Dog Brothers Public Forum

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

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
February 20, 2017, 12:39:33 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
100352 Posts in 2360 Topics by 1084 Members
Latest Member: Andy55
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 ... 468 469 [470] 471 472 ... 780
23451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 26, 2011, 05:48:21 PM
Also to be avoided is peeing into the wind of historical forces-- which may or may not be present.
23452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: February 26, 2011, 04:22:53 PM
My first reaction to that is that the Chinese have LOTS of money tucked away for a rainy day and they are far better suited to survive oil shocks than we are; cf the US as a creditor nation coming out of WW1
23453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 26, 2011, 04:20:29 PM
Who are our remaining allies and how do we support them?  Do we give them money?  Guns and more serious toys?  Military protection?  What? 

What I understand you to be suggesting seems to me like it could well turn out like what we have now in Pakistan.
23454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 26, 2011, 03:33:08 PM
So, what do you suggest?
23455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: February 26, 2011, 03:32:20 PM
That sounds plausible.
23456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 26, 2011, 11:05:14 AM
Ya:

You have an astute eye.  That is very interesting.
23457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 26, 2011, 10:48:10 AM
For one possible course of action I duplicate this from the Islam and Theocracy thread:

===========
By BARI WEISS For 18 days, the people of Cairo massed in Tahrir Square to bring down their pharaoh. Many carried signs: "Mubarak: shift + delete," "Forgive me God, for I was scared and kept quiet," or simply "Go Away." Barbara Ibrahim, a veteran professor at the American University in Cairo, wore large photographs of her husband—Egypt's most famous democratic dissident—as a makeshift sandwich board.

Her husband, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, couldn't be there. After being imprisoned and tortured by the Mubarak regime from 2000 to 2003, he went into a sort of exile, living and teaching abroad. But the day Hosni Mubarak gave up power, Feb. 11, Mr. Ibrahim hopped a plane from JFK International. Landing in his native Cairo, he went directly to the square.

"It was just like, how do you say, the day of judgment," Mr. Ibrahim says. "The way the day of judgment is described in our scripture, in the Quran, is where you have all of humanity in one place. And nobody recognizes anybody else, just faces, faces."

And what faces they were: bearded, shorn, framed by hijabs, young, old—and at one point even a bride and groom. "The spirit in the square was just unbelievable," says Mr. Ibrahim, whose children and grandchildren were among the masses. "These people, these young people, are so empowered. They will never be cowed again by any ruler—at least for a generation."

For the 72-year-old sociologist, the revolution against Hosni Mubarak has been many years in the making. His struggle began 10 years ago with a word: jumlukiya. A combination of the Arabic words for republic (jumhuriya) and monarchy (malikiya), the term was coined by Mr. Ibrahim to characterize the family dynasties of the Mubaraks of Egypt and the Assads of Syria.

He first described jumlukiya on television during the June 2000 funeral of Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad. Then he wrote about it in a magazine article that "challenged all the autocrats of the region to open up and have a competitive election."

The magazine appeared on the morning of June 30, 2000. But it vanished from Egyptian newsstands by midday. By midnight, Mr. Ibrahim was arrested at his home. "Then began my confrontation with the Mubarak regime—the trials, and three year imprisonment, and the defamation, all of that. That was the beginning."

Not a month before, he had written a speech about women's rights for Mr. Mubarak's wife Suzanne—Mr. Ibrahim had been her thesis adviser in the 1970s at the American University in Cairo, when her husband was vice president to Anwar Sadat. None of it mattered. In the end, some 30 people connected to Mr. Ibrahim's Ibn Khaldun Center—the Muslim world's leading think tank for the study of democracy and civil society—were rounded up.

Most were ultimately released. But Mr. Ibrahim was tried in a cage within a courtroom, sentenced for "defaming" Egypt (criticizing Mr. Mubarak) and "embezzlement" (for accepting a grant to conduct election monitoring through his center). His stints in prison—always in solitary confinement and, for a period, enduring sleep deprivation and water torture—left him with a serious limp. The former runner now relies on a cane.

Yet he believes that his case helped create the atmosphere for this year's uprising. "It started as a series of challenges with individuals. With me, with [liberal opposition leader] Ayman Nour . . . What you saw is the accumulation of all these incremental steps that have taken place in the past 10 years," he says.

"But to give credit where it is due," Mr. Ibrahim adds, "the younger generation was more innovative and far more clever than we were by using the technology at their disposal. These guys discovered the tools that could not be combated by the government." He notes that many of them, like Wael Ghonim from Google, operated from outside of Egypt. "That's something new."

With elections set for September, the most urgent question facing Egypt is how to structure the democratic process—and how dominant the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood may become. In a 2005 election, the Brotherhood won 20% of the seats in parliament. According to the Ibn Khaldun Center's research, the group could earn about 30% in an upcoming vote.


Mr. Ibrahim thinks that holding elections six months from now is "not wise." If he had his druthers, it would be put off for several years to allow alternative groups to mature. Still, he insists that the Brothers—some of whom he knows well from prison, including senior leader Essam el-Erian—are changing.

"They did not start this movement, nor were they the principal actors, nor were they the majority," he says. When they showed up in Tahrir Square on the fourth day of the protests, most were members of the group's young guard. Mr. Ibrahim points out that they didn't use any Islamist slogans. "Their famous slogan is 'Islam is the solution.' They use that usually in elections and marches. But they did not." This time, they chose "Religion is for God, country is for all." That slogan dates to 1919 and Egypt's secular nationalist movement.

What's more, some Brothers carried signs depicting the crescent and the cross together. "One of the great scenes was of young Copts [Christians], boys and girls, bringing water for the Muslim brothers to do their ablution, and also making a big circle—a temporary worship space—for them. And then come Sunday, the Muslims reciprocated by allowing space for the Copts to have their service. That of course was very moving. "

Maybe so. But this week Muslim Brotherhood member Mohsen Radi declared that the group finds it "unsuitable" for a Copt or a woman to hold a high post like the presidency. Then there's the Brotherhood's motto: "'Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." Looking around Egypt's neighborhood, it's not hard to guess what life would be like for Coptic Christians, let alone women, under a state guided by Quranic Shariah law.

"That's still their creed and their motto," Mr. Ibrahim says. "What they have done is to lower that profile. Not to give it up, but to lower it." He adds that the Brothers have promised not to run a candidate for the presidency for the next two election cycles.

To skeptics like me, such gestures seem like opportunism—superficial ploys aimed at winning votes, not a genuine transformation. I press Mr. Ibrahim and he insists that the younger guard is evolving, and that they are "fairly tolerant and enlightened." Enlightened seems a stretch, but nevertheless, what other option is there? Banning the Brotherhood, as the Mubarak regime did, is a nonstarter.

If Mr. Ibrahim is a fundamentalist about anything, it's democracy. And his hope is that participating in the democratic process will liberalize the Muslim Brothers over the long term. They "have survived for 80 years, and one mechanism for survival is adaptation," he says. "If the pressure continues, by women and by the middle class, they will continue to evolve. Far from taking their word, we should keep demanding that they prove that they really are pluralistic, that they are not going to turn against democracy, that they are not going to make it one man, one vote, one time."

He compares the Brothers to the Christian Democrats in Western Europe after World War II. "They started with more Christianity than democracy 100 years ago. Now they are more democracy than Christianity." True, but the Christian Democrats never embraced violent radicalism in the way the Muslim Brotherhood has.

Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP)—formerly the Virtue Party—is a more recent model. "The Muslim Brothers seem to be moving in the same direction," he says.

That would probably be a best case, but it too is problematic. The AKP—and, by extension, contemporary Turkey—is democratic but hardly liberal. Over the past decade, it has dramatically limited press freedom, stoked anti-Semitism, supported Hamas, and defended murderous figures like Sudan's Omar al-Bashir.

Still, the Turkish scenario is far better than the Iranian one—the hijacking of Egypt's revolution by radical clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who returned from Qatar to Cairo last week. For his part, Mr. Ibrahim doesn't think that Mr. Qaradawi—a rock-star televangelist with an Al Jazeera viewership of some 60 million—is positioned to dominate the new Egypt as Ayatollah Khomeini dominated post-1979 Iran.

Mr. Qaradawi had messages of Muslim-Christian unity for the hundreds of thousands who heard him preach in the square. But about Jews, he has said that Hitler "managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers [Muslims]."

When I asked Mr. Ibrahim about the scourge of anti-Semitism in the Middle East generally, he's dismissive. "Have you seen any pogroms in Morocco or Tunisia or Egypt?" he asks rhetorically. As I point out, though, the Arab Middle East has had a negligible Jewish population since 1948, when roughly 800,000 Jews were expelled. It's hard to carry out a pogrom when Jews aren't around.

So what if the Brothers prove increasingly radical, not moderate? "I would struggle against them. . . . As a democrat and as a human rights activist I would fight, just as I fought Mubarak, like I fought Nasser. All my life I've been fighting people who do not abide by human rights and basic freedoms."

Might he run for political office when his professorship at New Jersey's Drew University ends in May? "I'm 72 years old. And I'd really like to see a younger generation." But, he adds, "in politics you never say no."

"I am more interested in having the kind of presidential campaign similar to what you have here or in Western Europe. . . . That's part of creating or socializing our people into pluralism—to see it at work, to have debates, to have a free media," he says.

One political role he's already playing is as an informal adviser to Obama administration officials, his friends Michael McFaul and Samantha Power, scholars who serve on the National Security Council staff. But he doesn't mince words about Mr. Obama's record so far. The president "wasted two and a half years" cozying up to dictators and abandoning dissidents, he says. "Partly to distance himself from Bush, democracy promotion became a kind of bad phrase for him." He also made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict his top priority, at the expense of pushing for freedom. "By putting the democracy file on hold, on the back burner, he did not accomplish peace nor did he serve democracy," says Mr. Ibrahim.


'Dislikable as [President Bush] may have been to many liberals, including my own wife, we have to give him credit," says Mr. Ibrahim. "He started a process of some conditionality with American aid and American foreign policy which opened some doors and ultimately was one of the building blocks for what's happening now." That conditionality extended to Mr. Ibrahim: In 2002, the Bush administration successfully threatened to withhold $130 million in aid from Egypt if Mr. Mubarak didn't release him.

So what should the White House do? "Publicly endorse every democratic movement in the Middle East and offer help," he says. The least the administration can do is withhold "aid and trade and diplomatic endorsement. Because now the people can do the job. America doesn't have to send armies and navies to change the regimes. Let the people do their change."

Ms. Weiss is an assistant editorial features editor at the Journal.

23458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Saad Eddin Ibrahim on: February 26, 2011, 10:44:24 AM
By BARI WEISS For 18 days, the people of Cairo massed in Tahrir Square to bring down their pharaoh. Many carried signs: "Mubarak: shift + delete," "Forgive me God, for I was scared and kept quiet," or simply "Go Away." Barbara Ibrahim, a veteran professor at the American University in Cairo, wore large photographs of her husband—Egypt's most famous democratic dissident—as a makeshift sandwich board.

Her husband, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, couldn't be there. After being imprisoned and tortured by the Mubarak regime from 2000 to 2003, he went into a sort of exile, living and teaching abroad. But the day Hosni Mubarak gave up power, Feb. 11, Mr. Ibrahim hopped a plane from JFK International. Landing in his native Cairo, he went directly to the square.

"It was just like, how do you say, the day of judgment," Mr. Ibrahim says. "The way the day of judgment is described in our scripture, in the Quran, is where you have all of humanity in one place. And nobody recognizes anybody else, just faces, faces."

And what faces they were: bearded, shorn, framed by hijabs, young, old—and at one point even a bride and groom. "The spirit in the square was just unbelievable," says Mr. Ibrahim, whose children and grandchildren were among the masses. "These people, these young people, are so empowered. They will never be cowed again by any ruler—at least for a generation."

For the 72-year-old sociologist, the revolution against Hosni Mubarak has been many years in the making. His struggle began 10 years ago with a word: jumlukiya. A combination of the Arabic words for republic (jumhuriya) and monarchy (malikiya), the term was coined by Mr. Ibrahim to characterize the family dynasties of the Mubaraks of Egypt and the Assads of Syria.

He first described jumlukiya on television during the June 2000 funeral of Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad. Then he wrote about it in a magazine article that "challenged all the autocrats of the region to open up and have a competitive election."

The magazine appeared on the morning of June 30, 2000. But it vanished from Egyptian newsstands by midday. By midnight, Mr. Ibrahim was arrested at his home. "Then began my confrontation with the Mubarak regime—the trials, and three year imprisonment, and the defamation, all of that. That was the beginning."

Not a month before, he had written a speech about women's rights for Mr. Mubarak's wife Suzanne—Mr. Ibrahim had been her thesis adviser in the 1970s at the American University in Cairo, when her husband was vice president to Anwar Sadat. None of it mattered. In the end, some 30 people connected to Mr. Ibrahim's Ibn Khaldun Center—the Muslim world's leading think tank for the study of democracy and civil society—were rounded up.

Most were ultimately released. But Mr. Ibrahim was tried in a cage within a courtroom, sentenced for "defaming" Egypt (criticizing Mr. Mubarak) and "embezzlement" (for accepting a grant to conduct election monitoring through his center). His stints in prison—always in solitary confinement and, for a period, enduring sleep deprivation and water torture—left him with a serious limp. The former runner now relies on a cane.

Yet he believes that his case helped create the atmosphere for this year's uprising. "It started as a series of challenges with individuals. With me, with [liberal opposition leader] Ayman Nour . . . What you saw is the accumulation of all these incremental steps that have taken place in the past 10 years," he says.

View Full Image

Chris Serra
 ."But to give credit where it is due," Mr. Ibrahim adds, "the younger generation was more innovative and far more clever than we were by using the technology at their disposal. These guys discovered the tools that could not be combated by the government." He notes that many of them, like Wael Ghonim from Google, operated from outside of Egypt. "That's something new."

With elections set for September, the most urgent question facing Egypt is how to structure the democratic process—and how dominant the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood may become. In a 2005 election, the Brotherhood won 20% of the seats in parliament. According to the Ibn Khaldun Center's research, the group could earn about 30% in an upcoming vote.


Mr. Ibrahim thinks that holding elections six months from now is "not wise." If he had his druthers, it would be put off for several years to allow alternative groups to mature. Still, he insists that the Brothers—some of whom he knows well from prison, including senior leader Essam el-Erian—are changing.

"They did not start this movement, nor were they the principal actors, nor were they the majority," he says. When they showed up in Tahrir Square on the fourth day of the protests, most were members of the group's young guard. Mr. Ibrahim points out that they didn't use any Islamist slogans. "Their famous slogan is 'Islam is the solution.' They use that usually in elections and marches. But they did not." This time, they chose "Religion is for God, country is for all." That slogan dates to 1919 and Egypt's secular nationalist movement.

What's more, some Brothers carried signs depicting the crescent and the cross together. "One of the great scenes was of young Copts [Christians], boys and girls, bringing water for the Muslim brothers to do their ablution, and also making a big circle—a temporary worship space—for them. And then come Sunday, the Muslims reciprocated by allowing space for the Copts to have their service. That of course was very moving. "

Maybe so. But this week Muslim Brotherhood member Mohsen Radi declared that the group finds it "unsuitable" for a Copt or a woman to hold a high post like the presidency. Then there's the Brotherhood's motto: "'Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." Looking around Egypt's neighborhood, it's not hard to guess what life would be like for Coptic Christians, let alone women, under a state guided by Quranic Shariah law.

"That's still their creed and their motto," Mr. Ibrahim says. "What they have done is to lower that profile. Not to give it up, but to lower it." He adds that the Brothers have promised not to run a candidate for the presidency for the next two election cycles.

To skeptics like me, such gestures seem like opportunism—superficial ploys aimed at winning votes, not a genuine transformation. I press Mr. Ibrahim and he insists that the younger guard is evolving, and that they are "fairly tolerant and enlightened." Enlightened seems a stretch, but nevertheless, what other option is there? Banning the Brotherhood, as the Mubarak regime did, is a nonstarter.

If Mr. Ibrahim is a fundamentalist about anything, it's democracy. And his hope is that participating in the democratic process will liberalize the Muslim Brothers over the long term. They "have survived for 80 years, and one mechanism for survival is adaptation," he says. "If the pressure continues, by women and by the middle class, they will continue to evolve. Far from taking their word, we should keep demanding that they prove that they really are pluralistic, that they are not going to turn against democracy, that they are not going to make it one man, one vote, one time."

He compares the Brothers to the Christian Democrats in Western Europe after World War II. "They started with more Christianity than democracy 100 years ago. Now they are more democracy than Christianity." True, but the Christian Democrats never embraced violent radicalism in the way the Muslim Brotherhood has.

Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP)—formerly the Virtue Party—is a more recent model. "The Muslim Brothers seem to be moving in the same direction," he says.

That would probably be a best case, but it too is problematic. The AKP—and, by extension, contemporary Turkey—is democratic but hardly liberal. Over the past decade, it has dramatically limited press freedom, stoked anti-Semitism, supported Hamas, and defended murderous figures like Sudan's Omar al-Bashir.

Still, the Turkish scenario is far better than the Iranian one—the hijacking of Egypt's revolution by radical clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who returned from Qatar to Cairo last week. For his part, Mr. Ibrahim doesn't think that Mr. Qaradawi—a rock-star televangelist with an Al Jazeera viewership of some 60 million—is positioned to dominate the new Egypt as Ayatollah Khomeini dominated post-1979 Iran.

Mr. Qaradawi had messages of Muslim-Christian unity for the hundreds of thousands who heard him preach in the square. But about Jews, he has said that Hitler "managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers [Muslims]."

When I asked Mr. Ibrahim about the scourge of anti-Semitism in the Middle East generally, he's dismissive. "Have you seen any pogroms in Morocco or Tunisia or Egypt?" he asks rhetorically. As I point out, though, the Arab Middle East has had a negligible Jewish population since 1948, when roughly 800,000 Jews were expelled. It's hard to carry out a pogrom when Jews aren't around.

So what if the Brothers prove increasingly radical, not moderate? "I would struggle against them. . . . As a democrat and as a human rights activist I would fight, just as I fought Mubarak, like I fought Nasser. All my life I've been fighting people who do not abide by human rights and basic freedoms."

Might he run for political office when his professorship at New Jersey's Drew University ends in May? "I'm 72 years old. And I'd really like to see a younger generation." But, he adds, "in politics you never say no."

"I am more interested in having the kind of presidential campaign similar to what you have here or in Western Europe. . . . That's part of creating or socializing our people into pluralism—to see it at work, to have debates, to have a free media," he says.

One political role he's already playing is as an informal adviser to Obama administration officials, his friends Michael McFaul and Samantha Power, scholars who serve on the National Security Council staff. But he doesn't mince words about Mr. Obama's record so far. The president "wasted two and a half years" cozying up to dictators and abandoning dissidents, he says. "Partly to distance himself from Bush, democracy promotion became a kind of bad phrase for him." He also made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict his top priority, at the expense of pushing for freedom. "By putting the democracy file on hold, on the back burner, he did not accomplish peace nor did he serve democracy," says Mr. Ibrahim.


'Dislikable as [President Bush] may have been to many liberals, including my own wife, we have to give him credit," says Mr. Ibrahim. "He started a process of some conditionality with American aid and American foreign policy which opened some doors and ultimately was one of the building blocks for what's happening now." That conditionality extended to Mr. Ibrahim: In 2002, the Bush administration successfully threatened to withhold $130 million in aid from Egypt if Mr. Mubarak didn't release him.

So what should the White House do? "Publicly endorse every democratic movement in the Middle East and offer help," he says. The least the administration can do is withhold "aid and trade and diplomatic endorsement. Because now the people can do the job. America doesn't have to send armies and navies to change the regimes. Let the people do their change."

Ms. Weiss is an assistant editorial features editor at the Journal.

23459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / West: The Responsible Right and GB on: February 26, 2011, 02:29:53 AM


I almost forgot how the Pundit Right smacked down Glenn Beck over his wholly rational concern that out of Tahrir Square a new caliphate might arise in the Islamic world until I read William Kristol's op-ed this week.

Earlier this month, Weekly Standard editor and Fox analyst Kristol had led off the anti-Beck attack with a heated column accusing Beck of "hysteria" for his "rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East" and connections to the American Left. Kristol was seconded by National Review editor Rich Lowry. The New York Times' David Brooks entered the debate lambasting Beck for his "delusional ravings about the caliphate coming back" while "the conservative establishment" saw Mubarak's fall as "a fulfillment of Ronald Reagan's democracy dream." (Count me out.)

For the next week or so, taunting "delusional" Beck became a regular feature on cable TV. The Pundit Left congratulated the responsible Right for "addressing" the Beck "problem." And maybe a solution was near. "I've heard, from more than a couple of conservative sources, that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid-messianic rodeo clown may bring upon their brand," Time's Joe Klein blogged. "I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a mirror-Olbermann situation soon."

Somehow it all slipped my mind.

And then I read Kristol's Wednesday lament in the Washington Post over what he sees as President Obama's dithering over what he also sees as "Arab spring." This is a jarringly dainty euphemism for a blur of regional events that now includes: the triumphal return to Egypt of the poisonous Yusef al Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's favorite cleric who just drew 2 million Egyptians back to Tahrir Square where he prayed for the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem; panicky EU promises of billions of dollars in aid (protection money?) to its "Southern neighborhood"; emergency preparations for as many as 300,000 Islamic "migrants" washing up on just Italy's shores any day. By the way, one disastrous effect of mass Islamic immigration (hijra) to Europe to date may be gleaned from the current political climate in which a new edition of Jean Raspail's 1973 novel "Camp of the Saints," the prophetic account of France's inability to survive massive Third World immigration, is expected to land the 85-year-old author and his publisher in French court on "hate speech" charges.

But I digress, sort of. What is noteworthy about the beef against Beck is the rock-hard certitude with which his critics, Right and Left, dismiss the caliphate concept as though it were a mythological beast, not a historical system of Islamic governance still revered and yearned for by most Muslims. Speaking of Tahrir Square, a 2007 University of Maryland/WorldOpinon poll indicated that 74 percent of Egyptians favor "strict Shariah," while 67 percent favor a "caliphate" uniting all of Islam.

But woe to anyone who takes notice. Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, for example, was recently accused on a noted blog of "(slinging) caliphate tripe" when Ferguson pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood "remains by far the best organized opposition force in the country, and wholly committed to the restoration of the caliphate and the strict application of Shariah." "Hilariously stupid" was the not-so-hilariously stupid comment.

But even if "Arab spring" should fail, Kristol writes, "there would be still be a case, for reasons of honor and duty ... to stand with the opponents of tyranny." Doing so, he continues, would not only "vindicate American principles and mean a gain for American interests but because we claim those American principles to be universal principles."

Here is what is "delusional": the belief that American principles -- freedom of religion, freedom of speech, equality before the law -- have a natural place as "universal principles" in a culture grounded in Shariah principles. This is the pure fantasy that has driven our foreign policy through a decade of "nation-building" wars. Meanwhile, the only way I know how to get to anything you might call "universal principles" into the Islamic world is through the establishment of ... a caliphate
=========
Marc: So, what does she propose?  What does Beck propose?  What do we propose?
23460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick on: February 26, 2011, 02:21:15 AM


On Wednesday night, Israelis received our first taste of the new Middle East with the missile strikes on Beersheba. Iran’s Palestinian proxy, the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood known as Hamas, carried out its latest war crime right after Iran’s battleships entered Syria’s Latakia port.

Their voyage through the Suez Canal to Syria was an unadulterated triumph for the mullahs.

For the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s warships sailed across the canal without even being inspected by the Egyptian, US or Israeli navies.

On the diplomatic front, the Iranian-dominated new Middle East has had a pronounced impact on the Western-backed Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s political posture towards the US.

The PA picked a fight with America just after the Obama administration forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to surrender power.

Mubarak’s departure was a strategic victory for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and for its sister branch Hamas in Gaza.

As part of his efforts to neutralize the threat the Muslim Brotherhood posed to his regime, Mubarak sealed off Gaza’s border with Egypt after Hamas seized power there in June 2007.

The Gaza-Sinai border was breached during last month’s revolution. Since Mubarak’s forced resignation, the military junta now leading Egypt has failed to reseal it.

The revolution in Egypt happened just after the PA was thrown into a state of disarray. Al- Jazeera’s exposure of PA documents indicating the leadership’s willingness to make minor compromises with Israel in the framework of a peace deal served to discredit Fatah leaders in the eyes of the Israel-hating Palestinian public.

In the wake of the Al-Jazeera revelations, senior PA leaders escalated their anti-Israel and anti- American pronouncements. The PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat was forced to resign.

The shift in the regional power balance following Mubarak’s fall has caused Fatah leaders to view their ties to the US as a strategic liability.

If they wish to survive, they must cut a deal with Hamas. And to convince Hamas to cut a deal, they need to abandon the US.
23461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula on: February 25, 2011, 11:16:09 PM
Saudi Arabia and the Context of Regional Unrest
On Thursday, much of the global media remained fixated on the continuing turmoil in Libya, but STRATFOR’s attention was drawn to Saudi Arabia. According to a DPA report, a Saudi youth group called for a peaceful demonstration on Friday in the kingdom’s western Red Sea port city of Jeddah, in an expression of solidarity with anti-government protesters in Libya. The group, calling itself Jeddah Youth for Change, distributed a printed statement throughout Riyadh asking people to demonstrate near the al-Beia Roundabout and vowed not to give up its right to demonstrate peacefully.

Ever since the mass risings spread from Tunisia to other parts of the Arab world, the key question has been whether or not the Saudi kingdom could experience similar unrest. The reason why this question is posed is two-fold: 1) The country is the world’s largest exporter of crude, and any unrest there could have massive ramifications for the world’s energy supply; and, 2) The Saudi socio-political culture is such that public demonstrations have been an extremely rare occurrence.

Riyadh’s actions since the ouster of the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents show its grave concern that the regional unrest could spread to Saudi Arabia. Domestically, the Saudi state announced a new $11 billion social welfare package. Regionally, the Saudis have been working hard to ensure that the protests in bordering countries do not destabilize those states (particularly Bahrain and Yemen), which could have a spillover effect into the kingdom.

“The Saudis will have to balance between the need to sustain old relationships such as those with the ulema class and new ones with the Shiite minority and liberal segments of society.”
Since the establishment of their first polity in 1744, the Saudis have demonstrated remarkable resilience and skill in dealing with challenges to their authority. They have weathered a litany of problems in their nearly 270-year history. These include a collapse of their state in the face of external aggression on two occasions (1818 and 1891), feuds within the royal family leading to the abdication of a monarch (1964), the assassination of a second at the hands of a nephew (1975), challenges from the country’s highly influential and expansive ulema class (1960s and 1990s), and rebellions mounted by religious militants on three occasions (1929, 1979 and 2003-04).

The unique nature of the Saudi state and its shared religious and cultural norms in part explain its ability to deal with such threats. Unlike many authoritarian Arab countries, the Saudi state is not detached from the average man; instead, it is very much rooted in the masses. The House of Saud is not the typical elite royal family; on the contrary, it is connected to the entire tribal landscape of the country through marriages.

In addition to the tribal social organization, there is a considerable degree of homogeneity of religious and cultural values. The historical relationship between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi religious establishment has proven effective in sustaining the legitimacy of the regime. Reinforcing all these bonds is the country’s oil wealth.

This arrangement has served the Saudis well for a very long time. But it now appears that they have reached a significant impasse — for a number of reasons.

First, the kingdom is due for a major leadership change considering that the king and the top three princes are extremely old and could die in fairly quick succession. Second is the rise of the kingdom’s archrival, Iran, and its Arab Shiite allies (in Iraq, Lebanon and now Bahrain), which represents the biggest external threat to the kingdom. Third, the regional wave of popular unrest, demanding that the region’s autocratic regimes make room for democracy, is something the Saudis have not had to deal with thus far.

The configuration of the Saudi state and society will likely serve as an arrestor to serious unrest. This means Saudi Arabia is unlikely to be immediately overwhelmed by protests, as has been the case with Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. But the kingdom is unlikely to contain such pressures for long, especially as a new generation of leaders assumes the mantle.

The future rulers will likely build upon the cautious reforms that have been spearheaded by King Abdullah in recent years. But in the emerging regional climate, it will be difficult to manage the pace and direction of reforms. The Saudis will have to balance between the need to sustain old relationships such as those with the ulema class and new ones with the Shiite minority and liberal segments of society.

23462  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 2/27/11 Guro Crafty in Manhattan Beach on: February 25, 2011, 04:59:16 PM
You have PM Frankfurter.
23463  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Zapata's Howl on: February 25, 2011, 04:58:40 PM

"Zapata's Howl" (c 2010 DBI)
Guro Crafty

 Back in the mid 90s, on various occasions a friend and I spent several wonderful days on a ranch 25 miles up a dirt road in Baja California, Mexico located at about 2,000' altitude on the side of "Diablo de Picacho" (or something like that) the largest mountain in Baja California.  The ranch was an interesting place.  It had been in the hands of the Meling family since the late 1800s.  Culturally they were American cowboys, but having been born and raised there for over 100 years, they were 100% Mexican citizens and completely bilingual.  Conversation over meals was fascinating.

 We spent the day riding horses (in that wonderfully unconcerned-about-lawsuits way so common in Mexico).  Zapata, the Akita in our logo, was in his glory chasing the huge jack rabbits.

The area is quite remote and the air completely clean.  Due to the extremely low population density and there being very little electricity, light pollution is non-existant.  There was a stream with some small trout and some frogs and at night the three of us sat listening to the frogs, the hoots of an owl, and the cries of the coyotes and looking at some of the brightest clearest views we had ever seen of the night sky.

 I commented on this at breakfast one morning and was informed that due to three factors- the clean air, the non-existant light pollution, and the fact that the mountain was over 10,000' tall-- the world's third largest telescope was located there on the peak of the mountain.  So, after breakfast digested we drove up a very ragged dirt road to the observatory there.

What a magnificent view!  The Sea of Cortez to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and no sight or sound of civilization-- just a bright sun, and the rustling of the wind over an unmarked expanse not unlike some of that in the "Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" though at 10,000' there were more pine trees than cactus.

 Such a moment in such a place is like a tuning fork for the soul-- something that allows us to put ourselves back in tune the inner vibrations of our Creator and his works.

 The three of us sat a while and breathed.  As Zapata lay sphinx-like next to me, his vibrations were part of the larger tuning fork of it all for me.

 On the way down, at about 7,000 feet altitude, there was a primitive little wooden sign saying "Meling Ranch".  At lunch I asked about it.  Andy Meling told me they had a property there of about 9 hectarias, including a year round spring, that they would sell me for $25,000.  Intrigued, the next morning the three of us went back up to investigate.   Andy, pointed out the lay of the land, which included a "fifth wheel" type RV camper which was to serve as our tent-cabin while we stayed there, feeling out the land.

 The camper was pretty ratty, and obviously field mice were present.  "Well, if you buy the land, just get yourself an old cat or two, and they will take care of the problem"  Andy advised.

 Why, I wondered, should the cats be old?

 "Because the owls will get the young ones" he explained "You want old ones that have already survived a close scrape."

 As some of you may know, not only is clear title to land ownership in Mexico sometimes fraught with problems but also from the Constitution on down Mexico has some very specific language concerning foreigners owning land. 

With some of these issues in mind Zapata and I set out on patrol to survey as best we could the boundaries of the land and to see what the neighboring lands looked like.  Of particular interest in this regard was the spring.  As we hiked up the mountain side well above the Meling's land in search the spring's source the terrain became both steeper and more rugged.  The boulders, juniper brush, and occasional cactus became ever more challenging.  Yellow jacket nests were not rare, and the possibility of rattlesnakes ever present.  Eventually we got to a spot where Zapata simply could not continue with me and I worried for his safety should I allow him to continue to try.

So I told him to go back to the camper-cabin, which was then about 3/4 of a mile away through rugged terrain.  I'm not really sure how he could understand my intention, but he did.  So he turned around and headed back down the mountain side as I continued upwards in search of the spring's source.

 About twenty minutes later, a tremendous wolf howl came.  Zapata was letting me know that he had arrived.

 This howl was the only time in his life he ever did so-- but in this moment I saw that the wolf, and its howl, was always there within him.

 I have many Zapata stories, (the coyote pack at the Bay of Whales-- again in Baja California wilderness-- the fight with the Rotttweiler with a fight collar unleashed by a neighborhood punk, humping the steroid bodybuilder, and many others) but this one is perhaps my favorite.

When he was riddled with cancer the day came when it was time to go for his last walk and go to the vet.  We walked on the path along the boardwalk along the ocean in Hermosa Beach, the wind in our faces. He was weak and his fur no longer glistened but still he walked in his gloriously arrogant way, but much slower than before.   It was a beautiful day and we drank it in, though only I knew it was to be his last.

Some clueless idiot with a young intact male Great Dane came up quickly on us from behind undetected by Zapata due to the wind's direction.  As the Dane drew alongside Zapata (at the angle that a dog seeking dominance goes for) Zapata became aware of him and without hesitation went for him and drove him back-- truly a warrior for all his days.

The Dane's owner and I were able to quickly separate the two and we all went on our respective ways, which for Zapata and me was the vet.

We were led into a back room.  Zapata was tired, and as we sat together on the floor he lay his head on my lap.  Of course he could feel my emotions. I held him as the vet administered the shot.

His urn sits in plain sight on my desk now, and when I need it he sends me a howl.
23464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: February 25, 2011, 04:30:36 PM
Anne Jolis writing in the Journal's Political Diary e-newsletter, Feb. 23:


News of the mass protests—and government and military defections—that are threatening to topple the regime of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya has dominated headlines for days. But over the weekend, another defection from yet another Middle Eastern dictatorship went relatively unnoticed. Ahmad Maleki, head of Iran's consular office in Milan, resigned his post on Sunday to protest Tehran's "barbaric actions against the Iranian nation," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, adding that he now plans to join Iran's pro- democracy Green Movement.

Egypt's and Tunisia's uprisings have breathed new life into the Iranian resistance. . . . After a year of lying low, tens of thousands of Green Movement protesters marched through Iran's streets on Sunday and last Monday. Whereas in 2009 they called for fresh elections, they are now calling to overthrow their government and to end the country's "religious dictatorship."

Tehran has responded with swarms of armed guards, firing into the crowds and beating protesters with steel batons and chains, witnesses tell The Wall Street Journal. Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been under house arrest for more than a week. . . . Mr. Maleki, who previously served Tehran in Portugal and Kenya, tells RFE/RL that there are "many others in the [Iranian Foreign Ministry] who are unhappy with the government." Mr. Maleki is the fourth Iranian diplomat to resign in the past year, after Iranian envoys stepped down in Norway, Finland and Brussels.

23465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor's George Friedman on: February 25, 2011, 04:19:46 PM
There’s an arc of uncertainty in the Muslim world from Casablanca to Cairo and from Aden on the Red Sea through Bahrain to Baghdad and Tehran. Some but not all the uncertainty is caused by uprisings. Where will this all end?

Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman.

Colin: George, what are the potential geopolitical implications of these events on the rest of the Middle East and beyond?

George: The situation in North Africa has for the moment clarified itself. You’ve got a military junta running Egypt. It’s promised elections and we’ll see if they happen. Tunisia has settled into an unsettled state and of course we have the chaos in Libya. But Libya is simply not that important a country to have broader geopolitical implications. The most important things are happening are happening in Bahrain. And they’re happening in Bahrain right now because Bahrain is both connected by a causeway to Saudi Arabia, has a large Shiite population, a Sunni ruling family, and is a port for the U.S. 5th Fleet. Everything comes together.

What we need to be looking at right now is Bahrain and beyond that Saudi Arabia to see if this wave of unrest enters Saudi Arabia, which would be an enormous event or if it bypasses it. It’s altogether possible, I don’t know, but it is possible that everything will settle down. But even if everything settled down internally, we would still be facing the Iranian question of the Iran’s status in the Persian Gulf once the United States completes the withdrawal from Iraq. And, along with that, we’d be facing the question — it’s a very difficult one — of what is the relationship between the Shiite communities of the Middle East, and particularly of the Persian Gulf, to the Iranian regime. And I think that’s really what we have to be focusing about. The most important geopolitical event is the rise of Iran, the role of the Shiites in that rise and what happens next.

Colin: You said people who start revolutions very seldom finish them. Should that happen will the region to descend into chaos?

George: Well, in the first place, let’s understand what I’m saying by that. I’m saying that just as in the Russian Revolution, the revolution was begun by liberals supporting Kerensky, what ended the revolution was the Bolsheviks. The people who finally take power are frequently those who are the most coherent and well-organized group whereas the initial demonstrators lose power because, while they are able to bring down the regime, they’re not able to create a replacement. One of the places that we saw that in was in Iran, where the demonstrators in 1979 came from a fairly wide group of people but at the same time it was Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters that took control. So one of the reasons that I don’t think the region will descend into chaos is simply because there will emerge movements that are better organized, better controlled, that’ll stop the chaos, but they’ll probably implement regimes that are inimical to what the original demonstrators wanted. Certainly they won’t be what Western liberals were expecting to see happen. Revolution opens the door to the best organized and most ruthless.

Colin: Do you see Islamists, if not jihadists, gaining power and influence as a result of this instability?

George: You really, the only way to answer the question of “Are the Islamists or Jihadists taking power?” is to look at each country separately. I mean it’s a massive mistake to look at the region as a whole; it’s highly differentiated. For Egypt my expectation is that the jihadists will not be strengthened. The army is still very strong; it is quite hostile to the jihadists and has a tense relationship with Islamists; it is pro-American; it maintains its treaty with Israel. I see it as possible that the army is forced out of this position but they won’t go easily. So my expectation is that no, that won’t happen. In the Persian Gulf the question is not going to be whether jihadists of the Sunni variety take control, it’s the degree to which the Shiites of the Iranian persuasion, if you will, take control. And that’s a very different question. So the expectation of chaos in the region I think really misses the point. This also has to be remembered that this is a region that had tremendous political instability back in the 1960s and early 1970s. There were revolutions sponsored by Egypt’s Nasserite government, sponsored by the Soviets, in many countries and there’s been quite a bit of instability. But since 1970, these regimes have been extremely stable, so stable in fact that people have conducted revolutions and grown old in them as we can see with Gadhafi, as we saw with Mubarak, as we saw with others. So the region I think is not descending into chaos. It is not even necessarily descending into change yet. What it is doing at this point is rotating leaders and there is a big difference between that and revolutionary change.

Colin: Thanks George, George Friedman ending this week’s Agenda. Thanks for listening.

23466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: State Business Tax Revolt on: February 25, 2011, 04:11:42 PM
President Obama says he wants corporate tax reform but hasn't proposed how to do it. Maybe he should take a look at the states, where as many as 10 new Governors are moving ahead to reform and reduce business taxes. The motive is to attract more businesses and create more jobs, while avoiding the fate of California and New York.

Take Iowa, which has the highest state corporate rate at 12%. Add that to the federal rate of 35%, and the Tax Foundation says the Hawkeye State may have the highest levy in the developed world. Governor Terry Branstad, back for a second stint in Des Moines after 12 years, wants to cut the top corporate rate in half to 6% because "we just can't compete with this high tax rate anymore." Mr. Branstad has been sending letters trying to recruit Illinois businesses, where the small business tax rose by 67% and the corporate rate by 30% to 9.5% in January.

Iowa's corporate tax suffers from the same defects that hobble the federal system. It imposes an onerous rate on those companies that get stuck paying it, but the legislature has carved out so many credits and loopholes for politically favored firms that the tax doesn't raise much revenue. So even though Iowa has the highest statutory rate, it ranks 36th in per capita collections. It's all pain for little gain.

Michigan has led the nation in job losses during this past decade, while former Governor Jennifer Granholm sought to attract businesses with special tax favors. New Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the GOP legislature are trying a different strategy and moving forward on a business tax makeover.

Their plan would replace an unpopular gross receipts tax that forces many small firms to pay inflated tax bills even when they don't record a profit. It would also eliminate big industry exemptions, such as the Hollywood movie maker's credit, and instead install a flat 6% corporate profits tax. That's still too high for our liking and for competitive purposes, but at least it would level the playing field across businesses and save them about $1.5 billion each year.

Florida's Rick Scott is pursuing arguably the most ambitious plan. He promised voters he'd abolish the state's $2 billion a year corporate tax over seven years, and his first budget gets that started. "Once we eliminate the corporate tax, and, remember, we don't have a state income tax, there will be no reason for businesses not to come to Florida," he says. South Carolina's Nikki Haley also campaigned on eliminating her state's $200 million a year corporate tax.

The message from these states is similar: In a global economy you can't attract businesses by extracting an undue share of their profits. Bringing rates down is especially important for competitiveness given that five states—Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming—have no corporate income tax.

Our preference, which is supported by most of the economic evidence, is that cutting personal and small business income tax rates should be the highest tax priority for states. But corporate tax systems are complicated and onerous, while only generating between 5% and 8% of state revenues.

Workers also bear the cost of excessive corporate taxes. A 2009 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City examined three decades of data on business taxes and worker pay checks. The study found that "corporate taxes reduce wages and that the magnitude of the negative relationship between the taxes and the wages has increased over the past 30 years." Businesses in high tax states invest less, the study found, and this leads to lower productivity and eventually lower average pay for workers.

These Governors can only do so much because the biggest hurdle to new investment is the federal tax of 35% that is the second highest in the world and far above the international average. The President's own tax commission concluded that this tax sends jobs abroad. What is Mr. Obama's Treasury Department waiting for?

23467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ piece cranks WI numbers on: February 25, 2011, 03:53:53 PM
ROBERT M. COSTRELL
The showdown in Wisconsin over fringe benefits for public employees boils down to one number: 74.2. That's how many cents the public pays Milwaukee public-school teachers and other employees for retirement and health benefits for every dollar they receive in salary. The corresponding rate for employees of private firms is 24.3 cents.

Gov. Scott Walker's proposal would bring public-employee benefits closer in line with those of workers in the private sector. And to prevent benefits from reaching sky-high levels in the future, he wants to restrict collective-bargaining rights.

The average Milwaukee public-school teacher salary is $56,500, but with benefits the total package is $100,005, according to the manager of financial planning for Milwaukee public schools. When I showed these figures to a friend, she asked me a simple question: "How can fringe benefits be nearly as much as salary?" The answers can be found by unpacking the numbers in the district's budget for this fiscal year:

•Social Security and Medicare. The employer cost is 7.65% of wages, the same as in the private sector.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Teachers protest in at the State Capitol in Madison.
.Slideshow: Teachers Revolt
Public employee protests spread across the Midwest.
.•State Pension. Teachers belong to the Wisconsin state pension plan. That plan requires a 6.8% employer contribution and 6.2% from the employee. However, according to the collective-bargaining agreement in place since 1996, the district pays the employees' share as well, for a total of 13%.

•Teachers' Supplemental Pension. In addition to the state pension, Milwaukee public-school teachers receive an additional pension under a 1982 collective-bargaining agreement. The district contributes an additional 4.2% of teacher salaries to cover this second pension. Teachers contribute nothing.

•Classified Pension. Most other school employees belong to the city's pension system instead of the state plan. The city plan is less expensive but here, too, according to the collective-bargaining agreement, the district pays the employees' 5.5% share.

Overall, for teachers and other employees, the district's contributions for pensions and Social Security total 22.6 cents for each dollar of salary. The corresponding figure for private industry is 13.4 cents. The divergence is greater yet for health insurance:

•Health care for current employees. Under the current collective- bargaining agreements, the school district pays the entire premium for medical and vision benefits, and over half the cost of dental coverage. These plans are extremely expensive.

This is partly because of Wisconsin's unique arrangement under which the teachers union is the sponsor of the group health-insurance plans. Not surprisingly, benefits are generous. The district's contributions for health insurance of active employees total 38.8% of wages. For private-sector workers nationwide, the average is 10.7%.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
.•Health insurance for retirees. This benefit is rarely offered any more in private companies, and it can be quite costly. This is especially the case for teachers in many states, because the eligibility rules of their pension plans often induce them to retire in their 50s, and Medicare does not kick in until age 65. Milwaukee's plan covers the entire premium in effect at retirement, and retirees cover only the growth in premiums after they retire.

As is commonly the case, the school district's retiree health plan has not been prefunded. It has been pay-as-you-go. This has been a disaster waiting to happen, as retirees grow in number and live longer, and active employment shrinks in districts such as Milwaukee.

For fiscal year 2011, retiree enrollment in the district health plan is 36.4% of the total. In addition to the costs of these retirees' benefits, Milwaukee is, to its credit, belatedly starting to prefund the benefits of future school retirees. In all, retiree health-insurance contributions are estimated at 12.1% of salaries (of which 1.5% is prefunded).

Overall, the school district's contributions to health insurance for employees and retirees total about 50.9 cents on top of every dollar paid in wages. Together with pension and Social Security contributions, plus a few small items, one can see how the total cost of fringe benefits reaches 74.2%.

What these numbers ultimately prove is the excessive power of collective bargaining. The teachers' main pension plan is set by the state legislature, but under the pressure of local bargaining, the employees' contribution is often pushed onto the taxpayers. In addition, collective bargaining led the Milwaukee public school district to add a supplemental pension plan—again with no employee contribution. Finally, the employees' contribution (or lack thereof) to the cost of health insurance is also collectively bargained.

As the costs of pensions and insurance escalate, the governor's proposal to restrict collective bargaining to salaries—not benefits—seems entirely reasonable.

Mr. Costrell is professor of education reform and economics at the University of Arkansas.

23468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: February 25, 2011, 03:51:19 PM
BD:

Interesting question presented there , , ,
23469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / To dairy or not to dairy on: February 25, 2011, 03:38:16 PM
Dairy: food of the Gods or neolithic agent of disease?
February 8, 2011

Share204
 
One of the most contentious issues in the Paleo nutrition community is whether dairy products are health-promoting or disease-causing.

On one end of the spectrum you have Loren Cordain and his group, who claim that dairy is not fit for human consumption for two reasons: 1) because it’s a neolithic food and not part of our evolutionary heritage, and 2) because of proposed physiological mechanisms by which dairy causes harm when consumed. On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got folks like Kurt Harris, Stephan Guyenet, Chris Masterjohn and the Weston A. Price Foundation who have pointed out the many health benefits of dairy and are generally in favor of its consumption.

My answer to the question of whether dairy is healthy are harmful is, in short: it depends. But before we get into the factors I think the answer depends on, I want to briefly address why I don’t take the evidence against dairy very seriously at this point.

Paleo re-enactment isn’t the goal
I agree with Dr. Kurt Harris on this one. We can look to the Paleo era to determine what was evolutionarily normal for humans, but it doesn’t follow that anything that falls outside of that norm is automatically harmful. The argument that we shouldn’t eat dairy now because we didn’t eat it 2 million years ago – without supporting clinical evidence – is not convincing.

There’s also the inconvenient (for the anti-dairy set) matter of people like the Masai and Loetschental Swiss that Weston A. Price studied, who were free of modern, degenerative disease despite receiving a large percentage of calories from dairy products.

Human evidence is more convincing than proposed mechanisms
Cordain’s group has published and reviewed several papers proposing various physiological mechanisms by which dairy causes harm. One recent example is a paper by Melnik called Milk Signalling in the Pathogenesis of Type 2 Diabetes. The theory presented is that milk consumption beyond the weaning period may overstimulate pancreatic beta-cells and promote beta-cell apoptosis. Since proliferation and apoptosis of beta-cells are hallmarks of type 2 diabetes (T2DM), it follows that milk consumption must contribute to T2DM.

Or does it?

If that theory were true, we might expect to see increased rates of T2DM in people consuming dairy products. But in fact we see just the opposite.

This study looked at serum levels of trans-palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid found in milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, and correlated them with risk factors for diabetes. Here’s what they found:

At baseline, higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, inflammatory markers, insulin levels, and insulin sensitivity, after adjustment for other risk factors. During follow-up, individuals with higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid had a much lower risk of developing diabetes, with about a 60% lower risk among participants in the highest quintile (fifth) of trans-palmitoleic acid levels, compared to individuals in the lowest quintile.

Translation: people with the highest trans-palmitoleate levels had 1/3 the risk of developing diabetes over the three years volunteers were followed. Not only that, after adjusting for confounding factors trans-palmitoleate levels were associated with smaller waist circumfrence, lower triglycerides, higher HDL and lower C-reactive protein.

Since trans-palmitoleic acid is a fatty acid found in the – you guessed it – fat of milk, the study also supports the idea that full-fat, whole dairy products are beneficial. This directly contradicts the low-fat hysteria we’ve been brainwashed with for so many years. But I digress.

Stephan Guyenet blogged about this study and re-wrote the authors’ conclusion in more straightforward terms:

Our findings support eating as much butter as possible****. Don’t waste your money on low-fat cream, either (half-n-half). We’re sorry that public health authorities have spent 30 years telling you to eat low-fat dairy when most studies are actually more consistent with the idea that dairy fat reduces the risk obesity and chronic disease.

Since this was an observational study, it doesn’t prove that dairy fat reduces the risk of T2DM. But it does suggest that the converse isn’t true.

Another study found that people with the highest levels of milk fat biomarkers, suggesting they consumed the most dairy fat, were actually at lower risk of heart attack; for women, the risk was reduced by 26 percent, while for men risk was 9 percent lower.

Another study showed that people who ate the most full-fat dairy had a 69% lower risk of cardiovascular death than those who ate the least.

Finally, this literature review of 10 studies found that milk drinking is associated with a small but significant reduction in heart disease and stroke risk.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Which is this: evidence of what happens when people actually consume dairy products is a lot more convincing to me than proposed mechanisms of how dairy may effect humans.

The problem with isolating certain effects of a nutrient or food, and then making predictions based on those effects, is that we might miss some other quality about that food that negates the proposed effect. That’s a mouthful, so let me explain.

T. Colin Campbell is (in)famous for his research linking casein, a protein in dairy products, with cancer. He then made the huge and unsupportable leap to concluding that all animal proteins cause cancer and should be avoided. Most of you know the rest of that story.

However, what Campbell neglected to notice, or mention, is that whey, another protein found in dairy, has anti-cancer effects that completely cancel out the cancer-promoting effects of casein. Oops! This is why it’s so important to study whole foods, not just nutrients.

So let me finish this section by saying that I believe the weight of the evidence on dairy consumption suggests that it is not only not harmful, but quite beneficial.

When dairy may not be beneficial
However, as in most things, there are exceptions. Many of you reading this are probably sensitive to dairy and don’t tolerate it well. I certainly have patients that this is true for, and it’s not at all uncommon.

What’s the deal? Why does it seem to benefit some, but cause problems for others? In my opinion the answer boils down to the health of the gut. If someone has compromised intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”, it’s more likely that their immune system will respond to potentially allergenic components in milk such as alpha- and beta-casein, casomorphin and butyrophillin.

This is especially true for people who are gluten intolerant, because it has been shown that milk proteins commonly cross-react with gluten. Put another way, if you react to gluten, it’s more likely that you’ll also react to milk.

Along these same lines, people with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) – which is one of the major causes of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – may be more likely to react to milk because the bacteria in their small intestine aggressively ferments lactose, the sugar in milk, causing gas, bloating and other G.I. symptoms.

Not all milk is created equal
Something that irritates me is that raw and pasteurized dairy is often discussed as if it’s the same thing. It’s not. Raw dairy is a whole food, and pasteurized dairy is a processed food.

While it’s true that some people (described above) react to the proteins in milk, most who are sensitive are reacting to the sugar in milk: lactose. The enzyme lactase must be present to hydrolyze lactose into its constituent compounds, glucose and galactose. Somewhere between 1% – 95% of people don’t produce lactase on their own, depending on race and ethnicity.

In a sign of nature’s wisdom, raw milk contains lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose. Pasteurization, however, kills lactase. So if you don’t produce your own lactase, you’ll have a hard time digesting pasteurized milk. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tolerate raw milk. I can’t tolerate pasteurized dairy myself, but I don’t seem to have any problems with raw dairy.

So the answer to the question I posed in the title of this article isn’t so simple, and it depends on several factors:

The status of your gut barrier
Whether or not you have SIBO or IBS
Whether or not you’re gluten intolerant
Whether you’re eating raw or pasteurized dairy
If you’re not sure where you stand with dairy, the best approach is to remove it for 30 days and then reintroduce and see what happens. Elimination/reintroduction is still the gold-standard for determining sensitivity to a particular food.

But if you tolerate it well, I haven’t seen any evidence in the literature that convinces me you shouldn’t be eating liberal amounts of full-fat dairy.

Tagged as: butter, cream, dariy, disease, gut, leaky, milk, neolithic, paleo
23470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / South Park's revenge on: February 25, 2011, 12:45:24 PM
"Our man formerly in Iraq" comments:
=========================

I figure within a month or two Chesser will be getting passed around the prison in a sex for cigarettes program.

Man who threatened 'South Park' creators gets 25 years in prison
www.cnn.com

A 21-year-old man who admitted posting online threats against the creators of the animated TV series "South Park" was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison...
23471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Highly recommended on: February 25, 2011, 10:24:05 AM
I subscribe to this free newsletter and recommend it highly.  Also, I make an annual donation.

http://patriotpost.us/promote/
23472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Rebels seek to establish governance on: February 25, 2011, 08:44:35 AM
BENGHAZI, Libya — The rebels here said they caught a spy in the court building, the nerve center of the uprising, recording insurgent plans on a cellphone camera. The response was swift. Prosecutors interrogated the man on Thursday, and the rebels said they planned to detain him, for now.


“We want to know if he’s alone,” said Fathi Terbil, the lawyer whose detention set off Libya’s rebellion and who is now one if its leaders.
In the city where the Libyan uprising began, lawyers, prosecutors, judges and average citizens who oppose the rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are adjusting to unfamiliar roles: they are keepers both of an evolving rebellion, as well as law and order in Libya’s second largest city.

And they fret that their gains will be reversed, by people and groups sympathetic to Colonel Qaddafi, who still maintain a presence.

Since Sunday, when government forces withdrew and Benghazi became the first major city to fall under rebel control, residents and rebels here have been left to hammer out a new way of life and governance.

On Thursday, the fruits of that effort were beginning to take a rough shape. A judge, still wearing his robes, wandered through traffic, ordering drivers to put on their seat belts. At another intersection, three young men helped an elderly police officer direct a traffic jam.

Dozens of banks opened for business, and by late afternoon, stores shuttered for days had started to open as well.

In Benghazi’s new order, the court building overlooking the Mediterranean has become both a seat of rebel power and the town hall.

A battery of newly formed committees meet there to discuss security, negotiate with the army and sort out how to get people back to work. “We needed something temporary, to manage the day-to-day life,” said Imam Bugaighis, an orthodontist who has become a spokeswoman for the caretaker administration.

She said her sister, a lawyer, is also an organizer of the effort, whose leadership remains very loose. Lawyers and judges were at the vanguard of the uprising.

“They are in charge,” Dr. Bugaighis said. Then she added, “Nobody is in charge.”

After Libya’s revolt began here on Feb. 15, there was intense fighting for several days. The local hospital is still coping with the influx of those who survived. At the height of the uprising, about a hundred people a day were admitted with bullet wounds and other injuries, according to the chief surgeon, who gave his name only as Dr. Abdullah because the government’s agents were still lurking. “We’ve been under threats for 40 years,” he said.

Badly wounded men lay in the hospital’s intensive care unit, and doctors confided privately that they did not expect them to live. They included a 30-year-old man whose chest was filled with bullet fragments. “He’s deeply comatose,” Dr. Abdullah said.

Dr. Abdullah said that 140 people died during the unrest here, while local rebel leaders said the number could be as high as 300. The doctors said many patients arrived with bullet wounds to the chest and the head. Many of them are paralyzed.

In the morgue, nine green bags contained charred remains. Dr. Abdullah said that they had been recovered from the local military base, and that he was told they were soldiers who were executed and then burned by their commanders after they refused to fire on civilians. But he could not be sure.

“It was chaos,” he said.

The chaos had started with the detention of Mr. Terbil, a lawyer who represents families of those killed in a massacre of more than 1,000 inmates in Abu Slim prison in Tripoli in 1996. The families planned to be part of a protest on Feb. 17, and Mr. Terbil said that the authorities detained him on Feb. 15, hoping to head off the demonstrations.

During an interview in a second-floor office in the court building on Thursday, Mr. Terbil said his interrogation stretched out over two days, as his supporters protested outside the security building where he was detained. Using carrots and sticks, the authorities told him to find a way to end the demonstrations.

“I told them it’s already on Facebook and Twitter,” he said he told the officer interrogating him. “We can’t stop it. We can make it peaceful.”

The interrogator’s response, Mr. Terbil said, was: “We cannot allow protests like that to take place. Blood will be shed.”
23473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 25, 2011, 08:41:56 AM
Although I find GB's take on the events in the Arab world to be very worthwhile, for the record I would like to register a complaint.

It is well-known that many in the Arab world use the word "genocide" as much as they can so as to obscure the true genocide that was attempted, and is intended, for Jews.  Sometimes too, it is just a matter of melodrama.

Whatever the case, someone in Libya this week, either a soldier or a defecting diplomat, spoke of Kadaffy attempting genocide; as murderous as what Kaddaffy Duck is trying to do may be, is he really trying to wipe out a people?  I think not.  

Yet GB has taken up the word "genocide" in his description of what is going on, as in "Why didn't BO take the time to do XYZ to help stop the genocide in Libya?"

This devalues the word, a word whose meaning should be respected and protected.

23474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: US pulling out of Pech Valley on: February 25, 2011, 08:34:22 AM
It is not unknown for Pravda on the Hudson (POTH/NYTimes) to shade things against US military efforts.  Caveat Lector
==================================================
This article is by C. J. Chivers, Alissa J. Rubin and Wesley Morgan
 
KABUL, Afghanistan — After years of fighting for control of a prominent valley in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the United States military has begun to pull back most of its forces from ground it once insisted was central to the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The withdrawal from the Pech Valley, a remote region in Kunar Province, formally began on Feb. 15. The military projects that it will last about two months, part of a shift of Western forces to the province’s more populated areas. Afghan units will remain in the valley, a test of their military readiness.

While American officials say the withdrawal matches the latest counterinsurgency doctrine’s emphasis on protecting Afghan civilians, Afghan officials worry that the shift of troops amounts to an abandonment of territory where multiple insurgent groups are well established, an area that Afghans fear they may not be ready to defend on their own.

And it is an emotional issue for American troops, who fear that their service and sacrifices could be squandered. At least 103 American soldiers have died in or near the valley’s maze of steep gullies and soaring peaks, according to a count by The New York Times, and many times more have been wounded, often severely.

Military officials say they are sensitive to those perceptions. “People say, ‘You are coming out of the Pech’; I prefer to look at it as realigning to provide better security for the Afghan people,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander for eastern Afghanistan. “I don’t want the impression we’re abandoning the Pech.”

The reorganization, which follows the complete Afghan and American withdrawals from isolated outposts in nearby Nuristan Province and the Korangal Valley, runs the risk of providing the Taliban with an opportunity to claim success and raises questions about the latest strategy guiding the war.

American officials say their logic is simple and compelling: the valley consumed resources disproportionate with its importance; those forces could be deployed in other areas; and there are not enough troops to win decisively in the Pech Valley in any case.

“If you continue to stay with the status quo, where will you be a year from now?” General Campbell said. “I would tell you that there are places where we’ll continue to build up security and it leads to development and better governance, but there are some areas that are not ready for that, and I’ve got to use the forces where they can do the most good.”

President Obama’s Afghan troop buildup is now fully in place, and the United States military has its largest-ever contingent in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama’s reinforced campaign has switched focus to operations in Afghanistan’s south, and to building up Afghan security forces.

The previous strategy emphasized denying sanctuaries to insurgents, blocking infiltration routes from Pakistan and trying to fight away from populated areas, where NATO’s superior firepower could be massed, in theory, with less risk to civilians. The Pech Valley effort was once a cornerstone of this thinking.

The new plan stands as a clear, if unstated, repudiation of earlier decisions. When Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former NATO commander, overhauled the Afghan strategy two years ago, his staff designated 80 “key terrain districts” to concentrate on. The Pech Valley was not one of them.

Ultimately, the decision to withdraw reflected a stark — and controversial — internal assessment by the military that it would have been better served by not having entered the high valley in the first place.

“What we figured out is that people in the Pech really aren’t anti-U.S. or anti-anything; they just want to be left alone,” said one American military official familiar with the decision. “Our presence is what’s destabilizing this area.”

Gen. Mohammed Zaman Mamozai, a former commander of the region’s Afghan Border Police, agreed with some of this assessment. He said that residents of the Pech Valley bristled at the American presence but might tolerate Afghan units. “Many times they promised us that if we could tell the Americans to pull out of the area, they wouldn’t fight the Afghan forces,” he said.

It is impossible to know whether such pledges will hold. Some veterans worry that the withdrawal will create an ideal sanctuary for insurgent activity — an area under titular government influence where fighters or terrorists will shelter or prepare attacks.

=====

While it is possible that the insurgents will concentrate in the mountain valleys, General Campbell said his goal was to arrange forces to keep insurgents from Kabul, the country’s capital.


“There are thousands of isolated mountainous valleys throughout Afghanistan, and we cannot be in all of them,” he said.
The American military plans to withdraw from most of the four principal American positions in the valley. For security reasons, General Campbell declined to discuss which might retain an American presence, and exactly how the Americans would operate with Afghans in the area in the future.

As the pullback begins, the switch in thinking has fueled worries among those who say the United States is ceding some of Afghanistan’s most difficult terrain to the insurgency and putting residents who have supported the government at risk of retaliation.

“There is no house in the area that does not have a government employee in it,” said Col. Gul Rahman, the Afghan police chief in the Manogai District, where the Americans’ largest base in the valley, Forward Operating Base Blessing, is located. “Some work with the Afghan National Army, some work with the Afghan National Police, or they are a teacher or governmental employee. I think it is not wise to ignore and leave behind all these people, with the danger posed to their lives.”

Some Afghan military officials have also expressed pointed misgivings about the prospects for Afghan units left behind.

“According to my experience in the military and knowledge of the area, it’s absolutely impractical for the Afghan National Army to protect the area without the Americans,” said Major Turab, the former second-in-command of an Afghan battalion in the valley, who like many Afghans uses only one name. “It will be a suicidal mission.”

The pullback has international implications as well. Senior Pakistani commanders have complained since last summer that as American troops withdraw from Kunar Province, fighters and some commanders from the Haqqani network and other militant groups have crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan to create a “reverse safe haven” from which to carry out attacks against Pakistani troops in the tribal areas.

The Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups are all but certain to label the withdrawal a victory in the Pech Valley, where they could point to the Soviet Army’s withdrawal from the same area in 1988. Many Afghans remember that withdrawal as a symbolic moment when the Kremlin’s military campaign began to visibly fall apart.

Within six months, the Soviet-backed Afghan Army of the time ceded the territory to mujahedeen groups, according to Afghan military officials.

The unease, both with the historical precedent and with the price paid in American blood in the valley, has ignited a sometimes painful debate among Americans veterans and active-duty troops. The Pech Valley had long been a hub of American military operations in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces.

American forces first came to the valley in force in 2003, following the trail of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami group, who, like other prominent insurgent leaders, has been said at different times to hide in Kunar. They did not find him, though Hezb-i-Islami is active in the valley.

Since then, one American infantry battalion after another has fought there, trying to establish security in villages while weathering roadside bombs and often vicious fights.

Along with other slotlike canyons that the United States has already largely abandoned — including the Korangal Valley, the Waygal Valley (where the battle of Wanat was fought in 2008), the Shuryak Valley and the Nuristan River corridor (where Combat Outpost Keating was nearly overrun in 2009) — the Pech Valley was a region rivaled only by Helmand Province as the deadliest Afghan acreage for American troops.

On one operation alone in 2005, 19 service members, including 11 members of the Navy Seals, died.

As the years passed and the toll rose, the area assumed for many soldiers a status as hallowed ground. “I can think of very few places over the past 10 years with as high and as sustained a level of violence,” said Col. James W. Bierman, who commanded a Marine battalion in the area in 2006 and helped establish the American presence in the Korangal Valley.

In the months after American units left the Korangal last year, insurgent attacks from that valley into the Pech Valley increased sharply, prompting the current American battalion in the area, First Battalion, 327th Infantry, and Special Operations units to carry out raids into places that American troops once patrolled regularly.

Last August, an infantry company raided the village of Omar, which the American military said had become a base for attacks into the Pech Valley, but which earlier units had viewed as mostly calm. Another American operation last November, in the nearby Watapor Valley, led to fighting that left seven American soldiers dead.
23475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libya's split on: February 24, 2011, 11:50:31 PM
Libya's Split Between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania
Compared to the past few days in Libya that were marked by aerial bombardments on opposition strongholds, bizarre speeches by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and deadly clashes between protesters and African mercenaries, Wednesday was eerily quiet in the North African country.

The reason behind this apparent sense of quietude is because Libya is currently stuck in a historical east-west stalemate, with the threat of civil war looming.

The Gadhafi regime has effectively lost control of the east, where opposition forces are concentrated in and around the cities of Benghazi and Al Baida. The opposition is also encroaching on Libya’s dividing line, the energy-critical Gulf of Sidra, with the directors of several subsidiaries of the state-owned National Oil Corporation announcing they were splitting from Gadhafi and joining the people.

To the west, Gadhafi and his remaining allies appear to be digging in for a fight. Residents in Tripoli, many of whom turned on Gadhafi after witnessing the gratuitous violence used on protesters, are reportedly stockpiling arms, unsure of what will come next, but expecting the worst.

“Without a clear alternative, and with Libya fundamentally divided, there is no Plan B for the Gadhafi regime that generates much enthusiasm.”
A swath of nearly 500 miles of desert lies between the opposition and Gadhafi strongholds. And herein lies the historical challenge in ruling Libya: the split between ancient Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. The Cyrenaica region has a long and rich history, dating back to the 7th Century B.C. This is a region that has seen many rulers, including Greeks, Romans, Persians, Egyptians, Ottomans, Italians and British, and has long been at odds with the rival power base of Tripolitania, founded by the Phoenicians. At the time of Libya’s independence and through the reign of King Idris I (whose base of power was Cyrenaica), Libya was ruled by two capitals, Tripoli in the west and Benghazi in the east. For most Cyrenaics, Benghazi — and not Tripoli — is seen as their true capital.

It was not until Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s 1969 military coup that overthrew the monarchy that the Tripolitanians could truly claim dominance over the fledgling Libyan state. But in a country divided by myriad dialects, tribes and ancient histories, Tripolitanian power could only be held through a complex alliance of tribes, the army’s loyalty and an iron fist.

Gadhafi thus finds himself in a serious dilemma, with what appears to be a winnowing number of army units and tribes remaining loyal to him in Tripoli and Sirte, his tribal homeland located on the western edge of the Gulf of Sidra. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to see how Gadhafi will be able to project power militarily to the east to retake the resource-rich territory and ultimately save his regime. It is equally difficult at the moment to imagine a contingent of opposition forces from the east charging across the desert and successfully retaking Tripoli. Even if a coup is attempted by Tripolitanians in the west against Gadhafi, the successor will face an extraordinary challenge in trying to exert control over the rest of the country to resolve the east-west split. When it comes to the Tripolitania-Cyrenaica divide, neither side is likely to make a move until they feel confident about their ability to co-opt or destroy enough forces on the enemy side.

A period of negotiations must first take place, as the Cyrenaica-based opposition forces attempt to reach a political understanding with forces already in Tripoli, who may already have ideas of their own on how to eliminate Gadhafi. That way, if they do move forces, they will at least have prior arrangements that they are not going to be challenged and ideally can be logistically supported from stocks in Tripoli. This explains the current quietude, as each side maneuvers in negotiations and conserves forces.

Whether those negotiations actually lead somewhere is another question. Gadhafi may be losing more credibility by the day, but he appears to be gambling on two things: that he can retain enough military and tribal support to make the cost of invading Tripoli too high for the opposition to attempt, and that the foreign bystanders to this conflict will be too fearful of the consequences of his regime collapsing.

The fear of the unknown is what is keeping the main external stakeholders in this conflict in limbo at the moment. From the U.S. president to the CEO of Italian energy firm ENI, nobody appears willing to rush a regime collapse that could very well result in civil war. This may explain the notably vague statements coming out of Tuesday’s U.N. Security Council meetings that focused on condemning the violence and not much else, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement on Wednesday, in which he said, “I have asked my administration to prepare a full range of options. This includes unilateral options, those with partners and those with international organizations.”

It is no coincidence that to this day, not a single leading opposition figure in Libya can be named. This is a testament to Gadhafi’s strategy of consolidating power: to prevent the creation of alternative bases of power and keep the institutions around him, including the army, deliberately weak. Without a clear alternative, and with Libya fundamentally divided, there is no Plan B for the Gadhafi regime that generates much enthusiasm.

And so we wait. Opposition forces in the east will conduct quiet negotiations in the west to determine who will defect and who will resist; the United States and Italy will be lobbied endlessly by the opposition to enforce a no-fly zone over the country; the external powers will continue to deliberate among a severely limited number of bad options; and Gadhafi and his remaining allies will dig in for the fight.

If neither side can acquire the force strength to make a move, Libya will return to its historic split between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica with separate bases of power. If one side takes a gamble and makes a move, civil war is likely to ensue. Sometimes it really is that simple.

23476  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Poi Dog on: February 24, 2011, 08:36:03 PM
Let the Howl go forth:

The list of DBMA Guros is quite short, but now there is one more:

Poi Dog is now Guro Poi Dog. Cool Cool Cool

WAAWFAYD!
Guro Crafty
23477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: February 24, 2011, 05:45:58 PM
The analogy I think is this:  As in bankruptcy reorganization, when a company is going bankrupt, the federal bankruptcy judge can come in an re-jigger the contractual rights of bondholders and other creditors, employees, and stockholders so that the company can survive.  if possible this is of greater value to all concerned than having to liquidate the company and sell its assets off, typically for pennies on the dollar.

By the way, Obama showed great disrespect for the sanctity of law by fg the secured creditors of GM and putting the unions ahead of them -- contrary to law.  I haven't the time or the inclination to spell all this out, but I make the claim simply, clearly, and with confidence.  Anyone interested should go look it up for themselves.

Also, worth keeping in mind is the American Contract Law includes some very flexible concepts that certainly surprised me when I started law school and I think might surprise some of us here.  It places a very high value on economic efficiency and allows for people to break contracts far more than you might think.
23478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: February 24, 2011, 11:47:00 AM
The Real Story in Wisconsin
 Our nation is in the stranglehold of Progressive Democrat dominated unions that are producing a crisis dropout rate across the country.  The Wisconsin government is saying that the Public Teachers Union is making more than double on average than the average voter that they are taking money from (1).  The current bill allows them to keep their collective bargaining for salary but have to give it up for benefits, and yes contribute a small sum toward their healthcare and retirement like the rest of America.  The Progressives are screaming, calling people Hitler, jumping up and down, for a very small reasonable cut to their bargaining power and salary.  Tea Party people finally got upset about Obama taking over one seventh of the economy in Obamacare and spending $3 Trillion of their grandchildren's money, by giving it to unions and special interests.

The Even Bigger Story
The bigger story is the public connection from the Democrat dominated teachers unions to the democrat President of the United States.  So the even bigger story is that Progressive Democrat Obama and Democrat Pelosi took the time to make a public press release showing their support for the Teachers Unions in Wisconsin.  What is significant is that they took their valuable time to support a single State single Democrat dominated Teachers Union, with the Middle East on fire, Iranians sending ships through the Suez Canal for the first time since the Islamic revolution in 1979, China building a military that might challenge ours, the counter-demonstrations to the Sharia led government in Iran, or the 100s of thousands of people that have been murdered in the Sudan by Muslims.  They have not made a press release in announcing that the progressive Obama government  is embarking on the largest sale of arms to the Middle East of any of our past administrations (Fortune Magazine Cover Story 2/28/11).   Yet the two most powerful Democrats have time to talk about a local State issue where Teachers get paid almost twice as much as the private sector and produce underperforming students.     

The bottom line is that Progressive Democrats have dominated the Teacher's Unions across this country, and the Union donations to public officials for over 40 years.  They give hundreds of millions to choose their boss (elected officials) and their boss pays them back with salary and pension increases.  Cozy!  The result is a curriculum that leans overwhelmingly progressive and amounts to indoctrination, and you wonder why your kids come out of public school with some of the attitudes they do.  It is a broken system without competition that has degraded in quality to the point of a crisis.  In Los Angeles county the dropout rate is over 34% and is about 1 in 3 or 4 nation wide (32% drop out rate)(2).  About one-fifth of the nongraduates hail from 25 large school districts, including New York City; Los Angeles; and Clark County, Nev. (3)

So Wisconsin is really about the future education of your children and grand children in every state and who is going to be teaching them for a majority of their life.  And it is about the future freedom of all of our lives by ending the unholy alliance of big unions and big government. 

(1) The average salary for an MPS teacher is $56,500. When fringe benefits are factored in, the annual compensation will be $100,005 in 2011.  http://maciverinstitute.com/2010/03/average-mps-teacher-compensation-tops-100kyear/

(2) http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/05/high-school-dropout-rate-climbs-to-349.html

(3) http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2010/0610/Graduation-rate-for-US-high-schoolers-falls-for-second-straight-year

You have a few more days to purchase your Early Bird Tickets, don't delay.  Also some of you asked how you can support this event.  You can buy our Patriot Partner Ticket; these tickets are what help us break even.  You can also bring a couple of friends and neighbors, better yet buy them a ticket, pick them up and get them to the event.  You can forward this invitation to as many people as you know, with a personal recommendation.  Buy your tickets here - www.CelebrateFreedomAmerica.com

For Freedom, Gary Aven
23479  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Serious hand speed on: February 24, 2011, 11:17:10 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj8r4DoCeSc
23480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq Hamlet Obama's statement yesterday on: February 24, 2011, 10:33:31 AM
I felt so proud yesterday that our President, having cleverly said nothing during days of mass killing by the serial terrorist killer Kadaffy and the loyal portion of his armed forces, came out with the forthright warning shot across the bow that he was sending Secretary of State Hillary "Atilla the Hen" Clinton to Geneva to meet with the UN Human Rights Council there , , , including Council member Libya.  How shrewd of him to have reversed President Bush's policy of not participating in the HRC because of the presence of states such as Syria and Libya!  But for that, maybe they would not be deigning to talk with Secretary Clinton right now!

How shrewd of him to have not responded to the events in Tunisia and Egypt by not ordering a US aircraft carrier into the Mediterranean!  Had he done so we now would be capable of imposing a no-fly zone so that the Libyan airforce would not be able to continue strafing its people as requested by defecting military and diplomats and wouldn't that be terrible!  Had he done so, Iran would have had to think twice about sending its navy ships through the Suez Canal-- and we wouldn't want that! My heart beats with pride at his eloquent denunciation of "violence" while subtly not mentioning its perpetrator (sp?) by name!  After all, we wouldn't want to make He Who Shall Not Be Named mad the way Reagan did when Reagan tried killing him, or Bush 2 did when our overthrow of Hussein in Iraq intimidated him into giving up his secret nuke program.  This subtle hammering Mubarak, our ally of 30 years, while not naming He Who Must Not Be Named, will make our President's positions "perfectly clear" to one and all.  After all, in troubled times, it can be so very important to not be mistaken for being weak. 

Otherwise someone might think to try us and serious wars can get started that way.
23481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Opportunity for Islamo Fascism in Libya? on: February 24, 2011, 10:20:29 AM


Jihadist Opportunities in Libya
February 24, 2011


By Scott Stewart

As George Friedman noted in his geopolitical weekly “Revolution and the Muslim World,” one aspect of the recent wave of revolutions we have been carefully monitoring is the involvement of militant Islamists, and their reaction to these events.

Militant Islamists, and specifically the subset of militant Islamists we refer to as jihadists, have long sought to overthrow regimes in the Muslim world. With the sole exception of Afghanistan, they have failed, and even the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan was really more a matter of establishing a polity amid a power vacuum than the true overthrow of a coherent regime. The brief rule of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council in Somalia also occurred amid a similarly chaotic environment and a vacuum of authority.

However, even though jihadists have not been successful in overthrowing governments, they are still viewed as a threat by regimes in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. In response to this threat, these regimes have dealt quite harshly with the jihadists, and strong crackdowns combined with other programs have served to keep the jihadists largely in check.

As we watch the situation unfold in Libya, there are concerns that unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the uprising in Libya might result not only in a change of ruler but also in a change of regime and perhaps even a collapse of the state. In Egypt and Tunisia, strong military regimes were able to ensure stability after the departure of a long-reigning president. By contrast, in Libya, longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi has deliberately kept his military and security forces fractured and weak and thereby dependent on him. Consequently, there may not be an institution to step in and replace Gadhafi should he fall. This means energy-rich Libya could spiral into chaos, the ideal environment for jihadists to flourish, as demonstrated by Somalia and Afghanistan.

Because of this, it seems an appropriate time to once again examine the dynamic of jihadism in Libya.


A Long History

Libyans have long participated in militant operations in places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and Iraq. After leaving Afghanistan in the early 1990s, a sizable group of Libyan jihadists returned home and launched a militant campaign aimed at toppling Gadhafi, whom they considered an infidel. The group began calling itself the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in 1995, and carried out a low-level insurgency that included assassination attempts against Gadhafi and attacks against military and police patrols.



(click here to enlarge image)
Gadhafi responded with an iron fist, essentially imposing martial law in the Islamist militant strongholds of Darnah and Benghazi and the towns of Ras al-Helal and al-Qubbah in the Jabal al-Akhdar region. After a series of military crackdowns, Gadhafi gained the upper hand in dealing with his Islamist militant opponents, and the insurgency tapered off by the end of the 1990s. Many LIFG members fled the country in the face of the government crackdown and a number of them ended up finding refuge with groups like al Qaeda in places such as Afghanistan.

While the continued participation of Libyan men in fighting on far-flung battlefields was not expressly encouraged by the Libyan government, it was tacitly permitted. The Gadhafi regime, like other countries in the region, saw exporting jihadists as a way to rid itself of potential problems. Every jihadist who died overseas was one less the government had to worry about. This policy did not take into account the concept of “tactical Darwinism,” which means that while the United States and its coalition partners will kill many fighters, those who survive are apt to be strong and cunning. The weak and incompetent have been weeded out, leaving a core of hardened, competent militants. These survivors have learned tactics for survival in the face of superior firepower and have learned to manufacture and effectively employ new types of highly effective improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

In a Nov. 3, 2007, audio message, al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri reported that the LIFG had formally joined the al Qaeda network. This statement came as no real surprise, given that members of the group have long been close to al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. Moreover, the core al Qaeda group has long had a large number of Libyan cadre in its senior ranks, including men such as Abu Yahya al-Libi, Anas al-Libi, Abu Faraj al-Libi (who reportedly is being held by U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay) and Abu Laith al-Libi, who was killed in a January 2008 unmanned aerial vehicle strike in Pakistan.

The scope of Libyan participation in jihadist efforts in Iraq became readily apparent with the September 2007 seizure of a large batch of personnel files from an al Qaeda safe house in the Iraqi city of Sinjar. The Sinjar files were only a small cross-section of all the fighters traveling to Iraq to fight with the jihadists, but they did provide a very interesting snapshot. Of the 595 personnel files recovered, 112 of them were of Libyans. This number is smaller than the 244 Saudi citizens represented in the cache, but when one considers the overall size of the population of the two countries, the Libyan contingent represented a far larger percentage on a per capita basis. The Sinjar files suggested that a proportionally higher percentage of Libyans was engaged in the fighting in Iraq than their brethren from other countries in the region.

Another interesting difference was noted in the job-description section of the Sinjar files. Of those Libyan men who listed their intended occupation in Iraq, 85 percent of them listed it as suicide bomber and only 13 percent listed fighter. By way of comparison, only 50 percent of the Saudis listed their occupation as suicide bomber. This indicates that the Libyans tended to be more radical than their Saudi counterparts. Moroccans appeared to be the most radical, with more than 91 percent of them apparently desiring to become suicide bombers.

The Libyan government’s security apparatus carefully monitored those Libyans who passed through the crucible of fighting on the battlefield in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and then returned to Libya. Tripoli took a carrot-and-stick approach to the group similar to that implemented by the Saudi regime. As a result, the LIFG and other jihadists were unable to pose a serious threat to the Gadhafi regime, and have remained very quiet in recent years. In fact, they were for the most part demobilized and rehabilitated.

Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, oversaw the program to rehabilitate LIFG militants, which his personal charity managed. The regime’s continued concern over the LIFG was clearly demonstrated early on in the unrest when it announced that it would continue the scheduled release from custody of LIFG fighters.

The Sinjar reports also reflected that more than 60 percent of the Libyan fighters had listed their home city as Darnah and almost 24 percent had come from Benghazi. These two cities are in Libya’s east and happen to be places where some of the most intense anti-Gadhafi protests have occurred in recent days. Arms depots have been looted in both cities, and we have seen reports that at least some of those doing the looting appeared to have been organized Islamists.

A U.S. State Department cable drafted in Tripoli in June 2008 made available by WikiLeaks talked about this strain of radicalism in Libya’s east. The cable, titled “Die Hard in Derna,” was written several months after the release of the report on the Sinjar files. Derna is an alternative transliteration of Darnah, and “Die Hard” was a reference to the Bruce Willis character in the Die Hard movie series, who always proved hard for the villains to kill. The author of the cable, the U.S. Embassy’s political and economic officer, noted that many of the Libyan fighters who returned from fighting in transnational jihad battlefields liked to settle in places like Darnah due to the relative weakness of the security apparatus there. The author of the cable also noted his belief that the presence of these older fighters was having an influence on the younger men of the region who were becoming radicalized, and the result was that Darnah had become “a wellspring of foreign fighters in Iraq.” He also noted that some 60-70 percent of the young men in the region were unemployed or underemployed.

Finally, the author opined that many of these men were viewing the fight in Iraq as a way to attack the United States, which they saw as supporting the Libyan regime in recent years. This is a concept jihadists refer to as attacking the far enemy and seems to indicate an acceptance of the transnational version of jihadist ideology — as does the travel of men to Iraq to fight and the apparent willingness of Libyans to serve as suicide bombers.


Trouble on the Horizon?

This deep streak of radicalism in eastern Libya brings us back to the beginning. While it seems unlikely at this point that the jihadists could somehow gain control of Libya, if Gadhafi falls and there is a period of chaos in Libya, these militants may find themselves with far more operating space inside the country than they have experienced in decades. If the regime does not fall and there is civil war between the eastern and western parts of the country, they could likewise find a great deal of operational space amid the chaos. Even if Gadhafi, or an entity that replaces him, is able to restore order, due to the opportunity the jihadists have had to loot military arms depots, they have suddenly found themselves more heavily armed than they have ever been inside their home country. And these heavily armed jihadists could pose a substantial threat of the kind that Libya has avoided in recent years.

Given this window of opportunity, the LIFG could decide to become operational again, especially if the regime they have made their deal with unexpectedly disappears. However, even should the LIFG decide to remain out of the jihad business as an organization, there is a distinct possibility that it could splinter and that the more radical individuals could cluster together to create a new group or groups that would seek to take advantage of this suddenly more permissive operational environment. Of course, there are also jihadists in Libya unaffiliated with LIFG and not bound by the organization’s agreements with the regime.

The looting of the arms depots in Libya is also reminiscent of the looting witnessed in Iraq following the dissolution of the Iraqi army in the face of the U.S. invasion in 2003. That ordnance not only was used in thousands of armed assaults and indirect fire attacks with rockets and mortars, but many of the mortar and artillery rounds were used to fashion powerful IEDs. This concept of making and employing IEDs from military ordnance will not be foreign to the Libyans who have returned from Iraq (or Afghanistan, for that matter).

This bodes ill for foreign interests in Libya, where they have not had the same security concerns in recent years that they have had in Algeria or Yemen. If the Libyans truly buy into the concept of targeting the far enemy that supports the state, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for them to begin to attack multinational oil companies, foreign diplomatic facilities and even foreign companies and hotels.

While Seif al-Islam, who certainly has political motives to hype such a threat, has mentioned this possibility, so have the governments of Egypt and Italy. Should Libya become chaotic and the jihadists become able to establish an operational base amid the chaos, Egypt and Italy will have to be concerned about not only refugee problems but also the potential spillover of jihadists. Certainly, at the very least the weapons looted in Libya could easily be sold or given to jihadists in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, turning militancy in Libya into a larger regional problem. In a worst-case scenario, if Libya experiences a vacuum of power, it could become the next Iraq or Pakistan, a gathering place for jihadists from around the region and the world. The country did serve as such a base for a wide array of Marxist and rejectionist terrorists and militants in the 1970s and 1980s.

It will be very important to keep a focus on Libya in the coming days and weeks — not just to see what happens to the regime but also to look for indicators of the jihadists testing their wings.

23482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 23, 2011, 11:53:42 PM
Good stuff Ya; grateful for your contributions here.
23483  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 23, 2011, 11:45:22 PM
Grateful finally to have written a difficult letter today.
23484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Damage has begun on: February 23, 2011, 01:07:51 PM
By LLOYD M. KRIEGER
The Republicans who now control the House of Representatives hope to repeal or defund ObamaCare, but the law has already yielded profound, destructive changes that will not be undone by repeal or defunding alone. Active steps and new laws will be needed to repair the damage.

The most significant change is a wave of frantic consolidation in the health industry. Because the law mandates that insurers accept all patients regardless of pre-existing conditions, insurers will not make money with their current premium and provider-payment structures. As a result, they have already started to raise premiums and cut payments to doctors and hospitals. Smaller and weaker insurers are being forced to sell themselves to larger entities.

Doctors and hospitals, meanwhile, have decided that they cannot survive unless they achieve massive size—and fast. Six years ago, doctors owned more than two-thirds of U.S. medical practices, according to the Medical Group Management Association. By next year, nearly two-thirds will be salaried employees of larger institutions.

Consolidation is not necessarily bad, as larger medical practices and hospital systems can create some efficiencies. But in the context of ObamaCare's spiderweb of rules and regulations, consolidation is more akin to collectivization. It means that government bureaucrats will be able to impose controls with much greater ease.

With far fewer and much larger entities to browbeat, all changes in Medicare and Medicaid policies will go through the entire system like a shock wave. There will be far fewer individual insurers, doctors, hospitals, device makers, drug manufacturers, nursing homes and other health-care players to resist.

There is little mystery how the government will exercise its power. Choices will be limited. Pathways to expensive specialist care such as advanced radiology and surgery will decline. Cutting-edge devices and medicines will come into the system much more slowly and be used much less frequently.

This is why simply defunding enforcement of the individual mandate and other upcoming directives will not be enough: Given all this consolidation, limits on treatment choices are already becoming hardwired into the system. Lawmakers must take concrete steps to stop and reverse this.

On the provider end, this means enacting tax and other economic shields for insurers and providers that choose not to succumb to the financial pressure encouraging consolidation. It means unwinding all of the rules—about data compilation, reporting and compliance requirements, and information technology—designed to increase overhead to the point that only massive and easily regulated provider organizations can survive.

Legislators will have to scrub the 2,700-page ObamaCare law line by line to remove all of the disincentives for medical practices, hospitals and others to remain smaller and independent.

On the consumer end, reform means re-establishing choice at all levels of the system. Lawmakers at a minimum should change the individual mandate so that people can choose what type of coverage they buy. To do this, legislation has to ensure that all consumers have access to a menu of options for varying types of coverage, and that they are free to purchase policies across state lines. There should also be tax breaks for people who purchase medical care not covered by their insurance, so there is reasonable chance of escaping government-imposed limits on treatment choices.

System-wide, collectivization will be dismantled only by limiting the power of government agencies to determine what care gets funded. That means new legislation to supersede Section 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires herding everyone into "qualified plans" and forcing doctors (via fines, penalties and nonpayment) to follow care guidelines determined by the secretary of Health and Human Services.

ObamaCare is already doing great damage, even years before its individual mandate and other controls kick in. Its systematic undoing is an urgent necessity.

Dr. Krieger, a plastic surgeon, invests in health-care companies.

23485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Barnes on: February 23, 2011, 01:04:45 PM
By FRED BARNES
Republicans won a blockbuster victory in November's election after a campaign focused on cutting government spending and reducing debt. Then they got the bad news: Americans are leery of cutting specific programs.

These include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, national defense, veterans' benefits, education, highways, mass transit, unemployment benefits, agriculture and the environment. A post-election poll by YouGov/Polimetrix found that the public favors cuts only in foreign aid.

So since House Republicans decided that their 2012 budget, to be released in April, would take on a wide range of popular programs as well as entitlements, Democrats have been elated. They believe Republicans have foolishly walked into a trap.

Perhaps not. Republicans have a better chance of succeeding with an agenda of budget cuts than at any time since President Ronald Reagan pushed significant reductions through Congress in 1981. Yes, their task will be arduous—but they have grounds for optimism.

To be sure, Republicans will need to organize far more support for cuts—high-profile, high- decibel support—than they have. They must be persuasive in countering the Democratic argument that preserving individual programs is more critical to the well-being of Americans than is rolling back overall spending to keep the country from decline. And, like Reagan, they must sound positive and upbeat to offset the nation's anxious mood.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), left, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.)
.The situation Republicans are in has been compared to the 1990s. Back then, Republicans had a mixed record of cutting spending, and fiscal issues were not front-and-center in their campaign to capture Congress in 1994. But fiscal issues (including repeal of ObamaCare) were central to their midterm campaign last year. In 1994, state and local governments were not suffering as shockingly from mounting debt as they, and Washington, are today. "It's a different day," says Bill Paxon, a key House Republican leader in the 1990s. People realize there is a fiscal crisis, he says. "It's pervasive. They know you can't kick the can down the road."

Mr. Obama has acknowledged as much, although his 2012 budget scarcely deals with the problem. By keeping cuts to a minimum and ignoring entitlements, he's all but dared Republicans to move first. Once they do, they'll be criticized for imposing cruel cuts and impeding job creation.

This age-old Democratic strategy has worked before, which is why Republicans need a political juggernaut to overcome it. The worst that can happen is a repeat of President George W. Bush's bid to enact Social Security reform in 2005. His year-long crusade attracted little support, even from Republicans.

One can imagine Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the architect of the GOP spending cuts and entitlement reforms, making the same mistake this year. To avert that, Mr. Ryan needs a broad coalition to surround his spending initiative with visible support. That would give the cuts and reforms credibility. They would look not quixotic but achievable, as they indeed are.

 Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) on the budget battles in Washington and back home.
.House Republicans—having united behind spending cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year 2011 budget—are ready to back Mr. Ryan's 2012 budget. But the Senate is another story. The GOP budget should get strong backing from Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, and Minority Whip Jon Kyl. Mr. Kyl believes a handful of Democrats may be ready to vote for "a certain number" of spending cuts. If all 47 Republican senators vote for the House Republican budget, or major parts of it, only four Democrats would be required for passage.

But for now Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is not fully on board. He has said repeatedly that entitlement reform "will not be done except on a bipartisan basis with presidential leadership." Such a basis doesn't exist today, but that may change. A bipartisan group of six senators—Democrats Richard Durbin of Illinois, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia—is devising a plan to impose mandatory spending caps and corral entitlement costs in a proposal similar to the $4 billion in debt reduction urged by the president's debt commission last year. The Democrats hope Mr. Obama, who declined to endorse the commission's recommendation, might sign on if they reach a deal.

An indication of where the Senate may be headed occurred on Feb. 1. Nearly 40 senators from both parties gathered in the Capitol Visitors Center to listen to two hedge-fund managers, one a Democrat, the other a Republican. Their message: Soaring debt threatens growth, job creation and America's preeminence in the world. Asked what single thing Congress could do to relieve the anxiety of financial markets, their answer was "fix Social Security."

Outside of Congress, it will be easy to recruit Republican governors to promote spending cuts and an overhaul of entitlements. Many of them, such as New Jersey's Chris Christie and Wisconsin's Scott Walker, are already involved with this struggle on the state level. But the GOP will also need the active support of its presidential candidates, movement conservatives, tea party folks, libertarians and political independents.

And their message is critical. Bragging about painful but necessary cuts to Medicare scares people. Stressing the goal of saving Medicare won't. Talking about the need for austerity is a loser. The idea here is to produce prosperity. Pain isn't the issue. Relief is.

Mr. Ryan insists that he won't be deterred by bad poll numbers. But better poll results, from asking good questions, would be reassuring. Instead of asking about Medicare cuts, ask if reforms rather than tax hikes and borrowing should be used to make Medicare sustainable. Ask if billionaires should get the same Social Security benefits as the middle class. Ask if bigger deficits and more debt should be incurred to protect every individual program.

Republicans have a second objective beyond restoring proper fiscal priorities: setting the stage for electing a Republican president in 2012. With Democrats in charge of the Senate and Mr. Obama in the White House, deep spending cuts and real entitlement reform may not happen this year or next. But a serious and very public effort to get them can improve the chances of Republican presidential candidates next year.

The Democratic strategy of bewailing cuts in every domestic program has become an anachronism. The public knows there's something larger at stake. Rarely has there been a better opportunity to do the right thing for the country. And Republicans have a chance to seize it.

Mr. Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard and a commentator on Fox News Channel.

23486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Market forces respond to increasing prices on: February 23, 2011, 01:01:32 PM
By SAMEER MOHINDRU And PATRICK BARTA
SINGAPORE—A rush by farmers to expand plantings in many parts of the world is raising expectations that food prices may retreat as early as the second half of this year if weather conditions remain favorable.

The global rally in food prices over the past year has pushed prices of wheat, corn and soybeans to their highest levels since 2008, when food riots spread across the globe. This time, concerns over food costs have contributed to the latest unrest in the Middle East, and left many national governments scrambling to find solutions to keep disturbances from spreading further.

But the most powerful response seems to be coming from farmers themselves, especially in places like Russia, Brazil and Australia.

Global wheat acreage, for instance, is expected to rise 3.1% to around 224 million hectares in 2011, with production climbing 4% to 670 million tons, the London-based International Grains Council said in a recent report. In Russia, where production fell following a severe drought last year, wheat acreage could rise by more than 15%, according to the IGC.

 .Brazil has begun harvesting what may be its largest soybean crop ever, while rains have given Argentina's soybean crop a boost after dry weather threatened to wipe out its crop as recently as in January.

High prices may raise U.S crop area by four million hectares to 103 million hectares this year, the U.S Department of Agriculture said in its long-term projection released last week. The USDA has projected U.S corn and soybean plantings rising 4.3% and 0.3%, respectively, in 2011.

"Agricultural investment spending has never been higher—orders of magnitude larger than during the previous food-price boom in the mid-1970s," when inflation gripped much of the globe, analysts from UBS wrote in a report released Tuesday.

Although that doesn't necessarily guarantee prices will fall given unpredictable weather and rising demand in places like China, "it does show that economics works, that price incentives lead to an investment response—and this may well become a more salient issue if and when other conditions normalize," the report said.

A number of analysts still believe it is much too early to call a turn in the market, especially if some of the new plantings don't come through—which is always a big risk in agriculture, either because of weather or other factors. Farm production is already at or close to record levels in some countries, and it may prove harder to expand output than expected.

It is also possible that other inflationary forces—including an increase in oil prices, or rising wages in some parts of the world—could filter back through the agricultural sector and keep prices from easing.

Even if production does increase significantly in the next year, analysts say, it might not come close to solving the world's longer-term supply issues, especially as incomes in China and India rise, boosting their demand for foods. A more dramatic expansion of the world's food supply would likely require years of investments to clear new land, expand irrigation and build milling and storage facilities. Achieving all of that will be difficult, especially in developing countries like Indonesia, Cambodia or parts of Africa, which have lots of unused arable land but major bureaucratic hurdles, complicated land ownership rules or shortages of capital for agriculture.

Still, it's possible some regions could see food-price relief faster, depending on their mix of crops and local weather conditions. For instance, economists at Barclays Capital in Singapore argued in a report this month that for Asia, at least, "the impact of higher raw food prices has peaked," in part because of restrained prices for rice. Rice is key to diets in Asia, and improving production in the region has lowered expectations for import demand in 2011-12.

The Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia were major rice importers last year. But the IGC now expects Bangladesh's rice output to rise 5% to 32 million tons in the current crop year to June 2011, meaning lower or no imports. The Philippines, the largest rice importer last year with total imports of 2.45 million tons, has said it expects imports to remain below one million tons this year. Rice prices haven't risen significantly this year, with one common variety, Thai 25% broken rice priced at roughly $475 a ton.

IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm, likewise predicted this month that global food prices would likely ease by the second half of this year as production recovers in some regions following recent weather problems—assuming weather disasters aren't repeated.

View Full Image

Xinhua/Zuma Press
 
Farmers bag raw rice in the city of Baise in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
.The scope for farm-acreage expansion is the highest in the Black Sea region and Brazil, said Abdolreza Abbassian, secretary for the Intergovernmental Group on Foodgrains at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 2007-08, there was a collective crop failure in major exporting countries, but when the weather turned around, production rose sharply the following year, he said, suggesting the possibility of a similar outcome this time.

The Indian government, meanwhile, has taken a number of steps, including increased distribution of seeds and fertilizers, to substantially boost production. As recently as in the last decade, India was struggling to push annual wheat production beyond 75 million tons, but it is expected to hit a record 81.47 million tons this year, the third year in a row when output exceeds 80 million tons, making the country a potential exporter. India's oilseeds plantings are also off to a good start, with winter plantings rising 2% from a year earlier.

China's corn plantings rose 4.2% to 32.5 million hectares in 2010, after an increase of 4.4% in 2009, according to China National Grain and Oil Information Center. An even bigger area is expected to be planted this year. China is facing a drought in its wheat-producing regions and authorities have warned production could fall if the country doesn't see sufficient rain in coming months.

Australia, which saw wheat production rise above 26 million tons this year despite a drought in Western Australia and widespread flooding in the eastern states, is aiming for a record output of nearly 30 million tons next year after wheat growers in eastern Australia have harvested their most profitable crop in a decade with gross margins estimated at 350 Australian dollars (about US$353) a hectare. That is A$100 per hectare above the long-term average, said Paul Deane, an agricultural economist with ANZ Banking Group in Melbourne.

If the wheat harvest in the Northern Hemisphere is bigger, as expected, the July-August period can be the turning point for grains and drag wheat down to $6.40 a bushel, said Nobuyuki Chino, president of Unipac Grain, a Tokyo-based commodities trading company. March wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade are currently trading around $8.27 a bushel, just off a high of $8.93 per bushel tested earlier this month.

Write to Sameer Mohindru at sameer.mohindru@dowjones.com and Patrick Barta at patrick.barta@wsj.com

23487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Medvedev's take on things on: February 23, 2011, 12:59:14 PM
second post of the morning:

By GREGORY L. WHITE
MOSCOW—In his direst comments on the uprisings yet, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that the revolutions spreading across the Arab world could lead to "decades" of turmoil and the rise of Islamism.

"In some cases, we could be talking about the disintegration of big, densely populated countries," Mr. Medvedev told top security officials. "Fanatics" could come to power, he warned. "That would mean fires for decades and the further spread of extremism." He didn't mention any specific countries.

Since popular uprisings began sweeping across the region last month, the Kremlin's cool response to demonstrators and their calls for ousting long-serving leaders has contrasted to the much more supportive reaction from the U.S. and Europe.

"It annoys the Kremlin that the West seems to support any revolution," said Sergei Markov, a senior legislator from the ruling United Russia Party. "We in Russia have seen revolutions, and they often start out like the February one and end like the one in October," he added, referring to the 1917 revolutions in Russia which first brought a parliamentary government, followed by the Bolsheviks.

Opposition leaders say the Kremlin's caution actually reflects deep-seated fears about the possibility an Egyptian scenario could be played out in Russia. They dismiss Russian officials' claims that upheaval inevitably brings extremists to power as a self-serving justification for continued authoritarianism.

Kremlin officials brush off those criticisms, as well as comparisons to countries like Egypt. "The Kremlin doesn't se much danger of it being repeated here," said Mr. Markov.

Moscow's fears of unrest at home peaked in 2005, officials and analysts said, when a wave of so-called color revolutions swept pro-Western governments into power in several countries in the former Soviet Union. The Kremlin protected itself by cracking down on opponents and the western groups it believed were seeking to foment instability. Many of the pro-Western governments have since been replaced, reducing Moscow's sense of alarm.

Some in the Russian leadership believe the current string of revolutions in the Mideast also is the result of western instigation. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, seen as one of the country's most powerful officials and a top hardliner, hinted in an interview that Google Inc. executives played a role in "manipulating the energy of the people" in Egypt.

Others in the Russian leadership take a less conspiratorial view. Yevgeny Primakov, a former prime minister and prominent expert on the region, told state television Tuesday that "these are purely internal events." He noted how surprised Washington seemed by the sudden "social explosion," as he described it.

In his comments to security officials Tuesday, Mr. Medvedev warned that the instability in the middle east could complicate the situation in Russia's own Muslim regions. He was speaking in Vladikavkaz, a city in the heart of the volatile North Caucasus region, where Islamist terrorist attacks are almost-daily events.

At least in the short term, the Middle East instability could benefit Russia's economic interests. Officials said Tuesday higher oil prices could lead the country's sovereign wealth fund to more than double this year, to about $50 billion. State-controlled gas giant OAO Gazprom, meanwhile, said this week that the turmoil should lead its European customers, who had increasingly been shifting to suppliers in North Africa, to take another look at Russian gas.

23488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: AQ sidelined? on: February 23, 2011, 12:56:11 PM
By KEITH JOHNSON
WASHINGTON—Aside from the Middle East's beleaguered autocrats, another group is reeling from the roiling unrest: al Qaeda.

Since its creation in 1988, al Qaeda's principal mission has been to topple what it calls the "near enemy": regimes ruling Arab states that don't apply fundamentalist Islamic law. Egypt, a close U.S. ally and uneasy friend of Israel, was a particular priority, especially for the group's No. 2, Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri, who was imprisoned there for his role in the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat.

But in less than three weeks, a ragtag group of protesters and Egypt's secular military succeeded where al Qaeda failed and toppled the Mubarak regime.
What's less clear is how the unrest in Libya will play out, since that country hosts a cadre of hard-core extremists who have long fought the regime and Col. Moammar Gadhafi has vowed to keep cracking down violently on demonstrators.

The normally prolix Mr. Zawahiri was conspicuously silent as protests swept through capitals from Tripoli to Tehran. The last week, he issued a 34-minute lecture on Egyptian history. It made no reference to the Tunisian or Egyptian uprisings or the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. Instead, he referred to Mr. Mubarak's son, who has been sidelined during Egypt's transition, as the "anticipated leader," and spent more time talking about Napoleon than the Middle East's turmoil.

Terrorism analysts believe al Qaeda's senior leadership is reeling. In some ways, the largely nonviolent, secular and pro-democracy revolts amount to a rejection of the group's core beliefs. They were also successful.

"It's not just a defeat. It's a catastrophe, the worst thing that has happened since al Qaeda was created," said Jean-Pierre Filiu, an expert on al Qaeda and affiliated groups at the University of Sciences Po in Paris.

President Barack Obama alluded to this notion last week, when he said during a press conference: "I also think an important lesson … that we can draw from this is, real change in these societies is not going to happen because of terrorism. … It's going to happen because people come together and apply moral force to a situation."

How significant a blow al Qaeda will take from the current unrest will be in part determined by how the leaders of the Middle East adapt. A harsh crackdown from the remaining regimes could fuel the group's narrative of oppression. A swift and successful transition to democracy, particularly in Egypt, could do much the opposite. Additionally, the unrest in Libya could provide an opening for extremist Islamists in the eastern part of the country to reassert themselves.

But even the rise of Islamist political parties in countries such as Egypt wouldn't be a win for al Qaeda—the terrorist group is bitter enemies with the Muslim Brotherhood. And in countries such as Yemen, where al Qaeda today has a much stronger operational foothold, terrorism analysts highlight the secular nature of recent protests and conclude that al Qaeda's message doesn't have much grassroots appeal.

Mr. Zawahiri's belated reaction is the clearest indication the revolts have stunned al Qaeda leadership. In recent years he has been among al Qaeda's most visible spokesmen, firing off audio and video messages explaining the terror group's take on current events.

Some experts speculate that al Qaeda leadership is pinned down by U.S. drone strikes on the Afghan-Pakistan border, frustrating their ability to react to events. Mr. Zawahiri's message was composed between Jan. 5 and Feb. 4.

Other jihadists issued statements in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, ranging from tepid praise for the regime's toppling to stern admonitions for protesters not to embrace democracy.

Three days before Mr. Mubarak left office, al Qaeda in Iraq, an affiliate group, released a statement that highlighted the gulf between the protesters in Tahrir Square and the jihadis on the sidelines: "Beware of the tricks of un-Islamic ideologies, such as filthy and evil secularism, infidelic democracy, and putrid idolic patriotism and nationalism," it said.

Mr. Zawahiri struck a similar tone, warning of perils of democracy, or "the desire of the majority without abiding by any value or moral or ideology."

None of the statements have had a major impact. "It would have been better for them to shut up," said Mr. Filiu, the al Qaeda expert. "It's the first time al Qaeda's senior leadership has shown themselves to be so out of touch," he said.

Some terrorism experts caution that al Qaeda could take advantage of a stunted transition to regain strength, especially inside Egypt. "For this to become a real body blow [to al Qaeda], Egypt has got to work," said Daniel Byman, a terrorism expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Any new Egyptian government could cut cooperation with the U.S. on counter-terrorism operations. Also, the role of the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood will be crucial to determining the future appeal of al Qaeda.

Former Islamic militants agree the uprising has been a short-term catastrophe for al Qaeda—overshadowing the regular drumbeats of terrorist attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan—but caution that the departure of Mr. Mubarak won't end its appeal.

"There's been no revolution in Tunisia or Egypt—just the military taking over. It's still the old regime," said Noman Benotman, a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a jihadi movement close to Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. Mr. Benotman is senior analyst at the Quilliam Foundation, a counterextremism think tank in London, and played a leading role in the Libyan government's program to deradicalize Islamist militants in recent years.

That deradicalization program was seen as a success. The leadership of the Libyan terror outfit, while nominally merged into al Qaeda's North African branch, officially renounced the violent tactics it used in the 1990s. However, the eastern part of the country is seen as a hotbed of young extremists. One 2008 cable released by whistleblowing site WikiLeaks called "Die Hard in Derna," chronicles the city's role as a "wellspring" of violent radicals who have gone to fight U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Benotman said across the Arab world, including Libya, there is "a small minority that is still violently radical" that has not been swayed by recent events, and which could turn even more radical as ideas such as democracy, free speech, and human rights spread in the region.

"In the short term, this is a huge blow to al Qaeda. In the long term, I'm afraid not so much," he said.

Write to Keith Johnson at keith.johnson@wsj.com
23489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Surprise! BO reverses on consitutionality of No Gay Marriage law on: February 23, 2011, 12:46:29 PM
"I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that is not the guide in expounding it, there may be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers. If the meaning of the text be sought in the changeable meaning of the words composing it, it is evident that the shape and attributes of the Government must partake of the changes to which the words and phrases of all living languages are constantly subject. What a metamorphosis would be produced in the code of law if all its ancient phraseology were to be taken in its modern sense. And that the language of our Constitution is already undergoing interpretations unknown to its founder, will I believe appear to all unbiassed Enquirers into the history of its origin and adoption." --James Madison, letter to Henry Lee, 1824



Associated Press
WASHINGTON—In a major policy reversal, the Obama administration said Wednesday that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of a federal law banning recognition of same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Eric Holder said President Barack Obama has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.


View Document

See the letter that Attorney General Eric Holder sent to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio) regarding the Defense of Marriage Act.
..
Previously
Wash Wire: Biden: U.S. Is Warming to Gay Marriage
Battles Remain for Gay-Rights Proponents
Gay-Marriage Ban Goes Back on Trial
.Mr. Holder noted that the congressional debate during passage of the Defense of Marriage Act "contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships—precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the [Constitution's] Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against."

The Justice Department had defended the act in court until now.

"Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed" the Defense of Marriage Act, Mr. Holder said in a statement. He noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional and that Congress has repealed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Mr. Holder wrote to House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) that Mr. Obama has concluded the Defense of Marriage Act fails to meet a rigorous standard under which courts view with suspicion any laws targeting minority groups who have suffered a history of discrimination.

The attorney general said the Justice Department had defended the law in court until now because the government was able to advance reasonable arguments for the law based on a less strict standard.

At a December news conference, in response to a reporters' question, Mr. Obama revealed that his position on gay marriage is "constantly evolving." He has opposed such marriages and supported instead civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. The president said such civil unions are his baseline—at this point, as he put it.

"This is something that we're going to continue to debate, and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward," he said.

23490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury, and contrary comment on: February 23, 2011, 12:35:17 PM
Existing home sales increased 2.7% in January To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/23/2011


Existing home sales increased 2.7% in January to an annual rate of 5.36 million, beating the consensus expected pace of 5.22 million. Existing home sales are up 5.3% versus a year ago.

Sales in January were up in the Midwest, South, and West, but down in the Northeast. Sales increased for both single-family homes and condos/coops.
 
The median price of an existing home fell to $158,800 in January (not seasonally adjusted), and is down 3.7% versus a year ago. Average prices are down 2.6% versus a year ago.
 
The months’ supply of existing homes (how long it would take to sell the entire inventory at the current sales rate) fell to 7.6 from 8.2 in December. The decline in the months’ supply was due to both the faster selling pace and a decline in overall inventories.
 
Implications: The housing market continues to heal.  Existing home sales grew 2.7% in January, the third increase in a row. Sales are now at the fastest pace since eight months ago, when the homebuyer tax credit expired. Also, sales of existing homes are now very close to the long-term trend of 5.5 million units annually.  With housing affordability hovering at the highest level in at least 40 years, the market for homes is poised to continue improving. Incomes are rising, mortgage rates remain relatively low, and homes are cheap. Lenders are asking for large down payments, but this is no different from a year ago. In other recent housing news, the Case-Shiller index, a measure of home prices in the 20 largest metro areas around the country, declined 0.4% in December (seasonally-adjusted) and was down 2.4% in 2010.  Prices have fallen six straight months, since the end of the homebuyer tax credit.  However, the decline in 2010 was the smallest since prices peaked in 2006 and we expect a modest price gain in 2011.  Meanwhile, manufacturing continues to soar.  The Richmond Fed index, a measure of manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic, increased to +25 in February from +18 in January, signaling robust growth in goods production. Combined with recent good news from the Philly Fed survey, the nationwide ISM manufacturing index likely remained at a very high level in February.

====
FWIW Schiller, of the Case-Schiller index cited herein says that he thinks further declines of 15-25% are entirely possible.
23491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Allen West in action on: February 23, 2011, 12:15:14 PM

CAIR asks West where in the Koran it says , , ,


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MZx38i6iYs&feature=player_embedded
23492  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Thailand Travels? on: February 22, 2011, 05:33:21 PM
BJung a.k.a. Porn Star Dog plays here on occasion and lives there.  Hopefully he will see this and comment.  I would give plenty of weight to his suggestions.
23493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sell! Sell! Sell! on: February 22, 2011, 05:31:57 PM
Much to disagree with here, but I sure like the idea of selling off Amtrak!  Extra points for the fact that to do so would really annoy VP Biden.
=======
Sale of the Century
The deficit debate remains fixed on tax hikes and spending cuts, but there is another option.
by Niall Ferguson
 
In my favorite spaghetti western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, there is a memorable scene that sums up the world economy today. Blondie (Clint Eastwood) and Tuco (Eli Wallach) have finally found the cemetery where they know the gold is buried. Trouble is, they’re in a vast Civil War graveyard, and they don’t know where to find the loot. Eastwood looks at his gun, looks at Wallach, and utters the immortal line: “In this world, there are two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns … and those who dig.”

In the post-crisis economic order, there are likewise two kinds of economies. Those with vast accumulations of assets, including sovereign wealth funds (currently in excess of $4 trillion) and hard-currency reserves ($5.5 trillion for emerging markets alone), are the ones with loaded guns. The economies with huge public debts, by contrast, are the ones that have to dig. The question is, just how will they dig their way out?

The conventional wisdom holds that, aside from resorting to inflation or default, debts can be reduced only through belt-tightening austerity measures—some mixture of higher taxes and spending cuts. And yet politicians are notoriously leery of proposing hikes or cuts big enough to make a real dent in the debt. President Obama’s latest budget proposal includes a five-year freeze on nondefense discretionary spending and tax increases on higher earners. But even if all goes according to plan, the gross debt will still rise above 105 percent of gross domestic product—and stay there.

The root of the problem is, of course, a lack of political will, extending down from the president himself to the lowliest Tea Party activist living on Social Security and Medicare. But a convenient excuse for ongoing borrowing is also provided by Keynesian economic theory, which states that a fiscal squeeze will tend to reduce economic growth, thereby widening the gap between revenues and expenditures. Fiscal hawks respond that a bond-market panic induced by excessive borrowing could be even nastier.

Yet there is another fiscal option that neither party seems to be considering. The U.S. needs to do exactly what it would if it were a severely indebted company: sell off assets to balance its books.

There are three different arguments against such asset sales. The first concerns national security. When Dubai Ports World bought the shipping company P&O in 2006—which would have given it control of facilities in a number of U.S. ports—the deal was killed in Congress in a fit of post-9/11 paranoia. The second argument is usually made by unions: private or foreign owners will be tougher on American workers than good old Uncle Sam. Finally, there’s the chauvinism that surfaced back in the 1980s when the Japanese were snapping up properties like Pebble Beach. How could the United States let its national treasures—the family silver—fall into the hands of inscrutable Asian rivals?

Such arguments were never very strong. Now, in the midst of the biggest crisis of American public finance since the Civil War, they simply collapse. First, standards of public safety and security are unlikely to be compromised by a change of ownership unless military technology is involved (and the U.S. has already sold a startling amount of that to foreigners, by the way). Second, the goal of public policy should not be to protect public-sector workers from market discipline that will raise their productivity. Finally, why is selling assets to Asians worse than paying them an annual rent called interest on the national debt?

The mystery is why freedom-loving Americans are so averse to privatization—a policy that has been a huge success nearly everywhere it’s been tried. From Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, where the word “privatization” was coined, to present-day China, selling off government-owned industries has not only improved the fiscal position of governments; it has usually enhanced the efficiency with which the sold assets are managed.

The figures are impressive. Since the 1990s, about 75,000 medium-to-large firms have been privatized all around the world, from Argentina to Zambia, as have hundreds of thousands of smaller enterprises. The total proceeds: $735 billion. The United States accounts for only a tiny fraction of that number. Other countries are miles ahead. On a visit to Beijing in November last year, I even heard a leading Chinese economist half-seriously recommend the privatization of the Great Hall of the People. Yet American fiscal reformers—including the boldest of them, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan—tend to steer clear of the P word.

So let’s get down to business. What can the U.S. federal government and the various bankrupt states put up for sale? No, not Yellowstone or Yosemite. Those natural wonders should always belong to the nation. And no, not Alaska, much as many moderate Republicans would love to sell Sarah Palin to the Chinese.

In fact, the U.S. government currently has about $233 billion worth of nondefense “property, plant, and equipment,” according to the Treasury’s Financial Management Service. That is almost certainly an understatement. The government owns somewhere between 600 million and 700 million acres of land, or about 30 percent of the country’s land surface, much of it in the Western states, where as much as half the land is federally owned.

Washington could also sell its stakes in the Southeastern Power Administration and related assets as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority’s electric-power assets. There’s Amtrak (which runs at a loss) and the extensive hydroelectric empire of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

And then there are the assets that have the potential to be among the most lucrative of all: America’s highways. Plenty of other countries—Japan, Turkey, and even China, to name just three—have already privatized substantial parts of their transportation infrastructure, leaving private companies to manage both revenues and maintenance.

American highways sold to foreign investors? It may sound unthinkable, but it’s already happening. Indiana recently leased the operation of the state’s principal 157-mile highway to a consortium led by the Spanish company Cintra and the Australian investment bank Macquarie. For the next 75 years, the consortium will collect the tolls from motorists. Indiana got $3.85 billion upfront. The city of Chicago has done a similar deal, leasing out its Skyway toll bridge for $1.83 billion. A few other state governments have been moving hesitantly down this same path, usually by setting up public-private partnerships to manage stretches of highway.

But there’s so much more that could be done. California’s government has an estimated $103 billion in assets, including state highways with a book value of $59 billion. Are you telling me a sovereign wealth fund from, say, Singapore couldn’t do a better job of running those choked and often potholed roads? Yet one of Gov. Jerry Brown’s first acts since returning to office was to cancel a planned privatization of state-owned office buildings.

From sea to shining sea, American politicians are running scared from the only credible solution to the country’s fiscal crisis. Rather than publishing honest balance sheets with meaningful valuations of both their assets and liabilities, they’d rather maintain the fiction that it’s their job to invest billions in high-speed railroads and the like.

Let’s face it: if you want to see serious investment in America’s infrastructure—and the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that a full upgrade would cost $1.3 trillion—it isn’t going to come from the likes of Governor Brown, much less President Obama. They’re broke, folks.

There are, remember, two kinds of economies in this world: those with guns and those who dig—those with piles of cash and those with mountains of debt. Sure, the debtors can keep on borrowing until their creditors revolt, or they can try to dig their way out with austerity budgets. But a better idea would be to get smart and start inviting bidders to what could be the sale of the century.
23494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fair and balanced on: February 22, 2011, 04:46:42 PM
http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201102180032
23495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: February 22, 2011, 03:17:07 PM
Clinton's Kosovo strategy was a mystery to me, and, I suspect, an important error.
23496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libya on: February 22, 2011, 03:15:29 PM
Analyst Reva Bhalla discusses a group of army officers’ reported plans to oust Gadhafi, and explains why the situation in Libya is a far cry from that of Egypt. 

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

After a brief and bizarre TV appearance late last night, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appeared again on state TV to reaffirm that he is not leaving the country and that he will die as a martyr in Libya.

Gadhafi’s speech doesn’t really surprise us — he is after all a very proud leader who came to power in a military coup more than four decades ago as a mere junior officer in the army. His personality, his life, is enmeshed in this country, in other words he’s no Ben Ali. This is a leader that is not likely to flee, but that does not mean that Gadhafi will necessarily be able to hold onto power. Over the course of the past two days, three major red flags have been raised in Libya. The first is that the regime has lost control of the eastern part of the country where a lot of Libya’s oil wealth is located. The second is that a number of prominent tribes in Libya have reportedly turned on the regime. And the third and most critical is that the army is splintering. Without the support of the tribes, without the support of the army and without control of the East it’s very difficult to see how Gadhafi is going to be able to project military power into the east to retake control of the country and ultimately save his regime.

In looking at what lies ahead for Libya, STRATFOR has been hearing about plans in the works by a group of army officers planning to oust Gadhafi, move into Tripoli and reinvent a Revolutionary Command Council to take authority over the country. Now the names that are being thrown around to lead this Revolutionary Command Council include many of the original free officers that helped bring Gadhafi to power in the 1969 military coup. This group is currently lobbying for the U.N. Security Council which is currently in session to approve a no-fly zone that can be enforced by the United States. The army officers trying to lead this coup want to ensure that Gadhafi can’t rely on remaining loyal air force units to bombard them as they make their way into Tripoli. Now Gadhafi is likely betting that global concerns over energy cutoffs from Libya and fears over regime collapse in Libya leading to civil war will likely deter any such plans for a no-fly zone to be enforced by the United States. Still, the opposition, including many of these army officers, appear willing to call that bluff.

One thing to remember is that the Libya situation is very different from the military managed secession that we saw play out in Egypt. For one thing the military in Egypt was actually welcomed by the populace and the opposition demonstrations were used by the Egyptian military to ease Mubarak out. In Libya, by contrast, the military is strongly disliked by the populace and would not have that kind of support.

Now, the situation is still very opaque but we are seeing some very serious signs of the army splintering. Without a strong regime at the helm to hold the army together the loyalties of many army officers will fall to their respective tribes, and at that point the threat of civil war in Libya considerably increases.

23497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: February 22, 2011, 01:54:22 PM
CCP:  That is very interesting.  I consider changing my position on this subject.
23498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Other Arab countries on: February 22, 2011, 09:11:11 AM
What a pathetic statement yesterday from Secy Clinton on Libya-- in contrast to BO et al on Mubarak, she simply denounced "violence" as Kadaffy Duck starts gunning his people down.
23499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: February 22, 2011, 09:09:34 AM
Kostas:

Glad to have you with us to help evaluate the article about Greece and to aid our understanding of your country.

BTW, I hereby nominate you for the Understatement of the Year Award:

"Obama is perceived as not quite so ready to resort to military action, as was his predecessor and those around him (Cheney, et al)."

 cheesy

23500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: February 21, 2011, 11:52:35 PM
Your general point about ISI is well-taken, but here the article says it was US government officials.  Do you doubt the POTH on this point?  And, if not, who the hell on our team would want to leak this? Qui bono?!?
Pages: 1 ... 468 469 [470] 471 472 ... 780
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!