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23451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 23, 2008, 02:55:36 PM
Some of you may have noticed the presence in this thread of President Reagan.  It is because I think him as having added genuinely and at a profound level, added to the DNA of the American creed.

Although there are areas of MLK's thinking which do not belong in this thread (and ones with which I disagree in whole or part are posted, I will delete them  cheesy ) there most certainly are areas of his thinking that do, so, for the first time here, Martin Luther King.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
23452  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Clips on: October 23, 2008, 01:05:04 PM
I am reminded of a saying I heard often in Mexico:

"Todo es prohibido, todo es posible." ("Everything is prohibited.  Everything is possible")

During a three day stay in a Mexican prison in Chiapas (the state that borders Guatemala) I was not there long enough to see a lot, but had the sense of tremendous , , , flexibility in the application of rules.  Furthermore, I work regularly with a Mexican prison SWAT type team in the state of Mexico (see the clip on our multimedia page of the day when I met them).  I remember one conversation after I had shown our DLO Dogcatcher defense against the prison sewing machine.   I was asked about reverse grip attacks.  As the interaction continued, I realized that they were not talking about an icepick type of attack, but a reverse grip attack with the blade laying along the forearm.  This tends to be a slashing attack instead of a thrusting attack which suprised me quite a bit.  Thinking in American terms I asked how the cons made good edges. "Oh, we're not talking about shanks made here in the prison they explained, but real knives that get in through corruption" they explained.
23453  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / GM Narrie Babao on: October 23, 2008, 12:56:43 PM
Woof All:

Does anyone have contact info for GM Narrie Babao of the San Diego CA area?

TIA,
Crafty Dog
23454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 23, 2008, 12:04:22 PM
Some of the best comes towards the end

http://hotair.com/archives/2008/10/21/the-comprehensive-argument-against-barack-obama/
23455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 23, 2008, 11:46:18 AM
Hatin' Palin She's not the reason Americans can't stand their politicians.By DANIEL HENNINGER
Article
 Video
 more in Opinion »Email Printer Friendly Share:
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The abuse being heaped on Sarah Palin is such a cheap shot.

The complaint against the Alaska governor, at its most basic, is that she doesn't qualify for admission to the national political fraternity. Boy, that's rich. Behold the shabby frat house that says it's above her pay grade.

 
NBC
Sarah Palin appears with Lorne Michaels on Saturday Night Live.
Congress has the lowest approval rating ever registered in the history of polling (12%!). She isn't the reason polls are showing people want the entire Congress fired, with many telling pollsters they themselves could do a better job.

Sarah Palin didn't design a system of presidential primaries whose length and cost ensures that only the most obsessional personalities will run the gauntlet, while a long list of effective governors don't run.

These rules have wasted the electorate's time the past three presidential elections, by filling the debates with such zero-support candidates as Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, Al Sharpton, Duncan Hunter, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden (8,000 total votes), Wesley Clark and Alan Keyes.


Daniel Henninger discusses the "cheap shots" taken at Sarah Palin and highlights some problems with the political system. (Oct. 23)
Out of this process has fallen a Democratic nominee who entered the U.S. Senate in 2005 fresh off a stint in the Illinois state legislature, with next to no record of political accomplishment. He may be elected mainly because, in Colin Powell's word, he is thought to be "transformational." One may hope so.

By not bothering to look very deeply at the details beneath either candidate's governing proposals, the media have created a lot of downtime to take free kicks at Gov. Palin. My former colleague, Tunku Varadarajan, has compiled a glossary of Palin invective, and I've added a few: "Republican blow-up doll," "idiot," "Christian Stepford wife," "Jesus freak," "Caribou Barbie," "a dope," "a fatal cancer to the Republican Party," "liar," "a national disgrace" and "her pretense that she is a woman."

If American politics is at low ebb, it is because so many of its observers enjoy working in its fetid backwash.

The primary discomfort with Gov. Palin is the notion that she doesn't have sufficient experience to be president, that Sen. McCain should have picked a Washington hand seasoned in the ways of the world. Such as? Here's an opinion poll question:

If as Joe Biden suggests the U.S. is likely to be tested by a foreign enemy next year, who of the following would you rather have dealing with it in the Oval Office: Nancy (of Damascus) Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Edwards, Joe (the U.S. drove Hezbollah out of Lebanon) Biden, Mike Huckabee, Geraldine Ferraro, Tom DeLay, Jimmy Carter or Sarah Palin?

My pick? Gov. Palin, surely the most grounded, common-sense person on that list of prime-time politicians.

The established political pros let the selection process come to this. Presidential candidates such as John McCain and Barack Obama have become untethered from the discipline of party institutions, largely because the parties have lost coherence. So we get celebrity candidates made famous, fundable and electable by dint of their access to the Beltway media. For voters, this election is a national Hail Mary.

For nearly two years, all the major candidates have rotated through our lives as solitary personalities attended by careerist campaign professionals. Barack, Hillary, Rudy, Mitt, Mike, McCain. When the moment arrived to pick a running mate, input from the parties was minimal. That famous party boss, Caroline Kennedy, advised Barack Obama. They picked a three-decade denizen of the Senate. John McCain's obligation was himself and his endless slog to this big chance.

The quick surge of party-wide excitement and campaign contributions after his selection of Sarah Palin made clear that the McCain candidacy was moribund and headed for a low-turnout debacle. If he had picked any of the plain-vanilla men on his veep short list -- Pawlenty, Sanford, Romney or Lieberman -- they'd have won approval from the media's college of cardinals, and killed his campaign.

The stoning of Sarah Palin has exposed enough cultural fissures in American politics to occupy strategists full-time until 2012. We now see there is a left-to-right elite centered in New York, Washington, Hollywood and Silicon Valley who hand down judgments of the nation's mortals from their perch atop the Bell Curve.

It seems only yesterday that the most critical skill in presidential politics was being able to connect to people in places like Bronko's bar or Saddleback Church. When Gov. Palin showed she excelled at that, the goal posts suddenly moved and the new game was being able to talk the talk in London, Paris, Tehran or Moscow. She looks about a half-step behind Sen. Obama on that learning curve.

Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of "Saturday Night Live," lives on the forward wave of American life. This week he gave his view of Sarah Palin to EW.com: "I think Palin will continue to be underestimated for a while. I watched the way she connected with people, and she's powerful. Her politics aren't my politics. But you can see that she's a very powerful, very disciplined, incredibly gracious woman. This was her first time out and she's had a huge impact. People connect to her."

Uh-oh. Sounds like the cancer could be in remission.
23456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Obamanomics on: October 23, 2008, 11:39:52 AM
"I think at this point there needs to be a focus on an immediate increase in spending and I think this is a time when deficit fear has to take a second seat . . . I believe later on there should be tax increases. Speaking personally, I think there are a lot of very rich people out there whom we can tax at a point down the road and recover some of the money."
-- Barney Frank, October 20, 2008

The election is still two weeks away, but we are already living in the world of Obamanomics. In fact, on fiscal policy we've been living in that world at least since February when the Bush Administration conceded to the Congressional priority of Keynesian fiscal "stimulus." That didn't work very well, but no matter. Spurred on by Barack Obama, Democrats in Congress are preparing Round Two, this time in the form of $150 billion to $300 billion in new spending.

 
APIf we may borrow a phrase, this is the triumph of hope over experience. The one thing Washington hasn't failed to do in recent years is spend, yet the economy doesn't seem to have improved on the event. Brian Riedl, a budget expert at the Heritage Foundation, has calculated that in 2008 Congress enacted $332 billion of "emergency" supplemental spending bills, only half of which was for the Iraq war. Do you feel stimulated?

The nearby chart shows the arc of tax policy and economic growth across the Bush years. After the dot-com bust, President Bush compromised with Senate Democrats and delayed his marginal-rate income tax cuts in return for immediate tax rebates. The rebates goosed spending for a while but provided no increase in incentives to invest. Only after 2003, when the marginal-rate cuts took effect immediately, combined with cuts in dividend and capital gains rates, did robust growth return. The expansion was healthy until it was overtaken by the housing bust and even resisted recession into this year. Mr. Bush and Congress returned to the rebate formula in February, but a blip in second-quarter growth has now ended as the economy heads into recession. The Dow plunged again yesterday with a 514-point drop.

 The latest plan is even worse than the spring round of $100 billion or so in tax rebate checks. At least rebates allowed taxpayers to spend their own money. Under this stimulus the government will tax or borrow $150 billion to $300 billion in order to spend the money on social and pork-barrel programs. The latest draft would direct dollars to food stamps, another expansion in unemployment insurance, home heating subsidies, more aid to states and cities, and "infrastructure" like roads, bridges and public transit. Because of Davis-Bacon wage requirements on these brick and mortar projects, a portion of the dollars would coincidentally flow to the Democrats' biggest campaign contributors: unions. Call it a political "rebate" check.

On Tuesday Senator Obama said this spending would create millions of new jobs by closing a federal "investment deficit." Over the past eight years the federal budget has exploded by more than $1.1 trillion, much of it for the very programs that Democrats want to spend more on. Let's start with infrastructure. Three years ago Congress passed a transportation bill of more than $286 billion. The transportation budget is up 22% after inflation in the past eight years. Roads and bridges can help economic growth if they increase productivity by more than the amount they cost in higher taxes or borrowing. But not if they are bridges to nowhere as so many of these projects are.

Further Reading
By Karl Rove
The Tax Argument Still Works 10/23/2008
Obama's plans are giving voters pause.
How about aid to local communities? That spending has soared by 91% after inflation in eight years. The education budget is up 57%. Welfare programs are up 30%. Only two years ago Democrats were calling the Tom DeLay Republicans spendthrift. Now they say there's an "investment deficit."

Federal budget deficits are not something we obsess about, but eventually this new spending has to be paid for, and Barney Frank's comments only underscore that big tax increases are coming. The prospect of these tax increases is now hanging over the economy like a pall, as investors and businesses wonder where and how heavily an Obama Administration and Congress would strike. The pall is likely to continue well into 2009, as millions of Americans delay their investment decisions until they know how much their after-tax returns are likely to fall.

If Mr. Obama really wants a "stimulus," he'll announce that given the condition of the economy he won't raise taxes at all. Meanwhile, all of us are getting a preview of Obamanomics in action.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
23457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on: October 23, 2008, 11:33:20 AM

"Wish not so much to live long as to live well."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard's Almanack, June 1746)

Reference: Franklin: Writings, Lemay, Library of America (1209)
23458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: October 22, 2008, 06:46:13 PM
RELEASE NUMBER: 080927-01
DATE POSTED: SEPTEMBER 27, 2008

75th Ranger Regiment Soldier awarded Silver Star
By Staff Sgt. Andrew Kosterman
1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)

FORT LEWIS, Wash. (USASOC News Service, Sept. 27, 2008) – What began as a mission to find and eliminate terrorists earlier this year in Iraq ended up being a life-defining moment for one member of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

 
Spc. Joe Gibson
Spc. Joe Gibson was on a secret night mission Apr. 26, 2008 when he placed his comrades’ lives ahead of his while evacuating wounded American Soldiers and engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a suicide bomber.  His actions that day saved the lives of fellow Rangers.

The attention brought from the awarding of the nation’s third highest medal for valor makes Gibson feel slightly “uncomfortable,” and is quick to point out the achievements of his brothers in arms.

“I am honored to be here with those other guys that got honored,” said Gibson following an awards ceremony for members of the unit.

The medal was presented to Gibson by Adm. Eric Olson, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command.  With the stoic look many Rangers have from multiple combat tours, Gibson stood tall when presented the medal.  Before presenting Gibson and other Rangers medals for their actions in combat, Olson lauded the men of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

“You are a special breed, we ask a lot of you and for that the nation and I thank you,” said Olson.  “Rangers are proven over and over again in battle.  Rangers are glorified in Hollywood movies, but you aren’t actors, you are real men who make real sacrifices”

Olson added that Gibson’s actions during the mission for which he was awarded “exemplify and uphold the warrior culture of the Rangers.”

THE CRUCIBLE BEGINS

As the helicopter full of Rangers touched down that April night, Gibson and fellow Soldiers found themselves dodging enemy small arms fire less than 50 meters away.  Gibson’s platoon sergeant said the enemy small arms and machine gun fire began “less than a minute” after the group disembarked the helicopter.

“The contact was heavy where Spc. Gibson was,” said the platoon sergeant.  “We took 2 casualties there.”

He described the setting as “a very dark night, out in the middle of nowhere with no ambient light, chest high grass, deep irrigation ditches.”

Among the two casualties the Rangers sustained was a life threatening gun shot wound victim. 

“The guy that got hit is a real good friend of mine, and he called out to me,” said Gibson.  “Me and another guy moved to him.  I had the medical equipment, so I started getting that prepped while other people started taking care of him.  We got him ready for (evacuation), patched him up and started moving him out.”

Transporting the casualty over an uneven field with irrigation ditches and through enemy fire was a challenge for the Rangers.

“Moving him out was horrible. It was the most ‘smoked’ I’ve ever been.  It was physically demanding,” said Gibson.

The Rangers’ dedication to each other motivated Gibson to get his friend to safety. 

“It was my buddy, I didn’t want to quit,” said Gibson. “For a while, it was just me on one end of the litter.”

Gibson’s actions are credited with saving the Soldier’s life.  The Soldier returned home safely to see his wife and newborn.

MAKING SURE

After assisting in the medical evacuation, Gibson and the Rangers continued on with their mission.  They began to clear a field with tall grass and canals near the helicopter landing zone.  The Rangers knew enemy was still in the area even though most had fled when the Soldiers touched down.  While clearing the field, Gibson stepped on a terrorist hiding in a ditch under some grass.

“I really didn’t think it was a person that I stepped on because I thought it was just another part of the ground, maybe some trash or something,” said Gibson.

Initially, Gibson continued for a few more steps past the terrorist.  Following his gut instinct, Gibson turned around investigate what he stepped on.  The terrorist moved to kill Gibson and the Rangers.

“He didn’t say anything other than giving his war cry,” explained Gibson.  “He had an advantage on me.  I didn’t have a chance to get my weapon ready and I knew he was gonna shoot me, so I dived on him.”

Gibson grabbed the muzzle of the terrorist’s rifle as the terrorist began to fire.  Gibson wrestled the terrorist to the ground and gained positional control.  He struggled and later stripped the terrorist of his weapon.  After stripping the terrorist of the weapon, the terrorist gripped Gibson’s rifle.  Without the ability to use a firearm, Gibson engaged the enemy with his hands.

“Then he ripped off my helmet and all my (night vision) optics, so I couldn’t see all that well,” recalled Gibson.

The terrorist then began to reach for something hiding in his clothing.

“I stopped him ‘cause I thought maybe he was grabbing a knife to attack me with,” said Gibson.

The terrorist was reaching for the detonator to his suicide vest.  The terrorist screamed “bomb!” in English.

“I thought at that moment that I was probably going to die,” explained Gibson.

As Gibson worked to stop the terrorist from detonating his vest, the terrorist had maneuvered into a position that was cutting off Gibson’s circulation.  Gibson, in an effort to save himself, began to hit the terrorist as hard as he could.  His blows rendered the terrorist unconscious. 

“I got my weapon into his stomach and fired,” said Gibson.  “And he came back to conscious after that, I knew I got him.  I stood up and neutralized him.”

DOING HIS JOB

The native of Yale, Okla. explains that he was just doing what he was supposed to do and that he thinks he doesn’t deserve any special recognition.  Gibson said he is honored to serve as a Ranger and have save his fellow Soldier’s life.  Gibson added that he “can’t wait” to return to Iraq.  Following the incident, Gibson re-enlisted to fight with the Ranger platoon he accompanied that night.
23459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 22, 2008, 05:25:35 PM
Having a notion of the 9th Amendment Right of Privacy and not climbing up the butt of citizens without some sort of specific reasonable basis.
23460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Well, Iran has conditions even if BO does not on: October 22, 2008, 05:21:24 PM
Barack Obama's declaration that, if elected, he would be willing to sit down and talk to Iran "without preconditions" has been widely discussed in this country. It's a key policy difference between him and John McCain, who rejects unconditional talks with Tehran.

So what does the Islamic Republic think? The enterprising reporters at the state news agency recently asked a high-ranking official for his opinion on talks with the U.S. As it turns out, Iran has its own "preconditions" and they don't suggest a diplomatic breakthrough, or even a summit, anytime soon.

Mehdi Kalhor, Vice President for Media Affairs, said the U.S. must do two things before summit talks can take place. First, American military forces must leave the Middle East -- presumably including such countries as Iraq, Qatar, Turkey and anywhere else American soldiers are deployed in the region. Second, the U.S. must cease its support of Israel. Until Washington does both, talks are "off the agenda," the Islamic Republic News Agency reports. It quotes Mr. Kalhor as saying, "If they [the U.S.] take our advice, grounds for such talks would be well prepared.

Iran is one of the toughest and most urgent foreign policy problems the new U.S. Administration will face. If Mr. Obama ends up in the Oval Office on January 20, he may find that solving it will take more than walking into a room and talking to Iranians "without preconditions."

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
23461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 22, 2008, 05:17:05 PM

Actually McCain got it from Hillary.  rolleyes cry  Its part of why he is diving in the polls.  Stupid ecnoomics, and pathetic populist pandering.
23462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 22, 2008, 11:21:09 AM
What happens when the voter in the exact middle of the earnings spectrum receives more in benefits from Washington than he pays in taxes? Economists Allan Meltzer and Scott Richard posed this question 27 years ago. We may soon enough know the answer.

Barack Obama is offering voters strong incentives to support higher taxes and bigger government. This could be the magic income-redistribution formula Democrats have long sought.

Sen. Obama is promising $500 and $1,000 gift-wrapped packets of money in the form of refundable tax credits. These will shift the tax demographics to the tipping point where half of all voters will receive a cash windfall from Washington and an overwhelming majority will gain from tax hikes and more government spending.

In 2006, the latest year for which we have Census data, 220 million Americans were eligible to vote and 89 million -- 40% -- paid no income taxes. According to the Tax Policy Center (a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute), this will jump to 49% when Mr. Obama's cash credits remove 18 million more voters from the tax rolls. What's more, there are an additional 24 million taxpayers (11% of the electorate) who will pay a minimal amount of income taxes -- less than 5% of their income and less than $1,000 annually.

In all, three out of every five voters will pay little or nothing in income taxes under Mr. Obama's plans and gain when taxes rise on the 40% that already pays 95% of income tax revenues.

The plunder that the Democrats plan to extract from the "very rich" -- the 5% that earn more than $250,000 and who already pay 60% of the federal income tax bill -- will never stretch to cover the expansive programs Mr. Obama promises.

What next? A core group of Obama enthusiasts -- those educated professionals who applaud the "fairness" of their candidate's tax plans -- will soon see their $100,000-$150,000 incomes targeted. As entitlements expand and a self-interested majority votes, the higher tax brackets will kick in at lower levels down the ladder, all the way to households with a $75,000 income.

Calculating how far society's top earners can be pushed before they stop (or cut back on) producing is difficult. But the incentives are easy to see. Voters who benefit from government programs will push for higher tax rates on higher earners -- at least until those who power the economy and create jobs and wealth stop working, stop investing, or move out of the country.

Other nations have tried the ideology of fairness in the place of incentives and found that reward without work is a recipe for decline. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher took on the unions and slashed taxes to restore growth and jobs in Great Britain. In Germany a few years ago, Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder defied his party's dogma and loosened labor's grip on the economy to end stagnation. And more recently in France, Nicolas Sarkozy was swept to power on a platform of restoring flexibility to the economy.

The sequence is always the same. High-tax, big-spending policies force the economy to lose momentum. Then growth in government spending outstrips revenues. Fiscal and trade deficits soar. Public debt, excessive taxation and unemployment follow. The central bank tries to solve the problem by printing money. International competitiveness is lost and the currency depreciates. The system stagnates. And then a frightened electorate returns conservatives to power.

The economic tides will not stand still while Washington experiments with European-type social democracy, even though the dollar's role as the global reserve currency will buy some time. Our trademark competitive advantage will be lost, and once lost, it will be hard to regain. There are too many emerging economies focused on prosperity and not redistribution for the U.S. to easily recapture its role of global economic leader.

Tomorrow's children may come to question why their parents sold their birthright for a mess of "fairness" -- whatever that will signify when jobs are scarce and American opportunity is no longer the envy of the world.

Mr. Lerrick is a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
23463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 22, 2008, 11:04:14 AM
Over to you JDN  evil cheesy
23464  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dates of Dog Brothers Gatherings of the Pack on: October 22, 2008, 10:51:51 AM
Woof All:

For the Open Gathering we are looking at Sunday, September 20th, once again in Burbank, CA.

"Higher consciousness through harder contact!"(c)
Crafty Dog
GF
23465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 22, 2008, 10:41:41 AM
Smart *ss cheesy

What about the politics of personal destruction, as practiced by the Hillbillary Clintons for example?  Do we really want government officials being able to climb up the butt of any citizen?
23466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: October 22, 2008, 10:37:28 AM
"But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the
authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition
of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals
of general alarm... But what degree of madness could ever drive
the federal government to such an extremity."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 46, 29 January 1788)

Reference: The Federalist
23467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Volcker on: October 22, 2008, 10:29:00 AM
I've always regarded Paul Volcker highly. 
=================

WSJ

NEW YORK -- At 81 years old, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker is getting a second chance to shape his legacy with a presidential hopeful more than 30 years his junior.

Mr. Volcker has emerged as a top economic adviser to Sen. Barack Obama during a presidential campaign dominated by a global financial crisis. Their growing bond is paying dividends for each man.

View Full Image

Associated Press
FAST FRIENDS: Sen. Barack Obama with former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker during a meeting with the senator's top economic advisers last month.
Mr. Volcker delivers gravitas and credibility to Sen. Obama, people in the Obama camp say, as well as ideas and approaches to the economic crisis. "Volcker whispering in Obama's ear will make even Republicans comfortable, because he's a hero of the right and a supporter of a strong dollar," says John Tamny, a supply-side economist and Republican.

On Tuesday, Mr. Volcker is scheduled to appear on the campaign trail with Sen. Obama for the first time. At a round-table discussion with voters in Lake Worth, Fla., he'll "give his view on the state of the economy and the credit markets, and what needs to be done to fix them," says one campaign adviser. Longtime Fed watchers are amused that Mr. Volcker, known for his muttered statements during Fed meetings in the 1980s, will be in a political role on the stump.

For Mr. Volcker, a connection with Sen. Obama could help burnish his record as Fed chairman. The cigar-chomping central banker from 1979 to 1987, he received blame for driving up interest rates and tipping the U.S. into the deepest recession since the Great Depression. But Mr. Volcker is just as well known for taming the runaway inflation of that era. His stock has risen in recent months as his gruff warnings about the risks of deregulating the financial sector have come to look prescient. His successor's reputation, meanwhile, has come under a cloud. Alan Greenspan is under criticism that the low interest rates and deregulatory ideology of his tenure contributed to today's crisis.

With nearly every day presenting a fresh financial emergency, Sen. Obama has persuaded Mr. Volcker, who travels the globe for economic meetings and occasionally disappears on fly-fishing trips, to be at the ready; Mr. Volcker now keeps a cellphone on him at all times. And though he still doesn't own a computer (his assistant prints out emails for him), he's gotten used to Sen. Obama's rapid-fire messages sent from a BlackBerry device.

The Obama-Volcker relationship continues to evolve, campaign advisers say. At the start, Sen. Obama sought advice from Mr. Volcker and other outside voices through his economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, a 39-year-old University of Chicago professor. But starting with the demise of Bear Stearns Cos. in March and continuing today, Sen. Obama speaks directly and often with Mr. Volcker about the intricacies of the financial crisis and possible solutions. They've become "collaborators," as one aide puts it.

For example, when the U.S. Treasury put forth a plan to set up a $700 billion rescue fund to buy up toxic assets, Sen. Obama quickly backed it on the advice of Mr. Volcker. Like other prominent economists, Mr. Volcker also advocated early on for the recapitalization of banks. On this advice, Sen. Obama proposed direct equity infusions in banks in his frequent conference calls with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The idea, initially rejected by Mr. Paulson, was finally proposed last week by the administration, in an effort to get banks lending again to businesses and each other.

Relying on Mr. Volcker
Sen. Obama's team of economic advisers includes two former Treasury secretaries, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, and in some decisions, Mr. Volcker doesn't reign supreme. The candidate's latest proposal, for example, a $60 billion stimulus package, was initially fought by the former Fed chief on the grounds that Americans were already overspending. Moreover, he is unlikely to take a long-term role in any Obama administration.

 
Associated Press
Paul Volcker, delivering a lecture last week in Singapore, where he warned that the U.S. and Europe are facing recession from the financial crisis.
But for now, and going into the campaign's final weeks, aides say Sen. Obama is increasingly relying on Mr. Volcker. His staff now routinely reviews policy proposals and speeches with Mr. Volcker. Conference calls and face-to-face meetings of the Obama economic team are often reorganized to accommodate his schedule. When the team discusses the financial crisis, "The most important question to Obama: What does Paul Volcker think?" says Jason Furman, the campaign's economic-policy director.

The two men have developed an ease with each other, say aides, even as their styles appear to differ: Sen. Obama, who tends to use the Socratic method from his law-school training, examines all points of view and debates them. With a more formal and direct demeanor, Mr. Volcker likes to go straight to solutions.

In last week's final presidential debate, after Republican John McCain raised questions about his rival's ties, Sen. Obama said, "Let me tell you who I associate with. On economic policy, I associate with Warren Buffett and former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker...who have shaped my ideas and who will be surrounding me in the White House."

Some Democrats have speculated that, if elected, Sen. Obama could name Mr. Volcker to a post, possibly even as Treasury secretary, for a limited time. Banking and Wall Street executives are pushing the two campaigns to name a new secretary shortly after the election to reassure markets during the transition. The Obama campaign wouldn't comment on possible appointments.

"I just want to be helpful, because I believe Sen. Obama -- in his person, in his ideas and in his ability to understand and articulate both our needs and our hopes -- brings the strong and fresh leadership we need," Mr. Volcker said in an interview in New York. Mr. Volcker wouldn't provide details of his policy suggestions or his personal relationship with Sen. Obama.

After leaving the Fed 20 years ago, Mr. Volcker stopped smoking cigars, became a professor at Princeton University and spent more time fly-fishing. His corner office overlooking Fifth Avenue is filled with photographs and statues of fish, as well as a pillow inscribed: "Work is for people who don't know how to fish."

Following a stint as chairman of a boutique investment-banking firm, Mr. Volcker largely steered clear of joining any Wall Street companies. He set up his own office in Rockefeller Center, where he consults for companies and governments. He has served on a few corporate boards, such as UAL Corp., Prudential Insurance Co. of America and Nestlé SA. He also participated on commissions including the United Nations committee to investigate corruption in its oil-for-food program, and an inquiry launched by Swiss banks to determine which accounts belonged to Holocaust victims.

The bond between Messrs. Obama and Volcker started with a dinner invitation. In June 2007, Mark Gallogly, co-founder of Centerbridge Partners, a New York private-investment firm, and an early supporter of Sen. Obama, invited a dozen financial executives to meet the senator, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President Gary Cohn, Merrill Lynch & Co. President Greg Fleming and Mr. Volcker.

Along with the invitation, Mr. Volcker received from Mr. Gallogly a "briefing package" containing some speeches by Sen. Obama and news articles about him. Mr. Volcker also read the two books written by the senator.

In the private dining room at a Capitol Hill restaurant, Mr. Gallogly seated Mr. Volcker directly across from Sen. Obama, who at the time was considered a long shot to win the Democratic nomination over Sen. Hillary Clinton. Returning late that night on a flight to New York, Mr. Volcker told the group he was "genuinely impressed" with the Illinois senator.

That message was eventually passed along to Sen. Obama's advisers in New York, Michael Froman, a friend from Harvard Law School and a Citigroup Inc. executive, and Jenny Yeager, a fund-raiser. Ms. Yeager told Obama headquarters in Chicago that Mr. Volcker seemed "interested" in the candidate, but in two months no one had followed up with the ex-central banker for fund raising or anything else.

When Sen. Obama's economics adviser, Mr. Goolsbee, heard about Mr. Volcker's interest, he immediately got excited. "Paul Volcker is a legend! We don't want to use his contacts for money, we want to pick his brain," he recalls saying to a campaign operative.

Starting in late summer 2007, Mr. Goolsbee had regular discussions with Mr. Volcker. He incorporated Mr. Volcker's ideas, including his early concern that the housing downturn would snowball into a larger financial crisis, into Sen. Obama's policy positions. In a September 2007 speech at Nasdaq, Sen. Obama predicted that because of oversight lapses and abusive practices that cause the public to doubt financial results, "the markets will be ravaged by a crisis in confidence."

An Early Endorsement
In early January 2008, when Sen. Clinton was pounding her rival over his lack of experience and stature, Sen. Obama phoned Mr. Volcker to ask for his endorsement. (At that time, billionaire investor Warren Buffett had refused to take sides between the Democratic contenders, saying he would support whoever got the nomination.) Mr. Volcker, a long-time Democrat who had mostly stayed out of partisan politics, agreed, and wrote out his statement in longhand.

The presidential candidate's first big economic address took place in March at Cooper Union in New York. Mr. Volcker's fingerprints were evident in the speech. The onetime central banker had long been vigilant about strong regulatory oversight; as Fed chairman he rejected big banks' attempts to repeal Depression-era laws to engage in more risky practices like investment banking. New financial institutions and instruments have since led to the repeal or relaxation of those laws, and Mr. Volcker told Sen. Obama that the U.S. regulatory structure must be strengthened and updated for the 21st century.

With Mr. Volcker sitting in the front row, Sen. Obama told the audience at Cooper Union that the current financial-regulatory framework must be "revamped." He faulted deregulation for the growing economic crisis. "Our free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it."

Once Sen. Obama became the expected Democratic nominee in June, and the economy became the central campaign issue, his chats with Mr. Volcker picked up. Mr. Goolsbee would get emails from Sen. Obama's traveling aide Reggie Love or his senior strategist David Axelrod with the message: "BO wants to call Volcker. What's his number again?"

Emergency Meetings
In the past two months, financial crises have come one after another, picking up speed with the federal government's July effort to bolster big mortgage insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As the contagion from the subprime mortgages and risky mortgage credit swaps threatened to topple other institutions, Sen. Obama asked for "emergency meetings" with his economic team, about a dozen advisers including Mr. Volcker and Mr. Buffett.

At the first group meeting in Washington in late July, Sen. Obama said he wanted to hear from each adviser on the worsening economic downturn and asked Mr. Volcker to go first. "The very health of the credit markets is at stake," Mr. Volcker said, according to one attendee. He urged strong action to restore confidence, particularly in the U.S. banking system.

When Sen. Obama raised the prospect of a package of spending and tax measures to "stimulate" the economy, Mr. Volcker disapproved. "Americans are spending beyond their means," he told the group. A stimulus package would delay the belt-tightening and savings needed, he added, proposing instead better regulation and assistance to banks.

Laura Tyson, economics adviser for President Bill Clinton and a professor at University of California, Berkeley, disagreed. "Americans can't help but spend beyond their means because they've had no income growth while their costs on gas and food have skyrocketed." She suggested spending money to rebuild infrastructure and create jobs. Even as some others agreed with Ms. Tyson, Mr. Volcker didn't budge. Sen. Obama delayed putting out a new stimulus package, but stressed that he wanted to find the "right balance" of possible assistance.

When the bailout bill became a political football and the markets seized up, Sen. Obama called the second in-person meeting of his financial team on Sept. 26 in Miami. Mr. Volcker initially said he would have to call in because he was leaving for Europe that day. Sen. Obama, according to campaign aides, called him with a personal plea.

The next morning, the senator seated Mr. Volcker beside him, an arrangement that was photographed by the media entourage covering the campaign. Mr. Volcker told the group he had changed his mind about an economic-stimulus package due to the global recession, but he couldn't stay to hear the discussion about the approach because he had to catch a plane to Europe.

In the past two weeks, with the stock market's drastic volatility and weak economic indicators, Sen. Obama presented his $60 billion package, which contains tax cuts and spending to provide public-works jobs to struggling Americans.

On Monday, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke endorsed the idea of another stimulus package, giving a boost to Democratic lawmakers who are considering one. But congressional Republicans have so far shown little interest in a second spending bill.
23468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 22, 2008, 09:21:17 AM
It was during the Ford-Carter race that I realized that I was a Republitarian.  During the late 60s I had thought of myself as of the Left, but what I came to understand with my first exposure to economics at U of PA is that I had been "anit-authority", and that the Left was about massive govt. authoritarianism.

My friends were shocked when I declared for Ford over Carter!  I remember the campaign and the election well.  For me the BO as Carter 2 analogy works very well.
23469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 22, 2008, 09:12:03 AM
My  sister lives in Chicago and swoons for BO.  Yesterday she expresssed concern about SP's readiness, especially on foreign affairs.  I told her she was right, we'd much rather have a foreign affairs expert who knew that the US and France had driven the Hezbollah out of Lebanon.   I agreed JB was an expert-- that's how he knew that BO will be tested.  Had her sputtering-- very funny.

The big picture of course is anything but funny. It begins to look like McC is going to lose very badly-- no surprise considering his very badly run campaign and the badly dishonest media.
=========
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barack Obama has opened up a double-digit lead in the presidential race, with a growing number of voters saying they're now comfortable with the Democratic nominee's values, background and ability to serve as commander in chief, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

New Poll: Data Drilldown
View Interactive

Review the demographic breakdown of voters backing each candidate.

Poll Results (PDF) | Poll ArchiveQuestion of the Day
Vote: At this point, do you think the presidential race is decided?For months, the race has rested largely on the question of whether voters could get comfortable with Sen. Obama, the first African-American to run on a major party ticket, and one who has been on the national political scene for just a few years. The Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, has worked to stoke concerns about Sen. Obama's past and his qualifications, raising questions about his rival's character and his association with 1960s-era radical William Ayers. "Who is the real Barack Obama?" Sen. McCain has asked at rallies. The new poll suggests that these attacks haven't worked.

Though most voters polled said that Sen. McCain is better prepared for the White House than the first-term senator from Illinois, there are increasing concerns about the readiness of Sen. McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

View Full Image

Reuters
Sen. Obama places an order at a deli during a campaign stop in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Tuesday.
Overall, the poll found 52% of voters favor Sen. Obama versus 42% for Sen. McCain. That 10-point lead is up from a six-point Obama edge two weeks ago. The survey of registered voters, conducted from Friday to Monday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

It's the largest lead in the Journal/NBC poll thus far, and represents a steady climb for Sen. Obama since early September, when the political conventions concluded with the candidates in a statistical tie.

"Voters have reached a comfort level with Barack Obama," said Peter D. Hart, a Democratic pollster who conducts the poll with Republican Neil Newhouse.

That comfort is reflected in the ground gained by Sen. Obama among some important voter groups in the weeks since the financial turmoil hit. The poll finds Sen. Obama now holds a 12-percentage-point advantage with independents, a group both sides have fiercely sought. Two weeks ago, Sen. Obama led this group by just four percentage points. In mid-September, independents favored Sen. McCain by 13 points.

 Sen. Obama leads suburban voters by 12 percentage points, up from two points two weeks ago. He leads among older voters, those over 65 years old, by nine points, erasing a one-point McCain advantage from the last poll. And in the Midwest, home to a swath of battleground states, he is now favored by 25 points, up from a one-point advantage.

Some daily tracking polls have found a tighter race between Sens. McCain and Obama in recent days. Real Clear Politics, a Web site that averages major polls, shows Sen. Obama up by 7.2 percentage points. Others have found a larger spread, such as one released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, a nonpartisan research group. That poll found a 14-point advantage for Sen. Obama among registered voters. Many polls also show Sen. McCain lagging in key battleground states, which hold the electoral votes that could decide the race.

Sen. Obama has also eaten into traditional Republican advantages, notably on taxes, despite Sen. McCain's attempts to make the issue a central economic theme of the campaign's closing days. In the mid-September Journal poll, Sen. McCain was favored 41% to 37% when voters were asked which candidate would be "better on taxes." This week's poll found Sen. Obama leading on the issue by 48% to 34%.

That may be partly due to Sen. Obama's argument that Sen. McCain would raise taxes on health-insurance benefits. While Sen. McCain's health plan does raise some taxes, the plan overall represents a net tax cut, according to independent estimates.

More Election Data
Electoral CalculatorNational, State PollsSen. McCain continues to pound Sen. Obama on taxes daily, adopting "Joe the Plumber" as his campaign's new everyman. Ohio voter Joe Wurzelbacher gained fame after challenging Sen. Obama on his tax plans at a campaign appearance earlier this month. Sen. McCain argues that Sen. Obama's willingness to "spread the wealth around" represents a brand of socialism. He suggests that vast numbers of Americans will see higher taxes, despite Sen. Obama's pledge not to raise them for families earning less than $250,000.

So far, voters don't seem to be persuaded by Sen. McCain's argument. A majority now disagree with the statement: "Barack Obama will raise taxes on middle-income people if he becomes president," with just 40% agreeing.

"Everyone knows Obama's only going to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000, and Joe the Plumber does not make more than $250,000," said Jeff Howard, a 20-year-old student from Bell, Ky., who told pollsters he was voting for Sen. Obama, and said he leans Democratic, but not strongly.

The Final Stretch
In the final stretch, Sen. McCain is also pressing his independence from President George W. Bush, whose job approval is at a record low in this poll. At last week's debate, Sen. McCain told Sen. Obama that he should have run four years ago if he wanted to challenge President Bush, a line he repeats on the trail. But the poll finds nearly six in 10 voters believe Sen. McCain's direction, agenda and policies would be mostly the same as President Bush's, down just slightly from those who said so a month ago.

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AFP/Getty Images
Sen. Barack Obama has gained with independents, suburbanites and older voters to increase his lead on Sen. John McCain in new polling.
It's a tough year to run as a Republican after eight years of Mr. Bush, said David Axelrod, Sen. Obama's chief strategist. "They're just on the wrong side of history," he said in an interview. "In an election that's all about change he simply doesn't represent it."

Sarah Simmons, the McCain campaign's director of strategy, said, "The environment is challenging, no doubt about it," but added that Sen. Obama has yet to take a lead big enough to ensure a win. Ms. Simmons said Sen. McCain is still viewed favorably by most voters. "That's a good sign for us that this race is far from over," she said.

Sen. Obama appears to be clearing some important thresholds with the electorate. Forty-eight percent of voters now say they would have a great deal or quite a bit of confidence in Sen. Obama as commander in chief. That's up from 39%, in August, and just two points shy of Sen. McCain's standing.

Similarly, in July, 47% of all voters said that Sen. Obama had a background and set of values that they could identify with. That figure is now 55% -- just two points shy of Sen. McCain.

 "At first, I didn't know who he [Obama] was, and I knew who McCain was, and in that respect, I was leaning toward McCain," said Judy Callanan, 58, of Tuscarora, Md., a payroll manager and registered independent, who told the pollsters she was backing Sen. Obama. "But just listening to Obama talk, he was much more down-to-earth and talked more about things I could relate to."

In a Positive Light
Forty-four percent of voters see Sen. McCain in a positive light, about the same as the last poll two weeks ago. But views of Sen. Obama have grown stronger, with 56% now reporting very or somewhat positive feelings about him.

The one candidate whose popularity has fallen is Gov. Palin: 38% see her positively, down from 44% two weeks ago; 47% see her negatively, up 10 points from the last poll. That's the highest negative rating of the four candidates. Fifty-five percent of voters say Gov. Palin is not qualified to be president if the need arises, up from 50% two weeks ago.

For his part, Sen. McCain holds a distinct edge on the question of experience needed to be an effective president. Asked which candidate is better on knowledge and experience needed to handle the job, 49% picked Sen. McCain and just 27% picked Sen. Obama.

The McCain campaign says it plans to continue pressing the experience question. "There is lingering doubt -- is he ready?" Mike DuHaime, the campaign's political director, said Tuesday.

Independent voters still harbor concerns about Sen. Obama's experience and readiness for the job, Mr. Newhouse, the Republican pollster, noted. But he said these voters have reservations about Gov. Palin's readiness, complicating any effort by the McCain campaign to focus on this issue.

 "I don't think Palin is ready to take that office," said Lois Peterson, 83, of St. Peter, Minn., an independent who now favors Sen. Obama. "She doesn't seem very professional."

That point was underscored on Sunday when retired Gen. Colin Powell endorsed Sen. Obama, citing, in part, his concerns about Gov. Palin's readiness.

Nineteen percent of voters polled on Sunday and Monday -- halfway through the total polling period -- said the Powell endorsement made them more inclined to support Sen. Obama. The results from this question have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
23470  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Why did Elite XC Fail? on: October 21, 2008, 10:11:43 PM
Why did it fail?

 

Showtime’s EliteXC Shutting Down SI
Entertainment and media company ProElite, as well as its mixed martial arts promotional brand EliteXC, are out of business, Sports Illustrated reports. Despite forming a partnership with Showtime and parent company CBS, which brought EliteXC events to a prime-time network viewing audience, the company was forced out of business when preliminary negotiations for the cable network to purchase a controlling interest in ProElite fell through. The next bout scheduled for Nov. 8 on Showtime will not take place, according to one of the fighter’s managers.
—Christopher
23471  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America on: October 21, 2008, 09:26:28 PM
It's a done deal. Disaster has struck Argentina yet again.


__________________________________
NEWS ALERT
from The Wall Street Journal

Oct. 21, 2008

Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner announced plans to nationalize 
Argentina's private pension funds. Speculation that the move was 
imminent sent the country's stocks down 11%. The government said the 
takeover of the private system aimed to protect investors from losses 
due to the global market turmoil. But economists said the underlying 
motive would be to provide the government with about $5 billon in 
annual pension contributions that it needs to plug a gap in financing 
next year and avert a debt default.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122460155879054331.html?mod=djemalertNEWS
23472  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America on: October 21, 2008, 06:02:22 PM
!!!Hijo de muchos padres!!!  shocked shocked shocked

Argentine Bonds, Stocks Plunge on Pension Takeover Speculation

By Drew Benson and Bill Faries
Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Argentine bond yields soared above 24 percent and stocks sank the most in a decade on speculation the government will seize private pension funds and use the assets to stave off the second default this decade.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will unveil a new pension fund plan at 4 p.m. New York time today, the country's social security administration said in a statement. Fernandez will nationalize the system, giving the government control of $29 billion in retirement accounts, La Nacion reported, citing government officials it didn't identify.
``It's horrible,'' said Jaime Valdivia, who manages $1 billion of assets for Emerging Sovereign Group in New York. ``We're going back to the dark ages. Not even in times of the worst financial stress did the government ever think about taking over the private pension system.''
Fernandez has struggled to raise cash to cover growing financing needs as the global financial crisis drives down prices on the country's commodity exports and erodes demand for higher- yielding, developing-nation debt. The government's borrowing needs will swell to as much as $14 billion next year from $7 billion in 2007, RBC Capital Markets, a Toronto-based unit of Canada's largest bank, said today.
Yields on the government's 8.28 percent bonds due in 2033 surged 4.35 percentage points to 24.77 percent, the highest since the country issued the debt in a 2005 restructuring, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. The bond's price sank 7.9 cents to 29 cents on the dollar, leaving it just pennies above the price on defaulted debt that investors held out of the 2005 renegotiation.
$95 Billion Debt Default
Argentina's benchmark Merval stock index tumbled as much as 13.8 percent today to a four-year low, extending its losses this month to 37 percent.
The South American country hasn't had access to international capital markets since it defaulted on $95 billion of bonds in 2001. Holders of some $20 billion of those bonds rejected the government's 2005 payout of 30 cents on the dollar, the harshest sovereign restructuring since World War II.
The social security administration didn't provide details on today's announcement. The press offices at the presidential palace and the pension fund regulator declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News.
``This is negative, very negative, for the markets,'' said Mariano Tavelli, a portfolio manager at Tavelli & Compania in Buenos Aires. ``It's going to cause a sharp drop in confidence in the country and this government.''
`Last-Ditch Measure'
Nestor Kirchner, Fernandez's husband and predecessor, began tightening restrictions on private pension funds last year, requiring them to keep more investments in the country as part of an effort to sustain a five-year-old economic expansion.
Argentina created the private accounts in 1994 with the aim of phasing out the government-run system. A government takeover of the accounts would probably require congressional approval, Tavelli said.
Argentina's private pension fund administrators managed 94.4 billion pesos ($29 billion) in savings at the end of September. About 55 percent of the investments are in government debt, according to the pension fund regulator's Web site.
Nationalization would allow the Fernandez administration to write off the government bonds held by the funds, said Javier Salvucci, an analyst with Buenos Aires-based Silver Cloud Advisors.
``The government is explicitly saying that it has problems meeting debt maturities and this is a last-ditch measure to do so,'' Salvucci said. ``For accounting purposes, this debt will no longer exist.''
Central Bank Intervention
Argentine bonds have lost 37 percent this year, putting them on pace for the worst year since the 2001 default, according to a Merrill Lynch & Co. index. The bonds lost 62 percent that year.
A pension funds takeover may add to capital flight as Argentines seek the safety of U.S. dollars, RBC said Capital Markets said in today's report.
The peso was little changed today, rising 0.2 percent to 3.2163 per dollar, as traders said the central bank intervened in the foreign exchange market to shore up the currency. The bank sold ``large amounts'' of dollars, said Gustavo Quintana, a trader with Lopez Leon Brokers in Buenos Aires. A central bank spokesman didn't return a phone call seeking comment.
The cost of protecting Argentina's bonds against default soared. Five-year credit-default swaps based on Argentina's debt jumped 1.57 percentage points to 31.18 percentage points, according to Bloomberg data. Credit-default swaps, contracts to protect against or speculate on default, pay the buyer face value should a borrower fail to adhere to its debt agreements.
`Closer to the Abyss'
That price means it costs $3.118 million to protect $10 million of the country's debt from default. In September 2006, it cost just $244,000 as record exports of wheat, soybeans and corn fueled economic growth and swelled government coffers.
Commodities have dropped 40 percent from a record high reached on July 2 as the global financial crisis has deepened a global economic slowdown, according to UBS Bloomberg CMCI Index of 26 raw materials.
Growth in South America's second-biggest economy, which gets more than half its export revenue from commodities, will slow to 5 percent this year and 2.5 percent in 2009, RBC Capital Markets said. The economy expanded 8.8 percent on average over the past five years as Kirchner and Fernandez used surging tax receipts to boost government spending on everything from civil servant pay rises to energy subsidies.
``Argentina is ever closer to the abyss,'' RBC said in the report.
To contact the reporters on this story: Drew Benson in Buenos Aires at Abenson9@bloomberg.netBill Faries in Buenos Aires wfaries@bloomberg.net;
23473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: October 21, 2008, 03:03:30 PM
WOW! Even CNN is on ACORN's case!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkUKOSnv2zY
23474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: October 21, 2008, 11:05:07 AM
Kurtz on Obama and the New Party
Part 1
Radical? Check. Tied to ACORN? Check. Redistributionist? Check



Source: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q...TIwZGQ=&w= MA==

Stanley Kurtz’s latest attempt to bring Barack Obama’s past to light: Something New Here.

During his first campaign for the Illinois state senate in 1995-96, Barack Obama was a member of, and was endorsed by, the far-left New Party. Obama’s New Party ties give the lie to his claim to be a post-partisan, post-ideological pragmatist. Particularly in Chicago, the New Party functioned as the electoral arm of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). So despite repeated attempts to distance himself from ACORN, Obama’s New Party ties raise disturbing questions about his links to those proudly militant leftists. The media’s near-total silence on this critical element of Obama’s past is deeply irresponsible.

SOCIALIST?
While a small group of bloggers have productively explored Obama’s New Party ties, discussion has often turned on the New Party’s alleged socialism. Was the New Party actually established by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)? Was the New Party’s platform effectively socialist in content? Although these debates are both interesting and important, we needn’t resolve them to conclude that the New Party was far to the left of the American mainstream. Whether formally socialist or not, the New Party and its ACORN backers favored policies of economic redistribution. As Obama would say, they wanted to spread the wealth around. Bracketing the socialism question and simply taking the New Party on its own terms is sufficient to raise serious questions about Obama’s political commitments — questions that cry out for attention from a responsible press.

In 2002, Micah L. Sifry, a former writer and editor with The Nation magazine, published Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America, a book that contains what is probably our best account of the rise and fall of the New Party. Although Sifry leaves us hanging on the socialism question, his chapter on the New Party is more than enough to raise disturbing questions about Obama’s radicalism, and about his ties to ACORN.

Sifry reports a quip by New Party co-founder, Daniel Cantor: “The shorthand strategy for accomplishing all this is to get the Bruce Springsteen, Lauryn Hill, and Pete Seeger vote united in one party.” The Peter Seeger vote does sound like shorthand for the old-time socialist Left — but also for far-left-leaning baby boomers in general. Bruce Springsteen and Lauryn Hill point to young blacks and whites on the left, perhaps including, but not restricted to, openly socialist sympathizers. In short, the New Party was a mid-1990s effort to build a “progressive” coalition to the left of the Democratic party, uniting left-leaning baby boomers with minorities, relatively militant unionists, and “idealistic” young people.

PARTY WITHIN A PARTY
In contrast to Ralph Nader’s recent third-party campaigns, the New Party’s strategy was to work through “fusion.” Fusion parties were popular in the 19th century. Although these small parties had a separate line on the ballot, they often endorsed one of the major-party candidates. That meant these third parties didn’t have to act as “spoilers” in close elections. Yet by constituting themselves as separate entities and offering their endorsement as bait, fusion parties tended to push the major parties further to the right or the left. We see remnants of the old fusion-party pattern in New York State, where separate Liberal and Conservative parties sometimes shift elections by endorsing one or another major party candidate.

As the New Party’s founders put it, they were looking for a cross between the “party within the party” strategy favored by leftist Democrats and the “plague on both your houses” stance later adopted by the Naderites. That means Obama’s New Party ties place him on the far left end of the Democratic party, arguably with one foot outside and to the left of the party itself.

Does this make Obama “socialist?” Maybe so, but according to Sifry, the vague “New Party” name was chosen precisely to avoid such ideological pigeonholing. Maybe that vagueness was designed to avoid exposing the party as the socialist sympathizer it was. Or maybe the name was a way of avoiding complex internal struggles between competing ideological factions, some socialist and some not. (The answer is “both of the above,” I tend to think.) In any case, the New Party was clearly far to the left of mainstream Democrats, and according to Sifry, the party explicitly thought of itself as made up of committed “progressives,” rather than conventional “liberals.” That is entirely consistent with a famous 1995 profile of Obama by Hank De Zutter, which portrays him as closely tied to ACORN, and holding a world-view well “beyond” his mother’s conventional liberalism.

To get a sense of where the New Party stood politically, consider some of its early supporters: Barbara Dudley of Greenpeace; Steve Cobble, political director of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coaltion; prominent academics like Frances Fox Piven, coauthor of the “Cloward-Piven strategy” and a leader of the drive for the “motor-voter” legislation Obama later defended in court on behalf of ACORN; economist Juliet Schor; black historian Manning Marable; historian Howard Zinn; linguist Noam Chomsky; Todd Gitlin; and writers like Gloria Steinem and Barbara Ehrenreich. Socialist? Readers can draw their own conclusions. At one point, Sifry does describe the party’s goals as “social democratic.” In any case, the New Party clearly stands substantially to the left of the mainstream Democratic party.

ACORN CONNECTION
Unquestionably, ACORN was one of the most important forces behind the creation of the New Party. According to Sifry: “Wade Rathke, ACORN’s lead national organizer, was in on the founding discussions that led to the New Party, and the group’s political director, Zach Polett, also came to play a big role in guiding New Party field organizing for the party [in Chicago and Little Rock].” In fact, Sifry portrays ACORN’s leading role in the New Party as the result of a conscious decision by the organization to move into electoral politics in a more substantial way than they had been able to solely through their political action committee. In addition to Rathke and Polett, a key early supporter of the New Party was Obama’s closest ACORN contact, Madeline Talbott.
 


While ACORN played an important founding role for the New Party nationally, ACORN was clearly the main force behind the New Party chapter in Chicago. In general, New Party chapters built around an ACORN nucleus were the most disciplined and successful party outposts. Nationally, the New Party’s biggest wins were in Chicago, very much including Obama’s victory in his 1996 run for the Illinois state senate. Chicago’s New Party was actually formed around two core elements, ACORN and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 880. Yet, as Sifry notes, SEIU 880 was itself an ACORN offshoot.

Together ACORN and SEIU 880 were the dominant forces in Chicago’s New Party. True, there was also participation by open socialists, but these were not a majority of New Party organizers. You can certainly argue, as libertarian blogger Trevor Louden has, that whether openly or not, the New Party in Chicago and beyond was effectively socialist. It’s a powerful argument and worthy of consideration. After all, according to Rutgers University political scientist Heidi J. Swarts, ACORN’s leaders see themselves as “a solitary vanguard of principled leftists.” So a party outpost built around ACORN would be a party built around “principled vanguard leftists.” Sounds pretty socialist to me. Yet, as I’ve emphasized, we needn’t resolve the “socialism” question to conclude that the New Party, and particularly its Chicago branch, was far to the left of the Democratic party, and largely under the control of ACORN.

Consider “The People Shall Rule,” a look at some of Chicago ACORN’s electoral efforts co-authored by Madeline Talbott, Obama’s closest ACORN contact and a key New Party supporter. In describing former Chicago ACORN leader Ted Thomas’s successful run for alderman, Talbott stresses that, even after election, Thomas retained his ACORN ties. Thomas was invited to retain his seat on ACORN’s Chicago board, ACORN members continued to treat him as a leader, and Thomas continued to brainstorm and strategize with ACORN’s other organizers. Talbott is so busy detailing Thomas’s continued links to ACORN that she doesn’t even bother to mention that Thomas actually ran on behalf of the New Party. (See “NP Chair elected to Chicago City Council.”)

As so often with ACORN, technically separate organizations are often relatively meaningless designations for different branches of ACORN itself. And in Chicago, the New Party was very much an ACORN-dominated operation. Ted Thomas was a city alderman, de facto ACORN leader, and New Party chair all at once. So Obama’s ties to the New Party represent yet another important, and still unacknowledged, link between Obama and ACORN.

We already know that Obama’s ties to ACORN’s Madeline Talbott ran deep. Less known is that Obama’s links to Chicago ACORN/New Party leader Ted Thomas were also strong. Thomas was one of a handful of aldermen who stood with Obama in his unsuccessful 2000 race for Congress against Bobby Rush. Obama is also had long-standing ties to SEIU Local 880, an ACORN union spin-off and a bulwark of Chicago’s New Party. In his 2004 race for the Democratic Senate nomination, SEIU Local 880 strongly endorsed Obama, citing his long history of support for the group.

REVEALING TIE
So the fact that Obama received the New Party’s endorsement in his first run for office in 1995-96 cannot be dismissed as insignificant. On the contrary, Obama’s ties to the New Party, and the New Party’s backers at ACORN (often the very same people), are long-standing, substantial, and reveal a great deal about his personal political allegiances. Because it was a fusion party, the New Party did not require that all the candidates it endorsed be members. Yet the New Party’s endorsements were carefully targeted. There was no attempt to endorse candidates in every race, or even to set up nationwide chapters. Carefully selected races in carefully targeted cities were seized upon — and only when the candidate fit the profile of a decidedly left-leaning progressive Democrat. In this way, the New Party set out to form a hard-left “party within a party” among the Democrats.

More than this, we now have substantial evidence that Obama himself was in fact a New Party member. We even have a photograph of Obama appearing with other successful New Party candidates. Clearly, then, it is more than fair to identify Obama with the hard-left stance of the New Party and its ACORN backers. In her recent study of ACORN and the Gamaliel Foundation, the two groups of community organizers to which Obama was closest, Heidi Swarts describes their core ideology as “redistributionist.” Joe the Plumber take note. Whether formally socialist or not, Obama ties with ACORN and its New Party political arm show that spreading your wealth around has long been his ultimate goal.

All this means that Barack Obama is far from the post-partisan, post-ideological pragmatist he pretends to be. On the contrary, Obama’s ideological home is substantially to the left of the Democratic-party mainstream, so far to the left that he has one foot planted outside the party itself. And since the New Party Chicago was essentially an electoral arm of ACORN, Obama’s New Party tie, is yet another example of his deep links to the far-left militant organizers of that group. Obama’s account of his limited ties to ACORN in the third debate was clearly not truthful. Likewise, his earlier denials of ties to ACORN have fallen apart.

At what point will the press force Obama to own up to the full extent of his ties to ACORN? At what point will the press demand a full accounting of Obama’s ties to the New Party? At what point will the depth of Obama’s redistributionist economic stance be acknowledged? Barack Obama is hiding the truth about his political past, and the press is playing along.

— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
 
23475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 21, 2008, 11:01:15 AM
More's the pity in both cases.

============
Would Obama Pass a Standard Security Clearance?
His troubling connections provide a grave answer.

Source: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles...B-F9F845F663D2

By: Daniel Pipes





With Colin Powell now repeating the lie that Barack Obama has "always been a Christian," despite new information further confirming Obama's Muslim childhood (such as the Indonesian school registration listing him as Muslim), one watches with dismay as the Democratic candidate manages to hide the truth on this issue.

Instead, then, let us review a related subject – Obama's connections and even indebtedness, throughout his career, to extremist Islam. Specifically, he has longstanding, if indirect ties to two institutions, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), listed by the U.S. government in 2007 as an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-funding trial; and the Nation of Islam (NoI), condemned by the Anti-Defamation League for its "consistent record of racism and anti-Semitism."
First, Obama's ties to Islamists:
The Khalid al-Mansour connection: According to former Manhattan Borough president Percy Sutton, Al-Mansour "was raising money for" Obama's expenses at Harvard Law School. Al-Mansour, a black American (né Don Warden), became advisor to Saudi prince Al-Walid bin Talal, CAIR's largest individual donor. Al-Mansour holds standard Islamist views: he absolves the Islamist government in Sudan of sponsoring slavery, he denies a Jewish tie to Jerusalem, and he wrote a booklet titled "Americans Beware! The Zionist Plot Against S. Arabia." (Both Obama and al-Mansour deny Sutton's account.)
 Kenny Gamble, or Luqman Abdul-Haqq, "amir" of the United Muslim Movement.
The Kenny Gamble (also known as Luqman Abdul-Haqq) connection: Gamble, a once-prominent pop music producer, cut the ribbon to the Obama campaign headquarters housed in a south Philadelphia building he owns. Gamble is an Islamist who buys large swaths of real estate in Philadelphia to create a Muslim-only residential area. Also, as the self-styled "amir" of the United Muslim Movement, he has many links to Islamist organizations, including CAIR and the Muslim Alliance in North America. (MANA's "amir" is Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.)
The Mazen Asbahi connection: The Obama campaign's first Muslim outreach coordinator resigned after it came to light that he had served on the board of a subsidiary of the Saudi-sponsored North American Islamic Trust, with Jamal Said, another unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 Hamas funding trial. Asbahi has ties to CAIR's Chicago and Detroit offices, to the Islamic Society of North America, yet another unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas funding trial, and to other Islamist organizations.
The Minha Husaini connection: The campaign's second Muslim outreach coordinator has an Islamist background, having served as an intern in the Muslim Public Service Network. Immediately upon her appointment by Obama, she met with a group of about thirty Muslims including such notorious figures as CAIR's Nihad Awad; the Muslim American Society's Mahdi Bray, who has publicly supported the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups; and Johari Abdul Malik of the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Va., who has advised American Muslims: "You can blow up bridges, but you cannot kill people who are innocent on their way to work."
Second, Obama's ties to the Nation of Islam:
 Louis Farrakhan, who calls Obama "the Messiah."

Obama's long-time donor and ally Antoin "Tony" Rezko partnered for nearly three decades with Jabir Herbert Muhammad, a son of NoI leader Elijah Muhammad, and says he gave Jabir and his family "millions of dollars over the years." Rezko also served as executive director of the Muhammad Ali Foundation, a rogue organization that, without Ali's permission, exploited the name of this CAIR awardee.

Jeremiah Wright, Obama's esteemed pastor for twenty years, came out of a Nation background, recently he accepted protection from an NoI security detail, and has praised Louis Farrakhan, the NoI's leader, as one of the "giants of the African American religious experience." Wright's church celebrated Farrakhan for his having "truly epitomized greatness."

Farrakhan himself endorsed Obama, calling him "the hope of the entire world," "one who can lift America from her fall," and even "the Messiah."
That Obama's biography touches so frequently on such unsavory organizations as CAIR and the Nation of Islam should give pause. How many of politicians have a single tie to either group, much less seven of them? John McCain charitably calls Obama "a person you do not have to be scared [of] as president of the United States," but Obama's multiple links to anti-Americans and subversives mean he would fail the standard security clearance process for Federal employees.

Islamic aggression represents America's strategic enemy; Obama's many insalubrious connections raise grave doubts about his fitness to serve as America's commander-in-chief.

Click to view Videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EcC0QAd0Ug
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIrWrxuR_GM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OowxMcVTjTE




Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
23476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Helicopter Bernanke at it again on: October 21, 2008, 07:04:19 AM
The Carter years return , , ,
======================

WSJ:

Ben Bernanke apparently wants four more years as Federal Reserve Chairman. At least that's a reasonable conclusion after Mr. Bernanke all but submitted his job application to Barack Obama yesterday by endorsing the Democratic version of fiscal "stimulus."

While the Fed chief said any stimulus should be "well targeted," even a general endorsement amounts to a political green light. Mr. Bernanke certainly knows that Mr. Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill are talking about some $300 billion in new "stimulus" spending, while President Bush and Republicans are resisting. And by saying any help should "limit longer-term effects" on the federal deficit, he had to know he was reinforcing Democratic opposition to permanent tax cuts.

Mr. Bernanke could have begged off -- and would have been wiser to do so -- given how much the Fed has already made itself a political lightning rod with its many Wall Street interventions. He might also have thought twice about endorsing one party's policy preferences a mere two weeks before Election Day given his obligation to preserve the Fed's independence. We can remember when tougher Fed chairmen used to refrain from adjusting interest rates close to an election for fear of seeming to be political; they would never have dreamed of meddling in campaign tax and spending debates.

Perhaps Mr. Bernanke's blunderbuss political intrusion will win him more Democrat friends, and maybe even Mr. Obama's goodwill. To the rest of the world, he has harmed the Fed and made himself less credible.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
23477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: October 21, 2008, 07:02:34 AM
Good to see someone else contributing to this thread SB  smiley


"In America, no other distinction between man and man had ever
been known but that of persons in office exercising powers by
authority of the laws, and private individuals.  Among these last,
the poorest laborer stood on equal ground with the wealthiest
millionaire, and generally on a more favored one whenever their
rights seem to jar."

-- Thomas Jefferson (Answers to de Meusnier Questions, 1786)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Lipscomb and Bergh,
eds.,  17:8.
23478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 21, 2008, 01:39:55 AM
Biden's unintentionally candid comments today give McC a tremendous opening-- maybe even to the point of neutralizing or surpassing the foreign affairs credibility implied by the Powell endorsement.
23479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: October 21, 2008, 01:36:40 AM
Debra Bowen used to be my CA Assembly person and now she is Secy of State of CA.  Even though she is a Democrat, overall she has been a decent hardworking one.  So I was disappointed to here that this Republican's arrest may be connected to certain donations she received , , ,  FCUK!!!  Are NONE of them honest?!?  angry
23480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 21, 2008, 01:34:02 AM
On the Brit Hume Report tonight Krauthammer was saying the Biden must be a Republican mole  cheesy
23481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: October 20, 2008, 07:50:21 PM
Well good for the cops!

And, good thing Senator McCain didn't train him and his people, and funnel many hundreds of thousands of dollars to him pretending it was for "lighting". rolleyes
23482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: October 20, 2008, 04:04:28 PM
When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away.

I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy.
 
 
23483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Clusterfcuk on: October 20, 2008, 03:35:29 PM
Ummm, , , who is Rachel Maddow?
23484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 20, 2008, 01:03:02 PM
I'm not clear here.  Are you saying that transcript is of Brokaw?
23485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 20, 2008, 12:59:18 PM
"There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the
people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than
by violent and sudden usurpations."

-- James Madison (speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention,
16 June 1788)

Reference: Bartlett's Quotations (352)
23486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager: Two Americas on: October 20, 2008, 12:43:07 PM
There Are Two Irreconcilable Americas
By Dennis Prager
It is time to confront the unhappy fact about our country: There are now two Americas. Not a rich one and a poor one; economic status plays little role in this division.

There is a red one and a blue one.

For most of my life I have believed, in what I now regard as wishful thinking, that the right and left wings have essentially the same vision for America, that it's only about ways to get there in which the two sides differ. Right and left share the same ends, I thought.

That is not the case. For the most part, right and left differ in their visions of America and that is why they differ on policies.

Right and the left do not want the same America.

The left wants America to look as much like Western European countries as possible. The left wants Europe's quasi-pacifism, cradle-to-grave socialism, egalitarianism and secularism in America. The right wants none of those values to dominate America.

The left wants America not only to have a secular government, but to have a secular society. The left feels that if people want to be religious, they should do so at home and in their houses of prayer, but never try to inject their religious values into society. The right wants America to continue to be what it has always been -- a Judeo-Christian society with a largely secular government (that is not indifferent to religion). These opposing visions explain, for example, their opposite views concerning nondenominational prayer in school.

The left prefers to identify as citizens of the world. The left fears nationalism in general (this has been true for the European left since World War I), and since the 1960s, the American left has come to fear American nationalism in particular. On the other side, the right identifies first as citizens of America.

The left therefore regards the notion of American exceptionalism as chauvinism; the United Nations and world opinion are regarded as better arbiters of what is good than is America. The right has a low opinion of the U.N.'s moral compass and of world opinion, both of which it sees as having a much poorer record of stopping genocide and other evils than America has.

The left is ambivalent about and often hostile to overt displays of American patriotism. That is why, for example, one is far more likely to find American flags displayed in Orange County, Calif., on national holidays than in liberal neighborhoods in West Los Angeles, Manhattan or San Francisco.

The left subscribes to the French Revolution, whose guiding principles were “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." The right subscribes to the American formula, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." The French/European notion of equality is not mentioned. The right rejects the French Revolution and does not hold Western Europe as a model. The left does. That alone makes right and left irreconcilable.

The left envisions an egalitarian society. The right does not. The left values equality above other values because it yearns for an America in which all people have similar amounts of material possessions. This is what propels the left to advocate laws that would force employers to pay women the same wages they pay men not only for the same job but for “comparable” jobs (as if that is objectively ascertainable). The right values equality in opportunity and strongly believes that all people are created equal, but the right values liberty, a man-woman based family and other values above equality.

The left wants a world -- and therefore an America -- devoid of nuclear weapons. The right wants America to have the best nuclear weapons. The right trusts American might more than universal disarmament.

The left wants to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples for the first time in history. The right wants gays to have equal rights, but to keep marriage defined as man-woman. This, too, constitutes an irreconcilable divide.

For these and other reasons, calls for a unity among Americans that transcends left and right are either naive or disingenuous. America will be united only when one of them prevails over the other. The left knows this. Most on the right do not.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
23487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Clusterfcuk on: October 20, 2008, 12:32:54 PM
“Under an Obama administration, it is not far-fetched to see the day when liberal federal judges decide that religious organizations must lose their tax exemptions should they refuse to employ homosexuals or others they regard as engaging in deviant behavior. Court challenges against those who believe homosexual behavior is sinful seem to be occurring with greater frequency... The aim of the gay rights lobby is to destroy all remnants of biblical values and societal norms. Gay rights advocates will take their agenda to federal courts as soon as sufficient numbers of liberal judges are there to give them what they want. Watch them vote in overwhelming numbers for Barack Obama. He is their future. This election is, among other things, about the future of the majority and whether we want this country to be shaped by the courts, or by ‘we the people’.” —Cal Thomas
23488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Carbon Ultimatum on: October 20, 2008, 12:26:16 PM
Liberals pretend that only President Bush is preventing the U.S. from adopting some global warming "solution." But occasionally their mask slips. As Barack Obama's energy adviser has now made clear, the would-be President intends to blackmail -- or rather, greenmail -- Congress into falling in line with his climate agenda.

 
APJason Grumet is currently executive director of an outfit called the National Commission on Energy Policy and one of Mr. Obama's key policy aides. In an interview last week with Bloomberg, Mr. Grumet said that come January the Environmental Protection Agency "would initiate those rulemakings" that classify carbon as a dangerous pollutant under current clean air laws. That move would impose new regulation and taxes across the entire economy, something that is usually the purview of Congress. Mr. Grumet warned that "in the absence of Congressional action" 18 months after Mr. Obama's inauguration, the EPA would move ahead with its own unilateral carbon crackdown anyway.

Well, well. For years, Democrats -- including Senator Obama -- have been howling about the "politicization" of the EPA, which has nominally been part of the Bush Administration. The complaint has been that the White House blocked EPA bureaucrats from making the so-called "endangerment finding" on carbon. Now it turns out that a President Obama would himself wield such a finding as a political bludgeon. He plans to issue an ultimatum to Congress: Either impose new taxes and limits on carbon that he finds amenable, or the EPA carbon police will be let loose to ravage the countryside.

The EPA hasn't made a secret of how it would like to centrally plan the U.S. economy under the 1970 Clean Air Act. In a blueprint released in July, the agency didn't exactly say it'd collectivize the farms -- but pretty close, down to the "grass clippings." The EPA would monitor and regulate the carbon emissions of "lawn and garden equipment" as well as everything with an engine, like cars, planes and boats. Eco-bureaucrats envision thousands of other emissions limits on all types of energy. Coal-fired power and other fossil fuels would be ruled out of existence, while all other prices would rise as the huge economic costs of the new regime were passed down the energy chain to consumers.

These costs would far exceed the burden of a straight carbon tax or cap-and-trade system enacted by Congress, because the Clean Air Act was never written to apply to carbon and other greenhouse gases. It's like trying to do brain surgery with a butter knife. Mr. Obama wants to move ahead anyway because he knows that the costs of any carbon program will be high. He knows, too, that Congress -- even with strongly Democratic majorities -- might still balk at supporting tax increases on their constituents, even if it is done in the name of global warming.

Climate-change politics don't break cleanly along partisan lines. The burden of a carbon clampdown will fall disproportionately on some states over others, especially the 25 interior states that get more than 50% of their electricity from coal. Rustbelt manufacturing states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania will get hit hard too. Once President Bush leaves office, the coastal Democrats pushing hardest for a climate change program might find their colleagues splitting off, especially after they vote for a huge tax increase on incomes.

Thus Messrs. Obama and Grumet want to invoke a political deus ex machina driven by a faulty interpretation of the Clean Air Act to force Congress's hand. Mr. Obama and Democrats can then tell Americans that Congress must act to tax and regulate carbon to save the country from even worse bureaucratic consequences. It's Mr. Obama's version of Jack Benny's old "your money or your life" routine, but without the punch line.

The strategy is most notable for what it says about the climate-change lobby and its new standard bearer. Supposedly global warming is the transcendent challenge of the age, but Mr. Obama evidently doesn't believe he'll be able to convince his own party to do something about it without a bureaucratic ultimatum. Mr. Grumet justified it this way: "The U.S. has to move quickly domestically . . . We cannot have a meaningful impact in the international discussion until we develop a meaningful domestic consensus."

Normally a democracy reaches consensus through political debate and persuasion, but apparently for Mr. Obama that option is merely a nuisance. It's another example of "change" you'll be given no choice but to believe in.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal
23489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: October 20, 2008, 12:10:25 PM
Has General Powell Heard of 'The Surge'?

NBC's Tom Brokaw certainly landed the big news that former Secretary of State Colin Powell was supporting Barack Obama. But in nearly half an our of airtime on "Meet the Press," Mr. Brokaw didn't bother to ask Gen. Powell about the success of the surge in Iraq or Mr. Obama's vote against General David Petraeus's winning strategy.

Newsbusters.com, a watchdog site run by the Media Research Center, notes that Mr. Powell, at one point, did suggest Iraqis are "going to make the political decisions, their security forces are going to take over, and they're going to have to create an environment of reconciliation where all the people can come together and make Iraq a much, much better place."

As Newsbusters observes, "This would have been an ideal moment for Brokaw to ask Powell if it was the surge that put America in a position to draw down troops . . . and what it says about Obama's military and foreign policy acumen that he opposed this strategy?" Instead, Mr. Brokaw suddenly changed the subject and veered into a question about William Ayers, the Obama associate and former Weather Underground member whom John McCain has criticized. Oh, how we miss Tim Russert, the late host of "Meet the Press," who would never have let go of a subject until he had drained the last ounce of news value from it.

-- John Fund

Bad Blood

Colin Powell attributed his endorsement of Barack Obama on "Meet the Press" yesterday not just to the unreadiness of Sarah Palin to serve as president but also to John McCain's reaction to the financial crisis, the general rightward tilt of the GOP and comments anonymous senior Republican officials privately made in recent months about Mr. Obama's faith.

In fact, Mr. Powell's estrangement from the GOP predates the McCain campaign and goes back to his speech on Feb. 5, 2003 making the case in the United Nations for war against Iraq.

The best reporting on this turning point was done by Karen DeYoung, an associate editor at the Washington Post. In a lengthy article published two years ago, she recounted how at one point Dick Cheney poked Mr. Powell in the chest and told him: "You've got high poll ratings; you can afford to lose a few points."

The rest is history: In the months after the invasion, when no stockpiled WMD were found in Iraq, Mr. Powell grew disenchanted with the White House and offered at least two dissenting public statements about WMD that drew a rebuke (including calls from Condoleezza Rice asking him how he was going to clean up the mess his comments created). When a special prosecutor was appointed to look into who leaked the name of CIA agent Valeria Plame, Mr. Powell never stepped forward with the leaker's name, even though he knew all along it was his own deputy Richard Armitage. Instead, Mr. Powell allowed the special prosecutor to spend months questioning White House staffers and journalists, eventually leading to the indictment of Cheney aide Lewis Libby for obstruction and perjury.

Shortly after Mr. Bush won re-election in 2004, Mr. Powell resigned and has spent much of the past year making noises about endorsing Mr. Obama, including praising the speech the Democratic presidential candidate gave on race in Philadelphia and defending his intention of holding presidential level talks with Iran. When asked about Mr. Powell's endorsement, John McCain yesterday said it "doesn't come as a surprise." Given the history, what's surprising is that it took Mr. Powell so long to leave the GOP.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day

"We have never had a presidential race, since 1944, where the contest was not the most important news in the four weeks before the election. (In 1944, the war overshadowed the election much to the frustration of the Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey). The candidates seem unable to get a word in edgewise as the financial news dominates. People follow the Dow Jones more than the Gallup, Rasmussen or Zogby polls. If the presidential race remains an afterthought, crowded out by the financial news, Obama will waltz into the White House by a comfortable margin. But if the stock market stops its gyrations for a while and no new household name/corporation or bank goes broke, the negatives against Obama will compel attention at last. And then the race may close swiftly and dramatically" -- former Clinton consultant Dick Morris, writing in The Hill newspaper.

Extraordinary Joe

I caught up with the most famous man in America these days, Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, when we appeared together on the new Fox TV show Huckabee. Joe has a shiny bald head and a burly, chiseled body. Though resolute in his beliefs and always polite, he seemed a bit overwhelmed by the attention he's received in the past week. He also gave me a first-hand account of his encounter with Barack Obama and his reaction to the vicious left-wing attack machine that has been turned on him over the past week.

"I just thought his tax plan would really hurt small businesses," he told me, explaining why he spoke up when the Democratic nominee came canvassing down his street outside of Toledo, Ohio. "It seemed contrary to the American dream to me. Why tax success?" Joe said he hoped to build a business as a plumbing contractor, and those taxes "would really hit that kind of small business." "It's not just the taxes," he added. "The health care plan that Obama has will also add to employer costs."

He's right on the mark there. The Obama pay-or-play health care plan imposes new costs on small and medium-sized businesses that don't pay health care for their employees. "A lot of these employers just can't afford it," he says.

I asked him why he had not joined the plumbers union, which seems to have caused heartache among his liberal critics. "I don't have anything against the unions," he says. "I just didn't see the purpose of paying the dues. Never wanted to." No wonder the left is out to get him. He also brushes off the criticism altogether of his unpaid $1200 tax bill. "That's all beside the point. I just raised a question about how the Obama plan would affect people like me. This election is about America and what our country will look like."

As for the attacks mounted in the New York Times and elsewhere on his character, "To be honest, I never saw this coming," he tells me with a pained expression. "It's not fair to my family."

Mr. Wurzelbacher was accompanied by his father, also a blue-collar worker, and his 12-year-old son in his visit to Fox News -- seemingly a tight-knit Midwestern family feeling the same tough times that many Americans from states like Ohio are confronting. On talk radio shows this past week, we have learned there are thousands of people like Joe the Plumber, all raising the same questions. These are voters Democrats say they stand behind and whose economic interests they protect -- as long as they don't question the left's vision of America. If John McCain pulls off an upset, he will have Joe Wurzelbacher and others like him to thank.

-- Stephen Moore

Joe, Take Two

I also crossed paths with Joe the Plumber over the weekend and found him to be a common-sense, down-to-earth guy who knows a lot more than just pipes.

Asked about his exchange with Barack Obama on the candidate's tax plan, he said Mr. Obama was a smooth talker but not a good listener. He seemed mistakenly to think Joe was already making a lot of money, not merely that he hoped someday to own a business that would make over $250,000 a year. "I don't make nearly that much now, but I hope to in the business I buy someday," Mr. Wurzelbacher told me.

Mr. Obama also muffed details of his own tax plan, confusing a small business's revenue and net income, and the tax rate that would apply under his proposals. He also seemed hazy about the Flat Tax, put forward by Steve Forbes and Dick Armey a decade ago, confusing it with proposals for a national sales tax and saying the rate would have to go to 40%. "I was talking about one thing, and he was answering me about something else," Mr. Wurzelbacher recalls.

The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank in Chicago, points out that a flat tax would let Americans see exactly how much government costs in one easy, transparent and accountable tax. Mr. Obama's reforms, in contrast, would only add to the thousands of loopholes, exemptions and complications of the current 67,000 page tax code. "A candidate for president should at least know the difference between a flat tax and a national sales tax," Heartland concludes. "But both a flat tax and a national sales tax are head and shoulders over the convoluted tax system we have now."

-- John Fund





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23490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 20, 2008, 11:50:54 AM
I agree that Powell's endorsement is very helpful for strenghtening the perception of one of BO's weak links.

Here's this from the PD WSJ:

Colin Powell attributed his endorsement of Barack Obama on "Meet the Press" yesterday not just to the unreadiness of Sarah Palin to serve as president but also to John McCain's reaction to the financial crisis, the general rightward tilt of the GOP and comments anonymous senior Republican officials privately made in recent months about Mr. Obama's faith.

In fact, Mr. Powell's estrangement from the GOP predates the McCain campaign and goes back to his speech on Feb. 5, 2003 making the case in the United Nations for war against Iraq.

The best reporting on this turning point was done by Karen DeYoung, an associate editor at the Washington Post. In a lengthy article published two years ago, she recounted how at one point Dick Cheney poked Mr. Powell in the chest and told him: "You've got high poll ratings; you can afford to lose a few points."

The rest is history: In the months after the invasion, when no stockpiled WMD were found in Iraq, Mr. Powell grew disenchanted with the White House and offered at least two dissenting public statements about WMD that drew a rebuke (including calls from Condoleezza Rice asking him how he was going to clean up the mess his comments created). When a special prosecutor was appointed to look into who leaked the name of CIA agent Valeria Plame, Mr. Powell never stepped forward with the leaker's name, even though he knew all along it was his own deputy Richard Armitage. Instead, Mr. Powell allowed the special prosecutor to spend months questioning White House staffers and journalists, eventually leading to the indictment of Cheney aide Lewis Libby for obstruction and perjury.

Shortly after Mr. Bush won re-election in 2004, Mr. Powell resigned and has spent much of the past year making noises about endorsing Mr. Obama, including praising the speech the Democratic presidential candidate gave on race in Philadelphia and defending his intention of holding presidential level talks with Iran. When asked about Mr. Powell's endorsement, John McCain yesterday said it "doesn't come as a surprise." Given the history, what's surprising is that it took Mr. Powell so long to leave the GOP.

-- Brendan Miniter
23491  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: October 20, 2008, 11:42:05 AM
We had a fine time this past Saturday, going deep into Kali Tudo:

a) Arfful Dodger
b) Zirconia
c) The Rico
d) Anti- Plumb
23492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / stratfor on: October 20, 2008, 11:34:21 AM
Mexico: Commercial Paper and a Tortured Budget
Stratfor Today » October 18, 2008 | 1555 GMT

ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images
Mexico’s 50-peso notesSummary
The security situation in Mexico has been dire for some time. Now the global financial crisis threatens to push the country into uncharted territory as the government struggles to prop up the economy while fighting a war against some of the wealthiest and most organized criminals in the world.

Analysis
The Mexican government issued $3.9 billion in guarantees for Mexican commercial paper Oct. 17, Reuters reported. The move follows failed attempts by the Mexican cement company Cemex and Mexican units of American automakers to issue some $76 million in bonds. These developments are a sign of troubled times as Mexico feels the effects of the global financial crisis. The Mexican government had already injected $8.3 billion into the markets to prop up the peso. Putting all this money forward will strain an already-tortured government budget that is dependent on a failing oil industry and must support a critical war against drug cartels.

The most vulnerable aspect of the Mexican economy is its exposure to the declining U.S. market — particularly in Mexico’s export sector. Over 80 percent of Mexico’s exports go to the United States, and the emerging U.S. recession is sure to throw this trade relationship into chaos.

Mexico is also heavily linked to the U.S. economy through remittances. Mexicans working in the United States send approximately $24.3 billion per year back home — or about 3 percent of the gross domestic product. Declines in reported remittance rates have already been reported throughout Central American states, which rely heavily on these wealth transfers. As the U.S. economy shrinks, and competition for low-wage positions increases, illegal immigrants will be pushed out of the job market, and remittances to Mexico will decline even further.

Finally, Mexico is highly exposed to the financial crisis because of the shrinking pool of global credit and the growing number of nervous investors. On the one hand, this has caused a rapid devaluation of the Mexican peso as investors rapidly pull capital from third-world markets and dump it into safer markets (i.e., the U.S. dollar). On the other hand, we have seen the results of a rapidly shrinking pool of international credit as wealth has disappeared, banks have stopped lending and investors have panicked.

This has manifested itself in Cemex’s inability to issue corporate paper, which has been a serious cause for concern in Mexican business circles. Mexico’s banks are particularly vulnerable to shrinking global capital. About 80 percent of its banking sector is controlled by foreign entities, which means that 80 percent of domestic credit is subject to the whims of the international credit pool. Any serious threat to such a large portion of the banking sector could cause a collapse of the banking system.

But the economic situation is not the only threat to Mexico’s stability. Mexico is deeply embroiled in a war against violent drug cartels that control substantial portions of the country. The death toll in 2008 alone has risen to over 3,100 and appears likely to hit 4,000 by the end of the year. And the war is not free. The government’s ability to respond effectively to an economic crisis while funding a massive military and law enforcement effort is low — and the scarcity of funds could loosen public support for the cartel war as people look to solve their basic economic needs.

Moreover, a downturn in the economy will only exacerbate the security situation in Mexico. As jobs in the United States become scarce, many of the illegal Mexican migrant laborers there will be left jobless. Many will return to Mexico, where employment opportunities are no better. There is already some anecdotal evidence that reverse illegal migration into Mexico has become much more noticeable. The return to Mexico of thousands of unemployed young workers will flood the Mexican labor market.

There is no question that increased poverty and unemployment will contribute to a worsening security situation in Mexico. Ordinary criminal activities such as theft will likely increase, which could boost organized crime. Options in the legitimate economy will be few, but the underground economy — in drugs or other inelastic commodities — could flourish during a downturn. Indeed, a declining economy will make the cartels the only game in town, and rising unemployment will provide them with an excellent recruiting opportunity.
23493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: October 19, 2008, 08:47:18 PM
That's deep  shocked
23494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 19, 2008, 04:18:15 PM
"The rich who keep getting richer *is a huge problem*.  And yes they *certainly do* hold all the cards."

My understanding is that the data clearly show that IN AMERICA the children of the rich tend to p*ss it away and that the grandchildren of the rich or great grandchildren have to start all over. 
23495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: October 19, 2008, 12:49:46 PM
Someone whose opinions I respect highly writes me:

I do think TIPS are the ideal asset for anyone who is risk-averse. 
They are fully guaranteed by the US government. They pay a real 
interest rate of about 3% on top of whatever the rate of consumer 
price inflation is. Any time you can lock in a guaranteed real return 
of 3% you would be wise to take it. On a risk-adjusted basis, TIPS are 
today probably the most attractive asset class in the world.

Let's say you buy $10K worth of 10-yr TIPS. They currently have a 3% 
real yield. The face value of the bonds will rise by a rate that is 
equal to the rise in the consumer price index. If the CPI averages 3% 
a year for 10 years, you will have bonds with a face value of $13,440 
at maturity. Plus, each year you will receive a coupon payment equal 
to 3% of the inflation-adjusted face value of the bonds.

So, if inflation is 3% a year, the return on your investment will be 
(1.03) * (1.03) - 1, or 6.1% per year. If inflation is 4% per year, 
your annual return will be (1.04) * (1.03) - 1, or 7.1% per year.

One caveat: if you hold TIPS in a taxable account the inflation 
accretion of the face value is treated as OID, so that can result in 
negative cash flow.

If an individual buys TIPS on the secondary market, the bid/ask spread 
can be huge, typically 2.5%. Better to buy them at auction, but you 
have to plan ahead to do that. Or buy them via a mutual fund. The best 
one I know is the iShares Lehman Inflation Protected fund (symbol: 
TIP).
23496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Road to Hell, as usual, paved with good intenions on: October 19, 2008, 11:10:18 AM
And this is what government meddling can look like:
=================================
NY Times

Building Flawed American Dreams
 

DavID STREITFELD and GRETCHEN MORGENSON
Published: October 18, 2008

SAN ANTONIO — A grandson of Mexican immigrants and a former mayor of this town, Henry G. Cisneros has spent years trying to make the dream of homeownership come true for low-income families. As the Clinton administration’s top housing official in the mid-1990s, Mr. Cisneros loosened mortgage restrictions so first-time buyers could qualify for loans they could never get before.

Then, capitalizing on a housing expansion he helped unleash, he joined the boards of a major builder, KB Home, and the largest mortgage lender in the nation, Countrywide Financial — two companies that rode the housing boom, drawing criticism along the way for abusive business practices. 

And Mr. Cisneros became a developer himself. The Lago Vista development here in his hometown once stood as a testament to his life’s work. Joining with KB, he built 428 homes for low-income buyers in what was a neglected, industrial neighborhood. He often made the trip from downtown to ask residents if they were happy.

“People bought here because of Cisneros,” says Celia Morales, a Lago Vista resident. “There was a feeling of, ‘He’s got our back.’ ”

But Mr. Cisneros rarely comes around anymore. Lago Vista, like many communities born in the housing boom, is now under stress. Scores of homes have been foreclosed, including one in five over the last six years on the community’s longest street, Sunbend Falls, according to property records.

While Mr. Cisneros says he remains proud of his work, he has misgivings over what his passion has wrought. He insists that the worst problems developed only after “bad actors” hijacked his good intentions but acknowledges that “people came to homeownership who should not have been homeowners.”

They were lured by “unscrupulous participants — bankers, brokers, secondary market people,” he says. “The country is paying for that, and families are hurt because we as a society did not draw a line.”  (What a weasel!)

The causes of the housing implosion are many: lax regulation, financial innovation gone awry, excessive debt, raw greed. The players are also varied: bankers, borrowers, developers, politicians and bureaucrats. Mr. Cisneros, 61, had a foot in a number of those worlds. Despite his qualms, he encouraged the unprepared to buy homes — part of a broad national trend with dire economic consequences.

He reflects often on his role in the debacle, he says, which has changed homeownership from something that secured a place in the middle class to something that is ejecting people from it. “I’ve been waiting for someone to put all the blame at my doorstep,” he says lightly, but with a bit of worry, too.  (Hmmm, why would that be?  angry )

The Paydays During the Boom

After a sex scandal destroyed his promising political career and he left Washington, he eventually reinvented himself as a well-regarded advocate and builder of urban, working-class homes. He has financed the construction of more than 7,000 houses.

For the three years he was a director at KB Home, Mr. Cisneros received at least $70,000 in pay and more than $100,000 worth of stock. He also received $1.14 million in directors’ fees and stock grants during the six years he was a director at Countrywide. He made more than $5 million from Countrywide stock options, money he says he plowed into his company.

He says his development work provides an annual income of “several hundred thousand” dollars. All told, his paydays are modest relative to the windfalls some executives netted in the boom. Indeed, Mr. Cisneros says his mistake was not the greed that afflicted many of his counterparts in banking and housing; it was unwavering belief.

It was, he argues, impossible to know in the beginning that the federal push to increase homeownership would end so badly. Once the housing boom got going, he suggests, laws and regulations barely had a chance.  (You fcuking moron!!!  It was inevitable!  It is precisely what happens when the government intervenes, and intervenes massively in the market!)

“You think you have a finely tuned instrument that you can use to say: ‘Stop! We’re at 69 percent homeownership. We should not go further. There are people who should remain renters,’ ” he says. “But you really are just given a sledgehammer and an ax. They are blunt tools.”

From people dizzily drawing home equity loans out of increasingly valuable houses to banks racking up huge fees, few wanted the party to end.

“I’m not sure you can regulate when we’re talking about an entire nation of 300 million people and this behavior becomes viral,” Mr. Cisneros says.   (Well, duh!  THIS IS PRECISELY WHY YOU SHOLD NOT START!)

Homeownership has deep roots in the American soul. But until recently getting a mortgage was a challenge for low-income families. Many of these families were minorities, which naturally made the subject of special interest to Mr. Cisneros, who, in 1993, became the first Hispanic head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

He had President Clinton’s ear, an easy charisma and a determination to increase a homeownership rate that had been stagnant for nearly three decades.  Thus was born the National Homeownership Strategy, which promoted ownership as patriotic and an easy win for all. “We were trying to be creative,” Mr. Cisneros recalls.

==========

(Page 2 of 4)

Under Mr. Cisneros, there were small and big changes at HUD, an agency that greased the mortgage wheel for first-time buyers by insuring billions of dollars in loans. Families no longer had to prove they had five years of stable income; three years sufficed.

And in another change championed by the mortgage industry, lenders were allowed to hire their own appraisers rather than rely on a government-selected panel. This saved borrowers money but opened the door for inflated appraisals. (A later HUD inquiry uncovered appraisal fraud that imperiled the federal mortgage insurance fund.)   (I'm shocked! Absolutely shocked!)

“Henry did everything he could for home builders while he was at HUD,” says Janet Ahmad, president of Homeowners for Better Building, an advocacy group in San Antonio, who has known Mr. Cisneros since he was a city councilor. “That laid the groundwork for where we are now.”

Mr. Cisneros, who says he has no recollection that appraisal rules were relaxed when he ran HUD, disputes that notion. “I look back at HUD and feel my hands were clean,” he says.

Lenders applauded two more changes HUD made on Mr. Cisneros’s watch: they no longer had to interview most government-insured borrowers face to face or maintain physical branch offices. The industry changed, too. Lenders sprang up to serve those whose poor credit history made them ineligible for lower-interest “prime” loans. Countrywide, which Angelo R. Mozilo co-founded in 1969, set up a subprime unit in 1996.

Mr. Cisneros met Mr. Mozilo while he was HUD secretary, when Countrywide signed a government pledge to use “proactive creative efforts” to extend homeownership to minorities and low-income Americans. He met Bruce E. Karatz, the chief executive of KB Home, when both were helping Los Angeles rebuild after the Northridge earthquake in 1994.

There were real gains during the Clinton years, as homeownership rose to 67.4 percent in 2000 from 64 percent in 1994. Hispanics and African-Americans were the biggest beneficiaries. But as the boom later gathered steam, and as the Bush administration continued the Clinton administration’s push to amplify homeownership, some of those gains turned out to be built on sand. 

Mr. Cisneros left government in 1997 after revelations that he had lied to federal investigators about payments to a former mistress. In the following years, HUD continued to draw attention in the news media and among consumer advocates for an overly lenient posture toward the housing industry.

In 2000, Mr. Cisneros returned to San Antonio, where he formed American CityVista, a developer, in partnership with KB, and became a KB director. KB’s board also included James A. Johnson, a prominent Democrat and the former chief executive of Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant now being run by the government. Mr. Johnson did not return a phone call seeking comment.

It made for a cozy network. Fannie bought or backed many mortgages received by home buyers in the KB Home/American CityVista partnership. And Fannie’s biggest mortgage client was Countrywide, whose board Mr. Cisneros had joined in 2001.

Because American CityVista was privately held, Mr. Cisneros’s earnings are not disclosed. He held a 65 percent stake, and KB had the rest. In 2002, KB paid $1.24 million to American CityVista for “services rendered.”

‘A Little Too Ambitious’

One of American CityVista’s first projects, unveiled in late 2000, was Lago Vista — Spanish for “Lake View.” The location was unusual: San Antonio’s proud and insular South Side, a Hispanic area home to secondhand car dealers, light industry and pawnshops.  Mr. Cisneros and KB pledged to transform an overgrown patch of land into a showcase. Homes were initially priced from $70,000 to about $95,000, and Mr. Cisneros promised that Lago Vista would be ringed with jogging paths and maple trees.

The paths were never built, and few trees provide shade from the Texas sun. The adjoining “lake” — at one point a run-off pit for an asphalt plant — is fenced off, a hazard to neighborhood children. The houses are gaily painted in pink, blue, yellow or tan, and most owners keep their yards green and tidy.

KB considers Lago Vista a “model community,” a spokeswoman said.

To get things rolling in Lago Vista, traditional bars to homeownership were lowered to the ground. Fannie Mae, CityVista and KB promoted a program allowing police officers, firefighters, teachers and others to get loans with nothing down and no closing costs.

KB marketed its developments in videos. In one from 2003, Mr. Karatz declared: “One of the greatest misconceptions today is people who sit back and think, ‘I can’t afford to buy.’ ” Mr. Cisneros appeared — identified as a former HUD director — saying the time was ripe to buy a home. Many agreed.

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

(Page 3 of 4)



Victor Ramirez and Lorraine Pulido-Ramirez bought a house in Lago Vista in 2002. “This was our first home. I had nothing to compare it to,” Mr. Ramirez says. “I was a student making $17,000 a year, my wife was between jobs. In retrospect, how in hell did we qualify?”

The majority of buyers in Lago Vista “were duped into believing it was easier than it was,” Mr. Ramirez says. “The attitude was, ‘Sign here, sign here, don’t read the fine print.’ ” He added that some fault lay with buyers: “We were definitely willing victims.” (The Ramirez family veered close to foreclosure, but the couple now have good jobs and can make their payments.)

KB and Mr. Cisneros eventually built more than a dozen developments, primarily in Texas. But the shine slowly came off Lago Vista.

“It started off fabulously,” Mr. Karatz recalled. Then sales slowed considerably. “It was probably, looking back, a little too ambitious to think that there would be sufficient local demand.”

And then the foreclosures started. “A lot of people got approved for big amounts,” says Patricia Flores, another Lago Vista homeowner. “They bit off more than they could chew.” Families split up under the strain of mortgage payments. One residence had so much marital turmoil that neighbors nicknamed it “The House of Broken Love.”

Some homes were taken over and sold at a loss by HUD, which had insured them. KB was also a mortgage lender, a business many home builders pursued because it was so profitable. At times, it was also problematic.

Officials at HUD uncovered problems with KB’s lending. In 2005, about two years after Mr. Cisneros left the KB board, the agency filed an administrative action against KB for approving loans based on overstated or improperly documented borrower income, and for charging excessive fees. Because HUD does not specify where improprieties take place, it is not clear if this occurred at Lago Vista.

KB Home paid $3.2 million to settle the HUD action without admitting liability or fault, one of the largest settlements collected by the agency’s mortgagee review board. Shortly afterward, KB sold its lending unit to Countrywide. Then they set up a joint venture: KB installed Countrywide sales representatives in its developments.

By 2007, almost three-quarters of the loans to KB buyers were made by the joint venture. In Lago Vista, residents secured loans from a spectrum of federal agencies and lenders.

During years of heady growth, and then during a deep financial slide, Countrywide became a lightning rod for criticism about excesses and abuses leading to the housing bust — which Countrywide routinely brushed off.

Mr. Cisneros says he was never aware of improprieties at KB or Countrywide, and worked with them because he was impressed by Mr. Karatz and Mr. Mozilo. Mr. Mozilo could not be reached for comment.

Still, Countrywide expanded subprime lending aggressively while Mr. Cisneros served on its board. In September 2004, according to documents provided by a former employee, lending audits in six of Countrywide’s largest regions showed about one in eight loans was “severely unsatisfactory” because of shoddy underwriting.

HUD required such audits and lenders were expected to address problems. Mr. Cisneros was a member of the Countrywide committee that oversaw compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. But he says he did not recall seeing or receiving the reports.

Nor, he says, was there ever a board vote about the wisdom of subprime lending.

“The irresistible temptation to engage in subprime was Countrywide’s fatal error,” he says. “I fault myself for not having seen it and, since it was not something I could change, having left.”

Mr. Cisneros left Countrywide’s board last year. At the time, he expressed “enormous confidence in the leadership.” In 2003, Mr. Cisneros ended his partnership with KB because, he says, he felt constrained working with just one builder. He formed a new company with the same mission, CityView, that has raised $725 million.

Mr. Karatz has a different recollection of why the partnership ended.

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

Page 4 of 4)



“It didn’t become an important part of KB’s business,” he says. “It was profitable but I don’t think as profitable in those initial years as Henry’s group wanted it to be.”



Troubles in Lago Vista

Today in Lago Vista, many are just trying to get by. Residents say crime has risen, and with association dues unpaid, they cannot hire security. Salvador Gutierrez, a truck driver, woke up recently to see four men stealing the tires off his pickup. Seventeen houses are for sale, but there are few buyers.

Hugo Martinez, who got a pair of Countrywide loans to buy a two-bedroom house with no down payment, recently lost his job with a car dealership. He has a lower-paying job as a mechanic and can’t refinance or sell his house.

“They make it easy when you buy,” Mr. Martinez says. “But after a while, the interest rate goes up. KB Home says they cannot help us at all.”

Five years ago, Carlo Lee and Patricia Reyes bought their first home, a three-bedroom house in Lago  Vista. After Mrs. Reyes became ill last year and lost her job, they fell behind on their payments. Last month, Mr. Reyes was laid off from one of his jobs, assembling cabinets. He still works part time at a hospital, but unless the couple come up with missed payments and fees, they will lose their home.

“Everyone isn’t happy here in Lago Vista,” Mr. Reyes says. “Everyone has a lot of problems.”

Countrywide was bought recently at a fire-sale price by Bank of America. Mr. Cisneros describes Mr. Mozilo as “sick with stress — the final chapter of his life is the infamy that’s been brought on him, or that he brought on himself.”

Mr. Karatz was forced out of KB two years ago amid a compensation scandal. Last month, without admitting or denying the allegations, he settled government charges that he illegally backdated stock options worth $6 million.

For his part, Mr. Cisneros says he is proud of Lago Vista. “It is inaccurate to say that we put people into homes that they couldn’t afford,” he says. “No one was forcing people into homes.”

He also remains bullish on home building, despite the current carnage.

“We’re not selling cigarettes,” he says. “We’re not drawing people into casino gambling. We’re building the homes they’re going to raise their families in.”
23497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: October 19, 2008, 10:56:11 AM
What I infer from it is that precisely because the problem was caused by too much money and meddling the the Govt. in the market, it can't be fixed by too much money and meddling in the market for all the reasons that the Govt. shouldn't have been trying to manipulate the market (printing money, negative interest rates, the FMs, the CRA, Mark to Market Ruies, etc) to begin with.

In short, a clusterfcuk cometh.   

Japan tried saving banks with bad loans with negative rates and they had (have?) a recession that has lasted a really, really long time.  Are we about to be in the same boat?  With His Glibness at the helm, the chances of following all the worst possible policies (taxes, printing money, the govt changing the terms of mortgage contracts, etc etc) become scarily possible.
23498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: October 19, 2008, 10:46:20 AM
Here's one for you GM. Its the NY Times, so caveat lector:

KHOTAN, China — The grand mosque that draws thousands of Muslims each week in this oasis town has all the usual trappings of piety: dusty wool carpets on which to kneel in prayer, a row of turbans and skullcaps for men without headwear, a wall niche facing the holy city of Mecca in the Arabian desert.

But large signs posted by the front door list edicts that are more Communist Party decrees than Koranic doctrines. The imam’s sermon at Friday Prayer must run no longer than a half-hour, the rules say. Prayer in public areas outside the mosque is forbidden. Residents of Khotan are not allowed to worship at mosques outside of town.  One rule on the wall says that government workers and nonreligious people may not be “forced” to attend services at the mosque — a generous wording of a law that prohibits government workers and Communist Party members from going at all.

“Of course this makes people angry,” said a teacher in the mosque courtyard, who would give only a partial name, Muhammad, for fear of government retribution. “Excitable people think the government is wrong in what it does. They say that government officials who are Muslims should also be allowed to pray.”

To be a practicing Muslim in the vast autonomous region of northwestern China called Xinjiang is to live under an intricate series of laws and regulations intended to control the spread and practice of Islam, the predominant religion among the Uighurs, a Turkic people uneasy with Chinese rule.  The edicts touch on every facet of a Muslim’s way of life. Official versions of the Koran are the only legal ones. Imams may not teach the Koran in private, and studying Arabic is allowed only at special government schools.

Two of Islam’s five pillars — the sacred fasting month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca called the hajj — are also carefully controlled. Students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan, and the passports of Uighurs have been confiscated across Xinjiang to force them to join government-run hajj tours rather than travel illegally to Mecca on their own.

Government workers are not permitted to practice Islam, which means the slightest sign of devotion, a head scarf on a woman, for example, could lead to a firing.

The Chinese government, which is officially atheist, recognizes five religions — Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism and Buddhism — and tightly regulates their administration and practice. Its oversight in Xinjiang, though, is especially vigilant because it worries about separatist activity in the region.

Some officials contend that insurgent groups in Xinjiang pose one of the biggest security threats to China, and the government says the “three forces” of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism threaten to destabilize the region. But outside scholars of Xinjiang and terrorism experts argue that heavy-handed tactics like the restrictions on Islam will only radicalize more Uighurs.

Many of the rules have been on the books for years, but some local governments in Xinjiang have publicly highlighted them in the past seven weeks by posting the laws on Web sites or hanging banners in towns.

Those moves coincided with Ramadan, which ran from September to early October, and came on the heels of a series of attacks in August that left at least 22 security officers and one civilian dead, according to official reports. The deadliest attack was a murky ambush in Kashgar that witnesses said involved men in police uniforms fighting each other.

The attacks were the biggest wave of violence in Xinjiang since the 1990s. In recent months, Wang Lequan, the long-serving party secretary of Xinjiang, and Nuer Baikeli, the chairman of the region, have given hard-line speeches indicating that a crackdown will soon begin.

Mr. Wang said the government was engaged in a “life or death” struggle in Xinjiang. Mr. Baikeli signaled that government control of religious activities would tighten, asserting that “the religious issue has been the barometer of stability in Xinjiang.”

Anti-China forces in the West and separatist forces are trying to carry out “illegal religious activities and agitate religious fever,” he said, and “the field of religion has become an increasingly important battlefield against enemies.”

---------------
(Page 2 of 2)

Uighurs are the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, accounting for 46 percent of the population of 19 million. Many say Han Chinese, the country’s dominant ethnic group, discriminate against them based on the most obvious differences between the groups: language and religion.

Times Topics: UighursThe Uighurs began adopting Sunni Islam in the 10th century, although patterns of belief vary widely, and the religion has enjoyed a surge of popularity after the harshest decades of Communist rule. According to government statistics, there are 24,000 mosques and 29,000 religious leaders in Xinjiang. Muslim piety is especially strong in old Silk Road towns in the south like Kashgar, Yarkand and Khotan.

Many Han Chinese see Islam as the root of social problems in Xinjiang.

“The Uighurs are lazy,” said a man who runs a construction business in Kashgar and would give only his last name, Zhao, because of the political delicacy of the topic. “It’s because of their religion,” he said. “They spend so much time praying. What are they praying for?”

The government restrictions are posted inside mosques and elsewhere across Xinjiang. In particular, officials take great pains to publicize the law prohibiting Muslims from arranging their own trips for the hajj. Signs painted on mud-brick walls in the winding alleyways of old Kashgar warn against making illegal pilgrimages. A red banner hanging on a large mosque in the Uighur area of Urumqi, the regional capital, says, “Implement the policy of organized and planned pilgrimage; individual pilgrimage is forbidden.”

As dozens of worshipers streamed into the mosque for prayer on a recent evening, one Uighur man pointed to the sign and shook his head. “We didn’t write that,” he said in broken Chinese. “They wrote that.”  He turned his finger to a white neon sign above the building that simply said “mosque” in Arabic script. “We wrote that,” he said.

Like other Uighurs interviewed for this article, he agreed to speak on the condition that his name not be used for fear of retribution by the authorities.

The government gives various reasons for controlling the hajj. Officials say that the Saudi Arabian government is concerned about crowded conditions in Mecca that have led to fatal tramplings, and that Muslims who leave China on their own sometimes spend too much money on the pilgrimage.  Critics say the government is trying to restrict the movements of Uighurs and prevent them from coming into contact with other Muslims, fearing that such exchanges could build a pan-Islamic identity in Xinjiang.

About two years ago, the government began confiscating the passports of Uighurs across the region, angering many people here. Now virtually no Uighurs have passports, though they can apply for them for short trips. The new restriction has made life especially difficult for businessmen who travel to neighboring countries.

To get a passport to go on an official hajj tour or a business trip, applicants must leave a deposit of nearly $6,000.

One man in Kashgar said the imam at his mosque, who like all official imams is paid by the government, had recently been urging congregants to go to Mecca only with legal tours.

That is not easy for many Uighurs. The cost of an official trip is the equivalent of $3,700, and hefty bribes usually raise the price. Once a person files an application, the authorities do a background check into the family. If the applicant has children, the children must be old enough to be financially self-sufficient, and the applicant is required to show that he or she has substantial savings in the bank. Officials say these conditions ensure that a hajj trip will not leave the family impoverished.

Rules posted last year on the Xinjiang government’s Web site say the applicant must be 50 to 70 years old, “love the country and obey the law.”

The number of applicants far outnumbers the slots available each year, and the wait is at least a year. But the government has been raising the cap. Xinhua, the state news agency, reported that from 2006 to 2007, more than 3,100 Muslims from Xinjiang went on the official hajj, up from 2,000 the previous year.

One young Uighur man in Kashgar said his parents were pushing their children to get married soon so they could prove the children were financially independent, thus allowing them to qualify to go on the hajj. “Their greatest wish is to go to Mecca once,” the man, who wished to be identified only as Abdullah, said over dinner.

But the family has to weigh another factor: the father, now retired, was once a government employee and a Communist Party member, so he might very well lose his pension if he went on the hajj, Abdullah said. 

The rules on fasting during Ramadan are just as strict. Several local governments began posting the regulations on their Web sites last month. They vary by town and county but include requiring restaurants to stay open during daylight hours and mandating that women not wear veils and men shave their beards.

Enforcement can be haphazard. In Kashgar, many Uighur restaurants remained closed during the fasting hours. “The religion is too strong in Kashgar,” said one man. “There are rules, but people don’t follow them.”

One rule that officials in some towns seem especially intent on enforcing is the ban on students’ fasting. Supporters of this policy say students need to eat to study properly.  The local university in Kashgar adheres to the policy. Starting last year, it tried to force students to eat during the day by prohibiting them from leaving campus in the evening to join their families in breaking the daily fast. Residents of Kashgar say the university locked the gates and put glass shards along the top of a campus wall.

After a few weeks, the school built a higher wall.

23499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: October 19, 2008, 12:40:39 AM
I too found the article genuinely insightful.
23500  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Survey on bare knuckle punching on: October 19, 2008, 12:39:05 AM
Woof C-Kaju:

Well, I will be glad to share here the results when they come out, but we certainly do not have to wait for that to have our own discussion here.

TAC,
CD
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