Dog Brothers Public Forum

HOME | PUBLIC FORUM | MEMBERS FORUM | INSTRUCTORS FORUM | TRIBE FORUM

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
December 05, 2016, 04:38:10 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
98716 Posts in 2346 Topics by 1082 Members
Latest Member: James
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 ... 467 468 [469] 470 471 ... 764
23401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: BO Administration calls for Privacy Policy Office & Privacy Bill of Rights on: December 16, 2010, 11:42:20 AM



By JULIA ANGWIN
The Obama administration called Thursday for the creation of a Privacy Policy Office that would help develop an Internet "privacy bill of rights" for U.S citizens and coordinate privacy issues globally.

The U.S. Commerce Department's report stopped short of calling directly for specific privacy legislation. Instead, it recommends a "framework" to protect people from a burgeoning personal data-gathering industry and fragmented U.S. privacy laws that cover certain types of data but not others.

The report marks a turning point for federal Internet policy. During the past 15 years of the commercial Internet, Congress and executive branch agencies have largely taken a hands off approach to the Internet out of a concern that a heavy government hand would stifle innovation.

More
Complete Coverage: What They Know
.The report cites comments from some major technology companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc., expressing concerns about the current patchwork of rules and guidelines governing online privacy.

The 88-page Commerce Department report states that the use of personal information has increased so much that privacy laws may now be needed to restore consumer trust in the medium.

The report is preliminary and will be completed next year. At that time, the administration is expected to make more specific legislative recommendations.

The report rejects the current state of Internet privacy notices. It says people shouldn't be expected to read and understand the legal jargon contained in privacy policies "that nobody understands, if they say anything about privacy at all."

A better approach, the report suggests, might be for companies to conduct privacy impact assessments that would be available to the public. Such reports "could create consumer awareness of privacy risks in a new technological context," the report said.

The Commerce report says people should be notified when data about them is being used in a way that is different than the reason for which it was collected. "Consumers need to know that when their data are re-used, the re-use will not cause them harm or unwarranted surprise," the report says.

It calls for a Privacy Policy Office that would "serve as a center of commercial data privacy policy expertise." The agency wouldn't oversee government use of data or existing health and financial privacy laws. Instead, it would aim to help the personal data-gathering industry develop codes of conduct that could be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

The report also calls for the development of a national data breach law that would make it easier for companies to navigate the current patchwork of state data breach laws.

It also calls for strengthening the existing wiretapping law—written in 1986—to protect more types of data from government surveillance.

Write to Julia Angwin at julia.angwin@wsj.com



Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703395204576023521659672058.html#ixzz18IVnjUbO
23402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Copper Bullets? on: December 16, 2010, 11:14:20 AM
Get the Lead Out of HuntingBy ANTHONY PRIETO
Published: December 15, 2010
Recommend
Twitter
               
E-Mail
 
Send To Phone
Print
 
       
Reprints
 
Share
Close
LinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink. Santa Barbara, Calif.

I’VE hunted elk, deer and wild pigs in the American West for 25 years. Like many hunters, I follow several rules: Respect other forms of life, take only what my family can eat and the ecosystem can sustain, and leave as little impact on the environment as possible.

That’s why I hunt with copper bullets instead of lead. We’ve long known about the collateral damage caused by lead ammunition. When bald and golden eagles, vultures, bears, endangered California condors and other scavengers eat the innards, called gutpiles, that hunters leave in the field after cleaning their catch or the game that hunters wound but don’t capture, they can ingest poisonous lead fragments. Most sicken, and many die.

When I began hunting, I buried the lead-laden gutpiles. It would help if more hunters did this, but it’s not enough. Scavengers often dig gutpiles up anyway. And the meat that hunters take home to their families could be tainted. I’ve seen X-rays of shot game showing dust-sized lead particles spread throughout the meat, far away from the bullet hole. The best solution is to stop using lead ammunition altogether.

So last summer conservationists — along with the organization I run — formally petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead bullets and shot nationwide (there are limited bans for some hunting areas and game). The E.P.A. rejected the petition, and we’ve since filed a lawsuit to get the agency to address the problem.

Unfortunately, there is vocal opposition to any ammunition regulation from groups like the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which see the campaign as an attack on hunting rights, and fear that the cost of non-lead ammunition would drive hunters away from the sport.

But this campaign has nothing to do with revoking hunting rights; if it did, I would not be involved. It’s an issue of using non-toxic materials. Was the removal of lead paint from children’s toys a plot to do away with toys? Did the switch to unleaded gas hide an ulterior motive of removing vehicles from our roads?

And although copper bullets can be more expensive than lead ones, the cost of ammunition is a small fraction of what I spend on hunting, which includes gear, optics, food, gas and licenses. No one will quit hunting over spending a few more quarters per bullet. Besides, the more hunters switch to copper, the faster prices will come down. Back in the ’90s, before pre-loaded copper cartridges could be bought over the counter, I had to hand-load my copper bullets. But already it’s easy to find them in many calibers, including those for my Browning .270 and my Winchester .300.

The dozen friends I hunt with love shooting non-lead bullets, and it’s not just because they’re doing something good for the environment. The ballistics are better. I’ve killed more than 80 pigs and 40 deer shooting copper. These bullets travel up to 3,200 feet per second and have about a 98 percent weight retention — meaning they don’t fragment as easily as lead. Copper kills cleanly. It can help keep our hunting grounds clean as well.


Anthony Prieto is the founder of Project Gutpile, a hunting group that advocates lead-free ammunition.


23403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH columnist on Dr. Hawa Abdi on: December 16, 2010, 11:02:02 AM
Heroic, Female and MuslimBy NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: December 15, 2010
 
 What’s the ugliest side of Islam? Maybe it’s the Somali Muslim militias that engage in atrocities like the execution of a 13-year-old girl named Aisha Ibrahim. Three men raped Aisha, and when she reported the crime she was charged with illicit sex, half-buried in the ground before a crowd of 1,000 and then stoned to death.

Nicholas D. Kristof

Dr. Hawa Abdi runs a hospital in Somalia and stands up to extremists there.

That’s the extremist side of Islam that drives Islamophobia in the United States, including Congressional hearings on American Muslims that House Republicans are planning for next year.

But there’s another side of Islam as well, represented by an extraordinary Somali Muslim woman named Dr. Hawa Abdi who has confronted the armed militias. Amazingly, she forced them to back down — and even submit a written apology. Glamour magazine, which named Dr. Hawa a “woman of the year,” got it exactly right when it called her “equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.”

Dr. Hawa, a 63-year-old ob-gyn who earned a law degree on the side, is visiting the United States to raise money for her health work back home. A member of Somalia’s elite, she founded a one-room clinic in 1983, but then the Somalian government collapsed, famine struck, and aid groups fled. So today Dr. Hawa is running a 400-bed hospital.

Over the years, the hospital became the core of something even grander. Thousands and thousands of people displaced by civil war came to shelter on Dr. Hawa’s 1,300 acres of farmland around the hospital. Today her home and hospital have been overtaken by a vast camp that she says numbers about 90,000 displaced people.

Dr. Hawa supplies these 90,000 people with drinking water and struggles to find ways to feed them. She worries that handouts breed dependency (and in any case, United Nations agencies can’t safely reach her now to distribute food), so she is training formerly nomadic herding families to farm and even to fish in the sea.

She’s also pushing education. An American freelance journalist, Eliza Griswold, visited Dr. Hawa’s encampment in 2007 and 2008 and was stunned that an unarmed woman had managed to create a secure, functioning oasis surrounded by a chaotic land of hunger and warlords. Ms. Griswold helped Dr. Hawa start a school for 850 children, mostly girls. It’s only a tiny fraction of the children in the camp, but it’s a start. (Ms. Griswold also wrote movingly about Dr. Hawa in her book “The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam.”)

In addition, Dr. Hawa runs literacy and health classes for women, as well as programs to discourage female genital mutilation. And she operates a tiny jail — for men who beat their wives.

“We are trying an experiment,” she told me. “We women in Somalia are trying to be leaders in our community.”

So Dr. Hawa had her hands full already — and then in May a hard-line militia, Hizb al-Islam, or Party of Islam, decided that a woman shouldn’t run anything substantial. The militia ordered her to hand over operations, and she refused — and pointedly added: “I may be a woman, but I’m a doctor. What have you done for society?”

The Party of Islam then attacked with 750 soldiers and seized the hospital. The world’s Somalis reacted with outrage, and the militia backed down and ordered Dr. Hawa to run the hospital, but under its direction.

She refused. For a week there were daily negotiations, but Dr. Hawa refused to budge. She demanded that the militia not only withdraw entirely but also submit a written apology.

“I was begging her, ‘Just give in,’ ” recalled Deqo Mohamed, her daughter, a doctor in Atlanta who spoke regularly to her mother by telephone. “She was saying, ‘No! I will die with dignity.’ ”

It didn’t come to that. The Party of Islam tired of being denounced by Somalis at home and around the world, so it slinked off and handed over an apology — but also left behind a wrecked hospital. The operating theater still isn’t functional, and that’s why Dr. Hawa is here, appealing for money (especially from ethnic Somalis). She has worked out an arrangement with Vital Voices, a group that helps to empower female leaders, to channel tax-deductible contributions to her hospital.

What a woman! And what a Muslim! It’s because of people like her that sweeping denunciations of Islam, or the “Muslim hearings” planned in Congress, rile me — and seem profoundly misguided.

The greatest religious battles are often not between faiths, but within faiths. The widest gulfs are often not those that divide one religion from the next, but those between extremists and progressives within a single faith. And in this religious season, there’s something that we can all learn from the courage, compassion and tolerance of Dr. Hawa Abdi.

23404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What say we to this POTH editorial? on: December 16, 2010, 10:58:39 AM
As the body count in the Mexican drug wars mounts beyond 30,000, federal authorities have tracked more than 60,000 guns in the past four years back across the border to American dealers. Congress, enthralled with the gun lobby, has done nothing about a legal loophole increasingly at the heart of the carnage — the dealers’ freedom to make multiple sales of AK-47s and other battlefield assault rifles without having to report to federal authorities, as the law requires for handgun sales.

No wonder one dealer felt free to sell 14 AK-47s to one trafficker in a single day.

The gun lobby previously convinced an obeisant Congress that “long guns” like military rifles and shotguns were not favored by criminals and deserved a pass at dealers supposedly catering to sportsmen. But the drug war toll is proving otherwise, with use of high- power long guns more than doubling in the past five years as cartel gunmen turn to the rat-a-tat annihilators easily obtainable across the border.

A big reason for that preference is the failure to require reports on multiple rifle sales, according to a new inspector general’s report at the Justice Department. In Texas, the traffic is white hot. Eight of the top 12 dealers in Mexican crime guns are nestled profitably near the border, according to The Washington Post, which spent a year penetrating some of the data secrecy that Congress has enacted to protect the gun industry.

With a more Republican Congress in the wings and Democratic lawmakers openly fearful of the gun lobby’s political clout, there is no expectation of courageous legislating to close the loophole. But executive order is another possibility. It has enough traction lately among Justice Department officials to prompt a “grass-roots alert” by the National Rifle Association to its four million members, according to The Post.

It is hard to believe that most ordinary N.R.A. members would not agree something must be done about the cross-border sale of war weapons that underpins the drug scourge. If it takes an executive order to cut the carnage, President Obama should not hesitate.

23405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Here come the Chinese into US Wind on: December 16, 2010, 10:56:01 AM


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/16/business/global/16wind.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=a25
23406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH progress around Kandahar on: December 16, 2010, 10:51:28 AM
KABUL, Afghanistan — As the Obama administration reviews its strategy in Afghanistan, residents and even a Taliban commander say the surge of American troops this year has begun to set back the Taliban in parts of their southern heartland and to turn people against the insurgency — at least for now.

Mixed Picture on Taliban as Pentagon Reviews War
On Thursday, the Pentagon will release a year-end review of the nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan.

While the review seems certain to emphasize progress that has been made around the important southern city of Kandahar, security in other critical areas of the country continues to deteriorate.

The uneven picture in Afghanistan is raising questions about whether the United States military is gambling too heavily on a strategy aimed at breaking the back of the Taliban in their southern stronghold, at the expense of securing the country over all. (It would have helped if our CiC didn't announce that we are leaving too one suspects)



The stepped-up operations in Kandahar Province have left many in the Taliban demoralized, reluctant to fight and struggling to recruit, a Taliban commander said in an interview this week. Afghans with contacts in the Taliban confirmed his description. They pointed out that this was the first time in four years that the Taliban had given up their hold of all the districts around the city of Kandahar, an important staging ground for the insurgency and the focus of the 30,000 American troops whom President Obama ordered to be sent to Afghanistan last December.

“To tell you the truth, the government has the upper hand now” in and around Kandahar, the Taliban member said. A midlevel commander who has been with the movement since its founding in 1994 and knows it well, he was interviewed by telephone on the condition that his name not be used.

NATO commanders cautioned that progress on the battlefield remained tentative. It will not be clear until next summer if the government and the military can hold on to those gains, they said. Much will depend on resolving two problems: improving ineffectual local governments and strengthening Afghan troops to fight in NATO’s place.

The Taliban commander said the insurgents had made a tactical retreat and would re-emerge in the spring as American forces began to withdraw.

But in a dozen interviews, Afghan landowners, tribal elders and villagers said they believed that the Taliban could find it hard to return if American troops remained.

The local residents and the Taliban commander said the strength of the American offensive had already shifted the public mood. Winning the war of perceptions is something the military considers critical to the success of the counterinsurgency strategy being pursued by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the coalition commander.

While coalition gains in other parts of the south are spottier, Afghans with Taliban contacts say the insurgents have lost their bases in the rural areas around Kandahar and are a much weakened force in their old southern stronghold. Commanders have taken refuge across the border in Pakistan and are unwilling to return, they said.

“They are very upset and worried,” said one Afghan who lives in Quetta, the western Pakistani city where the Taliban leadership is based, and knows a number of Taliban commanders who live in his neighborhood. “This whole operation in the south has made it very difficult for them. They have lost their heart. A lot of leaders have been killed.”

NATO commanders have issued reams of press releases on the capture and killing of Taliban fighters.

While an emphasis on body counts can be misleading when fighting an indigenous insurgency, Afghans around the country said the strategy of targeted raids on Taliban field commanders had hit the movement hard. The Taliban member also confirmed the impact, and said the Taliban were dismayed to see the much more concerted offensive by coalition forces, as well as the corresponding shift in the public mood.

American forces have occupied former bases of the Taliban in districts surrounding Kandahar, and set up positions in the same buildings, including the Taliban’s main headquarters and courthouse in Sayedan where they held trials under Islamic law, or Shariah.

“Positioning themselves in the Taliban bases signals to the people that the Taliban cannot come back,” said one landowner from Panjwai, an important district outside the city of Kandahar. Like many others, he asked not to be named, indicating there was still widespread fear of Taliban retribution in the rural communities.

“Our Afghan security forces are assuring us that they will stay, and that gives hope,” said Hajji Agha Lalai, a provincial council member from Panjwai District. A medical worker who visited his home village in Panjwai on Monday said the area that used to be the front line between the government and the Taliban was now completely cleared and safe.

The coalition and government forces had blocked access to Panjwai and Zhare, another important district outside Kandahar, with wire fencing, concrete blast walls and tank berms so that all traffic had to filter through their checkpoints, making it nearly impossible for insurgents to move through the area clandestinely, the Taliban member and residents said.

Raids on houses of suspected Taliban members have also badly rattled those Taliban remaining in the area, landowners and residents said. Most of the Taliban have either fled or gone into hiding, they said. One local landlord, Abdul Aleem, said a group of Taliban had begged for food and lodging from villagers in Zhare 20 days ago, but were terrified whenever they heard shooting.

==============

Page 2 of 2)



The Taliban are even more concerned that the Americans are gaining the upper hand in the battle of perceptions on who is winning the war, several people with contacts in the Taliban said. “The people are not happy with us,” the Taliban fighter said. “People gave us a place to stay for several years, but we did not provide them with anything except fighting. The situation is different now: the local people are not willingly cooperating with us. They are not giving us a place to stay or giving us food.”

On Thursday, the Pentagon will release a year-end review of the nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan.

While the review seems certain to emphasize progress that has been made around the important southern city of Kandahar, security in other critical areas of the country continues to deteriorate.

The uneven picture in Afghanistan is raising questions about whether the United States military is gambling too heavily on a strategy aimed at breaking the back of the Taliban in their southern stronghold, at the expense of securing the country over all.

NATO’s announcement that it would remain until a transfer to Afghan forces in 2014 has also convinced people that it will not withdraw quickly, he said.
“The Americans are more serious, and another thing that made people hopeful was when they said they would stay until 2014,” the Taliban commander said. “That has made people change their minds.”

That shift in support could hamper Taliban operations, said one landowner, a former guerrilla fighter who has Taliban contacts. “It will hurt the leadership because they will not have people to work for them in the area,” he said.

The Taliban leadership was so concerned that it held a meeting recently to discuss how to counter the American-led offensive and regain key districts around the city of Kandahar, the Taliban member said. They appointed a new commander, Maulavi Sattar, to oversee the winter campaign in Kandahar and are pressing fighters to stall expansion of coalition and government forces in the province, and prevent recruitment of local police officers in the districts.

Nevertheless the Taliban fighters were losing heart and showing signs of division, said the Taliban commander, who has been sheltering in Kandahar city since the insurgents were routed from his district in October.

He said he traveled recently to the Pakistani border town of Chaman and met three Taliban commanders there. But when he asked when they were coming back to Kandahar, they said they were reluctant to return and feared they would be killed. “They said they feared our own men, that other Taliban might betray them,” he said.

The Afghan living in Quetta said that Taliban commanders he knew were trying to recruit and pay others to fight while holding themselves back. “One threw me 50,000 Pakistani rupees and said, ‘If you have anyone who can go and fight, take them and go and fight,’ ” he said. “When they threw me the money, they said, ‘If you don’t want to go and fight, could you find some recruits for the spring?’ ”

The Taliban leaders and commanders will certainly not give up, Afghans familiar with them said. Some of them have moved to Pakistan and will rest up until the spring. Others have shifted to more remote areas, where the coalition and government presence is not as strong.

“The Taliban will come back in the spring, but most people predict that they will not come with the force of previous years because they have been hit very hard and they keep being hit,” the landowner from Kandahar said.

“And if the Americans stay, the Taliban commanders will never come back,” he said.
23407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson explains BO's homeland defense for nukes on: December 16, 2010, 10:46:39 AM
Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.

The advice is based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.
But a problem for the Obama administration is how to spread the word without seeming alarmist about a subject that few politicians care to consider, let alone discuss. So officials are proceeding gingerly in a campaign to educate the public.

“We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in an interview. “We have to be ready to deal with it” and help people learn how to “best protect themselves.”

Officials say they are moving aggressively to conduct drills, prepare communication guides and raise awareness among emergency planners of how to educate the public.

Over the years, Washington has sought to prevent nuclear terrorism and limit its harm, mainly by governmental means. It has spent tens of billions of dollars on everything from intelligence and securing nuclear materials to equipping local authorities with radiation detectors.

The new wave is citizen preparedness. For people who survive the initial blast, the main advice is to fight the impulse to run and instead seek shelter from lethal radioactivity. Even a few hours of protection, officials say, can greatly increase survival rates.

Administration officials argue that the cold war created an unrealistic sense of fatalism about a terrorist nuclear attack. “It’s more survivable than most people think,” said an official deeply involved in the planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The key is avoiding nuclear fallout.”

The administration is making that argument with state and local authorities and has started to do so with the general public as well. Its Citizen Corps Web site says a nuclear detonation is “potentially survivable for thousands, especially with adequate shelter and education.” A color illustration shows which kinds of buildings and rooms offer the best protection from radiation.

In June, the administration released to emergency officials around the nation an unclassified planning guide 130 pages long on how to respond to a nuclear attack. It stressed citizen education, before any attack.

Without that knowledge, the guide added, “people will be more likely to follow the natural instinct to run from danger, potentially exposing themselves to fatal doses of radiation.”

Specialists outside of Washington are divided on the initiative. One group says the administration is overreacting to an atomic threat that is all but nonexistent.

Peter Bergen, a fellow at the New America Foundation and New York University’s Center on Law and Security, recently argued that the odds of any terrorist group obtaining a nuclear weapon are “near zero for the foreseeable future.”

But another school says that the potential consequences are so high that the administration is, if anything, being too timid.

“There’s no penetration of the message coming out of the federal government,” said Irwin Redlener, a doctor and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “It’s deeply frustrating that we seem unable to bridge the gap between the new insights and using them to inform public policy.”

White House officials say they are aware of the issue’s political delicacy but are nonetheless moving ahead briskly.

The administration has sought “to enhance national resilience — to withstand disruption, adapt to change and rapidly recover,” said Brian Kamoie, senior director for preparedness policy at the National Security Council. He added, “We’re working hard to involve individuals in the effort so they become part of the team in terms of emergency management.”

A nuclear blast produces a blinding flash, burning heat and crushing wind. The fireball and mushroom cloud carry radioactive particles upward, and the wind sends them near and far.

The government initially knew little about radioactive fallout. But in the 1950s, as the cold war intensified, scientists monitoring test explosions learned that the tiny particles throbbed with fission products — fragments of split atoms, many highly radioactive and potentially lethal.

But after a burst of interest in fallout shelters, the public and even the government grew increasingly skeptical about civil defense as nuclear arsenals grew to hold thousands of warheads.

In late 2001, a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the director of central intelligence told President George W. Bush of a secret warning that Al Qaeda had hidden an atom bomb in New York City. The report turned out to be false. But atomic jitters soared.

“History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act,” Mr. Bush said in late 2002.

In dozens of programs, his administration focused on prevention but also dealt with disaster response and the acquisition of items like radiation detectors.

============

Page 2 of 2)



“Public education is key,” Daniel J. Kaniewski, a security expert at George Washington University, said in an interview. “But it’s easier for communities to buy equipment — and look for tech solutions — because there’s Homeland Security money and no shortage of contractors to supply the silver bullet.”

Dr. Irwin Redlener of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness says new insights are not reaching the public.
Multimedia
 Graphic
Duck and Cover
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 revealed the poor state of disaster planning, public and private officials began to question national preparedness for atomic strikes. Some noted conflicting federal advice on whether survivors should seek shelter or try to evacuate.
In 2007, Congress appropriated $5.5 million for studies on atomic disaster planning, noting that “cities have little guidance available to them.”

The Department of Homeland Security financed a multiagency modeling effort led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The scientists looked at Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other big cities, using computers to simulate details of the urban landscape and terrorist bombs.

The results were revealing. For instance, the scientists found that a bomb’s flash would blind many drivers, causing accidents and complicating evacuation.

The big surprise was how taking shelter for as little as several hours made a huge difference in survival rates.

“This has been a game changer,” Brooke Buddemeier, a Livermore health physicist, told a Los Angeles conference. He showed a slide labeled “How Many Lives Can Sheltering Save?”

If people in Los Angeles a mile or more from ground zero of an attack took no shelter, Mr. Buddemeier said, there would be 285,000 casualties from fallout in that region.

Taking shelter in a place with minimal protection, like a car, would cut that figure to 125,000 deaths or injuries, he said. A shallow basement would further reduce it to 45,000 casualties. And the core of a big office building or an underground garage would provide the best shelter of all.

“We’d have no significant exposures,” Mr. Buddemeier told the conference, and thus virtually no casualties from fallout.

On Jan. 16, 2009 — four days before Mr. Bush left office — the White House issued a 92-page handbook lauding “pre-event preparedness.” But it was silent on the delicate issue of how to inform the public.

Soon after Mr. Obama arrived at the White House, he embarked a global campaign to fight atomic terrorism and sped up domestic planning for disaster response. A senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the new administration began a revision of the Bush administration’s handbook to address the issue of public communication.

“We started working on it immediately,” the official said. “It was recognized as a key part of our response.”

The agenda hit a speed bump. Las Vegas was to star in the nation’s first live exercise meant to simulate a terrorist attack with an atom bomb, the test involving about 10,000 emergency responders. But casinos and businesses protested, as did Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. He told the federal authorities that it would scare away tourists.

Late last year, the administration backed down.

“Politics overtook preparedness,” said Mr. Kaniewski of George Washington University.

When the administration came out with its revised planning guide in June, it noted that “no significant federal response” after an attack would be likely for one to three days.

The document said that planners had an obligation to help the public “make effective decisions” and that messages for predisaster campaigns might be tailored for schools, businesses and even water bills.

“The most lives,” the handbook said, “will be saved in the first 60 minutes through sheltering in place.”
23408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson on: December 16, 2010, 09:02:36 AM


The New York Times Nov. 20, 2009, on its decision not to publish secret data: "The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here."

The Times a year later (Nov. 29, 2010) on its decision to publish illegally acquired WikiLeaks data: Despite their provenance, "The Times believes that the (WikiLeaks) documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises, and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."
23409  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor on: December 16, 2010, 08:51:03 AM
Mexico and the Cartel Wars in 2010
December 16, 2010


Editor’s Note: This week’s Security Weekly is a heavily abridged version of STRATFOR’s annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels. The full report, which includes far more detail and diagrams depicting the leadership of each cartel along with our updated cartel map, will be available to our members on Dec. 20.

By Scott Stewart

Related Link
Mexican Drug Cartels: Two Wars and a Look Southward
Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
In our 2010 annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels, we assess the most significant developments of the past year and provide an updated description of the dynamics among the country’s powerful drug-trafficking organizations, along with an account of the government’s effort to combat the cartels and a forecast of the battle in 2011. The annual cartel report is a product of the coverage STRATFOR maintains on a weekly basis through our Mexico Security Memo as well as other analyses we produce throughout the year. In response to customer requests for more and deeper coverage of Mexico, STRATFOR will also introduce a new product in 2011 designed to provide an enhanced level of reporting and analysis.

In 2010, the cartel wars in Mexico have produced unprecedented levels of violence throughout the country. No longer concentrated in just a few states, the violence has spread all across the northern tier of border states and along much of both the east and west coasts of Mexico. This year’s drug-related homicides have surpassed 11,000, an increase of more than 4,400 deaths from 2009 and more than double the death toll in 2008.


Cartel Dynamics

The high levels of violence seen in 2010 have been caused not only by long-term struggles such as the fight between the Sinaloa Federation and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization (also known as the Juarez cartel) for control of the Juarez smuggling corridor but also from the outbreak of new conflicts among various players in the cartel landscape. For example, simmering tensions between Los Zetas and their former partners in the Gulf cartel finally boiled over and quickly escalated into a bloody turf war along the U.S.-Tamaulipas state border. The conflict has even spread to states like Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Tabasco and has given birth to an alliance between the Sinaloa Federation, the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana (LFM) called the New Federation.

Last December, it appeared that Los Zetas were poised to make a move to assume control over much, if not all, of the Gulf cartel’s territory. The Gulf cartel knew it could not take on Los Zetas alone with its current capabilities so in desperation it reached out to its main rivals in Mexico — the Sinaloa Federation and LFM — for help, thus forming the New Federation. With the added resources from the New Federation, the Gulf cartel was able to take the fight to Los Zetas and actually forced its former partners out of one of their traditional strongholds in Reynosa. The New Federation also expanded its offensive operations to other regions traditionally held by Los Zetas, namely the city of Monterrey and the states of Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Veracruz.

This resulted in Los Zetas being pushed back on their heels throughout the country, and by June it looked as if Los Zetas’ days might be numbered. However, a chain of events that began with the July 28 death of Sinaloa Federation No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel served to weaken the alliance and forced the Sinaloa and LFM to direct attention and resources to other parts of the country, thus giving Los Zetas some room to regroup. The situation along the border in eastern Mexico is still very fluid and the contest between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas for control of the region will continue in 2011.



(click here to enlarge image)
The death of Arturo Beltran Leyva in December 2009 in a Mexican marine raid led to a vicious battle between factions of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) for control of the group, pitting Arturo’s brother, Hector Beltran Leyva, against Arturo’s right-hand man, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. The war between the two BLO factions ended with the arrests of the leadership of the Valdez Villarreal faction, including La Barbie himself on Aug. 30, and this faction has been heavily damaged if not completely dissolved. Hector’s BLO faction adopted the name Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS), or the South Pacific Cartel, to distance itself from the elements associated with Valdez that still clung to the BLO moniker. The CPS has aligned itself with Los Zetas against Sinaloa and LFM and has actively fought to stake a claim to the Colima and Manzanillo regions in addition to making inroads in Michoacan.

After being named the most violent organized-crime group in Mexico by former Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora in 2009, LFM has been largely a background player in 2010 and was active on two main fronts: the offensive against Los Zetas as part of the New Federation in northeastern Mexico and the fight against elements of the CPS and Los Zetas in southern Michoacan and Guerrero states, particularly around the resort area of Acapulco. LFM and CPS have been locked in a heated battle for supremacy in the Acapulco region for the past two years and this conflict shows no signs of stopping, especially since the CPS appears to have recently launched a new offensive against LFM in the southern regions of Michoacan. Additionally, after the death of Sinaloa leader El Nacho Coronel in July and the subsequent dismantlement of his network, LFM attempted to take over the Jalisco and Colima trafficking corridors, reportedly straining relations between the Sinaloa Federation and LFM.

LFM has been hard hit in the latter months of 2010, its losses on the battlefield amplified by the arrest of several senior operatives in early December. The Dec. 10 death of LFM spiritual leader Nazario “El Mas Loco” Moreno Gonzalez will further challenge the organization, and STRATFOR will be carefully watching LFM over the next several weeks for additional signs that it is collapsing.

Two former heavyweights on the Mexican drug-trafficking scene have continued a declining trajectory in 2010: the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization/Juarez cartel (VCF) and the Arellano Felix Organization/Tijuana cartel (AFO). The VCF continues to lose ground to the Sinaloa Federation throughout Chihuahua state, most notably in the Ciudad Juarez area. The VCF’s influence has largely been confined to the urban areas of the state, Juarez and Chihuahua, though it appears that its influence is waning even in its traditional strongholds (Sinaloa now appears to be moving narcotics through the Juarez smuggling corridor). Following a bitter war between two factions of the AFO, the organization is a shell of its former self. While the AFO faction under the leadership of Fernando “El Ingeniero” Sanchez Arellano emerged victorious over the faction led by Eduardo “El Teo” Garcia Simental, who was a Sinaloa Federation proxy, it appears that Sanchez Arellano has reached an agreement with Sinaloa and is allowing it to move narcotics through Tijuana.

In the past, these sorts of agreements have proved to be temporary — one need only look at recent history in Juarez and the cooperation between Sinaloa and the VCF. Because of this, it is likely at some point that the Sinaloa Federation will begin to refuse to pay taxes to the AFO. When that happens, it will be important to see if the AFO has the capability to do anything about it.

The death of El Nacho Coronel and the damage-control efforts associated with the dismantlement of his network, along with the continued focus on the conflict in Juarez, forced the Sinaloa Federation to pull back from other commitments, such as its operations against Los Zetas as part of the New Federation. On the business-operations side, Sinaloa has made inroads in other regions and other continents. As noted above, the organization also has reportedly made progress in extending its control over the lucrative Tijuana smuggling corridor and is making significant progress in asserting control over the Juarez corridor.

Over the past few years, Sinaloa has gained control of, or access to, smuggling corridors all along Mexico’s northern border from Tijuana to Juarez. This means that Sinaloa appears to be the group that has fared the best over the past few years amid the intensifying violence. This would apply more specifically to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and his faction of the Sinaloa Federation, which has benefited greatly by events since 2006. In addition to the fall of external foes like the AFO and Juarez cartels, he has seen the downfall of strong Sinaloa personalities who could have risen up to contest his leadership, men like Alfredo Beltran Leyva and El Nacho Coronel. Sinaloa members who attract a lot of adverse publicity for the federation, such as Enrique “El Cumbais” Lopez Acosta also seem to run into bad luck with some frequency. Additionally, STRATFOR sources continue to report a sustained effort by the Sinaloa Federation to expand its logistical network farther into Europe and its influence deeper into Central America and South America.


Escalation

Some of the groups that have borne the brunt of the cartel wars, such as Los Zetas, the AFO and the VCF, have seen a decrease in their ability to move narcotics. This has forced them to look for other sources of income, which typically means diversifying into other criminal enterprises. A steady stream of income is important for the cartels because it takes a lot of money to hire and equip armed enforcer units required to guard against incursions from rival cartels and the Mexican government. It also takes money to purchase narcotics and to maintain the networks required to smuggle them from South America into the United States. This reliance on other criminal enterprises to generate income is not a new development for cartel groups. Los Zetas have long been active in human smuggling, oil theft, extortion and contract enforcement, while the VCF and AFO have traditionally been involved in extortion and kidnap-for-ransom operations. However, as these groups found themselves with their backs against the wall in 2010, they began to escalate their criminal fundraising operations. This increase in extortion and kidnapping has had a noticeable effect on businesses and wealthy families in several cities, including Monterrey, Mexico’s industrial capital. The wave of kidnapping in Monterrey even led to the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey ordering the departure of all minor dependents of U.S. government personnel beginning in September.

Some of the more desperate cartel groups also began to employ improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in 2010. The VCF has made no secret about its belief that the Federal Police are working for and protecting the Sinaloa Federation in Juarez. Following the July 15 arrest of a high-ranking VCF lieutenant, VCF enforcers from La Linea conducted a fairly sophisticated ambush directed against the Federal Police using a small IED hidden inside a car containing a cadaver that the attackers called in to police. The blast killed two Federal Police agents and injured several more at the scene. La Linea attempted to deploy another IED under similar circumstances Sept. 10 in Juarez, but Federal Police agents were able to identify the IED and call in the Mexican military to defuse the device. La Linea has threatened to use more and larger IEDs but has yet to follow through on those threats.

There were also three small IEDs deployed in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state, in August. On Aug. 5, a substation housing the rural patrol element of the Municipal Transit Police was attacked with a small IED concealed inside a vehicle. Then on Aug. 27, two other IEDs placed in cars successfully detonated outside Televisa studios and a Municipal Transit Police station in Ciudad Victoria. The Ciudad Victoria IED attacks were never claimed, but Los Zetas are thought to be the culprits. The geographic and cartel-territorial disparity between Ciudad Victoria and Juarez makes it unlikely that the same bombmaker is responsible for all the devices encountered in Mexico this year.

To date, the explosive devices deployed by cartel groups in Mexico have been small, and La Linea and the Ciudad Victoria bomber did show some discretion by not intentionally targeting large groups of civilians in their attacks. However, should cartel groups continue to deploy IEDs, the imprecise nature of such devices will increase the risk of innocent civilians becoming collateral damage. This will be especially true if the size of the devices is increased, as La Linea has threatened to do. The cartels clearly have the skills required to build and deploy larger devices should they so choose, and explosives are plentiful and easy to obtain in Mexico.


Outlook

The administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon has dismantled several cartel networks and captured or killed their leaders in 2010, most notably Sinaloa No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal and Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. While such operations have succeeded in eliminating several very dangerous people and disrupting their organizations, however, they have also served to further upset the balance of power among Mexico’s criminal organizations. This imbalance has increased the volatility of the country’s security environment by creating a sort of vicious feeding frenzy among the various organizations as they seek to preserve their own turf or seize territory from rival organizations.

Calderon has also taken steps to shift the focus from the controversial strategy of using the Mexican military as the primary tool to wage war against the cartels to using the newly reformed Federal Police. While the military still remains the most reliable security tool available to the Mexican government, the Federal Police have been given more responsibility in Juarez and northeast Mexico, the nation’s most contentious hot spots. Calderon has also planted the seeds to reform the states’ security organizations with a unified command in hopes of professionalizing each state’s security force to the point where the states do not have to rely on the federal government to combat organized crime. Meanwhile, the Mexican Congress has take steps to curb the ability of the president to deploy the military domestically by proposing a National Security Act that would require a state governor or legislature to first request the deployment of the military rather than permitting the federal government to act unilaterally.

The successes that the Calderon administration has scored against some major cartel figures such as La Barbie and El Nacho in 2010 have helped foster some public confidence in the war against the cartels, but disruptions to the balance of power among the cartels have added to the violence, which is clearly evidenced by the steep climb in the death toll. As long as the cartel landscape remains fluid, with the balance of power between the cartels and the government in a constant state of flux, the violence is unlikely to end or even recede.

This means that Calderon is at a crossroads. The increasing level of violence is seen as unacceptable by the public and the government’s resources are stretched to the limit. Unless all the cartel groups can be decapitated and brought under control — something that is highly unlikely given the government’s limitations — the only way to reduce the violence is to restore the balance of power among the cartels. This balance can be achieved if a small number of cartels come to dominate the cartel landscape and are able to conduct business as usual rather than fight continually for turf and survival. Calderon must take steps to restore this balance in the next year if he hopes to quell the violence and give his National Action Party a chance to maintain power in the 2012 Mexican presidential elections. In Mexico, 2011 promises to be an interesting year indeed.

23410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: December 16, 2010, 08:50:30 AM
Mexico and the Cartel Wars in 2010
December 16, 2010


Editor’s Note: This week’s Security Weekly is a heavily abridged version of STRATFOR’s annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels. The full report, which includes far more detail and diagrams depicting the leadership of each cartel along with our updated cartel map, will be available to our members on Dec. 20.

By Scott Stewart

In our 2010 annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels, we assess the most significant developments of the past year and provide an updated description of the dynamics among the country’s powerful drug-trafficking organizations, along with an account of the government’s effort to combat the cartels and a forecast of the battle in 2011. The annual cartel report is a product of the coverage STRATFOR maintains on a weekly basis through our Mexico Security Memo as well as other analyses we produce throughout the year. In response to customer requests for more and deeper coverage of Mexico, STRATFOR will also introduce a new product in 2011 designed to provide an enhanced level of reporting and analysis.

In 2010, the cartel wars in Mexico have produced unprecedented levels of violence throughout the country. No longer concentrated in just a few states, the violence has spread all across the northern tier of border states and along much of both the east and west coasts of Mexico. This year’s drug-related homicides have surpassed 11,000, an increase of more than 4,400 deaths from 2009 and more than double the death toll in 2008.


Cartel Dynamics

The high levels of violence seen in 2010 have been caused not only by long-term struggles such as the fight between the Sinaloa Federation and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization (also known as the Juarez cartel) for control of the Juarez smuggling corridor but also from the outbreak of new conflicts among various players in the cartel landscape. For example, simmering tensions between Los Zetas and their former partners in the Gulf cartel finally boiled over and quickly escalated into a bloody turf war along the U.S.-Tamaulipas state border. The conflict has even spread to states like Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Tabasco and has given birth to an alliance between the Sinaloa Federation, the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana (LFM) called the New Federation.

Last December, it appeared that Los Zetas were poised to make a move to assume control over much, if not all, of the Gulf cartel’s territory. The Gulf cartel knew it could not take on Los Zetas alone with its current capabilities so in desperation it reached out to its main rivals in Mexico — the Sinaloa Federation and LFM — for help, thus forming the New Federation. With the added resources from the New Federation, the Gulf cartel was able to take the fight to Los Zetas and actually forced its former partners out of one of their traditional strongholds in Reynosa. The New Federation also expanded its offensive operations to other regions traditionally held by Los Zetas, namely the city of Monterrey and the states of Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Veracruz.

This resulted in Los Zetas being pushed back on their heels throughout the country, and by June it looked as if Los Zetas’ days might be numbered. However, a chain of events that began with the July 28 death of Sinaloa Federation No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel served to weaken the alliance and forced the Sinaloa and LFM to direct attention and resources to other parts of the country, thus giving Los Zetas some room to regroup. The situation along the border in eastern Mexico is still very fluid and the contest between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas for control of the region will continue in 2011.



(click here to enlarge image)
The death of Arturo Beltran Leyva in December 2009 in a Mexican marine raid led to a vicious battle between factions of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) for control of the group, pitting Arturo’s brother, Hector Beltran Leyva, against Arturo’s right-hand man, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. The war between the two BLO factions ended with the arrests of the leadership of the Valdez Villarreal faction, including La Barbie himself on Aug. 30, and this faction has been heavily damaged if not completely dissolved. Hector’s BLO faction adopted the name Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS), or the South Pacific Cartel, to distance itself from the elements associated with Valdez that still clung to the BLO moniker. The CPS has aligned itself with Los Zetas against Sinaloa and LFM and has actively fought to stake a claim to the Colima and Manzanillo regions in addition to making inroads in Michoacan.

After being named the most violent organized-crime group in Mexico by former Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora in 2009, LFM has been largely a background player in 2010 and was active on two main fronts: the offensive against Los Zetas as part of the New Federation in northeastern Mexico and the fight against elements of the CPS and Los Zetas in southern Michoacan and Guerrero states, particularly around the resort area of Acapulco. LFM and CPS have been locked in a heated battle for supremacy in the Acapulco region for the past two years and this conflict shows no signs of stopping, especially since the CPS appears to have recently launched a new offensive against LFM in the southern regions of Michoacan. Additionally, after the death of Sinaloa leader El Nacho Coronel in July and the subsequent dismantlement of his network, LFM attempted to take over the Jalisco and Colima trafficking corridors, reportedly straining relations between the Sinaloa Federation and LFM.

LFM has been hard hit in the latter months of 2010, its losses on the battlefield amplified by the arrest of several senior operatives in early December. The Dec. 10 death of LFM spiritual leader Nazario “El Mas Loco” Moreno Gonzalez will further challenge the organization, and STRATFOR will be carefully watching LFM over the next several weeks for additional signs that it is collapsing.

Two former heavyweights on the Mexican drug-trafficking scene have continued a declining trajectory in 2010: the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization/Juarez cartel (VCF) and the Arellano Felix Organization/Tijuana cartel (AFO). The VCF continues to lose ground to the Sinaloa Federation throughout Chihuahua state, most notably in the Ciudad Juarez area. The VCF’s influence has largely been confined to the urban areas of the state, Juarez and Chihuahua, though it appears that its influence is waning even in its traditional strongholds (Sinaloa now appears to be moving narcotics through the Juarez smuggling corridor). Following a bitter war between two factions of the AFO, the organization is a shell of its former self. While the AFO faction under the leadership of Fernando “El Ingeniero” Sanchez Arellano emerged victorious over the faction led by Eduardo “El Teo” Garcia Simental, who was a Sinaloa Federation proxy, it appears that Sanchez Arellano has reached an agreement with Sinaloa and is allowing it to move narcotics through Tijuana.

In the past, these sorts of agreements have proved to be temporary — one need only look at recent history in Juarez and the cooperation between Sinaloa and the VCF. Because of this, it is likely at some point that the Sinaloa Federation will begin to refuse to pay taxes to the AFO. When that happens, it will be important to see if the AFO has the capability to do anything about it.

The death of El Nacho Coronel and the damage-control efforts associated with the dismantlement of his network, along with the continued focus on the conflict in Juarez, forced the Sinaloa Federation to pull back from other commitments, such as its operations against Los Zetas as part of the New Federation. On the business-operations side, Sinaloa has made inroads in other regions and other continents. As noted above, the organization also has reportedly made progress in extending its control over the lucrative Tijuana smuggling corridor and is making significant progress in asserting control over the Juarez corridor.

Over the past few years, Sinaloa has gained control of, or access to, smuggling corridors all along Mexico’s northern border from Tijuana to Juarez. This means that Sinaloa appears to be the group that has fared the best over the past few years amid the intensifying violence. This would apply more specifically to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and his faction of the Sinaloa Federation, which has benefited greatly by events since 2006. In addition to the fall of external foes like the AFO and Juarez cartels, he has seen the downfall of strong Sinaloa personalities who could have risen up to contest his leadership, men like Alfredo Beltran Leyva and El Nacho Coronel. Sinaloa members who attract a lot of adverse publicity for the federation, such as Enrique “El Cumbais” Lopez Acosta also seem to run into bad luck with some frequency. Additionally, STRATFOR sources continue to report a sustained effort by the Sinaloa Federation to expand its logistical network farther into Europe and its influence deeper into Central America and South America.


Escalation

Some of the groups that have borne the brunt of the cartel wars, such as Los Zetas, the AFO and the VCF, have seen a decrease in their ability to move narcotics. This has forced them to look for other sources of income, which typically means diversifying into other criminal enterprises. A steady stream of income is important for the cartels because it takes a lot of money to hire and equip armed enforcer units required to guard against incursions from rival cartels and the Mexican government. It also takes money to purchase narcotics and to maintain the networks required to smuggle them from South America into the United States. This reliance on other criminal enterprises to generate income is not a new development for cartel groups. Los Zetas have long been active in human smuggling, oil theft, extortion and contract enforcement, while the VCF and AFO have traditionally been involved in extortion and kidnap-for-ransom operations. However, as these groups found themselves with their backs against the wall in 2010, they began to escalate their criminal fundraising operations. This increase in extortion and kidnapping has had a noticeable effect on businesses and wealthy families in several cities, including Monterrey, Mexico’s industrial capital. The wave of kidnapping in Monterrey even led to the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey ordering the departure of all minor dependents of U.S. government personnel beginning in September.

Some of the more desperate cartel groups also began to employ improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in 2010. The VCF has made no secret about its belief that the Federal Police are working for and protecting the Sinaloa Federation in Juarez. Following the July 15 arrest of a high-ranking VCF lieutenant, VCF enforcers from La Linea conducted a fairly sophisticated ambush directed against the Federal Police using a small IED hidden inside a car containing a cadaver that the attackers called in to police. The blast killed two Federal Police agents and injured several more at the scene. La Linea attempted to deploy another IED under similar circumstances Sept. 10 in Juarez, but Federal Police agents were able to identify the IED and call in the Mexican military to defuse the device. La Linea has threatened to use more and larger IEDs but has yet to follow through on those threats.

There were also three small IEDs deployed in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state, in August. On Aug. 5, a substation housing the rural patrol element of the Municipal Transit Police was attacked with a small IED concealed inside a vehicle. Then on Aug. 27, two other IEDs placed in cars successfully detonated outside Televisa studios and a Municipal Transit Police station in Ciudad Victoria. The Ciudad Victoria IED attacks were never claimed, but Los Zetas are thought to be the culprits. The geographic and cartel-territorial disparity between Ciudad Victoria and Juarez makes it unlikely that the same bombmaker is responsible for all the devices encountered in Mexico this year.

To date, the explosive devices deployed by cartel groups in Mexico have been small, and La Linea and the Ciudad Victoria bomber did show some discretion by not intentionally targeting large groups of civilians in their attacks. However, should cartel groups continue to deploy IEDs, the imprecise nature of such devices will increase the risk of innocent civilians becoming collateral damage. This will be especially true if the size of the devices is increased, as La Linea has threatened to do. The cartels clearly have the skills required to build and deploy larger devices should they so choose, and explosives are plentiful and easy to obtain in Mexico.


Outlook

The administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon has dismantled several cartel networks and captured or killed their leaders in 2010, most notably Sinaloa No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal and Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. While such operations have succeeded in eliminating several very dangerous people and disrupting their organizations, however, they have also served to further upset the balance of power among Mexico’s criminal organizations. This imbalance has increased the volatility of the country’s security environment by creating a sort of vicious feeding frenzy among the various organizations as they seek to preserve their own turf or seize territory from rival organizations.

Calderon has also taken steps to shift the focus from the controversial strategy of using the Mexican military as the primary tool to wage war against the cartels to using the newly reformed Federal Police. While the military still remains the most reliable security tool available to the Mexican government, the Federal Police have been given more responsibility in Juarez and northeast Mexico, the nation’s most contentious hot spots. Calderon has also planted the seeds to reform the states’ security organizations with a unified command in hopes of professionalizing each state’s security force to the point where the states do not have to rely on the federal government to combat organized crime. Meanwhile, the Mexican Congress has take steps to curb the ability of the president to deploy the military domestically by proposing a National Security Act that would require a state governor or legislature to first request the deployment of the military rather than permitting the federal government to act unilaterally.

The successes that the Calderon administration has scored against some major cartel figures such as La Barbie and El Nacho in 2010 have helped foster some public confidence in the war against the cartels, but disruptions to the balance of power among the cartels have added to the violence, which is clearly evidenced by the steep climb in the death toll. As long as the cartel landscape remains fluid, with the balance of power between the cartels and the government in a constant state of flux, the violence is unlikely to end or even recede.

This means that Calderon is at a crossroads. The increasing level of violence is seen as unacceptable by the public and the government’s resources are stretched to the limit. Unless all the cartel groups can be decapitated and brought under control — something that is highly unlikely given the government’s limitations — the only way to reduce the violence is to restore the balance of power among the cartels. This balance can be achieved if a small number of cartels come to dominate the cartel landscape and are able to conduct business as usual rather than fight continually for turf and survival. Calderon must take steps to restore this balance in the next year if he hopes to quell the violence and give his National Action Party a chance to maintain power in the 2012 Mexican presidential elections. In Mexico, 2011 promises to be an interesting year indeed.

23411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I am depressed on: December 16, 2010, 08:39:44 AM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thu, December 16, 2010 -- 6:00 AM ET
-----

Afghan Report Sees Troop Withdrawal on Schedule for July
http://www.nytimes.com?emc=na
======================================

So, the bug out is on schedule.  As promised to the Muslim world by Ahmadinjad (too cranky to look up proper spelling) the US essentially is being run out of the mid-east.  The Dems chorus of defeatist chorus against The Surge in Iraq persuaded all there that we were leaving and so they aligned themselves accordingly and now our CiC, elected to fight "the right war" in Afg, after having sabotaged any chance of success by telling the enemy we were leaving, begins our departure.  China challenges throughout SE Asia.  Even our long time ally the Philippines (along with many, many other countries) bows its head in submission by not going to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies this year.  The time is coming when we will be run out of Taiwan.  In addition to the peace at any price elements of our political spectrum, the isolationist/libertarian spirit of our polity-animated the results of a a decade of piss-poor leadership and results as well as a genuine spending crisis, calls for cuts in military spending even as the Chinese challenge our Navy in the western Pacific and the Russians put missiles in Venezuela and our 2,000 mile border with Mexico is a narco war zone.   Europe's currency (hence economic union?) teeters and we may well be only a economic step or two behind. cry cry cry

The Adventure continues, , ,
23412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hostage reunion on: December 16, 2010, 08:21:20 AM
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/hostages-press-release.htm
23413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cyberwar and American Freedom on: December 15, 2010, 09:37:50 PM
Intriguing hypothesis-- and chilling in its implications for the various penetrations Chinese has already accomplished of US military systems.
23414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: December 15, 2010, 12:47:03 PM
second post of day

Industrial production increased 0.4% in November To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/15/2010


Industrial production increased 0.4% in November, beating a consensus expected gain of 0.3%. Production is up at a 2.8% annual rate in the past six months.

Despite a 6.0% drop in auto production, manufacturing output rose 0.3% in November despite a 6.0% decline in autos. Non-auto manufacturing rose a strong 0.7%. In the past six months, auto production is down at a 4.7% annual rate while non-auto manufacturing is up at a 3.1% rate.
 
The production of high-tech equipment was up 0.9% in November and is up at a 2.9% annual rate in the past six months.
 
Overall capacity utilization rose to 75.2% in November, the highest since October 2008. Manufacturing capacity use increased to 72.8%, the highest since the failure of Lehman Brothers.
 
Implications:  Another month, another increase in factory output and no sign of a double dip. Many analysts are using the election and tax deal to turn bullish. They are scrambling to catch up to an economy that was already growing before a single person cast a vote. Like retail sales, manufacturing output rose for the fifth consecutive month in November. Due to a 2% increase in utility output, overall industrial production rose 0.4%. Look for another surge in utility output next month as December is turning out to be unusually cold in much of the country. In mid-2009, capacity utilization was at a 45-year low of 68.2%. Now, only 17 months later, capacity utilization is 7 percentage points higher, at 75.2%. Two factors are boosting utilization: expanding output and a depreciating capital stock. In fact, because of depreciation, total capacity (the ability to produce) in manufacturing has fallen back down to 2007 levels. Assuming we are correct that real GDP expands 4% in 2011, capacity utilization will climb to near the long-term average of 80% next year. Not only will companies be forced to invest but the Federal Reserve will face greater fears of inflation coming from a constrained sector of the economy. In other news this morning, the Empire State index, a measure of manufacturing in New York, rebounded sharply in December, climbing from -11.1 in November to +10.6.
23415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PIIG Flu contagion spreading to Belgium, Austria? on: December 15, 2010, 11:25:18 AM
Woof All:

A lot of bearish sentiment has been expressed around here-- including by me.  Worth noting IMHO that when the PIIG Flu acts up in Europe, the dollar rises.  Also, if I am not mistaken, rising interest rates here in the US tend to strengthen the dollar.  If the scenario envisioned below reifies, we could be surprised by where things go for the dollar.
=========


Stratfor Summary
Standard & Poor’s said Dec. 14 that it likely will downgrade Belgium’s credit rating due to the size of the country’s government debt and budget deficit, along with its inability to form a stable government. The announcement indicates that Europe’s financial woes are spreading from the PIIGS — Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain — to more established economies, particularly Belgium and Austria.

Standard & Poor’s warned Dec. 14 that Belgium’s mix of high government debt, a high budget deficit and the chronic inability to form a stable government would likely force the ratings agency to downgrade the country’s credit rating (currently at AA+), possibly within six months. Such an event is not yet inevitable, but the mere announcement of the “negative watch” heralds the spread of Europe’s ongoing financial troubles to Europe’s more established states.

Until now nearly all concern for the financial stability of eurozone states has focused on the PIIGS, an acronym investors created to refer to Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. These states share certain characteristics that include large — and in many cases, popped — bubbles in real estate and finance, high budget deficit and debt levels, and political difficulty in addressing the problems.

To this list of states in distress, STRATFOR would like to add two more developed Western European countries: Austria and Belgium, both of which share key negative characteristics of the PIIGS.

Belgium is certainly the worse off of the two. It suffers from a residential real estate bubble roughly as bad as Spain’s, roughly half again as bad in relative terms as the U.S. subprime crisis. Belgium’s 2009 headline government debt level clocked in at 96 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), 20 percentage points worse than Portugal — the next PIIGS state that STRATFOR expects will need a bailout. But perhaps most important is that modern Belgium cannot seem to hold a government together. Since the last elections in April 2007 it has had three separate governments, and that does not include the 18 months of interim governments required to hash out coalition deals that were complex and unstable in equal measure. The soon-to-be-mounting obsession among investors is that such political dysfunction will make the austerity required to fix the budget next to impossible.

Austria is better off than Belgium by all of these measures. Its debt and deficit are both considerably lower (68 percent of GDP versus 96 percent of GDP and 3.5 percent of GDP versus 6 percent of GDP, respectively), its political system is more or less in order, and its housing sector — nearly alone within Europe — was never overbuilt. Austria’s biggest outlier is that its banks are listing badly, due to their overexuberance in lending into the now-popped credit bubble that plagues Central Europe.



(click here to enlarge image)
The point that Austria and Belgium have most in common, however, is one they share with the weaker states of the PIIGS grouping: They are largely dependent upon external financing to manage their sovereign debt loads. Austria, Belgium, Greece and Ireland are all relatively small states with limited indigenous financial resources. When a state faces financial duress, the first thing the government does is hash out a deal — often forcefully — with its own financial sector, applying those resources to the problem. Such is standard fare in major states such as Germany and Italy. Smaller states often lack such options, forcing the governments to turn to international investors for cash. In good times this is irrelevant, but when money gets tight and investors get scared, an investor stampede can crush a state’s finances overnight. Such a calamity was precisely what forced the Greek and Irish breakdowns and bailouts. The exposure of all four of these states to such outsiders is more than 50 percent of GDP, which as Greece and Ireland have already demonstrated so vividly, is an amount that simply cannot be coped with in a panic.

Austria and Belgium are advanced, technocratic economies with sophisticated financial sectors. Any financial contagion that breaks into the developed states of Western Europe via these two countries would terrify investors who have been fairly convinced that the euro’s problems were safely sequestered in the somewhat manageable states of the PIIGS grouping. Should Austria or Belgium go the way of Greece, all bets will be off in Europe.



Read more: Europe's Financial Troubles Spread to Belgium, Austria | STRATFOR
23416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: American History on: December 15, 2010, 11:20:10 AM
Today, Dec. 15, is the anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to our Constitution, as ratified in 1791.

The Bill of Rights was inspired by three remarkable documents: John Locke's 1689 thesis, Two Treatises of Government, regarding the protection of "property" (in the Latin context, proprius, or one's own "life, liberty and estate"); in part from the Virginia Declaration of Rights authored by George Mason in 1776 as part of that state's Constitution; and, of course, in part from our Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson.

Read in context, the Bill of Rights is both an affirmation of innate individual rights and a clear delineation on constraints upon the central government. As oft trampled and abused as the Bill of Rights is, Patriots should remain vigilant in the fight for our rights.

23417  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Rest in Peace BP Agent Brian A. Terry on: December 15, 2010, 11:17:12 AM




It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry who was shot and killed during an encounter with armed subjects.  Agent Terry was working in the “Peck Well” area near Rio Rico, Arizona when he was fatally injured. 

 

During the encounter, one assailant was wounded and immediately taken into custody.  Three additional suspects were apprehended shortly thereafter.  Border Patrol agents are currently tracking a fifth suspect and I assure you that every effort will be expended to bring this remaining suspect into custody.       

 

Agent Terry entered on duty with Academy Class 699 on July 23, 2007.  He is survived by his parents and sister in Detroit, Michigan. Please keep Agent Terry and his family in your thoughts and prayers as they have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. 

 

This is a stark reminder of the realities we face in our mission to protect our borders and our communities. We will continue to stand firm in our commitment to that mission. 

 

In difficult times like these it is important that we turn to and support one another.  Peer Support members, the Tucson Sector Chaplaincy Program, and the Employee Assistance Program are all available to any employee who may need them.  Updates will be provided about this tragic situation as soon as information becomes available.

 

Respectfully,

 

Richard A. Barlow
Deputy Chief Patrol Agent
Tucson Sector Headquarters 
23418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric on: December 15, 2010, 10:54:22 AM
By HENRY HITCHINGS
'I worry incessantly that I might be too clear," Alan Greenspan once claimed. He intended the remark to be crowd-pleasing, but it served as an acknowledgment of the necessary ambiguity of professional economics. To be clear is to leave oneself open to attack; there is safety in obscurity. In many quarters clarity is interpreted as oversimplification, and the cryptic utterance is regarded as a mark of expertise. Yet the murkiness of public discourse often results not from willful indistinctness but simply from a blithe, untutored lack of rhetorical know-how.

In "Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric," Ward Farnsworth sets out to remedy this. A professor at the Boston University School of Law, Mr. Farnsworth has previously published "The Legal Analyst," which he described as "a collection of tools for thinking about legal questions," and a guide to chess tactics. This book manifests his familiar pragmatism and distaste for rarefied theory; billed as "a lively set of lessons," it is in fact more akin to a well- curated exhibition of rhetorical accessories.

"Everyone speaks and writes in patterns," Mr. Farnsworth states. We have absorbed models of expression, which we reproduce "without thinking much about it." Yet we can study the patterns and learn to make our utterances more effective. To this end he maps the rhetorical figures that are, as he puts it, "practical ways of working with large aesthetic principles." Selecting passages from favorite authors and orators, and providing judicious remarks about them, he offers "help to those who wish to be on better terms with such techniques."

In its popular use, the adjective "rhetorical" has become a slur, conveying images of bombast and bloatedness. We are apt to associate it with the prolix statements of policy makers and the aureate pomposity of evangelists. Mr. Farnsworth wants to reclaim the word and the principles it truly betokens.

View Full Image
.Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric
By Ward Farnsworth
Godine, 254 pages, $26.95
.He is the inheritor of a substantial tradition. The ancient literature on rhetoric includes works by Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian. The subject was treated extensively by Renaissance scholars such as Erasmus and Juan Luis Vives, George Puttenham and Thomas Wilson. Its modern apostles, on the whole less eminent, are numerous. Mr. Farnsworth, however, is unusual in focusing on techniques rather than articulating a general plea for expressive poise.

Although the bulk of the book consists of examples, Mr. Farnsworth's interleaved commentary is valuable. He explains, for instance, polysyndeton: It is the repeated use of a conjunction, as in Mark Twain's "a German daily is the slowest and saddest and dreariest of the inventions of man." In addition, Mr. Farnsworth gives us six reasons to use it, including a certain artless effect, which "may enhance the speaker's credibility." When it comes to asyndeton—the omission of conjunctions, as in Twain's "Munich did seem the horriblest place, the most desolate place, the most unendurable place"—he offers seven such reasons. This is done with modest brevity rather than in a labored and didactic fashion.

An incidental effect of Mr. Farnsworth's selection of examples is a kind of covert literary criticism. We are alerted to G.K. Chesterton's love of chiasmus—the ABBA pattern in which repetition involves reversal. Chesterton writes that "we do not get good laws to restrain bad people. We get good people to restrain bad laws" and that "an inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." According to Mr. Farnsworth, the device suited the author because "he believed that modern thought constantly had things backward."

One gets the impression that, a century on from Chesterton, Mr. Farnsworth finds our own modernity topsy-turvy. He notes the decline of rhetoric in our times and his chosen examples come from authors and orators between the age of Shakespeare and the 1950s. The modern politician is for him "a creature of very modest literacy and wit," who strains for grandiloquence and "spoils what he touches." Instead of rhetoric, the politician favors figures of another kind: Today's infatuation with statistics is a bid for scientific exactness but tends to crowd out finesse.

Having taken Latin and Greek at school, I knew a little bit about rhetoric before settling down with Mr. Farnsworth. But while chiasmus and ellipsis were familiar, many of his terms were new to me. Most are not words to slip into casual conversation—"Great epizeuxis in your presentation, George!"—but they usefully label forms of ingenuity, and a familiarity with them sharpens our sensitivity to the range of ways in which language can be mobilized to influence and excite us.

The most immediate pleasure of this book is that it heightens one's appreciation of the craft of great writers and speakers. Mr. Farnsworth includes numerous examples from Shakespeare and Dickens, Thoreau and Emerson, Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. He also seems keen to rehabilitate writers and speakers whose rhetorical artistry is undervalued; besides his liking for Chesterton, he shows deep admiration for the Irish statesman Henry Grattan (1746-1820), whose studied repetition of a word ("No lawyer can say so; because no lawyer could say so without forfeiting his character as a lawyer") is an instance, we are told, of conduplicatio. But more than anything Mr. Farnsworth wants to restore the reputation of rhetorical artistry per se, and the result is a handsome work of reference.

Mr. Hitchings is the author of "The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English" (2008).

23419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Uncertainty on: December 15, 2010, 10:43:54 AM
y JOHN D. MCKINNON, GARY FIELDS And LAURA SAUNDERS
WASHINGTON—Welcome to the world of the temporary tax code.

 The U.S. tax code is slowly being turned into a temporary patchwork of provisions that need to be addressed every year or two, depriving individuals and businesses of the predictability they need for long-range plans. John McKinnon discusses. Also, Brett Arends says not only are the Democrats politically bankrupt and the Republicans morally bankrupt, but that this tax deal will play a big role in America's undoing.
.In the late 1990s, there were typically fewer than a dozen tax provisions that had just a limited lease on life and needed to be renewed every year or so.

Today there are 141.

Now Congress, taking up a deal worked out between the Obama administration and Republican leaders, is poised to turn the whole personal income-tax system into something of a temporary structure. The plan embraces a broad range of provisions—an extension of Bush-era rates, a new estate-tax formula—but for only two years. A payroll-tax cut in the bill is for a single year.

 .This means that if the compromise passes largely intact, the U.S. will have no permanent regime governing levies on salaries, capital gains and dividends, the Social Security tax, as well as a slew of targeted breaks for families, students and other groups. This on top of dozens of corporate-tax provisions that already were subject to annual renewal.

The level of uncertainty, unusual for developed nations, complicates planning and discourages hiring and investment, many economists and corporate executives say.

"I haven't seen anything like it, and it's hard historically to find anything like" the current and pending negotiations, says Mortimer Caplin, an Internal Revenue Service commissioner in the Kennedy administration who at 94 is just three years younger than the income tax itself. "This Congress has left an awful lot up in the air."

A vote to pass the tax deal in the Senate is expected on Tuesday or Wednesday; prospects for swift approval in the House remained cloudy but party leaders seem increasingly resigned to the measure clearing Congress intact.

 Democrats are predicting that a tax deal will clear a crucial hurdle comfortably in the Senate today, with a margin they hope will add momentum to the deal in the House. Aaron Zitner and Neal Lipschutz discuss. Also, Nick Timiraos discusses worry among economists that the housing market could be headed toward another downdraft as mortgage lenders tighten credit.
.The two-year expiration of the bill's main provisions on individual rates would occur just after the next presidential election, and few in Washington envision a long-term solution being crafted at such a charged time.

At the same time, the possibility of a sweeping tax-system revamp can itself add to the uncertainty, what with politicans increasingly ready to talk about this. President Barack Obama has lately, as has the deficit-reduction panel he appointed, including Republican members such as Rep. Dave Camp, future chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The possibility of an overhaul that would put on the table long-established credits and deductions could further uproot predictability.

This year has been something of a test case for tax uncertainty, with concern about what would happen when provisions adopted in 2001 and 2003 expired at year-end.

More
Tax-Cut Bill Draws Wide Support in Senate
Tax-Cut Vote Splits New York Senators
Tax Deal Set to Pass Senate
Pelosi Walks Tax-Deal Tightrope
Wealth Report: Depending on the Rich
.Sales of certain kinds of life insurance rose as families wrestled with the possibility that estate taxes would jump in 2011. With no assurance the 15% rate on dividend income would last past 2010, Kraft Foods Inc., Exelon Corp. and Altria Group Inc. asked their shareholders to contact Congress in opposition to an increase. Stocks of utilities, which traditionally pay high dividends, appeared to factor in the possibility of a rise in the dividend tax rate in 2011, analysts said.

At Incobrasa Industries Ltd., a producer of biodiesel in Gilman, Ill., sales manager Douglas Santos has been waiting to see what happens to an expired tax subsidy for his industry. He is running at 25% capacity, vs. 100% in 2008. Mr. Santos wants Congress to make up its mind one way or the other. "Just do something," he says. The bill before Congress would restore the subsidy.

Economic research has shown businesses tend to be more reluctant to invest when they perceive high levels of uncertainty about various things, including over taxes. The pressure on policy makers to narrow the budget deficit, not merely simplify the tax system, further muddies the waters now, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology tax economist James Poterba, who finds "the crystal ball…particularly unclear at the moment."

Some call the worries exaggerated. "I truly do believe the concerns expressed over tax uncertainty are truly overblown," says Martin Sullivan, an economist with Tax Analysts, a nonprofit tax publisher, who sees today's situation as quite manageable compared with the profound business uncertainty companies faced during the financial crisis.

Important 'Extenders' | Provisions That Need to Be Renewed Regularly
Protection from alternative minimum tax
Enhanced charitable deductions for business
Business research credit
Ethanol subsidies
Biodiesel incentives
Faster depreciation for business investments
Tax deferral of overseas financing income
Expensing of 'brownfields' remediation
Charitable donation of IRA assets
Deductibility of state and local sales taxes

View Full Image

Bloomberg News
 
Catherine McGraw, center, waits to check out at a J.C. Penney store in Mentor, Ohio.
.Deductibility for school supplies

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Stacey Ressler, a teacher in Wernersville, Pa., organizes classroom supplies she purchased.
.."We're used to [uncertainty] in the tax world," he says. "What's changed in the last few years is the size of the temporary extensions."

Obama administration officials note that the tax code has been through gyrations before, for example in the 1980s, when Congress adopted accelerated depreciation in 1981, only to repeal it five years later. That threw real-estate markets into an uproar and added to problems that contributed to the savings-and-loan collapse.

The White House says the current confusion points to the need for a system that is more stable and simpler. "We've got to have a larger debate about...how is this country going to win the economic competition of the 21st century," President Obama said last week. "That's going to mean looking at the tax code and saying, what's fair, what's efficient? And I don't think anybody thinks the tax code right now is fair or efficient."

Small business is often looked to as a source of job growth. But the latest monthly survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business advocacy group, found that 75% of owners felt it wasn't a good time to expand, and one in five said the main reason was doubt about policy environment, including taxes.

For smaller companies, tax uncertainty could be an incentive to expand overseas rather than in the U.S., according to Tom Duesterberg, president of the Manufacturers Alliance, a group representing medium-size firms. Companies "can't wait until all these [tax] questions are resolved," he says. "They are not going to wait until all that definitively happens. They have to deploy cash, please their shareholders and expand and grow."

Billy Hoffpauir, a developer in Lafayette, La., says he has been trying to sell some real estate because "with the current uncertainty, I am unable to quantify the risk to make long-term investment decisions." If he finds buyers, he says, he would be likely to plow the cash into "other interests, probably overseas," because some foreign countries have more favorable taxes and regulations. The tax situation is the overwhelming driver in his business decisions, Mr. Hoffpauir says.

Lea Bailes, president of Guier Fence in Blue Springs, Mo., says his plans for next year depend on how the tax debate turns out: "We're looking at acquiring a couple of smaller fence companies. The number we acquire, honestly, will depend on what we have to pay in tax."

The company, which employs about 70, would try to hire two to three new workers for each acquisition, possibly 10 in all. "If everybody our size can add 10 employees, we'd be a lot farther down the road in dealing with the unemployment," Mr. Bailes says.

Guier is in the process of acquiring another firm now, and while Mr. Bailes likes to take time to make such decisions, he worries that concern over a possible rise in capital-gains rates might make the seller push to complete the sale this year. The bill in Congress would keep the current 15% top rate for two years.

One reason unsettled rules on individual income taxes affect planning at small businesses is that many don't pay corporate tax, but pass business income through to the owners for taxation on their personal returns.

Bill Wiygul, whose family owns four auto-repair businesses in northern Virginia, estimates he and his wife would pay at least $20,000 more in various taxes in 2011 if Congress doesn't address parts of the code, including the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT snags a growing number of filers each year, and while Congress regularly limits the number affected—and likely will do so again this week or next—this has so far been an AMT "patch," never a permanent fix.

Mr. Wiygul says he would trade an increase in tax rates for greater certainty if the pain was shared by all. "We are petrified," he says. "We would be more actively pursuing expansion opportunities if we felt like the climate was more certain."

Large multinationals are only marginally affected directly by income-tax provisions on the table this year. Yet the stakes might be high for these companies. Executives worry about becoming a target for lawmakers seeking revenue to narrow deficits.

If a broad revision "is a true 'step back, let's take a fresh look,' we would not be frightened by that," says Ken Cohen, a vice president at Exxon Mobil Corp. But if it pits industry versus industry or becomes a hunt for revenue, "that's the process we would have much more apprehension about."

The reasons the tax code has acquired an increasingly temporary cast have to do with deficits, a divided Congress and even the constitutional system.

Political division contributes because of the daunting task of mustering a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate. Legislative shepherds of the Bush cuts resorted to passage under what is called "budget reconciliation," requiring only a majority vote. But a measure passed this way can't be for longer than the budget that authorizes it, in this case 10 years. Hence the provisions expire in 2010.

Such an outcome is less likely in countries with parliamentary systems because these leave the government less subject to having its will thwarted by a large minority. "Very few countries have tax provisions that expire unless legislative action is taken," says Jeffrey Owens, head of tax at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. "Also, in most OECD countries, it's the government that initiates new legislation, and once proposed the legislation generally passes."

Deficits tempt legislators to give tax provisions a temporary term to disguise their cost. For proponents of a new tax provision, the strategy is to get a foot in the door by passing it for a year or two, at a seemingly affordable cost, intending to renew it regularly.

That is how the number of provisions up for yearly extension has ballooned. Though the provisions are often extended in a bundle, a given provision's inclusion in the bundle is never certain.

Perhaps nowhere has tax uncertainty been felt more intensely this year than in the estate tax, always a controversial matter.

A 2001 law lowered its rate and increased the exemption in steps, with the tax lapsing in 2010 and then, unless Congress acts, returning in 2011 at a 55% top rate on estates of $1 million or more. The unusual hiatus coupled with a far more costly tax as soon as 2010 ended gave "just an unbelievable Alice-in-Wonderland aspect" to planning for certain well-to-do families, says Bruce Stone, a Miami-area estate lawyer.

Sales of a life-insurance policy commonly used for estate planning rose 22% in the first nine months from a year earlier, and their death-benefit coverage was up 30%. Though the policies can also be used for other purposes, part of the jump seemed clearly to be for hedging against the possible estate-tax jump in 2011.

In a few cases, the uncertainty drove people to ponder extreme measures to avoid a tax hit for heirs.

David Drouhard, a Washington-state farmer who is 56, received a diagnosis of advanced kidney cancer 14 months ago and faced a grim set of treatment choices. Most offered little chance of extending his life more than 18 months, although an immunity-boosting drug held out some hope. Mr. Drouhard says he worried that inaction on the estate tax would force his family to sell his wheat and alfalfa farm, now worth about $3 million, to pay taxes if he died in 2011.

After much deliberation, Mr. Drouhard decided to take the immunity-boosting drug, but with a caveat: "I said, 'If we don't see results from the first series [of treatments], I'm going to stop,"' he says. "I try to take care of my family, so why not go ahead and die instead of living another six months." He has responded well to the treatment, but adds: "I think it's wrong that you have to make that kind of decision."

The compromise Congress is weighing this week would set a top estate-tax rate at 35% and the exemption at $5 million.

But this would be for just two years. Just as this year, a failure by Congress to act then would cause the tax to then revert to a top 55% rate and $1 million exemption, in this case in 2013.

23420  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / LATimes: NFL supports CA student athlete head injury bill on: December 15, 2010, 10:32:31 AM


The NFL is lending its public relations muscle to a proposal that would require California student athletes who leave a game after a head injury to get written medical clearance before returning to the field or court.

Retired players, including Raiders legends Jim Otto and Fred Biletnikoff and San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl players Keena Turner and Eric Davis, recounted their own experiences Tuesday to support the measure in Sacramento.

Davis told how a blow to the head in a game against the Detroit Lions rendered him temporarily blind in his left eye. Reasoning that he played the left side of the field, and the bad eye was facing the sideline, Davis said he stayed in the game, unaware of the risk he was taking.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Save Up to 90%: Sign up for our free daily e-mail to get in on exclusive deals around L.A. Powered by Groupon. Subscribe Now.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Since then, research has shown that repeated head trauma can lead to brain bleeding, memory loss, depression and even death. Middle school and high school athletes, whose brains are still developing, are even more vulnerable than college athletes and professionals, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The decision to leave a game should be "out of the player's hands, and out of the coach's hands," Davis said, because they can be too caught up in the competition to make good decisions.

The NFL, which drastically amended its own approach to the treatment of brain injuries following headlines about the tragic health problems of aging players, is backing legislation in 44 states this year that would require young players who suffer head injuries to stay off the field for at least the rest of the day and to get a medical professional's signature before they play again.

Parents would have to sign a "concussion awareness fact sheet" before their kids could play in a sports program in any league covered by the California bill. The prohibition would apply not only to official school teams but also to nonprofits and other organizations using public school facilities for youth sports.

Like legislation the NFL is backing around the country, California's is modeled on a Washington State law enacted after a middle school football player returned to the field following a head injury and suffered subsequent damage that left him connected to a ventilator, fighting for his life.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi (D-Castro Valley), sponsor of California's proposal, AB 25, backed unsuccessful legislation in the past that would have required high school coaches to be trained to spot symptoms of potentially dangerous head and neck injuries. Hayashi said she thinks the current bill stands a better chance of success because it would not place a financial burden on schools.

"We're assuming that the students are covered under their parents' healthcare plan," Hayashi said, and the required medical discharge would be no more burdensome than if "they had a cold, or the flu."

State Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark), the bill's co-sponsor, said he expected coaches to welcome the measure because it would relieve them of the burden of deciding whether a player could safely get back in the game following a potentially dangerous blow to the head.

More than 3 million sports and recreation-related concussions are suffered each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Football is the leading cause among high school boys; soccer is the main reason for high school girls.

Nearly half of those injured return to play too early, according to a 2010 report by the Center for Injury Research and Policy, based at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Sixteen percent of high school football players who lost consciousness following a blow to the head returned to play the same day, the report says.

Staying in the game following head injuries was routine in the era when Otto, a Hall of Fame center, was snapping balls and taking a pounding for the Raiders in the 1960s and 1970s. Otto has endured nearly 70 surgeries on his knees, shoulders and hips to repair damage done during his years in the NFL's trenches.

Standing at the podium Tuesday, Otto motioned to his former teammate. "I remember looking over at Biletnikoff in the huddle, looking all cross-eyed, and saying, 'Snap out of it.' He'd say, 'I am snapped out of it.' "

Now that he understands the dangers of repeated head injuries, mostly from watching friends struggle with the long-term effects, Otto said, "It's imperative that this thing has to pass and that our children have to be protected."
23421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: December 15, 2010, 10:01:23 AM
This subject belongs in the Constitutional Law thread.
23422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Surprise surprise (soda) on: December 15, 2010, 09:58:01 AM
Over the last year, Save the Children emerged as a leader in the push to tax sweetened soft drinks as a way to combat childhood obesity. The nonprofit group supported soda tax campaigns in Mississippi, New Mexico, Washington State, Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.

At the same time, executives at Save the Children were seeking a major grant from Coca-Cola to help finance the health and education programs that the charity conducts here and abroad, including its work on childhood obesity.

The talks with Coke are still going on. But the soda tax work has been stopped. In October, Save the Children surprised activists around the country with an e-mail message announcing that it would no longer support efforts to tax soft drinks.

In interviews this month, Carolyn Miles, chief operating officer of Save the Children, said there was no connection between the group’s about-face on soda taxes and the discussions with Coke. A $5 million grant from PepsiCo also had no influence on the decision, she said. Both companies fiercely oppose soda taxes.

Ms. Miles said that after Save the Children took a prominent role in several soda tax campaigns, executives reviewed the issue and decided it was too controversial to continue.

“We looked at it and said, ‘Is this something we should be out there doing and does this fit with the way that Save the Children works?’ ” she said. “And the answer was no.”

Ms. Miles said the talks with Coke were continuing and the grant under discussion was significantly larger than past donations from the soft drink giant. Coke has given the group about $400,000 since 1991, according to a company spokeswoman.

Save the Children has received much more money from Pepsi through the PepsiCo Foundation, which it has designated as a “corporate partner” in recognition of the $5 million grant for work in India and Bangladesh. PepsiCo awarded the grant in early 2009, before the charity began its soda tax advocacy.

Representatives of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi said they had not asked the charity to alter its position on soda taxes.

But soda tax advocates say that soft drink makers are flexing their muscles in opposition to soda taxes. In Washington State, the American Beverage Association, a trade group that includes Coke and Pepsi, spent $16.5 million to win passage of a November ballot initiative that overturned a small tax on soft drinks enacted by the legislature to help plug a budget gap. The beverage association outspent supporters of the tax by more than 40 to 1, and the tax was repealed.

Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children’s Alliance, an advocacy group in Seattle, said Save the Children’s decision to abandon the issue was “a significant loss, especially at a time when the American Beverage Association has just shown that their resources are unlimited.” The alliance got $25,000 from Save the Children to help advocate for a soda tax.

Kelly D. Brownell, a soda tax advocate and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, said that many food and beverage companies made donations to nonprofit groups fighting hunger but it was less common for them to finance work to address obesity.

“It would be a shame if there were a quid pro quo and the groups felt pressure to oppose something like a soda tax,” Mr. Brownell said.

Public debate about soda taxes has intensified over the last year. Proponents say that if the tax were large enough, perhaps a penny an ounce or more, it could reduce consumption of sugary beverages, which are high in calories and can contribute to obesity. In addition, money raised by the tax could be spent on public health efforts to fight obesity.

The soda companies argue that it is unfair to blame their products for the obesity epidemic, which has complex causes. They say that policies should be focused instead on getting people to exercise more.

So far, tax proposals have gotten little traction. Last year, federal lawmakers considered a soft drink tax to help pay for health care reform, but that idea was dropped. Governors, state lawmakers and mayors have proposed taxes but made little headway.

Save the Children’s involvement in the issue began in late 2009, when it got a $3.5 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fight childhood obesity through a program it called the Campaign for Healthy Kids. Save the Children initially financed the work of local groups, some of which focused on improving school lunches and requiring health education in schools. But local activists in Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington State used the grants to push for a soda tax.

When politicians in Philadelphia and Washington proposed soda taxes this year, the Campaign for Healthy Kids got more directly involved, paying for lobbyists and polling. “We really took the lead on those and were publicly identified with those,” said Andrew Hysell, an associate vice president for Save the Children and the director of the obesity campaign.

None of the soda tax measures supported by Save the Children passed, although in Washington, the city council removed a sales tax exemption for carbonated beverages.

Save the Children’s prominent role in Philadelphia and Washington led top executives of the charity to review the work. Ms. Miles said they concluded the advocacy was not part of the charity’s mission.

“We made a decision that it was an issue that was controversial among our constituents and really was not core to the work we’re doing in the U.S.,” Ms. Miles said. She said that while the charity’s constituents included corporate donors, concerns over fund-raising were not involved in the decision.

Mr. Hysell informed soda tax advocates of the change in October and the Campaign for Healthy Kids removed declarations of support for soda taxes from its Web site.

Officials of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who had encouraged Save the Children to advocate for soda taxes, are disappointed.

“They were obviously some of the strongest out there working on the issue, and we had such high hopes,” said Dwayne Proctor, team director for childhood obesity at the foundation. He said the two groups would continue to work together on other aspects of the obesity fight.

23423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: US vulnerable for years on REEs on: December 15, 2010, 09:55:14 AM
HONG KONG — The United States is too reliant on China for minerals crucial to new clean energy technologies, making the American economy vulnerable to shortages of materials needed for a range of green products — from compact fluorescent light bulbs to electric cars to giant wind turbines.

Molycorp, an American company, stopped mining for rare earths in Mountain Pass, Calif., in 2002, but expects to reopen the mine in 2012.
So warns a detailed report to be released on Wednesday morning by the United States Energy Department. The report, which predicts that it could take 15 years to break American dependence on Chinese supplies, calls for the nation to increase research and expand diplomatic contacts to find alternative sources, and to develop ways to recycle the minerals or replace them with other materials.

At least 96 percent of the most crucial types of the so-called rare earth minerals are now produced in China, and Beijing has wielded various export controls to limit the minerals’ supply to other countries while favoring its own manufacturers that use them.

“The availability of a number of these materials is at risk due to their location, vulnerability to supply disruptions and lack of suitable substitutes,” the report says, which also mentions some concerns about a few other minerals imported from elsewhere, such as cobalt from the Congo.

The Energy Department report is being released the same morning that cabinet officials from China and the United States will meet in Washington to discuss economic and commercial issues.

While no detailed agenda has been released, the talks are expected to include American objections to China’s tightening restrictions on rare earth exports — like a two-month halt this autumn on shipments to Japan, and a shorter-lived slowdown of exports to the United States and Europe.

And on Tuesday, China’s finance ministry announced on its Web site, and the official Xinhua news agency later reported as well, that China plans to increase its export taxes on some rare earths next year. The ministry did not say how much the taxes would increase. Although World Trade Organization rules ban export taxes, China has imposed them on rare earths for the last four years.

David Sandalow, the assistant secretary of energy for policy and international affairs, who oversaw preparation of the Energy Department report, said in a telephone interview that the timing of the report’s release and the American-China cabinet meetings was coincidental.

But the report reflects an emerging view within the American government that domestic sources of rare earths are needed, in addition to suppliers in many other countries, to ensure the viability of clean energy manufacturing in the United States.

“We can build a new industry and put our clean energy future on a sound footing, creating many new jobs in the process,” Mr. Sandalow said.

Still, the report presents a fairly gloomy assessment of the United States’ ability to wean itself from Chinese imports. For as long as the next 15 years, the supplies of at least five minerals that come almost exclusively from China will remain as vulnerable to disruption as they are absolutely vital to the manufacture of small yet powerful electric motors, energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs and other clean energy technologies, the report said.

The five minerals are medium and heavy rare earth elements of which China mines an estimated 96 percent to 99.8 percent of the world’s supply: dysprosium, terbium, neodymium, europium and yttrium.

China also increasingly dominates the manufacture of clean energy technologies that require such minerals, including the production of million-dollar wind turbines. Chinese export restrictions have added up to $40 a pound to world prices, which makes a big difference particularly for some of the less expensive rare earths, like lanthanum, that sell for several dollars a pound in China.

That is among the reasons, along with cheap labor and extensive Chinese government subsidies, that many clean energy manufacturers have found it cheaper to shift production to China.

Mr. Sandalow said that wind turbine manufacturers were capable of building very large turbines without rare earths. But using rare earths could reduce the per megawatt cost of wind energy and improve its competitiveness through savings on other materials, like steel and copper.

He cautioned that the United States had been putting far fewer resources than China into exploring ways to use the powerful magnetic and other properties of rare earths.

“There are thousands of rare earth researchers in China and dozens in the United States, and that underscores both the challenge and the opportunity,” he said. “Their expertise in this area is significant.”

China’s finance ministry, in announcing plans to raise export taxes on some rare earths, did not indicate which minerals might be affected.

=================

Page 2 of 2)



Since 2006, China has imposed an export tax of 15 percent on light rare earths like lanthanum and cerium, which are needed for oil refining and glass manufacturing, and 25 percent on heavy rare earths like dysprosium and terbium.

China mines about 92 percent of the world’s light rare earths.
Dysprosium, which helps rare earth magnets preserve their magnetism at high temperatures, is mined almost exclusively in southern China and sells for $95 a pound in China and $135 a pound outside, including the export tax.

Dysprosium has emerged as the mineral most vital to clean energy industries yet most vulnerable to supply disruptions, the report said.

Dudley Kingsnorth, a prominent rare earth mining consultant in Perth, Australia, said he agreed that a dysprosium shortage was likely. He added that he expected that a rare earth shortage would slow the overall adoption of new rare earth technologies by clean energy industries for at least the next five years.

American and Japanese officials have said that they might file a legal challenge at the World Trade Organization to China’s taxes on rare earth exports, as well as on quotas that China imposes on rare earth exports.

Until this autumn, Chinese officials had portrayed their rare earth policies as an effort to force high-tech companies to move their factories to China and retain supplies for domestic industries. The Chinese government has recently shifted to describing the export restrictions as an environmental measure, noting that extracting and processing the minerals can be a highly toxic process that has also resulted in leaks of radioactive mining waste into the groundwater in northern China.

But while W.T.O. rules allow export restrictions for environmental reasons, that is only if a country also restricts domestic consumption, which China has not done.

Demand for rare earths and China’s virtual chokehold on supplies have prompted some overseas companies to enter, or re-enter, the field.

Molycorp, an American company that in August made an initial public offering of its shares on the New York Stock Exchange, plans to open in 2012 a large rare earth mine at Mountain Pass, Calif., that closed in 2002 after prices were undercut by Chinese competitors. Molycorp announced on Monday that it had received the last of the construction permits needed to proceed.

The Lynas Corporation of Australia plans to open at the end of next year a large rare earths mine at Mount Weld, Australia.

But both the Molycorp and Lynas mines will produce mostly light rare earths and relatively little of the medium and heavy rare earths needed for magnets and other significant clean energy applications.

Dozens of small mining companies hope to open new mines in the United States and elsewhere that could tap reserves of medium and heavy rare earths. But these small companies face formidable legal, financial, marketing and management obstacles, the Energy Department report said.
23424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Fed keeps spigots open on: December 14, 2010, 05:46:05 PM
second post of the day

Fed Keeps Monetary Spigot Wide Open To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/14/2010


As widely anticipated, the Federal Reserve’s statement on monetary policy was almost a carbon copy of last month’s statement, when it embarked on a new round of “quantitative easing.”

The Fed made no direct changes to the stance of monetary policy today, leaving the target range for the federal funds rate at 0% to 0.25%. In addition, the Fed maintained its pledge to keep the funds rate at this level for an “extended period.” The Fed also reiterated its commitment – initially made in early November – to purchase $600 billion in long-term Treasury securities by mid-2011. These purchases are on top of reinvesting (into long-term Treasury securities) principal payments on its pre-existing portfolio of mortgage securities.
 
The Fed only made minor changes to its statement. Last month it said the recovery was “slow.” This is now changed to growth being “insufficient to bring down the rate of unemployment.” Last month the Fed said consumer spending was growing “gradually.” Now the Fed says it’s growing at a “moderate” rate. The Fed made no changes to its language on inflation.
 
Please click on the link above to view the entire commentary.
23425  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: PPI .8%, not good on: December 14, 2010, 10:44:45 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.8% in November To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/14/2010


The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.8% in November, beating the consensus expected gain of 0.6%.  Producer prices are up 3.5% versus a year ago.

The November rise in the PPI was mostly due to energy and food. Energy prices increased 2.1% while food prices rose 1.0%. The “core” PPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.3%, beating the consensus expected increase of 0.2%.
 
Consumer goods prices rose 1.0% in November and are up 4.7% versus last year.  Capital equipment prices were up 0.2% in November and are up 0.3% in the past year.
 
Intermediate goods prices increased 1.1% in November and are up 6.3% versus a year ago.  Crude prices increased 0.6% in November and are up 13.0% in the past twelve months.
 
Implications:  Overly loose monetary policy from the Federal Reserve isn’t just going to cause more inflation down the road, it’s causing higher inflation today. Anyone still talking about a deflation threat needs to re-examine their economic models. Mostly due to increases in food and energy, producer prices increased 0.8% in November, the largest gain since March. Core prices increased 0.3%, a partial rebound from the 0.6% drop last month. What’s even more troubling is that measures of producer price inflation are more intense deeper in the production process, and that’s the case with both overall prices and core prices. In the past year, prices for intermediate goods are up 6.3% overall and 4.7% core; prices for crude goods are up 13% overall and 30.2% core. Over time, some of these increases should filter through to prices for finished goods.  It’s important to note that all these inflation figures are all the result of monetary policy before the Fed embarked on its second round of quantitative easing, which implies the potential for even higher readings in the next two years.
23426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / El Chapo on: December 13, 2010, 08:15:00 PM
A Near Miss for El Chapo?

Mexican media reported Dec. 13 that Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera may have narrowly escaped a Mexican army raid on a party the night of Dec. 10-11 in the Campestre neighborhood of Delicias, Chihuahua state. El Diario cites unofficial, unidentified sources as saying Guzman was attending the party, and El Digital reports the operation was targeting him but that units from the 5th military zone that first arrived on the scene were ordered to wait for backup from the 42nd military zone before they could initiate the raid.
 
This hesitation may have allowed Guzman to flee, though there also is no confirmation, only statements by unnamed sources, that he was even present at the party. The El Digital sources said the order to wait was given so the 42nd zone could share credit for the capture, which indicates that the hesitation was not due to lack of firepower — making it an unusual order, given the target’s value.

STRATFOR
23427  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: December 13, 2010, 03:41:24 PM
Because she was mocked for saying that there would be panels deciding who lived and who died.
23428  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: December 13, 2010, 12:49:23 PM
Forwarded by an internet friend:

The piece below was part of a high school writing prompt that our daughter brought home on Friday. The paragraph is from Letters from an American Farmer , written in 1782 by Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crevecoeur, a naturalized American citizen, known for observations on life in pre-Revolutionary America. His most famous work, included in the Letters, is “What Is an American?”… a classic articulation of the identity of the members of that new nation. It was considered such a definitive description of the American national character that it was included in the onboard reading material for passengers on American Airlines in the 1970s!

Three parts of this one paragraph really struck me. First, in terms of our circular’s discussion about power returning to the “East”… it is now, truly, a full circle. The second highlight, “without any part being claimed,” Crevecoeur would be surprised at the extent of the claim now! My third thought was that parts of our nation are returning to the very characteristics that the early America had been a refuge from: involuntary idleness, servile dependence, penury, and useless labor.

I can’t help but notice how far we’ve come…afield…from what he found so promising about this new nation. This includes the switch: rather than coming to America to be changed, transformed by the opportunities…some are now coming to America to change America rather than “be melted into a new race of men.” Nothing you don’t already know…just a curious read from 228 years ago!

David
WHAT IS AN AMERICAN?

He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Americans are the western pilgrims, who are carrying along with them that great mass of arts, sciences, vigour, and industry which began long since in the east; they will finish the great circle.  The Americans were once scattered all over Europe; here they are incorporated into one of the finest systems of population which has ever appeared, and which will hereafter become distinct by the power of the different climates they inhabit. The American ought therefore to love this country much better than that wherein either he or his forefathers were born. Here the rewards of his industry follow with equal steps the progress of his labour; his labour is founded on the basis of nature, self-interest; can it want a stronger allurement? Wives and children, who before in vain demanded of him a morsel of bread, now, fat and frolicsome, gladly help their father to clear those fields whence exuberant crops are to arise to feed and to clothe them all; without any part being claimed, either by a despotic prince, a rich abbot, or a mighty lord. I lord religion demands but little of him; a small voluntary salary to the minister, and gratitude to God; can he refuse these? The American is a new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas, and form new opinions. From involuntary idleness, servile dependence, penury, and useless labour, he has passed to toils of a very different nature, rewarded by ample subsistence. --This is an American.

23429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: December 13, 2010, 11:41:10 AM
It's A Good Deal To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/13/2010


As the Senate votes to pass the tax cut deal announced by President Obama last Monday night, political debate rages on. What’s left of the Left in Congress hates the deal. It’s the second drubbing in a row (November 2nd, being the first). The deal says “lower tax rates are better than higher tax rates.”

After years of complaining about the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy, two Democratic Presidents (Clinton and Obama) have now come out in support of them. President Obama’s chief political advisor, David Axelrod, called that part of the deal “odious” on the Sunday talk shows.
 
Some Republicans don’t like the deal because it includes, by their count, more than $300 billion in “spending” that they feel they were elected to stop. This includes the one-year reduction in the payroll tax rate, extending the program of 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, plus other tax credits.
 
There is still a small chance that Congress will add so many goodies as the bill is written (like continued credits for ethanol), that the deal becomes unsupportable. But, the odds of any crack-up on the way to passage remain very low. We expect it to pass within the next week or two with very minor additions.
 
The benefits of the deal outweigh its costs by a significant margin. The consensus seems to expect about a 1% kick to real GDP growth from a deal, but that is in comparison to “no deal.” We have been more bullish than the consensus and have expected the extension of Bush era tax rates. As a result, we have raised our forecast a small amount – from 3.7% real GDP growth in 2011 to 4%.
 
Many have argued that the “cost” of the deal is $900 billion, but this is Washington speak and has little to do with reality. After bottoming at an annual run rate of $2.0 trillion (roughly 14.5% of GDP) in 2009, total tax revenues to the federal government have climbed to about $2.2 trillion (15% of GDP) in the past year. This has happened without higher tax rates. And as long as the economy continues to recover, revenues will continue to climb, eventually rising back to 19% of GDP, where they were before the Panic of 2008. After that, “bracket creep” generated by economic growth will push revenue even higher relative to GDP.
 
In other words, the US does not need higher tax rates in order to gather more revenue and balance the budget. If government spending were frozen at current levels, the budget would be balanced at the end of 2014. If government spending were cut back to 2008 levels, a balanced budget could be achieved sooner than that. In other words, this deal does not spin the budget out of control. On the contrary, it focuses all the energy of those who want to balance the budget on the spending side of the ledger rather than the tax side. This is great news.
 
Some analysts are trying to tie rising Treasury bond yields to fears about a bigger deficit and the “cost” of the deal. This is a misreading of the markets. Treasury bond yields are rising because a tax hike has been avoided and economic growth is likely to be robust. The bottom line is that stocks remain cheap, while bonds are certainly not.
23430  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I am worried on: December 13, 2010, 09:51:03 AM
Pravda on the Hudson is now starting to say things I have been saying here:

For nearly two years, China’s turbocharged economy has raced ahead with the aid of a huge government stimulus program and aggressive lending by state-run banks.

But a growing number of economists now worry that China — the world’s fastest growing economy and a pillar of strength during the global financial crisis — could be stalled next year by soaring inflation, mounting government debt and asset bubbles.

Two credit ratings agencies, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings, say China is still poised for growth, yet they have also recently warned about hidden risks in its banking system. Fitch even hinted at the possibility of another wave of nonperforming loans tied to the property market.

In the late 1990s and early this decade, the Chinese government was forced to bail out and recapitalize these same state-run banks because a soaring number of bad loans had left them nearly insolvent.

Those banks are much stronger now, after a series of record public stock offerings in recent years that have raised billions of dollars from global investors.

But last week, an analyst at the Royal Bank of Scotland advised clients to hedge against the risk that a flood of cash into China, coupled with soaring inflation, could result in a “day of reckoning.”

A sharp slowdown in China, which is growing at an annual rate of about 10 percent, would be a serious blow to the global economy since China’s voracious demand for natural resources is helping to prop up growth in Asia and South America, even as the United States and the European Union struggle.

And because China is a major holder of United States Treasury debt and a major destination for American investment in recent years, any slowdown would also hurt American companies.

Aware of the risks, Beijing has moved recently to tame its domestic growth and rein in soaring food and housing prices by raising interest rates, tightening regulations on property sales and restricting lending.

At the end of the Central Economic Work Conference, a high-level annual economic policy meeting that concluded on Sunday, Beijing promised to combat inflation and stabilize the economy. Those pledges came just days after the central bank ordered banks to set aside larger capital reserves in a bid to slow lending, the sixth time it has done so this year. And the government reported on Saturday that the consumer price index had climbed 5.1 percent in November, the sharpest rise in nearly three years.

Analysts say more tightening measures are expected in the coming months but that the challenges are mounting.

“There are so many moving pieces,” said Qu Hongbin, the chief China economist for HSBC in Hong Kong. “It wouldn’t be honest to say things aren’t complicated.”

Optimists say China has been adept at steering the right economic course over the last decade, ramping up growth when needed and tamping it down when things get too hot.

But this time, Beijing is not just struggling with inflation, it is also trying to restructure its economy away from dependence on exports and toward domestic consumption in the hopes of creating more balanced and sustainable growth, analysts say.

China is also facing mounting international pressure to let its currency, the renminbi, rise in value. Some trading partners insist China is keeping its currency artificially low to give Chinese exporters a competitive advantage.

Beijing contends that raising the value of its currency would hurt coastal factories that operate on thin profit margins, forcing them to lay off millions of workers.

The most immediate challenge appears to be inflation, which some analysts say may be even more serious than the new figures suggest. Housing prices have skyrocketed. And prices for milk, vegetables and other foods have soared this year.

“The money supply is too large,” said Andy Xie, an economist based in Shanghai who formerly worked at Morgan Stanley. “They increased the money supply to stimulate the economy. Now land prices have jumped 20 times in some places, 100 times in others. Inflation is broad-based. Go into a supermarket. Milk is more expensive in China than it is in the U.S.”

In Shanghai, where the average monthly wage is about $350, a gallon of milk now costs about $5.50.

Wages have also risen sharply this year in coastal provinces amid reports of labor shortages and worker demands for higher pay. Many analysts expect more wage increases next year.

That may be good for workers, analysts say, but it will also change the dynamics of the Chinese economy and its export sector while contributing to higher inflation.

Beijing is now under pressure to mop up excess liquidity after state banks went on a lending binge during the stimulus program that got under way in early 2009. Analysts say a large portion of that lending was diverted to speculate in the property market.

=======

In addition to restricting lending at the big state banks, Beijing recently moved to close hundreds of underground banks and attempted to restrain local governments from borrowing to build huge infrastructure projects, some of which may be wasteful, according to analysts.

Some economists say the real solution is for Beijing to privatize more industries and let the market play a bigger role. After the financial crisis hit, the state assumed more control over the economy.
Now, state banks and big state-owned companies are reluctant to surrender control over industries where they have monopoly power, analysts say.

“Inflation is not the most serious problem,” says Xu Xiaonian, a professor of economics at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. “The most fundamental problem we have to resolve is structural. We need more opening up and reform policies. Look at the state monopolies in education, health care, telecom and entertainment. We need to break those up. We need to create more jobs and make the economy more innovative.”

Zhiwu Chen, a professor of finance at Yale, agrees.

“The state economy and the local governments will be where the future problems occur,” Professor Chen said in an e-mail response to questions on Sunday. “They will be the sources of real troubles for the banks and the financial system.”

Though no economist is forecasting the end to China’s decades-long bull run, many have turned more cautious. And Fitch Ratings recently released a study it conducted with the forecasting consultancy Oxford Economics that examined the effect a slowdown in China would have on the rest of the world.

Fitch expects China’s economy to grow at an annual rate of 8.6 percent next year, down from about 9.7 percent this year. But the report, which was released a few weeks ago, said that if growth slowed to 5 percent, the economies of many other Asian nations would suffer seriously. Steel, energy and manufacturing industries around the world would also be hard hit, it said.

Fitch analysts are careful not to forecast a sharp slowdown in China. But if one comes, they say, it is “most likely to stem from a combination of property crash and banking crisis.”
23431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: December 13, 2010, 08:44:09 AM
FWIW IMHO BO is simply posturing until we get out.

FWIW IMHO if we were there to succeed this pipeline project would really be something around which to focus our efforts; both for its symbolic and real world meaning.
23432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Day by Day on: December 12, 2010, 09:55:06 PM
http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2010/12/06/
23433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: December 12, 2010, 09:53:33 PM
No comments on the previous post?  I thought it quite significant , , ,

Anyway, in a tragi-comic vein, here's this:

http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2010/12/05/
23434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Day by Day on: December 12, 2010, 09:47:32 PM
http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2010/11/30/
23435  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty in Seattle April 16-17 on: December 12, 2010, 09:40:43 PM
Hosted once again by DBMA GL Rob Crowley.  Details to follow.
23436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Breyer on Second Amendment on: December 12, 2010, 09:16:49 PM
Breyer: Founding Fathers Would Have Allowed Restrictions on Guns

Published December 12, 2010

If you look at the values and the historical record, you will see that the Founding Fathers never intended guns to go unregulated, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer contended Sunday.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Breyer said history stands with the dissenters in the court's decision to overturn a Washington, D.C., handgun ban in the 2008 case "D.C. v. Heller."

Breyer wrote the dissent and was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He said historians would side with him in the case because they have concluded that Founding Father James Madison was more worried that the Constitution may not be ratified than he was about granting individuals the right to bear arms.

Madison "was worried about opponents who would think Congress would call up state militias and nationalize them. 'That can't happen,' said Madison," said Breyer, adding that historians characterize Madison's priority as, "I've got to get this document ratified."

Therefore, Madison included the Second Amendment to appease the states, Breyer said.

"If you're interested in history, and in this one history was important, then I think you do have to pay attention to the story," Breyer said. "If that was his motive historically, the dissenters were right. And I think more of the historians were with us."

That being the case, and particularly since the Founding Fathers did not foresee how modern day would change individual behavior, government bodies can impose regulations on guns, Breyer concluded.

In July 2008, the concurring opinion in "D.C. v. Heller" written by Justice Antonin Scalia and shared by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. found that the district's ban on handgun possession at home "violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense."

The ruling raised concerns by dissenters like Breyer that gun laws nationwide would be thrown out. That has not happened yet.

Breyer, who just published "Making Our Democracy Work," a book about the role of the court in American life, outlined his judicial philosophy as one in which the court must take a pragmatic approach in which it "should regard the Constitution as containing unwavering values that must be applied flexibly to ever-changing circumstances."

Since the Founding Fathers could not foresee the impact of modern day communications and technology, the only option is to take the values of the Founding Fathers and apply them to today's challenges.

"The difficult job in open cases where there is no clear answer is to take those values in this document, which all Americans hold, which do not change, and to apply them to a world that is ever changing," Breyer said. "It's not a matter of policy. It is a matter of what those framers intended."

He suggested that those values and intentions mean that the Second Amendment allows for restrictions on the individual, including an all-out ban on handguns in the nation's capital.

"We're acting as judges. If we're going to decide everything on the basis of history -- by the way, what is the scope of the right to keep and bear arms? Machine guns? Torpedoes? Handguns?" he asked. "Are you a sportsman? Do you like to shoot pistols at targets? Well, get on the subway and go to Maryland. There is no problem, I don't think, for anyone who really wants to have a gun."
23437  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / CA and Los Angeles too on: December 12, 2010, 09:11:16 PM
http://knife-expert.com/ca.txt
23438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Asia (Japan, China, etc) on: December 12, 2010, 08:53:57 PM
http://www.military.com/news/article...ml?ESRC=dod.nl

23439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AA Missiles to Venezuela on: December 12, 2010, 08:52:25 PM


Venezuela acquires 1,800 antiaircraft missiles from Russia


BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -
Russia delivered at least 1,800 shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles to Venezuela in 2009, U.N. arms control data show, despite vigorous U.S. efforts to stop President Hugo Chavez's stridently anti-American government from acquiring the weapons.
The United States feared that the missiles could be funneled to Marxist guerrillas fighting Colombia's pro-American government or Mexican drug cartels, concerns expressed in U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and first reported in the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
It had been unclear how many of the Russian SA-24 missiles were delivered to Venezuela, though the transfer itself was not secret. Chavez showed off a few dozen at a military parade in April 2009, saying they could "deter whatever aerial aggression against our country." A high-level Russian delegation told American officials in Washington in July of that year that 100 of the missiles had been delivered in the first quarter of 2009.
Then earlier this year, Russia reported to the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms, which records the transnational sale of weaponry, that the deal totaled 1,800 missiles.
The U.N. registry did not reveal the model of the delivered weaponry. But the American commander for military forces in Latin America, Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, publicly expressed concern this year that Venezuela was purchasing as many as 2,400 of the missiles, also called the IGLA-S.
Matt Schroeder, a missile expert at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said the missiles are among the most sophisticated in the world and can down aircraft from 19,000 feet.
"It's the largest recorded transfer in the U.N. arms registry database in five years, at least. There's no state in Latin America of greater concern regarding leakage that has purchased so many missiles," he said, referring to reports of Venezuelan arms flowing to Colombian guerrillas.
The database also shows that from 2006 through 2008, Russia delivered to Venezuela 472 missiles and launching mechanisms, 44 attack helicopters and 24 combat aircraft, purchases funded by Venezuelan oil sales.
A self-styled Socialist who claims that successive U.S. governments want to topple him, Chavez told his countrymen during the 2009 military parade that "we don't want war with anyone, but we are obligated to prepare." Months later, in December 2009, he said in a nationally televised address that "thousands of missiles are arriving" but did not say what kind.
Secret American cables said that the United States was concerned about the Chavez government's acquisition of Russian arms, which also included attack helicopters, Sukhoi fighter planes and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
A State Department cable on Aug. 10, 2009, to embassies in Europe and South America said Russian sales to Venezuela total "over $5 billion last year and growing." There was also concern about Spain's plans to sell aircraft and coastal patrol boats to Venezuela.


The cables show how both the Bush and Obama administrations tried to stop the arms sales by highlighting the possibility that the weapons could end up with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a rebel group that Colombian officials say has received material support from Chavez's government.
"In early March, Secretary Clinton raised the sale with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov," the August 2009 cable says, referring to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russia's foreign minister.
A cable from Washington to Moscow dated Feb. 14, 2009, said FARC computer files seized by Colombia's army indicated that Venezuela tried to facilitate arms market deals for the rebels. It expressed fear that missiles acquired by the FARC, which is mired in the drug trade, could wind up with Mexican cartels that "are actively seeking to acquire powerful and highly sophisticated weapons."
Chavez has long denied that his government assists the FARC. A spokeswoman for the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington said diplomats there could not respond to the allegations by U.S. officials. The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry in Caracas did not respond to phone calls.
The August 2009 cable notes that Russian ammunition sold to Venezuela was found in FARC hands and that U.S. officials raised the issue with Russian diplomats visiting Washington.
The American efforts to derail Russian and Spanish arms sales to Venezuela appeared to strain U.S. relations with both countries.
In a meeting in Moscow in 2005, Anatoliy Antonov, who oversaw disarmament issues for the Russian foreign ministry, told a U.S. Embassy official that Washington was trying to restrict Russian access to the arms market.
23440  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Jury Duty on: December 12, 2010, 08:11:19 PM
Woof All:

I know many people look to duck jury duty; in many cases the hardship is genuine and the desire/need to avoid it is real.  That said, IMHO many people duck it though for , , , lesser reasons.

I have served twice, and got selected to sit on trials both times; one a shooting, the other a shoplifting case.  Both times I was very proud and inspired by the people with whom I served.

Tomorrow I begin jury duty once again and I am looking forward to it.  I am shocked and pleasantly surprised to report that there has been practical progress in lessening the wasted time often associated with the experience.  I was able to register by an automated phone call, and the day before each day I find out whether I am needed or not.  For example, right now on a Sunday night, I know that they will not need me tomorrow and tomorrow I call to find out about Tuesday.

To serve and defend our Constitution,
CD
23441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: December 12, 2010, 07:05:22 PM
Thank you for the citation GM.  Also, "Our man formerly in Iraq" confirms the story as well.
23442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mass murder of Christians on: December 12, 2010, 06:52:59 PM
This source is unknown to me.  It was forwarded by a friend.

Dechristianizations

Breaking news quickly passes into "archive"; but days, weeks, and sometimes years may be required, to reconstruct what actually happened. Sometimes there are no survivors of a crime or catastrophe, and no testimony to work with, beyond what forensic specialists can provide. But humans are not that easy to kill, and there are usually a few accusers left about.

On Sunday, Oct. 31, during Mass, Islamist terrorists attacked the main Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad -- the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. While there have been persistent and increasing attacks on Christians, as well as on other religious minorities, all over the Muslim world, this one was especially notable, and deserved far more sustained press coverage. Many details are only now emerging, from the wounded who were flown out of Iraq to Rome, and other European cities, for medical treatment.

The attack was sustained over five hours. Iraqi military authorities had the church surrounded for most of this time; American-made helicopters buzzed overhead. But, rather than risk the lives of soldiers, the authorities were content to simply contain the massacre.

It had begun with a diversionary strike against the Baghdad stock exchange, across the street: two of its guards were killed. Those inside the church could hear the automatic rifle fire, which began towards the end of the homily. Congregants were at first relieved that the attack did not seem to be directed at the church. Its entrances were blocked, the main wooden door barricaded.

A jeep parked outside the church then exploded, and a brigade of jihadis, in Iraqi army uniforms, burst through the main entrance commando-style. First one priest -- a Father Wasim, among those trying to hold the door -- shouted, "Leave them alone, take me!" He was immediately shot. A Father Thair then shouted from the altar, likewise, "Leave them alone, take me!" and was likewise annihilated.

While this was happening, a Father Raphael succeeded in herding about 70 of the faithful into the sacristy, and blocking its door. In due course the jihadis found it had a small high window, and tossed grenades through that; others amused themselves by firing bullets through the door.

In the cathedral proper, the jihadis used the central crucifix for target practice, while shouting in mockery, "Come on, tell Him to save you!" At their leisure, they executed the men of the congregation, while terrorizing the women and children in various other ways. They shot the arms off a couple of girls who tried to use cellphones; they shot babies who were crying. And in classical Arabic, with Egyptian and Syrian accents, they declared: "We are going to heaven, and you are going to hell. Allah is great!"

At their leisure, for over the five hours they twice stopped for formal Islamic prayers. They were also able to place bombs around the cathedral, for the purpose of blowing it up at the end, but owing to faulty wiring these did not go off. Survivors, in the accounts I've seen in Italian media, say the jihadis eventually ran out of bullets, and then began calling for the bombs to be detonated. They had several colleagues stationed on the roof, orchestrating their affair; unmolested by the troops surrounding the church. Two of the jihadis with suicide belts managed to blow themselves up.

Finally, the Iraqi troops went into action. The dead were now counted; the wounded removed to area hospitals where friends and relatives were already making their hysterical inquiries. The church was now "secured," so that passersby could not get a view of the devastation inside it.

My reader may get far more detail through patient Internet searching. The facts mentioned above seem incontestable. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream reporting came down to "58 killed and a larger number wounded." There were some insulting editorials, which generically condemned "religious intolerance," thus putting murderers and victims on the same level.

The exodus of Christians from Iraq is, by now, more or less common knowledge. Within Iraq itself, there is a movement from such cities as Baghdad and Mosul -- which once had large Christian populations -- to safer territory in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Throughout the Middle East, from countries that remained majority Christian long after the Islamic conquests of the seventh century, the exodus of the last Christians is proceeding. In Palestine, entirely Christian towns such as Bethlehem have been, quite recently, Islamicized. In Lebanon -- itself established as a Christian enclave -- Hezbollah has largely taken over. The Coptic Christians of Egypt, who still number in their millions, suffer frequent violent attacks. Et cetera.

There were once Jews all over the Middle East; now they are down to Israel only, whose very right to exist is challenged. Christians are now following the Jews into exile or extinction. But in the West, we just don't want to know.

David Warren
© Ottawa Citizen
23443  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 12, 2010, 01:53:57 PM
Author Robert Fulghum tells this story of one of his professors, a wise man whose name was Alexander Papaderos:

At the last session on the last morning of a two-week seminar on Greek culture, Dr. Papaderos turned and made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?"

Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence.

"No questions?" Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.

So, I asked.

"Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?"

The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go.

Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.

"I will answer your question."

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter.

And what he said went something like this:

"When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

"I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine--in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light--truth, understanding, knowledge--is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.

"I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world--into the black places in the hearts of men--and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life."

And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.
23444  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Karzai reading this thread on: December 12, 2010, 01:50:21 PM
Afghanistan's President Karzai signs deal on gas pipeline project
The proposed 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline would cut through Taliban territory in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A flurry of 26 deaths over two days highlights difficulties the project would face.

By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
December 12, 2010

 
Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with regional leaders Saturday to sign an agreement for a massive energy project that could eventually net his country billions of dollars in revenue: a 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline whose proposed route cuts through the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.
As if to highlight the complications facing the project, at least 26 people were killed in attacks Friday and Saturday, including a Taliban commander and several people believed to be with a private security firm, Afghan and NATO officials said.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Get dispatches from Times correspondents around the globe delivered to your inbox with our daily World newsletter. Sign up »
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The United States strongly supports the proposed pipeline because it could draw Central Asia's significant energy resources to Pakistan and India an bypass Iran, Washington's top adversary in the region.

Karzai met with Turkmen, Indian and Pakistani officials in Ashgabat, the capital of neighboring Turkmenistan, to sign the accord.

"On this very important occasion, let me once again highlight our vision for regional cooperation, which is to contribute to regional stability and prosperity," Karzai said in a statement, "and to enhance the conditions for Afghanistan to resume its central role as a land bridge in this region."

But the proposed $7.6-billion TAPI Gas Pipeline project and any revenue it may generate may be years away. The planned route passes from Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic, through violent territory still unsettled by insurgencies, including the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and the Pakistani city of Quetta, which is considered the home of the Taliban leadership.

The latest violence took place in Afghanistan's south and the northern province of Kunduz.

In the most deadly attack, a roadside bomb blast struck a pickup truck carrying Afghan men Friday in a rural stretch of Helmand province, killing 15 people, Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for Helmand's governor, said Saturday.

Also in Helmand, a man described as a senior Taliban commander and three members of his family were killed Saturday in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization airstrike, the official Bakhtar news agency reported.

A car bomb exploded Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of the Information and Culture Directorate in Kandahar, injuring four police officers and two youths, said Zalmay Ayoubi, spokesman for the governor there.

"The enemies of peace and the people have lost the ability to fight against the government, and now they want to terrorize the public by committing such criminal acts just to show their existence," said a statement issued by the governor's office.

In Kunduz, a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden car attacked an Afghan army checkpoint, injuring five soldiers and nine civilians in nearby homes, mostly women and children, said Muhbullah Sayedi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

U.S.-led forces also announced an investigation of allegations that seven Afghan members of a private security firm were killed Saturday during a counterinsurgency operation near the eastern Afghan city of Gardez, the site of a Dec. 5 suicide bombing that killed Western troops.

A military news release said the U.S.-led troops opened fire after armed men emerged from a vehicle and compound suspected of being linked to the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Taliban.

"The security force takes civilian casualty allegations seriously and is currently accessing who the individuals were, why they were armed and why they were in that area at that time of the morning," the news release said.

Protecting civilian lives has become a key component of the international force's strategy in Afghanistan. Deteriorating security erodes the Afghan civilians' trust in the central government and its armed forces, sometimes leading them to turn to the Taliban for protection.

The United States hopes the Afghan army and police force will be able to secure the country and tamp down the Taliban once international troops begin to depart. But attempts at political reconciliation between the central government and the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until the U.S. invasion in 2001, appear to have stalled.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters Wednesday in Kabul, the Afghan capital, that a large U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan was showing results.

After a meeting with Karzai, Gates told reporters he would return to Washington believing that Afghanistan will be ready for a U.S. troop drawdown by 2014, as set out by President Obama.

daragahi@latimes.com
23445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Freedom of religion... on: December 12, 2010, 12:55:57 PM
It reads to me like he is leaving civil law issues open , , ,
23446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bernanke wants $10 fast food meals (Scott Grannis quoted) on: December 12, 2010, 10:24:39 AM


Bernanke Wants A $10 Three-Piece Chicken Meal
 

Eighteen months ago I decided to get fit and lose weight. I bought a racing bike and hit the roads. I also bought a 2hp Vitamix blender that whips up fruit and protein smoothies faster than you can say Jamba ( JMBA - news - people ) Juice. The payoff has been great. I've lost 15 pounds and with it all kinds of petty inflammations in the ankles, knees and lower back. (I'll share the details of my diet and exercise regimen if you email me at rkarlgaard@forbes.com. Put "Diet" in the subject line.)

But no one is perfect, least of all me. Every once in a while I get a powerful urge to eat greasy food. Not long ago I drove by the window of the local KFC and ordered a three-piece Kentucky Fried Chicken meal, all dark, original recipe, with coleslaw, beans and a root beer. The order came to $9.47.

Let's stop here. Nine and a half bucks for a KFC meal? Seriously? KFC is a fast-food retailer. Fast food is supposed to be cheap. But $9.47 for one ordinary meal is not cheap. What's going on?
Facts such as higher KFC prices reflect the world as it is. These facts contradict recent headlines about Consumer Price Index inflation. The October CPI rose just 0.6% at an annualized rate, the lowest since records began in 1957. Bear in mind that the official scorekeeper for CPI inflation is the U.S. Department of Labor, whose head is politically appointed. At the same time the independent Federal Reserve has its own inflation target, rumored to be 1.5% to 2%.

There you have it. The Fed thinks prices are too low. It wants higher prices--$10 for a chicken dinner at KFC; $40 for a family of four.

Where, oh where, do you start with such destructive nonsense?

For one, it boggles the mind to think the Fed goes along with the Labor Department's exclusion of food and energy prices in the CPI. Good lord, people have to eat. And go places. Gas prices are certainly not cheap. They are low only compared with the summer of 2008.

But the CPI is flawed in other ways that bear no resemblance to the way people actually live. As the always savvy Scott Grannis points out in his Calafia Beach Pundit blog: "If there is any deflation out there, it can be found mainly in the energy and housing sectors, both of which experienced a huge run-up in price in the years prior to 2008. In my book that's not deflation, it's payback. Almost anywhere else you look, prices are rising."

Are you listening, Ben Bernanke? Do you actually get out in the world? The swift backlash against Bernanke's QE2 is borne out in the fact that prices, in real life, are rising faster than most people's wages. QE2 will only take us further down the stagflation path--and will hurt the poor the hardest. There are 40 million Americans already on food stamps. Higher food prices will increase that shameful number.

Ironically, for a Democratic Administration that fancies itself a greater friend of the poor, a cheap dollar slams the working poor the hardest. The working poor--those striving to stay off unemployment and/or welfare--pay the highest percentage of their wages for food. They tend to have the longest commutes in older, gas-guzzling cars. Higher gas prices slam them. Many working poor don't have smartphones or computers or the time and know-how to bargain shop on the Internet. Finally, they have most of their meager assets in cash: paychecks, tips, checking accounts and small savings accounts.

In a misguided attempt to prop up house prices and prevent the next wave of bank failures, the Fed is destroying the value of the working poor's cash.

A crushed dollar hurts the majority of Americans and the economy in general. But the rich--especially the younger affluent--do relatively well. The majority of their assets are in things that hold their value when the dollar goes down: stocks, gold, commodities, beachfront property, etc. The rich can hold just enough cash to take advantage of bargains when they appear. They can also invest in smartphones, 4G mobility and software that facilitate price shopping for the best bargain.
You might like Ben Bernanke if you're 35 years old, made a ton of money on Wall Street and your diversified assets are inflating. You don't like him if you're 60 years old and own a KFC franchise--or eat at one.

A soft dollar will not lift America from its economic doldrums. The opposite is needed. A strong dollar would redirect capital to worthy entrepreneurs--and out of ruinous commodity speculation. For the rest of us it would restore the purchasing power we thought we'd earned in the first place.

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/1220/opinions-rich-karlgaard-digital-rules-bernanke-chicken-meal.html
23447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Blasphemy in Pakistan on: December 12, 2010, 10:22:08 AM
Blasphemy in Pakisan

http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/12/doctor-arrested-for-blasphemy-police.html
23448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WW2: Occupied France on: December 12, 2010, 10:14:20 AM
By MODRIS EKSTEINS
We are now more than 65 years away from the end of World War II, but that global conflict and its precursor, the so-called Great War of 1914-18, continue to fascinate and torment us, even as the veterans who fought in them retreat to another realm. What is striking about the current spate of books and movies about these conflicts is that for many in the West, they no longer seem to represent the unequivocal victory of good over evil, right over wrong, liberty over tyranny. A plethora of historical reassessments of the aerial campaigns against German and Japanese cities question not only the moral but also the political validity of the carpet-bombing of civilians. In his recent film, "Inglourious Basterds," Quentin Tarantino turned all tables when he had Jews behaving like Nazis, and in the massive HBO mini-series "The Pacific" a Marine's reference to "yellow monkeys" reverberates through the entire series.

All wars, but these two in particular, with their mass effort and mass death—the first great democratic wars of history—are now freighted with the toxic irony that came to pervade the 20th century and continues to afflict us still. If today we question traditional narratives, no longer trust our leaders and have lost all faith in grand ideas, the gnarled roots of such skepticism lead back through the World Wars of the last century.

In "And the Show Went On," Alan Riding, former Paris bureau chief of the New York Times, tracks a period of particular moral murkiness. He focuses on French writers and artists—the whole lot might, in an act of leveling, be called artistes—and their response to the German invasion of France in 1940. Mr. Riding is less interested, though, in the broader historical implications of his theme than in the human stories that emerge when the imagination is confronted by a violent reality.

For the French the defeat in 1940, and the next four years of German occupation, remain the most sensitive and sensational of all historical topics. Before his execution in February 1945, the openly collaborationist yet highly talented writer Robert Brasillach remarked: "Whatever their outlook, during these years the French have all more or less been to bed with Germany." But, as recently as May 2008, French president Nicolas Sarkozy continued to claim the high ground: "The true France," he asserted, "never collaborated." A nation that has always cherished its intellectuals, that rightly prides itself on its cultivation of the arts, is still tortured by the notion that the thoughtful, sensitive and most intelligent "Marianne" ever slept with the arrogant and brutal "Fritz." Mr. Riding shows that she did, and with considerable relish at that. As the vivacious actress Arletty put it so unforgettably in pondering her predicament during the occupation: "My heart is French but my ass is international."

And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris
By Alan Riding
Knopf, 400 pages, $28.95

.For most of us, Mr. Riding's conclusion is hardly news, certainly not the headline stuff it was in the early 1970s when the historian Robert O. Paxton of Columbia University exploded the myth of a broad French opposition to the occupying Germans—and a broad refusal to collaborate. Until Mr. Paxton's research was published, the French had lived under the comfortable illusion that the true France, as President Sarkozy would have it, had been intrepid members of the Resistance, supporters of Charles de Gaulle and the Free French and anti-German through and through. The can of worms that Mr. Paxton opened has been spoiling the air at the elegant Deux Magots café on the Boulevard Saint-Germain ever since.

 
RoBut what constituted collaboration or resistance? Any attempt to define those terms conjures up all the fundamental problems of our modern and postmodern world, a world not of fixity but of fluidity. Where do we put the philosopher-playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, who continued to publish during the occupation and later reinvented himself as a great résistant? Or the remarkable novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline, an avowed anti-Semite who nevertheless insisted that he hated the Germans just as much? Or that artistic provocateur, Jean Cocteau, who was at the very center of social life in occupied Paris but later felt abused by the accusation that he had collaborated, claiming ingenuously that "People are always thrusting me into scandals." Notoriety or flattery often seemed more appealing to this group than truth. And what about those world-renowned entertainers Édith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and Sacha Guitry, who clearly needed the bright lights as much for psychological as economic reasons? Piaf's subsequent signature song "Non, je ne regrette rien" ("No, I regret nothing") reverberated with double meaning. Where, too, should we slot a pan-European like Alfred Fabre-Luce, whose dream was a united Europe and who saw in German conquest, faute de mieux, a step toward that dream?

Mr. Riding is very good at pointing to the complexities and ambiguities of the situation. He retraces much of the ground that Frederic Spotts covered in 2008 in "The Shameful Peace," but the two authors, while both expatriate residents of France, take opposed positions. Mr. Spotts has nothing but scorn for those who compromised between 1940 and 1944, whatever the reason. Mr. Riding, by contrast, finds the behavior of most French thinkers, painters and performers all too human. Many vacillated. Many were concerned merely with survival. Many who joined the Resistance later had been quick to cooperate earlier. The entertainment industry hardly skipped a beat. More plays and movies were produced in those four years than in any comparable four-year period in the French past. The Germans were delighted; such frenetic activity was exactly what they wanted, and they probably exercised less control in France than in any other territory they occupied.

R
.The divide in France on the painful subject of the German occupation during World War II is in part generational and in part political. Because of the difficulty of defining collaboration and resistance, the two sides have found little common ground. Robert O. Paxton initiated the French debate with his landmark "Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-44" (1972). Among more recent books, the British historian Julian Jackson's "The Fall of France" (2003) and "France: The Dark Years, 1940-44" (2001) are exceptional for their industry and integrity.

Irène Némirovsky's enormously successful novel "Suite Française" (first published in English in 2006) gives one a poignant sense of the ambiguities inherent in the situation after June 1940: "Their conversation," she wrote of her characters, "was pessimistic, almost despairing, but their voices light-hearted."

Because it is so troubling, very little of the remarkable work of Ernst Jünger, who accompanied the German occupiers of Paris, has been trans lated into English. The French, however, have always been fascinated by him—his diary for the years of occupation is available en français—and upon his death in February 1998, at age 102, Le Monde titled its obituary "Le Siècle de Jünger," identifying the 20th century with him.

Jean Galtier-Boissière may have kept the most readable French diary during those dark years. Alas, this too has not been translated into English. A brilliant editor, he had founded the satirical monthly Le Crapouillot during the Great War. In its issue of January 1931, devoted to Berlin, the journal announced that, by comparison with the German capital, Paris was tame and chaste—countering the impression that both Alan Riding and Frederic Spotts wish to leave.

On the aesthetics of Nazism, the most intriguing recent contribution is Roger Griffin's "Modernism and Fascism" (2007), which takes the analysis of Nazism far beyond Frederic Spotts's more narrowly focused study "Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics" (2002). Albert Speer's memoir, "Inside the Third Reich" (1970), remains invaluable, as do the various translated volumes of Joseph Goebbels's diaries. Goebbels was of course the Nazi "minister of enlightenment." The sculptor Arno Breker, whose massive show at the Orangerie in Paris in 1942 attracted much attention, is the subject of a fascinating section in Jonathan Petropoulos's "The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany " (2000).

Film has probably been a more suitable medium for delving into the anguish and complexity of the Nazi occupation than the written word. Alain Resnais's "Night and Fog" (1955), Marcel Ophüls's "The Sorrow and the Pity" (1969), Louis Malle's "Lacombe, Lucien" (1974) and Joseph Losey's "Monsieur Klein" (1976) are a few of the outstanding cinematic contributions.

—Modris Eksteins
.Contradiction would be the offspring of fear and confusion. The writers Ramon Fernandez and Marguerite Duras—the one a convinced collaborationist, the other a member of the Resistance—were neighbors on the Rue Saint-Benoît. While sharing the same cleaning woman, they would intentionally ignore each other's social gatherings, be they of noisy fascists or furtive résistants. In comparable fashion, the writers Pierre Drieu La Rochelle and André Malraux, while political foes, remained personal friends. After a visit to Germany in 1935, Drieu had embraced Nazism, whereas Malraux supported the anti-fascist Popular Front in France. These differences notwithstanding, Drieu would become godfather to one of Malraux's children, and Malraux would seek to protect Drieu after the liberation in 1944.

Unlike Mr. Spotts, Mr. Riding refuses to judge. Instead he cites Anthony Eden, Britain's wartime foreign secretary: "If one hasn't been through the horrors of an occupation by a foreign power, you have no right to pronounce upon what a country does which has been through all that." The logical extension of Mr. Riding's carefully constructed and sympathetic account would be a similar retelling of the other stories of Europe, without the usual polemical and self-righteous tone. In Eastern Europe, where the only choice was between two totalitarian options, communist or fascist, the dilemma was even more horrific than in France. It was easiest not to think about it and just play according to the rules in force that day.

For some the most fascinating chapter in Mr. Riding's evocative book will be the one on Florence Gould, whose tale highlights the moral conundrums of the time. Born in San Francisco of French parents in 1895, she married the enormously wealthy Frank Jay Gould, heir to a railroad fortune and owner of a consortium of hotels and casinos on the Riviera. The Goulds remained in France during the war: he in the south, she principally in Paris, where she ran a vibrant and sumptuous "literary" salon, visited by all sides in the conflict.

In a city where shortages were the norm, her gatherings never lacked for Dom Pérignon or petits fours. Ernst Jünger, the brilliant German soldier and writer, was one of her closest companions (though Mr. Riding rejects the widespread assumption that they were lovers). Florence—even the name evoked angels of mercy and an identity beyond borders—represents, some might say, the more modern Marianne, so feminine, so attractive, yet so cosmopolitan. "I may not know much about literature," she said, "but I know a lot about writers." While Mr. Spotts dismisses her as little more than a spoiled and vulgar tramp, Mr. Riding imbues her with considerable charm. Her long career as hostess and patron, both during and again after the war, lends credence to the latter judgment.

Engrossed in the immediacy of his story, Mr. Riding rarely pans to the wider view. If he had done so, he might have noted that at the heart of the 20th-century tragedy, pumping the blood of Modernism as a broadly based cultural mode and mood, was not Paris or France; it was Berlin and Germany. Many of the impulses for creative destruction—industrial, technological, scientific and intellectual—emanated from this heartland of the European continent. But at the same time the violence that the French were inclined to blame exclusively on the alien intruder, le Boche, had a powerful resonance within.

View Full Image

Roger-Viollet / The Image Works
 
Maurice Chevalier on a visit arranged by occupation authorities to French prisoners of war in Germany in the winter of 1941-42.
.If Friedrich Nietzsche postulated, with some reason, that he was dynamite, Louis Aragon, the French poet and novelist, gave this abstraction a more practical dimension when he said that he could imagine nothing more beautiful than the "splendid and chaotic heap" produced by a cathedral and some dynamite. In the Second Surrealist Manifesto, in 1929, André Breton stated: "The simplest Surrealist act consists in going down into the street, guns in hand, and shooting at random, for as long as possible, into the crowd." This violent motif, this rage against tradition, deeply embedded in French painterly and literary imaginings, predated 1914, let alone 1940. The whole aim of artistic and literary modernism since the tail end of the 19th century had been to break down boundaries, definitions, laws and categories. Artists and intellectuals—the advance guard—were at war with the status quo before the military started fighting in either war.

Correspondingly, the appeal of Hitler and the Third Reich to some of the French and indeed European intelligentsia was based on this anger, resentment and craving for change. But the appeal was fortified by the importance Nazism assigned to the arts. On his only visit to Paris, on June 23, 1940, Hitler asked to see the Garnier opera house before any other building and admitted, according to the sculptor Arno Breker who accompanied him, that he wanted to be "surrounded by artists." With this emphasis on artists and aesthetic considerations, what Nazism did was to accelerate a process whereby politics would be turned into spectacle, an art form for the masses, and art in turn would become inseparable from politics. As reluctant as we may be to admit it, Hitler helped usher in our world.

—Mr. Eksteins is professor emeritus of history at the University of Toronto. His forthcoming book, "Solar Dance," deals with the posthumous success of Vincent van Gogh.
23449  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Yoo on Gitmo on: December 12, 2010, 10:01:41 AM


By JOHN C. YOO
AND ROBERT J. DELAHUNTY
When announcing in 2002 that the U.S. would detain al Qaeda fighters at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously described the base as "the best, least worst place." Mr. Rumsfeld's quip distilled a truth: The U.S. would capture enemy fighters and leaders, and their detention, while messy, was of great military value.

For two years, President Barack Obama has pretended that terrorism is a crime, that prisoners are unwanted, and that Gitmo is unneeded. As a presidential candidate, he declared: "It's time to show the world . . . we're not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they're there or what they're charged with." Upon taking office, he ordered Gitmo closed within the year.

But the president's embrace of the left's terrorism-as-crime theories collided with his responsibility to protect a great nation. Now the reality of the ongoing war on terror is helping to shatter the Gitmo myth and end its distortion of our antiterrorism strategies.

This week the intelligence community reported to Congress that one-quarter of the detainees released from Guantanamo in the past eight years have returned to the fight. Though the U.S. and its allies have killed or recaptured some of these 150 terrorists, well over half remain at large. The Defense Department reports that Gitmo alumni have assumed top positions in al Qaeda and the Taliban, attacked allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and led efforts to kill U.S. troops.

View Full Image


Associated Press
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously described Guantanamo Bay as "the best, least worst place."



Even that 25% recidivism rate is likely too low. The intelligence community reports that it usually takes about two and a half years before a released detainee shows up on its radar. Our forces probably have yet to re-engage most of the terrorists among the 66 detainees released so far by the Obama administration.

The Bush administration released many more, but those freed by this administration are likely more dangerous. Contrary to the Gitmo myth, innocent teenagers and wandering goat herders do not fill the base. Last May, an administration task force found that of the 240 detainees at Gitmo when Mr. Obama took office, almost all were leaders, fighters or organizers for al Qaeda, the Taliban or other jihadist groups. None was judged innocent.

All of this is having an impact on Congress, which this week voted overwhelmingly to de-fund any effort to shut down the Gitmo prison. It also barred the Justice Department from transferring detainees to the U.S. homeland. Despite Attorney General Eric Holder's rush to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in downtown New York, the planners of the 9/11 attacks will stay put.

Congress is reflecting the wishes of the American people. In the Gitmo myth, President George W. Bush was a Lone Ranger acting without Congressional permission, and Gitmo was a law-free zone. But the American people never opposed capturing and detaining the enemy. And now Democratic Congress has ratified Mr. Bush's policy.

Freezing the Gitmo status quo will stop the release of al Qaeda killers, but it won't end the serious distortions in Mr. Obama's terrorism policy.

The administration relies on unmanned drones to kill al Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan and Afghanistan. CIA Director Leon Panetta calls it "the only game in town." Drones take no prisoners, but they also ask no questions. Firing missiles from afar cannot substitute for the capture and interrogation of al Qaeda leaders for intelligence. (The real question now is whether CIA agents will decline to interrogate prisoners, thanks to Mr. Holder's criminal investigations into Bush policies.)

As long as no one is sent to Gitmo, the Obama administration will leave itself two options for dealing with terrorists: kill, or catch-and-release. Mr. Obama's drone-heavy policy means that more people will die—not only al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, but also innocent Afghan and Pakistani civilians.

The Gitmo myth also drove the Justice Department's push to prosecute al Qaeda leaders in U.S. civilian courts. Nowhere else did the Obama administration place its view of terrorism more clearly on display as a law-enforcement problem. The near-acquittal of Ahmed Ghailani, the al Qaeda operative who facilitated the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, by a New York jury last month has clearly revealed that path as a dead end—even if Mr. Holder remains in denial.

The simple alternative is to continue detentions at Gitmo. Detention is consistent with the rules of war, which allow captured combatants to be held indefinitely without requiring criminal charges to be filed. It also keeps our troops and agents in the field focused on finding and killing the enemy, not on collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.

Using its constitutional power of the purse, the new Congress should continue to keep Gitmo in operation. It should press President Obama to resume the capture, detention and interrogation of al Qaeda leaders. It should also educate the public about the real state of affairs in Guantanamo: The military has spent millions to create a model facility.

Most importantly, Congress can use its oversight power to probe the decision-making that led to the release of the 150 or more recidivists. It can require a full accounting from the military and intelligence agencies of the harms caused by released detainees, and it can bring to light the risks that these bureaucratic mistakes will pose to American lives.

After the left's long denunciation of Bush-era policies, Mr. Obama should admit that he has made his share of mistakes—not the least of which has been propagating the Gitmo myth. If Americans die at the hands of released detainees, we will know who to blame.

Mr. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an American Enterprise Institute scholar. Mr. Delahunty is an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. Both served in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

Copyright 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

23450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Freedom of religion... on: December 12, 2010, 09:40:52 AM
GM:

"I'm not sure how to dumb this down for you, since this forum doesn't allow for crayons or hand puppets."

You are a bright, well-educated man.  This sort of commentary is not necessary to presenting your case.  Please don't.

Thank you,
Marc

@JDN:

What does the judge do?

Pages: 1 ... 467 468 [469] 470 471 ... 764
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!