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23351  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cyberwar and American Freedom on: December 16, 2011, 06:34:31 PM
PC:  Would you please move this to the Military Science thread?  TIA.
23352  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: SEC sues former CEOs of FMs on: December 16, 2011, 02:06:11 PM
I see the FMs themselves have managed to get a deal for no punishment , , ,
======================

By CHAD BRAY And NICK TIMIRAOS
The Securities and Exchange Commission has sued the former chief executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, accusing them of misleading investors about risks of subprime-mortgage loans.

The lawsuits, filed in Manhattan federal court, also accused four other former executives at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae of making false and misleading statements about the firms' exposure. The government took over Fannie and Freddie in September 2008 as investors pulled back from the firms, which took heavy losses on souring mortgages they guaranteed. Taxpayers have since provided $151 billion of support.

Former Freddie Mac CEO Richard F. Syron and former Fannie Mae CEO Daniel H. Mudd, are among the six executives. None of them has reached settlement agreements with the SEC.

Earlier this year, the SEC had sent Wells notices, indicating it planned to pursue enforcement actions, to Mr. Syron, Mr. Mudd and several other former executives. Those other executives were: Fannie's Enrico Dallavecchia, a former chief risk officer, and Thomas Lund, a former executive vice president; and Freddie's Patricia Cook, a former executive vice president and chief business officer; and Donald Bisenius, a former senior vice president.

The move came as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac entered into agreements with the securities regulator to avoid civil prosecution. In the civil non-prosecution agreements, the firms said they would accept responsibility for the conduct and not dispute the SEC's allegations, without admitting or denying wrongdoing, the SEC said.

As part of those agreements, the government-sponsored firms will cooperate in the securities regulators' litigation against the former executives, the SEC said. Neither firm is paying a fine.

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives told the world that their subprime exposure was substantially smaller than it really was," said Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC's Enforcement Division.

"These material misstatements occurred during a time of acute investor interest in financial institutions' exposure to subprime loans, and misled the market about the amount of risk on the company's books. All individuals, regardless of their rank or position, will be held accountable for perpetuating half-truths or misrepresentations about matters materially important to the interest of our country's investors."

The SEC alleged that the Fannie Mae executives misled the public about the government-sponsored firm's exposure to subprime mortgages and so-called Alt-A loans between December 2006 and August 2008. Freddie Mac executives allegedly did the same regarding its exposure to subprime loans between March 2007 and August 2008.

Lawyers for Mr. Syron and Mr. Mudd couldn't immediately be reached for comment Friday.

In its complaint against the former Fannie Mae executives, the SEC alleged that Fannie Mae, when it began reporting its exposure to subprime loans in 2007, broadly described the loans as being made to "borrowers with weaker credit histories" and that less than one-tenth of its loans that met that description.

The allegedly misleading disclosures were made as Fannie Mae was seeking to increase its market share through increased purchases of subprime and Alt-A loans and gave false comfort to investors about the extent of its exposure to high-risk loans, the SEC said. Alt-A loans are riskier loans for borrowers with good credit, but little documentation of income or assets.

The firm also reported that its 2006 year-end single-family exposure to subprime loans was just 0.2%, or about $4.8 billion, of its single-family loan portfolio, the SEC said. This was done with knowledge, support and approval of Mr. Mudd and other executives, the SEC said.

In its report, Fannie Mae didn't include loan products that specifically targeted borrowers with weaker credit histories, including more than $43 billion of so-called expanded approval loans, the SEC said. Company executives also underreported Fannie Mae's exposure to Alt-A loans, saying its exposure in March 2007 was 11% of its single-family loan portfolio when it was actually 18%, the SEC said.

In its Freddie Mac lawsuit, the SEC alleged that former Freddie Mac executives led investors to believe that the firm was disclosing all of its single-family subprime loan exposure and Mr. Syron and another executive publicly proclaimed that the single-family business had "basically no subprime exposure."

However, the single-family business, as of Dec. 31, 2006, had exposure to about $141 billion of loans that were referred to internally as "subprime" or "subprime like," or about 10% the portfolio, the SEC said. That grew to about $244 billion, or 14% of the portfolio, as of June 30, 2008, the SEC said.

Separately, Mr. Dallavecchia has stepped down as the chief risk officer of PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and is on administrative leave, the Pittsburgh bank said. Mr. Dallavecchia was chief risk officer at Fannie Mae from June 2006 to August 2008. Michael Hannon, currently PNC's executive vice president and chief credit officer, will become interim chief risk officer, PNC said.

23353  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Desinformation continues in Tamaulipas on: December 16, 2011, 01:37:36 PM
Mexico Security Memo: The Disinformation Continues in Tamaulipas


Response to a Narcomanta
Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales, the No. 2 leader of Los Zetas, may have responded Dec. 12 to the narcomanta found Dec. 6 in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state. Attributed to Trevino, the Dec. 6 banner referred to Los Zetas as a "regime" and directly challenged the Mexican government for control of plazas in Zetas territory.

Ten narcomantas reportedly signed by Trevino were placed throughout Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The banners deny commissioning the threat to the government, saying the Zetas have no interest in challenging or governing Mexico. According to the response, Trevino said he is "aware that you cannot and should not fight against any government" and that he has "no motive to put such stupidness [sic] on a message." In the response, Trevino implied that whoever wrote the original message was trying to set him up by provoking a violent response from the Mexican government.

Trevino has never been one to shy away from violence, so it seems unlikely that he would issue such a bold challenge in the first message, then turn around and refute it days later. If his response is sincere, then the Dec. 6 narcomantas were part of a disinformation campaign against the Zetas (though the possibility that his response is also part of the disinformation campaign against him cannot be ruled out). The Sinaloa Federation, which is battling the Zetas for primacy in Mexico, would be the likely culprit behind the false narcomanta because it would have much to gain from military clashes with the Zetas. The Gulf cartel -- which has been in a continuous battle with the Zetas, its former enforcement arm, since the two split violently in February 2010 -- could also have been responsible for the Dec. 6 banner. Given its internal turmoil, the Gulf cartel would benefit the most, especially in the near term, if the government would turn its attention away from that cartel and toward the Zetas.
The Methodology of Identifying Cartels
On Dec. 6, a statement from the Jalisco state Public Security Secretariat indicated the presence of a group not previously seen in Guadalajara. According to the statement, La Barredora, a Sinaloa Federation affiliate from Acapulco, Guerrero state, left messages with three bodies found Dec. 5. Some Mexican news outlets published portions of the statement, which characterize La Barredora as a new organized crime organization operating in the city. The Sinaloa-affiliated Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and Los Zetas-affiliated La Resistencia already operate in and vie for control of Guadalajara, and the presence of La Barredora in the Jalisco capital could complicate the situation.

Indeed, Guadalajara exemplifies just how difficult it can be to determine which cartel is active in a given location -- and which cartel is responsible for a given event, such as an assassination or a clash with the military. Indeed, the Mexican cartel landscape is constantly evolving, giving rise to new groups while leading to the demise of others. Given the complexity and fluidity of this landscape, STRATFOR has decided to share the methodology of how we identify where the cartels operate and how we come to the conclusions we do.

We should begin this discussion by saying virtually every report and communique -- from the Mexican government and cartels alike -- is met with scrutiny. Deception, propaganda and disinformation are simply additional theaters in Mexico's war on drugs, and we are careful to factor these into our assessments. However, there are situations in which we can determine who the victims or aggressors were based on what we see in photographs and government-released video statements or read in government reports.

For example, messages at a body dump do not necessarily take the form of narcomantas but, rather, can be displayed as words or symbols written on the bodies themselves. In photographs of the 35 bodies dumped Sept. 20 in the Boca del Rio neighborhood of Veracruz, we can see that "Por Z" was written in black on the torso of each victim. This indicated the likelihood that the victims were killed because they were members or associates of Los Zetas. Two days later, another 14 victims were found in the same location with "Por Z" written on the torsos, suggesting the same group was responsible for both incidents. (That all but one of the 49 victims were strangled to death also suggests a strong connection.)

The "Por Z" signature contrasts with the signature left on the victims of Los Zetas. In such cases, we have often seen a "Z" sliced into the victims' torsos with a knife, often across the width of the torso.

When we examine photographs of ambush or gunbattle scenes, we look at what the bodies (or captured operators) are wearing. The type of clothing, type or style of any tactical gear, consistencies in those elements among all of the bodies present and whether the tactical gear has been personalized by the individuals to fit their needs and fighting styles, such as a tactical pouch on a belt, are all indicators that can help determine to which cartel the operators belong.

We also examine pictures of the weapons involved, particularly the types and conditions of those weapons, to help identify the cartel that used them. Consistency among the weapons for functionality or professional tactical use can reveal much about their operators. For example, if all of the weapons at a crime scene are AR-15 assault rifles and in well-maintained condition, the force that used them likely was professionally trained and experienced military personnel. But if the weapons found at a scene are an assortment of hunting rifles, AK-47s and miscellaneous handguns -- past evidence suggests such assorted caches are typically in poor condition -- the group likely had little or no formalized training. In these cases, we can likely rule out cartels or enforcer arm groups that comprise military personnel.

Such details do not necessarily identify which group was involved, but they help eliminate many possible suspects. When looking at the photos, we are constantly comparing what is seen in the images to what is known of particular groups in the given region, and when anomalies appear, we widen the search to include groups traditionally outside the area that fit those anomalies.

In interview or interrogation videos, we correlate what is said by the suspect with where the individual was captured and his known affiliations and areas of operation. We also investigate the individual's history, and then we examine the video for other indicators, such as body language, expressions, mannerisms and even blinking, which may lend to or undermine credibility.

As the organized crime landscape grows more complex in Mexico, and as the battle for territory grows more intense, it is very important to methodically determine which groups are operating where. These indicators all contribute to tracking the movement and activity of the cartels in Mexico.
 
(click here to view interactive map)
Dec. 6
•   Two gunmen died when the Mexican military repelled an attack by gunmen in Ojuelos, Jalisco state.
•   A peace activist representing the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity was kidnapped while traveling in Aquila, Michoacan state.
•   Mexican authorities reported the discovery of a clandestine grave in Ahuacuotzingo, Guerrero state. One body has been recovered, but authorities believe up to 20 bodies still remain in the grave.
•   Gunmen attacked Mexican soldiers in Acapulco, Guerrero state, while the soldiers were on patrol. All gunmen managed to escape after soldiers repelled the attack.
•   Gunmen killed the aunt and cousin of former Gulf cartel leader Ulises "El Mojo" Martinez Gonzalez in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. El Mojo was killed in a confrontation with federal police in June 2011.
•   Mexican authorities presented the arrest of six members of the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, including Gilberto "El Comandante Gil" Castrejon Morales, a senior member of the group.
Dec. 7
•   Mexican authorities arrested three alleged members of the Zetas-aligned Milenio cartel for their involvement in the deaths of 26 individuals in Guadalajara, Jalisco state.
Dec. 8
•   In Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state, Mexican authorities seized 205 metric tons of chemical precursors from a vessel originating from China. According to the Mexican government, the shipment was destined for Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.
•   Mexican authorities arrested 20 Los Zetas operators, including two plaza bosses, in a sports bar in Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon state.
Dec. 9
•   Mexican authorities dismantled an explosive device at the Ramon de la Fuente Psychiatric Hospital in Mexico City. The device was discovered during a routine patrol.
Dec. 10
•   Eleven gunmen were killed and two were arrested during a confrontation between gunmen and Mexican soldiers in Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas state.
Dec. 11
•   A group of gunmen attacked an ambulance transporting patients in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. Two patients and the ambulance driver were killed in the attack.
Dec. 12
•   In a graffiti message on a wall addressed to the governor of Chihuahua City, Chihuahua state, a group known as Gente Nueva said it was in the city for a "house cleaning."
•   An explosive detonated at a secret cockfighting event, killing one individual and injuring nine in Cerro Gordo, Veracruz state. Mexican authorities discovered another explosive device that failed to detonate in the same area.
•   At least 10 narcomantas were found Dec. 12 signed by Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales alleging that banners found the previous week challenging Mexican and U.S. authorities and purporting to be signed by Trevino were false.
•   Mexican authorities arrested senior Zetas member Raul Lucio "El Lucky" Hernandez Lechuga at a ranch in Cordoba, Veracruz state.
23354  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Desinformation continues in Tamaulipas on: December 16, 2011, 01:36:26 PM

Mexico Security Memo: The Disinformation Continues in Tamaulipas


Response to a Narcomanta
Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales, the No. 2 leader of Los Zetas, may have responded Dec. 12 to the narcomanta found Dec. 6 in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state. Attributed to Trevino, the Dec. 6 banner referred to Los Zetas as a "regime" and directly challenged the Mexican government for control of plazas in Zetas territory.

Ten narcomantas reportedly signed by Trevino were placed throughout Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The banners deny commissioning the threat to the government, saying the Zetas have no interest in challenging or governing Mexico. According to the response, Trevino said he is "aware that you cannot and should not fight against any government" and that he has "no motive to put such stupidness [sic] on a message." In the response, Trevino implied that whoever wrote the original message was trying to set him up by provoking a violent response from the Mexican government.

Trevino has never been one to shy away from violence, so it seems unlikely that he would issue such a bold challenge in the first message, then turn around and refute it days later. If his response is sincere, then the Dec. 6 narcomantas were part of a disinformation campaign against the Zetas (though the possibility that his response is also part of the disinformation campaign against him cannot be ruled out). The Sinaloa Federation, which is battling the Zetas for primacy in Mexico, would be the likely culprit behind the false narcomanta because it would have much to gain from military clashes with the Zetas. The Gulf cartel -- which has been in a continuous battle with the Zetas, its former enforcement arm, since the two split violently in February 2010 -- could also have been responsible for the Dec. 6 banner. Given its internal turmoil, the Gulf cartel would benefit the most, especially in the near term, if the government would turn its attention away from that cartel and toward the Zetas.
The Methodology of Identifying Cartels
On Dec. 6, a statement from the Jalisco state Public Security Secretariat indicated the presence of a group not previously seen in Guadalajara. According to the statement, La Barredora, a Sinaloa Federation affiliate from Acapulco, Guerrero state, left messages with three bodies found Dec. 5. Some Mexican news outlets published portions of the statement, which characterize La Barredora as a new organized crime organization operating in the city. The Sinaloa-affiliated Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and Los Zetas-affiliated La Resistencia already operate in and vie for control of Guadalajara, and the presence of La Barredora in the Jalisco capital could complicate the situation.

Indeed, Guadalajara exemplifies just how difficult it can be to determine which cartel is active in a given location -- and which cartel is responsible for a given event, such as an assassination or a clash with the military. Indeed, the Mexican cartel landscape is constantly evolving, giving rise to new groups while leading to the demise of others. Given the complexity and fluidity of this landscape, STRATFOR has decided to share the methodology of how we identify where the cartels operate and how we come to the conclusions we do.

We should begin this discussion by saying virtually every report and communique -- from the Mexican government and cartels alike -- is met with scrutiny. Deception, propaganda and disinformation are simply additional theaters in Mexico's war on drugs, and we are careful to factor these into our assessments. However, there are situations in which we can determine who the victims or aggressors were based on what we see in photographs and government-released video statements or read in government reports.

For example, messages at a body dump do not necessarily take the form of narcomantas but, rather, can be displayed as words or symbols written on the bodies themselves. In photographs of the 35 bodies dumped Sept. 20 in the Boca del Rio neighborhood of Veracruz, we can see that "Por Z" was written in black on the torso of each victim. This indicated the likelihood that the victims were killed because they were members or associates of Los Zetas. Two days later, another 14 victims were found in the same location with "Por Z" written on the torsos, suggesting the same group was responsible for both incidents. (That all but one of the 49 victims were strangled to death also suggests a strong connection.)

The "Por Z" signature contrasts with the signature left on the victims of Los Zetas. In such cases, we have often seen a "Z" sliced into the victims' torsos with a knife, often across the width of the torso.

When we examine photographs of ambush or gunbattle scenes, we look at what the bodies (or captured operators) are wearing. The type of clothing, type or style of any tactical gear, consistencies in those elements among all of the bodies present and whether the tactical gear has been personalized by the individuals to fit their needs and fighting styles, such as a tactical pouch on a belt, are all indicators that can help determine to which cartel the operators belong.

We also examine pictures of the weapons involved, particularly the types and conditions of those weapons, to help identify the cartel that used them. Consistency among the weapons for functionality or professional tactical use can reveal much about their operators. For example, if all of the weapons at a crime scene are AR-15 assault rifles and in well-maintained condition, the force that used them likely was professionally trained and experienced military personnel. But if the weapons found at a scene are an assortment of hunting rifles, AK-47s and miscellaneous handguns -- past evidence suggests such assorted caches are typically in poor condition -- the group likely had little or no formalized training. In these cases, we can likely rule out cartels or enforcer arm groups that comprise military personnel.

Such details do not necessarily identify which group was involved, but they help eliminate many possible suspects. When looking at the photos, we are constantly comparing what is seen in the images to what is known of particular groups in the given region, and when anomalies appear, we widen the search to include groups traditionally outside the area that fit those anomalies.

In interview or interrogation videos, we correlate what is said by the suspect with where the individual was captured and his known affiliations and areas of operation. We also investigate the individual's history, and then we examine the video for other indicators, such as body language, expressions, mannerisms and even blinking, which may lend to or undermine credibility.

As the organized crime landscape grows more complex in Mexico, and as the battle for territory grows more intense, it is very important to methodically determine which groups are operating where. These indicators all contribute to tracking the movement and activity of the cartels in Mexico.
 
(click here to view interactive map)
Dec. 6
•   Two gunmen died when the Mexican military repelled an attack by gunmen in Ojuelos, Jalisco state.
•   A peace activist representing the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity was kidnapped while traveling in Aquila, Michoacan state.
•   Mexican authorities reported the discovery of a clandestine grave in Ahuacuotzingo, Guerrero state. One body has been recovered, but authorities believe up to 20 bodies still remain in the grave.
•   Gunmen attacked Mexican soldiers in Acapulco, Guerrero state, while the soldiers were on patrol. All gunmen managed to escape after soldiers repelled the attack.
•   Gunmen killed the aunt and cousin of former Gulf cartel leader Ulises "El Mojo" Martinez Gonzalez in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. El Mojo was killed in a confrontation with federal police in June 2011.
•   Mexican authorities presented the arrest of six members of the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, including Gilberto "El Comandante Gil" Castrejon Morales, a senior member of the group.
Dec. 7
•   Mexican authorities arrested three alleged members of the Zetas-aligned Milenio cartel for their involvement in the deaths of 26 individuals in Guadalajara, Jalisco state.
Dec. 8
•   In Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state, Mexican authorities seized 205 metric tons of chemical precursors from a vessel originating from China. According to the Mexican government, the shipment was destined for Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.
•   Mexican authorities arrested 20 Los Zetas operators, including two plaza bosses, in a sports bar in Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon state.
Dec. 9
•   Mexican authorities dismantled an explosive device at the Ramon de la Fuente Psychiatric Hospital in Mexico City. The device was discovered during a routine patrol.
Dec. 10
•   Eleven gunmen were killed and two were arrested during a confrontation between gunmen and Mexican soldiers in Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas state.
Dec. 11
•   A group of gunmen attacked an ambulance transporting patients in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. Two patients and the ambulance driver were killed in the attack.
Dec. 12
•   In a graffiti message on a wall addressed to the governor of Chihuahua City, Chihuahua state, a group known as Gente Nueva said it was in the city for a "house cleaning."
•   An explosive detonated at a secret cockfighting event, killing one individual and injuring nine in Cerro Gordo, Veracruz state. Mexican authorities discovered another explosive device that failed to detonate in the same area.
•   At least 10 narcomantas were found Dec. 12 signed by Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales alleging that banners found the previous week challenging Mexican and U.S. authorities and purporting to be signed by Trevino were false.
•   Mexican authorities arrested senior Zetas member Raul Lucio "El Lucky" Hernandez Lechuga at a ranch in Cordoba, Veracruz state.
23355  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck: Newt is a Progressive on: December 16, 2011, 01:31:50 PM

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/is-gingrich-a-progressive-beck-and-oreilly-debate-issue-on-the-factor/
23356  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / What were these fg morons thinking? on: December 16, 2011, 12:38:51 PM
At least someone is challenging the deed, and the difusion of the knowledge:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/45690564#45690564
23357  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: December 16, 2011, 10:43:11 AM
Ummm , , , what is wrong with SOPA?  I see not one specific accusation, let alone any specifics, in the article. 

Nor is there much specific in the article about NDAA.   Does the author agree or disagree with the notion that those that war on the US fall outside of ordinary criminal due process? 

Be clear, I am DEEPLY concerned about what I have been hearing about NDAA.  The silence of the Pravdas is deafening.  But I sure would like to see some specifics , , ,
23358  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 16, 2011, 10:37:36 AM
Well I too must go, in this case to an award ceremony for my daughter making honor roll  cool

So I will close with this:

"Like I said, plain and simple, the two will need to find common space, in the terms of a social contract."

Ummm , , ,  When Egypt agreed to peace it got its land back.  Simple.  The Israelis ALREADY want to live in peace.  It is the Arabs who do not.   

GM:  You up to Chomsky coming to hang out with us?
23359  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: December 16, 2011, 10:26:04 AM
and the data was presented in such a dishonest way that when confronted about it, the officials in question had to back off, even as they sedulously worked to spread the false meme throughout the Pravdas.
23360  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: last debate before Iowa on: December 16, 2011, 10:23:06 AM
Comments on last night's debate?

Here's the WSJ's take on it:
===========
SIOUX CITY, Iowa—Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich used a televised debate Thursday to try to keep momentum going in his front-running presidential campaign. But he found himself on the defensive over his consulting work for Freddie Mac, his positions on Medicare and the question of electability.

Mr. Gingrich parried the attacks and insisted he could beat President Barack Obama next year. ""Barack Obama will not have a leg to stand on in trying to defend a record that is terrible and an ideology that is radical," he said.

The debate, the 13th of the Republican campaign, was the final televised showdown before GOP voters begin choosing nominating convention delegates, starting Jan. 3 with Iowa's caucuses. The issue of electability in the general election emerged immediately as a centerpiece.

Some Republicans have framed the 2012 election as theirs to lose against a president with weak poll numbers. But national surveys show Mr. Obama is in a virtual dead heat with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and ahead of Mr. Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich asserted in the debate that at this time in 1979, Ronald Reagan was 30 percentage points behind Jimmy Carter, an incumbent he would trounce 10 months later.

"Probably anybody up here could probably beat Obama," said Texas Rep. Ron Paul, whose surging campaign is threatening to upend expectations in Iowa. "He is beating himself."

After attacking Mr. Gingrich for the past few days, Mr. Romney toned it down. "The American people care very deeply about having a president who will get America right again," he said. "I'll have credibility on the economy when [President Obama] doesn't."

Seven candidates—Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Paul, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.—began making a final pitch to Iowa voters before the holidays.

For the moment, the race in Iowa appears to be a three-man contest, with Messrs. Gingrich, Romney and Paul battling for the lead. The Thursday debate may end up blunting Mr. Paul's charge due to an extended exchange over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Mr. Paul, an ardent libertarian, warned the drum beat for military action against Iran threatened to push the United States into a quagmire. "That's how we got into that useless war in Iraq and lost so much," he said.

That triggered sharp responses from his rivals, who echoed conservative public opinion. Ms. Bachmann said she has "never heard a more dangerous answer on foreign policy."

Mr. Gingrich was forced to defend his role as a well-paid adviser to the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. In 2007, he had praised the role of a government-sponsored enterprise like Freddie only to castigate congressional Democrats for their support of the same firm.

Those Democrats, he said, were elected officials in power. "I was a private citizen engaged in a business like any other business," Mr. Gingrich said. He also said he wouldn't "step back from the idea that in fact we should have as a goal helping as many Americans as possible be capable of buying homes."

Ms. Bachmann pronounced herself shocked at Mr. Gingrich's stance. "We cannot have as our nominee someone who continues to stand with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae," she said.

Mr. Gingrich accused her of hurling "wild allegations."

The leading candidates, who have done relatively little retail campaigning, now have less than three weeks to meet Iowans and build the organizations they will need to help supporters navigate the caucus process.

The campaigns are now saturating Iowa's airwaves with advertisements. On Thursday, Messrs. Gingrich, Romney and Perry unveiled new ads, all with different tacks. After drubbing Mr. Gingrich for days as an "unreliable" conservative, Mr. Romney turned positive with an ad proclaiming, "It is a moral responsibility to believe in fiscal responsibility."

Mr. Perry stayed on the attack, labeling both Messrs. Gingrich and Romney "political insiders" responsible for "reckless spending and high taxes."

And Mr. Gingrich tried to keep his candidacy above the fray. "We want and deserve solutions," he said in his new ad. "Others seems to be more focused on attacks, rather than moving the country forward."

A Rasmussen Research poll of Iowa GOP voters released Thursday gave fresh evidence that the contest is up for grabs. Mr. Gingrich, who has had double-digit leads in recent polls, came in second in the survey at 20%, behind Mr. Romney's 23% and ahead of Mr. Paul's 18%. The poll might be an outlier, but it indicates the contest remains fluid.

After steering clear of South Carolina, where Mr. Gingrich holds a commanding lead in recent polls, Mr. Romney will begin a campaign swing through the state beginning Friday. The winner of South Carolina has gone on to win the Republican nomination since its inception in 1980.

23361  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison, Federalist 51, 1788 on: December 16, 2011, 10:19:21 AM
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself." --James Madison, Federalist No. 51, 1788
23362  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: December 16, 2011, 07:58:47 AM
BBG, that racoon story is a crack up.  cheesy
23363  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hanukkah on: December 16, 2011, 07:54:33 AM
By JON D. LEVENSON
The eight-day festival of Hanukkah, which Jews world-wide will begin celebrating Tuesday night, is one of the better known of the Jewish holidays but also one of the less important.

The emphasis placed on it now is mostly due to timing: Hanukkah offers Jews an opportunity for celebration and commercialization comparable to what their Christian neighbors experience at Christmas, and it gives Christians the opportunity to include Jews in their holiday greetings and parties. What's more, the observances associated with Hanukkah are few, relatively undemanding, and even appealing to children.

The story of Hanukkah also fits the political culture of the United States. Its underlying narrative recalls that of the Pilgrims: A persecuted religious minority, at great cost, breaks free of their oppressors. It wasn't separatist Protestants seeking freedom from the Church of England in 1620, but Jews in the land of Israel triumphing over their Hellenistic overlord in 167–164 B.C., reclaiming and purifying their holiest site, the Jerusalem Temple.

Examined too casually, the stories of Plymouth Colony and Hanukkah seem to show heroes fighting for universal religious freedom. But the heroes of the Jewish story fought not only against a foreign persecutor. They also fought against fellow Jews who—perhaps more attracted to the cosmopolitan and sophisticated Greek culture than to the ways of their ancestors—cooperated with their rulers.

The revolt begins, in fact, when the patriarch of the Maccabees (as the family that led the campaign came to be known) kills a fellow Jew who was in the act of obeying the king's decree to perform a sacrifice forbidden in the Torah. The Maccabean hero also kills the king's officer and tears down the illicit altar. These were blows struck for Jewish traditionalism, and arguably for Jewish survival and authenticity, but not for religious freedom.

Over time, the stories of the persecutions that led to this war came to serve as models of Jewish faithfulness under excruciating persecution. In the most memorable instance, seven brothers and their mother all choose, successively, to die at the hands of their torturers rather than to yield to the demand to eat pork as a public disavowal of the God of Israel and his commandments.

To the martyrs, breaking faith with God is worse than death. In one version, their deaths are interpreted as "an atoning sacrifice" through which God sustained the Jewish people in their travail.

The tone here isn't the lightheartedness of the Christmas season. The Christian parallels lie, instead, with Good Friday and the story of Jesus's acceptance of his suffering and sacrificial death. In both the Jewish and the Christian stories, the death of the heroes, grievous though it is, is not the end: It is the prelude to a miraculous vindication and a glorious restoration.

The Roman Catholic tradition honors these Jewish martyrs as saints, and the Eastern Orthodox Church still celebrates Aug. 1 as the Feast of the Holy Maccabees. By contrast, in the literature of the Rabbis of the first several centuries of the common era, the story lost its connection to the Maccabean uprising, instead becoming associated with later persecutions by the Romans, which the Rabbis experienced. If the change seems odd, recall that the compositions that first told of these events (the books of Maccabees) were not part of the scriptural canon of rabbinic Judaism. But they were canonical in the Church (and remain so in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communions).

And so we encounter another oddity of Hanukkah: Jews know the fuller history of the holiday because Christians preserved the books that the Jews themselves lost. In a further twist, Jews in the Middle Ages encountered the story of the martyred mother and her seven sons anew in Christian literature and once again placed it in the time of the Maccabees.

"Hanukkah" means "dedication." Originally, the term referred to the rededication of the purified Temple after the Maccabees' stunning military victory. But as the story of the martyrs shows, the victory was also associated with the heroic dedication of the Jewish traditionalists of the time to their God and his Torah. If Hanukkah celebrates freedom, it is a freedom to be bound to something higher than freedom itself.

Mr. Levenson, a professor of Jewish studies at Harvard Divinity School, is co-author with Kevin J. Madigan of "Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews" (Yale University Press, 2008).

23364  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Wyden-Ryan Breakthrough on: December 16, 2011, 07:48:24 AM


Democrats are running on Mediscare in 2012 and President Obama has all but called the "premium support" reform un-American, if not the decline and fall of Western civilization. That would seem to put the issue in Newt Gingrich's wheelhouse, but the GOP candidate also claimed in a recent interview that the Paul Ryan reform model is "politically impossible" and "suicide." Well, not so fast.

Today Senator Ron Wyden and Mr. Ryan are releasing a bipartisan defined-contribution health-care plan, as the Oregon Democrat and Wisconsin Republican explain nearby. This is an important moment because it shows that the serious entitlement debate is taking place within the camp of choice and incentives, not the Obama status quo.

Wyden-Ryan shares the same architecture as the House budget. It would replace today's open-ended Medicare with a fixed-dollar subsidy for seniors to choose from a menu of private plans. Costs would fall as insurers and providers innovate to compete for patient market share, rather than responding to fee-for-service price controls.

But there are several key changes. Most of the substantive argument turns on how the premium supports should grow over time. Wyden-Ryan would dispose of a predetermined rate—GDP plus 1%, medical inflation, etc.—and instead use competitive bidding. Insurers and traditional Medicare, which would remain intact, would essentially participate in a reverse auction and the second lowest bid would set the benchmark for a given region. Seniors would pay at the margin for more expensive options.

As a practical matter, competitive bidding may be an improvement over a set formula because it relies on local information and adjusts with the behavioral and organizational responses that will vary from region to region. Medicare as centrally planned from Washington will never be able to keep pace with the market if subject to the same defined payments. In any case, the growth rate to-and-fro is largely an artifact of the Congressional Budget Office, which has admitted there is a "gap in the toolkit" when predicting market-based savings. It knows this first hand from having grossly overestimated the costs of the 2003 prescription drug benefit.

Messrs. Wyden and Ryan also sneak in a reform of the larger employer market, which would allow businesses with fewer than 100 workers to move to a defined-contribution model without tax penalties. Mr. Wyden has been campaigning for such a reform for years from the Democratic backbenches.

The Oregonian voted for the Affordable Care Act, though his decision to join Mr. Ryan is another signal that the entitlement debate is moving in a more promising direction. Variations on defined contribution were also mulled by the "super committee," only to end up on the horns of liberal intransigence.

The brutal math is that Medicare spending has been growing about three percentage points faster every year than the overall economy for the last quarter-century and is now the main driver of the fiscal crisis. Mr. Obama has ruled out any structural reforms and his only fallback is the command-and-control technocracy that continues to fail and will ultimately harm patient care. The Wyden-Ryan deal shows that smart liberals prefer a different future.

23365  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 16, 2011, 07:41:02 AM
PS:
   Jumping back to our earlier conversation concerning the logical consistency vel non of Hitler's claims to Sudenland and the Jews claims to Israel:

   The very point of how national boundary lines were drawn up after WW1 by France and Great Britain was to break up the German people-- and look what that led to.  Contrast the aftermath of WW2 where Chomsky's "evil, wicked, mean, and nasty" (its a line from a Steppenwolk song of the late sixties  cheesy ) fascist America sought to lift its former enemies up-- including decades of forceful military support until the Russian evil empire collapsed and Germany was reunited.
   
 
23366  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 16, 2011, 07:31:03 AM
Andre:

a) Concerning your , , , ahem , , , "leap of faith"  cheesy that the Iranian theocracy will not do what it says it will do to Israel:
   *in part because of the international community's reaction:  Lets face it; Europe is done.  You don't even f*ck enough (at least in the right orifices) to maintain your population.  The contraction (which also means the aging) of the Euro population means the fundamentals of the Euro socialist nanny state are inherently bankrupt.  The Euro is in the process of self-destructing.  NATO couldn't handle Libya without US backing, the UK no longer has a single aircraft carrier-- were Argentina to take the Falklands again there isn't a thing they could do.  Why on earth would you think that Israel should in any way think that Europe's upset at having to be downwind and breathe in the radioactive ashes of another six million jews would deter Iran's theocracy? (thanks GM for the article with the history of the waves of children to clear out mindfields)
  * Iran's theocracy has opening spoken of its survivability of an Israeli nuclear attack, whereas one or two bombs would instantly wipe out Israel.
  *  Via Hezbollah Iran well over 50,000 rockets on Israel's northern border.
  *  As GM and Rachel aptly point out, the settlements are a RESPONSE in search of security to decades of Arab efforts to literally push the Jews of Israel into the sea.  Giving up the settlements will not bring an end to such intentions-- witness the aftermath of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.  Even the greenhouses to grow food were destroyed because Hamas et al wanted nothing from the Jews.
23367  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 15, 2011, 09:41:39 PM
Well!  Lively exchange so far! (and 9 posts have been made while I was on the phone and writing this!)

For myself, I'd like to get back to this (there's stuff in your reply to my previous post that I could go into, but I sense too much water has gone under the bridge since then):

"While Ahmadinejad indeed acts a madman, I have doubts that if push comes to shove, the nuclear tools would be just flying everywhere. They have much too much to loose. Do you think they would nuke the terrtiory, then go live there afterwards ? The whole area would be destroyed and impossible to settle for at least 50-100 years or more, dunno the facts, im no physicist. I severly doubt that solution, although you never know with crazy folks...Besides that, they would get insurmountable number of enemies, from states in their direct proximity, due to fallout and the like, not to mention the reaction of the international community"

If YOUR butt were on the line (and you weren't such a fan of Chomsky  grin ) this might carry a tad more weight  cheesy  

As for "The reaction of the international community"   cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy cheesy   Be serious please
1 These are the men who sent waves of children against the Iraqis to clear mine fields for the soldiers to follow.  You think the bleatings of the UN are going to matter to them?   They will be the strong horse of the neighborhood, and everyone will kneel to them in gratitude for killing all the jews, chant "Allah Akbar!" and about how death matters more to them than life.  
23368  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Ron Paul on: December 15, 2011, 08:41:22 PM
Ron Paul is, in many ways, the ideal candidate for a conservative electorate hungry for a principled GOP nominee. Ron Paul will never be the GOP nominee. For this, Mr. Paul has himself to blame.

In his third run for president, and only a few weeks out from the 2012 Iowa caucuses, the Texas congressman has become the sleeper news of this nomination fight. Polls show him with real strength in Iowa, and stories are brimming with speculation about how the ardent libertarian might pull off a victory there, or how he might command crucial support in Western states, or how all this might upend the Romney-Gingrich narrative.

It's fun as far as it goes, but it misses the world. Or, rather, it misses Mr. Paul's unpopular foreign-policy views, which make him the ultimate self-limiting candidate. And what makes those views more notable is the candidate's stubborn refusal to modulate them—an obstinacy at odds with the rest of his 2012 campaign.

Mr. Paul was largely written off in the past as an ideological crank, a man who ran primarily to have his views heard, and many political watchers have made the same mistake this time. But if there has been an overlooked theme in this race, it has been Mr. Paul's new seriousness about winning the nomination. The Ron Paul of 2012 is a different candidate from the Ron Paul of the past. Aware that his absolutist positions worry voters, the libertarian has been conducting a far more mainstream campaign.

Not that he's flipped on any major positions. The Paul campaign knows that its greatest opportunity is attracting voters who are dissatisfied with the other front-runners' policy timidity or lack of consistency. Mr. Paul is neither timid nor inconsistent, and it ought to make him a star.

Nicknamed the "intellectual godfather" of the tea party movement, he's held the same views about limited government since before his first election in 1976. Those views are behind his platform today to slash $1 trillion from the federal government, to eliminate five federal cabinet agencies, to cut the corporate tax rate and get rid of taxes on capital gains and dividends, and to repeal everything from ObamaCare to Sarbanes-Oxley.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
 
Texas Congressman Ron Paul
.The difference in the 2012 Paul campaign is instead one of a maturing tone and emphasis. Consider: The Ron Paul who in 1988 ran for president as a Libertarian spoke pugnaciously of abolishing "unconstitutional" entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. The Ron Paul of 2008 acknowledged these entitlements could not go away overnight and argued for an opt-out. The Ron Paul of today still holds those positions but is now at great pains to stress that his budget plan is in fact the only one that would "save" entitlements like Social Security and Medicare for current retirees.

He's toned down his calls to legalize drugs. He wrote an October USA Today op-ed reassuring parents they'd retain (in the near term) student loans. Whereas Mr. Paul still despises income taxes and wants to kill off the IRS, he now concedes this might require reform of the existing system, and he promises to extend the Bush tax cuts.

Organizationally, the 2012 Paul campaign has also sloughed off its 2008 disdain of the establishment, and in Iowa at least Mr. Paul is engaging in retail politics, sitting down with party elders and activists. These are the efforts of a candidate newly willing to work within a certain framework, if it means a shot at the White House.

Except on foreign policy, where Mr. Paul does himself in. In discrete areas, Mr. Paul's "noninterventionist" approach resonates with those weary of war, or with the populist sentiment that we spend too much on foreign aid. And note that Mr. Paul has made small stabs at reassuring voters of his patriotism, as with a big national TV ad that highlighted his own military service and commitment to veterans.

But none of this has addressed voters' big concern over a Paul philosophy that fundamentally denies American exceptionalism and refuses to allow for decisive action to protect the U.S. homeland. Perhaps nothing hurt the candidate more in 2008 than his declaration that one reason terrorists attacked us on 9/11 is because "we've been in the Middle East."

Far from toning down such views, Mr. Paul has amped up the wattage, claiming this year that 9/11 prompted "glee" in a Bush administration looking for a pretext to "invade Iraq." He's condemned the Obama administration's killings of terrorists Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, and he insists the U.S. is "provoking" Iran.

For foreign-policy hawks, this is a disqualifier. It explains why a Washington Post-ABC poll in late September showed that Mr. Paul drew some of his weakest numbers from his own base. Of the 25% of voters who viewed him favorably, nearly two-thirds did not identify themselves as Republicans. Among self-identified "conservative Republicans," only 8% gave him a "strongly favorable" rating. You don't win a GOP nomination with figures like this. Even mainstream Democrats and independents have no time for Mr. Paul's brand of isolationism, which is why his national numbers remain stuck around 10%.

Mr. Paul's new strategy has been to assail opponents like Mr. Gingrich, hoping to remind voters of his rivals' flaws. But the bar to Mr. Paul's campaign is not his opponents, or their money, or (a frequent Paul complaint) media bias. Because he can't, or won't, accommodate his own foreign policy views to those of the nation, there is only one bar to a Ron Paul victory: Mr. Paul
23369  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Industrial production on: December 15, 2011, 02:20:45 PM

Industrial production fell 0.2% in November To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/15/2011
Industrial production fell 0.2% in November, falling short of the consensus expected gain of 0.1%. Including revisions to prior months, production increased 0.1%. Output is up 3.7% in the past year.
Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, was down 0.4% in November. The decline was mostly due to auto production, which fell 3.5%.  Non-auto manufacturing dipped 0.1%. Auto production is up 9.1% versus a year ago while non-auto manufacturing is up 3.5%.
 
The production of high-tech equipment declined 0.8% in November and is only up 1.2% versus a year ago.
 
Overall capacity utilization dropped to 77.8% in November from 78.0% in October. Manufacturing capacity use fell to 75.3% in November from 75.6% in October.
 
Implications:  Today’s data on industrial production were mediocre, but don’t expect that to last. Production dipped 0.2% in November, but was up 0.1% including revisions to prior months, matching consensus expectations. The primary reason for the decline in November was the auto sector, which is volatile from month to month and where output fell 3.5%. In addition, high-tech production continued its recent swoon. This is due to major flooding in Thailand, one of the world’s leading producers of hard disk drives and semiconductors. Still, even excluding autos and high-tech, manufacturing production was down 0.1% in November. However, we would not read much into that small decline. During periods of economic expansion, this figure goes down about four months every year and we expect a rebound in overall production in the months ahead. Auto inventories are very thin and problems in Thailand will recede. Timely news on the manufacturing sector already shows a rebound in December. The Empire State index, a measure of activity in New York, increased to +9.5 from +0.6 in November. The Philly Fed index, a measure of activity in that region, increased to +10.3 from +3.6. Both indices easily beat consensus expectations. Corporate profits and cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies are both at record highs. Meanwhile, capacity utilization is close to long-term norms. As a result, business investment in equipment, which is already at a record high, is likely to continue to trend upward in the year ahead, regardless of whether the federal government maintains full expensing for tax purposes in 2012.
23370  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Sparring Partner on: December 15, 2011, 02:02:45 PM
The best sparring partner is a madman who goes all out.

—Bruce Lee

Every presidential election is a heavyweight fight. It is big, bloody and long.

An incumbent president is always favored to win. No matter what the numbers say, running against a sitting president, you generally are overmatched from day one. See the Kerry and Dole campaigns.

Now comes Mitt Romney. Is he a contender? That eternal 25% ceiling on him says no, not yet.

For months, Mitt has been The Front-Runner, whatever the polls said. It's hard to say that after last Saturday's GOP debate.

About a third of the way in, Newt Gingrich said to Mr. Romney: "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994."

The Front-Runner looked stunned, as if he'd just been hit with a left hook out of nowhere. No one—not Undercards Bachmann, Cain or Perry—had been able to land one like this. Literally, you could see Mitt trying to clear his head. His words came in clumps: "Now, now wait a second, that—I mean you'll—OK, go ahead."

What we saw Saturday is that Mitt Romney is reachable personally. Somewhere under that cool front is a wafer of thin skin. If we have learned anything about Barack Obama the past three years it's that he enjoys hitting. He will be merciless with Mitt. Ask Hillary. Ask the respectful Republicans that Obama pistol-whipped in that George Washington University speech. Ask Wall Street's Democrats.

To compete against a do-what-you've-gotta-do opponent, Mitt Romney needs more of what Newt Gingrich gave him Saturday night: pressure. Forget the pleasures of a no-sweat primary season. He needs a sparring partner, someone who will toughen him to handle what he's going to get next fall. That would be Newt Gingrich, the best sparring partner in American politics.

Barack Obama, a novice in February 2007 when he announced for the presidency, survived an arduous set of primary battles and debates with Hillary Clinton, who was plenty tough herself. John McCain had to contend with . . . Mitt Romney. (And a tough guy named Rudy Giuliani, who failed to answer the bell.)

The Republican establishment is writing at great length that no matter how smart Newt is, he can't be part of this because he is an unhinged and unreliable creature of the Beltway cesspool. But if he were gone or discredited, the Romney candidacy will go into a virtual coma.

The Romney campaign may think their man is ready to compete against the president. They should watch the tape of the Saturday night "$10,000 bet" meltdown. In that brief, disastrous exchange over the Massachusetts health-insurance "mandate," a smirking, taunting Rick Perry showed why he won three governor's races. And Mitt buckled, as he had 10 days earlier when Fox's Bret Baier leaned on him about the mandate.

 
Newt Gingrich will make Mitt Romney a fit candidate.

If Mitt Romney still can't handle needling attacks on the Massachusetts mandate, there's not much chance he'll stand up under the withering mockery of Barack Obama over Bain Capital. Newt's own Bain Capital attack on Mr. Romney this week is taken as proof Newt is no conservative. What difference does that make so long as someone forces Mr. Romney to find a persuasive defense of Bain and free-market capitalism before September?

Newt Gingrich will either get Mitt Romney into shape for 2012, or he will take Mitt down in next year's primary contests before the former Massachusetts governor gets himself, and his party, in over his head.

And what if the man who was House speaker 13 years ago does defeat Mr. Romney? If somehow he steals the party's nomination, the Republican establishment—its leadership and its donor base—can blame themselves for failing to find one strong Republican willing to run against a vulnerable president.

For all the guff he is getting now from that same establishment, Mr. Gingrich is the one who was willing to stand in and—altogether predictably—take it in the neck over everything from spending at Tiffany to his often antic speakership. The top-tier candidates stayed home. They wouldn't do it. He did.

So let's push past the sparring- partner metaphor. If this improbable figure wins those primaries, Newt Gingrich will become the Rocky Balboa of American politics—a flawed, scarred figure who, against the odds, resurrects himself. If he self-destructs in the primaries, he's gone. If not, he's got a shot in the general. (As for Newt's egregious Freddie Mac lucre, let the record show that Rocky was working as a loan shark's collector.)

It has come to this—a Republican nomination out of Hollywood, which too often is where this process has been the past seven months. But it isn't going to have a Hollywood ending. Tinker Bell isn't going to conjure Chris Christie or anyone else out of fairy dust before the primaries begin. These two are it.

Newt Gingrich's flaws have been posited. Mitt Romney's inadequacies are known. It's time to put these two in a cage together so that one can emerge a fighter, ready to compete for the presidency.

23371  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Newt's legislative record before the Revolution on: December 15, 2011, 01:11:34 PM
By JONATHAN WEISMAN
Newt Gingrich built a reputation for playing partisan hardball during his quest to bring Republicans a House majority. But before the 1994 Republican Revolution, the future House speaker teamed with some of the most prominent Democrats of his time to build a legislative record that carried a bipartisan cast.

 Before the 1994 Republican Revolution, Newt Gingrich teamed with Democratics to back the Endangered Species Act and American Heritage Trust Act. As Joanthan Weisman explains on The News Hub, those positions are causing him trouble today. He teamed with Democrats to back amendments to the Endangered Species Act. He co-sponsored then-Rep. Patricia Schroeder's Violence Against Women Act, which toughened laws against domestic violence, and he pushed for Rep. Morris Udall's plan to spend $1 billion a year on federal land acquisitions.

Mr. Gingrich joined Rep. Charles Rangel to press for the Low Income Housing Credit Act over the objections of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp, a Republican. And he was one of only a handful of GOP co-sponsors for a water quality bill in 1987 that was vetoed by President Ronald Reagan as a "budget buster."

 
Associated Press
 
Newt Gingrich, then a GOP minority whip, on the Capitol steps in 1990.
.Gingrich campaign officials didn't return requests for comment on the candidate's current positions on the legislation.

Mr. Gingrich's record was, in part, a sign of the times: Bipartisanship was common, and Republicans—seemingly stuck in a permanent minority—had to team with Democrats to pass anything. Gingrich aides and allies say his record also points to areas where he strived for compromise, especially on the environment—positions that could help him appeal to independents should he win the GOP nomination for president.

For now, though, some of those bills are causing Mr. Gingrich trouble among conservatives. Last week, at a private meeting with conservative leaders in Northern Virginia, Mr. Gingrich was pushed especially hard on his support of the Endangered Species Act, which conservatives view as an attack on private property rights.

The Violence Against Women Act, which passed the House unanimously when Mr. Gingrich joined 225 lawmakers as a co-sponsor, today is denounced by the conservative Concerned Women for America as "a big government boondoggle" that "provides a federal trough at which leftist activist organizations feed." The law provided grants for law enforcement efforts to prosecute and prevent crimes such as rape, and made interstate stalking a federal crime.

In the Running
Read more about the president and the GOP hopefuls


 .."Newt has always been improperly described as more or less a conservative ideologue, and that's never been the case," said Vin Weber, who served with Mr. Gingrich in the House but is a senior adviser to GOP candidate Mitt Romney. "He's certainly a right of center guy, but to pin him down ideologically is more difficult than the current campaign would have you believe."

On Wednesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney released an Internet video pressing his charge that Mr. Gingrich is an "unreliable leader."

But most Republican voters aren't buying the challenge to Mr. Gingrich's conservative credentials. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Tuesday, 57% of GOP primary voters identified him as conservative; 28% called him a moderate. Mr. Romney was identified as conservative by 29% of GOP primary voters.

"Conservatives have worked with Newt Gingrich for three decades. To go out and try to define Newt Gingrich as anything other than a conservative is a fool's errand," said Robert Walker, a senior adviser who served with him in the House.

Mr. Gingrich signed his name to dozens of Democratic bills during his 20 years in the House, most of them non-ideological and non-partisan. But some were signature pieces of liberal policy-making. Vice President Joe Biden still points to the Violence Against Women Act of 1993 as one of his proudest accomplishments as a senator.

In 1993, Mr. Gingrich backed an extension of the Endangered Species Act, written by then-Rep. Gerry Studds of Massachusetts. It would have protected species that may become endangered in the future and offered private landowners incentives to help preserve species.

Louisiana Rep. Bill Tauzin, a conservative Democrat who would switch parties after the 1994 election, drafted an alternative that would require compensation for impacted landowners. His version attracted the co-sponsorship of most of Mr. Gingrich's colleagues in the House GOP leadership. The Studds bill died after the 1994 election.

Journal Community
..In 1989, Mr. Gingrich backed the American Heritage Trust Act, sponsored by Mr. Udall, which would have slowly built up a $30 billion trust whose interest would be used for federal land acquisition. Republicans that May stormed out of a committee session to draft the bill after their amendments were rejected en masse.

That same year, Mr. Gingrich signed on to the Stratospheric Ozone Protection Act, joining Sen. Al Gore on an effort to control ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons. President George H.W. Bush would later mock Mr. Gore as "Ozone Man."

"The Democratic margin was such that partisanship and screaming and hollering wasn't going to get you anywhere," said Tom Bliley, a senior House Republican in the 1980s and 1990s. But both he and Mr. Walker said Mr. Gingrich was less conservative than many of his colleagues on environmental issues. "I would say he has a soft spot on issues of the environment," Mr. Walker said.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.) recalled working with Mr. Gingrich in 1989 on the Global Warming Prevention Act, at the same time Mr. Gingrich was pounding House Speaker Jim Wright for alleged ethical transgressions. Mr. Wright resigned that year. "He was a little bipolar," Mr. DeFazio said.

Write to Jonathan Weisman at jonathan.weisman@wsj.com

23372  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 15, 2011, 12:40:21 PM
I'm still having trouble grasping the logic that Hitler and Chamberlain were right?!?

I'm still having trouble grasping the logic that multi-ethnic national concepts of Europe are what the Arabs have in mind for the Jews, or the Coptic Christians in Egypt or the Christians in Iraq, or the non-Muslims pretty much anywhere in the Arab world.

I'm still trying to figure out the point behind the reference to the Holy Roman Empire.

"INT:Prof Said, do the Zionists have any historical claim to the lands of Israel ?
ES:  Of course. But I would not say that the Jewish claim is the only claim or the main claim. It is A claim among many others. Certainly the Arabs have a much greater claim because they have had a longer history of actual residence in Palestine than the Jews did. (BULLSH*T) If you look at the history of Palestine, there has been some very interesting work done by Biblical archeologists you will see that the period of actual „Israelite“ dominance in Palestine amounts to about 200 to 250 years. (OH REALLY?) There were also jebusites, kanaanites, philistines and many other people in Palestine, at the time and before and after. And to isolate one of them and say THATS the real owner of the land, I mean that is fundamentalism."

Where are these other groups now?  They have ceased to exist for thousands of years.  Only the Jews remain, as we have for these thousands of years.  We have been continuously longer in Israel than anyone else.  Why is Prof. Said, or anyone else for that matter, not upset at division of ethnic groups by the boundaries of Lebanon? Syria? Iraq?

Fundamentalism?!?  Look at the tolerance and diversity in Israel and compare it that that of its neighbors.  How can such accusations be taken seriously?


23373  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: December 15, 2011, 12:24:30 PM
Good points, well-reasoned.

I continue to post Wesbury because we always need to be challenge and question our assumptions.  We need to remember that when the DOW was at 6500, GM and I were predicting 6,000 and now we sit nearly 100% above that.  I would be a less poor man than I am now if I had not gotten this wrong.
23374  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: December 15, 2011, 12:20:25 PM
JDN:

As best as I can tell, we have done a rather strong job of collecting evidence that the government sent guns
(somehow the original number of 2,000-2,500 keeps getting massaged downward, now into "hundreds") out the door unsupervised.  Therefore it was NOT a sting.  Turning weapons loose with the hope and purpose that they wind up in bad guys hands doing bad things is NOT a sting.  It is a vile and morally deranged act.

Your continued pretense otherwise is a key ingredient to the frustrations with you being expressed here.

23375  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Alexander: Liberty vs. the Fatal Cycle of Democracy on: December 15, 2011, 12:02:45 PM
Alexander's Essay – December 15, 2011
Liberty v the Fatal Cycle of Democracy
The Path from Freedom to Bondage
"Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them." --Thomas Jefferson

December 15th marks the anniversary of the 1791 ratification of the Bill of Rights, the common name for the first 10 amendments to our Constitution. The purpose of the Bill was, and remains, to assert the enumeration of limitations on the national government in order to protect our natural rights to Liberty and property as "endowed by our Creator."
There was much debate among our Founders about the need to enumerate rights that are inherently endowed, especially as amendments rather than in the corpus of our Constitution. Alexander Hamilton argued this point in Federalist No. 84: "I ... affirm that bills of rights ... are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. ... For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?"
But a majority of our Founders, led by James Madison and George Mason, prevailed, and the state legislatures concurred with the addition of enumerated limitations on the central government, as outlined by the Bill of Rights Preamble: "The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added..."
Thus, it is a fitting day to pause and take account of the principles of Essential Liberty embodied in our Constitution, the sustenance for which generations of Patriots have expended much treasure, blood and life.
As a vigilant student of American history, I can't state too emphatically that we are at a tipping point between Liberty and tyranny. I also argue that this juncture is like no other since the Tenth Amendment challenge that was waged and lost in the War Between the States.
For those who choose to read such words as hyperbole, Samuel Adams said it best: "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands, which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
But it is the inherent nature of genuine Patriots to stand ever ready to defend Liberty, convicted that, in the words of George Washington, "Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind."
It is in that spirit that I offer this observation about this precarious position we now inhabit between freedom and bondage.
To understand the state of our Republic, one must consider it in the context of history to avoid repetition. As 20th-century philosopher George Santayana concluded in his treatise, "The Life of Reason": "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
   
   

In 1764, as historian Edward Gibbon "sat musing amidst the ruins" of Rome, he was inspired to write about the failure of republics. The original text of his seminal work, "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," was published in 1776, as our Patriot ancestors were declaring our natural right to Liberty. Gibbon outlined in detail how opulence and entitlement led to the incremental loss of civic virtue.
The 18th/19th century Scotsman Alexander Fraser Tytler, a lawyer and professor of history, summarized this link as follows: "[Patriotism], like all other affections and passions, it operates with the greatest force where it meets with the greatest difficulties ... but in a state of ease and safety, as if wanting its appropriate nourishment, it languishes and decays. ... It is a law of nature to which no experience has ever furnished an exception, that the rising grandeur and opulence of a nation must be balanced by the decline of its heroic virtues."
Tytler's assertion about the relationship between opulence and decadence reflected his astute understanding of human nature.
This contiguous rise and decline has been characterized as a fatal "Cycle of Democracy" (often misattributed to Tytler as its source). The cycle follows this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to Liberty (Rule of Law); From Liberty to abundance; From abundance to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage (rule of men).
So, at what stage of this rise and decline do we now find ourselves? In his recent book, "After America," Mark Steyn gives us a clue.
With their average 8th grade education, the Greatest Generation built the strongest and most innovative economy in history. However, "In the space of one generation," writes Steyn, "a nation of savers became the world's largest debtors, and a nation of makers and doers became a cheap service economy." Indeed, our country now hosts the most over-educated and under-productive generation in history, and has institutionalized a social subculture demanding government subsidies to compensate for their lack of initiative.
"Big government makes small citizens," Steyn concludes. "A great power can survive a lot of things, but not a mediocrity of spirit. A wealthy nation living on the accumulated cultural capital of a glorious past can dodge its rendezvous with fate, but only for so long."
It is my observation that since WWII, we have transitioned from abundance to complacency, from complacency to apathy and from apathy to dependence.  The rise of populist Socialism spawned by Barack Hussein Obama and his Leftist cadres, has resulted in a surge of dependence upon the state.
The manifestation of this dependence spilled onto the streets this year in the form of the "Occupy Movement."
In fact, Time Magazine, that erstwhile advocate of statism, just named its 2011 Person of the Year, "The Protester." Its cover story category, "Prelude to the Revolutions," lists in order of significance, first Tunisians protesting dictatorial tyranny, second Egyptians protesting dictatorial tyranny, and third, "Occupy Wall Street and its millions of supporters." (To be fair, a few paragraphs later Time did richly understate, "The stakes are very different in different places. In North America and most of Europe, there are no dictators, and dissidents don't get tortured.")
As for the gap between dependence and bondage, philosopher and author of "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand, wrote, "The difference between a welfare state and a totalitarian state is a matter of time."
The most pressing question now is this: Are we irrevocably locked into the Cycle of Democracy where totalitarian rule of men is inevitable, or is there still time to restore republican Rule of Law?
The answer, I believe, is no and yes, respectively. But time is short.
The prospect for restoring Liberty as enshrined in our Constitution continues to improve as the number of Americans joining the debate over the proper role of government authorized by our Constitution grows strong. There is a resurgence of Patriotism underway, and together we can sustain the sunrise on Liberty.
We can and must circumvent the Cycle of Democracy to avoid the terminus of Democratic Socialism which is bondage. Together, we can maintain the momentum of our mission and charge. Thank you Patriots for locking and loading on the frontlines of Liberty.
   
   

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Libertas aut Mortis!
 
Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

23376  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: December 15, 2011, 11:52:26 AM
Please note that we have always been in agreement that such devices can be used in the context of reasonable cause e.g. finding my son lost in the mountains so please cease with such irrelevancies.

The point I am making (and despite your high IQ you keep avoiding) is that due to technological advances and declining costs we are very much headed towards an Orwellian World where the State is putting in place a permanent surveillance grid where most of live with permanent records because it can.  Again I challenge you to answer this question:

"But lets put aside the issue of cost.  If massive all-pervasive surveillance could be afforded, would you be for or against it?  Under the logic you continuously give, the answer will be that you have no problem with it.  Your use of cost is essentially an evasion and/or subterfuge from the core point:  Do we have a right to live free of continuous surveillance absent reasonable cause?"

"Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them." --Thomas Jefferson
23377  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: December 15, 2011, 02:35:59 AM
"I'd point out that picking up and moving elsewhere was pretty rare for most people in human history , , , Your vision of privacy is based on a very small segment of history in a rapidly disappearing golden age."

This small segment of history started at Plymouth Rock.  From there it just kept on picking up and moving elsewhere pretty much non-stop.  Pretty exceptional some of us might say-- and along the way we have had to fight to keep it that way. Not for the first time freedom hangs in the balance and not for the first time will some of us step up for it.

I reject your call to defeatism.  I live it as I see it.  We all die.

23378  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: December 15, 2011, 02:06:29 AM
Surveillance by the State is different than nosy neighbors or small town gossip both in sitio-- and in the fact that one can move elsewhere and start fresh.  Perhaps your life experience in a small town has blinded you to this  grin 

May I suggest reading George Orwell's "1984"?
23379  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Peak Oil or Plateau oil? on: December 15, 2011, 02:00:11 AM
"When you divide the amount you have in reserves by the rate at which you are extracting the resource, you get the number of years the reserves will last at that rate of extraction. Accordingly, I include the R/P ratio in Figure 1 as “Years Left”
A couple of things to point out. First, the “Years Left”, the R/P ratio, is currently more than forty years … and has been for about a quarter century. Thirty years ago, we only had 30 years of proven oil reserves left. Estimates then said we would be running out of oil about now.
Twenty-five years ago, we had about forty years left. Ten years ago we had over forty years left. Now we have over forty-five years left. I’m sure you see the pattern here."
...
"Now, at some point this party has to slow down, nothing goes on forever … but the data shows we certainly don’t need to hurry to replace oil with solar energy or rainbow energy or wind energy in the next few decades. We have plenty of time for the market to indicate the replacement."
 
 
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/13/the-rp-ratio/#more-53061
23380  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: December 15, 2011, 12:56:54 AM
 cheesy

GM: 

Sneaky is the opposite of readily detectable.

A helicopter buzzing overhead is one helluva tip off that you might be being watched.  A satellite orbiting above earth than can tell the size of a woman's breasts is another matter, as are the tiny cameras and tiny flying nanobots that are in the pipeline-- and they will cost a fraction of what helicopters and planes cost to buy and operate.

But lets put aside the issue of cost.  If massive all pervasive surveillance could be afforded, would you be for or against it?  Under the logic you continuously give, the answer will be that you have no problem with it.  Your use of cost is essentially an evasion and/or subterfuge from the core point:  Do we have a right to live free of continuous surveillance absent reasonable cause?
23381  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: December 15, 2011, 12:46:57 AM
Rachel:  I do not remember saying "lower literacy" (though I tend to suspect it, and tend to doubt the integrity of studies that purport to show otherwise).  I simply say that mothers being present matters, and matters a lot. 

Agreed that what is right or necessary for some is not necessarily right or necessary for others, but on the whole I think in the big picture on the whole mothers mothering their children is a good thing and to say it doesn't matter if they do not inherently depreciates all the women who do care for their children.    Of course a good mother will go to work if she has to (and as the kids get older things change) but I distinguish the self-important selfish yuppie attitude which simply sees kids less important than her ego gratification.
 
23382  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: December 14, 2011, 09:11:40 PM
Tis a truly scary thought, but BINGO.  IMHO BBG has spoken the Truth.
23383  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: December 14, 2011, 08:31:47 PM
Amen!
23384  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: December 14, 2011, 07:42:18 PM
Too bad they don't have a second amendment , , ,
23385  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: The Republicans big mistake on: December 14, 2011, 07:36:40 PM


http://www.ftportfolios.com/Commentary/EconomicResearch/2011/12/14/the-republicans-big-mistake
23386  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SecDef Panetta's visit on: December 14, 2011, 06:05:29 PM


Dispatch: U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Turkey
December 14, 2011 | 2032 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:
 

Middle East Analyst Reva Bhalla examines the Iranian and Russian reactions to growing U.S.-Turkish strategic ties.


U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will be traveling to Turkey Thursday for a high-profile visit to showcase a growing U.S.-Turkish strategic partnership. The United States has every reason to display its strategic alliance with Turkey, but with Russia and Iran watching closely, Turkey still has a complex balancing act to maintain.
Panetta’s visit to Turkey comes just two week before a U.S. radar system is scheduled to be installed in eastern Turkey as part of the U.S.-led ballistic missile defense shield. The meetings are also expected to cover a $111 million deal between Ankara and Washington for U.S. drones that would be transferred from Iraq to Turkey as well as the U.S. sale of three AH-1 Super Cobra helicopters to Turkey. These are all items that Turkey has long been requesting from the U.S. to show its support in Turkey’s fight against the Kurdish militant group, the PKK.
There are a lot of reasons why the United States is paying more attention to Turkey these days. The U.S. will next week complete its withdrawal from Iraq, leaving behind a power vacuum for Iran to rapidly fill and use to project influence in the wider region. Turkey, a Sunni, non-Arab country with deep economic, military and political reach in the Middle East, is the natural geopolitical counterweight to Iran in the U.S.’s absence. Mesopotamia, lying between these two powers, is where you can expect to see Iranian-Turkish competition at its fiercest. Though Iran undoubtedly has the strongest foreign hand in Iraq these days, Turkey has been outpacing Iran in building up its intelligence, military and economic assets in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
The most obvious illustration of growing Turkish-Iranian competition can be seen in Syria, where Turkey has very publicly thrown its support behind the Syrian opposition, to the point of hosting Free Syrian Army defectors who are using their Turkish refuge to try and organize an insurgency against the regime in the Syria. Turkey, like the United States, Saudi Arabia and others in the region, see the regime crisis in Syria as the best possible way to cut through Iran’s Shiite arc of influence. Turkey’s moves have greatly unnerved Iran, which much preferred the days when Turkey attempted to be more of an honest broker between the U.S. and Iran and took care to avoid confrontation with its Persian neighbor. This is why the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps recently went so far as to directly threaten an attack on NATO’s missile defense installations on Turkish soil if the U.S. or Israel attacked the Islamic Republic. That was a warning that definitely caught Turkey’s attention, but has not prevented Turkey from following through in its BMD dealings with the United States.
Another key regional power eyeing Panetta’s visit in Turkey is Russia. Russia has already been escalating its protest against U.S. BMD plans in Central Europe in recent weeks, and even threatened to cut off a vital U.S. supply line to Afghanistan if Washington doesn’t reconsider its BMD plans. Russia is not happy with the thought of Turkey aligning itself more closely with the United States on such a strategic defense matter. The BMD installations themselves are not what’s important – what Russia cares about is the fact that the U.S. military is using the BMD shield to enlarge its military footprint in the former Soviet periphery with the ultimate aim of placing a check on Russian power. The Russians, however, do not want to provoke a confrontation with the Turks at this time. The last thing Russia wants is to give Turkey a reason to interfere in Russian designs in areas, like the Caucasus and the Black Sea, where Russian and Turkish influence overlap.
Turkey, highly conscious of its energy dependency on Russia and wary of inviting Iranian proxy attacks on Turkish soil, is not looking necessarily for a collision with Moscow or Tehran over BMD. At the same time, these three powers are operating in an extremely unique geopolitical environment in which all three regional powers — Turkey, Iran and Russia — are rising, while the global hegemon, the United States, is off balance. The growing Turkish-U.S. strategic relationship makes a great deal of sense in this context, but with that comes greater friction between Turkey and its historical regional rivals.
23387  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: December 14, 2011, 06:02:02 PM
BBG:

That was a very good read.

Marc
23388  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: December 14, 2011, 05:38:43 PM
WWWOOOFFF!!!  cool cool cool
23389  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ's case for Mitt on: December 14, 2011, 10:46:04 AM


Week 3,334 of Mitt Romney's quest for the presidency hasn't been a good one. Newt Gingrich has seized the lead in the polls. The voluble front-runner has even lined up with Ted Kennedy, Paul Krugman, Obama's campaign brain trust and the Pulitzer department of every major newspaper in assaulting Mr. Romney as a job killer for his role in private equity.

Oddly, though, these are now the discordant media notes. For the first time, and perhaps here we can blame the Gingrich phenomenon, the press has suddenly found Mr. Romney a fascinating, nuanced figure.

The New York Times discovers him frugal in his personal habits, generous with his family, personally U-Hauling the clan's gear between vacation homes. The Washington Post says that in debates Mr. Romney's "body language speaks of physical modesty, discipline." Another Post profile finds him "supremely rational," a "problem solver," "devoted to data," keenly appreciative of the role of "incentives."

Stereotypes are fun: The greedy businessman. The sneering, tenured professor. The clapped-out pundit who hides his creative destitution behind crude appeals to prejudice. But Mr. Romney never really fit his assigned part as Gordon Gekko or Milburn Drysdale. His Bain Capital period has already been in the rearview mirror for 12 years. When other private equity pioneers were turning their millions into billions, he left to rescue the Winter Olympics.

Before Bain, he spent two years proselytizing for Mormon converts in the unpromising vineyards of France. After Bain, once his financial independence was secured, he turned with suspicious enthusiasm to politics and policy.

Of his Bain period, a former colleague (not a supporter) said it best: The goal wasn't to maximize job creation but to maximize returns for the private equity fund's investors.

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Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich
.At that, he succeeded. At rescuing the Olympics, he succeeded. At winning the Massachusetts governorship, he succeeded. At crafting a bipartisan Massachusetts health-care plan, he succeeded. At subsidizing demand for health care without breaking the bank, he didn't succeed.

RomneyCare has been his biggest albatross, yet it merely makes him the soulmate of our two most recent presidents, ideological opposites though they are considered to be. Both Presidents Bush and Obama also expanded access to health care without figuring out how to pay for it.

Mr. Romney should probably just tell the truth: He faced a political imperative to act but no political consensus to act effectively, so he acted ineffectively. Oh well. His lack of a consistent ideological lodestar might be a handicap when a lodestar is needed. But—and we know this contravenes everything you've been taught—America is not headed in 2012 for a landmark decision on the size and role of government. America is headed only for a moment of recognition.

Like Greece. Like the troubled businesses Bain overhauled. Like the failing Salt Lake City Olympics. There's no money to pay for bigger and bigger government. There's no money to pay for the government we've already promised ourselves. Yes, around the edges, there may be room for adjustment, if we can get the economy growing again. But that means tax reform to make the fiscal engine more efficient, not tax hikes on some imaginary motherlode of billionaires to get us off the horns of our dilemma.

On the particular problem that made a fool out of Mr. Romney (and Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama), don't worry, bankrupting the nation to pay for health care is not an option. If we do nothing, if entitlements remain unreformed, the money simply will be withheld to pay for them. You'll still be entitled to that knee operation at taxpayer expense. Good luck finding a doctor to perform it. The waiting list will be long.

Our world that's coming is a world of narrowing, not widening, choices. It's a world that suits Mr. Romney's skills and history, his knack for operating within constraints and making choices based on data, data, data. Mr. Obama lives in the same world, of course, but is unequipped to deal with it given his dubious gifts for execution, execution, execution. Also, given his inclination to seek refuge in a clueless reverie of big new programs at a time when the resources simply don't exist.

Nor is there a Big Idea that can transform our unhappy prospects. Lunar mining will not rescue Medicare. People like Mr. Gingrich play a useful role in politics: It's good to be able to talk thrillingly about history, civilization. But they make bad—perhaps we should say, unnecessary—presidents. When ideas are new and unfamiliar, they're not executable. When they're executable we need people who can execute.

The consensus for painful reform comes when the status quo hits the wall. It's a myth that we don't know what our choices are. That's the Romney moment. His strong suit has always been to do what everyone else has put off.

23390  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: December 14, 2011, 10:39:12 AM
GM:

Frankly I see these articles you post as non-responsive to the points I am making.

a) we should not depend upon costs of intrusive surveillance for the protection of our freedom
b) costs of the technolgy are and will continue to decline dramatically
c) the technologies capabilities and sneakiness are and will continue to increase dramatically.

======

On a different but related matter, its a good thing that we have Attorney General Holder to protect us from the misuse of surveilling technology in the government's hands like this:

WSJ


In August 2010, Libyan journalist Khaled Mehiri shot an email to his editor at al-Jazeera proposing an article about the hollow nature of the Gadhafi regime's anticorruption efforts.

Before the story was even written, the regime knew about it. Libyan security agents had intercepted the email, using an Internet-surveillance system purchased from a French company, Amesys.

For months, the agents monitored the journalist's emails and Facebook messages via the Amesys tools, printing out messages and storing them in a file that The Wall Street Journal recovered in an abandoned electronic-surveillance headquarters in Tripoli.

In January 2011, as the Arab Spring was exploding in neighboring Tunisia and unrest was building in Libya, Mr. Mehiri was summoned for a face-to-face meeting with Moammar Gadhafi's intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, who Mr. Mehiri says admonished him not to publish remarks by certain leading anti-Gadhafi activists.
The surveillance operation now is causing headaches for Amesys, a unit of French technology company Bull SA. Lawmakers from the opposition Socialist Party in France have called for a parliamentary inquiry into any role the French government might have played in facilitating Amesys's sale of equipment to Libya. Human-rights groups have filed court complaints asking French prosecutors to investigate Amesys for what the groups call possible violations of export rules and complicity in torture. Prosecutors haven't yet ruled on the requests.

The French company acknowledges it sold Web-surveillance equipment to Libya but says it has done nothing wrong. "All Amesys activities strictly adhere to the statutory and regulatory requirements of both European and French international conventions," a spokeswoman said. "We are fully prepared to answer any questions which the legal authorities may ask us."

French government officials said the presidency and the office of then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy were routinely informed of Amesys's negotiations and the subsequent contract in Libya. French authorities, however, didn't vet the Amesys export to Libya because such equipment doesn't require a special license when sold outside France, the officials said. Mr. Sarkozy, who became president in May 2007, declined to comment through a spokesman.

In statements, Amesys and parent company Bull have emphasized that Libya had become a counterterrorism ally with Western governments by 2007, when the contract was signed.

Mr. Mehiri's tangle with the Libyan surveillance apparatus shows how U.S. and European interception technology, though often exported for the stated purpose of tracking terrorists, could instead be deployed against dissidents, human-rights campaigners, journalists or everyday enemies of the state—all categories that appear in Libyan surveillance files reviewed by the Journal.

The story also underscores how the intelligence apparatus overseen by Mr. Senussi, the spy chief, invaded the lives of Libyans amid acquiescence from the West.

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Emails of reporter Khaled Mehiri, pictured, were monitored, and he was called to a meeting with Gadhafi spy chief Abdullah Senussi.
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Abdullah Senussi
.Mr. Mehiri calls Amesys's decision to sell Libya an invasive spying tool despite Gadhafi's history of repression "a cowardly act and a flagrant violation of human rights," adding: "To me, they are therefore directly involved in the work of the Gadhafi criminal regime."

Mr. Senussi is wanted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague on war-crimes charges for his role in the brutal crackdown against Libyan protesters this spring. About three weeks ago, forces loyal to Libya's transitional government said they had apprehended him, but the government hasn't confirmed this. His whereabouts remain unclear.

Philippe Vannier, a former head of Amesys and current chief executive of Bull, was seen in Tripoli meeting with Mr. Senussi around 2007, according to a person familiar with the matter. Bull and Mr. Vannier declined to comment on that.

Mr. Senussi was long viewed by human-rights advocates as one of Gadhafi's most ruthless operatives, suspected of a role in the assassinations of Libyan dissidents abroad. A French court in 1999 convicted him in absentia of masterminding the 1989 bombing of a French airplane in central Africa that killed 170 people.

Libyan authorities didn't make Mr. Senussi available for questioning by the French court. It is unclear whether he ever made any public statement concerning the bombing or assassinations.

Mr. Mehiri antagonized the Gadhafi regime with articles that took aim at rights abuses. He wrote about poverty that persisted despite Libya's oil wealth. He came to be considered by some an expert on a mass killing of more than 1,200 inmates in Tripoli's Abu Salim prison in June 1996, after he spent months interviewing relatives and survivors.

Mr. Mehiri, 38 years old, grew up in a small town outside the eastern city of Benghazi and studied journalism there. He worked for various Libyan media outlets, some of which were shut down. When Internet service became widespread in the country around 2004, he worked for online Arabic news outlets, including one of the top Libyan dissident sites, Libya Today. In 2007 he started writing for the website of al-Jazeera, the Arabic television channel based in Qatar.

"I had ambitions to find professional and free journalism in my country," Mr. Mehiri says. "For this reason, I decided not to leave the field and to continue my work no matter the circumstances or threats against me."

Those threats ebbed and flowed, he says. By the mid-2000s, he found himself the defendant in a series of what he calls harassment lawsuits, filed by people he said had ties to the security agencies. Human-rights lawyers came to his defense, helping him avoid stiff penalties or jail time in these cases.

In 2009, however, he was convicted of the criminal offense of working for a foreign news organization without the proper license, after a controversial interview he gave to al-Jazeera. In it, he alleged, based on his reporting about the mass prison killing, that Mr. Senussi was at the prison that day, a conclusion that groups like Human Rights Watch have also reached based on survivor testimony.

Mr. Mehiri says a prosecutor allowed him to remain free on condition he sign in each week at the central judicial office in Tripoli. Harassment by intelligence agencies increased, however, he says, including interrogation by prosecutors who said he was under investigation for spying and threatening state security—crimes punishable by death.

During this period, Gadhafi, long a pariah to Western governments, was reaping the benefits of a newfound acceptance. Libya started to come in from the cold around 2003 by relinquishing its weapons of mass destruction program, agreeing to help fight terrorism and later paying large sums to the families of terrorism victims, including those killed in the airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, for which a Libyan was convicted.

In 2007, Mr. Sarkozy welcomed Gadhafi on an official visit to France, his first in more than three decades.

The Libyan regime saw an opportunity to upgrade its surveillance capability with French technology, according to people familiar with the matter.

Amesys signed its contract with Libya that year, it said, and then in 2008 shipped its "Eagle" surveillance system and sent engineers to Libya to help set it up. The system became fully operational in 2009, the people familiar with it said.

The Libyan government now had a powerful new tool to track its adversaries. The system intercepted traffic from Libya's main Internet service provider and sent it to the monitoring center in Tripoli, which the Journal found in August after rebels overran the capital city.

There, a wall of black refrigerator-size devices inspected the Internet traffic, opening emails, divining passwords, snooping on online chats and mapping connections among various suspects. A sign on the wall in the main room gave the name, French phone number and Amesys corporate email of an Amesys employee, Renaud Roques, to call for technical help. Mr. Roques didn't respond to a request for comment. The Amesys spokeswoman said the company didn't have access to the use made of the equipment in the center.

In an adjoining room, a file on Mr. Mehiri, bound in a green folder marked with the name of Libya's internal-security service, lay amid scores of others stacked in floor-to-ceiling shelves. It shows he had been subjected to electronic surveillance at least as far back as August 2010 and as recently as last February.

The file consists of dozens of pages of emails. All feature the designation "https://eagle/interceptions" in the upper right corner, an indication that agents printed out the messages using the Eagle interception system from Amesys.

The file reveals a journalist working to document the underbelly of Libya, while struggling to fend off pressure from the regime.

In an email to a Human Rights Watch researcher, Mr. Mehiri frets about a defamation suit, which he worries could become a pretext for an arrest. In another email, he tells the researcher the date of the first hearing and updates her on the case of another Libyan journalist.

"Please do not reveal my identity because things are risky here," he writes. "We hope that you support the journalists here in Libya."

Much of the file consists of emails between Mr. Mehiri and other journalists, including editors at al-Jazeera, describing his ideas for articles. One was to be a piece about a Gadhafi son who said there was no strife in Libya. Another he planned was about how Libya was compensating victims of bombings by the Irish Republican Army, which Libya at one point helped arm, but not victims of the Libyan prison massacre.

Mr. Mehiri long suspected his communications were being monitored, but didn't confirm this until a meeting in January with a longtime source, a Gadhafi cousin and policy adviser. He says the man told him the regime had copies of his emails. "He even described the color of the text written by my editors when they were making changes in my copy," Mr. Mehiri says.

A few days later, Mr. Mehiri found himself in a confrontation with the official whose surveillance apparatus had been tracking him. He was summoned to a meeting with Mr. Senussi in Tripoli on Jan. 16. It was two days after the departure from office of Tunisia's president, Zine el Abedine Ben Ali, signaled the full explosion of the Arab Spring.

Mr. Mehiri says he showed up for the meeting in Mr. Senussi's office wearing jeans, tennis shoes and an old jacket, a sign of disrespect in his culture, because he wanted to show he wasn't scared.

The meeting lasted four hours. Mr. Senussi, a man with jet-black curly hair and small, deep-set eyes, talked about the need for reform in Libya and said the government was interested in change, but he also leveled subtle but clear threats, Mr. Mehiri says. He warned not to publish remarks by certain core activists and reminded Mr. Mehiri that he could be picked up by police at will because of his prior conviction.

"He argued about my style in covering events," Mr. Mehiri says. "I spoke about myself, my family, my profession and the origin and history of my tribe. I found out that he already knew all my personal information."

Libyan agents continued to intercept Mr. Mehiri's emails after the meeting. They printed out one he sent two days later to editors at al-Jazeera.

"Tomorrow, journalists here are holding a protest against confiscating people's properties," he wrote. "Should I send a report?"

Surveillance continued after the uprising began. On Feb. 25, Libyan agents intercepted an email sent by a Libyan law professor, Faiza al Basha, to a group that included Mr. Mehiri and employees of the U.S. State Department and a United Nations agency, in which she advocated trying to get Google Inc. to open up a live view of Libya on Google Earth that would "help us track down the security personnel and therefore inform protesters and demonstrators about the locations of the security personnel so they can avoid them." Ms. Basha confirmed making that suggestion "to help the rebels achieve the liberation."

By then, Mr. Mehiri wasn't checking his email. Though he had covered the protests the first few days after they broke out in eastern Libya on Feb. 15, he began to worry that if the regime sent troops to Benghazi, he was likely to pay for his years of criticizing it. Fearing also for his wife and young son, he put down his recorder and reporting pad and went into hiding. He stayed out of view for the rest of the war.

"When I went underground, large amounts of news discussing this crackdown was not published," Mr. Mehiri says. All along, the medium had been the message, he says: "Surveillance alone is enough to terrorize people."

Mr. Mehiri came out of hiding in September, shortly after Libya's rebels gained control of the capital. He's now back at work in Benghazi writing about Libya's political changes for al-Jazeera.

—David Gauthier-Villars contributed to this article.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203764804577056230832805896.html#ixzz1gWloxI4h
23391  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 14, 2011, 10:25:32 AM
Amen.

Grateful for each day's Adventure!
23392  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Stratolaunch, Rutan & Allen on: December 14, 2011, 10:12:55 AM

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen indicated he is prepared to commit $200 million or more of his wealth to build the world's largest airplane as a mobile platform for launching satellites at low cost, which he believes could transform the space industry.

Announced Tuesday, the novel, high-risk project conceived by renowned aerospace designer Burt Rutan seeks to combine engines, landing gears and other parts removed from old Boeing 747 jets with a newly created composite craft from Mr. Rutan and a powerful rocket to be built by a company run by Internet billionaire and commercial-space pioneer Elon Musk.

Dubbed Stratolaunch and funded by one of Mr. Allen's closely held entities, the venture seeks to meld decades-old airplane technology with cutting-edge booster-rocket designs in an unprecedented way to assemble a hybrid that would offer the first totally privately funded space transportation system.

The ultimate goal—which has eluded corporate and government rocket scientists for decades—is to build a reliable and flexible aircraft-based launch option capable of hurling satellites as heavy as a pickup truck into low-earth orbit.

Intent on recycling parts to reduce both development time and expense, Mr. Allen nonetheless conceded in an interview that "the price of admission is stiff for these kinds of projects."

Messrs. Rutan and Allen, who made history in 2004 by teaming up on SpaceShip One, the first privately built rocket ship to reach the edge of space, now hope to modify and supersize that same concept. Industry officials estimate Mr. Allen spent at least $25 million on their original venture, and he doesn't dispute that.

Without releasing specific numbers, the billionaire investor and philanthropist reiterated Tuesday that the latest effort "will end up costing at least an order of magnitude more than I put into SpaceShip One."

Stressing that he has "long dreamed about taking the next big step in space flight," Mr. Allen released a statement emphasizing he hoped to usher in "the dawn of radical change in the space launch industry." But in response to questions from reporters, he said Vulcan Inc., his Seattle-based investment company, wouldn't be ready with such a large financial commitment "if we didn't think there were going to be a lot of customers."

Related
Earlier: Budget, Technical Woes Hamper Space Ventures
Earlier: SpaceX Wins Major Deal to Launch Commercial Satellite

.Mr. Allen and his team hope to offer attractive rates well below current launch costs, which can run anywhere from $30 million to more than $200 million, depending on the weight of the payload and height of the orbit.

The concept seems to border on science fiction. It envisions a behemoth mother ship with twin, narrow fuselages, featuring six Boeing Co. 747 engines attached to a record 385-foot wingspan, plus a smaller rocket pod nestled underneath. Expected to weigh roughly 1.2 million pounds, the combination would roughly match the maximum takeoff weight of the largest, fully loaded Airbus A380 superjumbo plane, but the wings would be more than 120 feet longer than those of the Airbus A380.

Flying at roughly 30,000 feet, the craft would climb sharply just as it released the rocket, which would use a cluster of four or five engines to boost itself into orbit.

The sheer size of the endeavor presents severe engineering and production challenges. While scientists have long studied the principles of air-launched rockets—Mr. Rutan recalls beginning preliminary work on such a project as long ago as 1991—Stratolaunch Systems Inc., as the new venture is called, still hasn't firmed up critical design details.

In an interview, Gary Wentz, a former senior National Aeronautics and Space Administration official tapped as the new company's chief executive, suggested the business case for the project also may be fluid. He didn't give details about the most likely types of missions and why the new system would manage to attract a wider range of customers than NASA's phased-out Delta II rockets, which Stratolaunch hopes to replace. The Delta II's production costs and other expenses were too high to justify serving limited government and commercial markets.

Unlike conventional rockets that blast off from a pad, air-launched systems similar to the one Mr. Allen wants to put together are designed to deliver a broad range of satellites to space without the constraints of weather or optimal times and locations to try to reach specific orbits.

As a result, the project's motto is "any orbit, any time," and a big selling point is that the carrier aircraft can relocate more than 1,300 miles without refueling to search for a suitable launch location.

Costs are supposed to be kept under control partly by recycling 1960's-vintage airplane technology and partly by spreading rocket development and operating costs across various commercial, military and civilian missions. Different-size versions of the proposed rocket already have flown and are currently under development by Mr. Musk's team for U.S. government and commercial launches, as well as for foreign customers.

If all goes well, Stratolaunch officials predict test flights of the hybrid space vehicles could begin in five years and commercial operations could commence by the end of the decade. "I'm optimistic because we're reusing so much existing technology," Mr Allen said.

Ultimately, the aim is to spur human space flight, though the officials acknowledged work on a capsule that potentially could carry astronauts or, less likely, a spaceplane with wings vaguely resembling NASA's retired space shuttles, remains at an early stage.

Mr. Rutan, renowned for his engineering prowess and penchant for secrecy, said in an in interview that one of the nagging questions had been "whether you could build something big enough to deliver a significant payload to orbit." The plan calls for launching satellites weighing up to 13,500 pounds.

Scaled Composites LLC of Mojave, Calif., the company Mr. Rutan founded and sold to Northrop Grumman Corp. years ago, is slated to build the all-composite structure. Mr. Rutan retired a few months ago but agreed to sit on the new company's board. Speaking of his close relationship with Mr. Allen and calling the former Microsoft chief technologist "a visionary" when it comes to space flight, Mr. Rutan said "he is more than someone you just go to for money."

The 58-year-old billionaire, along with high-school classmate Bill Gates, wrote the programming language that led to the founding of Microsoft.Since he left Microsoft in 1983, Mr. Allen has launched into a variety of enterprises. He founded a rock museum in Seattle as well as a computer museum that houses old mammoth-sized servers. He and owns the Seattle Seahawks football team and the Portland Trailblazers basketball team. He lost $8 billion in his investment with cable company Charter Communications when it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

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Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp.
.The proposed launch system also brings into the mix a third high-profile champion of commercial space flight: Mr. Musk, who so far has spent some $100 million of his personal fortune on Space Exploration Technologies Corp., a Southern California start-up that last December became the first commercial entity to successfully launch and recover a capsule from outside the atmosphere. His company, called SpaceX, is slated to supply a slimmed-down version of its Falcon 9 rocket.

With its historic breakthrough, SpaceShip One helped give birth to the fledgling space-tourism industry—its basic design was embraced by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic LLC suborbital project. Virgin Galactic also harbors dreams of satellite launches, but its primary focus will be giving thrill rides exposing passengers briefly to the sensations of weightlessness.

In a statement Tuesday, the Virgin Galactic chief said he welcomed the announcement because "the potential of the industry we are leading is immense, but will depend on the continuing emergence of truly safe, affordable and transformative technologies." Messrs. Allen And Rutan, the statement said, boast a "record in that respect (that) is unmatched."

The latest brainchild of Mr. Allen, who also thought earlier about launching a space-tourism venture, suggests the logical evolution of commercial space efforts. Until now, the budding industry has primarily featured companies operating on their own and typically eschewing connections to mainstream space firms or leaders. But Stratolaunch Systems, based in Huntsville, Ala., the center of traditional U.S. rocket design, has former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, as directors.



Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203518404577096493595261190.html#ixzz1gWg41t1j
23393  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Issa to interview gun sting principal again on: December 14, 2011, 09:06:11 AM
‘Fast and Furious’ Gets New Scrutiny
Issa to Interview Gun Sting Principal Again

By Jonathan Strong


Congressional investigators will get another crack at one of the Justice Department principals for Operation Fast and Furious, a weapons sting that has set up an oversight battle between Republicans and the Obama administration.

Dennis Burke, the former U.S. attorney for Arizona, will be interviewed by the office of Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for the first time since an interview over the summer was cut short.

When Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) first asked the Justice Department about allegations that a gun-smuggling investigation on the Southwestern border allowed hundreds of assault weapons to escape into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, Burke denounced Grassley for even asking the question.

“What is so offensive about this whole project is that Grassley’s staff, acting as willing stooges for the gun lobby, have attempted to distract from the incredible success in dismantling [Southwest border] gun trafficking operations,” Burke told Justice Department lawyers who were preparing a response.

Pushing lawyers to “categorical[ly]” deny the allegations, Burke bristled when other officials raised the “risks” of an aggressive denial. “What risk?” Burke wrote to colleagues.

Grassley had questioned whether two AK-47s that had been found at the site of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry’s murder had been tracked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ investigation.

In fact, they had been. But Burke, in a Feb. 4 email, blasted Grassley’s office for “lobbing this reckless despicable accusation that ATF is complicit in the murder of a fellow federal law enforcement officer.”

The same day the email was sent, the Justice Department would send a letter to Grassley broadly denying that ATF investigations had allowed guns to “walk,” which means ending surveillance on guns suspected to be in transit to criminal networks.

Attorney General Eric Holder has since conceded the letter contained false information, and the letter was formally withdrawn by the Justice Department on Dec. 2.

“Any instance of so-called gunwalking was unacceptable. This tactic was unfortunately used as part of Fast and Furious,” Holder told Senators at a Nov. 8 Judiciary Committee hearing. “This should never have happened.”

Burke received frequent oral and written briefings from the operation’s lead prosecutor and from ATF officials heading it. Congressional investigators have asked whether Burke knew gunwalking tactics were being used at the time he told Justice Department lawyers to deny to Congress they were, and if not, how he could have been ignorant about them.

In an Aug. 18 transcribed interview, Burke opened by saying he was taking responsibility for Fast and Furious. “I’m not going to say mistakes were made. I’m going to say we made mistakes,” Burke said, according to a source close to the investigation.

He hinted at his role urging Justice Department lawyers to deny Fast and Furious allowed guns to walk, saying, “I regret that I was strident” when Grassley first contacted the Justice Department.

Burke said he didn’t have “full knowledge” of the investigation at the time the letter was sent and talked about how his “attitude” about the case had “evolved.”

Pressed repeatedly about what exactly he had learned since he urged the Justice Department to broadly deny guns were walked, Burke cited matters such as how long the case took and that there should have been more questions about “anecdote” from Fast and Furious that “occurred in Mexico.”

Unlike other officials, such as Kenneth Melson, the former head of ATF, Burke did not describe a process of learning that the investigation was allowing hundreds of assault weapons to escape to Mexican drug cartels.

Burke eventually asked to “come back to you on that” so he could “give it more thought.”

Today’s interview represents the continuation.

“These aren’t the answers you would anticipate from someone who was in the dark and had only recently come to learn about the outrages in Fast and Furious,” the source close to the investigation said.

A Dec. 7 “frequently asked questions” memo from Democrats on the House Oversight panel sent to Democratic staff and obtained by Roll Call asks whether Burke “approve[d]” of gunwalking in Fast and Furious.

“No, according to then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke,” the memo said, citing other portions of Burke’s Aug. 18 interview in which he denied approving the tactic’s use and said he did not “recall” knowledge of its use.

“Did you ever discuss with [ATF Special Agent-in-Charge William Newell] a deliberate tactic of non-interdiction to see where the weapons ended up? To see if they ended up with the [cartel] in Mexico?” Congressional investigators asked Burke.

“I do not recall that at all,” Burke said.

However, in January 2010, Burke was prompted by lawyers in his office to decide on two tactical approaches in Fast and Furious, according to documents released by the Justice Department on Oct. 31.

Emory Hurley, the lead prosecutor on Fast and Furious, discussed the approaches in a Jan. 5, 2010, memo about the main target of the case, Manuel Celis Acosta, who was suspected of trafficking more than 600 firearms to Mexico.

“In the past, ATF agents have investigated cases similar to this by confronting the straw purchasers and hoping for an admission that might lead to charges,” Hurley wrote. “Straw purchasers” are individuals who buy guns on behalf of gun traffickers.

Rather than use that approach, “Local ATF favors pursuing a wire[tap] and surveillance to build a case against the leader of the organization,” Hurley wrote.

Mike Morrisey, also from the Arizona U.S. attorney’s office, forwarded the memo to Burke via email and said, “local ATF is on board with our strategy but ATF headquarters may want to do a smaller straw purchaser case.”

Burke replied, “Hold out for bigger. Let me know whenever and w/ whomever I need to weigh-in.”

In an Oct. 21 memo prior to that correspondence, Hurley had written that “[a]gents have not purposefully let guns ‘walk.’”

Issa’s office has not yet interviewed Hurley. 
23394  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mujer que patea a un hombre en la cabeza on: December 14, 2011, 08:17:54 AM
De acuerdo.

Quiero subrayar que respeto mucho las habilidades de personas de MMA, lo incluyo como parte de mi entrenamiento y hay varios cuentos de ellos usando sus habilidades en situaciones en la calle. 

La experiencia de pelear MMA, la cual es en condiciion de adrenalina por lo cual se instala muy profundamente, tiene el riesgo de un eslabon debil-- la logica interna del MMA es de 1 x 1 sin armas con logicia de herarquia.  Responder asi' incluir errores de tactica-- como vemos aqui en este clip.

El reto es en entrenar de una manera que desarrolle nuestras habilidades y mentalidades para la calle.  Hay que haber adrenalina como parte de la experiencia-- y eso MMA hace muy, muy bien-- ?como lo hacemos nosotros?
23395  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Estudio: ?Que paso' aqui? on: December 14, 2011, 08:09:00 AM
"Hombres, instruyan a sus mujeres para reaccionar eficientemente en casos como este, ellas pueden ayudar mucho."

!Muy importante ese concepto!  (Cabe mencionar que nuestro DVD "Die Less Often" ofrece unos ideas al respeto  cheesy )

Tambien, vale preguntarnos sobre el tema de armarnos.  Para muchas personas la decision andar armado es algo nuevo, y posiblemente dificil. 

Al decidirlo, surge el asunto de cual herramiento escoger.

Entendido que en Mexico y otros partes de Latino America es muy comun que la ley prohiba andar con pistola, ?pero que dice la ley donde vive cada uno de Uds sobre cuchillo? )?Importa lo que diga la ley?)  Tambien hay otros herramientos utiles-- una pluma fuerte ("tactical pen") con buen entramiento en como usarlo una PF o cosa semajante puede ser bastante util.

23396  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: GRAN ÉXITO DEL SEMINARIO DBMA EN MÉXICO CON GURO MARC DENNY on: December 14, 2011, 07:58:13 AM
A para mi siempre es un gran placer estar el huesped de Mauricio y Uds.   Estoy bien contento con el progreso que veo en los estudiantes del Mauricio y estar en Mexico una vez mas.
23397  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / T. Paine, Common Sense 1776 on: December 14, 2011, 07:55:34 AM
"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer." --Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776
23398  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH/NYT Sunni Awakening and the US departure on: December 14, 2011, 07:52:53 AM
RAMADI, Iraq — Meeting various neighbors and supplicants on a recent evening, America’s staunchest ally in Iraq, Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, sat in a tent sipping tea from an implausibly tiny glass cup. He greeted each new visitor with a hearty outburst of “dear one” and a kiss on the cheek.
At one point a young man walked in carrying an M-16 rifle, leaned over and kissed the sheik on the cheek, too, in a clear sign of loyalty from a member of a tribal militia.
Mr. Abu Risha is often credited with helping turn the tide of the Iraq war beginning in 2006 by rallying local tribal leaders to fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, which has some foreign members. He still commands, by his own estimate, about 80,000 militia members.
With two weeks left before the United States military completes its withdrawal from Iraq, these units, known broadly as the Sunni Awakening, still remain outside the new Iraqi police force and army. Ragtag groups of men wearing jeans and carrying rifles at dusty checkpoints throughout western Iraq, they are a loose end left by the United States.
Some Awakening members are former insurgents and members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party who fought in a nationalist wing of the Sunni uprising early in the war, a matter of grave concern to the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Without the buffer provided by the Americans, relations between the Awakening and the central government, always touchy, are growing increasingly strained, and the government now wants the Awakening to disband by Dec. 31, the deadline for the exit of the United States military.
Mr. Abu Risha, in an interview in his compound beside a lazy bend in the Euphrates River, said members of the tribal militias in western Iraq were not likely to disarm quickly — and certainly not by the end of the month.
“I don’t think the Awakening members will give up their weapons,” he said, contending that the problem was a lack of government protection against Al Qaeda. “They want to defend themselves. The weapons they carry are their personal weapons.”
In the tradition of the endless negotiations, feints and shifting alliances of desert tribes, the Sunni chieftains in Anbar Province unexpectedly switched sides in 2006 and 2007, in perhaps the most important single step for establishing stability here after the war and the insurgency. Once on the American side, they were an enormous help in hunting down their former insurgent allies, members of the Islamic militias, including Al Qaeda.
Members of the Abu Risha family first caught the eye of American commanders in Anbar Province by attacking trucks carrying Qaeda militants passing on the highway in front of their compound in 2006.
These were acts of vengeance more than politics; Al Qaeda had killed eight family members. But they illustrated that the tribe and the United States had a common enemy. Soon, platoons of Marines were dropping into the Abu Risha compound for feasts of lamb and rice, and fighting side by side with former insurgents and Baathists they might have been battling just months before.
But the pendulum is now swinging back toward repression of Baathists, something being discussed over tea in places like Mr. Abu Risha’s tent, pitched in the courtyard of his fortresslike compound.
The Shiite-dominated central government has arrested prominent Sunnis on accusations that they are secret members of the long-disbanded Baath Party, which has alienated Sunni elites. Meanwhile, a Sunni revolt a few hundred miles to the north of here against the Shiite-aligned government in neighboring Syria is gathering force.
Last month, government police officers wounded two guards and detained two others in a raid on the home of a Sunni, Sheik Albo Baz, in Salahuddin Province, prompting a protest by several thousand Sunnis in Samarra, a city divided by sect.
This followed the roundup by police officers of 600 suspected Baath Party sympathizers in October; they were accused of planning a coup.
Distressingly for Sunnis, the government paraded some of those arrested on state television in a bizarre spectacle: relatives of their supposed victims were invited into the room and screamed at the suspects, and demanded their execution. Such a program was a tradition on Mr. Hussein’s state television, though the suspects then were more likely to be Shiites.
In the interview, Mr. Abu Risha produced an envelope containing photographs of shrapnel damage on an armored sport utility vehicle, proof, he said, that he was the target of an assassination attempt two months ago on a highway in Abu Ghraib.
He said a Shiite-dominated police brigade that is part of the central government was responsible, because the roadside bomb that struck his car, ineffectually, was set 50 yards from one of the brigade’s watch towers.
The government has denied this, though the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr agreed to open an investigation into the unit, called the Muthana Brigade.
Mr. Maliki and other Shiite politicians insist that they are legally fighting sedition among former Baathists, and that the police are evenhanded with Sunnis.
Mohammad Rida, a member of the Sadrist party in Iraq’s Parliament, said in an interview that the government had documents indicating that Baath Party sleeper cells intended to stage a coup after the American withdrawal. The police obtained the names of hundreds of conspirators in a confession by a former Baathist detained in July, he said.
In addition, Mr. Rida said, documents found in the ruins of the Libyan intelligence office after the fall of Tripoli corroborated the plot. “Iraq did what any other country would do,” he said. “We responded.”
Mr. Abu Risha’s compound is less than a mile from what used to be Camp Blue Diamond, home of the young United States Army officers who first struck up a friendship with him, and who brought him to the American side. (A grandfather of Mr. Abu Risha had chosen a different path, choosing to fight the British occupation in the 1920s.)
About 30,000 former Awakening militia members have received jobs in the Anbar police, and thousands more have entered the army. Mr. Abu Risha said about 80,000 remained in irregular tribal-based units. The central government has put thatfigure at 50,000.
Mr. Abu Risha has entered politics, with nine supporters in Parliament, but he does not hold public office, wielding power instead in informal gatherings over tea or feasts at his house.
He often cites the Iraqi Constitution in asserting rights for Anbar Province and describes himself as an Iraqi patriot opposed to any foreign meddling in Iraq, whether from Syria or Iran.
In the latest calibration of his loyalties, Mr. Abu Risha has become a steadfast supporter of Kurdistan-style autonomy for the Sunni desert regions of western and northern Iraq, a position gaining traction in provincial councils. This, he said, would resolve disagreements with the central government about the expected wealth from natural gas fields in the desert and the future of militias, with regions being granted the right to field their own guard units.
“We will form a region,” he said.

23399  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah finances self with drug trade money on: December 14, 2011, 07:45:56 AM
Long piece in the NY Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/world/middleeast/beirut-bank-seen-as-a-hub-of-hezbollahs-financing.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2
23400  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Final Details on: December 13, 2011, 11:08:03 PM


Personal Tactical Survivability Seminar

Featuring:

Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny:
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers, Head Instructor Dog Brothers Martial Arts; Combatives Instructor US Army

Tuhon Jared Wihongi:
Pekiti-Tirsia Tactical Association; SWAT Operator and Combatives Instructor US Army, Special Forces

January 21-22
Open to the public, but hosted by US Army Special Operations Unit
Camp Williams
Building 5170
17800 Camp Williams Road
Bluffdale, UT 84065
(near Salt Lake City)
 
Attendees should be prepared to provide ID at the gates as you enter the Army Camp

Space is limited, so pre-registration is recommended. Once you register you will receive directions:
For pre-registration contact Jared Wihongi, survival.edge@yahoo.com. 1-801-673-8319. 
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