinions. Mr. Biden again
expressed skepticism, even at this late hour when the tide had turned
against him in terms of the troop number. But he had succeeded in narrowing
the scope of the mission to protect population centers and setting the date
to begin withdrawal. Others around the table concurred with the plan. Mr.
Obama spoke last, but still somewhat elliptically. Some advisers said they
walked out into the night after 10 p.m., uncertain whether the president had
actually endorsed the Max Leverage option or was just testing for reaction.
Page 6 of 6)
Two days later, Mr. Obama met with Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker and a
critic of the Afghan war. The president outlined his plans for the buildup
without disclosing specific numbers. Ms. Pelosi was unenthusiastic and
pointedly told the president that he could not rely on Democrats alone to
pass financing for the war.
The White House had spent little time courting Congress to this point. Even
though it would need Republican support, the White House had made no
overtures to the party leaders.
But there was back-channel contact. Mr. Emanuel was talking with Senator
Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who urged him to settle on a
troop number "that began with 3" to win Republican support. "I said as long
as the generals are O.K. and there is a meaningful number, you will be
O.K.," Mr. Graham recalled.
The day after Thanksgiving, Mr. Obama huddled with aides from 10:30 a.m. to
9:15 p.m. refining parameters for the plan and mapping out his announcement.
He told his speechwriter, Ben Rhodes, that he wanted to directly rebut the
comparison with Vietnam.
On the following Sunday, Nov. 29, he summoned his national security team to
the Oval Office. He had made his decision. He would send 30,000 troops as
quickly as possible, then begin the withdrawal in July 2011. In deference to
Mr. Gates's concerns, the pace and endpoint of the withdrawal would be
determined by conditions at the time.
"I'm not asking you to change what you believe," the president told his
advisers. "But if you do not agree with me, say so now." There was a pause
and no one said anything.
"Tell me now," he repeated.
Mr. Biden asked only if this constituted a presidential order. Mr. Gates and
others signaled agreement.
"Fully support, sir," Admiral Mullen said.
"Ditto," General Petraeus said.
Mr. Obama then went to the Situation Room to call General McChrystal and
Ambassador Eikenberry. The president made it clear that in the next
assessment in December 2010 he would not contemplate more troops. "It will
only be about the flexibility in how we draw down, not if we draw down," he
Two days later, Mr. Obama flew to West Point to give his speech. After three
months of agonizing review, he seemed surprisingly serene. "He was," said
one adviser, "totally at peace."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: BO's decision
on: December 06, 2009, 10:36:33 AM
WASHINGTON - On the afternoon he held the eighth meeting of his Afghanistan
review, President Obama arrived in the White House Situation Room ruminating
about war. He had come from Arlington National Cemetery, where he had
wandered among the chalky white tombstones of those who had fallen in the
rugged mountains of Central Asia.
How much their sacrifice weighed on him that Veterans Day last month, he did
not say. But his advisers say he was haunted by the human toll as he
wrestled with what to do about the eight-year-old war. Just a month earlier,
he had mentioned to them his visits to wounded soldiers at the Army hospital
in Washington. "I don't want to be going to Walter Reed for another eight
years," he said then.
The economic cost was troubling him as well after he received a private
budget memo estimating that an expanded presence would cost $1 trillion over
10 years, roughly the same as his health care plan.
Now as his top military adviser ran through a slide show of options, Mr.
Obama expressed frustration. He held up a chart showing how reinforcements
would flow into Afghanistan over 18 months and eventually begin to pull out,
a bell curve that meant American forces would be there for years to come.
"I want this pushed to the left," he told advisers, pointing to the bell
curve. In other words, the troops should be in sooner, then out sooner.
When the history of the Obama presidency is written, that day with the chart
may prove to be a turning point, the moment a young commander in chief set
in motion a high-stakes gamble to turn around a losing war. By moving the
bell curve to the left, Mr. Obama decided to send 30,000 troops mostly in
the next six months and then begin pulling them out a year after that,
betting that a quick jolt of extra forces could knock the enemy back on its
heels enough for the Afghans to take over the fight.
The three-month review that led to the escalate-then-exit strategy is a case
study in decision making in the Obama White House - intense, methodical,
rigorous, earnest and at times deeply frustrating for nearly all involved.
It was a virtual seminar in Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by a president
described by one participant as something "between a college professor and a
Mr. Obama peppered advisers with questions and showed an insatiable demand
for information, taxing analysts who prepared three dozen intelligence
reports for him and Pentagon staff members who churned out thousands of
pages of documents.
This account of how the president reached his decision is based on dozens of
interviews with participants as well as a review of notes some of them took
during Mr. Obama's 10 meetings with his national security team. Most of
those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal
deliberations, but their accounts have been matched against those of other
participants wherever possible.
Mr. Obama devoted so much time to the Afghan issue - nearly 11 hours on the
day after Thanksgiving alone - that he joked, "I've got more deeply in the
weeds than a president should, and now you guys need to solve this." He
invited competing voices to debate in front of him, while guarding his own
thoughts. Even David Axelrod, arguably his closest adviser, did not know
where Mr. Obama would come out until just before Thanksgiving.
With the result uncertain, the outsize personalities on his team vied for
his favor, sometimes sharply disagreeing as they made their arguments. The
White House suspected the military of leaking details of the review to put
pressure on the president. The military and the State Department suspected
the White House of leaking to undercut the case for more troops. The
president erupted at the leaks with an anger advisers had rarely seen, but
he did little to shut down the public clash within his own government.
"The president welcomed a full range of opinions and invited contrary points
of view," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview
last month. "And I thought it was a very healthy experience because people
took him up on it. And one thing we didn't want - to have a decision made
and then have somebody say, 'Oh, by the way.' No, come forward now or
forever hold your peace."
The decision represents a complicated evolution in Mr. Obama's thinking. He
began the process clearly skeptical of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's request
for 40,000 more troops, but the more he learned about the consequences of
failure, and the more he narrowed the mission, the more he gravitated toward
a robust if temporary buildup, guided in particular by Defense Secretary
Robert M. Gates.
Yet even now, he appears ambivalent about what some call "Obama's war." Just
two weeks before General McChrystal warned of failure at the end of August,
Mr. Obama described Afghanistan as a "war of necessity." When he announced
his new strategy last week, those words were nowhere to be found. Instead,
while recommitting to the war on Al Qaeda, he made clear that the larger
struggle for Afghanistan had to be balanced against the cost in blood and
treasure and brought to an end.
Aides, though, said the arduous review gave Mr. Obama comfort that he had
found the best course he could. "The process was exhaustive, but any time
you get the president of the United States to devote 25 hours, anytime you
get that kind of commitment, you know it was serious business," said Gen.
James L. Jones, the president's national security adviser. "From the very
first meeting, everyone started with set opinions. And no opinion was the
same by the end of the process."
Taking Control of a War
Mr. Obama ran for president supportive of the so-called good war in
Afghanistan and vowing to send more troops, but he talked about it primarily
as a way of attacking Republicans for diverting resources to Iraq, which he
described as a war of choice. Only after taking office, as casualties
mounted and the Taliban gained momentum, did Mr. Obama really begin to
confront what to do.
Page 2 of 6)
Even before completing a review of the war, he ordered the military to send
21,000 more troops there, bringing the force to 68,000. But tension between
the White House and the military soon emerged when General Jones, a retired
Marine four-star general, traveled to Afghanistan in the summer and was
surprised to hear officers already talking about more troops. He made it
clear that no more troops were in the offing.
With the approach of Afghanistan's presidential election in August, Mr.
Obama's two new envoys - Richard C. Holbrooke, the president's special
representative to the region, and Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired
commander of troops in Afghanistan now serving as ambassador - warned of
trouble, including the possibility of angry Afghans marching on the American
Embassy or outright civil war.
"There are 10 ways this can turn out," one administration official said,
summing up the envoys' presentation, "and 9 of them are messy."
The worst did not happen, but widespread fraud tainted the election and
shocked some in the White House as they realized that their partner in
Kabul, President Hamid Karzai, was hopelessly compromised in terms of public
At the same time, the Taliban kept making gains. The Central Intelligence
Agency drew up detailed maps in August charting the steady progression of
the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, maps that would later be used
extensively during the president's review. General McChrystal submitted his
own dire assessment of the situation, warning of "mission failure" without a
fresh infusion of troops.
While General McChrystal did not submit a specific troop request at that
point, the White House knew it was coming and set out to figure out what to
do. General Jones organized a series of meetings that he envisioned lasting
a few weeks. Before each one, he convened a rehearsal session to impose
discipline - "get rid of the chaff," one official put it - that included
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Gates and other
cabinet-level officials. Mr. Biden made a practice of writing a separate
private memo to Mr. Obama before each meeting, outlining his thoughts.
The first meeting with the president took place on Sept. 13, a Sunday, and
was not disclosed to the public that day. For hours, Mr. Obama and his top
advisers pored through intelligence reports.
Unsatisfied, the president posed a series of questions: Does America need to
defeat the Taliban to defeat Al Qaeda? Can a counterinsurgency strategy work
in Afghanistan given the problems with its government? If the Taliban
regained control of Afghanistan, would nuclear-armed Pakistan be next?
The deep skepticism he expressed at that opening session was reinforced by
Mr. Biden, who rushed back overnight from a California trip to participate.
Just as he had done in the spring, Mr. Biden expressed opposition to an
expansive strategy requiring a big troop influx. Instead, he put an
alternative on the table - rather than focus on nation building and
population protection, do more to disrupt the Taliban, improve the quality
of the training of Afghan forces and expand reconciliation efforts to peel
off some Taliban fighters.
Mr. Biden quickly became the most outspoken critic of the expected
McChrystal troop request, arguing that Pakistan was the bigger priority,
since that is where Al Qaeda is mainly based. "He was the bull in the china
shop," said one admiring administration official.
But others were nodding their heads at some of what he was saying, too,
including General Jones and Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.
A Review Becomes News
The quiet review burst into public view when General McChrystal's secret
report was leaked to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post a week after the
first meeting. The general's grim assessment jolted Washington and lent
urgency to the question of what to do to avoid defeat in Afghanistan.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David
H. Petraeus, the regional commander, secretly flew to an American air base
in Germany for a four-hour meeting with General McChrystal on Sept. 25. He
handed them his troop request on paper - there were no electronic versions
and barely 20 copies in all.
The request outlined three options for different missions: sending 80,000
more troops to conduct a robust counterinsurgency campaign throughout the
country; 40,000 troops to reinforce the southern and eastern areas where the
Taliban are strongest; or 10,000 to 15,000 troops mainly to train Afghan
General Petraeus took one copy, while Admiral Mullen took two back to
Washington and dropped one off at Mr. Gates's home next to his in a small
military compound in Washington. But no one sent the document to the White
House, intending to process it through the Pentagon review first.
Mr. Obama was focused on another report. At 10 p.m. on Sept. 29, he called
over from the White House residence to the West Wing to ask for a copy of
the first Afghanistan strategy he approved in March to ramp up the fight
against Al Qaeda and the Taliban while increasing civilian assistance. A
deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough, brought him a copy to
reread overnight. When his national security team met the next day, Mr.
Obama complained that elements of that plan had never been enacted.
Page 3 of 6)
The group went over the McChrystal assessment and drilled in on what the
core goal should be. Some thought that General McChrystal interpreted the
March strategy more ambitiously than it was intended to be. Mr. Biden asked
tough questions about whether there was any intelligence showing that the
Taliban posed a threat to American territory. But Mr. Obama also firmly
closed the door on any withdrawal. "I just want to say right now, I want to
take off the table that we're leaving Afghanistan," he told his advisers.
Tension with the military had been simmering since the leak of the
McChrystal report, which some in the White House took as an attempt to box
in the president. The friction intensified on Oct. 1 when the general was
asked after a speech in London whether a narrower mission, like the one Mr.
Biden proposed, would succeed. "The short answer is no," he said.
White House officials were furious, and Mr. Gates publicly scolded advisers
who did not keep their advice to the president private. The furor rattled
General McChrystal, who, unlike General Petraeus, was not a savvy Washington
operator. And it stunned others in the military, who were at first
"bewildered by how over the top the reaction was from the White House," as
one military official put it.
It also proved to be what one review participant called a "head-snapping"
moment of revelation for the military. The president, they suddenly
realized, was not simply updating his previous strategy but essentially
starting over from scratch.
The episode underscored the uneasy relationship between the military and a
new president who, aides said, was determined not to be as deferential as he
believed his predecessor, George W. Bush, was for years in Iraq. And the
military needed to adjust to a less experienced but more skeptical commander
in chief. "We'd been chugging along for eight years under an administration
that had become very adept at managing war in a certain way," said another
Moreover, Mr. Obama had read "Lessons in Disaster," Gordon M. Goldstein's
book on the Vietnam War. The book had become a must read in the West Wing
after Mr. Emanuel had dinner over the summer at the house of another deputy
national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and wandered into his library
to ask what he should be reading.
Among the conclusions that Mr. Donilon and the White House team drew from
the book was that both President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B.
Johnson failed to question the underlying assumption about monolithic
Communism and the domino theory - clearly driving the Obama advisers to
rethink the nature of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The Pakistan Question
While public attention focused on Afghanistan, some of the most intensive
discussion focused on the country where Mr. Obama could send no troops -
Pakistan. Pushed in particular by Mrs. Clinton, the president's team
explored the links between the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban and Al
Qaeda, and Mr. Obama told aides that it did not matter how many troops were
sent to Afghanistan if Pakistan remained a haven.
Many of the intelligence reports ordered by the White House during the
review dealt with Pakistan's stability and whether its military and
intelligence services were now committed to the fight or secretly still
supporting Taliban factions. According to two officials, there was a study
of the potential vulnerability of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, posing
questions about potential insider threats and control of the warheads if the
Pakistani government fell.
Mr. Obama and his advisers also considered options for stepping up the
pursuit of extremists in Pakistan's border areas. He eventually approved a
C.I.A. request to expand the areas where remotely piloted aircraft could
strike, and other covert action. The trick would be getting Pakistani
consent, which still has not been granted.
On Oct. 9, Mr. Obama and his team reviewed General McChrystal's troop
proposals for the first time. Some in the White House were surprised by the
numbers, assuming there would be a middle ground between 10,000 and 40,000.
"Why wasn't there a 25 number?" one senior administration official asked in
an interview. He then answered his own question: "It would have been too
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Diplomacy that will live in infamy
on: December 06, 2009, 10:16:12 AM
Saw this piece in POTH (NYT) today. I have no idea whether it is leftist revisionist drivel or has merit.
Diplomacy That Will Live in Infamy
By JAMES BRADLEY
Published: December 5, 2009
SIXTY-EIGHT years ago tomorrow, Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. In the brutal Pacific war that would follow, millions of soldiers and civilians were killed. My father — one of the famous flag raisers on Iwo Jima — was among the young men who went off to the Pacific to fight for his country. So the war naturally fascinated me. But I always wondered, why did we fight in the Pacific? Yes, there was Pearl Harbor, but why did the Japanese attack us in the first place?
In search of an answer, I read deeply into the diplomatic history of the 1930s, about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policy on Asia, and his preparation — or lack thereof — for a major conflict there. But I discovered that I was studying the wrong President Roosevelt. The one who had the greater effect on Japan’s behavior was Theodore Roosevelt — whose efforts to end the war between Japan and Russia earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.
When Theodore Roosevelt was president, three decades before World War II, the world was focused on the bloody Russo-Japanese War, a contest for control of North Asia. President Roosevelt was no fan of the Russians: “No human beings, black, yellow or white, could be quite as untruthful, as insincere, as arrogant — in short, as untrustworthy in every way — as the Russians,” he wrote in August 1905, near the end of the Russo-Japanese War. The Japanese, on the other hand, were “a wonderful and civilized people,” Roosevelt wrote, “entitled to stand on an absolute equality with all the other peoples of the civilized world.”
Roosevelt knew that Japan coveted the Korean Peninsula as a springboard to its Asian expansion. Back in 1900, when he was still vice president, Roosevelt had written, “I should like to see Japan have Korea.” When, in February 1904, Japan broke off relations with Russia, President Roosevelt said publicly that he would “maintain the strictest neutrality,” but privately he wrote, “The sympathies of the United States are entirely on Japan’s side.”
In June 1905, Roosevelt made world headlines when — apparently on his own initiative — he invited the two nations to negotiate an end to their war. Roosevelt’s private letter to his son told another story: “I have of course concealed from everyone — literally everyone — the fact that I acted in the first place on Japan’s suggestion ... . Remember that you are to let no one know that in this matter of the peace negotiations I have acted at the request of Japan and that each step has been taken with Japan’s foreknowledge, and not merely with her approval but with her expressed desire.”
Years later, a Japanese emissary to Roosevelt paraphrased the president’s comments to him: “All the Asiatic nations are now faced with the urgent necessity of adjusting themselves to the present age. Japan should be their natural leader in that process, and their protector during the transition stage, much as the United States assumed the leadership of the American continent many years ago, and by means of the Monroe Doctrine, preserved the Latin American nations from European interference. The future policy of Japan towards Asiatic countries should be similar to that of the United States towards their neighbors on the American continent.”
In a secret presidential cable to Tokyo, in July 1905, Roosevelt approved the Japanese annexation of Korea and agreed to an “understanding or alliance” among Japan, the United States and Britain “as if the United States were under treaty obligations.” The “as if” was key: Congress was much less interested in North Asia than Roosevelt was, so he came to his agreement with Japan in secret, an unconstitutional act.
To signal his commitment to Tokyo, Roosevelt cut off relations with Korea, turned the American legation in Seoul over to the Japanese military and deleted the word “Korea” from the State Department’s Record of Foreign Relations and placed it under the heading of “Japan.”
(Page 2 of 2)
Roosevelt had assumed that the Japanese would stop at Korea and leave the rest of North Asia to the Americans and the British. But such a wish clashed with his notion that the Japanese should base their foreign policy on the American model of expansion across North America and, with the taking of Hawaii and the Philippines, into the Pacific. It did not take long for the Japanese to tire of the territorial restrictions placed upon them by their Anglo-American partners.
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Times Topics: Pearl Harbor
Japan’s declaration of war, in December 1941, explained its position quite clearly: “It is a fact of history that the countries of East Asia for the past hundred years or more have been compelled to observe the status quo under the Anglo-American policy of imperialistic exploitation and to sacrifice themselves to the prosperity of the two nations. The Japanese government cannot tolerate the perpetuation of such a situation.”
In planning the attack on Pearl Harbor, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto was specifically thinking of how, 37 years earlier, the Japanese had surprised the Russian Navy at Port Arthur in Manchuria and, as he wrote, “favorable opportunities were gained by opening the war with a sudden attack on the main enemy fleet.” At the time, the indignant Russians called it a violation of international law. But Theodore Roosevelt, confident that he could influence events in North Asia from afar, wrote to his son, “I was thoroughly well pleased with the Japanese victory, for Japan is playing our game.”
It was for his efforts to broker the peace deal between Russia and Japan that a year and a half later Roosevelt became the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize — and one of only three presidents to do so while in office (the other two are Woodrow Wilson and President Obama, who will accept his prize this week). No one in Oslo, or in the United States Congress, knew the truth then.
But the Japanese did. And the American president’s support emboldened them to increase their military might — and their imperial ambitions. In December 1941, the consequence of Theodore Roosevelt’s recklessness would become clear to those few who knew of the secret dealings. No one else — including my dad on Iwo Jima — realized just how well Japan had indeed played “our game.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / T. Friedman: May it all come true
on: December 06, 2009, 10:11:03 AM
Another post by someone I rarely post. I think TF makes some very good points here.
May It All Come True
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: December 5, 2009
President Obama certainly showed leadership mettle in going against his own party’s base and ordering a troop surge into Afghanistan. He is going to have to be even more tough-minded, though, to make sure his policy is properly executed.
I’ve already explained why I oppose this escalation. But since the decision has been made — and I do not want my country to fail or the Obama presidency to sink in Afghanistan — here are some thoughts on how to reduce the chances that this ends badly. Let’s start by recalling an insight that President John F. Kennedy shared in a Sept. 2, 1963, interview with Walter Cronkite:
Cronkite: “Mr. President, the only hot war we’ve got running at the moment is, of course, the one in Vietnam, and we have our difficulties there.”
Kennedy: “I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the [Vietnamese] government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them; we can give them equipment; we can send our men out there as advisers. But they have to win it, the people of Vietnam, against the Communists. We are prepared to continue to assist them, but I don’t think that the war can be won unless the people support the effort and, in my opinion, in the last two months, the [Vietnamese] government has gotten out of touch with the people. ...”
Cronkite: “Do you think this government still has time to regain the support of the people?”
Kennedy: “I do. With changes in policy and perhaps with personnel I think it can. If it doesn’t make those changes, the chances of winning it would not be very good.”
What J.F.K. understood, what L.B.J. lost sight of, and what B.H.O. can’t afford to forget, is that in the end it’s not about how many troops we send or deadlines we set. It is all about our Afghan partners. Afghanistan has gone into a tailspin largely because President Hamid Karzai’s government became dysfunctional and massively corrupt — focused more on extracting revenues for private gain than on governing. That is why too many Afghans who cheered Karzai’s arrival in 2001 have now actually welcomed Taliban security and justice.
“In 2001, most Afghan people looked to the United States not only as a potential mentor but as a model for successful democracy,” Pashtoon Atif, a former aid worker from Kandahar, recently wrote in The Los Angeles Times. “What we got instead was a free-for-all in which our leaders profited outrageously and unapologetically from a wealth of foreign aid coupled with a dearth of regulations.”
Therefore, our primary goal has to be to build — with Karzai — an Afghan government that is “decent enough” to earn the loyalty of the Afghan people, so a critical mass of them will feel “ownership” of it and therefore be ready to fight to protect it. Because only then will there be a “self-sustaining” Afghan Army and state so we can begin to get out by the president’s July 2011 deadline — without leaving behind a bloodbath.
Focus on those key words: “decent enough,” “ownership” and “self-sustaining.” Without minimally decent government, Afghans will not take ownership. If they don’t take ownership, they won’t fight for it. And if they won’t fight for it on their own, whatever progress we make will not be self-sustaining. It will just collapse when we leave.
But here is what worries me: The president’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said flatly: “This can’t be nation-building.” And the president told a columnists’ lunch on Tuesday that he wants to avoid “mission creep” that takes on “nation-building in Afghanistan.”
I am sorry: This is only nation-building. You can’t train an Afghan Army and police force to replace our troops if you have no basic state they feel is worth fighting for. But that will require a transformation by Karzai, starting with the dismissal of his most corrupt aides and installing officials Afghans can trust.
This surge also depends, the president indicated, on Pakistan ending its obsession with India. That obsession has led Pakistan to support the Taliban to control Afghanistan as part of its “strategic depth” vis-à-vis India. Pakistan fights the Taliban who attack it, but nurtures the Taliban who want to control Afghanistan. So we now need this fragile Pakistan to stop looking for strategic depth against India in Afghanistan and to start building strategic depth at home, by reviving its economy and school system and preventing jihadists from taking over there.
That is why Mr. Obama is going to have to make sure, every day, that Karzai doesn’t weasel out of reform or Pakistan wiggle out of shutting down Taliban sanctuaries or the allies wimp out on helping us. To put it succinctly: This only has a chance to work if Karzai becomes a new man, if Pakistan becomes a new country and if we actually succeed at something the president says we won’t be doing at all: nation-building in Afghanistan. Yikes!
For America’s sake, may it all come true.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 06, 2009, 10:06:54 AM
Tis passing odd that I would post something by POTH blathering idiot Frank Rich, but I do so precisely because of where he sits on the political spectrum and what he says.
ColumnistObama’s Logic Is No Match for Afghanistan Recommend
By FRANK RICH
Published: December 5, 2009
AFTER the dramatic three-month buildup, you’d think that Barack Obama’s speech announcing his policy for Afghanistan would be the most significant news story of the moment. History may take a different view. When we look back at this turning point in America’s longest war, we may discover that a relatively trivial White House incident, the gate-crashing by a couple of fame-seeking bozos, was the more telling omen of what was to come.
Obama’s speech, for all its thoughtfulness and sporadic eloquence, was a failure at its central mission. On its own terms, as both policy and rhetoric, it didn’t make the case for escalating our involvement in Afghanistan. It’s doubtful that the president’s words moved the needle of public opinion wildly in any direction for a country that has tuned out Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq alike while panicking about where the next job is coming from.
You can think the speech failed without questioning Obama’s motives. I don’t buy the criticism that he contrived a cynical political potpourri to pander to every side in the debate over the war. Nor was his decision to escalate mandated by his campaign stand positing Afghanistan as a just war in contrast to the folly of Iraq. Nor was he intimidated by received Beltway opinion, which, echoing Dick Cheney, accused him of dithering. (“The urgent necessity is to make a decision — whether or not it is right,” wrote the Dean of D.C. punditry, David Broder.)
Obama’s speech struck me as the sincere product of serious deliberations, an earnest attempt to apply his formidable intelligence to one of the most daunting Rubik’s Cubes of foreign policy America has ever known. But some circles of hell can’t be squared. What he’s ended up with is a too-clever-by-half pushmi-pullyu holding action that lacks both a credible exit strategy and the commitment of its two most essential partners, a legitimate Afghan government and the American people. Obama’s failure illuminated the limits of even his great powers of reason.
The state dinner crashers delineated those limits too. This was the second time in a month — after the infinitely more alarming bloodbath at Fort Hood — that a supposedly impregnable bastion of post-9/11 American security was easily breached. Yes, the crashers are laughable celebrity wannabes, but there was nothing funny about what they accomplished on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Their ruse wasn’t “reality” television — it was reality, period, with no quotation marks. It was a symbolic indication (and, luckily, only symbolic) of how unbridled irrationality harnessed to sheer will, whether ludicrous in the crashers’ case or homicidal in the instance of the Fort Hood gunman, can penetrate even our most secure fortifications. Both incidents stand as a haunting reproach to the elegant powers of logic with which Obama tried to sell his exquisitely calibrated plan to vanquish Al Qaeda and its mad brethren.
For all the overheated debate about what Obama meant in proposing July 2011 as a date to begin gradual troop withdrawals, the more significant short circuit in the speech’s internal logic lies elsewhere. The crucial passage came when Obama systematically tried to dismantle the Vietnam analogies that have stalked every American foreign adventure for four decades. “Most importantly,” the president said, “unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.” This is correct as far as it goes, but it begs a number of questions.
“Along its border,” of course, means across the border — a k a Pakistan. Obama never satisfactorily argued why more troops in Afghanistan, where his own administration puts the number of Qaeda operatives at roughly 100, will help vanquish the far more substantial terrorist strongholds in Pakistan. But even if he had made that case and made it strongly, a larger issue remains: If the enemy in Afghanistan, whether Taliban or Qaeda, poses the same existential threat to America today that it did on 9/11, why is the president settling for half-measures?
It’s not just that Obama is fielding somewhat fewer troops than the maximum Gen. Stanley McChrystal requested. McChrystal himself didn’t ask for enough troops to fight a proper counterinsurgency in Afghanistan in the first place. Using the metrics outlined in the sacred text on the subject, Gen. David Petraeus’s field manual, we’d need a minimal force of 568,000 for Afghanistan’s population of 28.4 million. After the escalation, allied forces will reach barely a quarter of that number.
If the enemy in Afghanistan today threatens the American homeland as the Viet Cong never did, we should be all in, according to Obama’s logic. So why aren’t we? The answer is not merely that Afghans don’t want us as occupiers. It’s that such a mission would require a commensurate national sacrifice. One big difference between the war in Vietnam and the war in Afghanistan that the president conspicuously left unmentioned on Tuesday is the draft. Given that conscription is not about to be revived, we’d have to spend money, lots more money, to recruit the troops needed for the full effort Obama’s own argument calls for.
Which again leads us back to the ghosts of Vietnam. As L.B.J. learned the hard way, we can’t have both guns and the butter of big domestic projects, from health care to desperately needed jobs programs. We have to make choices. Obama paid lip service to that point, but the only sacrifice he cited in the entire speech was addressed to his audience at West Point, not the general public — the burden borne by the military and military families. While the president didn’t tell American civilians to revel in tax cuts and go shopping, as his predecessor did after 9/11, that may be a distinction without a difference. Obama’s promises to accomplish his ambitious plans for nation building at home while pursuing an expanded war sounded just as empty.
In this, he’s like most of the war’s supporters, regardless of party. On Fox News last Sunday, two senators, the Republican Jon Kyl and the Democrat Evan Bayh, found rare common ground in agreeing that an expanded Afghanistan effort should never require new taxes. It’s this bipartisan mantra that more war must be fought without more sacrifice — rather than Obama’s tentative withdrawal timeline — that most loudly signals to the world the shallowness of the American public’s support for any Afghanistan escalation. This helps explain why, as Fred Kaplan pointed out in Slate, the American share of allied troops in Afghanistan is rising (to 70 percent from under 50 percent at the time George Bush left office) despite Obama’s boast of an enthusiastic new coalition of the willing.
To his credit, Obama’s speech did eschew Bush-Cheneyism at its worst. He conceded some counterarguments to his policy: that the Afghanistan government is corrupt, mired in drugs and in “no imminent threat” of being overthrown. He framed his goals in modest and realistic terms, rather than trying to whip up the audience with fear-mongering, triumphalist sloganeering and jingoistic bravado. He talked of “success,” not “victory.”
But the president’s own method for rallying public support — a plea to “summon that unity” of 9/11 again — fell flat. There are several reasons why. First, 9/11 has been cheapened by the countless politicians who have exploited it, culminating with Rudy Giuliani. The sole achievement of America’s Former Mayor’s farcical presidential campaign was to render the evil of 9/11 banal. Second, 9/11 is eight years in the past. Looking at the youthful faces of the cadets in Obama’s audience on Tuesday, you realized that they were literally children on that horrific day, and that the connection between 9/11/01 and the newest iteration of the war they must fight in a new decade is something of an abstraction.
Finally, the notion that we are still fighting in Afghanistan because the 9/11 attacks originated there is based on the fallacy that our terrorist enemies are so stupid they have remained frozen in place since 2001. Most Americans know that they are no more static than we are. Obama acknowledged as much in citing such other Qaeda havens as Somalia (the site of a devastating insurgent suicide bombing on Thursday) and Yemen.
Americans want our country to be secure. Most want Obama to succeed. And so we hope that we won’t get bogged down in Afghanistan while our adversaries regroup elsewhere, that the casualties and costs can be contained, that the small, primitive Afghan Army (ravaged by opium, illiteracy, incompetence and a 25 percent attrition rate) will miraculously stand up so we can stand down. We want to believe that Obama’s marvelous powers of reason can check a ruthless enemy and reverse decades of tragic history in one of the world’s most treacherous backwaters.
That’s the bet Obama made. As long as our wars remain sacrifice-free, safely buried in the back pages behind Tiger Woods and reality television stunts, he’ll be able to pursue it. But I keep returning to the crashers at the gates, who have no respect for our president’s orderliness of mind and action. All it takes is a few of them at the wrong time and wrong place, whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan or America or sites unknown, and all bets will be off.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 06, 2009, 08:48:22 AM
I think I heard Joe Rogan say something about how some commisioner saw an ice break with that elbow strike and decided that if it could shatter a big block of ice like that then it was too much for MMA.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 05, 2009, 11:36:43 PM
Well, I'm not as serious a student of the show as you, perhaps I was being a bit glib, , , and certainly I have to back up now , , ,
Hat tip to Frankfurter for spotting Nelson from the beginning. I did not.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: December 05, 2009, 11:33:37 PM
Actually, I remember in favorable contrast an incident in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico where a lady friend and I drove off road in search of privacy. As we were getting to leave a VW bug full of federales (Thompson submachine gun, some large revolvers) came rolling up and searched us and our vehicle , , , thoroughly. When all was done and we were found to be clean, they APOLOGIZED and SHOOK OUR HANDS. This took quite a bit of the sting of the indignity of it all away. I have NEVER had an American LEO do that.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: December 05, 2009, 10:36:52 PM
Well, the couple of times I was thrown up against the wall were less than fun , , ,
Was that when you were going to or coming from Woodstock?
In the early 70s when I was the only white guy in a 9 man band in North Philadelphia
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 05, 2009, 07:42:11 PM
I admit to having been sucked into the soap opera-- from the coaches on down (contender status for all time worst TUF coach to Rampage; worst ever levels of conditioning; possible worst fighter ever in the finals (Nelson) strange denouements (both Kimbo and Big Baby) and more-- what a fascinating study in human behavior.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Blue Cross Premiums
on: December 04, 2009, 08:50:13 PM
Blue Cross Blue Patients
Another study predicts higher insurance prices..ArticleComments (5)more in Opinion ».EmailPrinter
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. Text .Another day, another study confirming that ObamaCare will increase the price of health insurance. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has found that premiums in the individual market will rise on average by 54% over the status quo, which translates into an extra $3,341 a year for families and $1,576 for singles. The White House denounced the report as a "sham" before it was even released, which shows how seriously it takes such concerns.
The Congressional Budget Office also found this week that ObamaCare will boost premiums in the individual market by as much as 13%. But the White House called that a triumph because the higher costs will be offset by taxpayer subsidies that will be transferred to the federal balance sheet.
The Blue Cross study is in fact more precise than CBO's because it is based on real market data, rather than modeling assumptions. The association mined the actuarial data from its six million individual or small-business policies, nearly one-eighth of those sold in the U.S.
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.Lo and behold, Blue Cross found costs will rise if Democrats force insurers to cover anyone who applies and then limit how much insurers are allowed to charge based on age or health condition. Economists call this adverse selection; people will wait until they're sick to buy coverage, and the Democratic rules make it perfectly rational for them to do so.
"And you can bet as we continue to make progress," communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog, "the insurance industry will continue to try and distract and misinform because they know their very profitable status quo is in grave danger." He must be referring to the industry's overall profit margin of 2.2% in 2008.
The reality is that all health-care costs are ultimately borne by consumers, whether through more expensive premiums, lower wages or higher taxes. The regulatory schemes favored by Democrats can't change that law of economics but they will ensure that insurance is even more costly than it is today.
When that day comes, the political class will of course blame the insurance companies, and all of the current White House denials will fall down the memory hole.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Student Loans
on: December 04, 2009, 08:48:16 PM
There's encouraging news on that other Washington effort to force Americans into a government-run system. The White House plan to drive private lenders out of the market for student loans is igniting a backlash on campus and Capitol Hill.
The typical tale of a free-speech controversy on campus involves administrators landing on some poor undergrad who violates political correctness. But in this story the administrators have been afraid to speak as the Department of Education pressured them to drop private lenders and embrace the department's own Direct Lending (DL) program. The pending bill, which has passed the House but is stalled in the Senate, would ban private lenders from making federally guaranteed loans after July 1, 2010.
Congress has already enacted regulations in recent years to discourage making loans without a federal guarantee. And many lenders have quit the business. Now the White House and Democrats like California Rep. George Miller want to go further and convert students from private loans largely backed by the taxpayer into government loans made and serviced by government and backed by the taxpayer. Think of this as a prelude to how Congress will rig the rules for any public option in health care.
The private lenders have been the most popular choice, while—big surprise—the government's program has a history of shoddy customer service. But before the bill has even come to the Senate floor, federal officials have been making unsolicited contacts to schools urging them to accept this "public option." In October, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to schools nationwide offering to help them "in taking the necessary steps to ensure uninterrupted access to federal student loans by ensuring your institution is Direct Loan-ready for the 2010-2011 academic year."
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.Schools got the message. The leader of a large university recently refused to discuss the issue with us on the record, fearful that the feds are taking names. Rep. John Kline (R., Minn.) has asked the Department of Education's inspector general to investigate efforts by officials to encourage outside groups to advocate for the ban on private lenders. He wants to know if department staff violated a federal law against lobbying with appropriated funds, among other possible offenses.
Several House Democrats wrote to Mr. Duncan this week questioning the "aggressive outreach" to schools on behalf of one option while Congress is still considering others. We seem to remember from our student days that the executive branch is supposed to enforce laws only after the legislature has written them. Over in the Senate, more than a dozen Democrats have criticized the Administration's plan, and Senator Bob Casey has offered an alternative that would allow private lenders to stay in business.
Meanwhile, faced with the prospect of a monopoly government-run loan provider, the tweed-jacket crowd is finding its voice. Mr. Duncan spoke this week at a conference for financial aid officers in Nashville, and he may be sorry that he agreed to take questions from the audience. To vigorous applause, several attendees questioned whether financing that's good enough for government work will be good enough for their students.
Ted Malone of the University of Alaska said that the department had already "created an impossible-to-administer program" for Pell Grants and therefore said it's "hard to trust that you're going to be looking out for our best interests" when forcing all colleges into the government-run lending system.
Another speaker talked about how hard the private firms work to serve students and said, "My partnership with my lenders is being taken away from me."
Sheila Nelson Hensley of Virginia's Bluefield College said, "I'm concerned that there's going to be a delay in us receiving our funds, which will ultimately affect our students and the cash flow of our institution."
When even such natural allies as college administrators are warning that Team Obama is moving too quickly and too far left, perhaps it's time to go back to school on this issue. Focusing on the needs of students and taxpayers—rather than an ideological conviction that government always knows and does best—would be a good place to start.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iranian Crackdown goes global
on: December 04, 2009, 08:45:41 PM
By FARNAZ FASSIHI
NEW YORK -- His first impulse was to dismiss the ominous email as a prank, says a young Iranian-American named Koosha. It warned the 29-year-old engineering student that his relatives in Tehran would be harmed if he didn't stop criticizing Iran on Facebook.
Green in Berlin
Rapper Jay-Z and U2 brightened Berlin's Brandenburg Gate with green lighting during a performance of "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," a U2 song inspired by a 1972 altercation between British troops and protesters in Northern Ireland. During the performance, Jay-Z rapped in support of the Iranian protesters. Watch the video on YouTube.
.Two days later, his mom called. Security agents had arrested his father in his home in Tehran and threatened him by saying his son could no longer safely return to Iran.
"When they arrested my father, I realized the email was no joke," said Koosha, who asked that his full name not be used.
Tehran's leadership faces its biggest crisis since it first came to power in 1979, as Iranians at home and abroad attack its legitimacy in the wake of June's allegedly rigged presidential vote. An opposition effort, the "Green Movement," is gaining a global following of regular Iranians who say they never previously considered themselves activists.
The regime has been cracking down hard at home. And now, a Wall Street Journal investigation shows, it is extending that crackdown to Iranians abroad as well.
In recent months, Iran has been conducting a campaign of harassing and intimidating members of its diaspora world-wide -- not just prominent dissidents -- who criticize the regime, according to former Iranian lawmakers and former members of Iran's elite security force, the Revolutionary Guard, with knowledge of the program.
Part of the effort involves tracking the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube activity of Iranians around the world, and identifying them at opposition protests abroad, these people say.
Interviews with roughly 90 ordinary Iranians abroad -- college students, housewives, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople -- in New York, London, Dubai, Sweden, Los Angeles and other places indicate that people who criticize Iran's regime online or in public demonstrations are facing threats intended to silence them.
Vote: Will Iran quell opposition from Iranians living outside the country?
.View Full Image
Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, third from right, leads actors in expressing support for Iran's opposition movement at the Venice film festival in September.
.Although it wasn't possible to independently verify their claims, interviewees provided consistently similar descriptions of harassment techniques world-wide. Most asked that their full names not be published.
Today's crisis echoes the events of three decades ago, when Iran's Islamic revolution first bloomed. Back then, Iranians around the world pooled their energy and money to help oust Iran's monarch, the shah. This time, the global community is backing a similar effort, using new tools including Facebook and Twitter. YouTube videos providing step-by-step instructions for staging civil disobedience rack up thousands of views.
But now, unlike 30 years ago, Iran's leadership is striking back across national borders.
Dozens of individuals in the U.S. and Europe who criticized Iran on Facebook or Twitter said their relatives back in Iran were questioned or temporarily detained because of their postings. About three dozen individuals interviewed said that, when traveling this summer back to Iran, they were questioned about whether they hold a foreign passport, whether they possess Facebook accounts and why they were visiting Iran. The questioning, they said, took place at passport control upon their arrival at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Five interviewees who traveled to Iran in recent months said they were forced by police at Tehran's airport to log in to their Facebook accounts. Several reported having their passports confiscated because of harsh criticism they had posted online about the way the Iranian government had handled its controversial elections earlier this year.
Before this past summer, "If anyone asked me, 'Does the government threaten Iranians abroad or their families at home,' I would say, 'Not at all,'" says Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent lawyer inside Iran. "But now the cases are too many to count. Every day I get phone calls and visits from people who are being harassed and threatened" because of relatives' activities abroad.
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.In November, the deputy commander of Iran's armed forces, Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, wrote an editorial in the conservative newspaper Kayhan that "protesters inside and outside Iran have been identified and will be dealt with at the right time."
In Germany, a national intelligence report indicates that Iranian intelligence operatives are monitoring about 900 critics of the Iranian regime within Germany. One German intelligence official, Manfred Murch, said last month that his staff has identified "Iranian intelligence agents" trying to intimidate protesters in Germany by videotaping them. A German foreign-ministry official said Germany rejected requests from Iran to restrict anti-Iranian protests there.
Mohammad Reza Bak Sahraei, a diplomat at Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York, didn't respond to written questions about Iran's intelligence activities abroad. "The allegation that the Islamic Republic of Iran has created limitations and problems for Iranians who are visiting Iran from abroad is false," Mr. Sahraei said.
In recent months, he said, "Many Iranians have returned to Iran and visited their family members. Until now we have no reports of any limitations being imposed on them. Representatives of Iran abroad are doing their utmost to facilitate traveling for Iranians to Iran."
The crisis in Iran started with June's controversial re-election of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Claims of vote fraud spawned massive street protests, and a bloody crackdown.
The post-election violence has turned Iran's relationship with overseas Iranians on its head. Previously, Iran generally enjoyed good relations with its diaspora. Most opposition movements were on the fringe -- for instance, royalists calling for the shah's return. But the violent suppression of street protests "showed people the true nature of Iran's regime," says Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
There are approximately four million Iranians abroad. The U.S. is home to the largest number, totaling at least several hundred thousand. They rank among the nation's best educated and most affluent immigrant groups.
At first, many protesters inside Iran and abroad simply wanted a vote recount. But after the violence, they began calling for a complete overhaul of Iran's Islamic system, up to and including change that would remove Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from power. Around the world, Iranians took to the streets to march in protest against the events in Iran.
Iranian police in June chase protesters after the controversial election.
.An Iranian engineer in his 30s who lives in a German-speaking area of Europe, and who attended protests there this year, described having his passport, cellphone and laptop confiscated when he later traveled to Tehran. He said he was called in for questioning several times, blindfolded, kicked and physically abused, and asked to hand over his email and Facebook passwords.
Interrogators showed him images of himself participating in protests in Europe, he said, and pressed him to identify other people in the images.
"I was very scared. My knees were trembling the whole time and I kept thinking, 'How did this happen to me?'" he said recently. "I only went to a few demonstrations, and I don't even live in Iran."
He said he was told he was guilty of charges including attending antiregime protests abroad, participating in online activities on Facebook and Twitter that harmed Iran's national security and leaving comments on opposition Web sites. He said he was given a choice: Face trial in Iran, or sign a document promising to act as an informant in Europe.
He says he signed the paper, took his passport and left Iran after a month. He says he has received follow-up emails and phone calls but hasn't responded to them.
Other Iranians abroad report receiving email threats tied to their online activities. In Los Angeles in June, an Iranian-American graduate student named Hamid said he received an email that read in part: "Stop spreading lies about Iran on Facebook." He said he received it after he changed his Facebook profile picture to a "V" symbol, for victory, dripping with blood to protest the Iran violence, along with a message about wanting to travel to Iran to support the opposition.
The email, written in Farsi, read in part, "We know your home address in Los Angeles. Watch out, we will come after you," according to Hamid.
There is no way to identify the email's anonymous sender, who signed it "Spider." Other Iranians interviewed in the U.S. and Europe reported receiving similar emails in recent months. Some emails were signed "Spider," they said, while others were signed "Revolutionary Hossein," a possible reference to one of the most revered saints in Shiite Islam.
No matter how widespread, the worries are sowing panic in the overseas community. Concerns about the safety of friends and family are so prevalent among younger Iranians that a number have changed their surnames on Facebook to "Irani" (which means simply "from Iran") to be harder to single out.
Omid Habibinia, a dissident Iranian who left Iran seven years ago for Europe, says he has always been harassed, but the pressure has grown this year. He claims Iranian security services early this year created a fake Facebook account for him and tried to "friend" people on his behalf and ask them questions. Other Iranian dissidents, along with some journalists, described similar experiences.
Officials at Facebook said the company often gets reports of fake profiles and will remove them after a review. A spokeswoman declined to comment on specific profiles that have been removed, including the one Mr. Habibinia described. She said deleted profiles no longer reside on Facebook's servers, making it impossible to trace their origins. She said she wasn't aware of complaints of harassment on Facebook at the hands of Iranian security services.
One 28-year-old physician who lives in Dubai said that in July he was asked to log on to his Facebook account by a security guard upon arrival in Tehran's airport. At first, he says, he lied and said he didn't have one. So the guard took him to a small room with a laptop and did a Google search for his name. His Facebook account turned up, he says, and his passport was confiscated.
After a month and several rounds of interrogations, he says, he was allowed to exit the country.
During Iran's historic 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranians abroad played an instrumental role in transforming the movement from a fringe idea led by a frail cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, into a global force that eventually toppled the monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Iranians abroad flocked to Mr. Khomeini's side, lending his movement language skills, money and, ultimately, global legitimacy.
In the current crisis, Iran is eager to prevent a similar scenario.
To cut communication between Iranians inside and outside the country, Iran slowed Internet speeds so that accessing an online email account could take close to a half-hour. It blocked access to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. For a while, an automated message warned people making international phone calls not to give information to outsiders.
Tracking Internet crimes -- from political dissent to pornography -- has long been a priority of the regime. Iran's local media openly report on Internet-monitoring centers inside the country's judiciary and armed forces that are staffed with English-speaking, tech-savvy young people.
Late last month, at a military parade in Tehran, intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi announced the training of "senior Internet lieutenants" to confront Iran's "virtual enemies online." This month Iran announced a 12-member unit within the armed forces called the Internet Crime Unit to track individuals "spreading lies and insults" about the regime.
Iran's elite security force, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with the intelligence ministry each have their own, separate Internet-monitoring units that track prominent political figures and activists, according to dissidents including Mohsen Sazegara, one of the original founders of the Revolutionary Guard who is now in exile in the U.S. After the June election crisis, these Internet-monitoring units expanded their work to include the online activity of Iranians abroad, these people say.
In the U.S., Koosha, the young engineering student whose father was briefly arrested in Tehran, says he was never politically active before. But this past summer, he said, he watched the turmoil in Iran and "I couldn't just sit and do nothing, I felt too guilty." He watched "people my age getting beaten and killed in the streets for expressing their opinion," he said. "The least I could do was to show my solidarity."
That's when he took steps that attracted the unwelcome attention. He attended a few rallies organized by opposition supporters near where he lives in the U.S. And then, when a prominent human-rights lawyer was jailed in Iran, Koosha created an online petition.
After his father was detained, Koosha took down his petition. "I was terrified and furious," he said. And he doesn't talk politics anymore when he calls his parents in Tehran.
But he's still finding ways to express his views. In September, he biked from Toronto to New York with his brother as part of the group Bicycling for Human Rights in Iran. "They want to control even Iranians who don't live under their rule," he says.
—Jeanne Whalen in London, David Crawford in Berlin and Christopher Rhoads in New York contributed to this article.
Write to Farnaz Fassihi at email@example.com
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 04, 2009, 06:34:01 PM
Any comments on this season's TUF?
And here's this:
From: Eskrima-FMA <firstname.lastname@example.org
Former NFL great Herschel Walker training in San Jose for mixed martial arts
By Mark Emmons
San Jose Mercury News
Former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker last played football in 1997.
He's now 47, an age when many ex-NFL players already are hobbled by arthritis
and other degenerative ailments.
But not Walker. Despite what he cheerfully describes as "my advanced years,"
he has come to San Jose to train for a new career in the burgeoning brutal
sport of mixed martial arts. He's scheduled to climb inside a steel cage for
his debut Jan. 30 in Miami.
And, yes, he knows everyone has a simple question: What the heck are you
"I wouldn't have gotten into this if I didn't know I could do it," said
Walker, a fifth-degree black belt in tae kwon do. "I can fight."
Walker added that he doesn't need more money or publicity. But he does need
That's why he now is spending his days sweating with other MMA fighters at San
Jose's American Kickboxing Academy, which has become a hub for the emerging
sport. One grueling session this week saw him repeatedly punching and kicking
a heavy bag, then grappling with rising heavyweight star Cain Velasquez, who
is 20 years his junior.
Although there are hints of his age in his facial features, Walker looks just
as athletic as when he was a workhorse running back who retired as the NFL's
No. 2 combined-yardage leader - right down to a sculpted physique featuring
"I understand why people would hear that he wants to fight and say, 'Yeah,
right,' " said American
Kickboxing Academy head trainer Javier Mendez. "But he's not a 47-year-old
man. He's got the body of a 20-year-old. He's absolutely ripped. He's not
normal. He's one of a kind."
Football legend, Olympian, danseur
Walker was one of the most heralded running backs in football history. He won
the 1982 Heisman at Georgia before playing 15 pro seasons. Despite
eye-catching statistics like once rushing for 1,514 yards with Dallas, Walker
is most remembered for the blockbuster 1989 trade where the Cowboys sent him
to Minnesota for five players and six draft picks.
He also could evade conventional thinking as deftly as would-be tacklers,
always marching to the beat of his own drummer.
A world-class sprinter, he competed in the two-man bobsled at the 1992 Winter
Olympics. He danced ballet. He now owns a food company and earlier this year
appeared on "The Celebrity Apprentice" reality TV show.
In 2008, Walker also created a stir with the memoir "Breaking Free," which
asserted he had suffered for years with dissociative identity disorder, a
controversial mental illness also known as multiple personality disorder. He
described how the condition nearly drove him to suicide, destroyed his
marriage and is the reason he doesn't remember winning the Heisman. But
treatment brought the disorder under control, he said.
"When the book first came out, everybody would look at me and make a cross
with their fingers like I was a vampire because of the stigma," said Walker, a
Dallas resident. "Now when I walk in an airport, I have five people come up to
me and start telling their story like I'm Dr. Walker."
He even uses the condition to poke fun at himself as he talks about his MMA
"This will be my 20-year-old personality fighting in the cage," Walker joked.
"The 40-year-old one won't come back out until afterward."
One reason Walker wants to fight is simply because he can.
Always a fitness fanatic, he has stayed in supreme condition with a daily
workout regimen highlighted by 3,500 sit-ups and from 750 to 1,500 push-ups.
He eats one meal a day - mostly salads and soups, and never red meat - and
sleeps only three to four hours a night.
"I could still play football today," said Walker, who is 6-foot-1 and 217
pounds. "Now I couldn't take every snap. I've slowed down a little bit, but
I'm still faster than 80 percent of the guys in the league. That's why I know
I can step into the cage."
'Green' but driven, Walker 'no joke'
MMA combines elements of martial arts, boxing and wrestling. And San Jose has
become something of a mecca for the sport as it gains mainstream acceptance.
The promotion company Strikeforce, which is putting on Walker's fight, is
based here. He decided to temporarily move to San Jose because the American
Kickboxing Academy gym is one of the country's top fight camps.
"He's no joke," Mendez said of Walker. "He's green. But he's got unbelievable
ability and is really, really strong. He also has a willingness to learn. You
can see why he was such a great football player. He won't shy away from
The September announcement that Walker had signed with Strikeforce raised
eyebrows. But one person all but chortled with laughter - Dana White, the
outspoken leader of Ultimate Fighting Championship, the sport's top promotion
company and a Strikeforce competitor. "Freak show" also is how he dismissively
refers to a Walker bout.
"He's too old for football, but he thinks he's young enough to fight?" White
added. "Fighting is a young man's sport. You need speed, agility,
explosiveness. All that stuff goes away with age."
Walker is aware of the taunting.
"Dana is just mad because he's not the only show in town, and that's fine,"
said Walker, who plans to donate his MMA earnings to charity. "But he really
doesn't know what kind of athlete I am."
The plan is for him to spend the next two months at the American Kickboxing
Academy, proving to trainers Mendez and Bob Cook that he's ready. For now,
Walker is a rookie again. New fighters at the gym have to do chores, which is
why Walker will be cleaning equipment Sunday morning.
"He doesn't complain and hasn't expected any special privileges, which is good
because he's gotten none," Mendez said.
After a workout, Walker was thanking Velasquez and other fighters for their
"I might not be up to the best fighters yet," Walker said. "But I'll tell you
what: I'm working at it."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: December 04, 2009, 12:16:33 PM
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily." --George Washington
Government & Politics
The Scandal That Never Happened
If you have watched only network news for the last two weeks, you may not have heard about the flap over climate change data. It's the biggest scandal to rock the scientific world in quite some time.
As we noted Tuesday, servers from the UK's University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) were hacked into and some 62 megabytes of data were subsequently made public. (We're not discounting the inside whistleblower theory yet.) The data include e-mail communications between noted scientists in the field of global warming, including Phil Jones and Keith Briffa of the CRU and Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University. The release is so damning that Jones has temporarily stepped down as CRU director, pending an investigation.
In an effort to play up Mann-made global warming, the communications discuss various ways to manipulate, suppress or even destroy data showing the earth's climate to be cooling. Still, Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), insists, "This private communication in no way damages the credibility of the AR4 findings." AR4 is the latest IPCC report.
On the contrary, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a leading opponent of anthropogenic warming theories, said, "It appears that, in an attempt to conceal the manipulation of climate data, information disclosure laws may have been violated. I certainly don't condone the manner in which these emails were released; however, now that they are in the public domain, lawmakers have an obligation to determine the extent to which the so-called 'consensus' of global warming, formed with billions of taxpayer dollars, was contrived in the biased minds of the world's leading climate scientists." Billions of dollars only scratches the surface of the cost of fighting phantom warming.
Indeed, these revelations should be devastating to the envirofascists' cause. But their accomplices on the nightly news have done their best to ignore the story, focusing instead on a golfer who can't drive straight (roadway, not fairway) and a killer whale that ate a great white shark. (To their credit, newspapers such as The New York Times and Washington Post have devoted numerous stories to the scandal, though the Post laughably editorialized, "None of it seriously undercuts the scientific consensus on climate change.")
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also downplayed the story, saying, "In the order of several thousand scientists have come to the conclusion that climate change is happening. I don't think that any of that is, quite frankly among most people, in dispute." Except, yes, it is.
The importance of the truth can't be overstated, especially in the world of science and particularly with the climate summit at Copenhagen set for next week. To wit, the IPCC study blaming humans for global warming will be the basis for discussions among world leaders on how best to handicap developed industrial economies. The scientists involved in writing that report are the same ones implicated by the scandalous e-mails, leading us to conclude that much of the report -- and therefore the efforts of the world's political leaders -- is based upon lies.
Not that it was ever about the climate, mind you. Political leaders are interested in one thing: power. As Pachauri declared, "Today we have reached the point where consumption and people's desire to consume has grown out of proportion." Their goal is to redistribute our money and limit our consumption.
The scandal has possibly cost Al Gore, the "Profit" of Doom, some cold cash. Gore will be attending the Copenhagen conference and was to offer a handshake and a picture for the bargain price of $1,200. But it appears the Goracle has cancelled the engagement due to "unforeseen changes" in his schedule. If he can't even predict his own schedule, why should we believe his weather forecasts?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / AAR: Virginia Tech
on: December 04, 2009, 10:29:15 AM
AAR=After Action Report
Its the NYTimes/Pravda on the Hudson, so caveat lector
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Fri, December 04, 2009 -- 11:01 AM ET
Report on Virginia Tech Shooting Finds Notification Delays
During the worst campus shooting spree in American history,
Virginia Tech officials locked down some administrative
buildings and told their own families more than an hour and a
half before the rest of the campus was alerted, according to
revisions made in the state's official report on the tragedy.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sustainability
on: December 04, 2009, 09:38:56 AM
Sustainability: An Assault on Economics
Mises Daily: Friday, December 04, 2009 by Tyler A. Watts
Ah, the greens. They're not just treehuggers anymore. They've been browbeating us to recycle, eat soy, save energy, drive less, ride the bus, and a thousand other ways to "act local" for many years now. Now they've even got a hip new huckster on the big screen: "No Impact Man," your conductor on a first-class guilt trip to ecoland. Despite the massive popularity of their cause, I don't think they're satisfied. They want to control us. If we don't watch out, these people hell-bent on saving the planet are going to end up micromanaging our daily lives.
The idea of sustainability itself sounds pretty benign — it merely implies that people ought to be forward thinking, prudent, and thrifty in their use of economic resources. And I'm OK with this basic idea — on the surface, it sounds like simple wisdom, in league with similarly bland and benevolent values like responsibility and generosity.
But deep down, there's something unsettling about the basic premise of sustainability. Sustainability advocates — let's call them "sustainists" — are damning in their fervor, poise, and rhetoric. Their ideology is pregnant with an accusation that the way things currently are is somehow unsustainable. There's an alarmism here which essentially claims, "there's a crisis, it's your fault for being ignorant, irrational, and greedy. You must do as we say to fix it, or we'll all die."
This alarmist crusade, which underlies the sustainability movement, should rankle people with an economic understanding of the world. A basic tenet of economics is that markets are self-correcting and orderly; prices indicate resource constraints and guide people in economizing on their use. Prices change as underlying supply and demand conditions change, inducing appropriate adjustments in consumption and production patterns. Prices channel the profit motive — a natural aspect of the human condition — into productive and innovative activities. In short, prices work.
Sustainists are either ignorant or in denial of this basic lesson. Either way, we economists have our work cut out for us.
The Sustainists' Lament
The gist of the problem, as the sustainists see it, is that people are using resources irresponsibly — either using them up too fast, using too much of them, or using them in a way that will have negative long-term ramifications. In brief, sustainists disapprove of other peoples' actions, and are taking steps to correct their wayward brethren.
Because these wasteful others, through either ignorance, laziness, or stubbornness, will not wake up and adopt sustainable practices on their own, sustainists see the need for a self-conscious effort — organized campaigns, eco–guilt trips, and yes, even laws — to correct this misuse of resources. We need to change our patterns of action; we need a motivating force beyond mere "economic self-interest" (i.e., the profit motive). Sustainability, then, has become a full-fledged crusade to "save the planet," and if you're not part of the solution, you're surely part of the problem.
Let's interpret this through the lens of economics. Sustainability arguments fall under one of two broad categories: (1) The nonrenewable resources argument that the supplies of certain important resources are shrinking; by the time people realize this it will be "too late" — resource shortages will strain the capitalist economies to the breaking point. (2) The climate-change argument that there are large, though delayed, negative externalities to current patterns of resource use.
Whatever their type, sustainability arguments invoke market failure. Indeed, the very practices cited as unsustainable arise on the free market. Therefore some outside corrective, whether aggressive moral suasion or economic regulation, is needed to prevent the impending catastrophe of unsustainable resource use.
Are Prices Not Sufficient?
I don't want to dwell on the particulars of the sustainability movement. There are dozens of manifestations, from green building to organic farming to mandatory recycling to decarbonization — indeed, the sustainability bandwagon (which of course is painted green and powered by renewable energy) seems infinitely expandable to include every industry and interest group under the sun. Instead, I want to draw out the essential implications of the sustainability movement.
The sustainability movement is an assault on economics. It claims at its core that prices don't operate through time to direct consumption and production decisions in a sustainable way. A lesson in basic economics should suffice to defend against the sustainists' attack.
Prices arise in the market economy as a concomitant of mutually beneficial exchange. People want things that improve their lives — we call this value. Some valuable things are more scarce than others; take the classic case of water and diamonds. In absolute terms, water is more valuable than diamonds: you don't need diamonds to live.
Yet water is, pound for pound, far cheaper. Why? Although it's valuable, it is also relatively abundant; in many parts of the world, it literally does fall from the sky. The price of any good reflects this combination of value and scarcity. We're willing to pay more for valuable things as they become relatively scarce (e.g., oil); and we needn't pay as much for valuable things as they become more abundant (e.g., grain).
Likewise, as scarce things lose their value, people are no longer willing to pay for them (e.g., typewriters), and people must pay more for scarce things that suddenly become sought after (e.g., vintage Michael Jackson records). The awesome thing about prices is that they seamlessly convey this combination of facts about an item's value (demand) and it's scarcity (supply). Prices, of course, are subject to change — prices of certain goods fluctuate every day. But this is a good thing; discernable trends in prices over time indicate relative changes in the "market fundamentals" of supply and demand.
In this sense, prices reliably guide individuals, both consumers and producers, toward a rational use of resources. Savvy consumers listen to the prices; a rising price trend tells them to cut back on that particular item, and a falling price tells them to go ahead and use a little more of it. The same basic logic applies on the production side.
Entrepreneurs, driven by the profit motive, are like bloodhounds sniffing out these price trends in search of profit opportunities — chances to create value through exchange. If the price of a good trends strongly upwards over time (indicating it has become scarcer and/or more valuable), they rush to find cheaper substitutes. The cheaper the substitutes, the higher the profits to be had, especially if you're the first to market. If prices trend downwards over time (indicating that the resource is becoming more abundant relative to its usefulness), entrepreneurs devote their efforts elsewhere.
The general outcome of these economic processes is captured by the statement "prices coordinate." In other words, the price system acts as an "invisible hand," guiding people — both consumers and producers — in their economic actions. The real beauty of this free-market price system is that it brings about its own kind of sustainability. This is not so much sustainability in the use of particular resources — for particular goods fall in and out of favor according to supply and demand factors — but sustainability of high economic growth and high standards of living in the economically developed, capitalist economies.
Take, as an example, the transition in the market for interior illumination: tallow candles were replaced by whale-oil lamps, which were replaced by kerosene lamps, which were replaced by incandescent bulbs powered by electricity. There was no social or political pressure needed to accomplish this evolution; there was no "peak whale oil" movement, no kerosene conservationists, no sustainability crusade of yore. All it took was a functional price system, combined with the ever-present entrepreneurial drive for profits under a competitive, free-market order.
Likewise, in our time as sustainists and other worrywarts fret about resource depletion, the price system remains functional, quietly yet assuredly guiding individuals to economize on resources, search out profitable substitutes, and anticipate future trends. All this happens without preaching, without crusades, and without activism.
Is the Sustainability Crusade Sustainable?
How long will sustainists be able to beat their drum, simultaneously trumpeting their greener-than-thou self-image and attempting, with varying degrees of coercion, to make the rest of us act "sustainable" too? With the global warming scare losing credibility by the day, the likelihood of sustainists being able to claim even a moral victory is fading.Barring the earth melting down from a little bit of smoke, I'm not too worried about sustainists having much of a long-run impact.
Hardcore sustainists are asking for a radically disruptive change from the natural order of the free-market economy. They're asking us to forego wealth and embrace privation in the name of their cause. Although citizens of the Western democracies have seemingly become easy marks for anything green, we will only go so far toward saving the planet, especially when it becomes apparent that sustainability requires a march toward poverty and a deeply regimented and regulated society (and that the planet's not really in peril, after all).
Also, and perhaps more importantly, people in developing countries will be increasingly turned off by the sustainists' demands for sacrifice. Having just arrived at the high living standards that long-term capitalist development yields, my sense is that they will turn a cold shoulder to the idea of ratcheting down their development.
The current resurgence of the classical-liberal tradition in economics will also reduce the appeal of sustainability. The idea of imposed or centrally planned sustainability will crumble under the realization that the spontaneous order wrought by the invisible hand of the free-market price system is amazingly sustainable in and of itself. Add to the mix the hardships of the current recession, and it won't be long before enough people, even sustainist crusaders come crawling back, box of chocolates in hand, to the free-market economy.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Separation of powers case
on: December 04, 2009, 07:11:46 AM
Congress wants to wallop business with even more regulation in the wake of the financial panic, but perhaps the Members should pause on Monday and visit the Supreme Court. The Justices will hear arguments on whether major portions of the last great Congressional overreaction, the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, are constitutional.
Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board was brought in 2006 by Brad Beckstead, whose small Nevada accounting firm endured a costly examination under Sarbox rules. At issue is whether the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, which supervises compliance with the law, violates the Constitution's separation of powers. Under the Appointments Clause, all "officers" of the United States must be appointed by the President and accountable to him—a condition PCAOB members do not meet.
The board's five members are instead hired by the commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who are appointed by the President. This arrangement passed muster in a 2-1 decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, on the dubious grounds that the members were "inferior officers" and accountable to the President through the SEC. Never mind that they are not "directed and supervised" by the SEC, the traditional requirement for inferior officers.
The dissenter on the D.C. Circuit panel, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, called the case the most important separation of powers case in 20 years and said the appeals court had created a constitutional hash. Though the PCAOB "performs numerous regulatory and law enforcement functions at the core of the executive power," he wrote, for the first time in U.S. history we have "an independent agency whose heads are appointed by and removable only for cause by another independent agency."
The PCAOB has indeed grown as a politically unaccountable entity with vast power to regulate business. Texas Senator Phil Gramm warned at its creation that Congress was setting up a board with "massive unchecked power" to "make decisions that affect all accountants and everybody they work for, which directly or indirectly is every breathing person in the country."
Massive is the right word. The accounting board's wide-open mandate—to make whatever rules "may be necessary or appropriate in the public interest or for the protection of investors"—has cost the economy nearly $1 trillion, according to a study by AEI and the Brookings Institution. The benefit is supposed to be investor protection. But despite these costs, the law did nothing to warn about the meltdown of mortgage-backed securities, much less expose Bernie Madoff or other fraudsters.
These realities contributed to the welcome 37-32 November vote in the House Financial Services Committee to exempt small businesses from section 404b of Sarbox, which governs audit requirements. Sponsored by Democrat John Adler and Republican Scott Garrett, both of New Jersey, the provision was supported by the Obama Administration and 10 Democrats joined Republicans in support.
As the Supremes now take their turn, the case has implications the regulation-loving press corps hasn't noticed. A decision to uphold the PCAOB would open the door for Congress to create any number of equally unaccountable regulators across the economy. However, a ruling against the PCAOB could bring down the whole law because Sarbox does not have a "severability clause," which means that if one part goes down the entire law may be invalidated.
Debates over the Appointments Clause haven't typically divided the Supreme Court along liberal and conservative lines, so the outcome is hard to handicap. As Hans Bader and John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute point out, in the 1995 case Ryder v. United States, the High Court ruled unanimously that "an individual or firm disciplined by a government agency can challenge that discipline if agency officials were improperly appointed."
At stake here isn't merely a poorly written law that has done great economic harm. The issue is whether Congress, in its haste, can ignore the Constitutional order that has ensured accountable government for 230 years.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Articulating our cause/strategy against Islamic Fascism
on: December 03, 2009, 10:25:38 PM
It's been brought to my attention by several reliable sources that the
Defense Department has brought Louay Safi to Fort Hood as an instructor, and
that he has been lecturing on Islam to our troops in Fort Hood who are about
to deploy to Afghanistan. Safi is a top official of the Islamic Society of
North America (ISNA), and served as research director at the International
Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).
Worse, last evening, Safi was apparently permitted to present a check
(evidently on behalf of ISNA) to the families of the victims of last month's
Fort Hood massacre. A military source told the blogger Barbarossa at the
Jawa Report: "This is nothing short of blood money. This is criminal and the
Ft. Hood base commander should be fired right now."
ISNA was identified by the Justice Department at the Holy Land Foundation
terrorism financing conspiracy trial as an unindicted co-conspirator. The
defendants at that trial were convicted of funding Hamas to the tune of
millions of dollars. This should have come as no surprise. ISNA is the
Muslim Brotherhood's umbrella entity for Islamist organizations in the
United States. It was established in 1981 to enable Muslims in North America
"to adopt Islam as a complete way of life" - i.e., to further the
Brotherhood's strategy of establishing enclaves in the West that are
governed by sharia. As I detailed in an essay for the April 20 edition of
NR, the Brotherhood's rally-cry remains, to this day, "Allah is our
objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our
way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." The Brotherhood's
spiritual guide, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who issued a fatwa in 2004
calling for attacks on American forces in Afghanistan, openly declares that
Islam will "conquer America" and "conquer Europe."
Also established in 1981, the IIIT is a Saudi funded think-tank dedicated,
it says, to the "Islamicization of knowledge" - which, Zeyno Baran (in
Volume 6 of the Hudson Institute's excellent series, "Current Trends in
Islamist Ideology") has aptly observed, "could be a euphemism for the
rewriting of history to support Islamist narratives." Years ago, the Saudis
convinced the United States that the IIIT should be the military's go-to
authority on Islam. One result was the placement of Abdurrahman Alamoudi to
select Muslim chaplains for the armed forces. Alamoudi has since been
convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 23 years in federal prison.
As noted in this 2003 Frontpage report, 2002 search warrant links Safi to an
entity called the "Safa Group." The Safa Group has never been charged with a
crime, but the affidavit allegest its involvement in moving large sums of
money to terrorist fronts. Safi was also caught on an FBI wiretap of Sami
al-Arian, a former leader in the murderous Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
The year was 1995, and the topic of the discussion between Safi and al-Arian
was Safi's concern that President Clinton's executive order prohibiting
financial transactions with terrorist organizations would negatively affect
al-Arian. More recently, al-Arian has been convicted of conspiring to
provide material support to terrorism.
At Human Events a couple of months back, Rowan Scarborough had a disturbing
report about the FBI's "partnering" efforts with Islamist groups - including
the very same ISNA that the Justice Department had cited as an unindicted
co-conspirator in the terrorism financing conspiracy. A prominent figure in
the report was Louay Jafi:
Safi is a Syrian-born author who advocates Muslim American rights through
his directorship of ISNA's Leadership Development Center. He advocates
direct talks between Washington and Iran's leaders. He has spoken out
against various law enforcement raids on Islamic centers.
In a 2003 publication, "Peace and the Limits of War," Safi wrote, "The war
against the apostates [non-believers of Islam] is carried out not to force
them to accept Islam, but to enforce the Islamic law and maintain order."
He also wrote, "It is up to the Muslim leadership to assess the situation
and weigh the circumstances as well as the capacity of the Muslim community
before deciding the appropriate type of jihad. At one stage, Muslims may
find that jihad, through persuasion or peaceful resistance, is the best and
most effective method to achieve just peace." [ACM: Implicitly, this
concedes there is a time for violent jihad, too.]
At ISNA's annual convention in Washington in July, one speaker, Imam
Warith Deen Umar, criticized Obama for having two Jewish people - Rahm
Emanuel and David Axelrod - in the White House. "Why do this small number of
people have control of the world?" he said, according to a IPT transcript.
He said the Holocast was punishment for Jews "because they were serially
disobedient to Allah."
[Steven] Emerson's group [the Investigative Project on Terrorism]
collected literature at the convention approved for distribution by ISNA. It
said the pamphlets and books featured "numerous attempts to portray U.S.
prosecution of terrorists and terror supporters as anti-Muslim bigotry;
dramatic revisionist history that denied attacks by Arab nations and
Palestinian terrorists against Israel; anti-Semitic tracts and hyperbolic
rants about a genocide and holocaust of Palestinians."
Asked if the FBI should sever ties with ISNA, Emerson said, "ISNA is an
unindicted co-conspirator. It's a Muslim Brotherhood group. I think in terms
of legitimacy there should be certain expectations of what the group says
publicly. If it continues to espouse jihad and anti-Semitism, I think it
nullifies it right to have the FBI recognize it."
If you want to get a sense of the garbage our troops are being forced to
endure in Fort Hood's classrooms, check out Jihad Watch, where my friend Bob
Spencer has more on this episode and on his prior jousts with Safi, here,
here, and here.
What on earth is this government doing, and will Congress please do
something about it?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 03, 2009, 07:46:42 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama’s long-awaited announcement on U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan is not sitting well in Islamabad or New Delhi. While Pakistan now has to figure out how to keep American forces from taking more aggressive action against jihadists in Pakistan, India does not want to deal with the messy aftermath of a U.S. military exit from the region in two years. Meanwhile, the jihadists operating in Pakistan have a greater incentive to create a crisis on the Indo-Pakistani border through rogue attacks in India — a scenario that could well upset Obama’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced Dec. 1 the broad strokes of his administration’s strategy for the war in Afghanistan. In short, he said there are three main objectives: deny al Qaeda a safe haven on the Afghan-Pakistani border, halt the momentum of the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan with an additional 30,000 troops, and train and build Afghan security and civilian forces to deal with the jihadist threat themselves. Notably, Obama also refused to commit to a long-haul nation-building strategy in Afghanistan. On the contrary, he defined the endgame for the war and specified that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could begin as early as July 2011.
Pakistan’s primary concern with the strategy has to deal with the first objective: denying al Qaeda a safe haven. It is well known that al Qaeda’s safe haven is not in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are concentrated, but in Pakistan, where Pakistani forces employ a much more nuanced method of distinguishing between “good” and “bad” jihadists.
Under the Obama plan, the U.S. military is evidently working on a tight timeline to demonstrate (prior to the 2012 U.S. elections) that al Qaeda has been defeated. The United States needs results and it needs them fast. Pakistan can thus assume that the United States is about to apply a lot more pressure on Islamabad to dismantle al Qaeda in Pakistan.
But Pakistan’s definition of “bad” jihadists does not mesh with that of the United States. Indeed, the targets of Pakistan’s offensive in Swat and South Waziristan have been those Taliban militants who have clearly turned against the Pakistani state, namely the Tehrik-i-Taliban movement. Al Qaeda and its allies, on the other hand, have strategically kept their focus on Afghanistan while maintaining a safe haven in Pakistan. If Pakistan widens the scope of its counterinsurgency efforts to include the militants on Washington’s hit list — particularly the Haqqani network, the Mullah Omar-led group of Afghan Taliban, Maulvi Nazir, Hafiz Gulf Bahadir and other high-value targets with strong linkages to al Qaeda — then the Pakistani military will be forced to deal with a bigger backlash.
Pakistan continues to deliberate over how the United States actually intends to achieve its objective of denying al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan. In private discussions with Pakistani leaders, the United States has delivered an ultimatum to Islamabad: either give up its militant-proxy project and enjoy the political, economic and military benefits of an enhanced relationship with Washington or the United States will take unilateral action on Pakistani soil. Such unilateral action would go beyond the CIA’s unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in the borderlands and likely entail sending in fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft with special forces for quick “get in and get out” operations against al Qaeda targets deep inside Pakistani territory. The United States carried out such an overt incursion in Pakistan in September 2008 in South Waziristan, which led to widespread popular backlash inside the country.
This type of unilateral U.S. military action is a redline for the Pakistani military. The impression STRATFOR has gotten from Pakistani military sources is that Islamabad is still quite confident that the United States won’t risk a serious destabilization of Pakistan in pursuit of its counterterrorism objectives. In fact, Pakistani officials have made it a point to paint a doomsday scenario for the United States should the Pakistani military be pushed to the edge in its fight against Pakistani jihadists while trying to hold a feeble government and shaky economy together.
Pakistan will thus try to hedge as best it can to keep U.S. forces at bay. The Pakistani military has a strategic imperative to continue along the current path and engage in limited military offensives against those jihadists who have turned on the Pakistani state while turning a blind eye to those jihadists whose efforts are focused on Afghanistan and/or India. But the United States is unlikely to tolerate Pakistan’s way of handling its jihadist threat, particularly now that U.S. forces are under a tight deadline to neutralize al Qaeda in Pakistan.
As U.S. pressure on Islamabad and the threat to Pakistani sovereignty inevitably increase in the months ahead, Pakistan will rely more heavily on intelligence cooperation with Washington to manage its relationship with the United States. STRATFOR’s Geopolitical Intelligence Report this week discusses in depth how the U.S. battle against al Qaeda and its jihadist allies is largely an intelligence war, one in which Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate could play a crucial role in penetrating al Qaeda and the Taliban. The more reliant the United States is on Pakistani intelligence to achieve its aims in Afghanistan, the better able Islamabad will be in convincing Washington that it’s better off leaving the Pakistani segment of the U.S.-jihadist war to the Pakistanis — or so Pakistan hopes. At the end of the day, Pakistan cannot escape its fear that the United States will take more aggressive action on Pakistani soil with or without Islamabad’s consent.
Pakistan also has a deeper dilemma to contend with concerning its relationship with the United States. Though Pakistan’s alliance with the United States has often left Pakistan feeling betrayed, Pakistan still needs a great power patron with enough interest in the region, like the United States, to counter India. During the Cold War, Pakistan was the key for the United States in containing Soviet expansion in South-Central Asia. Today, Pakistan is the key to containing radical Islamism. In both cases, Pakistan has benefited from U.S. political, economic and military support in its attempts to level the playing field with India.
Though the U.S. partnership with Pakistan against the jihadists is fraught with complications, Pakistan still does not want the day to come when U.S. forces draw down from the region and leave it to Islamabad to pick up the pieces of the jihadist war. If the United States is sufficiently satisfied with its mission in the region by the summer of 2011 to draw down forces according to the timeline Obama laid out, U.S. interest in Pakistan will wane and Islamabad will be left in a difficult position. Pakistan is feeling especially vulnerable these days considering the United States’ growing strategic partnership with India next door.
Pakistan can therefore be expected to lay heavy demands on the United States to restrain India if Washington expects greater cooperation from Islamabad. Pakistan is already urging the United States to restrict Indian influence in Afghanistan, which is viewed by Islamabad as nothing short of an Indian encirclement strategy. Whereas India has been careful to specify that its support for Afghanistan is primarily economic, Pakistan remains convinced that the Indian presence in Afghanistan, whether in the form of consulates or construction companies, is simply a front for Indian Research and Analysis Wing intelligence agents to exploit the Baloch and jihadist insurgencies in Pakistan.
Moreover, Pakistan will continue to insist to the United States that it cannot devote more forces to combating the jihadist threat in its western periphery as long as it has to worry about the high concentration of Indian troops along the Indo-Pakistani border to the east. New Delhi, however, remains convinced that Pakistan continues to support militant proxies against India and is unlikely to heed any U.S. request to back off the border with Pakistan to assuage Islamabad’s concerns when the threat of another militant attack remains real and near.
Obama telephoned Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the eve of his Dec. 1 speech to brief him on his strategy for Afghanistan. India publicly expressed support for the strategy, maintaining the image that U.S.-Indian relations are tightening following Singh’s official state visit to the United States the previous week. Privately, however, India has reason to be skeptical of Obama’s plan.
There is no getting around the fact that Obama is attempting to define an endgame for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, recognizing the need to free up the U.S. military for crises beyond South Asia. This is not to say that the United States will completely abandon the region or that the threat of militant Islam will not persist, but removing thousands of U.S. troops in the region certainly changes the equation in New Delhi’s mind. The last thing India wants is for the United States to draw down its commitment to Afghanistan (and thus ease up pressure on Pakistan) in two years, leaving New Delhi to deal with the aftermath. Indeed, when Singh met with Obama at the White House, he told the U.S. president to stay resolute on his mission in Afghanistan, warning that a U.S. defeat there would have catastrophic consequences.
India sees the benefit of developing a closer partnership with the United States but also wants Washington to do its part to convince Pakistan to give up its decades-long policy of supporting proxy militants against India. Now that Pakistan is experiencing the side effects of its own militant-proxy strategy, India’s hope is that with enough U.S. pressure, Pakistan can be induced to clean up its militant landscape. Yet if the United States is preparing its exit from the region, India may end up losing a valuable lever to use against Pakistan.
Jihadist Wild Card
New Delhi and Islamabad have different reasons to be concerned about U.S. strategy in the region, but there is one area of concern that is common to both: rogue jihadists operating on Pakistani soil.
Al Qaeda and its jihadist allies are examining Obama’s strategy just as intently as everyone else. These jihadists can quite easily deduce that more pressure will be brought to bear on their safe havens in northwest Pakistan, thus threatening their survival. There is a clear intent, therefore, for these jihadists to keep Pakistan focused on the Indian threat on its eastern border in order to alleviate the pressure on their jihadist bases in the northwest. The best way to do this is to create a conflict between India and Pakistan through a large-scale militant attack in hopes of inducing an Indian military response and possibly triggering another near-nuclear confrontation on the border.
Pakistan wants to avoid getting bogged down in a fight with India while trying to deal with its jihadist problems at home. Though Pakistan is trying to rein in many of its former militant proxies, it still has to worry about a number of rogues that could embroil Pakistan in a conflict that it did not ask for. The 2001 bombing of the Indian parliament and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai revealed signs of jihadist involvement that may not have been under direct Pakistani control. Pakistan can attempt to stave off such a crisis by sharing intelligence on militant plots and actors with India through a U.S. channel, but even with enhanced intelligence cooperation, an attack could still happen.
India is already bracing itself for such a scenario and is still grappling with the dilemma that any Indian military response inside Pakistan — even limited strikes — would risk emboldening the jihadists, seriously destabilizing Pakistan and bringing the region to the brink of a nuclear conflagration. India struggled with this issue in the wake of the Mumbai attacks and it appears undecided on how to react to another major attack. In any case, a crisis along the border can be expected, and it would be up to the United States to put out the fire.
The United States is already giving itself a limited timetable to complete its objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it needs Pakistan’s cooperation to make its strategy work. A crisis on the Indo-Pakistani border would certainly jeopardize those plans, since Pakistan would devote its energy to dealing with India (its primary existential threat) rather than al Qaeda and the Taliban. Throw the threat of nuclear war into the equation, and the United States has an entirely new challenge.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: December 03, 2009, 07:39:14 PM
Friday Feature /Only Supply Side Can Fix $1.4 Trillion Deficit
RICH KARLGAARD, "Digital Rules" on Forbes.com (11/30/09): school of
economic public policy known as "supply side" is out of favor, but it is
not as dead as it looks. The theory works. The production of goods and
services does indeed create its own demand. Otherwise, low productivity
countries would be wealthy. Jamaica would be as rich as Singapore. As Josh
Lerner points out here: "In 1965 the two nations were equal in wealth.
Four decades later, their standing was dramatically different. What
accounts for the difference?"
Lerner answers his own question:
Soon after independence, Singapore aggressively invested in infrastructure
such as its port, subsidized its system of education, maintained an open
and corruption-free economy, and established sovereign wealth funds that
made a wide variety of investments. It has also benefited from a strategic
position on the key sea lanes heading to and from East Asia. Jamaica,
meanwhile, spent many years mired in political instability, particularly
the disastrous administration of Michael Manley during the 1970s. Dramatic
shifts from a market economy to a socialist orientation and back again,
with the attendant inflation, economic instability, crippling public debt,
and violence, made the development and implementation of a consistent
long-run economic policy difficult.
But in explaining Singapore's economic growth, it is hard not to give
considerable credit to its policies toward entrepreneurship. The
government has experimented with a wide variety of efforts to develop an
In other words, Singapore invested in supply. It built infrastructure with
government funds. It kept taxes low, regulations light, trade open and
laws simple but rigorously enforced so as to encourage private investment.
President Obama is a thorough-going demand-sider. The $787 billion
stimulus package, tax "cuts" for people who aren't paying taxes, Cash for
Clunkers--could it be any clearer? Demand side has a fatal flaw. It takes
the production of goods and services for granted. Demand side takes you to
Jamaica, not Singapore.
The critics of supply side argue that it, too, has a fatal flaw: deficits.
Does it? Sure, when government spends more than it takes in.
Supply side, in fact, is the only way out of the deficit nightmare....
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington
on: December 03, 2009, 05:59:38 AM
"We are either a United people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all maters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it." --George Washington, letter to James Madison, 1785
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters)
on: December 02, 2009, 11:04:56 PM
Your points are lucid, but I submit that there is something qualitatively different about being effortlessly being able to keep track of ALL of someone's movements, or to recover what they were retroactively.
"Nothing in the Fourth Amendment prohibited the police from augmenting their sensory faculties with such enhancement as science and technology afforded them in this case."
I'm not sure that the truth of this statement, which after all is limited to the facts presented, means that it applies across the board.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game
on: December 02, 2009, 04:35:26 PM
"Had a great success with the the running dog this past Monday. We have a BJJ brown belt who spars with us on Mondays who has a very strong guard game. When we hit the ground from the clinch the material just clicked finally. As soon as I got into the RD squat and started trapping with the strikes he didn't know what to do. He tapped out because he couldn't stop the strikes or get to a better position without getting hit. In round two I was able to do it again and get the run over.
Thank you Guro Crafty."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game
on: December 02, 2009, 12:20:42 PM
A FB post:
"I've been trying the 'Running Dog' in bjj. Both the step over heel hook and the walk-over single leg crab worked against white belts quite easily. Moving up the food chain, I tried on a purple belt. I did catch the walk-over single leg crab, but it took some scrabling to finalize it. Finally, I tried it against one of our brown belts. He beat the walk-over pretty handily, but it set me up for the step over heel hook, which I submitted him with... And all this without the striking set-ups. Good stuff, Guro! Keep it coming! Woof!!!!"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters)
on: December 02, 2009, 12:16:16 PM
Also coming a real long way is the Orwellian potential of ever accelerating technological capabilities , , ,