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23251  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Case of the Vanishing Blonde on: November 12, 2010, 12:13:07 PM
Vanity Fair

After a woman living in a hotel in Florida was raped, viciously beaten, and left for dead near the Everglades in 2005, the police investigation quickly went cold. But when the victim sued the Airport Regency, the hotel’s private detective, Ken Brennan, became obsessed with the case: how had the 21-year-old blonde disappeared from her room, unseen by security cameras? The author follows Brennan’s trail as the P.I. worked a chilling hunch that would lead him to other states, other crimes, and a man nobody else suspected.
BY MARK BOWDEN

 



Private investigator Ken Brennan (foreground) and retired Miami-Dade police detective Allen Foote



From the start, it was a bad case.

A battered 21-year-old woman with long blond curls was discovered facedown in the weeds, naked, at the western edge of Miami, where the neat grid of outer suburbia butts up against the high grass and black mud of the Everglades. It was early on a winter morning in 2005. A local power-company worker was driving by the empty lots of an unbuilt cul-de-sac when he saw her.

And much to his surprise, she was alive. She was still unconscious when the police airlifted her to Jackson Memorial Hospital. When she woke up in its trauma center, she could remember little about what had happened to her, but her body told an ugly tale. She had been raped, badly beaten, and left for dead. There was severe head trauma; she had suffered brain-rattling blows. Semen was recovered from inside her. The bones around her right eye were shattered. She was terrified and confused. She bent English to her native Ukrainian grammar and syntax, dropping pronouns and inverting standard sentence structure, which made her hard to understand. And one of the first things she asked for on waking was her lawyer. That was unusual.

Miami-Dade detectives learned that she had been living for months at the Airport Regency Hotel, eight miles from where she was found. It is one of those crisply efficient overnight spots in the orbit of major airports that cater to travelers needing a bed between legs of long flights. She was employed by a cruise-ship line and had severely cut her finger on the job, so she was being put up at the hotel by her employers while she healed. The assault had begun, she said, in her room, on the fourth floor. She described her attackers as two or three white men who spoke with accents that she heard as “Hispanic,” but she wasn’t certain. She remembered one of the men pushing a pillow into her face, and being forced to drink something strong, alcoholic. She had fragments of memories like bits of a bad dream—of being held up or carried, of being thrown over a man’s shoulder as he moved down a flight of stairs, of being roughly violated in the backseat of a car, of pleading for her life. Powerful, cruel moments, but there was nothing solid, nothing that made a decent lead. When her lawyer soon after filed a lawsuit against the hotel, alleging negligence, going after potentially deep corporate pockets, the detectives thought something was fishy. This was not your typical rape victim. What if she was part of some sophisticated con?

The police detectives did what they could at the hotel, combing the woman’s room for evidence, interviewing hotel employees, obtaining images from all of the surveillance cameras for the morning of the crime, going over the guest lists. The hotel had 174 rooms, and so many people came and went that it would have taken months working full-time to run checks on every one of them, something beyond the resources of a police department in a high-crime area like Miami-Dade. The sex-crimes unit set aside the file with no clear leads, only more questions. After several weeks, “we were dried up,” recalled Allen Foote, the detective handling the case.

So the action was all headed toward civil court. The hotel engaged a law firm to defend itself from the woman’s lawsuit, and the firm eventually hired a private detective named Ken Brennan to figure out what had happened.

Foote was not pleased. It was usually a pain in the ass to have a private detective snooping around one of his cases. Brennan was right out of central casting—middle-aged, deeply tanned, with gray hair. He was a weight lifter and favored open-necked shirts that showed off both the definition of his upper pecs and the bright, solid-gold chain around his neck. The look said: mature, virile, laid-back, and making it. He had been divorced, and his former wife was now deceased; his children were grown. He had little in the way of daily family responsibilities. Brennan had been a cop on Long Island, where he was from, and had worked eight years as a D.E.A. agent. He had left the agency in the mid-90s to work as a commodities broker and to set up as a private detective. The brokering was not to his taste, but the investigating was. He was a warm, talkative guy, with a thick Long Island accent, who sized people up quickly and with a healthy strain of New York brass. If he liked you, he let you know it right away, and you were his friend for life, and if he didn’t … well, you would find that out right away, too. Nothing shocked him; in fact, most of the salacious run-of-the-mill work that pays private detectives’ bills—domestic jobs and petty insurance scams—bored him. Brennan turned those offers away. The ones he took were mostly from businesses and law firms, who hired him to nail down the facts in civil-court cases like this one.

He had a fixed policy. He told potential employers up front, “I’ll find out what happened. I’m not going to shade things to assist your client, but I will find out what the truth is.” Brennan liked it when the information he uncovered helped his clients, but that wasn’t a priority. Winning lawsuits wasn’t the goal. What excited him was the mystery.

The job in this case was straightforward. Find out who raped and beat this young woman and dumped her in the weeds. Had the attack even happened at the hotel, or had she slipped out and met her assailant or assailants someplace else? Was she just a simple victim, or was she being used by some kind of Eastern European syndicate? Was she a prostitute? Was she somehow implicated? There were many questions and few answers.

Vanishing Act
‘I used to be a cop and a federal agent,” Brennan told Detective Foote, introducing himself at the Miami-Dade police sex-crimes-unit offices. Foote had long strawberry-blond hair, which he combed straight back, and a bushy blond mustache. He was about the same age as Brennan, who read him right away as a fellow member of the fraternity, somebody he could reason with on familiar terms.

“Look, you and I both know there’s no fucking way you can investigate this case,” Brennan said. “I can see this through to the end. I won’t step on your dick. I won’t do a thing without telling you about it. If I figure out who did it, you get the arrest. I won’t do anything to fuck it up for you.”

Foote saw logic in this and did something he ordinarily wouldn’t do. He shared what he had in his file: crime-scene photos, surveillance footage from the hotel security cameras, the victim’s confused statement. Foote had interviewed a couple of hotel staff members, but they hadn’t seen a thing. He’d gone about as far as he could with it. He thought, Good luck.

The insurance adjuster had fared no better than Foote. As Brennan reviewed the adjuster’s detailed summary of the case in early November of 2005, eight months after the victim had been found, it was easy to see why. The woman’s memory was all over the map. First she said she had been attacked by one man, then three, then two. At one point she said their accent might have been not Hispanic but “Romanian.” There was no evidence to implicate anyone.

The hotel had a significant security system. The property was fenced, and the back gates were locked and monitored. There were only a few points of entry and exit. During the night, the back door was locked and could be opened only remotely. There were two security guards on duty at all times. Each exit was equipped with a surveillance camera. There was one over the front entrance and one over the back, one in the lobby, one at the lobby elevator, and others out by the pool and parking lot. All of the hotel guests had digital key cards that left a computer record every time they unlocked the door to their rooms. It was possible to track the comings and goings of every person who checked in.

Brennan started where all good detectives start. What did he know for sure? He knew the victim had gone up to her fourth-floor room at the Airport Regency at 3:41 A.M., that she had used her key card to enter her room at about the same time, and that she had been found at dawn in the weeds eight miles west. Somewhere in that roughly three-hour window, she had left the hotel. But there was no evidence of this on any of the cameras. So, how?

The victim was colorfully present on the video record, with her bright-red puffy jacket and shoulder-length blond curls. She had been in and out all night. After months of living in the hotel, she was clearly restless. She made frequent trips down to the lobby just to chat with hotel workers and guests, or to step outside for a smoke, and the cameras caught her every trip. She had gone out to dinner with a friend and returned around midnight, but she wasn’t done yet. She is seen exiting the elevator at about three in the morning, and the camera over the front entrance catches her walking away. She told investigators that she had walked to a nearby gas station to buy a phone card because she wanted to call her mother back in Ukraine, where people were just waking up. Minutes after her departure, the camera catches her return. The lobby camera records her re-entering the hotel and crossing the lobby. Moments later she is seen entering the elevator for her final trip upstairs. A large black man gets onto the elevator right behind her, and the recording shows them exchanging a few words. The police report showed her entering her room 20 minutes later, which had led to much speculation about where she was during that time. The victim had no memory of going anywhere but directly to her room. Brennan checked the clock on the camera at the elevator and found that it ran more than 20 minutes behind the computer clock, which recorded the key swipes, solving that small mystery. After she entered the lobby elevator, she was not seen again by any of the cameras.

The surveillance cameras were in perfect working order. They were not on continually; they were activated by motion detectors. Miami-Dade detectives had tried to beat the motion detectors by moving very slowly, or finding angles of approach that would not be seen, but they had failed. No matter how slowly they moved, no matter what approach they tried, the cameras clicked on faithfully and caught them.

One possibility was that she had left through her fourth-floor window. Someone would have had to drop her out the window or somehow lower her, presumably unconscious, into the bushes below, and then exit the hotel and walk around to retrieve her. But the woman showed no signs of injury from such a drop, or from ropes, and the bushes behind the hotel had not been trampled. The police had examined them carefully, looking for any sign of disturbance. It was also possible, with more than one assailant, that she had been lowered into the grasp of someone who had avoided disturbing the bushes, but Brennan saw that such explanations began to severely stretch credulity. Sex crimes are not committed by determined teams of attackers who come with padded ropes to lower victims from fourth-floor windows.

No, Brennan concluded. Unless this crime had been pulled off by a team of magicians, the victim had to have come down in the elevator to the lobby and left through the front door. The answer was not obvious, but it had to be somewhere in the video record from those cameras. “Needless to say, the big mystery here is how this woman got out of the hotel,” read the summary of the case prepared by the insurance adjuster. It was a mystery he had not been able to crack.

Brennan penciled one word on the memo: “Disguise?”

23252  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Chiropractic for children? on: November 12, 2010, 10:52:56 AM
My eleven year old son has been having some alignment issues with his hips, which naturally has manifested in some aches and pains in his feet and a shoulder.  I am comfortable with the idea of chiropractic, but my wife/his mom is leery.

Any thoughts/input/citations?
23253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Laffer: Growth Agenda for the New Congress on: November 12, 2010, 08:35:58 AM
By ARTHUR LAFFER
Since its cyclical zenith in December 2007, U.S. economic production has been on its worst trajectory since the Great Depression. Massive stimulus spending and unprecedented monetary easing haven't helped, and yet the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve still cling to the book of Keynes. It's an approach ill-suited to solving the growth problem that the United States has today.

The solution can be found in the price theory section of any economics textbook. It's basic supply and demand. Employment is low because the incentives for workers to work are too small, and the incentives not to work too high. Workers' net wages are down, so the supply of labor is limited. Meanwhile, demand for labor is also down since employers consider the costs of employing new workers—wages, health care and more—to be greater today than the benefits.

Firms choose whether to hire based on the total cost of employing workers, including all federal, state and local income taxes; all payroll, sales and property taxes; regulatory costs; record-keeping costs; the costs of maintaining health and safety standards; and the costs of insurance for health care, class action lawsuits, and workers compensation. In addition, gross wages are often inflated by the power of unions and legislative restrictions such as "buy American" provisions and the minimum wage. Gross wages also include all future benefits to workers in the form of retirement plans.

For a worker to be attractive, that worker must be productive enough to cover all those costs plus leave room for some profit and the costs of running an enterprise. Being in business isn't easy, and today not enough workers qualify to be hired.

But workers don't focus on how much it costs a firm to employ them. Workers care about how much they receive and can spend after taxes. For them, the question is how the wages they'd receive for working compare to what they'd receive (from the government) if they didn't work, plus the value of their leisure from not working.

The problem is that the government has driven a massive wedge between the wages paid by firms and the wages received by workers. To make work and employment attractive again, this government wedge has to shrink. This can happen over the next two years, even with a Democratic majority in the Senate and President Obama in the White House, through the following measures:

1) The full extension of the Bush tax cuts. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives can write legislation extending all the tax cuts in perpetuity. Of particular importance for employment is keeping the highest personal income tax rate at 35%, the capital gains tax rate at 15% and the dividend tax rate at 15%, while eliminating the estate tax permanently. If the Senate blocks this legislation or Mr. Obama refuses to sign it, House Republicans should hold firm and let voters decide in 2012. (My guess is that he'll sign it or have his veto overridden.)

2) The full repeal of ObamaCare, which allows individuals to pay only five cents for each dollar of health care. Who do you think pays the other 95 cents? As former Sen. Phil Gramm notes, if he had to pay only five cents for each dollar of groceries he bought, he would eat really well—and so would his dog. No single bill is more antithetical to growth than ObamaCare.

Repeal could take the form of Michele Bachmann's Legislative Repeal Act, and if it is blocked in the Senate or by a veto Republicans should continue bringing it up every six months. Come 2012 the public will have a clear view of what congressional candidates stand for. The end game for U.S. prosperity is the election in 2012.

3) The cancellation of all spending that punishes those who produce and rewards those who don't. This is really the distinction between demand-side economics and supply-side economics. Stimulus spending and quantitative easing don't make it more rewarding to work an extra hour. If the government pays people not to work and taxes people who do work, is it really so difficult to see why employment is so low?

So the government should sell its stakes in public companies acquired via TARP, sell government-run enterprises that lose money (e.g., Amtrak and the Postal Service), end farm subsidies that pay people not to farm, cancel the rest of the stimulus and return all spending programs to their pre-stimulus levels. Congress should also continually examine spending in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it should return the duration of unemployment benefits to the standard 26 weeks, from the current 99 weeks.

4) The enactment of stalled free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

These changes would spur recovery, but they are just the start. Elected officials should offer longer-term measures that voters can judge in 2012, when 33 senators—including 21 Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 10 Republicans—as well as the entire House and President Obama are up for re-election.

Beyond 2012, the ideal growth agenda would include:

1) A true flat tax, a la Jerry Brown's proposal in 1992. Congress should replace all federal taxes (except sin taxes) with two flat-rate taxes, one on personal income and one on net business sales. The personal income tax would be on all forms of income: wage income, dividends, inheritance (as proposed by Democratic Rep. Jared Polis), and all capital gains. This tax code would remove loopholes and almost all deductions, and the static revenue rate would be around 11.5%.

2) Price stability. Congress should revise the Federal Reserve's mandate, making it serve only the goal of price stability (and not also full employment). In addition, the Fed should follow a monetary rule, targeting either the quantity of money or the price level. There can be no prosperity without price stability.

3) Passage of a balanced budget amendment, without raising taxes. This would prevent government from being able to balance its budget by unbalancing the budgets of its citizens. And it would force politicians to make difficult decisions about what spending is worthwhile, just like the rest of us. (Marc:  How would the language for this read?)

4) Finally, saving the best for last, the mother of all supply-side reforms is incentive pay for politicians (which the comedian Jackie Mason called "putting the politicians on commission"). Politicians must be held personally responsible for their actions. In business, firms align the incentives of decision makers with the incentives of shareholders to ensure that they take the best course of action. Washington must begin doing the same by creating an incentive structure that pays elected officials according to factors such as stock market performance and economic growth. (Marc: For some reason I am reminded of Fannie Mae accelerating its profits in order to pump up bonuses for its executives)

Mr. Laffer is the chairman of Laffer Associates and co-author of "Return to Prosperity: How America Can Regain Its Economic Superpower Status" (Threshold, 2010).
23254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: November 12, 2010, 08:23:33 AM
HONG KONG—A plunge in Chinese stocks erased nearly a quarter of a three-month surge, as investors feared that the central bank could soon tighten policy further.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index skidded 5.2%, its steepest decline in 14 months, a day after the country reported a sharper-than-expected rise in inflation. Other Asian markets also fell.

"Investors are in a rush to lock in profits as they are concerned that the central bank may launch more tightening measures over the weekend," said Wu Dazhong at Shenyin Wanguo Securities in China.

There was no official signal from Chinese government about any imminent moves.

Official data released Thursday showed China's consumer price index jumped by a more than expected 4.4% in October from a year earlier, boosting expectations for aggressive monetary tightening in coming days to battle rising inflation. China already has required banks to park more cash with the central bank. It also raised interest rates once and tightened controls on capital inflows into the country.

Other Asian markets opened weaker, but took their biggest lumps at the end of the day as European markets opened and global investors withdrew risky bets on stocks and currencies. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gave up 1.9% to 24222.58, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average lost 1.4% to 9724.81 and Taiwan's Taiex shed 1.4% to 8316.05.

Friday's drops were reminiscent of market gyrations in April, when the euro plunged and Greece's debt problems came to a boil. As then, investors fled riskier assets, including gold, for safe havens such as the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen. The Australian dollar, Korean won and several other Asian currencies weakened.

"A lot of the places that were safe places to hide on bad days like are getting hit," said Mark Matthews, strategist at Macquarie Capital in Singapore.

The biggest drops outside China were in markets that have performed particularly strongly this year.

India's Sensex slid 2.1% to 20156.8, its sharpest one-day drop in nearly a month, on a slower-than-expected rise in industrial production during September. Indonesia's JSX index fell 2.1% to 3665.85, but it remains up 45% this year.

South Korea's Kospi eased 0.1% to 1913.12, supported by technology and financial shares after the benchmark skidded Thursday on selling pressure tied to the expiry of options.

Some saw Friday's drop as a natural pullback. Stocks, commodities and Asian currencies have rocketed in the past three months almost uninterrupted, spurred on by hopes the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program would flood markets with cash. Even with today's fall, the Shanghai Composite Index is up 14.5% in the past three months. The Australian dollar is up 11% versus the greenback.

"The market has been very strong the last few months without any consolidation," said David Lai, a fund manager at Citic Securities in Hong Kong.

While some analysts said the People's Bank of China might raise interest rates by another quarter-point this year, Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong, cited speculation of a possible increase of 0.50 percentage points this year to cool inflationary expectations.

He added that the interest rate increases were unlikely to be "so damaging" to the economy or to the markets, as evidenced by the Indian markets, which recently hit a record high despite six rate increases by the Reserve Bank of India so far this year.

In China, stocks in commodity, airline and automobile sectors suffered heavy losses on mainland bourses. China Southern Airlines and Hong Yuan Securities tumbled the maximum 10% limit allowed by the market authorities. Jiangxi Copper lost 8.9%, SAIC Motor Corp. sunk 8.6% and Yunnan Aluminium Co. slid 9.4%.

Chinese property developers also declined. China Vanke Co. tumbled 7.1% in Shenzhen, Poly Real Estate Group lost 7.3% in Shanghai and Shimao Property Holdings gave up 3.6% in Hong Kong.

In South Korea, the Seoul market erased most early gains, after Thursday's late-session losses. The country's Financial Supervisory Service said Friday it has started a joint investigation with the Korea Exchange to examine heavy selling of Korean stocks by Deutsche Bank on Thursday. Deutsche Bank wasn't immediately available for comment.

The investigation dented shares in the securities sector. Woori Investment & Securities lost 4.7% and Samsung Securities tumbled 5.5%. On the upside, Samsung Electronics added 1.4% as it continues to extend its dynamic random access memory market share.

In Sydney, shares of Australia & New Zealand Banking Group fell 2.1% on speculation of a potential capital raising by the bank if it purchases a 57% stake in Korea Exchange Bank. ANZ is currently conducting due diligence for the stake purchase. Private-equity firm Lone Star, which owns 51% of KEB, is selling the stake in tandem with Export Import Bank of Korea, which owns 6%. KEB shares rose 0.8% in Seoul.

National Australia Bank, which was trading ex-dividend, fell 3.5%.

Banks dropped in Tokyo. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group fell 1.8% and Mizuho Financial Group dropped 2.3%.

Disco Corp. plunged 14% after semiconductor grinding-equipment maker slashed its profit outlook for the current fiscal year. Among other chip stocks, Tokyo Electron fell 3.5% and Advantest lost 2.9%.

In Mumbai, shares of tractor and utility vehicle maker Mahindra & Mahindra dropped 4.8%, property developer DLF skidded 5.5% and Hindalco Industries slid 4.7% after official data showed the country's industrial output growth for September slowed to 4.4%, compared with expectations of about 7%.

"With the exception of Indonesia and Korea, India had the weakest year-on-year industrial growth rate of any Asian country in September… The Reserve Bank of India has effectively signaled a pause its rate tightening cycle and today's release suggests this was a wise move," Credit Suisse economist Robert Prior-Wanderforde wrote in emailed comments.

Write to Shri Navaratnam at shri.navaratnam@dowjones.com

23255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: BO administration preparing Internet privacy initiative on: November 12, 2010, 08:20:49 AM
By JULIA ANGWIN
The Obama administration is preparing a stepped-up approach to policing Internet privacy that calls for new laws and the creation of a new position to oversee the effort, according to people familiar with the situation.

The strategy is expected to be unveiled in a report being issued by the U.S. Commerce Department in coming weeks, these people said. The report isn't yet final and could change, these people said.

In a related move, the White House has created a special task force that is expected to help transform the Commerce Department recommendations into policy, these people said. The White House task force, set up three weeks ago, is led by Cameron Kerry, the brother of Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) and Commerce Department general counsel, and Christopher Schroeder, assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice.

The initiatives would mark a turning point in Internet policy. Recent administrations typically steered away from Internet regulations out of concern for stifling innovation. But the increasingly central role of personal information in the Internet economy helped spark government action, according to people familiar with the situation.

The Wall Street Journal has been examining this online information-gathering industry in its "What They Know" investigative series.

Privacy issues are bubbling up on Capitol Hill. Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas), co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he welcomed the administration's privacy initiative.

23256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: November 12, 2010, 08:12:19 AM
For those of us lacking a spare hour and for those of us needing a bit more of a tease to invest an hour, would you be so kind as to provide a bit more of a summary?  smiley
23257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Blind Pig at POTH finds acorn on: November 12, 2010, 08:07:49 AM
This piece of the blindingly obvious is notable only for who wrote it.

Dangerous Nuclear Illusions
By ROGER COHEN
Published: November 11, 2010

LONDON — A world without nuclear weapons sounds nice, but of course that was the world that brought us World War I and World War II. If you like the sound of that, the touchy-feely “Global Zero” bandwagon is probably for you.

I’m an optimist in general but a pessimist when it comes to nations’ shifting pursuit of their interests. Humans, not states, have consciences. President Barack Obama’s commitment in his 2009 Prague speech “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” was a fine sentiment but a political mistake.

The idea went down well with the Norwegians, who awarded Obama a Nobel Peace Prize he should not have accepted, but overall this prospective peace blossom has wilted faster than a flower in the Scandinavian night.

(A neophyte president should question whether a peace Nobel is in any way compromising — apart from examining the merits, which were dubious.)

There were two sides to Obama’s embrace of a nuclear-free world. The first was the “vision,” as Michèle Flournoy, his under secretary for defense policy, described it recently to the Halifax International Security Forum. It was a form of utopian idealism, as Obama half-acknowledged by saying he would “perhaps” not see the end of nukes in his lifetime.

Visions are nice — Marx had one of classless societies. They can also be dangerous. Helmut Schmidt, the former German chancellor, famously remarked that people who have them should see a doctor.

The danger was that Obama, very early in his presidency, would be perceived as weak or unrealistic by rivals such as China or enemies like Iran, despite his commitment, for “as long as these weapons exist,” to “maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary.”

That perception of weakness has taken hold, reinforced by his academic-seminar approach to an Afghan surge now just seven months away from being reversed.

The second aspect of the nuclear “vision” was strategic. The idea was that it would give the United States moral leverage in persuading nations to reduce their nuclear arsenals or abandon nuclear ambitions. It would also advance U.S. nonproliferation efforts designed, among other things, to ensure no terrorists ever acquire nukes. The most dangerous aspect of the 21st-century world is the potential ability of smaller and smaller groups to do greater and greater harm.

Here the results have been mixed at best. Flournoy acknowledged that “the example that the U.S. sets probably won’t impact Iran or North Korea directly.” China continues to pursue the expansion and refinement of its nuclear arsenal. France, with its beloved “force de frappe,” was always publicly skeptical and privately contemptuous. Its recent defense accord with Britain was interesting for its inclusion of nuclear cooperation and for Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement that “we will always retain an independent nuclear deterrent.” Note the “always.”

Only with Russia was clear headway made. A new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed earlier this year awaits Senate ratification. It would slash U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to their lowest level in a half-century. It’s compatible with America’s defense needs and should be ratified.

But the “Global Zero” idea is an unhelpful distraction because it inclines Republicans to believe Obama is not serious about maintaining and modernizing America’s nuclear arsenal. Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said of the goal of a nuclear-free world: “I think it’s a dangerous concept to get into our minds — I talked with some Russians recently, and they scoffed at the idea.”

That’s a fair guide to Republican thinking; and there will be 47, not 41, Republicans in the new Senate, as well as a Tea-Party-revved Republican majority in the House. New Start’s best hope is in the lame-duck Senate. But Obama is going to have to turn the page, dump aloofness for horse-trading, airy-fairy ideals for the politics of the possible, and realize “interconnectedness” is not just the state of the world but also the way things get done in Washington.

As for nonproliferation efforts, they remain stymied by contradictions that a review conference this year did little to resolve. Three states with weapons have refused to sign the nonproliferation treaty: Israel, India and Pakistan. With all three, the United States winks at noncompliance, in the Israeli case through a secret “understanding” struck in 1969. Of course this is not lost on the likes of Iran. The case of North Korea, which renounced the nonproliferation treaty in 2003, has reinforced impressions of American inconsistency.

Perhaps Japan makes clearest why “Global Zero” is a stillborn idea. As the nation of Hiroshima, it has always pushed hard for disarmament. But as the nation facing North Korean nuclear testing and missiles, as well as an ever-stronger Chinese nuclear arsenal, it clings to the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Idealism will not keep it safe.

Obama can’t renounce “Global Zero;” that would be silly. But he should pretend he never said it. His remake for 2012 demands more of Chicago and less of Oslo. Perhaps even Benjamin Netanyahu, who has treated the president with sublime contempt since his September White House visit, would take note.

23258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH continues to struggle with what to do about Sarah on: November 12, 2010, 08:03:10 AM
How’s That Outdoorsy Stuff Working for Ya?
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
Published: November 11, 2010

Sarah Palin says her new series on TLC is not a reality show, and she has a point. The show is not an outdoorsy version of celebrity-dysfunction shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” or “The Hasselhoffs.”
“Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” which begins on Sunday, is odder than that. The snowcapped mountains, pine forests and shimmering lakes are majestic, the Palin children are adorable, and the series looks like a travelogue — wholesome, visually breathtaking and a little dull. In a way it’s like “The Sound of Music” but without the romance, the Nazis or the music.

There are a few shots of the great indoors, coyly edited scenes of family friction that are de rigueur in reality shows. In one, Ms. Palin asks her teenage daughter, Willow, to do a chore, and Willow, just rising around noon, answers sarcastically, “Sorry, no can do,” as she inspects the fridge.

But mostly, the eight-part series lives up to its title — the camera follows the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee as she fishes, hunts, dog-sleds and rock-climbs. It’s a nature series for political voyeurs: viewers get to observe Ms. Palin observing nature.

And to her credit, the governor who quit the job with more than a year left to her term doesn’t use the camera crew to recast her image or pad gaps in her résumé. She doesn’t pore over position papers in a book-lined study, phone foreign leaders or even watch “Jeopardy.”

Mostly she has fun outdoors. That includes white-water rafting, kayaking, salmon fishing and climbing glaciers. “You know what they say,” she says to the camera after a disappointing fishing trip. “A poor day of fishing beats even a great day of work.”

When she works, it doesn’t take up a great deal of time. Ms. Palin slips out of her hoodie and running shorts and into a red power blazer, dons an earpiece and talks to Fox News in a makeshift television studio next to her house as her husband, Todd, works the camera.

Her preparation is homespun. “So, Todd,” Ms. Palin asks from her desk seconds before airtime, “if they want a personal example — with all the uncertainty regarding what new taxes may be hit — that would influence how many guys you would hire?”

A reality show is a risky step for any politician, but then Ms. Palin is no ordinary politician. It’s still not clear whether she plans to run for president in 2012, or is just riding high on her popularity and fame. The TLC program highlights her physical bravery, but the series’s existence points to a different kind of courage: Ms. Palin is not afraid to be herself.

The first episode doesn’t show much of the nitty-gritty of handling six children, including Trig, the Palins’ toddler, who has Down syndrome, and Tripp, the young son of their eldest daughter, Bristol. Ms. Palin says they don’t have a lot of household help, but viewers aren’t privy to feedings, diaper changes and vacuuming.

Yet Ms. Palin allows the camera to record moments that may well make her critics snicker, particularly now that Bristol is back in the limelight as an underdog contender on “Dancing With the Stars.” (Bristol first became famous during the 2008 campaign as the governor’s unwed and pregnant teenage daughter; she later led a high school abstinence campaign and is now identified on the dance show as a “teen activist.”)

=======

How’s That Outdoorsy Stuff Working for Ya?
Published: November 11, 2010
In the premiere Andy, Willow’s teenage friend, prepares to follow Willow upstairs to her bedroom. Ms. Palin squawks like a mother hen and rushes over to the baby safety gate on the steps. “See, this gate is not just for Trig,” she tells Andy. “It’s for no boys go upstairs.” When Andy tiptoes upstairs anyway — a move underscored with antic reality show music — Ms. Palin calls her daughter on her cellphone and orders them back down.
One day a hired seaplane lands on the lake at the back of their Wasilla house to take the family salmon fishing and bear watching. The Palins watch, awestruck, as brown bears lope, swim, growl, fight. At one point a bear seems on the verge of charging the boat, a danger that Ms. Palin says “keeps you on your heels.”
Watching the bears delights Ms. Palin, who refers to herself and other female candidates as “mama grizzlies.” She says, “It was amazing to watch this mama grizzly, brown bear, really, protecting her cubs and saying, ‘No one’s going to mess with my cubs.’ ”

Cubs are not always grateful. Piper, 9, confides, “My mom is superbusy, she is addicted to the BlackBerry.” Mimicking her mother’s thumb typing, she adds, “She’s like, ‘Hold on, I’ll be there in a second.’ ”

Perhaps Ms. Palin’s most impressive feat is climbing a glacier with a guide and her husband, a rock-climbing adventure that is obviously arduous and scary. She says out loud many times that she is afraid she can’t make it to the top. Viewers may fear another risk; her high-pitched voice is so piercing it could trigger an avalanche.

There are other dangers lurking back at the house, and those include the next door neighbor, the writer Joe McGinniss (“Fatal Vision”), who rented a house for a while to observe the Palins close up, so close up that Mr. Palin built a 14-foot fence to block his view.

But Ms. Palin is sometimes her own worst enemy, and she is not afraid even of that. Alluding to one of her most mocked mis-statements during the campaign, Ms. Palin poses in front of a mountain range and says, “You can see Russia from here,” then adds with an arch smile, “almost.” (No, Ms. Stanley, Tina Fey said that.  SP said that Russia can be seen from Alaska, which is true.)

Sarah Palin’s Alaska

TLC, Sunday nights at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time.

Produced for TLC by Mark Burnett Productions. Mark Burnett, Sarah Palin and Maria Baltazzi, executive producers.
23259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: November 11, 2010, 11:56:02 PM
The G-20 Summit and the Importance of East Asia

The G-20 summit convenes Nov. 11 in Seoul, South Korea, where the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies will gather to discuss the most pressing global economic issues of the day. While there is no shortage of topics to discuss, there are two dominant themes that directly involve two major players, the United States and China. The first is the U.S.-led call for countries that have trade surpluses, most notably China and Japan, to export less and build up their domestic consumption. The second is currency devaluation, highlighted by the U.S. decision to engage in quantitative easing (essentially the digital equivalent of printing money) to the tune of $600 billion.

These themes affect each country represented at the G-20 — and to a certain extent nearly every country in the world. Moreover, due to the fundamental structural and performance differences of the G-20 countries — more specifically, trade surplus countries are opposed to U.S. demands — these topics are certain to be intensely debated.

But currency devaluation and trade are not the only reasons that Seoul, and the Asia Pacific region as a whole, is an important place to watch to gauge the temperature of some of the world’s major players. This region, not coincidentally, has drawn the attention of two countries for reasons that are only partially related to the rapid economic growth and dynamism that has come to mark East Asia over the past few decades, reasons that are more geopolitical in nature.

“There are many dynamics that will shape, and limit, the form of engagement that Russia and the United States will have with East Asia.”
One of these countries is the United States. Over the past decade, much of the United States’ attention and resources have been focused on the Middle East and South Asia. But as the United States extricates itself from Iraq (however tentatively) and is in the process of beginning a similar withdrawal from Afghanistan starting in 2011, there are other potential threats and challengers emerging in Eurasia that await Washington. One of these is China, which has become increasingly assertive in its Southeast Asian periphery and further abroad as Beijing seeks to secure the resources it needs to keep its economy churning. China’s economic policies, such as maintaining a weak yuan, and its strengthening position on the global stage have led to growing friction with the United States.

In the meantime, the United States has begun to slowly re-engage with, and strengthen new partnerships and alliances in, East Asia — a region that China would rather the United States stay out of. Indeed, it is not an accident that U.S. President Barack Obama’s Asia tour, which includes trips to India and Indonesia, comes at the same time as the G-20 summit. Obama will follow the summit by attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Japan, in effect forming an arch around China that notably excludes China itself.

The other country whose attention has returned to the region is Russia. East Asia was a region of tremendous importance for Russia throughout the Cold War, but the Soviet Union’s collapse saw much of Russia’s political, economic and military ties to this region shrivel. The aftermath of the Cold War left Russia focusing first on rebuilding itself and then on rebuilding its influence in Europe, its western theater. And now there have been many signs of an eastward gaze from Moscow — Russia has been increasing its oil and natural gas exports to the region, and Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said that East Asia could soon match the European market for Russian energy, which for all its extensive, financial and technical limitations shows how enthusiastically Russia views prospects in the region.

But Moscow’s return to the region has not entirely been benevolent. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev was recently the first Russian president to visit the southern Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan, a source of strained relations with Tokyo. Russia also is in the process of building up its military in the region, from nuclear submarines to missile systems, increasing Japanese fears further. This antagonism with Japan is one of many issues that has actually driven Russia closer to the Chinese, though the two still have fundamental differences.

There are many dynamics that will shape, and limit, the form of engagement that Russia and the United States will have with East Asia. But it is clear that East Asia has become the center of a strategic and geopolitical focus for many reasons, and it is no coincidence that U.S. attention, Russian re-engagement, and the G-20 — both the site and the issues that it will see discussed — all coalesce around the same location.

23260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 11, 2010, 08:50:25 PM
Do you have the one of him bowing to the mayor of some town in Florida?
23261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on the new government on: November 11, 2010, 05:29:27 PM
Analyst Kamran Bokhari examines Iran’s influence over the Nov. 11 formation of the new Iraqi government.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

After eight months of excruciatingly complex and drawn out negotiations at both the intra and intercommunal level, the Iraqi factions have finally agreed upon some semblance of a preliminary government. The ongoing lengthy process underscores the extent of influence Iran enjoys in its western neighbor and the fact that this is not your normal jockeying for power that one sees in most countries after an election.

What we have here is a very preliminary form of government emerging as a result of negotiations between the various factions. Today’s session of parliament elected a speaker and his two deputies. The speaker is a Sunni which was the case in the outgoing parliament, and he has two deputies one each from amongst the Shia and Kurdish communities.

In addition to the election of the speaker and the two deputy speakers the house also reelected President Jalal Talabani for another term. What is interesting here is that Jalal Talabiani was elected in two phases of voting and the Sunnis largely walked out of the session when that was taking place. So we enter into a new controversy in which the Sunnis feel betrayed by the Shiites and Kurds.

One of the most interesting and important points in this eight month saga since the election is how Iran was able to essentially checkmate the United States in the sense that the Sunni backed al-Iraqiyah block bagged the most seats in the March 7 election. Yet Iran was able to pull together both the two Shia block that came in second and third place to form a super Shia bloc and thereby claiming the right to form a government in which we now see in process.

in most countries there are democratic elections and then there’s this normal - if there is a hung parliament - is normal jockeying for power between those that bagged the most seats to cobble together a new government. In Iraq it’s much more than just a normal negotiations because essentially Iraqi is a new state. Post-Ba’athist Iraq does not have a lengthy tradition of elections or governments being formed. This is the second government since the overthrow of Saddam.

What’s significant about this new power sharing arrangement is for in the first time the Sunnis en masse were able to participate in elections and therefore pose a challenge to the domination of the system enjoyed by the Shia and Kurds thus far. What this shows is that every time there’s going to be an election for the foreseeable future, we’re going to be going through this same motion again because there is no underlying if you will understanding or formal power-sharing mechanism. It has to be built from scratch based on the results of the elections.

23262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 11, 2010, 02:15:04 PM
Egypt got its land back when it recognized Israel's right to exist.


23263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Whales getting sunburned? on: November 11, 2010, 11:07:05 AM

http://wtopnews.com/?nid=220&sid=2112918
23264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 11, 2010, 10:45:23 AM
Good point. 

Similarly, Bush's AG Ashcroft imposed the Feds into Oregon's Right to Die issues.
23265  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another bow on: November 11, 2010, 10:40:17 AM
Pasted here for its picture of our President bowing yet again, this time to the Chinese.  The backdrop gives a clue as to when and where.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jeremywarner/100008581/china-may-be-bigger-economy-than-us-within-two-years/
23266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: November 11, 2010, 10:26:53 AM
My thinking exactly.  We agree 100%.
23267  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: November 11, 2010, 10:24:52 AM
In my travel overseas (e.g. Slovenia, Switzerland this past year) my experience has been that on a PPP basis the US dollar is badly undervalued.  This applies much more I think we all can agree to the dollar/yuan rate.  While the group covered in the article may be overstating things quite a bit, the underlying premise of using PPP to more accurately compare the size of the two economies strikes me as sound.

I agree 100% that devaluing a currency in order to create jobs/export unemployment is a bad idea.
23268  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: November 10, 2010, 08:58:41 PM
10
NOV

The BBC has an article up on the gun-smuggling from the US to Mexico.  In typically one-sided fashion, it mentions that guns seized from narcos in Mexico are often traced back to the United States, and that the ATF isn’t effectively fighting this problem.

For those without much knowledge on the subject, it gives the impression that there’s a flood of illegal guns being bought in the US across the counter legally, and then shipped into Mexico to fuel the gun crime there–blaming our “lax gun laws” for Mexico’s narco turf war violence.

First of all, let’s point out that Mexico has a narco problem because the US has a hard-on for drug prohibition, not because Americans can buy guns legally.  I’ve often read that canard about drug buyers financing drug crime with their purchases, but the simple twofold truth is that a.) people will always desire and buy mind-altering substances, no matter what the law says, and b.) the War on Drugs serves as a price control mechanism and profit guarantee for dealers and traffickers.

Second, let’s look at that article a little more closely.  The picture that accompanies it shows a bunch of 40mm grenade launchers along with ammunition.  Looking at that, your average BBC reader could be lead to believe that those things are legal to buy and own freely in the US, and that they originated at a US gun show or gun store.  Grenade launchers are, of course, illegal to own, purchase, or sell in the United States without a special registration and tax stamp.  Grenade launchers are tightly controlled “destructive devices”, as is their ammunition.  (Every single 40mm grenade is also classified as a DD, and subject to a $200 transfer tax per round.  Each grenade must be individually registered with the BATFE, which makes them super-expensive and very rare to find in civilian hands.)  Considering the difficulty and expense of obtaining a launcher and the ammo for it, never mind the fact that every single launcher and round is registered to an owner with the ATF, I guarantee that the 40mm launchers in that picture came not from the US, but from Mexican military armories.

Third, the language in the article isn’t quite misleading, but it omits a few facts.  We are told that “the majority of guns confiscated by Mexico and submitted to the ATF for tracing do originate in the US <emphasis mine>.”  What it doesn’t mention is that the majority of guns seized from Mexican narcos do not originate in the US.  The Mexican Federales do not submit most of their seized guns to the ATF for tracing because they know their provenance already.  Mexico uses a licensed version of the H&K G36 assault rifle, for example, and whenever one of those shows up, they know it didn’t walk out of a gun store in San Antonio.  (They also use the licensed version of the H&K 40mm grenade launcher, which happens to look exactly like the weapon in the center of the picture.)  So they only send the serial numbers of the non-domestic guns to the ATF, which is the minority of seized weapons.  Reading the article over a quick latte, one could however get the impression that most of the crime guns in Mexico are traced back to the US, because they omit that information.

Lastly, even those guns that were bought in the US and then smuggled into Mexico for use by narcos didn’t get sold to Mexican nationals legally.  Gun shops have to run federal background checks on every single gun purchase, and foreign nationals, with few exceptions, are not eligible to buy firearms in the United States.  If a rifle made it from a legal buyer into the hands of a Mexican criminal, the person buying the rifle and then handing it to said criminal broke federal law.  (Buying a gun for a non-eligible person is called a “straw sale”, and will get you ten years in Club Fed.)

Mexico has plenty of problems, but corruption (where and how do you think the narcos get Mexican military hardware?) and the economic incentives created by drug prohibition make up the lion’s share of those, not legal gun sales in the United States.  You want to curb the flow of guns and stop the violence in Mexico, you stop guaranteeing those dealers and traffickers a 10,000% profit margin on some powdered plant product.  Drug dealers don’t care about cocaine or “poisoning America’s children”, they care about profit.  If you held a voter referendum on keeping or tossing drug prohibition, all the drug dealers in the country would vote to keep them illegal.  Take away their price control system, and they’ll go the way of the booze runners of the Prohibition era.

But nobody’s going to do that, of course.  Between asset forfeiture, inability to learn from the Prohibition, the suitability of drug laws to curb inconvenient liberties, and the millions on the payroll of drug task forces and agencies nationwide, that wouldn’t be good business.  And civil liberties continue to take it in the pants.

Remember: a vote for drug prohibition is a vote for gun control.  Without illicit substance turf wars, we wouldn’t even have NFA ’34, GCA ’68, or the 1994 Crime Bill.  We wouldn’t have asset forfeiture, RICO, or any of the many other onerous laws that shackle our movements and make a mockery of the Bill of Rights.  But point that out to a self-righteous dope prohibitionist, and you get the old saw about the damage drugs can do, and do you want to see schoolchildren legally light up crack pipes in front of the CVS at eight in the morning?  It’s the same kind of arrogant paternalism that the gun banners display when they talk about how blood would flow in the streets if we removed all the restrictions on gun ownership and carry.  “Well, I know that I wouldn’t abuse them, but I’m damned sure those peasants all around me couldn’t handle the liberty…”

http://munchkinwrangler.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/lies-half-truths-and-omissions/
23269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BBC propaganda on: November 10, 2010, 08:58:10 PM
Hat tip to BBG:

10
NOV

The BBC has an article up on the gun-smuggling from the US to Mexico.  In typically one-sided fashion, it mentions that guns seized from narcos in Mexico are often traced back to the United States, and that the ATF isn’t effectively fighting this problem.

For those without much knowledge on the subject, it gives the impression that there’s a flood of illegal guns being bought in the US across the counter legally, and then shipped into Mexico to fuel the gun crime there–blaming our “lax gun laws” for Mexico’s narco turf war violence.

First of all, let’s point out that Mexico has a narco problem because the US has a hard-on for drug prohibition, not because Americans can buy guns legally.  I’ve often read that canard about drug buyers financing drug crime with their purchases, but the simple twofold truth is that a.) people will always desire and buy mind-altering substances, no matter what the law says, and b.) the War on Drugs serves as a price control mechanism and profit guarantee for dealers and traffickers.

Second, let’s look at that article a little more closely.  The picture that accompanies it shows a bunch of 40mm grenade launchers along with ammunition.  Looking at that, your average BBC reader could be lead to believe that those things are legal to buy and own freely in the US, and that they originated at a US gun show or gun store.  Grenade launchers are, of course, illegal to own, purchase, or sell in the United States without a special registration and tax stamp.  Grenade launchers are tightly controlled “destructive devices”, as is their ammunition.  (Every single 40mm grenade is also classified as a DD, and subject to a $200 transfer tax per round.  Each grenade must be individually registered with the BATFE, which makes them super-expensive and very rare to find in civilian hands.)  Considering the difficulty and expense of obtaining a launcher and the ammo for it, never mind the fact that every single launcher and round is registered to an owner with the ATF, I guarantee that the 40mm launchers in that picture came not from the US, but from Mexican military armories.

Third, the language in the article isn’t quite misleading, but it omits a few facts.  We are told that “the majority of guns confiscated by Mexico and submitted to the ATF for tracing do originate in the US <emphasis mine>.”  What it doesn’t mention is that the majority of guns seized from Mexican narcos do not originate in the US.  The Mexican Federales do not submit most of their seized guns to the ATF for tracing because they know their provenance already.  Mexico uses a licensed version of the H&K G36 assault rifle, for example, and whenever one of those shows up, they know it didn’t walk out of a gun store in San Antonio.  (They also use the licensed version of the H&K 40mm grenade launcher, which happens to look exactly like the weapon in the center of the picture.)  So they only send the serial numbers of the non-domestic guns to the ATF, which is the minority of seized weapons.  Reading the article over a quick latte, one could however get the impression that most of the crime guns in Mexico are traced back to the US, because they omit that information.

Lastly, even those guns that were bought in the US and then smuggled into Mexico for use by narcos didn’t get sold to Mexican nationals legally.  Gun shops have to run federal background checks on every single gun purchase, and foreign nationals, with few exceptions, are not eligible to buy firearms in the United States.  If a rifle made it from a legal buyer into the hands of a Mexican criminal, the person buying the rifle and then handing it to said criminal broke federal law.  (Buying a gun for a non-eligible person is called a “straw sale”, and will get you ten years in Club Fed.)

Mexico has plenty of problems, but corruption (where and how do you think the narcos get Mexican military hardware?) and the economic incentives created by drug prohibition make up the lion’s share of those, not legal gun sales in the United States.  You want to curb the flow of guns and stop the violence in Mexico, you stop guaranteeing those dealers and traffickers a 10,000% profit margin on some powdered plant product.  Drug dealers don’t care about cocaine or “poisoning America’s children”, they care about profit.  If you held a voter referendum on keeping or tossing drug prohibition, all the drug dealers in the country would vote to keep them illegal.  Take away their price control system, and they’ll go the way of the booze runners of the Prohibition era.

But nobody’s going to do that, of course.  Between asset forfeiture, inability to learn from the Prohibition, the suitability of drug laws to curb inconvenient liberties, and the millions on the payroll of drug task forces and agencies nationwide, that wouldn’t be good business.  And civil liberties continue to take it in the pants.

Remember: a vote for drug prohibition is a vote for gun control.  Without illicit substance turf wars, we wouldn’t even have NFA ’34, GCA ’68, or the 1994 Crime Bill.  We wouldn’t have asset forfeiture, RICO, or any of the many other onerous laws that shackle our movements and make a mockery of the Bill of Rights.  But point that out to a self-righteous dope prohibitionist, and you get the old saw about the damage drugs can do, and do you want to see schoolchildren legally light up crack pipes in front of the CVS at eight in the morning?  It’s the same kind of arrogant paternalism that the gun banners display when they talk about how blood would flow in the streets if we removed all the restrictions on gun ownership and carry.  “Well, I know that I wouldn’t abuse them, but I’m damned sure those peasants all around me couldn’t handle the liberty…”

http://munchkinwrangler.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/lies-half-truths-and-omissions/
23270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: November 10, 2010, 08:53:51 PM
Now that I read it, I smack my forehead.  Of course! Given how undervalued the yuan is, that sounds plausible.
23271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 10, 2010, 03:50:40 PM
You crack me up  cheesy
23272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 10, 2010, 02:39:15 PM
 cheesy
23273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Currency War and the G20 on: November 10, 2010, 02:38:16 PM
Dispatch: Currency War and the G-20
November 10, 2010 | 2018 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:



Analyst Peter Zeihan examines the potential for currency war between the United States and China and what is expected to emerge from the G-20 summit.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

The G-20 summit begins in Seoul, South Korea on Thursday. The topic of the day is currency appreciation, manipulation in the ongoing global economic issues. Every state is coming with their own plan but really there’s only two that matter.

The first is the United States. The United States is the world’s largest importer, the holder of the global currency, it’s the largest economy by a factor of three, and that has actually been this state of affairs in now going back to at least World War II. The United States has been large and in charge for that long, and none of the tools the United States has for manipulating its economic system and therefore the globe have changed. The kicker is the United States only depends on international trade for about 15% of its GDP. So should the United States manipulate the dollar to achieve any of its economic aims, it will be the country that suffers the least as a consequence from any sort of international chaos that follows.

The last time the United States did this was in 1985. The agreement that was signed was called the Plaza Accords, and in it the United States threatened Germany and Japan with retaliatory tariffs unless they purposefully, deliberately over the course of several years steadily change the exchange rate of their currencies versus the dollar. Japan and Germany - two major global event powers - caved.

Country number two is China. China is if anything actually more vulnerable to American currency manipulation than either Germany or Japan was in 1985. It’s much more dependent on exports, its capital structure is much less flexible and more vulnerable to outside intervention. The United States could easily quite easily crush China currency war if push came to shove. However, the Chinese have influence in the international system that the U.S. needs right now. The United States is trying to prevent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan from spinning out of control. It needs Chinese influence in Iran in order to make sanctions there work, and it certainly doesn’t want problems in North Korea just to top everything off.

So the most likely outcome from the G-20 summit is some sort of American-Chinese partnership on currency issues that does not require the Chinese to actually do very much. To have those two powers on the same page, there is really nothing else than anyone else in the world can do about it. So it looks like the two of them are edging toward some sort of compromise that doesn’t require a lot of actual action and to revisit this issue in 6-12 months.

23274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: November 10, 2010, 02:13:38 PM
No, sedition to the American Creed is a bad idea.  Sedition is not a concept within the "freedom of religion" of the First Amendment, it is a political ideology and can and should be analyzed as such.
23275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ah so! Sulplise! on: November 10, 2010, 02:11:02 PM
A friend sends me this:
==================

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-492804/The-uninvited-guest-Chinese-sub-pops-middle-U-S-Navy-exercise-leaving-military-chiefs-red-faced.html#ixzz14tu4BSka

 

The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced.   American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft super carrier with 4,500 personnel on board. By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

 

The lone Chinese vessel slipped past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines.

And the rest of the costly defensive screen, which usually includes at least two U.S. submarines, was also apparently unable to detect it.    They probably stole our stealth technology.
23276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 10, 2010, 02:08:19 PM
That is quite fascinating! , , , but I can top it cheesy

Terrence McKenna in "The Nector of the Gods" posits that human consciousness was triggered by eating psilocybin-like mushrooms. 

As those of the psychodelic generation can tell you these shrooms grow from the dung of cattle.  With the shift of the tectonic plates eons ago in Africa which gave rise to the savana, came the rise of herds of animals of the cattle family e.g. wildebeasts.  McKenna hypothesizes that early man ate the shrooms growing therein and thus triggered consciousness.

Ha!  Top that!  grin
23277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: November 10, 2010, 02:01:07 PM
"And that’s the crux of the matter: citing foreign law, using it to support a given reading of domestic law undermines democratic self-governance.  The interpretation of the U.S. Constitution should depend on that document’s text, structure, and history, what it means in the context of the American polity."

Exactly so!
23278  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The GOPs racial challenge on: November 10, 2010, 10:33:21 AM
By ZOLTAN HAJNAL
Lost in the GOP's euphoria over its landslide midterm victory is the fact that the Republican Party has almost become a whites-only party. Its strategy may win seats now, but it will lose over the long run.

Republicans won big in 2010 primarily because they won big among white voters. The 60% of the white vote that Republicans garnered last Tuesday is, by most estimates, the highest proportion of the white vote that the GOP has won in any national election since World War II.

Relying on white support is not a new strategy for the party. In 2008, 91% of the votes that John McCain received in his presidential bid came from white voters.

The problem for Republicans is two-fold. First, whites may currently be the majority but they are a declining demographic. The proportion of all voters who are white has already declined to 75% today from 94% in 1960. By 2050, whites are no longer expected to be a majority of the U.S. population.

Second, Republicans are alienating racial and ethnic minorities—the voters who will ultimately replace the white majority and who they need to stay in power. In every national election in the past few decades, Democrats have dominated the nonwhite vote. Democrats typically garner about 90% of the black vote, two-thirds of the Latino vote, and a clear majority of the Asian-American vote—and 2010 didn't fundamentally alter this pattern.

Even with Democrats presiding over the worst economy since the Great Depression, racial and ethnic minorities did not turn away from the Democratic Party. Last week Latinos favored Democrats over Republicans nearly 2 to 1 (64% to 34%), blacks voted overwhelmingly for Democrats (90%), and a clear majority of Asian- Americans (56%) supported Democrats.

If minorities didn't give up on the Democratic Party last week, they are unlikely to do so without dramatic changes in the platforms of the two parties. A growing and resolutely Democratic nonwhite population is clearly a serious threat to the Republican electoral calculus.

Republicans thus face a real dilemma. They may be able to gain over the short term by continuing their current strategy of ignoring or attacking minorities. But that is short-sighted.

Over the long term—as white voters become a smaller and smaller fraction of the electorate and Latinos and other racial and ethnic minorities become a larger and larger share of the electorate—any campaign that appeals primarily to whites will be doomed.

Mr. Hajnal, an associate professor of political science at U.C. San Diego, is author of "America's Uneven Democracy" (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

23279  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / USA: Market Manipulator on: November 10, 2010, 08:37:37 AM
From MarketWatch:

The U.S. has been after China to loosen the peg on Yuan against the Dollar.  So far, China has committed only to a gradual devaluation of the currency into wider free-exchange bands.  That may take too long, and this move to print money to buy up assets may force China to unload currency in that peg.  Even if China holds on to its Dollar horde, the impact may be the same.  Where this becomes a conundrum is that China would likely unload Treasury securities along the way and it would likely buy even fewer Treasuries as a percentage of its Central Bank assets ahead.  That would imply that China could keep selling and large portions of the money freshly printed just went to buy up the debt held by China.

The FOMC wants inflation a bit closer to its 2% implied target, far higher than what has been seen.  With the FOMC keeping short-term rates low at near-zero and with the Treasury increasing its balance sheet by buying Treasuries, this forces investors into risk-based assets.  If you can magically get inflation to 2% and short-term and intermediate-term Treasury rates are so low, what does that do to real returns on an inflation-adjusted basis?  Yep, negative real rates of return...
23280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Georgia 1860 on: November 10, 2010, 08:11:13 AM
Georgia to U.S.: ‘Don’t Tread on Me’
By ADAM GOODHEART
Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.
Nov. 9, 1860

Across the country, the day’s headlines blazed with reports of Southerners’ response to Lincoln’s election. Perhaps most disturbing to many Americans, though thrilling to others, was news of a mass meeting in Savannah, Ga., the previous afternoon. Thousands of citizens – the largest gathering that the city had ever seen, newspapers said – had filled Johnson Square at the heart of downtown, thronging around a monument to Revolutionary War general Nathanael Greene to launch a revolution of their own. The crowd cheered wildly as a speaker declared that “the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin to the Presidency and Vice Presidency of the United States, ought not and will not be submitted to.” The shouts and whoops redoubled as a flag was unfurled across the white marble obelisk: a banner with a coiled rattlesnake and the words “SOUTHERN RIGHTS. EQUALITY OF THE STATES. DON’T TREAD ON ME.”


Library of Congress
 
The first flag of Southern independence, raised in Savannah, Ga., on November 8, 1860. CLICK TO SEE FLAG DETAILRelated
Civil War Timeline

An unfolding history of the Civil War with photos and articles from the Times archive and ongoing commentary from Disunion contributors.

Probably no one mentioned the ironic fact that this Southern banner, one of the very first flags of secession, was raised atop a monument to a Northerner: General Greene had been born and raised in Rhode Island. Like many Americans of the founding generation, he had harbored mixed feelings about slavery – to say the least. “On the subject of slavery, nothing can be said in its defence,” he wrote to a Quaker acquaintance in 1783, while he was in the process of moving to Georgia to take possession of a large plantation and its hundreds of enslaved African Americans, a gift from the state of Georgia. Greene justified this acquisition by claiming that he planned to treat his new chattels kindly. Two years later, just before his early death, he still harbored vague plans to free his slaves and keep them in a system resembling medieval feudalism.

 
Cleveland Plain Dealer headline, Nov. 9, 1860
In 1860, however, Georgia’s leaders felt no such ambivalence about human bondage. As the secessionists gathered in Savannah, Governor Joseph E. Brown issued a proclamation vindicating Georgia’s right to withdraw from the Union rather than submit to “proud and haughty Northern Abolitionists.” Brown, who came from a family of hardscrabble farmers in northern Georgia, struck a populist tone, as he often did, reminding the South’s poor whites how much better off they were than Northern factory workers:

Here the poor white laborer is respected as an equal. His family are treated with kindness, consideration and respect. He does not belong to the menial class. The negro is in no sense of the term his equal. Be feels and knows this. He belongs to the only true aristocracy, the race of white men. …

These [laborers] know that in the event of the abolition of Slavery, they would be greater sufferers than the rich, who would be able to protect themselves. They will, therefore, never permit the slaves of the South to be set free among them, come in competition with their labor, associate with them and their children as equals – be allowed to testify in our Courts against them – sit on juries with them, march to the ballot-box by their sides, and participate in the choice of their rulers – claim social equality with them – and ask the hands of their children in marriage. …[T]he ultimate design of the Black Republican Party is to bring about this state of things in the Southern States.

But the crowd in Savannah on Nov. 8 probably needed no reminder about the current state of race relations. One of the largest slave pens in Georgia – a business establishment where hundreds of people at a time were often imprisoned, awaiting sale – faced the Greene Monument across Johnson Square.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sources: New York Times, Nov. 9 and Nov. 12, 1860; Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nov. 9, 1860; Macon Daily Telegraph, Nov. 12, 1860; Terry Golway, “Washington’s General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution”; Gerald M. Carbone, “Nathanael Greene: A Biography of the American Revolution”; George Washington Greene, “The Life of Nathanael Greene, Major-General in the Army of the Revolution”; William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson, “Secession Debated: Georgia’s Showdown in 1860”; Walter J. Fraser, “Savannah in the Old South”; Malcolm Bell Jr., “Major Butler’s Legacy: Five Generations of a Slaveholding Family.”


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Adam Goodheart is the author of the forthcoming book “1861: The Civil War Awakening.” He lives in Washington, D.C., and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he is the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.

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23281  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Megamind on: November 10, 2010, 07:02:34 AM
We took the kids to the early show this past Sunday ($6 instead of $10, or $12 for 3D IIRC).  An excellent family movie.

Also, my wife and I have become big fans of the TV show "The Mentalist" about a high IQ consultant to the homocide squad for the "California Bureau of Investigation".   It is on Wednesday or Thursday nights; I foreget which because we just have it set to record.
23282  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Indonesia on: November 10, 2010, 06:59:47 AM
It looks to me like at least some people in the BO administration are beginning to get a clue (SecState Clinton?) that we need to pay attention in SE Asia and form alliances to deal with China's increasingly negative intentions.  Indonesia most certainly is relevant to that and people who will be there when Obama is gone are aware of this.
 
=======
http://townhall.com/columnists/TerryJeffrey/2010/11/10/obama_to_visit_mosque_where_crowd_cheered_ahmadinejad/page/full/
Obama to Visit Mosque Where Crowd Cheered Ahmadinejad
 
 
Terry Jeffrey
Obama to Visit Mosque Where Crowd Cheered Ahmadinejad

President Barack Obama was scheduled to spend his Wednesday in Indonesia visiting Jakarta's massive Istiqlal Mosque and then giving a speech on the "pluralism and tolerance" of his host country at the University of Indonesia.

It is both ironic and instructive that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not only made the same stops on a trip to Indonesia four years ago, but was greeted, according to press reports, as a "rock star."

At the university, Ahmadinejad gave a speech that cast doubt on the holocaust, predicted the destruction of Israel and yearned aloud for a day when the entire world would submit to Shariah law.

Later, he told a group of Indonesia's top clerics that every young Muslim man was an "atomic bomb." When Ahmadinejad attended the Friday prayer service at the Istiqlal Mosque, the congregation greeted him with a chant of "God is great" and a crowd gathered outside sent him off with a lusty cheer of "Fight America, fight Israel."

In an Oct. 28 White House briefing, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes set the stage for Obama's Indonesian trip by announcing that the president would first visit the Istiqlal Mosque and follow that visit with a speech to the Indonesian people that would "talk about some of the themes of democracy and development and our outreach to Muslim communities around the world, while also speaking of Indonesia's pluralism and tolerance, as well."

Pluralism and tolerance, to put it mildly, were not the themes Ahmadinejad developed in Indonesia. What Ahmadinejad did say -- and the wildly enthusiastic reception he received from at least some Indonesians -- ought to give prudential pause to those who believe the ultimate answer to Islamist terrorism is the sort Wilsonian foreign policy vision that has been embraced by both Obama and George W. Bush.

Ahamdinejad spent three days in and around Jakarta in May 2006. He first met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and then went on what amounted to an Islamist publicity tour in the capital environs of a country that with 240 million people -- 86 percent of whom are Muslims -- is the world's largest Islamic nation.

Ahmadinejad spoke not only at the University of Indonesia, but also at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, with a group of local editors and with some of the nation's leading Muslim clerics. On his third day in town, he attended Friday prayers at Indonesia's largest mosque.

At the University of Indonesia, according to The Associated Press, Ahmadinejad called Israel a "regime based on evil" and declared that it "cannot continue and one day will vanish."

An Australian newspaper, the Melbourne Age, noted that Ahmadinejad "predicted liberal democracies would crumble and be replaced by Islamic law."

"Some superpower countries think they are better than other countries, they try to eradicate other countries' culture, economies and opinions," Ahmadinejad told the "cheering" audience of Indonesian college students, according to the Age. "How can they protect human rights when they violate human rights? Therefore, liberalism and democracy will disappear and the justice of the prophet Mohammad will be revived."

In his speech at the University of Indonesia, Ahmadinejad also questioned the historical fact of the Holocaust. "The West claims that more than 6 million Jews were killed in World War II and to compensate for that they established and support Israel," he said, according to UPI. "If it is true that the Jews were killed in Europe, why should Israel be established in the East, in Palestine?"

As reported by The Associated Press, one of student told Ahmadinejad, "I think you are the man of the year." Another said, "We will always be with you."

Two days later, when Ahmadinejad met with Indonesian clerics, The Associated Press reported that one person in the audience urged the Iranian president to move forward with building nuclear weapons because the "enemies of Islam" already have them.

Ahmadinejad responded that "every young man in the Islamic world is an atomic bomb because they have faith, God and love the character of the Prophet Mohammad."

Ahamadinejad then proceeded to the Istaqlal Mosque, where, according to Agence France Presse, "he was mobbed by a crowd of thousands eager to catch a glimpse of him and shake his hand. The congregation chanted 'God is great!' when he was introduced by Indonesia's religious affairs minister."

"'Fight America, fight Israel!' a crowd shouted after the Iranian leader offered prayers Friday at the main mosque in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta," The Associated Press reported.

Good things have certainly happened in Indonesia in the past decade. It has held a series of successful elections and established a democratic government.

The Congressional Research Service sees signs for optimism in what it deemed a small turnout for the Islamic parties in last year's Indonesian elections. "The Islamic vote," CRS reported, "declined from 38.1 percent of the vote in the 2004 election to 27.8 percent of the vote in 2009."

But last year in Jakarta, Islamist terrorists simultaneously bombed the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

Indonesians may now have the right to vote, but their country remains a place where an Ahmadinejad can be cheered and an Islamist terrorist can find sanctuary.
23283  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: November 10, 2010, 06:54:56 AM
I'm not following this point , , ,  huh
23284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 10, 2010, 06:53:48 AM
These are excellent posts GM, but may I ask that you put them in the China thread please?
23285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: November 10, 2010, 06:48:25 AM
Doug:

If you search for "Ronald Reagan" on the "Founding Fathers" thread you will find him there.  My house, my rules, and my rules say Ronald Reagan IS a Founding Father!

Rubio is certainly off to a most promising start and is a man to watch, but let us remember that Reagan had a very successful career as an actor and was head of the Screen Actor Guild (what a wonderful education in the ways of some of the finest liars on the planet and as such for a career in politics!) activist, governor of CA for 8 years during turbulent times, and an unsuccessful run for the Presidency before being elected.   At this point Rubio has the right values and speaks well but he has little life experience and testing so far IMHO.
23286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: November 09, 2010, 05:59:26 PM
Backing up now.  I was in a mood when I posted that.
23287  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 09, 2010, 05:46:59 PM
There was quite a surge of practical oriented criticisms near the finish line:  e.g. the implications of no-testing and people driving, the rights of employers to have employees who were stoned at work, etc.  Lots of people said, there were open to the idea but this Proposition was badly drawn.  It very much looks like a better crafted version will be attempted in 2012.
23288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager! CA & the Titanic on: November 09, 2010, 05:44:26 PM
How Do California and the Titanic Differ?

By Dennis Prager



OK, riddle fans, here's a toughie: What's the difference between California voters and the passengers on the Titanic?

The passengers on the Titanic didn't vote to hit the iceberg.

Most Americans understand that California is sinking. What is almost incredible is that it has voted to sink.

On Election Day, 2010 Californians voted Democrats into every statewide position (one is still undecided). This is the party that singlehandedly has brought one of the world's greatest economies to near ruin. There may well be historical parallels to what Californians did — but I cannot think of any.

A listener called my radio show two days after the elections to tell me that his business is booming — thanks to Californians. His occupation? He's a real estate agent in Phoenix, Ariz.

The middle class has begun to leave California. It is, of course, impossible for most members of such a large group to leave a state; few people leave their family, their friends, their job and their home except under the most dramatic circumstances. But this fact makes all the more noteworthy the exodus from California that has been taking place.

You have to wonder how many businesses and individuals would leave California if their friends and family could also leave, if they could find a comparable job elsewhere and if they could sell their homes without losing money. What you don't have to wonder about is who would stay under those conditions. The state of California would eventually be left largely with those groups who voted Democrat in this election: rich liberals (such as those who live in Nancy Pelosi's Marin County, in the bay area and in West Los Angeles); state and municipal workers (who vote Democrat in as direct a pay-for-vote scheme as a law-based society allows); those who rely on state and city governments for entitlements; and those Latinos who either fall into the last category or who unfortunately identify the Republican Party with anti-Latino sentiments because it opposes illegal immigration.

Those who believe in individual responsibility, the free market and personal liberty are a minority in California. We greet each other as Americans would greet each other meeting in a foreign country.

We watch as one of the greatest places in the world — with its extraordinary natural beauty, almost uniquely beautiful weather and agricultural abundance — wastes all of this as a result of having become a left-wing experiment. What is particularly saddening is to see a state whose success was achieved because it was a Mecca for the adventurous in spirit do everything possible to crush that spirit and drive away those who have it.

There is a silver lining here: clarity. Americans living elsewhere need not elect liberal Democrats to know what will happen if they do. They only need to look at California if they want to see what happens to a state governed by the left (and, for that matter, they can look at Texas to see what happens to a state's finances when governed by the right).

The left and its teachers unions have ruined public education in California. The left and its public service unions have saddled the state with $500 billion in unfunded pension liability. California's left-governed cities have set themselves up as "sanctuary cities" for those who have come into America illegally. And the left passes more and more rules governing the behavior of California citizens. Two examples: San Francisco just banned McDonald Happy Meals because they come with a toy and therefore entice children to eat fattening food; and the Democratic legislature has made it illegal for a California employer — even in a retail operation — to ask a male employee who comes to work wearing a dress to wear men's clothing while at work.

And to render the Titanic analogy even more accurate, Californians voted to retain a law that was described by George Will as one "that preposterously aims to cool the planet by requiring a 30 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2020."

That law will ensure that California taxes energy use more than any other state. That, in turn, is guaranteed to increase unemployment and the cost of living in the state — one more reason businesses and productive individuals are leaving, but rarely moving, into California.

Environmentalist true believers have free reign in California. They have convinced a majority of the state's voters to believe the increasingly absurd notion that human carbon dioxide emission is heating up the planet to temperatures so high that humanity and the earth will suffer cataclysmic consequences.

To return to our Titanic metaphor, the great difference between that ill-fated ship's crew and California's crew (its voters and the California Democratic Party) is that the Titanic's crew did everything possible to avoid hitting the iceberg; California's crew did everything possible to hit it. Perhaps they believe global warming will melt it before they get there.

23289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: November 09, 2010, 05:33:31 PM
GM nails it:

"The crisis that threatens this country is the ethnic loyalties that trump American loyalty. Rewarding illegal immigration is corrosive to the rule of law. If "La Raza" is more important than America, then we are fcuked."

For a very long time I have had a wonderful Mexican mechanic who has a small neighborhood shop with two men under him.  He has been here a long time and speaks English just fine and seems to have Americanized.  Often he and his guys and I have bantered in Spanish; it chuckled them to see just how Mexicanized my Spanish was-- expressions I use are those only of someone who has spent a lot of time in country off the beaten path.  I thought and felt him to be exactly how it should be for Mexicans coming to America.

A couple of months ago I had on a t-shirt with a "Viva la Revolucion Reagan" caption to a silhouette of head shot of President Reagan with a posture like that of the famous Che Guevara picture.  So my mechanic gets aggro with me with "!Viva la Raza!"  Those who know of these things know that this is exactly whereof GM speaks.  Things went back and forth a bit, with one of his guys also chiiming in with his own "!Viva la Raza!" with me answering that this was America, that the place for people who thought of themselves as La Raza was 120 miles to the south and "!Viva La Migra!" (This is pocho slang for the INS). 

This is the short version of the story; bottom line though is that I feel quite bummed; I liked him, felt him to be a good addition to America, and then it turns out I had been fooled as to where his sense of loyalty lay
23290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 09, 2010, 05:21:01 PM
As an empirically oriented man I would be completely comfortable with a compromise that decriminalized pot but not the hard drugs for a reasonable amount of time to see how things worked out.
23291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: November 09, 2010, 05:18:18 PM
"2. The plaintiff also argues that he suffers a more tangible injury, because his will directs the executor of the estate to follow Islamic law in arranging the funeral, and directs his wife to contribute to charity in accordance with Islamic law. The constitutional amendment, the plaintiff argues, bars courts from effectively probating the will in accordance to the plaintiff’s wishes, and thus unconstitutionally discriminates against plaintiff."

IMHO this clearly is a justiciable claim with sufficient standing.

"It’s not clear to me whether plaintiff might lack standing on the grounds that the harm will only happen some time in the future, or whether he could in principle have standing in such a case because the prospect of the courts’ inability to apply Sharia law in the future might cause sufficient harm to plaintiff now. (All this would involve the legal requirement of “ripeness.”)"

IMHO this simply is profoundly stupid.  The harm as the author defines it is such that when the harm it occurs, by definition the injured party, the plaintiff here, will already be dead! Cf. Roe v. Wade wherein the issue presented was one of mootness.  By the time the case got heard, the woman would already be a mother and no case could ever be heard.



23292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Don't worry, but we don't know what it was on: November 09, 2010, 04:58:06 PM


WTF?

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/mystery-missile-launched-near-calif-has-military-speechless/
23293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: November 09, 2010, 11:49:27 AM
We already have substantial laws on the books regarding fraud in its various incarnations.  Without the FMs guaranteeing the loans, people would have been paying attention and apart from the fraud for those who didn't , , , too bad.  Stupid SHOULD hurt.
23294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Networked Intelligence on: November 09, 2010, 11:23:06 AM
Networked Intelligence | 9 November 2010

Mexico - 400 cities lacking operational police force

According to Mexican Minister of the Interior Francisco Blake Mora, there are at least 400 cities out of 2,449 without an operational police force. (October 2010)

Mexico - Public officials arrested for ties to La Familia Michoacana

On 31 October 2010, Jose Luis Avalos Rangel, Municipal President of Tzitzio from 2005 to 2007, and four other men were arrested in Charo, Michoacan, for alleged ties to La Familia Michoacana. In a separate incident, the Director of the Water Commission (CAPALAC) of Lazaro Cardenas, Roman Mendoza Valencia, was arrested for his alleged ties to La Familia Michoacana in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan.

Mexico - La Familia Michoacana improves access to California

La Familia Michoacana’s recently formed alliance with the Arellano Felix organization (AFO) gave them an entrance route into the United States by way of Tijuana. La Familia, which dominates the market of methamphetamines, initiated the alliance with the AFO, which would help move methamphetamine through Baja California into California. (November 2010)

Mexico - Six Americans killed within five days

The U.S. Department of State confirmed on 2 November 2010 that six US citizens from El Paso, Texas were killed in separate attacks in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico between 29 October 2010 and 2 November 2010. In total, 47 Americans were murdered in Mexico in the first half of 2010.
23295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Indonesia on: November 09, 2010, 11:17:54 AM
Stratfor

Summary
The president of the United States arrived in Indonesia on Nov. 9 as interest in strengthening commercial and military ties is increasing in both Washington and Jakarta. Constraints on this emergent relationship remain, however, on issues such as economic protectionism and human rights. Still, the relationship is set to grow, leaving Indonesia with the task of carefully balancing between the United States and China as it attempts to capitalize on its economic and strategic advantages and relative political stability.

Analysis
U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Indonesia on Nov. 9 after visiting India in a tour that will later take him to South Korea and Japan for the G-20 and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summits. Obama has delayed his visit to Indonesia twice already, and volcanic ash in the air over Java from the recent eruptions of Mount Merapi may require him to cut this one short, but the trip was made as a sign of deepening interest in a relationship with bilateral, multilateral and strategic potential.

Washington wants to forge a closer relationship with Indonesia to boost bilateral trade and investment, use ties with Indonesia as a pathway to better relations with the region as a whole through multilateral groupings like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and generally maintain support for a Muslim ally in the conflict against radical jihadists. But the longer term and more important strategic goal is to develop Indonesia as one of several regional counterweights to China. Jakarta will welcome greater U.S. involvement, and ultimately may lean toward the United States and away from China. But it will try to avoid choosing sides and will seek to maintain good relations with China and the United States, and leverage its economic size and strategic location to its maximum advantage.


Toward a Comprehensive U.S.-Indonesian Partnership

On one level, Obama’s visit to Indonesia is about improving diplomatic relations to pave the way for more substantial economic, security and political agreements. Obama will emphasize that Indonesia is a model Muslim-majority country. He will highlight how its $631 billion economy, population of 237 million and fast economic growth (estimated at around 6 percent in 2010) hold promise for the U.S. economy, and that it has made strides in stabilizing its domestic political situation since the chaos of the late 1990s, when the Asian financial crisis struck and the collapse of the decades-old Suharto regime brought the country close to breaking apart. Obama will emphasize his willingness to engage the Muslim world, will call attention to his childhood years in Indonesia to show his connection to the country, and will express optimism about Indonesian and American relations going forward.

Obama and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially will launch a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement between the two states, which will serve as a framework for expanding bilateral ties. This partnership, announced in June, included an agreement on closer defense ties and science and technology cooperation and American investment in Indonesia. The latter included a renewed agreement with the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (which has provided $2.1 billion since the 1960s but is only engaged in $94 million worth of projects at the moment) and a $1 billion credit facility from the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The two sides have established a joint commission that met in September and will meet annually and several working groups in trade and investment, security and energy, and education and democracy; these groups are expected to develop more initiatives going forward, ranging from U.S. investment in Indonesia’s infrastructure construction and energy sector to expanded educational exchanges.

Simultaneously, U.S. companies will promote their products in Indonesia, as Washington attempts to give more momentum to its national export initiative. For its part, Indonesia is looking for high-tech and high-value added goods, especially in infrastructure, energy and transportation, inherently capital-intensive sectors difficult to develop in a sprawling archipelago like Indonesia.

Washington and Jakarta also will reaffirm their security relationship. The United States has agreed to restart training and exchanges with Kopassus, the Indonesian military’s special operations unit. Though that cooperation has not yet begun, it is on track to do so, and is only one aspect of U.S.-Indonesian security cooperation. Washington will continue to support Indonesia’s police efforts to fight terrorism, including through the elite Special Detachment 88, which has racked up a string of successes over the past year. The United States also is looking to expand arms exports after having seen Indonesia’s willingness to turn elsewhere (for instance, to Russia) for its military needs.


Constraints on the U.S.-Indonesian Relationship

Of course, there are inherent constraints on their cooperation. Indonesia is highly protective about its economy, which is dominated by state-owned and state-affiliated companies and has high barriers to foreign competition that threatens privileged sectors. The United States repeatedly has run into trouble accessing Indonesian markets for farm goods and medicine, for instance, and has a number of outstanding disputes over import and investment regulations and concerns of inadequate intellectual property rights protection. In sectors where Jakarta has opened up the economy, it already has attracted a number of foreign investors to provide the higher-end goods and services, including huge infrastructure contracts, that it needs to continue developing — which means the United States faces stiff competition from far more established players like Singapore, Japan, and South Korea (not to mention Western competitors like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which in 2009 were also bigger investors in Indonesia than the United States).

On the security front, although Indonesia can be expected to maintain strong relations with the United States, it does not want to be overly dependent on Washington or to appear like a proxy state. The Indonesian government must tread carefully since the United States is unpopular among those Indonesians who see Obama’s overtures to the Muslim world as mere rhetoric and who resent U.S. support for Israel (some of whom will stage demonstrations during Obama’s visit). Moreover, military ties will face political obstacles on the American side. This is because the Indonesian military always will struggle to maintain control over far-flung islands, especially in places like Aceh and West Papua where ethnic minorities have a tendency toward unrest or separatism — fairly frequently resulting in heavy-handed security measures and human rights violations. Despite officially re-opening relations, U.S. cooperation with the Indonesian military’s special operations forces must be approved by the U.S. State Department, which will vet the Indonesians’ progress on human rights.

Despite these hindrances, both states’ interests overlap significantly enough to point them toward deeper cooperation. Washington wants to tap into this massive and young consumer market and wants to take advantage of Indonesia’s fast growth rates and relative political stability. Meanwhile, the United States offers a massive consumer pool for Indonesian exports. Moreover, no one can offer better security guarantees for the strategically situated island chain than the United States, the world’s supreme naval power.


The Balancing Act with China

Crucially, the United States sees Indonesia as a counterweight in Southeast Asia to the rising influence of China. In recent years, Washington’s relations with China have become more tense as Beijing’s economic might has increased and it has expanded its influence in its periphery. China has built up its military and naval capabilities and has become more strident regarding its territorial claims in the South China Sea, a crucial waterway for the United States and its allies Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The United States has sought to re-energize its alliances and partnerships in the region not only for the sake of its own regional relations, but also as a means of hedging against China. Indonesia is especially suitable for this purpose. It straddles the Strait of Malacca, a global shipping choke point, as well as the Sunda and Lombok straits, making it critical for sea-lanes between the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Pacific and Australia and China. These sea-lanes supply China with critical raw materials; any power controlling this area accordingly has enormous leverage over Beijing.

This process has alarmed Beijing, which views it as an encirclement policy. As Washington gradually extricates itself from conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia, Beijing fears U.S. attention will come to focus squarely on suppressing China’s rise. Indeed, the U.S. focus on Indonesia, a staunch Cold War ally under the U.S.-backed Suharto dictatorship, has reinforced this impression of an emerging Cold War-style containment policy.

In general, Indonesia’s trade relationships with the United States and China are comparable, though China has a slight edge. Indonesia exported $11.5 billion and imported $14 billion worth of goods from China in 2009, while the United States exported $5.1 billion worth of goods to Indonesia and imported $12.9 billion worth. Indonesian imports from China grew by nearly 56 percent in the first three quarters of 2010, as the China-ASEAN free trade agreement took full effect. Still, U.S. export growth to Indonesia was also strong, growing 37 percent during the first half of the year. The United States is a larger investor in Indonesia than China, but neither country has a very large role — the United States accounted for 1.6 percent of total foreign direct investment in Indonesia in 2009, as opposed to China’s 0.6 percent.

Of course, Beijing has a number of economic advantages at the moment, including its aggressive outward investment strategy. This is driven by state-owned enterprises and state banks with massive pools of cash that have been allowed to spread across the world looking to expand markets, employ their services and buy up resources, including in Indonesia. To emphasize its economic strength and cash reserves it is able to draw upon immediately, on Nov. 8, the day before Obama arrived in Indonesia, Beijing announced a $6.6 billion construction and trade deal with Jakarta.

But Beijing’s growing economic sway has little impact on the immense U.S. advantage in security matters. The U.S. re-engagement therefore leaves Jakarta in a tricky position not unlike that of its fellow ASEAN states. It stands to benefit from competition between the United States and China (as well as competition among Singapore, Japan, the European Union and others) as it seeks to attract the highest bidder and to draw in foreign investment, however if relations between the United States and China take a turn for the worse, Indonesia could find itself caught in the middle of a strategic confrontation.

But Indonesia is in a more advantageous position than its fellow ASEAN states in managing this tricky situation. With the largest economy and population in ASEAN, and a strategic location in the crossroads of global maritime trade, Jakarta has a unique ability to leverage its relationships with the United States, China and other players. Domestic stability and national unity — maintaining the stabilization over the past near-decade — remain at the top of its strategic priorities. This means that economic growth and foreign capital are necessary, but also that it must move carefully on domestic reforms allowing foreign competition. Hence Jakarta will seek a careful balance in its relations, and will avoid having to choose sides. It will welcome improved ties with Washington and U.S. re-engagement with the region, while allowing Beijing to gain further traction in the economic sphere. In the final analysis, however, Indonesia has far more to fear from a militarily ascendant China close to home than it does from an outside power like the United States, which shares Indonesia’s interest in stability in its surrounding waters.

23296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: November 09, 2010, 10:46:58 AM
Forgive me my sarcasm but , , , drum roll please , , , Duh.  OF COURSE Wall Street is greedy.  It is precisely why the Government should not lead them into temptation by guaranteeing mortgages (the FMs) or make them invest in people who can't pay (the Community Reinvestment Act) or create a bubble with unnaturally low interest rates or bail theirs asses out when things go south.
23297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: November 09, 2010, 10:16:38 AM
"He blames Wall Street."

Umm , , , so what? cheesy

23298  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: November 09, 2010, 10:14:25 AM
I skimmed the first 2-3 of the 27 pages.  Regardless of the ultimate determination on the merits, it is not clear to me that the standard for a TRO has been met (immediate and irreparable); the logic with regard to this point seems a bit circular to me.

Also, why not limit the TRO to the part about Islam and leave in place the part about international law?

Concerning the part about Islam, as best as I can tell this is a matter of first impression and both sides have yet to make their arguments and have them tested.
23299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Reps and Latinos on: November 09, 2010, 06:50:39 AM
By JOHN FUND
When it comes to Hispanic voters, last week's elections were a tale of two results for Republicans. On one level, the GOP can take pride in the fact that 31% of all Hispanic members of Congress are now in their party. But on another level, the overwhelming Democratic advantage among Hispanics helped cost the GOP key Senate seats in Nevada, Colorado and California.

The next Congress will feature an unprecedented five new Hispanic Republicans. Two are from Texas and defeated Democratic incumbents - Bill Flores of Bryan and Quico Conseco from San Antonio. Jaime Herrera was elected to an open seat in Washington state. Raul Labrador defeated a Democratic incumbent in Idaho. David Rivera won an open House seat in Florida, just as Marco Rubio won that state's vacant U.S. Senate seat. In addition, Republicans elected two Hispanic governors -- prosecutor Susan Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval, a judge, in Nevada.

But Hispanic voters also powered the come-from-behind victories of two Democratic Senators. Hispanics accounted for 14% of the electorate in Nevada, up from 12% in the last midterm election of 2006. The two-to-one advantage they gave Majority Leader Harry Reid allowed him to win by a surprising 50% to 45% margin. In Colorado, Hispanic voters made up 13% of the vote, up from only 9% four years ago. Their big margin in favor of Democratic Senator Michael Bennet helped him pull off a come-from-behind victory.

Finally, in California exit polls show Hispanics made up 22% of all those voting, up from 19% in 2006. Republican Carly Fiorina won Anglo voters over Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer by nine points, but her 65% to 28% loss among Hispanics doomed her chances for an upset.

There are some lessons here. Clearly, Sharron Angle's ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado's ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.

On the other hand, there were Republican success stories. Texas Governor Rick Perry won 38% of the Hispanic vote in his re-election bid this year. He credits his showing to his advocacy of economic opportunity even while he vowed to tighten border controls. Marco Rubio won 40% of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote in Florida (and 55% of the overall Hispanic vote) and ran effective Spanish-language ads describing what the American dream means for immigrants. Columnist Luisita Lopez Torregrosa writes in PoliticsDaily.com that both men "appeal to the growing Latino middle- and upper-classes in states like Florida and Texas who oppose illegal immigration (because the negative image of illegal immigrants affects the image of all Latinos) and who believe in assimilation in the American mainstream."

Going forward, Republicans know that hardline immigration positions seen as insensitive to Hispanics can cost them votes among a growing share of the electorate. On the other hand, candidates can talk tough on immigration and still do well with Hispanic voters if they can convincingly promote a message of economic opportunity.

23300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: November 09, 2010, 06:39:36 AM
Uhhh , , , what's "lipolysis"?  embarassed
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