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23451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudi options with Iran on: October 14, 2011, 05:00:04 AM

Saudi Arabia's Limited Options Against Iran
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Thursday vowed revenge for an  alleged plot by Tehran to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States with the help of someone claiming to be a member of a Mexican drug cartel. Al-Faisal described the plot as a cowardly attempt by the Iranians to spread their influence abroad through “murder and mayhem” and asserted, “We will not bow to such pressure, we hold them accountable for any action they take against us.” He then said that any action taken by Iran against Saudi Arabia would be met with a “measured response.” When asked to clarify what that response might look like, al-Faisal demurred and replied, “We have to wait and see.”
Ever since the United States went public on Tuesday with the Iranian plot, many have questioned the obvious lack of sophistication and the level of state sponsorship in the operation. Even if this alleged Iranian plot never came to light, however, the Saudis would still be facing the same strategic dilemma and constraints in dealing with its Persian neighbor.
“Saudi Arabia has every interest in trying to convince Iran in the coming months that Riyadh has the will, capability and U.S. support necessary to respond to any Iranian act of aggression.”
Saudi Arabia is facing a nightmare scenario in the Persian Gulf. By the end of the year, the United States is scheduled to complete its troop withdrawal from Iraq, and whatever troop presence the United States tries to keep in Iraq past the deadline will not be enough to convince anyone, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, that the United States will be able to prevent Iran from emerging as the dominant force in the Persian Gulf region. These next few months are therefore critical for Tehran to reshape the politics of the region while the United States is still distracted, Turkey is still early in its rise and Iran still has the upper hand. Iran can only achieve this goal of regional hegemony if it can effectively exploit the vulnerabilities of its Arab neighbors — especially Saudi Arabia — who are extremely unnerved by the thought of the United States leaving behind a power vacuum in the region for Iran to fill.
Iran’s main strategic intent is to convince the United States and Saudi Arabia that there is no better choice but to reach an unsavory accommodation with Tehran, one that would be negotiated in Iran’s favor and grant Tehran the regional legitimacy it’s been seeking for centuries. The Saudis want to prevent this scenario at all costs, and so can be expected to do everything it can to show Washington that Iran is too dangerous to negotiate with and that more must be done by the United States to keep Iran contained behind its mountain borders. Purported Iranian plots aimed at assassinating Saudi diplomats certainly help underscore that message, but there is still little hiding the fact that the United States simply doesn’t have good options in dealing with Iran in the near term.
The United States doesn’t have the resources to devote to blocking Iran in Iraq, or engaging in military action against Iran. In today’s fragile global economic environment, the Iranian retaliatory option of mining and attempting to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world’s seaborne trade passes through each day, remains a potent deterrent. In describing how it intends to hold Iran accountable for this alleged assassination plot, the White House has focused on increased sanctions, but by now it should be obvious that Iran will find ways to insulate itself from sanctions and continue its day-to-day business with a multitude of shell firms looking to make a profit in trading with Iran at higher premiums.
Given that the United States is Saudi Arabia’s main security guarantor, the lack of U.S. options means that Saudi Arabia also has very few, if any, good options against Iran in the current threat environment. Saudi Arabia’s best geopolitical weapon is its oil wealth, but even the threat of flooding the oil markets to cut into Iran’s own oil revenues carries its fair share of complications. Saudi Arabia claims that it would take 30 to 60 days to reach a maximum level of output around 12.5 million barrels per day, but they would have to sustain that level of production for an extensive period of time in today’s depressed market to begin to make a serious dent in Iran’s oil income. There are already questions about whether Saudi Arabia has the capability to surge production on this scale, not to mention the complications it would face from other oil producers that would also suffer the consequences of an oil flood in the markets. So far, there hasn’t been any indication that Saudi Arabia is prepared to go this route in the first place.
Saudi Arabia also has the more traditional option of backing dissidents and Sunni militants in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in an effort to undercut Iran’s growing influence in the region, but engaging in a full-fledged proxy battle with Iran also carries major implications. Of most concern to Saudi Arabia is Iran’s likely covert response along the eastern littoral of the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is already extremely concerned with the situation in Bahrain, where it fears growing Shiite unrest will cascade into Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich, Shiite-concentrated Eastern Province. Iran’s capabilities in this region are more limited relative to its covert presence in Iraq and Lebanon, but the Saudi regime is on the alert for signs of Iranian prodding in this tense Sunni-Shiite borderland. A rare security incident in Qatif in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province Oct. 3 clearly highlighted this threat when a group of Shiite rioters reportedly shot automatic weapons at security forces.
Saudi Arabia has every interest in trying to convince Iran in the coming months that Riyadh has the will, capability and U.S. support necessary to respond to any Iranian act of aggression. The reality of the situation, however, reveals just how constrained the Saudi regime is in trying to contain their historic Persian rivals.
23452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Solway: The Weakness of the West on: October 13, 2011, 08:58:15 PM

The Weakness of the West

Western civilization is caught between the horns of a dilemma.

October 7, 2011 - 12:18 am - by David Solway     

In a recent colloquium at the National Archives in Ottawa on the subject of multiculturalism and the advancing subversion of the West, the question arose as to why the most advanced and preeminent civilization the world has ever seen appears to be imploding. It is in every respect stronger than its enemies and competitors and yet is clearly faltering, insecure in its purposes, given to appeasement and self-doubt, and dismissive of its own unmatchable history. Many reasons have been put forward for what is plainly an inward decline, from the natural inevitability of civilizational decay to the loss of religious faith and moral conviction to the apathy and narcissism of a flaccid and materially pampered citizenry.

Muslim author Salim Mansur, whose new book Delectable Lie was the focus of the discussion, steered a different tack, suggesting that our fate might be explained by two iconic figures from literature, Oedipus and Hamlet. This is a provocative insight that needs to be unpacked. Both are royal leaders, one a king and the other a prince in succession to the throne. Both wish to purge their kingdoms of corruption, sickness, and the scourge of illegitimacy. Both are driven to find and expose a buried truth so that the realm may be healed and purified.

Herein lies the problem and the paradox, for in seeking to disinter what is hidden or suppressed, both Oedipus and Hamlet in their diverse ways bring disaster upon themselves, one as a result of a relentless pursuit and the other owing to relentless reflection. One acts and the other fails to act, but the consequences are no less destructive: blindness and death.

If I understand him aright, Mansur’s point is that the central strength of Western civilization is also its attendant weakness, namely, contradictory as this may initially sound, the fostering of critical thought. The valorizing of the concept of truth and the search to discover it rather than adhere to a dogmatic authority which declares without evidence what a people are to believe and to accept as indisputable — or in a current formulation, “the science is settled” — represents the best that civilization has to offer. The conflict between truth and doctrine is, of course, inherent in Western civilization, but the steady progression, despite innumerable setbacks, toward the vision of the European Enlightenment and the legacy it bequeathed to the modern age was ultimately unstoppable. The problem is that the search for truth can — and does — issue in calamitous revelations, as with Oedipus, or in prolonged introspection leading to inaction, as with Hamlet.

If we examine the intellectual and political history of the West from the Enlightenment to the present day, it becomes obvious that Mansur’s theory is persuasive. The Oedipal pursuit of truth conducted by some of the celebrated philosophical minds in the West has led to the destabilizing and ironic conclusion that there is no such thing as “truth.” The pivotal tenet of Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Genealogy of Morals, the source of the postmodern movement in contemporary academic thought and scholarship, is that “there are no facts, only interpretation.” In What Is History, E.H. Carr defines the study and writing of history as a “hard core of interpretation surrounded by a pulp of disputable facts.” French post-structuralist Michel Foucault, in works like The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge, claims that what we call truth is only the expression of dominant power relations that control the cultural semiotic, or “episteme.” In Of Grammatology, Jacques Derrida, the founder of the “Deconstructive” school of thought, which has infected the curriculum of the Humanities in European and American universities, notoriously argued that “origins” are infinitely recessive and that words appeal not to facts but to other words—what he designates as différance, suggesting both deferral and difference. His colleague, the Belgian scholar Paul de Man whose Allegories of Reading  has had an equally deleterious affect on intellectual life, developed the notion of “rhetorical slippage,” the imp that inhabits language and sees to it that we can never say what we mean or even determine what we mean in the first place.

These are only a few of the names among the burgeoning caste of iconoclasts, schismatics, deconstructors, nihilists, post-structuralists, post-modernists and post-whateverites who have embarked on a campaign to undo the heritage of Western culture. This revisionist movement has been massively influential and, indeed, instrumental in preparing the way for the plague of cultural relativism from which we suffer today. Oblivious to the inconsistency intrinsic to such thought—that their argument is invalidated by the very position they have adopted respecting truth claims—these anti-cognitive guerrillas have nonetheless distorted a fundamental element of Western thinking: that truth is discernible. The Oedipal search for truth has paradoxically undermined and eviscerated the cultural investment in the epistemological quest for truth itself and those who have sought the grail will find themselves holding a Styrofoam cup. A virtue has become a vice.

A similar result flows from what we might term the Hamletic inquiry into the “problem” of truth, which differs from the Oedipal enterprise in that Hamlet is more preoccupied with the action to be taken in the wake of his conclusions. Once the truth is discovered—Hamlet is no relativist—how is one to proceed? Is violent intervention called for? Or protracted diplomacy? Or continued investigation to ascertain if the “truth” conceals yet more intricacies that must be isolated, turned over and over, examined for minute distinctions that require yet further study before settling upon a course of action? The outcome is that there is no outcome but only more reflection and intellectual stasis—until the moment arrives when it is too late to respond effectively to a growing peril or an imminent disaster.

We can observe this access of dysfunctional inertia, this phlegmatism of the mind, conspicuously at work in our politicians and diplomats, who cannot bring themselves to determine upon a sensible, coherent and effective mode of action in the face of pressing complexities. Admittedly, they are sometimes capable of reacting, but their reactions resemble reflex gesticulations or autonomic responses that generally make things worse. The American president lunging into Egypt and Libya is a perfect example of such immediate buffoonery. What we note on such occasions is the glaring absence of thought.

For the most part, however, our leaders are like lower-class Hamlets, the proletarians of impotent rumination. Unable to decide upon a rational and meaningful reply to unfolding events, they continue either to vacillate or to remain numb and torpid, engaging in one or another form of self-justifying evasion. More committees must be struck, more “talks” must be held, more time is needed, and more “resolutions” must be compiled and passed whose words die on the page and vanish unmourned. Hamlet, of course, said it best:

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment…

…lose the name of action.

And William Blake crystallized the notion in The Proverbs of Hell: “He who desires and acts not, breeds pestilence.”

The West now finds itself the victim of its own essential and defining quality as a civilization. Unlike the civilizations of the Orient, Western thought at its best and most characteristic is engaged in the noble adventure to seek out truth, which accounts for the major scientific breakthroughs of the modern era, a stellar literature and grand historiographic projects that attempt to probe and comprehend the vast currents of world events. In the course of time the quest inexorably begins to undermine its own foundations, finding that truth is asymptotic, ultimately inaccessible or even non-existent on the one hand, or on the other, that it demands ever-prolonged investigation either because it is insolubly complex or because the seeker subjectively fears the consequences it entails.

The result is a kind of intellectual embolism, a clotting of the arteries of thought. The modern Oedipus concludes that the truth is that there is no truth—this is the nowhere land his inquiries have taken him to. His conduct is thus based on whim, appetite, fantasy or ungrounded hope and usually culminates in disaster. The modern Hamlet refrains from proceeding in order to avoid compromising himself or losing the perquisites he may have to surrender by committing to a distinct and irreversible course of action. His condition of lassitude or paralysis also tends to culminate in disaster. And this is pretty well where the West finds itself today, between the Scylla of nihilism and the Charybdis of passivity.

If I am not mistaken, this is the brunt of Mansur’s thesis. And he would likely agree that, barring a far-reaching cultural reorientation, there is no way out of this dilemma—in the “true” etymological sense of the word. What would be needed is a genuine educational revolution, a neo-Enlightenment, in which the twin vices of hubris and lethargy are eradicated and the twin virtues of humility and courage could take root: the humility to acknowledge that there is such a thing as discernible truth existing outside the narrow and confining circle of rampant subjectivity, and the courage to act decisively when circumstances leave us no plausible alternative.

Perhaps only a profound crisis or debacle, a calamity we cannot escape in which our lives and our society are threatened with collapse or military defeat and we are brought to the brink—perhaps only this can issue in the restoration of common sense and a determination to retrieve what made us great. Perhaps only the advent of catastrophe can rescue an Oedipus gone awry or a Hamlet gone rogue, one having gone too far and the other not far enough.

23453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Egypt's pogrom on: October 13, 2011, 12:50:59 PM

HAVE YOU EVER seen a pogrom? Sarah Carr has.

"The Coptic Hospital tried its best to deal with the sudden influx of casualties," wrote Carr, a Cairo-based journalist and blogger, in her firsthand account of Sunday's deadly attack on Christian protesters by the Egyptian military. "Its floors were sticky with blood and there was barely room to move among the wounded."

In one room of the hospital morgue Carr counted the bodies of 12 people, some of whom had been killed when soldiers in armored personnel vehicles charged the crowd, firing and random and crushing the protesters they ran over. One of the victims was "a man whose face was contorted into an impossible expression. A priest . . . showed me the remains of the man's skull and parts of his brain. He too had been crushed."

What happened in Egypt on Sunday was a massacre. Government security forces assaulted Coptic Christians as they marched peacefully to the headquarters of the state TV network. They were protesting the recent burning of St. George's, a Coptic church in the Upper Egypt village of El-Marinab. Yet broadcasters loyal to the ruling military junta exhorted "honorable Egyptians" to help the army put down the protests. "Soon afterward, bands of young men armed with sticks, rocks, swords, and firebombs began to roam central Cairo, attacking Christians," the Associated Press reported. "Troops and riot police did not intervene." Video of the violence was quickly uploaded to the Internet. So were even more graphic images of the murdered protesters.

Back during the Tahrir Square demonstrations against strongman Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian military was widely praised for not using force to crush the protests and keep Mubarak in power. Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, for example, declared that Egypt's military had "conducted itself in exemplary fashion" and "made a contribution to the evolution of democracy." Popular, too, was the notion that the uprising could catalyze a new era of interfaith solidarity. "Egypt's religious tensions have been set aside," reported the BBC in February, "as the country's Muslims and Christians join forces at anti-government protests."

But the "spirit of Tahrir Square" has ushered in neither liberal democracy nor a rebirth of tolerance for Egypt's ancient but beleaguered Christian minority.

One of the country's leading liberal reformers, Ayman Nour, said Monday that with the latest bloodshed, the military has lost whatever goodwill it accrued last spring. It's hard to believe that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces cares. In the eight months since Mubarak's ouster, the military has tried and convicted some 12,000 Egyptian civilians in military tribunals, often after using torture to extract confessions. The country's hated emergency laws, which allow suspects to be detained without charge, not only remain in force, but have been expanded to cover offenses as vague as "spreading rumors" or "blocking traffic." And just as Mubarak did, the generals insist that government repression is all that stands between Egypt and social chaos.

As for Egypt's Coptic Christians, their plight has gone from bad to worse. Post-Mubarak Egypt has seen "an explosion of violence against the Coptic Christian community," the international news channel France24 was reporting as far back as May. "Anger has flared up into deadly riots, and houses, shops, and churches have been set ablaze."

With Islamist hardliners growing increasingly influential, hate crimes against Christians routinely go unpunished. Copts, who represent a tenth of Egypt's population, are subjected to appalling humiliations. The mob that destroyed St. George's had first demanded that the church be stripped of its crosses and bells; after the Christians yielded to that demand, local Muslims insisted that the church dome be removed as well. For several weeks, Copts in El-Marinab were literally besieged, forbidden to leave their homes or buy food unless they agreed to mutilate their nearly century-old house of worship. On September 30, Muslim thugs set fire to the church and demolished its dome, pillars, and walls. For good measure, they also burned a Coptic-owned shop and four homes.

Many Copts are choosing to leave Egypt, rather than live under this intensifying anti-Christian persecution. The Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations calculated last month that more than 90,000 Christians have fled the country since March 2011. At that rate, estimated human-rights advocate Naguib Gabriel, one-third of Egypt's Coptic population will have vanished within a decade.

Or maybe sooner -- maybe much sooner -- if Sunday's anti-Christian pogrom is a sign of things to come.
23454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Elder on Cain on: October 13, 2011, 12:45:42 PM
second post of day:

What to do about Herman Cain?

This question goes not to the Republican Party, where "establishment" candidates like Mitt Romney privately dismiss Cain as lacking the experience, gravitas and resources to beat President Barack Obama and then to soundly govern the country.

Herman Cain is not going to be the GOP nominee.

Without a serious star-power staff, a ground game, chits to be called in by the candidate or the candidate's influential network of friends of influence, the "fat cats" sit on their checkbooks until and unless they believe their horse can win. A serious presidential candidate is not one who, like Cain, breaks from campaigning for a book tour timed to coincide with his unlikely quest for the White House.

No, Cain is a clear and present danger to the Democratic Party -- and their invaluable near-monolithic black vote. Cain says things like: "African-Americans have been brainwashed" into voting for the Democratic Party; "If you (Wall Street protestors) don't have a job or you're not rich, blame yourself"; "People sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve"; and "I don't believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way."

How do some influential left-wing blacks react? Not well:

Cornell West, professor of black studies at Princeton: Cain needs to "get off the symbolic crack pipe."

Harry Belafonte, entertainer, civil rights activist: "He's a bad apple, and people should look at his whole card. He's not what he says he is."

Tavis Smiley, PBS host and NPR broadcaster, simply writes off Cain's comments as "ridiculous or crazy."

But Cain threatens to change the race-card game in ways that even those who voted against Barack Obama hoped he would do: Put the stake through the heart of the nonsense that white racism still holds people back. Instead, Obama sides with a black Harvard professor who badly mistreats a white Cambridge cop who was just doing his job. Obama tells an author that racism fuels the opposition to ObamaCare. Obama says nothing when comrades ranging from former President Jimmy Carter to Jesse Jackson Jr. to Morgan Freeman defend Obama by blaming racism.

Now comes Cain.

He calls his economic program 9-9-9. But Cain's real number is 95. That is the percentage of the black vote captured in 2008 by Obama. What if someway, somehow, the Republicans captured over 35 percent of black presidential vote, as the GOP did as recently as 1956?

Cain asks this question: Why do blacks, in 2011, vote Democratic? Answer: because a) they falsely believe racism remains a serious threat and b) that Republicans are bad people who wish them ill. Neither of which, says Cain, is true. Blacks are more anti-abortion, more pro-traditional marriage and more pro-vouchers for inner-city parents than the typical non-black Democrat. A bad economy, made worse by Obama's tax-spend-regulate, welfare-state mentality, means blacks suffer disproportionately.

This argument makes Cain a walking refutation to the black victicrat "leaders" who speak about the "plight" of the "black underclass," and who attribute legitimate policy differences to "racism."

Cain represents a hardworking, up-from-the-bootstraps, financially successful, plainspoken Republican Southern black man who believes America in 2011 and America in 1960 are two different worlds. Worse for the grievance crowd, Cain calls out the Democratic Party for fostering a victicrat mentality and creating a sense of entitlement.

Cain's straight talk makes him stand out in debates. He is now close to cracking the "top tier" of candidates. Clearly, lots of people have begun to listen. What if blacks start listening?

Cain believes what former slave Booker T. Washington wrote a mere 35 years after slavery ended: "When a Negro girl learns to cook, to wash dishes, to sew, to write a book, or a Negro boy learns to groom horses, or to grow sweet potatoes, or to produce butter, or to build a house, or to be able to practise medicine, as well or better than some one else, they will be rewarded regardless of race or colour. In the long run, the world is going to have the best, and any difference in race, religion, or previous history will not long keep the world from what it wants.

"I think that the whole future of my race hinges on the question as to whether or not it can make itself of such indispensable value that the people in the town and the state where we reside will feel that our presence is necessary to the happiness and well-being of the community. No man who continues to add something to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of the place in which he lives is long left without proper reward. This is a great human law which cannot be permanently nullified."

Or, as Cain puts it, "I left the Democrat plantation a long time ago."
23455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on Drones on: October 13, 2011, 12:43:32 PM

We are in a long war against radical Islamic terrorism. The struggle seems almost similar to the on-again/off-again ordeals of the past -- like the French-English Hundred Years War of the 14th and 15th centuries, or the Thirty Years War between Catholics and Protestants in the 17th century.

In these kinds of drawn-out conflicts, victory finally goes to the side that responds best to constant new challenges. And we've seen a lot of those since 9/11, when the United States was caught unaware and apparently ill-equipped to face the threat of radical Islamic terrorists hijacking our passenger jets.

But even when we adjusted well to the 9/11 tactics, there were new threats like suicide bombers and roadside improvised explosive devices that seemed to nullify American technology and material advantages.

But now America is once again getting the upper hand in this long war against Middle Eastern terrorists with the use of Predator drone targeted assassinations that the terrorists have not yet an answer to. In systematically deadly fashion, Predators are picking off the top echelon of al-Qaeda and its affiliates from the Hindu Kush to Yemen to the Horn of Africa.

New models of drones seem almost unstoppable. They are uncannily accurate in delivering missiles in a way even precision aircraft bombing cannot. Compared to the cost of a new jet or infantry division, Predators are incredibly cheap. And they do not endanger American lives -- at least as long as terrorists cannot get at hidden runaways abroad or video control consoles at home.

The pilotless aircraft are nearly invisible and without warning can deliver instant death from thousands of feet away in the airspace above. Foreign governments often give us permission to cross borders with Predators in a way they would not with loud, manned aircraft.

Moreover, drones are constantly evolving. They now stay in the air far longer and are far more accurate and far more deadly than when they first appeared in force shortly after 9/11. Suddenly it is a lot harder for a terrorist to bomb a train station in the West than it is for a Predator to target that same would-be terrorist's home in South Waziristan.

All those advantages explain why President Obama has exponentially expanded the program. After five years of use under George W. Bush, such drones had killed around 400 suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, under President Obama, Predators have taken out more than 2,200 in less than three years.

The program apparently is uniquely suited for the Obama "leading from behind" way of war: killing far out of sight, and therefore out of mind -- and the news. Indeed, so comfortable is Obama with this new way of war that at a White House correspondents dinner, the president joked about using Predators on would-be suitors of his daughters: "But boys, don't get any ideas. Two words for you: Predator drones. You will never see it coming."

For President Barack Obama, the Predator drone avoids former candidate Obama's past legal objections by simply blowing apart suspected terrorists without having to capture them -- and then ponder how and where they should be tried. With a dead, rather than a detained, terrorist, civil libertarians cannot demand that Obama honor his campaign pledge to treat suspects like American criminals, while conservatives cannot pounce on any perceived softness in extending Miranda rights to captured al-Qaeda killers.

Antiwar protestors demonstrate in response to American soldiers getting killed, but rarely about robotic aircraft quietly obliterating distant terrorists. American fatalities can make war unpopular; a crashed drone is a "who cares?" statistic.

Still, there are lots of questions that arise from this latest American advantage. Waterboarding, which once sparked liberal furor, is now a dead issue. How can anyone object to harshly interrogating a few known terrorists when routinely blowing apart more that 2,000 suspected ones -- and anyone in their vicinity?

Predators both depersonalize and personalize war in a fashion quite unknown in the past. In one sense, killing a terrorist is akin to playing an amoral video game thousands of miles away. But in another, we often know the name and even recognize the face of each victim, in a way unknown in the anonymous carnage of, for example, the battles of Verdun and Hue. Does that make war more or less humane?

Once the most prominent critic of the war on terror, Obama has now become its greatest adherent -- and in the process is turning the tide against al-Qaeda. And so far, the American people of all political stripes -- for vastly different reasons -- seem more relieved than worried over Obama's most unexpected incarnation as Predator in Chief.
23456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gerecht: Iran's Act of War on: October 13, 2011, 11:46:42 AM

There is still much to learn about the Iranian-directed plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador in a Washington, D.C., restaurant. But if the Justice Department's information is correct, the conspiracy confirms a lethal fact about Iran's regime: It is becoming more dangerous, not less, as it ages.

Since the 1989 death of Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Western observers have hunted for signs of the end of the revolution's implacable hostility toward the United States. Signs have been abundant outside the ruling elite: Virtually the entire lay and much of the clerical intellectual class have damned theocracy as illegitimate, and college-educated youth (Iran has the best-educated public of any big Middle Eastern state) overwhelmingly threw themselves into the pro-democracy Green Movement that shook the regime in the summer of 2009.

But at the regime's apex—Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, his praetorian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the clergy who've remained committed to theocracy—religious ideology and anti-Americanism have intensified.

The planned assassination in Washington was a bold act: The Islamic Republic's terrorism has struck all over the globe, and repeatedly in Europe, but it has spared the U.S. homeland because even under Khomeini Iran feared outraged American power.

 What did Iran's top officials know about the Washington assassination plan? Was it just another in a series of half-baked plots by U.S. radicals led on by the FBI, or a bigger international incident? Evan Perez has details on The News Hub.
.Iran truck-bombed the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon during Reagan's presidency, calculating correctly that the Lebanese operational cover deployed in that attack would be sufficient to confuse U.S. retaliation. But the accidental shoot-down of Iran-Air flight 655 in July 1988 by the USS Vincennes unquestionably contributed to Tehran's determination that the White House had allied itself with Saddam Hussein and therefore the Iran-Iraq war was lost. The perception of American power proved decisive.

Enlarge Image

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
.One of the unintended benefits of America being at the center of Iran's conspiracies is that the U.S. is often depicted as devilishly powerful. Running against that fear, however, is another theme of the revolution: America's inability to stop faithful Iranians from liberating their homeland—the entire Muslim world—from Western hegemony and cultural debasement. American strength versus American weakness is a dangerous dance that plays out in the Islamist mind.

Within Iran, this interplay has led to cycles of terrorism of varying directness against the U.S. Khamenei, who many analysts have depicted as a cautious man in foreign affairs, has been a party—probably the decisive party—to every single terrorist operation Iran has conducted overseas since Khomeini's death.

The once-humble, unremarkable Khamenei—who was given the office of supreme leader in 1989 by the once-great Don Corleone of clerical politics, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (who assumed Iran's presidency that same year)—has become the undisputed ruler of Iran.

It was Khamenei who massively increased the military and economic power of the Revolutionary Guards Corps while often playing musical chairs with its leadership. The supreme leader has turned a fairly consensual theocracy into an autocracy where all fear the Guards and the Intelligence Ministry, which is also now under the supreme leader's control. He has squashed Rafsanjani, his vastly more intelligent, erstwhile ally. He has brutalized the pro-democracy Green Movement into quiescence. And he has so far outplayed his independent and stubborn president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose populist-nationalist-Islamist pretensions annoy the supreme leader and outrage many religious conservatives.

Khamenei's growing power and sense of mission have manifested themselves abroad. He has unleashed the Guards Corps against the U.S. and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the Treasury Department recently revealed, Tehran has ongoing ties to al Qaeda. These date back at least a decade, as the 9/11 Commission Report depicted Iranian complicity in the safe travel of al Qaeda operatives and chronicled al Qaeda contact with the Lebanese Hezbollah and Tehran's éminence grise to Arab Islamic radicals, the late Imad Mughniyeh.

Related Video
 Matt Kaminski on Iranian plots to bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington D.C.
..Many in Washington and Europe would like to believe that the assassination plot in Washington came from a "faction" within the Iranian government—that is, that Khamenei didn't order the killing and Washington should therefore be cautious in its response. But neither this analysis nor the policy recommendation is compelling.

Lord help Qasim Soleimani—the man who likely has control over the Revolutionary Guards' elite dark-arts Qods Force, which apparently orchestrated this assassination scheme—if he didn't clear the operation with Khamenei. He will lose his job and perhaps his life. For 20 years, Khamenei has been constructing a political system that is now more submissive to him than revolutionary Iran was to Khomeini.

And for 20 years the U.S. has sent mixed messages to the supreme leader. Under both Democratic and Republican presidents, the U.S. has tried to reach out to Iran, to engage it in dialogue that would lead away from confrontation. For Khamenei such attempts at engagement have been poisonous, feeding his profound fear of a Western cultural invasion and the destruction of Islamic values.

This deeply offensive message of peace has alternated with American-led wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars spooked Tehran, radiating American strength for a time, but such visions ebbed.

Khamenei probably approved a strike in Washington because he no longer fears American military might. Iran's advancing nuclear-weapons program has undoubtedly fortified his spine, as American presidents have called it "unacceptable" yet done nothing about it. And neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama retaliated against Iran's murderous missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Obama has clearly shown he wants no part—or any Israeli part—in a preventive military strike against Iran's nuclear sites. And Mr. Obama has pulled almost all U.S. troops out of Iraq and clearly wants to do the same in Afghanistan. Many Americans may view that as a blessing, but it is also clearly a sign that Washington no longer has the desire to maintain hegemony in the Middle East.

That's an invitation to someone like Khamenei to push further, to attack both America and Iran's most detested Middle Eastern rival, the virulently anti-Shiite Saudi Arabia. In the Islamic Republic's conspiracy-laden world, the Saudis are part of the anti-Iranian American Arab realm, which is currently trying to down Iran's close ally, Bashar al-Assad's Syria, and squash the Shiites of Bahrain. Blowing up the Saudi ambassador in Washington would be an appealing counterstroke against the two foreign forces that Khamenei detests most.

The Obama administration will be tempted to respond against Iran with further unilateral and multilateral sanctions. More sanctions aren't a bad idea—targeted sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards and the sale of gasoline made from Iranian crude can hurt Tehran financially. But they will not scare it. The White House needs to respond militarily to this outrage. If we don't, we are asking for it.

In the 1980s and '90s, the U.S. failed to take Secretary of State George Shultz's wise counsel after Khomeini's minions bombed us in Lebanon. We didn't make terrorism a casus belli, instead treating it as a crime, only lobbing a few missiles at Afghan rock huts and a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant. But we should treat it as a casus belli. The price we will pay now will surely be less than the price we will pay later.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

23457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Real interest rates 1919-present on: October 13, 2011, 11:41:05 AM
By Matt Phillips

Credit SuisseLet’s get real.

Here’s an interesting chart we recently came across from Credit Suisse’s fixed income research team. We’ve all gotten somewhat used to seeing 10-year Treasury yields hovering around 2%. (They’re at 2.14%, as we write.)

But it’s important to keep in mind how just how remarkably low rates really are, especially “real rates,” which are essentially the yields on U.S. Treasurys minus some approximation of expected inflation. You can see from Credit Suisse’s chart that we’re at some of the lowest levels of real rates ever seen in the U.S.

This is important for investors to keep an eye on. Some, such as Pimco’s Bill Gross, have argued that real rates essentially show you that any bet on bonds is likely to be a losing one over the long term, as inflation eats into the fixed return of bonds.

Gross has argued that U.S. bond investors are “financially repressed” because real interest rates are negative relative to inflation. He told bond investors at a conference back in June, “You need to find something else that’s attractive.”

The question, of course, is what? And when? After all, there was no better short-term bet in the financial markets during the third quarter than loading up on long-term U.S. Treasurys. The “long” component — 10 year and over — of the Barclays Capital Treasury Index returned roughly 25% during the three months that ended in September. That was the period that saw the nominal 10-year yield fall well below 2% to levels not seen since the 1940s.

For borrowers, real interest rates this low are a great deal. In theory, they should help encourage companies and consumers to borrow. But in practice companies have tons of cash, thanks. And people who are scared about losing their job, unemployed or underwater on the mortgage aren’t interested — or able — to take advantage of these super low real rates. For what it’s worth, low real rates also helps the heavily indebted U.S. government too. But for yield-starved investors, charts like this underscore just what a tough environment they are facing.

23458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat questions on: October 13, 2011, 11:38:15 AM
Strategic Cooperation Between India and Afghanistan

India and Afghanistan recently signed a strategic agreement and have pledged to cooperate in security matters, with India agreeing to train Afghan forces. This prospect has been raised by Afghanistan in the past, but to this point India had refused. What explains the change in the Indian position? What role, if any, has the United States played in this deal, given U.S. caution against such cooperation in the past? How do Pakistan and China respond?

23459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat Questions on: October 13, 2011, 11:37:08 AM
Israel-Hamas Prisoner Swap

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a prisoner swap deal, trading some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Early reports had suggested jailed Fatah figure Marwan Barghouti would be released as part of the deal, but Israel subsequently denied those reports. What are the terms of the deal? How does it differ from previous failed negotiations? How was it brokered? What has changed in the regional situation that would render this deal possible now after years of similar deals falling through? Are there any hints that this may pave the way for additional deals between Israel and the Palestinians? What does Hamas do next, and what impact does the release have on Fatah? Egypt has been credited with a substantial role in this deal. Why was Egypt capable of this, and what does it gain?

23460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: October 13, 2011, 11:35:51 AM
A WSJ poll, taken before the debate the other night, now has Cain at 27% to Romney's 23%.

I like Cain a lot, but I do note that I did not care at all for his laudatory comments on Alan Greenspan, and his almost benign view of the Fed (e.g. IIRC audits not necessary).  Still, I like him a lot.
Henninger on Romney:

Watching Rick Perry in the Republican debate at Dartmouth say that the answer to every aspect of economic revival is to "get our energy industry back to work," and watching Herman Cain say that the answer to virtually anything is "my 9-9-9 plan," one's thoughts of course turned to John Belushi's immortal Greek diner owner, Pete Dionasopolis, who defined his world in three words: "Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger!"

Perhaps destiny brought these GOP candidates to Dartmouth. After the debate, Gov. Perry attended a Dartmouth frat party. A Dartmouth fraternity was of course the inspiration for "Animal House," an apt metaphor for the GOP nomination process.

Newt Gingrich's variation on cheeseburger is to repeatedly attack Ben Bernanke. This is slightly weird, but the former House Speaker apparently has decided that if he talks too much about Washington, he'll be fingered as one of them. So his strategy is attacking the Fed.

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Polling in the low 20s, Mr. Romney gives new meaning to front-runner.
.Incredible to behold, the Federal Reserve offered the evening's one, genuine comic highlight. After Julianna Goldman elicited from Herman Cain his view that the best Fed chairman in the past 40 years was Alan Greenspan, all the synapses in Ron Paul's brain fired in a straight line to assert: "Alan Greenspan was a disaster! Everybody in Washington—liberals and conservatives—said he kept interest rates too low, too long . . . and ushered in the biggest [housing] bubble."

We all know the meaning of the saying, It isn't over until the fat lady sings. A few hours before the Dartmouth debate, Chris Christie endorsed Mitt Romney. Gov. Christie's sudden and awkwardly timed endorsement may only reflect his belief that the process is over, we have a candidate and it's time to get on with the campaign to defeat Barack Obama.

We see his point, but what's the rush? The election is 13 months away. No voters in any primary have had a chance to provide a verdict on the candidates more real than these hapless debates or another opinion poll.

By this early, imperfect measure, Mitt Romney's status is weak. Despite running against this field, he never rises above 25% in GOP preferences. At best, Mr. Romney is running as the party's Unsinkable Molly Brown.

A week ago, Mr. Christie seemed to understand that the reason so many wanted him to run wasn't merely dissatisfaction with Mr. Romney. It had to do as well with the clear sense that the 2012 election is historic, a moment for the American people to choose decisively between Barack Obama's Americanized version of a flatlined European social democracy or the steady upward path of the nation's past two centuries.

The enthusiasm flowing to Mr. Christie came from the same people who had hoped to see Congressman Paul Ryan in the race, or Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush. All of them made clear they understood we had arrived at a big moment for the nation. Mr. Romney, by contrast, leaves the impression that the country has arrived at his big moment.

Before any primary vote, Mr. Christie and others are falling in behind a former Massachusetts governor whose message is both very good and very bad. It would help the Romney candidacy a lot—or a Romney presidency—if he were under more pressure now from his peers in the party.

Mr. Romney was at his best in the debate when pressed to bow to the conventional Beltway wisdom that any deficit compromise demands tax increases. He ran his questioner through total government spending's rising share of the economy, heading toward 40%, and said merely matching revenue to that share would mean "we cease at some point to be a free economy."

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 This candidate will have to be pushed a lot harder to make him a good president.
..That's true and well said. But Mr. Romney also said: "You have to stand by your principles." Doubts about that statement are the main reason Mr. Romney, in the current RealClearPolitics average, is polling at 21.7%, a level that gives new meaning to front-runner.

The health-care problem has been widely discussed. There are two other troubling policy areas, both on display in the debate: taxes and China.

Newt Gingrich rightly asked Mr. Romney why his capital gains cut stops at incomes above $200,000—a total economic absurdity, especially for anyone who purports to know "how the economy works."

Mr. Romney's standard reply is that the "rich can take care of themselves" and he's all about "the middle class." But that's Barack Obama's divisive view. And despite two bipartisan commissions explicitly calling for lower individual rates, Mr. Romney's tax reforms are "in the future." So he sits below 22% support.

China is hacking into the Pentagon's computers, grabbing the South China Sea, offering little help on nuclear proliferation, and Mr. Romney's big proposal is "on day one" to file a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization for currency manipulation. But that's proto-Democrat Chuck Schumer's issue. If one can glean a commonality in the Schumer-Romney complaint, it would be campaign contributions.

Mitt Romney has undoubted gifts. He could be president. But in the current Obama morass, so could 100 other people. What voters, including Republican voters, want for the United States now is the best president possible. Mr. Romney isn't there yet. Only more competition or criticism will get him there.

23461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: October 13, 2011, 11:24:50 AM
That is a point I hadn't noticed.  Exactly when was this plot foiled?


Iranian Assassination Plot on U.S. Soil

The U.S. revelation of an alleged Iranian plot to work with Mexican drug cartels to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., raises several issues. Such indictments are not always accurate or as significant as they first appear. If the allegations are true, would Iran even consider such a plan? How likely is this plot to hold up under scrutiny? What tools would the Iranians have should they want to carry out such an act on U.S. soil? Why did the U.S. government release this indictment now? How does this affect the U.S. plans to remove troops from Iraq, given that withdrawal would leave Iran the de facto power in the region? How does this shape or reflect the current status of U.S.-Iranian dialogue regarding Iraq? How do the Saudis react to this, and what options do they have at their disposal? How does this play out in Iran, both in its regional and international relations and in the internal dynamic of Iranian politics? Given the timing, how does this play into U.S. election dynamics?

The American accusation suggests Iran was looking to work with members or former members of Mexican cartels to carry out attacks in the United States. Why would any cartel agree to assist in such a plot, and why would the Iranians approach Mexican cartels in the first place? How does this affect U.S. policy toward Mexico, given the sensitivities of such a revelation, if proven accurate? The Mexican government reportedly assisted the United States in the operation to capture the accused. What is the status of U.S.-Mexican cooperation on counterterrorism and counternarcotics activities? Is there talk of increased U.S. activity with or even inside Mexico as a result of the alleged plot? How does this play into assessments of Mexico’s ability to handle its own internal problems, and the potential spillover to the U.S. side of the border?

23462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Resurgence of the American Socialist Movement on: October 13, 2011, 11:21:38 AM
Obama's Red October Uprising
The Resurgence of the American Socialist Movement
"We must make our election between economy and Liberty, or profusion and servitude." --Thomas Jefferson
By now, you're aware that the seeds of socialist dissent are being sown across our great nation, mostly within the fetid soil of urban centers, where cadres of activists coalesce under the aegis of "Occupy [fill in the blank]." It would be difficult to avoid the fanfare, given the amount of Leftmedia coverage (read: promotion) that these protests receive.
According to my colleague Brent Bozell at Media Research Center, the protests were the subject of "more broadcast network stories in the first nine days than the Tea Party drew in the first nine months."
Typical of the adoring coverage was this missive from ABC's Diane Sawyer, who claimed the occupiers "have spread to more than 250 American cities, more than a thousand countries -- every continent but Antarctica." (Seriously, this drama queen actually said "more than a thousand countries.")
In stark ideological contrast to the Tea Party Movement, which seeks to restore Liberty and Rule of Law as enshrined in our Constitution, the socialist "Flea Party" movement occupying city blocks across our nation is composed of the latest generation of useful idiots and debauched opportunists.
Conservative political observers have uniformly written off these protests because they're populated by the usual suspects -- a mix of leftist protagonists supported by Ivy League ignorati, collegiate lemmings, paid union thugs, the socially disenfranchised, and a handful of unwitting poor folks. Though these protestors exhibit limited "intellectual occupancy," I would caution that underestimating the threat to Liberty that these Occupier protests pose is a serious error. Reputable polling firms find that more than 35 percent of likely voters support the protests.
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Just who is behind the Occupiers?
Here's the short answer: Barack Hussein Obama and his socialist bourgeoisie.
As our editors have comprehensively revealed through the pages of The Patriot Post, from the time Obama first emerged on the national political scene in 2004, to the rise of his present-day regime, Team Obama has crafted a perilous national security crisis bent on "fundamentally transforming the United States of America" by imploding free enterprise and replacing it with Democratic Socialism.
So, while the Occupiers are of many guises their common thread is a storm-trooper adherence to Obama's Marxist agenda.
The mob movement was organized by "Occupy Wall Street," a front for the Marxist General Assembly movement, whose communications director, Brian Phillips, clearly articulated the organization's primary objective "to overthrow the government."
That goal has been echoed in the last two weeks from coast to coast, as affirmed by an Occupy LA leader, who proclaimed that nonviolence is not an option: "[T]he bourgeoisie won't go without violent means. Revolution! Yes, revolution that is led by the working class. Long live revolution! Long live socialism!"
Their populist national slogan, "99 percenters v. 1 percenters," implies that the American people are 99-to-1 in favor of forcibly redistributing the possessions of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans to the other 99 percent.
This slogan, and its underlying message, is being promoted by William Ayers, the former Weather Underground radical. Ayers issued a "collective statement" for the Occupiers concluding "that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power."
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As you may recall, Ayers is a close friend and former neighbor of Obama back in Barack's "community organizer" days in the fashionable Hyde Park section of Chicago. It was Ayers who hosted, in his own home, the first fundraiser for Obama's successful 1996 Illinois State Senate campaign, thus launching BO's political career.
This latest rash of socialist protests has crafted its classist message around the revolution-tested politics of disparity, under the leadership of old-school radicals like Ayers.
They are building on Obama's classist theme of "asking people who have benefited the most over the last decade to share in the sacrifice." Of the current 99-percenter protests, Obama concludes, "I think it expresses the frustrations the American people feel."
Obama's DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was a bit more candid: "The protests are symbolic of the frustration that middle class folks and working people feel. ... We understand their frustration, we applaud their activism and hopefully they're going to help get the Republicans in Washington's attention so we shift the Republicans' focus from just Barack Obama's job, to everyone's job."
Nancy Pelosi added, "The message of the protesters is a message for the establishment everyplace. No longer will the recklessness of some on Wall Street cause massive joblessness on Main Street. ... God bless them for their spontaneity. It's independent ... it's young, it's spontaneous, it's focused. And it's going to be effective."
Obama's "Red October" uprising takes its inspiration from the 1917 Social Democratic Labour Party protests in Russia, which gave rise to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Then, as now, the economy was in serious decline. Then, as now, Bolshevik revolutionaries were young, some 85 percent of them under age 30. Then, as now, they issued decrees giving rise to "the most militant and class-conscious" protests.
When their protests had grown to sufficient strength, the Socialist Democrats concluded, "an armed uprising is inevitable, and that the time for it is fully ripe."
It was a brief and bloody revolution, and at its conclusion, the protestors implemented policies that mirror proposals advocated by SDLP of today, the Occupiers: All real property was seized and redistributed, companies and factories were nationalized, all private wealth was confiscated by the state, Church properties were seized, and debts were repudiated.
Fast-forward about 100 years to the "99 percenters v. 1 percenters."
Today, almost 35 percent of Americans are dependent upon government subsidies, and 40 percent of Americans pay no income tax and thus have no stake in the cost of government. Consequently, most are predisposed to vote for the redistribution of others' incomes rather than work for their own. Further, if the Supreme Court rules that ObamaCare comports with the so-called "living constitution" rather than strikes it down based upon Rule of Law, by 2013 the number of Americans who depend on the largess of the central government will swell to well over 50 percent.
Combine the dependent ranks, the sprouting seeds of socialist unrest and the grim reality that the American economy is at serious risk of collapsing altogether under the Obama "debt bomb", and we have all the ingredients for an even bigger Red October uprising today and just before the election of 2012.
Should Barack Hussein Obama be re-elected in 2012, a prospect that, admittedly, seems rather inconceivable today, it would create the proverbial "perfect storm" to finish transforming the national landscape from one characterized by Liberty to one smothered by tyranny.
America is a great nation with a resilient economy and political system, but it is only kept so to the extent that the American people uphold the principles and values upon which that greatness is founded. However, for those who remain complacent in the belief that Liberty is self-perpetuating, that the question of transition of power by bullets rather than ballots is archaic, I remind you that those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. Of such complacency, Samuel Adams wrote, "If ye love wealth better than Liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!"
Tell me what you think
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Libertas aut Mortis!
Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post
23463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 13, 2011, 12:32:43 AM
Be careful CW, you may have the makings of a Tea Partier!  shocked cheesy
23464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Shalit deal on: October 13, 2011, 12:31:28 AM
I'm not getting the deal for Shalit at all.  Doesn't something like this only encourage the bastards?

Nor am I getting Stratfor's comment (see the Middle East War thread)  that these negotiations allow Hamas to claim sobriety.
23465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: A dramatic day on: October 13, 2011, 12:29:20 AM

A Dramatic Day in the Middle East
Two major events took place Tuesday in the Middle East. First, Israel and Hamas reached a deal in which captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in the Gaza Strip since 2006, will be exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel. Then within the hour of the initial reports about the prisoner swap deal, U.S. authorities announced they had charged two individuals allegedly working on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in a  plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington.
There is no evidence to suggest the two incidents are linked, but both illustrate the massive changes sweeping the region.
Indirect talks between Israel and Hamas to secure the release of Shalit have been taking place for years. In the past, all such parleys failed to result in an agreement largely because Israel was not prepared to accept Hamas’ demand that 1,000 or so Palestinians (many jailed for killing Israeli citizens) be released. But the political landscape in the region has changed immensely since 2009, the last time the two sides seriously deliberated over the matter.
“Like the prisoner swap deal, the revelation of an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi envoy to Washington on U.S. soil is a sign of the dramatic changes in the Middle East.”
The unprecedented public unrest sweeping across the Arab world in 2011 undermined decades-old autocratic political systems. From Israel’s point of view, the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the threats to the stability of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad represent serious risks for Israel’s national security, and Israel’s decision to agree to a prisoner swap deal is informed by the new regional environment.
It will be some time before the entire calculus behind the move becomes apparent. What is clear even now is that the prisoner swap deal has implications for Israel, Hamas, intra-Palestinian affairs and Egypt. Securing the release of Gilad Shalit will boost Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s standing at home. The move also could help Egypt’s military leaders domestically, who can claim their intervention brokered the deal (though with all the other turmoil in Egypt and November elections approaching, the Palestinian issue is a secondary concern). For Hamas, obtaining the release of more than 1,000 prisoners could help it gain considerable political support among Palestinians and as a result could complicate its power struggle with its secular rival Fatah. This kind of concrete result compared to any potential symbolic victory from Fatah’s recent bid for U.N. recognition could reflect unfavorably on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. And in successfully completing a deal with Israel, Hamas can also portray itself as a rational actor, nudging the Islamist militant movement closer to legitimization.
Like the prisoner swap deal, the revelation of an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi envoy to Washington on U.S. soil is a sign of the dramatic changes in the Middle East. The details of the alleged plot raise more questions than they answer, but already news of the plot has complicated the Islamic republic’s already-complex push for regional dominance.
In accusing the Iranian security establishment of plotting to murder the ambassador of Saudi Arabia, its biggest regional rival, on the soil of its nemesis the United States, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama may be showing it intends to take a harder line with Iran. We have already seen tensions between Riyadh and Tehran rise to unprecedented heights. Depending on the Iranian regime’s actual involvement, some in U.S. government circles may even consider the plot an act of war on the part of Tehran.
At this early stage it is not clear how Iran will respond to the U.S. allegations beyond strongly denying it was involved in any such plot, but it has a number of places where it can choose to escalate matters — Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon to name a few. Iraq is the most significant, and it is already a battleground for influence between Washington and Tehran. The United States has slightly less than 50,000 troops in the country and wants to leave behind a significant residual force after the end-of-2011 pullout deadline. Iran wants to see all U.S. forces leave by Dec. 31, and it can deploy both military proxies and significant political influence in its western neighbor to block American efforts.
Though it is too early to say what the long-term consequences (if indeed there are any) of the United States accusing Iranian government-linked elements of trying to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador on American territory and Israel reaching a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas will be, they demonstrate how rapidly the situation is changing in the Middle East at a time of enormous uncertainty.
23466  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 12, 2011, 11:44:52 PM
GM:  Yes, that RM  wink grin and I am greatful for it  cool

Gibby: The wood is consumed but the fire burns on.
23467  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 12, 2011, 08:35:45 PM
I stand corrected  smiley
23468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The congnitive dissonance of the left on: October 12, 2011, 04:51:23 PM
Is there a URL for that?
23469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Issa to Holder on: October 12, 2011, 04:38:34 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa today sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responding to his letter of October 7. The text of Chairman Issa's letter to Attorney General Holder is below:

Dear Attorney General Holder:

From the beginning of the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice has offered a roving set of ever-changing explanations to justify its involvement in this reckless and deadly program. These defenses have been aimed at undermining the investigation. From the start, the Department insisted that no wrongdoing had occurred and asked Senator Grassley and me to defer our oversight responsibilities over its concerns about our purported interference with its ongoing criminal investigations. Additionally, the Department steadfastly insisted that gunwalking did not occur.

Once documentary and testimonial evidence strongly contradicted these claims, the Department attempted to limit the fallout from Fast and Furious to the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). When that effort also proved unsuccessful, the Department next argued that Fast and Furious resided only within ATF itself, before eventually also assigning blame to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona. All of these efforts were designed to circle the wagons around DOJ and its political appointees.

To that end, just last month, you claimed that Fast and Furious did not reach the upper levels of the Justice Department. Documents discovered through the course of the investigation, however, have proved each and every one of these claims advanced by the Department to be untrue. It appears your latest defense has reached a new low. Incredibly, in your letter from Friday you now claim that you were unaware of Fast and Furious because your staff failed to inform you of information contained in memos that were specifically addressed to you. At best, this indicates negligence and incompetence in your duties as Attorney General. At worst, it places your credibility into serious doubt.

Following the Committee's issuance of a subpoena over six months ago, I strongly believed that the Department would fully cooperate with Congress and support this investigation with all the means at its disposal. The American people deserve no less. Unfortunately, the Department's cooperation to date has been minimal. Hundreds of pages of documents that have been produced to my Committee are duplicative, and hundreds more contain substantial redactions, rendering them virtually worthless. The Department has actively engaged in retaliation against multiple whistleblowers, and has, on numerous occasions, attempted to disseminate false and misleading information to the press in an attempt to discredit this investigation.

Your letter dated October 7 is deeply disappointing. Instead of pledging all necessary resources to assist the congressional investigation in discovering the truth behind the fundamentally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, your letter instead did little but obfuscate, shift blame, berate, and attempt to change the topic away from the Department's responsibility in the creation, implementation, and authorization of this reckless program. You claim that, after months of silence, you "must now address these issues" over Fast and Furious because of the harmful discourse of the past few days. Yet, the only major development of these past few days has been the release of multiple documents showing that you and your senior staff had been briefed, on numerous occasions, about Fast and Furious.

The Mexican Cartels

A month after you became Attorney General, you spoke of the danger of the Mexican drug cartels, and the Sinaloa cartel in particular. The cartels, you said, "are lucrative, they are violent, and they are operated with stunning planning and precision." You promised that under your leadership "these cartels will be destroyed." You vowed that the Department of Justice would "continue to work with [its] counterparts in Mexico, through information sharing, training and mutual cooperation to jointly fight these cartels, both in Mexico and the United States."

Under your leadership, however, Operation Fast and Furious has proven these promises hollow. According to one agent, Operation Fast and Furious "armed the cartel. It is disgusting." Fast and Furious simply served as a convenient means for dangerous cartels to acquire upwards of 2,000 assault-style weapons. On top of that, the Government of Mexico was not informed about Fast and Furious. In fact, DOJ and ATF officials actively engaged in hiding information about Fast and Furious from not only Mexican officials, but also U.S. law enforcement officials operating in Mexico for fear that they would inform their Mexican counterparts. This strategy is inapposite and contradicts the promises you made to the American people.

Your September 7, 2011 Statement

On September 7, 2011, you said that "[t]he notion that [Fast and Furious] reaches into the upper levels of the Justice Department is something that at this point I don't think is supported by the facts and I think once we examine it and once the facts are revealed we'll see that's not the case." Unfortunately, the facts directly contradict this statement.

Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, clearly a member of the Department's senior leadership, knew about Fast and Furious as early as March 2010. In fact, I have learned that the amount of detail shared with Breuer's top deputies about Fast and Furious is simply astounding.

For example, Manuel Celis-Acosta was the "biggest fish" of the straw purchasing ring in Phoenix. From the time the investigation started in September 2009 until March 15, 2010, Manuel Celis-Acosta acquired at least 852 firearms valued at around $500,000 through straw purchasers. Yet in 2009, Celis-Acosta reported an Arizona taxable income of only $15,475. Between September 2009 and late January 2010, 139 of these firearms were recovered, 81 in Mexico alone. Some of these firearms were recovered less than 24 hours after they were bought.

This information, and hundreds of pages worth of additional information, was included in highly detailed wiretap applications sent for authorization to Breuer's top deputies. It is my understanding, the Department applied to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona for numerous wire taps from March 2010 to July 2010. These wire tap applications were reviewed and approved by several Deputy Assistant Attorney Generals, including Kenneth A. Blanco, John C. Keeney, and Jason M. Weinstein. Breuer's top deputies approved these wiretap applications to be used against individuals associated with the known drug cartels. As I understand it, the wire tap applications contain rich detail of the reckless operational tactics being employed by your agents in Phoenix. Although Breuer and his top deputies were informed of the operational details and tactics of Fast and Furious, they did nothing to stop the program. In fact, on a trip to Mexico Breuer trumpeted Fast and Furious as a promising investigation.

Gary Grindler, the then-Deputy Attorney General and currently your Chief of Staff, received an extremely detailed briefing on Operation Fast and Furious on March 12, 2010. In this briefing, Grindler learned such minutiae as the number of times that Uriel Patino, a straw purchaser on food stamps who ultimately acquired 720 firearms, went in to a cooperating gun store and the amount of guns that he had bought. When former Acting ATF Director Ken Melson, a career federal prosecutor, learned similar information, he became sick to his stomach:

I had pulled out all Patino's -- and ROIs is, I'm sorry, report of investigation -- and you know, my stomach being in knots reading the number of times he went in and the amount of guns that he bought. Transcribed interview of Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson at 42.

At the time of his briefing in March of last year, Grindler knew that Patino had purchased 313 weapons and paid for all of them in cash. Unlike Melson, Grindler clearly saw nothing wrong with this. If Grindler had had the sense to shut this investigation down right then, he could have prevented the purchase of an additional 407 weapons by Patino alone. Instead, Grindler did nothing to stop the program.

Following this briefing, it is clear that Grindler did one of two things. Either, he alerted you to the name and operational details of Fast and Furious, in which case your May 3, 2011 testimony in front of Congress was false; or, he failed to inform you of the name and the operational details of Fast and Furious, in which case Grindler engaged in gross dereliction of his duties as Acting Deputy Attorney General. It is fair to infer from the fact that Grindler remains as your Chief of Staff that he did not engage in gross dereliction of his duties and told you about the program as far back as March of 2010.

In the summer of 2010, at the latest, you were undoubtedly informed about Fast and Furious. On at least five occasions you were told of the connection between Fast and Furious and a specific Mexican cartel – the very cartel that you had vowed to destroy. You were informed that Manuel Celis-Acosta and his straw purchasers were responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels. Yet, you did nothing to stop this program.

You failed to own up to your responsibility to safeguard the American public by hiding behind "[a]ttorneys in [your] office and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General," who you now claim did not bring this information to your attention. Holder Letter, supra note 1. As a result of your failure to act on these memos sent to you, nearly 500 additional firearms were purchased under Fast and Furious.

The facts simply do not support any claim that Fast and Furious did not reach the highest levels of the Justice Department. Actually, Fast and Furious did reach the ultimate authority in the Department – you.

Your May 3, 2011 Statement

On May 3, 2011, I asked you directly when you first knew about the operation known as Fast and Furious. You responded directly, and to the point, that you weren't "sure of the exact date, but [you] probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks." This statement, made before Congress, has proven to be patently untrue. Documents released by the Department just last week showed that you received at least seven memos about Fast and Furious starting as early as July 2010.

In your letter Friday, you blamed your staff for failing to inform you about Operation Fast and Furious when they reviewed the memos sent to you last summer. Your staff, therefore, was certainly aware of Fast and Furious over a year ago. Lanny Breuer was aware of Fast and Furious as early as March 2010, and Gary Grindler was also aware of Fast and Furious as early as March 2010. Given this frequency of high level involvement with Fast and Furious as much as a year prior to your May 3, 2011 testimony, it simply is not believable that you were not briefed on Fast and Furious until a few weeks before your testimony. At the very least, you should have known about Fast and Furious well before then. The current paper trail, which will only grow more robust as additional documents are discovered, creates the strong perception that your statement in front of Congress was less than truthful.

The February 4, 2011 Letter

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this intransigence is that the Department of Justice has been lying to Congress ever since the inquiry into Fast and Furious began. On February 4, 2011, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that "ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transport into Mexico." This letter, vetted by both the senior ranks of ATF as well as the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, is a flat-out lie.

As we understand it, in March 2010, top deputies to Lanny Breuer were informed that law enforcement officers intercepted calls that demonstrated that Manuel Celis-Acosta was conspiring to purchase and transport firearms for the purpose of trafficking the firearms from the United States into Mexico. Not only was ATF aware of this information, but so was the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This information was shared with the Criminal Division. All of these organizations are components of the Department of Justice, and they were all aware of the illegal purchase of firearms and their eventual transportation into Mexico.

These firearms were not interdicted. They were not stopped. Your agents allowed these firearms purchases to continue, sometimes even monitoring them in person, and within days some of these weapons were being recovered in Mexico. Despite widespread knowledge within its senior ranks that this practice was occurring, when asked on numerous occasions about the veracity of this letter, the Department has shockingly continued to stand by its false statement of February 4, 2011.

Mr. Attorney General, you have made numerous statements about Fast and Furious that have eventually been proven to be untrue. Your lack of trustworthiness while speaking about Fast and Furious has called into question your overall credibility as Attorney General. The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over. The time has come for you to come clean to the American public about what you knew about Fast and Furious, when you knew it, and who is going to be held accountable for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.

Operation Fast and Furious was the Department's most significant gun trafficking case. It related to two of your major initiatives – destroying the Mexican cartels and reducing gun violence on both sides of the border. On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility.


Darrell Issa

23470  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Tales from the weird side of things on: October 12, 2011, 04:32:25 PM

A 22-year-old woman allegedly killed an aspiring rap singer with a single punch for a $5 party bet.

Tiffany Startz is accused of killing John 'Fatboy' Powell with a single blow to the face and has been told she has to stand trial.

The 25-year-old had agreed to be hit in the face by Starr in return for $5.
Tiffany Startz
John 'Fatboy' Powell

Bet: Tiffany Startz, 22, is accused of killing aspiring rap singer John Powell, 25, with a single blow to the face after he agreed to be hit in the face in return for $5

After being struck and collecting his money he walked away to talk with friends, only to collapse minutes later from a burst artery in his neck. Startz, who is 5'5" and weighs 142lbs, was charged with reckless conduct and battery charges stemming from the incident last September in Joliet, Illinois. Court records revealed that other party-goers gave differing accounts of how Powell suffered his fatal injury with some saying he tripped and hit his head. Another said he had jumped up and hit his head while performing. But these were cover-up stories to protect Startz and Jimmy Mounts who had been offering partygoers $5 to take a punch from a female.

A lawyer for Startz had asked Will County Judge Edward Burmila to dismiss the charges as Powell had agreed to be punched in return for $5.

Ira Goldstein said: 'People get paid to get hit.'

Powell was at the party to perform with his rap band Krazy Killaz.

Mounts, 27, who offered guests cash to take a punch from Startz, also faces charges of reckless conduct. 
23471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: China bubble theory challenged on: October 12, 2011, 02:25:51 PM
BY YIPING HUANG Investors have grown increasingly concerned about the risk of a hard landing in China, as shown by the decline of stock prices and the widening spreads on credit default swaps for its sovereign bonds in recent weeks.

These fears are overblown. China will not experience anything like the Asian financial crisis of 1997 given its large current account surplus, gigantic foreign exchange reserves, and undervalued currency.

Many experienced international investors look at a decline in housing prices as a signal of serious trouble to come. But Beijing itself has engineered this decline using policies that restrict house purchases. If this starts to cause major macroeconomic consequences, the government could easily reverse the restrictions. And even if house prices continue to decline, this is unlikely to cause the kind of forced deleveraging that hit Hong Kong in 1997 and the U.S. in 2007.

Chinese households' leverage ratio is still quite low. Total mortgage loans are only about 15% of GDP and less than one year's worth of households' saving. House prices declined significantly in Shanghai in 2004 and in Shenzhen in 2008. While housing investment slowed visibly in both cases, there were minimal macroeconomic consequences.

Concerns about small business troubles and their implications for informal lending are also exaggerated. The People's Bank of China has been tightening monetary policy for more than a year and economic activity has been moderating. It is entirely normal for a number of firms to fail as costs of both labor and capital rise.

Informal lending is risky by definition. At an estimated 4 trillion yuan ($627 billion), however, it is only about 8% of the banking sector's total credit.

Local governments, with total borrowing of 10.7 trillion yuan or 27% of GDP, are a potential problem for both the financial and fiscal systems. Much of the borrowing was used for investment projects, especially infrastructure, during the past three years. It will be difficult for local government-linked entities to immediately pay back the loans when they gradually mature, starting from this year. But the local governments have both strong political wills and sufficient state assets to keep these borrowings from turning bad.

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Construction is still underway, despite fears of a property collapse.
.Most of the current economic problems are, in one way or another, related to incomplete restructuring of the financial system. Despite major reforms during past decades, the Chinese financial system remains highly repressive. Most importantly, financial institutions still act more like policy agents in allocating credit. Key interest rates are tightly regulated by the state, and the private sector's access to finance remains highly restricted.

Yet despite these problems—and an inevitable uptick in nonperforming loans following the 2008-09 credit-driven stimulus—the banks' balance sheets are quite healthy today. Their average nonperforming loan ratio is way below 2%, their average capital adequacy ratio is above 10%, and their reserve requirement ratio is at 21.5%. All these provide ample room for the banks to absorb bad assets without causing systemic financial risks.

Some investors worry about a recent decline in bank deposits, a trend that could strain banks' liquidity if it continues. This was not caused by a loss of confidence in the banks, but rather by depositors looking elsewhere for better returns than those available in regular accounts, which are subject to interest-rate regulation. As the default rate for informal lending vehicles rises, deposits may return to the banks.

The ultimate test for the Chinese economy lies with the fiscal sustainability question. If conditions continue to deteriorate, does the government still have the resources to stimulate the economy and prevent a hard landing?

After all, most of the financial institutions are still majority-owned by the state, and the dramatic credit expansion during the past years was directed by Beijing. Therefore the government will have to assume responsibility if bad assets grow rapidly.

The central government's public debts stand at about 18% of GDP. Adding local government borrowing and contingent liabilities in other areas, total liabilities are probably about 60% to 80% of GDP. The government still has a large pool of state-owned assets, which are worth about 15 times GDP. Therefore Beijing does have sufficient resources to prevent a systemic meltdown of the economy, at least in the short term.

Foreign investors are assuming that structural factors within China—falling property prices, rising bad loans or the like—will make for a hard landing. The greater threat is a double-dip recession abroad. Left to its own devices, China's growth would soften to just above 8%, down from 10% or more in recent years but still able to create jobs.

Only if there is another global recession would China suffer a hard landing as it suffers weak demand for its exports before it has had time to develop domestic markets.

Mr. Huang is chief economist for emerging Asia at Barclays Capital
23472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mamet on: October 12, 2011, 01:59:37 PM

There I was with a friend, and she was shopping for T-shirts for her daughter's Sweet Sixteen party.

We went to a store in Brooklyn, which did silk-screening. The owner had examples of his artwork on various articles of clothing in the window. These featured beautiful portraits of President Obama, and other compelling images.

My friend explained her needs, and the owner quoted her a price for the lot: shirts, artwork, silk-screening. "But," he said, "I could do better if you pay in cash."

Così fan tutti, which, as I understand it, means "So do they all."

But the man voted for higher taxes. Reminds me of the old joke that Oklahomans will vote their state dry as long as they can stagger to the polls.

What of taxes? Nobody likes 'em, everybody knows they are, in the main, waste, all try to avoid or defray the expenditure by means of varying legality, and yet 53% of the country voted to raise them.

Granted, many voted Democratic for reasons other than taxation, but one would think such votes may have been cast reluctantly, or as a choice of the lesser of evils, but no. Barack Obama was voted in, as far as one could see, in raptures.

But nobody likes taxes.

I was at a neighbor's house for dinner, and they'd ordered takeout Japanese food, and they had, at their table, a daughter recently returned from college. The father was deconstructing his California roll to eat it, retail, and the newly enlightened freshman explained to him that to do so was to disrespect the sushi chef who had labored to make the roll just so, and was his work worth nothing?

I commented that his work was, obviously, worth what one had paid for it—else one would not have paid—and that the price did not include "respect," and neither would the chef have requested it, for he was interested only in selling his work, after which the buyer was free to dispose of it however he would.

And I did not say, but wondered, what of respect for the poor father, who had, not incidentally, worked for the money to buy the California roll and, sorrowfully, for the money to send the young woman off to college to fill her head with trash?

How had the young Stalinist come to assume the mantle of Upholder of All Things Good; and how had the T-shirt maker come to vote against his own financial interests?

For, the more I think about it, the more the question of taxes is central to that of liberty in general. For the question is: Who is to run the country? Is it to be run by its citizens, free to exchange goods and services for mutual benefit, or by the government, increasing both its powers and its corruption by the ability to tax?

And who would be these Solons who would run our government, but the good-willed and otherwise unemployable, content to suck at the government tit, and spout trash for a living—e.g., that one may disrespect an absent sushi chef by an incorrect method of eating his California roll, or that a proportion of races in the workplace differing from the proportion of races in the populace at large is de facto evidence of discrimination?

Cut taxes and these intellectual wards of the state will have to find a method of support that actually fulfills a need. Cut taxes and the "special interests" will have no incentive to bribe or "support" a candidate to the tune of a fortune, for the candidate, if elected, will have no ability to repay the bribe.

Senators and presidents start poor and end up rich. Where did this money come from?

Whom did they have to please in order to reap the rewards, direct and indirect, upon which they retire?

Why did the T-shirt maker have to whisper when he made his offer of a legitimate exchange? And who did he think was going to pay the increased taxes he voted for? Certainly not himself, as he (like everyone else) was going to dodge as many as he could. Who but "the Rich," that magical invocation of a group in opposition to which we citizens have time and again impoverished ourselves?

The shirt maker voted for Obama, the purchaser of sushi voted for Obama. I did not vote for Obama.

Mr. Mamet is a playwright and screenwriter. His latest book, "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture" (Sentinel), was published in June
23473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: FERC and EPA about to foul up electric grid on: October 12, 2011, 01:56:26 PM
The Environmental Protection Agency's political agenda hasn't gotten any less reckless, but the news is that the rest of the government is beginning to notice—including a majority of the states and even other regulators. And now they are pushing back. This turn comes in the nick of time, since one of the EPA's more destructive rules is due to be finalized next month.

At issue is the so-called utility rule that would impose new limits on mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. The regulation is the most costly in the EPA's history in return for marginal benefits. It was rushed out to force a large portion of the country's coal-fired power plants to shut down. On top of other such de facto anticarbon rules, this could compromise the reliability of the electric system if as much as 8% of generating capacity is subtracted from the grid.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission—which is charged with protecting reliability—admitted as much last year in a preliminary analysis, only to withdraw the document and refuse to update it. But now one of FERC's five commissioners is calling out his own boss for this abdication.

In a recent letter to Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who has been probing FERC, Commissioner Phillip Moeller admits, "I can't affirm that EPA actions will not materially degrade reliability, nor can I speak for the entire Commission and how it will carry out its statutory obligations." He added that FERC "should be involved in the rulemaking process of a federal agency if such involvement helps reduce threats to reliability."

That's precisely what FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff is refusing to do, perhaps as a favor to his political patron Harry Reid. The Chairman has broad powers over FERC's work, much like a CEO, even if other commissioners dissent. The technical experts in the reliability office itself are also worried, as internal documents show. Mr. Moeller has repeatedly said he is "fuel neutral" but that as a Commissioner, "I cannot be neutral on the subject of reliability," as he put it at a September hearing.

Mr. Moeller also dismisses Mr. Wellinghoff's endorsement of a "safety valve" that would give FERC the power to overrule the EPA if it thinks its rules might lead to blackouts—but only after the fact. "I do not know what exemption process would work best for administering what may become a complex task of determining which set of power plants will need to operate for reliability purposes," Mr. Moeller writes. In other words, no regulator has the omniscience to decide which plants are "must run" and therefore deserving of a safety-valve exemption. The only way we'll know is after there's a disaster.

This week FERC said it would convene a reliability conference, but by the time it arrives in November it will be too late to convince the EPA to publish a more reasonable rule. The Texas utility Luminant has already shuttered two coal plants (farewell, 500 jobs) in response to the regulatory cascade, and many more closures are on the way.

Meanwhile, 11 Governors last week wrote to the EPA to protest the utility rule, warning that "full-time power availability could be at risk." And earlier this week 25 state Attorneys General—including four Democrats—filed suit to lift a legal document known as a consent decree that the EPA is using as a fig leaf for its political goals.

This 2008 court order says the utility rule must be issued by November, which is how the EPA justifies its aggressive political schedule. But the EPA wrote the consent decree and explicitly says, "If EPA needs more time to get it right, it can seek more time." EPA, naturally, hasn't done so—despite major errors in the proposal including one that confused "megawatts" with "gigawatts" and thereby set emissions standards that were incorrect by a factor of 1,000.

Between the Governors and AGs, some 27 states are merely asking the EPA to delay the final rule until the risks can be properly quantified, which is also Senator Murkowski's request. Despite the poor quality of its work, EPA has refused to slow down. While the new protests are welcome, at this point the only thing that will pull back the throttle is a White House intervention.

23474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Here's how to make the case on: October 12, 2011, 01:52:28 PM
There is no mystery where the Occupy Wall Street movement came from: It is an offspring of the same false narrative about the causes of the financial crisis that exculpated the government and brought us the Dodd-Frank Act. According to this story, the financial crisis and ensuing deep recession was caused by a reckless private sector driven by greed and insufficiently regulated. It is no wonder that people who hear this tale repeated endlessly in the media turn on Wall Street to express their frustration with the current conditions in the economy.

Their anger should be directed at those who developed and supported the federal government's housing policies that were responsible for the financial crisis.

Beginning in 1992, the government required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to direct a substantial portion of their mortgage financing to borrowers who were at or below the median income in their communities. The original legislative quota was 30%. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development was given authority to adjust it, and through the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations HUD raised the quota to 50% by 2000 and 55% by 2007.

It is certainly possible to find prime borrowers among people with incomes below the median. But when more than half of the mortgages Fannie and Freddie were required to buy were required to have that characteristic, these two government-sponsored enterprises had to significantly reduce their underwriting standards.

Fannie and Freddie were not the only government-backed or government-controlled organizations that were enlisted in this process. The Federal Housing Administration was competing with Fannie and Freddie for the same mortgages. And thanks to rules adopted in 1995 under the Community Reinvestment Act, regulated banks as well as savings and loan associations had to make a certain number of loans to borrowers who were at or below 80% of the median income in the areas they served.

Research by Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer of Fannie Mae (now a colleague of mine at the American Enterprise Institute) has shown that 27 million loans—half of all mortgages in the U.S.—were subprime or otherwise weak by 2008. That is, the loans were made to borrowers with blemished credit, or were loans with no or low down payments, no documentation, or required only interest payments.

Of these, over 70% were held or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie or some other government agency or government-regulated institution. Thus it is clear where the demand for these deficient mortgages came from.

The huge government investment in subprime mortgages achieved its purpose. Home ownership in the U.S. increased to 69% from 65% (where it had been for 30 years). But it also led to the biggest housing bubble in American history. This bubble, which lasted from 1997 to 2007, also created a huge private market for mortgage-backed securities (MBS) based on pools of subprime loans.

As housing bubbles grow, rising prices suppress delinquencies and defaults. People who could not meet their mortgage obligations could refinance or sell, because their houses were now worth more.

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Millionaire rap mogul Russell Simmons (center) joins the anti-Wall Street protests.
.Accordingly, by the mid-2000s, investors had begun to notice that securities based on subprime mortgages were producing the high yields, but not showing the large number of defaults, that are usually associated with subprime loans. This triggered strong investor demand for these securities, causing the growth of the first significant private market for MBS based on subprime and other risky mortgages.

By 2008, Mr. Pinto has shown, this market consisted of about 7.8 million subprime loans, somewhat less than one-third of the 27 million that were then outstanding. The private financial sector must certainly share some blame for the financial crisis, but it cannot fairly be accused of causing that crisis when only a small minority of subprime and other risky mortgages outstanding in 2008 were the result of that private activity.

When the bubble deflated in 2007, an unprecedented number of weak mortgages went into default, driving down housing prices throughout the U.S. and throwing Fannie and Freddie into insolvency. Seeing these sudden losses, investors fled from the market for privately issued MBS, and mark-to-market accounting required banks and others to write down the value of their mortgage-backed assets to the distress levels in a market that now had few buyers. This raised questions about the solvency and liquidity of the largest financial institutions and began a period of great investor anxiety.

The government's rescue of Bear Stearns in March 2008 temporarily calmed the market. But it created significant moral hazard: Market participants were led to believe that the government would rescue all large financial institutions. When Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail in September, investors panicked. They withdrew their funds from the institutions that held large amounts of privately issued MBS, causing banks and others—such as investment banks, finance companies and insurers—to hoard cash against the risk of further withdrawals. Their refusal to lend to one another in these conditions froze credit markets, bringing on what we now call the financial crisis.

The narrative that came out of these events—largely propagated by government officials and accepted by a credulous media—was that the private sector's greed and risk-taking caused the financial crisis and the government's policies were not responsible. This narrative stimulated the punitive Dodd-Frank Act—fittingly named after Congress's two key supporters of the government's destructive housing policies. It also gave us the occupiers of Wall Street.

Mr. Wallison is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was a member Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and dissented from the majority's report.
23475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: October 12, 2011, 01:46:39 PM

Forgive me, but that is quite incomplete.  Before '79 we were more than a little involved in its internal affairs and we acatively supported Saddam in his war with Iran, a war which cost some million plus lives.
23476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's planned hit on US soil on: October 12, 2011, 01:43:38 PM
Lets discuss Iran's planned hit on US soil.  Some initial questions:

a) What consequences for Saudi strategy?  Rapprochement with Baraq?  Go for its own nuke program?

b) What should US do?

c) Krauthammer made what I thought was a powerful point.  Should Iran have succeeded in a hit on our soil, then once it achieves going nuke, there is an implication that they can sneak a nuke onto US soil.
23477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iran's planned killing of Saudi ambassador on: October 12, 2011, 01:36:51 PM
One month to the day after the 10th anniversary of 9/11 comes a sobering moment in the history of the U.S. war on terror: The Department of Justice has charged that "factions of the Iranian government" plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States by blowing him up inside a Washington, D.C., restaurant.

Had it succeeded, this would have constituted an act of terror by the Islamic Republic of Iran on U.S. soil, and arguably an act of war. To those, notably an emerging isolationist wing in the Republican party, who've argued lately that the U.S. should pull its efforts back from a waning international terrorist threat to focus on domestic concerns, this event is a wake-up call.

Related Video
 Matt Kaminski on Iranian plots to bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington D.C.
..One of the two central figures in the alleged plot, Manssor Arbabsiar—described as a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen with Iranian and U.S. passports—was arrested September 29 at JFK Airport in New York. At a July 17 planning meeting in Mexico, an undercover U.S. agent suggested to Arbabsiar that the assassination would cause mass casualties. Arbabsiar replied: "They [the Iranians] want that guy done; if the hundred go with him, f**k 'em."

The announcement was made yesterday in Washington by Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, an assistant attorney general for national security and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In short, this is not a group of American guys gone off the rails in New Jersey.

The second figure named in the alleged plot, and Arbabsiar's Iranian contact, was identified as Gholam Shakuri, a member of Iran's Qods force and still at large. Qods is described in the Justice charge sheet as "a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that is said to sponsor and promote terrorist activities abroad."

Justice also makes clear that this effort in Iran extended beyond these two men, referring several times to their "Iran-based co-conspirators." After Arbabsiar's arrest, he was directed to phone Shakuri in Iran, who said on October 5, last Wednesday: "[j]ust do it quickly; it's late . . ."

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at a news conference on the details of a bomb plot targeting the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
.This appalling news needs to be placed in the broader context of Iran's behavior. One of the charges brought by the U.S. against the two men is "conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism transcending national boundaries." That aptly describes what seems to occupy much of the Iranian government's waking hours.

This June, the International Atomic Energy Agency made public its recent reporting on Iran's nuclear program. Listed in the report's suspected activities were "producing uranium metal . . . into components relevant to a nuclear device" and "missile re-entry vehicle redesign activities for a new payload assessed as being nuclear in nature."

The good news in yesterday's announcement, and in earlier successes, is that U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence appear to have taken the lessons of 9/11 to heart. They got serious about terror and are able to thwart potential disasters such as this, though we wonder how many others are in train.

Less reassuring is the lapsed seriousness by the West's political leadership about Iran's threat. The U.S. and its allies have imposed sanction regimes on Iran, but they have allowed legalistic definitions to free Iranian officials with ties to its nuclearization program to flout travel bans and such.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives annually to rant from a podium at the United Nations on the East River. Iran is about much more than these antic rants, and its resources are vastly greater than al Qaeda's. It sees itself as at war with the U.S., Europe, Israel and now obviously Saudi Arabia. As obvious, it sees itself as immune to effective retaliation against its repeated, or planned, offensives. It's past time for U.S. policy toward Iran to reflect the reality of what it is dealing with.

23478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Track record of Green Subsidies on: October 12, 2011, 01:33:47 PM
While Solyndra LLC's flameout has fueled criticism of federal initiatives to encourage alternative power sources, the solar-panel maker is hardly the only disappointment among U.S.-backed energy programs.

That's evident in California, which was awarded $4.6 billion by the Energy Department as part of the 2009 Recovery Act—far more than any other state—to fund programs in energy efficiency and other areas.

A program to install insulation and other energy-saving improvements in homes that received $185.8 million has been hobbled by delays, and a plan to remodel buildings to be more energy-efficient, which received $113 million, has struggled to persuade enough home and building owners to upgrade, according to California officials.

Meanwhile, $15 million went to train workers in skills such as solar-panel installation, but 62% of that program's alumni remain jobless, according to the state Employment Development Department. Solyndra, which declared bankruptcy in August and is now embroiled in a criminal investigation over whether it defrauded the federal government, got $535 million, nearly 12% of California's total under the energy program.

What all of these programs have in common is that they tried to scale up very quickly in the midst of regulatory uncertainty and a sluggish economic recovery that hurt demand for energy-efficient products, said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Such factors "definitely negatively affected" some of California's clean-energy programs, said Panama Bartholomy, a deputy director at the California Clean Energy Commission.

California's experience isn't unusual, and some states have fared worse. The Energy Department found in August and September that the building-weatherization programs it helped fund in Missouri and Tennessee had quality problems and other issues that it said "could pose health and safety risks to residents, hinder production, and increase program costs."

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Close.Jen Stutsman, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said the 2009 Recovery Act "helped to create tens of thousands of clean-energy jobs in California and across the country."

Other investments in California appear to be more successful. BrightSource Energy Inc., which received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee, says it remains on track to build a project expected to nearly double the amount of solar-thermal energy in the U.S. and create 1,400 jobs. An $18.8 million EnergySmart Jobs program, which trains people to install electricity-saving features in grocery stores while giving rebates to those stores for their investment, has resulted in 2,070 upgrades. Jerry McLaughlin, vice president of operations at Spencer's Fresh Markets, a small California grocery chain, said an energy monitor installed under the program in one store's freezers should save $500 to $900 a month.

The Energy Department handed out $35.2 billion from the Recovery Act for energy efficiency and other initiatives. At the time, clean energy was seen as a potentially powerful industry for job creation.

But the industry has yet to provide the boost many had hoped for. Nationwide, jobs related to energy efficiency rose to 2.7 million people last year, up 27% from 2003, compared with overall job growth of 33%, according to the Brookings Institution. The figures exclude jobs lost because of establishments closing.

In California, the weatherization program ran into challenges because of a federal government delay in issuing prevailing-wage rates for the workers involved and inexperience of those administering the program. In July, state auditor Elaine Howle wrote that the program "faces challenges" in weatherizing enough homes by a deadline next year.

Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for California's Department of Community Services, said the program is on track to use all but $18 million to $22 million of the total $185.8 million in funds. As of Sept. 30, California had weatherized nearly 37,000 homes and expects to reach its target of 43,150 homes before the program ends.

Meanwhile, the program to remodel houses and commercial buildings to use energy more efficiently was hurt after the Federal Housing Finance Agency warned in 2010 of "significant safety and soundness concerns" over a financing method the program planned to use, said the California Energy Commission. While the program had hoped to upgrade 15,000 buildings, only 6,342 are finished or in progress.

The sluggishness of the overall economy and slow adoptions of energy upgrades also have hurt training program for clean-energy workers, which combined recovery funds with state money to train 4,719 people in skills such as building energy-efficient houses since January 2010. Of the 2,931 who exited the program as of mid-September, only 1,104 found work, according to the state Employment Development Department.

Among those who remain unemployed is Jim Criscione. The 61-year-old, who lives near San Francisco, worked in construction for decades before he was let go in late 2009. In January, he signed up for free classes to learn skills such as installing solar panels.

But after Mr. Criscione finished his classes and applied for work, he struck out repeatedly. With unemployment benefits set to expire, he wonders if his time was wasted. "I'm down to almost anything to make a living," he said.

23479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / On the Constitution on: October 12, 2011, 12:24:00 PM
"[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments." --Alexander Hamilton, letter to James Bayard, 1802

"A constitution founded on these principles introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal." --John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." --Thomas Jefferson, fair copy of the drafts of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798

"If it be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws -- the first growing out of the last. ... A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government." --Alexander Hamilton, Essay in the American Daily Advertiser, 1794
23480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: October 12, 2011, 12:18:34 PM
I was driving back from Lodi last night and missed the debate.  How did it go?  Anyone have a URL of the whole thing?
23481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 12, 2011, 12:16:56 PM
IMHO many of us of the American Creed are missing a real opportunity to take leadership on a vast inchoate and correct sense that many on Wall Street and in banking acted very badly (e.g. packaging bad mortgages and shovelling them out the door, knowing that the FMs would be there as a back-up.).  Our system is intended for a virtuous people and many have acted very unvirtuously in all of this.

The point we need to make to these people is that in a large sense they are right, there WERE bailouts, and bonuses for the nefarious.  The next point we need to make is that this happened PRECISELY because the government was involved (artificial interest rates, guaranteed mortgages, etc) and that this involvement is the essence of liberal fascism.
23482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Trade Issues / Freedom to Trade on: October 12, 2011, 12:04:10 PM
I agree with the benefits of free trade.   Free trade also includes capital flows, and China's currency is strongly controlled.  Its exchange rate policies are exceeding mercantilist and deeply unfair to many Americans productive efforts.

Immelt is not someone whose words carry much weight with me.  Amongst the various reason is that IIRC he has been quite a scumbag with regard to trading with Iran.  Is that we he means by free trade?  Certainly not directly responsive to the question presented here, but still a point that gets on my nerves with regard to him.
23483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: October 12, 2011, 11:56:24 AM
Egypt: Verifying Facts in a Crisis Event
The violence at the Maspero building in Egypt on Sunday was what STRATFOR refers to internally as a crisis event. Whenever a crisis event breaks out, the first task for any STRATFOR analyst is to rapidly wade through a sea of confusing media reports in an effort to separate fact from fiction. This is a difficult task given the nature of initial media reports — written under pressure, often with limited information — that are often the first source of information in such a situation. As the hours pass, the actuality of the event sometimes becomes more clear and sometimes, less so. In the case of the Maspero protest, it is hard to determine which one was the case.
STRATFOR gets its information from a variety of places. Human intelligence from sources on the ground in locations all over the world is a prime resource. But so is open-source intelligence, or published material. There is a multitude of readily available outlets for open-source intelligence, including online newspapers, 24-hour cable news channels and social media services. Translation services of foreign language media — once the domain of government intelligence agencies — are now also largely open to the public. The quantity of raw information provided by open-source intelligence is substantial, but the quality is not always superior to what can be gained from human intelligence.
“The key is to find the actual source of the information rather than relying on what someone else reports about a report.”
In this instance, a STRATFOR analyst was in Cairo at the time of the protest; in fact, STRATFOR was alerted to the event by this analyst. Open-source reports were checked against the analyst’s direct knowledge of events. The analyst’s observations and interactions with multiple sources were key factors in shaping our coverage of the violence.
A debate is under way in Egypt regarding the conduct of its state media outlets on Sunday. This controversy underlines the obvious problems with relying on state media reports to discover what has actually happened in a crisis event. Immediately after violence erupted at Maspero, some state TV channels explicitly blamed Coptic demonstrators for the reports of gunfire directed at the Egyptian troops who were providing security at the building. The reports of three dead Egyptian soldiers also originated from state media. Some state TV anchors then exhorted Egyptian citizens to take to the streets and protect the army from the Copts, further inflaming the situation.
This behavior generated criticism that state media was seeking to instigate sectarian strife between Egyptians, which would then be used to justify a security crackdown by the military. Egyptians who want the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to relinquish power immediately to a civilian government have expressed their views primarily through social media, especially Twitter. These media platforms are tailor-made for short dispatches from street protests and are suited to those with access to the technology they require. These views have been subsequently transmitted by privately owned Egyptian media, as well as mainstream media outlets based in other countries.
The most explosive claim to come out of the Sunday protests is that people in the crowd (whether Copts or not) used firearms against Egyptian soldiers, killing three of them. These claims have brought  post-Mubarak Egypt into a new phase; such violence against the military has been taboo up until this point. The Egyptian government, unlike state media, did not directly blame the Copts. Nor did the SCAF. Official statements issued by both entities on Sunday and Monday sought to soothe sectarian tensions and emphasized that the identities of the alleged shooters remained unknown. These comments have not calmed the anti-SCAF camp, however. Many of these people do not believe any Egyptian soldiers were even killed, citing as evidence the fact that their identities have not yet been released. Others claim that the alleged shooters were saboteurs who infiltrated the crowds to paint the Copts in a negative light or to generate an SCAF crackdown necessitated by the need to prevent sectarian tensions from rising any higher.
Just as state media can be an untrustworthy source at times, so can claims spread on social media by the anti-SCAF segment of Egyptian society. Take, for example, a report posted on Twitter on Monday, which claimed that state-owned Nile TV had retracted its claim that soldiers had been killed during the Maspero protest. All that appeared on Twitter were the words, “Nile TV has announced that there were no soldiers killed in Maspero yesterday, and blamed the announcer being distraught.” There was no link provided to the original broadcast, no transcript and no context, but within minutes it had gone viral.
Clearly this would have been an extremely significant development, and only after closer inspection did STRATFOR clear up what had actually happened. A journalist not affiliated with Nile TV was in the studio and stated on-air that there was no evidence of Coptic involvement in the soldiers’ deaths. He also criticized state media for the way it reported on the Maspero violence. The Nile TV anchor refuted this criticism and the station maintained it had done nothing wrong in its coverage. There was no retraction; state media stood by its story.
This case clearly reflects the flaws of Twitter and the lightning speed of information in the age of social media. Stories spread almost without delay, which is helpful when one needs to gain immediate knowledge about events happening on the other side of the globe. Unfortunately, some of those stories are either misrepresentations of actual events or deliberate disinformation that winds up going viral. The key is to find the actual source of the information rather than relying on what someone else reports about a report. To avoid spreading disinformation, STRATFOR always attempts to confirm from the original source.
There is no perfect source of information. Reality is hard to discern, and it is always subject to debate. The only way to find it is to look around every corner.
23484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: October 12, 2011, 11:51:00 AM
In general, I sense that we are WAY behind the curve viz the Chinese and cyber war.  They have determined that our reliance on such things is an Achilles heel for us and have focused their considerable talents on this.
23485  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 12, 2011, 11:47:09 AM
IIRC he was delivering the groin shots.
23486  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Beat The Crap Out Of Cancer 2 on: October 12, 2011, 11:05:51 AM
Good work Growling Dog!
23487  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / D.F. becoming part of battleground on: October 12, 2011, 10:57:49 AM
In this week’s Above the Tearline, we are going to examine two recent brutal events in Mexico which could mean that the cartels are taking the fight to Mexico City.
We’ve been following cartel violence for quite some time at STRATFOR and it’s very easy to become numb to the levels of brutality that we see. From body dumps in Veracruz, to firefights across from Roma, Texas, with incursions into the United States.
However, there have been two recent events in Mexico City that give us cause to re-evaluate what could be occurring here and they are the murder of the two female journalists that were found naked, bound and gagged and their bodies dumped in a park in Mexico City. And most recently two severed heads were found on Oct. 3 in close proximity to the Mexican military office Sedena in Mexico City. These two recent brutal events are unusual in that it happened in Mexico City, which has historically been spared the levels of violence we have seen elsewhere throughout Mexico. The signal resonates with the murder of the journalists, which is a very powerful example to others who may be writing about cartel activity inside of Mexico, and now with the severed heads being found in close proximity to the Mexican military office, this is also a very powerful signal to the Mexican military from the cartels that anybody is accessible in Mexico.
In doing assessments of countries or monitoring the scope of violence that could be occurring, you’re consistently looking for tripwires that are crossed or anomalies which are outside the norm, and those are incidents such as what we have seen unfold here.
The Above the Tearline with this video is the tactical shift that could be taking place here with the cartels striking inside the Mexican capital, specifically targeting journalists and the Mexican military. The symbolism resonates, and it also clearly shows that the cartels are very capable of reaching out and targeting whoever they want throughout the country, even in the capital city of Mexico.


23488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: October 11, 2011, 12:29:56 AM

et seq.
23489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 11, 2011, 12:29:08 AM
23490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 11, 2011, 12:06:25 AM
The Patriot Post
Brief -- Monday, October 10, 2011
On the Web:
Printer Friendly:
PDF Version:


The Foundation

"To cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying the objects
of enterprise, is not among the least considerable of the expedients, by which the
wealth of a nation may be promoted." --Alexander Hamilton



"One of my favorite economics essays from which I've drawn bottomless inspiration is
Leonard Read's 'I, Pencil.' ... Read traces the family tree of the pencil from the
Oregon loggers who harvest its cedar wood, to the California millworkers who cut the
wood into thin slats, to Mississippi refinery workers, to the Dutch East Indies
farmers who produce an oil used to make erasers. ... Read illuminates: 'There is a
fact still more astounding: The absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or
forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of
such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work.' ...
Appreciating this voluntary configuration of human energies, Read argued, is key to
possessing 'an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people.
Freedom is impossible without this faith.' Indeed. Without that faith, we are
susceptible to the force of class-warfare mobs and the arrogance of
command-and-control bureaucrats in Washington who believe the role of private
American entrepreneurs, producers and wealth generators is to 'grow the economy' and
who 'think at some point you have made enough money.' The progressives who want to
bring down 'Wall Street' will snipe that [Apple co-founder Steve] Jobs was one of
'theirs,' not 'ours.' He belonged to no one. He was transcendently committed to
excellence and beauty and innovation. And yes, he made gobs of money pursuing it all
while benefiting hundreds of millions of people around the world whom he never met,
but who shed a deep river of tears upon learning of his death [last] week. From 'I,
Pencil' to iPhone, such is the profound, everlasting miracle of iCapitalism -- a
triumph of individualism over collectivism, freedom over force and markets over
master planning. To borrow an old Apple slogan: It just works." --columnist Michelle


For the Record

"From [his Thursday news] conference we are reminded that Obama believes that: Only
'big and bold' intervention by the government can get an economy moving.... Anyone
who disagrees with or opposes him is engaging in partisan politics rather than
acting in good faith, on principle and in the best interests of the country. ... It
doesn't matter that he famously breached his promise that unemployment would not
exceed 8 percent if Congress passed his stimulus bill or that studies show that only
7 percent of the stimulus money went toward infrastructure despite his commitments
to the contrary. ... His good intentions also exempt him from accountability on the
Solyndra scandal, because his ideology inclines him toward a blind faith in the
existence of cataclysmic man-made global warming, which in turn requires him to
mandate government subsidization of 'green technologies.' ... He has complete
confidence in Eric Holder, so he doesn't need to worry about the facts on 'Fast and
Furious,' either.... Thursday, he told us yet again that our economic mess was
created by George W. Bush, the Japanese tsunami, the two wars, the Republicans'
gamesmanship over the debt ceiling, and Europe's financial instability. ... Our
chief executive either is a mastermind at Machiavellian manipulation or has deep
psychological and emotional problems. I've never seen an adult in an important
leadership position -- especially not the president of the United States -- show
such frightening immaturity and self-absorption." --columnist David Limbaugh


Essential Liberty

"Freedom frightens some people. They say if no one is in charge there would be
chaos. That is intuitive, but think about a skating rink. Before rinks were
invented, if you proposed an amusement in which people strap blades to their feet
and skate around on ice at whatever speeds they wish, you'd have been called crazy.
There's got to be speed limits, stoplights, turn signals. But we know that people
navigate rinks safely on their own. They create their own order, with only minimal
rules. Society would work the same way -- and does to a large extent even today.
'Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of
government,' Thomas Paine, the soul of the American Revolution, wrote. 'It has its
origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. ... Common
interest (has) a greater influence than the laws of government.'" --columnist John
( )


Opinion in Brief

"Dan Rather opened a CBS Evening News broadcast in 1991 declaring, 'one in eight
American children is going hungry tonight.' Newsweek, the Associated Press and the
Boston Globe repeated this statistic, and many others joined the media chorus, with
or without that unsubstantiated statistic. When the Centers for Disease Control and
the Department of Agriculture examined people from a variety of income levels,
however, they found no evidence of malnutrition among those in the lowest income
brackets. Nor was there any significant difference in the intake of vitamins,
minerals and other nutrients from one income level to another. That should have been
the end of that hysteria. But the same 'hunger in America' theme reappeared years
later, when Senator John Edwards was running for Vice President. And others have
resurrected that same claim, right up to the present day. ... We have now reached
the point where the great majority of the people living below the official poverty
level have such things as air-conditioning, microwave ovens, either videocassette
recorders or DVD players, and own either a car or a truck. Why are such people
called 'poor'? Because they meet the arbitrary criteria established by Washington
bureaucrats. ... Those who believe in an expansive, nanny state government need a
large number of people in 'poverty' to justify their programs. They also need a
large number of people dependent on government to provide the votes needed to keep
the big nanny state going." --economist Thomas Sowell
( )


The Gipper

"The economic welfare of all our people must ultimately stem not from government
programs, but from the wealth created by a vigorous private sector." --Ronald Reagan
( )


Re: The Left

"I agree with the Obama administration's decision to kill the American-born al-Qaeda
recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki. What I can't fathom is why the administration agrees with
me. ... The Constitution empowers the president to put down insurrection, and what
was Awlaki if not an insurrectionist? ... But here's where I am confused. According
to Attorney General Eric Holder, the administration is committed to treating
captured terrorists as criminals, entitled to all of the rights and privileges of a
civilian criminal trial. It seems the Defense Department disagrees, given that some
lesser-known prisoners are allegedly kept on ships -- call them floating Gitmos --
without trials. Meanwhile, President Obama keeps ordering that the more famous
terrorists be killed on sight. That's fine with me. But as far as I can tell, he's
never disagreed with Holder's view about the need for civilian trials for terrorists
we don't kill, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. ... If captured alive, terrorists pose
political problems for Obama. Where do we put them? How do we interrogate them? And,
most pressingly, how do we try them? I don't think those are tough questions. But
Obama does. So he prefers to kill these people outright, avoiding the questions
altogether." --columnist Jonah Goldberg
( )


Political Futures

"In this election cycle, the battle isn't between the old media and the new media
anymore. It is between the Tea Party and the GOP establishment. ... But the
establishment GOP sees the Tea Party as a threat, for two reasons. First, they think
that the Tea Party is more interested in principle than victory. ... Second, the
establishment GOP is not aligned with the philosophy of the Tea Party. They like the
philosophy of a Democrat-lite: more efficient, effective government, but not
necessarily a smaller one. ... When conservatism is politically inconvenient, it
sometimes wins (see Reagan) and it sometimes loses (see Goldwater). But when
conservatism embraces the politics of convenience, it always loses." --columnist Ben


Faith & Family

"Why is it so hard to become a better person? I have -- unfortunately -- come up
with 13 reasons. 1. Most people don't particularly want to be good. ... 2. Confusion
exists about what goodness is. ... 3. Goodness is not about intentions. ... 4. We
don't learn how to be good. ... 5. We think too highly of ourselves. ... 6. We think
we will be taken advantage of. ... 7. There are few personal models. ... 8. We don't
believe that there are rewards for being good. ... 9. We have to battle our nature.
... 10. 'I'm a victim.' ... 11. Few people were raised to be good people. ... 12. In
our formative years, the least impressive are rewarded. ... 13. We have
psychological blocks. ... The sad irony is that while goodness is the thing that
everyone wants most from everyone else, few people want it most for themselves."
--radio talk-show host Dennis Prager



"All the numbers that are supposed to document the rise of the modern university may
only disguise its decline. And obscure the deterioration of liberal education under
the care of those who are supposed to be its stewards. Increasingly, college
students are expected to know more and more about less and less -- everything about
their specialty, not that much about the arts and sciences that compose the core of
education, and of civilization. In his preface to 'Culture and Anarchy,' Matthew
Arnold said the purpose of education was to pass on 'the best which has been thought
and said.' That choice -- between culture and anarchy -- is still before us. Look
about at an educational system in which pop culture steadily replaces the real
thing, and various new capital-S Studies (Black, Gender, Women's, Ethnic, Gay,
Trans-Gender, pick your favorite) supplant traditional disciplines. When the best of
what has been thought and said is demoted to just another elective, you have to
wonder if anarchy isn't getting the upper hand." --columnist Paul Greenberg
( )

23491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 3 Soldiers killed on: October 11, 2011, 12:02:36 AM
October 10, 2011


Analyst Bayless Parsley examines the reported death of three Egyptian soldiers
during the Oct. 9 riots and discusses how the deaths mark a new phase in
post-Mubarak Egypt.

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

The official death toll from yesterday's protest in Cairo has risen to 24, with 272
reported injured. Of the 24 reported killed outside of Egypt's state TV and radio
building, three were allegedly Egyptian soldiers. This would be the first time that
protesters outside of the Sinai have used firearms against the Egyptian military and
marks a new phase in post-Mubarak Egypt.

Oct. 9 was the most violent day in Egypt since the fall of Mubarak and many
Egyptians are now calling it "Black Sunday." What began as a Coptic protest march
from northern Cairo to the state TV building known as Maspero, devolved into a melee
that led to the deaths of over 20 people. Multiple military vehicles were set on
fire, military issue armored personnel carriers were driven through crowds of people
at high speeds and at some point someone from within the crowd fired upon a group of
soldiers who were providing security outside of Maspero. This would be the first
time that any protester in Egypt has used a firearm against an Egyptian soldier
since the demonstrations began in January, and if true, marks a dramatic shift in

The protest was organized by a handful of Coptic activist groups who have organized
demonstrations outside of Maspero in the past. Shortly after the violence broke out,
state media blamed the Copts explicitly. Some of these guys even exhorted people to
go out on the streets and protect the army from the Copts. In a country that has
seen sectarian tensions between Copts and certain portions of the majority Muslim
population, it came as no surprise that within a short time, mobs of Muslim men
began to arrive at Maspero carrying torches and sticks. STRATFOR sources on the
ground in Cairo reported witnessing Copts being beaten by civilians expressing
solidarity with the military. While this was happening, anti-military crowds were
converging at nearby Tahrir Square, protesting against the violence used by the
soldiers at Maspero. The two groups later clashed in the square, though no deaths
were reported.

The violence on Sunday was an extremely polarizing event in Egypt. Until now,
violence against the military has been taboo, while the military has avoided using
this much force against the demonstrators as well. The deaths have brought to the
forefront a growing chasm in Egypt between two overarching camps: those who espouse
unity with military and those who openly advocate for the end of military rule. The
government and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces itself have both issued
official statements wishing to calm people's emotions and blame a foreign hand for
instigating the violence. Neither have openly blamed Coptic demonstrators as state
media did in the immediate aftermath of the violence breaking out on Sunday, but
this will not convince either side to moderate their positions in the near future.
As the sectarian issue grows in stature, so too will the chasm between the two
camps, divided over what the role of the military should be, as security conditions
deteriorate in Egypt. The questions now are whether the military will use what
happened on Oct. 9 to justify an increased crackdown on dissidents and how the
events will affect the image of the military in the eyes of Egyptians who normally
stay away from politics.
More Videos -

23492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: October 10, 2011, 10:31:54 AM
There is also the matter of Baraq's mysterious comment at an anti-gun event to someone that "I can't tell you about it, but we are working on something under the radar."
23493  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: October 06, 2011, 07:00:17 PM
On road for next six days.  Minimal presence here. 

Carry on!

23494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 06, 2011, 06:59:55 PM
On road for next six days.  Minimal presence here. 

Carry on!

23495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: A shifting battleground- 1 on: October 06, 2011, 05:02:39 PM
•   Europe: A Shifting Battleground, Part 1
There are two important events coming up in Central Europe this weekend: the first being a summit of the Visegrad Four countries and the second is general elections in Poland. These two events give STRATFOR the opportunity to examine the importance of the region in the current context and looking forward as well.
The first event is the Visegrad summit which will take place in Hungary from Oct. 7 to the 8. The presidents of the four Visegrad states, which include Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, will all be in attendance at the summit, which will mark the twentieth anniversary of the grouping. The summit will also mark the achievements of the bloc, which is most notably the introduction of all four Visgrad countries into the European Union and into NATO in the 2000s.
But more importantly the summit will be an opportunity to gauge where the bloc is headed in the future. There’s no shortage of problems in Europe right now, ranging from the eurozone debt crisis to growing pressures and divisions on NATO. It will thus be key to see whether the four Visegrad countries can show the same level of cooperation in addressing the issues that these two blocs face, as they did in joining them.
The second important event of this coming weekend will be the Polish general elections, which will take place on Oct. 9. These elections are, at this point, closely contested between the ruling Civic Platform Party of Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the opposition PiS party. But regardless of who wins the elections, there are deeper geopolitical issues that are facing Poland right now that any government would need to handle. While Poland has shown nascent signs of emerging as a leader of Central Europe, Warsaw is still trying to find its place within wider Europe.
It’s often left out discussions with major European countries like Germany and France, specifically over important issues like the eurozone debt crisis. The prevailing question in Poland is how the country can become a member of the group of established Western European countries, while also maintaining a leadership role in Central and Eastern Europe via initiatives like the Visegrad Four and the Eastern Partnership Program, which is a Polish led initiative to bring six former Soviet countries closer to the EU.
This question has become even more important for Poland as a resurgent Russia has been strengthening its relationship with key Western European countries, which is a concerning development for Warsaw. Therefore, no matter what declarations are made at the Visegrad summit and no matter which party gets more of votes in the Polish general elections, both events are subject to deeper geopolitical forces that will continue to shape the region regardless of policies or personalities.
23496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: October 06, 2011, 05:00:42 PM
I'm thinking of a Rep candidate with a Latino crowd, especially a Mex-American one pointing out just who it was that vilely held Mexican lives of lesser account than his political agenda.
23497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An attack idea on: October 06, 2011, 01:43:09 PM
Might it serve the Republican efforts with the Latino vote to point out that Baraq, Holder, et al were perfectly willing to be accessories to the killing of Mexican citizens, innocent and otherwise, by sending thousands of guns to Mexico in order to increase US gun control laws?

23498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Reallity mugs Susan Rice on: October 06, 2011, 01:14:08 PM
To watch a liberal get mugged by reality, do an Internet search for the video of Susan Rice at Tuesday night's Security Council debate on Syria. America's envoy to the United Nations slammed the Russian and Chinese vetoes of a "vastly watered down" resolution that criticized the Assad regime's brutal repression of its own people. Ms. Rice pronounced herself "outraged" at the U.N.'s inaction.

Soon after, on Twitter, @AmbassadorRice vented her views in five messages. "This is a sad day," she wrote. "Most especially for the people of #Syria, but also for the UN Security Council." A few seconds later, she offered a follow-on: "We will not rest until the Council rises to meet its responsibilities."

Good luck with that, Madam Ambassador. Unlike Moammar Gadhafi—a dictator who made so many enemies in the Arab world and beyond that he couldn't count on Moscow or Beijing's U.N. support—Syria's Bashar Assad is a murderer in good authoritarian standing. His security forces have killed at least 2,700 civilians and put thousands more in torture prisons. But this didn't keep the Sino-Russian duo from coming to his aid—the first time they have cast their vetoes together since 2008, when they blocked a resolution condemning Robert Mugabe's human-rights record.

Meanwhile, beyond the confines of Turtle Bay, real steps are being taken against Damascus. The U.S. and the European Union have already adopted sanctions targeting Syria's oil exports, along with the assets of the regime's top officials. Turkey broke its ties with Damascus, and Ankara this week announced military maneuvers along its Syrian border.

So why, except for reasons of masochism or moral abdication, does the Obama Administration insist on obtaining a symbolic and toothless U.N. resolution? In the seven months since the Syrian uprising started, the Security Council hasn't even mustered the votes to issue a press statement. As for the proposed resolution, it did no more than condemn Syria's human-rights violation and encourage an open political process. It included no sanctions. It didn't even contain the threat of sanctions.

The Syrian people will make their own history, with or without the U.N.'s moral imprimatur. An opposition council on the Libyan model recently formed in Istanbul. With each defection of a military conscript or senior officer, the Assad regime grows weaker. Maybe once the lesson delivered at the U.N. this week sinks in, the Obama Administration might take further steps to oust Mr. Assad. Leading from the front would be out of character for this Administration, but so was Ms. Rice's disgust this week with the U.N.

23499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pork banned in OH prisons on: October 06, 2011, 09:38:21 AM
23500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Shedlock: Keynsian Deflation on: October 06, 2011, 08:33:46 AM

A reader from Germany has questions regarding the role of credit in my deflation thesis. Josef writes:

Hello Mish

I am trying to understand your reasoning in the discussion about inflation vs. deflation.  One of the things I don't understand is the role of "credit". You write that "the market value of credit is collapsing at an amazing rate".  But isn't "credit" the same as "debt"?  When the market value of debt falls, then I wouldn't I need less "real estate" to get rid of my debt? Please, can you spend a minute to clarify this contradiction.
No Contradiction

Hello Josef,

An accepted offer for credit is a loan, resulting in debt for the borrower, and an asset (the loan) on the balance sheet of the lender (typically a bank or finance company). So yes debt = credit extended (plus agreed upon interest).

When the value of assets (loans) drop significantly, banks become capital impaired and cannot lend. This is happening now even though banks are hiding losses by not marking assets to market prices.

We have heard absurd statements from the Central bank of France that there are no toxic assets on French bank balance sheets. The market price of Greek debt says otherwise.

Plunge in Mark-to-Market Prices of Bank Assets

We can infer marked-to market plunges in value of bank assets by the enormous drops in financial stocks this year. We know the value of debt on the balance sheets of banks has collapsed, even if banks deny it.

Inability to pay back debt also shows up in credit default swaps, sovereign debt ratings, and soaring bond yields of Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy vs. Germany.

These credit actions show a demand for safe hiding places such as US and German government bonds and cash. We can see that in record low US treasury yields and German government bond yields.

Debt Not Marked-to-Market

The second question is where your error is "wouldn't I need less real estate to get rid of my debt?"

The debt remains until it is written off. In the US, people still owe more on their houses than they can pay back. The money is owed but will not be paid back. The same applied to may types of loans including auto loans, credit card debt, home equity lines, etc.

Enormous Foreclosure Backlog

US Banks have the value of their assets (mortgage loans, commercial real estate loans, consumer credit loans), at prices that do not reflect likelihood of default and thus that debt is not marked-to-market.

Writedowns are deflation in action, and they are coming.

In many instances, people walk away from mortgage debt. In those cases banks eventually foreclose. The key word is "eventually" as the list of pending foreclosures is measured in decades at the current rate.

Please see First Time Foreclosure Starts Near 3-Year Lows, However Bad News Overwhelms; Foreclosure Pipeline in NY is 693 months and 621 Months in NJ for details.

US Writedowns Coming on REOs

When homeowners walk away or go bankrupt, generally they are relieved of debt. However the problem for banks does not go away.

After foreclosure, banks have a different asset on the books. It is no longer a loan, but rather REO (Real Estate Owned).

What do you think those houses on the balance sheets of banks are worth vs. the value banks hypothesize they are worth?

Once again, this capital impairment shows up in banks inability and unwillingness to lend. When banks don't lend, businesses don't expand, and when businesses don't expand unemployment stays high.

This deflationary cycle feeds on itself until home prices fall to the point where there is genuine demand for them and banks are recapitalized.

European Writedowns

The biggest debt problem in Europe is in regards to loans made by French and German banks to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

The ECB, EU, and IMF compounded the problem by throwing more money at Greece, on terms and timelines Greece cannot possibly pay back.

Europe has other huge structural issues regarding productivity in Spain and Greece vs. Germany, and in currency union that cannot possibly work given the lack of a fiscal union.

Poor Policies by IMF, EU, ECB, Fed

EU, IMF, ECB, and Fed policies in the US and Europe were designed to hide losses on real estate loans, to hide losses on sovereign debt loans to Greece, Spain, Portugal etc, and to prevent losses to banks and bondholders.

Barry Ritholtz had an excellent column on that yesterday called Banking’s Self Inflicted Wounds.

Policies of governments and central banks that bail out private banks are wrong because they place more burden on already over-extended and deep in debt taxpayers who are not equipped to take on more debt.

The deflationary backdrop will persist until debt is written off, consumer deleveraging peaks, home prices fall to affordable values, and global structural imbalances fixed. The situation is not encouraging because of five critical problems.

Five Critical Problems

Keynesian clowns everywhere refuse to accept the fact that debt is the problem and one cannot possibly spend one's way out of debt crisis.
Europe has structural problems related to the currency union, productivity, union work rules, pensions, retirement, and country-specific fiscal problems.
The US has structural problems related to prevailing wages, collective bargaining of public unions, corporate tax policies, etc.
Stimulus and bailouts are bad enough in and of themselves, but stimulus and bailouts without fixing structural problems is insanity.
Politicians on both continents refuse to address structural issues

Process is Important, Not the Term

It's important to not get hung up on the term "deflation" but rather to understand the process I am describing, the implications of that process, and why the policy actions taken have not worked (and cannot possibly work), all called well in advance.

For more on the process of deflation (regardless of what one wants to call it), please see Bizarro World Inflation; About that 2011 Hyperinflation Call ...

Yes Virginia, U.S. Back in Deflation; Inflation Scare Ends; Hyperinflationists Wrong Twice Over

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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