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23501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of bankers? Fannie does! on: September 26, 2011, 07:54:43 PM
WSJ

State Attorneys General were shocked—shocked!—to discover sloppy foreclosure practices last year in the wake of the housing boom and bust, and they have used that revelation to try to squeeze billions of dollars out of the nation's largest banks. Here's a bigger scandal: Fannie Mae knew about the problem years ago.

In a report issued Friday to little media notice, the Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) found that "in 2005, Fannie Mae hired an outside law firm to investigate a variety of allegations referred by one of its investors regarding purported foreclosure processing abuses and other matters." The next year the law firm reported back that some practices, such as filing false paperwork, were "unlawful" and should stop, and it noted that Fannie was implementing a computer system to improve oversight of its foreclosure processing attorney network.

So far, so good—except for what didn't happen next. The IG says that neither Fannie nor its regulator FHFA acted on the 2006 report, and the computer system also didn't materialize. FHFA "examination officials" only learned of the report's existence in March after reading an article in this newspaper.

The IG's report again highlights the loose rules that Fannie and Freddie Mac operated under during the housing boom. Fannie "placed a higher priority on meeting specific earnings goals than it did on ensuring proper accounting, risk management, internal controls, and complete and accurate financial reporting," the IG report recalls from a prior review.

In a letter responding to the IG, FHFA Associate Director Elizabeth Scholz mused: "An effective operational risk program would not have prevented servicing personnel and licensed attorneys from engaging in improper, unethical or fraudulent practices." Maybe not, but since we're talking hypotheticals, wouldn't better oversight of foreclosure practices have helped mitigate the problem?

So far no one has uncovered evidence that banks kicked nondelinquent borrowers out of their homes, despite robo-signing and other sloppy paperwork. Surely the practices of Fannie and Freddie deserve equal scrutiny.

23502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bunker busters? on: September 26, 2011, 07:51:35 PM
Thank you Kostas.

I caught a fragment of a report on FOX that we are now providing bunker busters to the Israelis?!?  Can anyone confirm or deny?

23503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now, how did that get here? on: September 26, 2011, 07:49:15 PM
Wasn't there something in the last few days about a space rock/meteor/moon rock or some such thing of great value that turned up in the Clintons' possession?
23504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: EPA shorting out the electric supply on: September 26, 2011, 07:47:43 PM
The Environmental Protection Agency claims that the critics of its campaign to remake U.S. electricity are partisans, but it turns out that they include other regulators and even some in the Obama Administration. In particular, a trove of documents uncovered by Congressional investigators reveals that these internal critics think the EPA is undermining the security and reliability of the U.S. electric power supply.

With its unprecedented wave of rules, the EPA is abusing traditional air-quality laws to force a large share of the coal-fired fleet to shut down. Amid these sacrifices on the anticarbon altar, Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski and several House committees have been asking, well, what happens after as much as 8% of U.S. generating capacity is taken off the grid?

A special focus of their inquiry has been the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which since 2005 has been charged with ensuring that the (compact florescent) lights stay on. That 8% figure comes from FERC itself in a confidential 2010 assessment of the EPA's regulatory bender—or about 81 gigawatts that FERC's Office of Electric Reliability estimated is "very likely" or "likely" to enter involuntary retirement over the next several years. FERC disclosed the estimate in August in response to Senator Murkowski's questions, along with a slew of memos and emails.

FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, a Democrat, has since disavowed the study as nothing more than back-of-the-envelope scribblings that are now "irrelevant," as he told a recent House hearing. OK, but then could FERC come up with a relevant number? Since he made the study public, Mr. Wellinghoff has disowned responsibility for scrutinizing the EPA rules and now says that FERC will only protect electric reliability ex post facto once the rules are permanent, somehow.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
 
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
.This abdication is all the more striking because the documents show that EPA's blandishments about reliability can't be trusted. In its initial 2010 analysis—a rigorous document—FERC notes in a "next steps" section that the reliability office and industry must "assess the reliability and adequacy impacts of retirement of at risk units." In part, this was because the office believed the EPA analyses to be deficient. One undated memo specifies multiple weaknesses in EPA reliability modelling.

However much power is lost, whether 81 gigawatts or something else, the electric grid is highly local. Even subtracting a small plant could have much larger effects for regions, such as blackouts. The older and less efficient coal plants that are slated for closure are often the crucial nodes that connect the hubs and spokes of the grid. If these "sensitive" interconnections are taken out, as the memo puts it, the power system becomes less stable, harder to manage and may not be able to meet peak-load demand or withstand unexpected disturbances.

When large swaths of Arizona, New Mexico and parts of southern California including San Diego went dark this month, preliminary reports blamed it on a Homer Simpson who flipped the wrong switch. But the incident shows that even minor mistakes or degraded systems can ramify throughout the grid. The EPA scanted these technical, regional issues when writing the rules, even though another "summary of interagency working comments" within the Administration explicitly told the EPA that reliability needed "more discussion."

And according to the FERC minutes of a 2010 meeting between its reliability office and the EPA, EPA staffers waved off those concerns. "The EPA concluded the discussion by stating that it felt the Clean Air Transport Rule and Mercury MACT rule"—two of the most destructive new regulations—"were the highest priority given that these regulations were more finalized." In other words, the agency's green political goals are more important than the real-world outcomes, never mind the danger.

For our part, we've opposed this "highest priority" because the rules are written in a way that maximizes the economic costs, with terrible effects on growth, hiring, investment and consumer prices. And well, well: More than a few people in the Administration seem to agree.

The interagency memo explains that the EPA used its "discretion" to structure one rule so that it is more "stringent" than it needs to be. The agency could achieve the same environmental benefits with "substantial" cost-savings, which "would be far more preferable to the proposed approach," says the memo. It sensibly adds that, "The current economic climate dictates a balancing of economic and environmental interests."

Under pressure from Democrats and the EPA to disavow his own agency's analysis, Mr. Wellinghoff now says that FERC favors only a "safety valve" that would give it the authority to overrule the EPA on a case-by-case basis if its regulations might lead to blackouts. But even this is a tacit admission of EPA's overkill. You don't need a safety valve if there isn't a threat to safety.

The best option would be for the EPA to write less destructive rules that don't jeopardize reliability in the first place. Failing that, we should at least know the risks before it is too late. In a letter to Mr. Wellingoff last week, Mrs. Murkowski simply asks that FERC undertake some kind of study of the EPA's agenda in line with its statutory obligations and the warnings of its own experts. If FERC won't do it, someone else should.

23505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 26, 2011, 07:43:39 PM
As Mitt Romney would say "Nice try"  cheesy  A comment about the POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES of a statement calling for the abolition of the EPA does not "open the door" to a line of testimony about the sundry stupidities of the EPA.
23506  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB in the media on: September 26, 2011, 07:40:20 PM
Hey, the article goes on to give a link to our site  grin
23507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 26, 2011, 07:33:58 PM
Woof of ye of little thread discipline  cheesy

In a certain sense almost anything can be said to be related to the election, but that would fit much better in Bureaucracy or some other such thread.

Yip!
Thread Nazi
23508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 26, 2011, 03:16:27 PM
"Even though he's known as the "pizza" candidate for his years as head of Godfather's Pizza, his background is much broader than that. After he graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in mathematics and a minor in chemistry in 1968, Cain landed a job as a ballistics analyst for the Department of the Navy, where he was responsible for the calculations that ensured battleship rockets hit their targets.

""It's not an easy thing to do," he said.

"Cain later completed a master's degree in computer science and entered the business world where he led several companies--most recently Godfather's--and chaired the National Restaurant Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. His résumé--from mathematician and rocket scientist to restaurateur and now politician"

That is a far more interesting resume than most people realize, but if he ever gets any traction that "abolish the EPA" thing will kill it on the spot.
23509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UAV strikes against al Shabaab on: September 26, 2011, 03:07:46 PM
   
Dispatch: UAV Strikes Against al Shabaab
September 26, 2011 | 1751 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:



Analyst Mark Schroeder discusses the latest strategy to neutralize the transnational elements of al Shabaab by conducting unmanned aerial vehicle strikes against suspected terrorist training camps.


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

Related Links
9/11 and the Successful War
The United States is engaged in a multitrack approach in Somalia. One aspect of this engagement is a relentless effort to isolate and neutralize the internationalist terrorist element of the Somali jihadist group al Shabaab.

The United States conducted unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes, otherwise known as drones or commonly known as Predators, in Somalia during Sept. 24 and this is the second weekend in a row that U.S. forces have carried out drone strikes in southern Somalia. What are being targeted are likely the training camps of the transnationalist jihadist faction of al Shabaab, and these training camps are found in the environs of Kismayo, that southern city in Somalia. And found in these training camps are leaders of this faction of al Shabaab, led by a couple of people, one Godane Abu Zubayr and another individual known commonly as al-Afghani.

What is also interesting to note is that there are not strikes going on against other factions of the Somali jihadist network, such as those led by Mukhtar Robow in the Bay and Bakool regions of Somalia or the other known group called Hizbul Islam, led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys in the greater Mogadishu area. These two factions are not being targeted. So clearly there are efforts to neutralize the most threatening terrorist elements of al Shabaab, but on the other hand to more reach out to or accommodate nationalist factions.

The Somali government, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) seated in Mogadishu, is benefiting from a robust African Union peacekeeping force. Currently, the African Union has deployed 9,000 peacekeepers to Mogadishu, and this force is to be expanded by an additional 3,000 peacekeepers during the fourth quarter of this year. Now with these 12,000 peacekeepers that are to be deployed in Mogadishu, it really will consolidate the TFG’s footprint in the Somali capital.

The environs of Kismayo, that city in southern Somalia where the U.S. drone (UAV) strikes are taking place, this is the rear-guard area of the transnationalist camp of al Shabaab. Godane, al-Afghani, this is the area that these radicalist terrorists have retreated to following their withdraw from Mogadishu. And persistent airstrikes from drone (UAV) platforms are to eliminate these transnationalist leaders and to remove Somalia from the broader battlefield that al Qaeda can take advantage of for their campaign.

 
23510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on Cain on: September 26, 2011, 03:06:30 PM


Cain (Joe Burbank/AP)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Not everyone needs to go to Disney World to have fun in central Florida.

After one of Herman Cain's strongest showings yet at a Republican presidential debate Thursday, and two days with conservative activists in the state, he won the "Presidency 5" straw poll in Orlando over the weekend, beating front-runner Texas Gov. Rick Perry by more than 20 points.

While straw polls are not scientific and their results can be poor indicators of whether a candidate will  win a party's nomination--the latest actual Florida poll put Cain near the bottom--they can help spark some momentum, especially for lower-tier candidates. For Cain, a 65-year-old businessman, mathematician, author and radio host from Atlanta, Georgia, his straw poll win could well be the high-water mark of his campaign. And by his own admission, the path that brought him this far wasn't an easy one. The morning before the straw poll, I met Cain for coffee in a hotel near the convention center that hosted the debate and straw poll. As we discussed the early phase of the Republican primaries, he told me that before coming to Florida, he had nearly called it quits on two occasions.

"The thing that I've learned about myself in this campaign--because I've never had this happen to me before on a single challenge--is that I've gone to the brink, ready to pull the plug, but came back, twice," Cain said. "I've only had two days where I personally felt, should I pull the plug? For different reasons. That's how frustrating a campaign can be."

When I pressed for details, he said he'd prefer to keep them to himself.

"I can't tell you what those two days are," he said.  "But think about the number of days we've been on this campaign. Two ain't that bad."

Cain is certainly no stranger to adversity, having recently overcome Stage IV colon and liver cancer.

Even though he's known as the "pizza" candidate for his years as head of Godfather's Pizza, his background is much broader than that. After he graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in mathematics and a minor in chemistry in 1968, Cain landed a job as a ballistics analyst for the Department of the Navy, where he was responsible for the calculations that ensured battleship rockets hit their targets.

"It's not an easy thing to do," he said.

Cain later completed a master's degree in computer science and entered the business world where he led several companies--most recently Godfather's--and chaired the National Restaurant Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. His résumé--from mathematician and rocket scientist to restaurateur and now politician--isn't exactly a typical one for a presidential candidate. But Cain said that while his presidential run may look unlikely from the outside, it's actually part of his larger career trajectory of seeking out new ways to test himself.

"I'm bored if I don't have a challenge," he said.

Cain said the run for the White House is his toughest challenge yet--and it's been anything but boring. Despite the frustrations of running a national campaign, you can tell he's enjoying it. But it doesn't take much to get him riled up.

After a few caffeine-heavy refills at our corner table, I asked him about President Obama's new effort to raise taxes on the wealthy, and Cain just about blew a blood vessel--especially when I mentioned the part where Obama says it's about "math" not "class warfare."

"Can I be blunt? That's a lie," Cain said, before the sound of his voice began to rise noticeably higher. "You're not supposed to call the president a liar. Well if you're not supposed to call the president a liar, he shouldn't tell a lie. If it's not class warfare, it's highway robbery. He wants us to believe it's not class warfare, oh okay, it's not class warfare. Pick my pockets, because that's what he's doing!"

Cain paused, took a breath and looked at me.

"I'm not mad at you, I just get passionate about this stuff," he said. "I have to tell people because I get so worked up . . . . I'm listening to all this bullshit that he's talking about, 'fairness' and 'balanced approach' to get this economy going."

As anyone who watched the past couple of debates knows by now, Cain has his own plan that he says would steer the country out of its economic downturn. He calls it the "9-9-9 Plan," and it would replace the current tax code with three flat, nine-percent federal taxes on income, consumption and business.

"With 9-9-9 guess what? How many loopholes?" he said, tapping his fingers on the table like a drumroll. "None. Everybody gets treated the same. What a novel idea."

As the straw poll and his recent fundraising numbers suggest, Cain's message is resonating with the conservative movement's influential base of tea-party activists; for these supporters his status as a non-career politician with an extensive background in the private sector is nearly as strong a draw as his ideas and policy proposals.  But despite his recent surge in support, few expect Cain's momentum to carry him on  to victory at the Republican National Convention in 2012.

Cain insisted that the prognostications of a few pundits won't stop him from pressing on as far as his donors will carry him. At the same time, though, he said that this campaign will be his last foray into politics.

"I'm not planning to run for another public office," he said. But regardless, it's been "a hell of a challenge."
23511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Smart Meters on: September 26, 2011, 08:05:13 AM
A bit paranoid, but some interesting points

http://goldsilver.com/video/smart-meters/
23512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sea Lift on: September 26, 2011, 12:05:54 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDOrzF7B2Kg&feature=player_embedded
23513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 25, 2011, 11:47:23 AM
The Iranians have, or will soon have missiles that can reach a goodly portion of Europe, hence the importance of ABM in east Europe and/or Turkey.   The Iranians are working on acquiring nukes.  The Paks HAVE something like 100 nukes AND a history of rogue nuke activities.  The Norks are testing nukes and have a history of rogue nuke actiivities.  As I mentioned in my previous post, bad actors have been testing the capability to launch missiles from tanker vessels.

Connect the dots.
23514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: September 25, 2011, 08:19:14 AM
Utlimately liberal fascism (a.k.a. progressivism) is a violent philosophy because it seeks to expand government and government is force.

True progress is the opposite of this.  It is to expand human interactions being handled through voluntary interactions.
23515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Dowd on: September 25, 2011, 08:12:21 AM
Of course there's f'g in the Army-- I know that  cheesy  

I might add that there have been a lot of accusations of rape, both reported and unreported, about which the coverage and non-coverage appears to be quite agenda driven.  There also are cases where women get pregnant to get out of war zone missions and then abort upon getting reassigned.  On one ship in the Gulf War over 20% of the women got pregnant.  Working from memory in Kosovo in the 90s some 5% of the women got pregnant, with a lot of them getting abortions upon return to the US.   I am sorry I cannot offer citations, I can only offer my track record as a poster.

Anyway, what I was trying to communicate in my previous post is that there hasn't been is the question presented within the same unit, within the same barracks, within the same showers, within the same unit going out on patrol.

Ending DADT was a politically imposed thing in an area which should have been left to our armed forces to determine for themselves.

Moving along, here's this from Pravda on the Hudson's Maureen Dowd.   I can picture our community organizer in chief making the same points about exactly what it was that Romney did in the private sector.:
============
IN a flash, Rick Perry has gone from Republican front-runner to cycling domestique, riding in front of the pack and taking all the wind — or in this case, hot air — to allow the team leader to pedal in the slipstream.

 
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Go to Columnist Page »
.Related
Times Topics: Rick Perry | Mitt Romney
Related in Opinion
Gail Collins: Perry’s Bad Night (September 24, 2011)
.Editorial: State of the Republican Field (September 24, 2011) Readers’ Comments
Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
Read All Comments (67) »
In the debate on Thursday night in Florida, as Perry grew more Pinteresque, lapsing into long, paralyzed pauses, Mitt Romney grew less statuesque, breaking his marble mold and showing a new sarcastic streak.

Romney unveiled his own version of Reagan’s “There you go again,” repeatedly blowing off Perry with a smile and a “Nice try.”

Slapping Perry for backtracking from his suggestion in his book “Fed Up!” that Social Security should be left up to states, Romney snidely noted, “There’s a Rick Perry out there that’s saying” that, “so you’d better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that.”

Romney, a champion flip-flopper, has painted Perry as a floppier flipper.

In the high school version of the 2008 Republican primary contest, Romney was regarded by John McCain and other contenders as the loathed hall monitor, prissy and hypocritical. It’s not that he has gotten so much more popular or less plastic, although he has improved his performance. It’s just that his rivals keep getting more implausible.

The only reason Perry got in the race in the first place was that Republicans yearned for an alternative to Romney. (This weekend, they were drunk-texting Chris Christie.) But for now, Perry is proving to be Romney’s best asset.

Asked the 3 a.m. question by a moderator, Bret Baier of Fox News, what would a President Perry do if he got a call saying Pakistan had lost control of its nuclear weapons to the Taliban, the Texas governor offered a Palinesque meditation on “the Pakistani country.”

“Well, obviously, before you ever get to that point, you have to build a relationship in that region,” he said. “And that’s one of the things that this administration has not done. Just yesterday we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with — and that’s the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country — so to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States.” But can he see the Taj Mahal from his house?

Romney used his new sarcasm on President Obama, too, claiming the Democrat takes his inspiration from the “socialist democrats” in Europe. “Guess what?” Romney said. “Europe isn’t working in Europe. It’s not going to work here.”

He also poked the president on jobs: “I happen to believe that to create jobs it helps to have had a job, and I have.”

Those are strong words from a candidate whose liability is that he made a living eliminating jobs.

In any other economy, working at Bain would be a bane to Romney’s presidential craving because it’s hard to trust a flip-flopper who’s a company flipper. Romney himself has used the phrase “creative destruction” to describe what his former private equity firm, Bain Capital, excelled at: buying companies, restructuring and downsizing, and selling them for a profit.

As Howard Anderson of M.I.T. told The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty: “Private equity is a little like sex. When it’s good, it’s very, very good. When it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.”

But in this economy, a predatory business plan from a man worth $200 million may not sound so bad. Especially now that the former community organizer is being limned as a president who was too naïve and hesitant in handling the cascading crises of his first two years.

In “Pretty Woman,” Richard Gere played a financial shark who downsized companies; he wore expensive suits, went to polo matches and drove an expensive sports car. (No dog or hooker tied to the roof.) Romney, by contrast, is trying to downplay his downsizing fortune and his upgrading of his snazzy La Jolla beach house.

He makes sure everyone knows about his Carl’s Jr. jalapeño chicken sandwiches and his Jet Blue middle seats. And he pushes the regular-guy image in tweets: “Great deep-dish at @ginoseast”; “Just got a Trim at Tommy’s in Atlanta”; “Thanks @subwayfreshbuzz for breakfast. Better than the usual campaign diet of morning donuts”; “Thanks to the great @SouthwestAir crew for an easy flight.” On Friday, his adviser Ron Kaufman tweeted a picture of the candidate in an airport terminal with his laptop on his lap, presumably tweeting more encomia to fast-food emporia.

Just as George Bush the elder, a Yalie, used to mock Michael Dukakis as part of the “Harvard boutique,” Willard Mitt Romney, a Harvard alum, in a speech in Florida on Thursday, mocked Obama as an elitist who hung out in the “Harvard faculty lounge.”

For now, Romney is effectively using Perry as a whipping boy on issues that matter to conservatives, like illegal immigration. And when Perry attacks Romney as “Obama lite,” he could be doing Mitt a favor by reminding independents and Democrats that the Stormin’ Mormon is a pseudo-conservative whom they can abide.

Authenticity can be overrated, especially in a rabid conservative.
23516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 24, 2011, 04:11:25 PM
Because that is not what would happen!  

See e.g. my post earlier today in the Nuclear War thread-- and this is a point which has been raised in this forum previously (including test missile launches from tanker ships in the Caspian Sea IIRC).

Scenario:  Crappy missile with crude nuke device put on some Panamanian or Libyan tanker ship.  Maybe throw in some three card monte shuffling of cargoes between in and some other ships to make it difficult to use satellite intel after the fact to figure out who the F did it-- then launch an blast that EMP's over the continental US.

Who would we blame?  

BTW, the Chinese have put A LOT of thought into how to bring down our electronic-cyber capabilities, seeing them as the our Achilles Heel of our military dominance.  If we were hit with an EMP our capabilities might be so dramatically downgraded that the subsequent cranial rectal interface might tempt the Chinese to act-- e.g. go after Taiwan.


Indeed, someone might even tip off the Chinese that such an attack was imminent.
23517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 24, 2011, 04:02:43 PM
We interrupt this vignette for a reality check.   One of the points about DADT was that NO ONE "had to lie about who he was".  cheesy 

Personally it makes perfect sense to me to acknowledge that healthy young humans have strong sexual drives.  As I understand it the logic is that given that most people (95-98% IMHO) are heterosexual, having sexually homogenous units keeps sexual shenanigans and the attendant disruptions to military discipline out of play.  This makes perfect sense to me.

OTOH if the environment is a "target rich environment" of the orifice of choice, then by golly fcuking within the unit is going to happen.  We don't even allow this in the corporate world (not that I agree, but that is a separate matter), but, speaking only as a humble civilian, it makes sense to me that this has a high potential for poor morale and poor discipline with attendant consequences for unit cohesion and performance.

23518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: September 24, 2011, 03:04:49 PM
She should try out for that TV show "The L word".
23519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: September 24, 2011, 02:59:27 PM
As well articulated by Jude Wanniski in his "The Way the World Works", leaders are those who best discern the zeitgeist (am I using this word properly) of what "the people" want, as inchoate as it may be; (successful entrepeneurs too.)

State more simply, politicians are for sale to the biggest number of voters.

The IQ around here is such that I don't need to spell out the demographics of the American population and the trends over time built into it.

If Reps lose the latino vote (of which a very large percentage is Mexican American) over time the Republican Party will become nationally what it already is in the northeast-- a sure loser.  Look at what happened to the Republican Party in California after Gov. Pete Wilson and the Reps succeeded in passing the , , , what was it , , , the no bi-lingual education initiative , , , or was it no welfare for illegals?  Anyway, it passed, the Fed courts threw it out and the Latino vote decided the Reps were anti-Latino.  Time went on, the demographic trends asserted themselves, and now the Reps near extinction in California.

The majority of us around here may desire a hard line on illegals, but I'm not sure we yet have a good practical strategy.
23520  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 24, 2011, 01:44:04 PM
All this makes quite clear the well-targeted relevance of YA's most recent post.

The interface of the military and the domestic political issues presents EXTREMELY challenging problems.

The American people are understandably weary of a ten years of a seemingly pointless and endless war and understandably dubious of the political process that has led us along the way. 

Anyone here think Bush led well on this?   

Anyone here want to deny that a reasonable argument can be made that Bush took his eye off the ball in Afpakia?  Michael Yon was writing 3-4 years ago that we were losing and about to lose badly. 

Anyone here think Baraq has led well on this?

The point being the American people are understandably rather cynical on the competence of our leadership-- so suggesting we should go to war with Pakistan just when people saw the "Unsurge" winding things down is a tough sell.

And there is the little detail of what that war would look like and what it would lastingly accomplish-- not to mention the apparent looming bankruptcy of the USA.
23521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Ridley: From Phoenicia to the Cloud on: September 24, 2011, 11:09:57 AM
Matt Ridley is an author whom I follow.  I have read his "The Red Queen" (the evolutionary reasons sex exists and the implications thereof) and "Nature via Nuture (also quite brilliant and which has triggered a shift in how I think about these things.)



By MATT RIDLEY
The crowd-sourced, wikinomic cloud is the new, new thing that all management consultants are now telling their clients to embrace. Yet the cloud is not a new thing at all. It has been the source of human invention all along. Human technological advancement depends not on individual intelligence but on collective idea sharing, and it has done so for tens of thousands of years. Human progress waxes and wanes according to how much people connect and exchange.

When the Mediterranean was socially networked by the trading ships of Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs or Venetians, culture and prosperity advanced. When the network collapsed because of pirates at the end of the second millennium B.C., or in the Dark Ages, or in the 16th century under the Barbary and Ottoman corsairs, culture and prosperity stagnated. When Ming China, or Shogun Japan, or Nehru's India, or Albania or North Korea turned inward and cut themselves off from the world, the consequence was relative, even absolute decline.

Knowledge is dispersed and shared. Friedrich Hayek was the first to point out, in his famous 1945 essay "The Uses of Knowledge in Society," that central planning cannot work because it is trying to substitute an individual all-knowing intelligence for a distributed and fragmented system of localized but connected knowledge.

So dispersed is knowledge, that, as Leonard Reed famously observed in his 1958 essay "I, Pencil," nobody on the planet knows how to make a pencil. The knowledge is dispersed among many thousands of graphite miners, lumberjacks, assembly line workers, ferrule designers, salesmen and so on. This is true of everything that I use in my everyday life, from my laptop to my shirt to my city. Nobody knows how to make it or to run it. Only the cloud knows.

One of the things I have tried to do in my book "The Rational Optimist" is to take this insight as far back into the past as I can—to try to understand when it first began to be true. When did human beings start to use collective rather than individual intelligence?

In doing so, I find that the entire field of anthropology and archaeology needs Hayek badly. Their debates about what made human beings successful, and what caused the explosive take-off of human culture in the past 100,000 years, simply never include the insight of dispersed knowledge. They are still looking for a miracle gene, or change in brain organization, that explains, like a deus ex machina, the human revolution. They are still looking inside human heads rather than between them.

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 ."I think there was a biological change—a genetic mutation of some kind that promoted the fully modern ability to create and innovate," wrote the anthropologist Richard Klein in a 2003 speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "The sudden expansion of the brain 200,000 years ago was a dramatic spontaneous mutation in the brain . . . a change in a single gene would have been enough," the neuroscientist Colin Blakemore told the Guardian in 2010.

There was no sudden change in brain size 200,000 years ago. We Africans—all human beings are descended chiefly from people who lived exclusively in Africa until about 65,000 years ago—had slightly smaller brains than Neanderthals, yet once outside Africa we rapidly displaced them (bar acquiring 2.5% of our genes from them along the way).

And the reason we won the war against the Neanderthals, if war it was, is staring us in the face, though it remains almost completely unrecognized among anthropologists: We exchanged. At one site in the Caucasus there are Neanderthal and modern remains within a few miles of each other, both from around 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthal tools are all made from local materials. The moderns' tools are made from chert and jasper, some of which originated many miles away. That means trade.

Evidence from recent Australian artifacts shows that long-distance movement of objects is a telltale sign of trade, not migration. We Africans have been doing this since at least 120,000 years ago. That's the date of beads made from marine shells found a hundred miles inland in Algeria. Trade is 10 times as old as agriculture.

At first it was a peculiarity of us Africans. It gave us the edge over Neanderthals in their own continent and their own climate, because good ideas can spread through trade. New weapons, new foods, new crafts, new ornaments, new tools. Suddenly you are no longer relying on the inventiveness of your own tribe or the capacity of your own territory. You are drawing upon ideas that occurred to anybody anywhere anytime within your trading network.

In the same way, today, American consumers do not have to rely only on their own citizens to discover new consumer goods or new medicines or new music: The Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians are also able to supply them.

That is what trade does. It creates a collective innovating brain as big as the trade network itself. When you cut people off from exchange networks, their innovation rate collapses. Tasmanians, isolated by rising sea levels about 10,000 years ago, not only failed to share in the advances that came after that time—the boomerang, for example—but actually went backwards in terms of technical virtuosity. The anthropologist Joe Henrich of the University of British Columbia argues that in a small island population, good ideas died faster than they could be replaced. Tierra del Fuego's natives, on a similarly inhospitable and small land, but connected by trading canoes across the much narrower Magellan strait, suffered no such technological regress. They had access to a collective brain the size of South America.

Which is of course why the Internet is such an exciting development. For the first time humanity has not just some big collective brains, but one truly vast one in which almost everybody can share and in which distance is no obstacle.

The political implications are obvious: that human collaboration is necessary for society to work; that the individual is not—and has not been for 120,000 years—able to support his lifestyle; that trade enables us to work for each other not just for ourselves; that there is nothing so antisocial (or impoverishing) as the pursuit of self-sufficiency; and that authoritarian, top-down rule is not the source of order or progress.

Hayek understood all this. And it's time most archaeologists and anthropologists, as well as some politicians and political scientists, did as well.

Mr. Ridley writes the Journal's weekly Mind & Matter column. He is the author of "The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves" (Harper, 2010). This op-ed is adapted from his Hayek Prize lecture, given under the auspices of the Manhattan Institute, to be delivered on Sept. 26.

23522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Act of War? on: September 24, 2011, 11:02:18 AM
Ummm , , , correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it the departing McMullen, now free to speak plainly, and other elements of the military who are leading the way on this, not Baraq? 

Anyway, as our YA has been leading the way around here, Pakistan's true nature is becoming clearer to the American people.
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America's most impossible foreign relationship just got worse. The U.S. on Thursday publicly accused Pakistan's intelligence service of aiding the terrorist Haqqani network in northern Pakistan. This remarkable public accusation came after last week's attack by the Haqqani clan on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Pakistan's tolerance for the Haqqani family and its pro-Taliban terrorist army in northern Pakistan is the sort of behavior that makes the Pakistanis, as a top Obama security official once put it to us, "the most difficult people in the world to deal with." No one has worked harder to make the relationship work than soon-to-depart Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Admiral Mullen said, "The government of Pakistan and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI [the Inter-Services Intelligence agency]" have decided "to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy."

Admiral Mullen added that the Haqqani network "with ISI support" had carried out the truck bombing on September 10 in Kabul that wounded 77 NATO troops and killed five Afghans. Lest anyone miss the message, Admiral Mullen said bluntly that the Haqqani network "acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency."

These statements walk right to the edge of accusing Pakistan, a nominal ally, of committing acts of war against the United States. To be sure, the U.S. didn't say the ISI had actually planned the Haqqani raids but that the spy agency was abetting the operations of the group, whose goal is to kill U.S. troops on the way to overthrowing the Afghan government.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said as well, "We've made clear that we are going to do everything we have to do defend our forces."

In short, earth to Pakistan: Clear out this threat in your northern provinces, or the U.S. will do it alone, either with drone attacks or cross-border raids.

The Haqqanis, along with the Quetta Shura of Mullah Omar in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, pose the most significant threat to the success of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Both groups provide crucial support to the Afghan Taliban operations against American and NATO forces. The Afghan government this week said the Quetta Shura was behind the suicide-bomber assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul.

In Islamabad yesterday, Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, tried to play the indispensable-ally card, suggesting that the U.S. "cannot afford to alienate Pakistan."

No doubt it would be in the long-term strategic interests of both countries to remain allies. But there is a larger reality. The U.S. cannot be seen before the world, or more especially by the American people, turning a blind eye to Pakistan's complicity in the murder of U.S. citizens serving in Afghanistan.

The U.S. now has a range of options available, from designating the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization (as a prelude to hitting its finances); withholding $1 billion in military aid to Pakistan in the absence of antiterrorist cooperation; or hitting the Haqqanis ourselves. Pakistan's leadership, among its myriad delusions, believes its status as a nuclear power somehow frees it to reduce its relationship with the U.S. to the same crude and cynical status as its relations with the homicidal Haqqanis.

That's false, and the Obama Administration deserves credit for publicly putting Pakistan's impossible-to-tolerate behavior on the table.

23523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ misses the point on: September 24, 2011, 10:58:10 AM
While the data herein is of interest, IMO the article misses the larger point about the issue's relation with the moves to create not only 10-20 million new overwhelmingly Democratic voters out of the illegals here, but the literally tens of millions more out of the family members that they would get to bring in.  It also misses the point about what happens when, God willing, someday our economy improves.  Furthermore while some of the anti-illegal folks are xenophobic, lots of us would LOVE to see easier entry for desirable folks with more rational procedures.
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To listen to the recent Republican Presidential debates, you'd think illegal immigration was the biggest threat to the U.S. economy—not to mention to the rule of law, our social fabric and national security. We hate to spoil the political reverie, but the real immigration story these days is how many fewer illegal migrants are trying to get into the land of the free.

That's the news from the Department of Homeland Security, which reports that border apprehensions have dropped to their lowest level in nearly 40 years. For fiscal 2010, arrests were 463,000, down from 724,000 in 2008—a one-third decline in two years.

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Close..In the first 11 months of fiscal 2011, through August, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports that apprehensions were 316,458, well below last year's level. As the nearby chart shows, as recently as 2006 more than one million illegals were arrested entering the country each year.

Some of the decline in illegal crossings is no doubt due to both the reality of, and the deterrence effect from, increased security at the Rio Grande Valley and other border areas. The number of agents has roughly doubled over the past decade, and the Border Patrol has improved its surveillance.

But surely the biggest factor is the poor U.S. economy. Immigrants of all types come to the U.S. primarily for jobs and opportunity. In the booming 1980s and 1990s, when the economy created more than 35 million net new jobs, border crossings were often three times higher than they are today. As growth has slowed and job openings are fewer, the attraction of the U.S. has dimmed.

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 Stuart Anderson, on why conservatives are opposing E-Verify.
..This may be cause for celebration in some places, but not in these columns. The fact that foreign workers, like overseas investment funds, aren't as attracted to the U.S. as they once were is another sign of economic malaise. According to the Census Bureau's historical data, the only time in U.S. history when more people left America than arrived was during the height of the Great Depression. This is not a period to emulate. We'd gladly take faster growth with more illegal immigration over slower growth and fewer illegals.

Despite these falling apprehension numbers, Republicans and their talk show minders are still shouting that the border isn't "secure." But by their definition the border will never be secure. This line has become the all-seasons excuse to block any immigration reform that would allow more legal avenues into the U.S. This campaign is already doing great harm to U.S. agriculture, as farmers are unable to find enough workers of any kind to harvest their crops. Yet Republicans are putting onerous restrictions on recruiting legal workers for those jobs. (See our editorial, "Republican Overregulation," Sept. 13.)

The declining border apprehensions show that economic opportunity, not a life on the dole, is the main motivation for immigrants who enter the U.S. with or without a visa. If there were more legal avenues, fewer migrants would have an incentive to enter illegally.

Immigrants bring vitality and skills to the U.S. economy, whether in the tech centers of Silicon Valley or the farmlands of the Midwest and Yuma Valley. We need more of both these days
23524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: September 24, 2011, 10:51:13 AM
Not worth my time to double to double check, but I thought I heard him say he was gay.  Anyway, I'm with you on the rest of it.
23525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Too bad Perry hasn't been able to explain this coherently on: September 24, 2011, 10:49:31 AM


By MERRILL MATTHEWS Dallas

To highlight the problems facing Social Security, Texas Gov. and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry is pointing to three Texas counties that decades ago opted out of Social Security by creating personal retirement accounts. Now, 30 years on, county workers in those three jurisdictions retire with more money and have better death and disability supplemental benefits. And those three counties—unlike almost all others in the United States—face no long-term unfunded pension liabilities.

Since 1981 and 1982, workers in Galveston, Matagorda and Brazoria Counties have seen their retirement savings grow every year, even during the Great Recession. The so-called Alternate Plan of these three counties doesn't follow the traditional defined-benefit or defined-contribution model. Employee and employer contributions are actively managed by a financial planner—in this case, First Financial Benefits, Inc., of Houston, which originated the plan in 1980 and has managed it since its adoption. I call it a "banking model."

As with Social Security, employees contribute 6.2% of their income, with the county matching the contribution (or, as in Galveston, providing a slightly larger share). Once the county makes its contribution, its financial obligation is done—that's why there are no long-term unfunded liabilities.

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Presidential candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney spar Thursday night.
.The contributions are pooled, like bank deposits, and top-rated financial institutions bid on the money. Those institutions guarantee an interest rate that won't go below a base level and goes higher when the market does well. Over the last decade, the accounts have earned between 3.75% and 5.75% every year, with the average around 5%. The 1990s often saw even higher interest rates, of 6.5%-7%. When the market goes up, employees make more—and when the market goes down, employees still make something.

But not all money goes into employees' retirement accounts. When financial planner Rick Gornto devised the Alternate Plan in 1980, he wanted it to be a complete substitute for Social Security. And Social Security isn't just a retirement fund: It's also social insurance that provides a death benefit ($255), survivors' insurance, and a disability benefit.

Part of the employer contribution in the Alternate Plan goes toward a term life insurance policy that pays four times the employee's salary tax-free, up to a maximum of $215,000. That's nearly 850 times Social Security's death benefit.

If a worker participating in Social Security dies before retirement, he loses his contribution (though part of that money might go to surviving children or a spouse who didn't work). But a worker in the Alternate Plan owns his account, so the entire account belongs to his estate. There is also a disability benefit that pays immediately upon injury, rather than waiting six months plus other restrictions, as under Social Security.

Those who retire under the Texas counties' Alternate Plan do much better than those on Social Security. According to First Financial's calculations, based on 40 years of contributions:

• A lower-middle income worker making about $26,000 at retirement would get about $1,007 a month under Social Security, but $1,826 under the Alternate Plan.

• A middle-income worker making $51,200 would get about $1,540 monthly from Social Security, but $3,600 from the banking model.

• And a high-income worker who maxed out on his Social Security contribution every year would receive about $2,500 a month from Social Security versus $5,000 to $6,000 a month from the Alternate Plan.

The Alternate Plan has demonstrated over 30 years that personal retirement accounts work, with many retirees making more than twice what they would under Social Security. As Galveston County Judge Mark Henry says, "The plan works great. Anyone who spends a few minutes understanding the plan becomes a huge proponent." Judge Henry says that out of 1,350 county employees, only five have chosen not to participate.

The Alternate Plan could be adopted today by the six million public employees in the U.S.—roughly 25% of the total—who are part of state and local government retirement plans that are outside of Social Security (and are facing serious unfunded liability problems). Unfortunately this option is available only to those six million public employees, since in 1983 Congress barred all others from leaving Social Security.

If Congress overrides this provision, however, the Alternate Plan could be a model for reforming Social Security nationally. After all, it provides all the social-insurance benefits of Social Security while avoiding the unfunded liabilities that are crippling the program and the economy.

If the presidential candidates, including President Obama, stop bickering about who wants to "save" or "destroy" Social Security and begin debating reform constructively, examining the Alternate Plan would be a good place to start.

Mr. Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas.

23526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Chicago Econ on trial on: September 24, 2011, 10:46:32 AM


By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.
Let's face it, the "Chicago School" of economics—the one with all the Nobel Prizes, the one associated with Milton Friedman, the one known for its trust of markets and skepticism about government—has taken a drubbing in certain quarters since the subprime crisis.

Sure, the critique depends on misinterpreting what the word "efficient" means, as in the "efficient markets hypothesis." Never mind. The Chicago school ought to be roaring back today on another of its great contributions, "rational expectations," which does so much to illuminate why government policy is failing to stimulate the economy back to life.

Robert E. Lucas Jr., 74, didn't invent the idea or coin the term, but he did more than anyone to explore its ramifications for our model of the economy. Rational expectations is the idea that people look ahead and use their smarts to try to anticipate conditions in the future.

Duh, you say? When Mr. Lucas finally won the Nobel Prize in 1995, it was the economics profession that said duh. By then, nobody figured more prominently on the short list for the profession's ultimate honor. As Harvard economist Greg Mankiw later put it in the New York Times, "In academic circles, the most influential macroeconomist of the last quarter of the 20th century was Robert Lucas, of the University of Chicago."

Mr. Lucas is visiting NYU for a few days in early September to teach a mini-course, so I dash over to pick his brain. He obligingly tilts his computer screen toward me. Two things are on his mind and they're connected. One is the failure of the European and Japanese economies, after their brisk growth in the early postwar years, to catch up with the U.S. in per capita gross domestic product. The GDP gap, which once seemed destined to close, mysteriously stopped narrowing after about 1970.

The other issue on his mind is our own stumbling recovery from the 2008 recession.

For the best explanation of what happened in Europe and Japan, he points to research by fellow Nobelist Ed Prescott. In Europe, governments typically commandeer 50% of GDP. The burden to pay for all this largess falls on workers in the form of high marginal tax rates, and in particular on married women who might otherwise think of going to work as second earners in their households. "The welfare state is so expensive, it just breaks the link between work effort and what you get out of it, your living standard," says Mr. Lucas. "And it's really hurting them."

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 .Turning to the U.S., he says, "A healthy economy that falls into recession has higher than average growth for a while and gets back to the old trend line. We haven't done that. I have plenty of suspicions but little evidence. I think people are concerned about high tax rates, about trying to stick business corporations with the failure of ObamaCare, which is going to emerge, the fact that it's not going to add up. But none of this has happened yet. You can't look at evidence. The taxes haven't really been raised yet."

By now, the Krugmanites are having aneurysms. Our stunted recovery, they insist, is due to government's failure to borrow and spend enough to soak up idle capacity as households and businesses "deleverage." In a Keynesian world, when government gooses demand with a burst of deficit spending, the stick figures are supposed to get busy. Businesses are supposed to hire more and invest more. Consumers are supposed to consume more.

But what if the stick figures don't respond as the model prescribes? What if businesses react to what they see as a temporary and artificial burst in demand by working their existing workers and equipment harder—or by raising prices? What if businesses and consumers respond to a public-sector borrowing binge by becoming fearful about the financial stability of government itself? What if they run out and join the tea party—the tea party being a real-world manifestation of consumers and employers not behaving in the presence of stimulus the way the Keynesian model says they should?

Mr. Lucas and colleagues in the early 1960s were not trying to undermine the conventional prescriptions when they began to think about how the public might respond—possibly in inconvenient ways—to signals about government intentions. As he recalls it, they were just trying to make the models work. "You have somebody making a decision between the present and the future. You get a college degree and it's going to pay off in higher earnings later. You make an investment and it's going to pay off later. Ok, you can't do that without this guy taking a position on what kind of future he's going to be living in."


'If you're going to write down a mathematical model, you have to address that issue. Where are you supposed to get these expectations? If you just make them up, then you can get any result you want."

The solution, which seems obvious, is to assume that people use the information at hand to judge how tomorrow might be similar or different from today. But let's be precise, not falling into the gap between "word processor people" and "spreadsheet people," as Mr. Lucas puts it. Nothing is assumed: Data are interrogated to see how changes in tax rates and other variables actually influence decisions to work, save and invest.

Mr. Lucas is quick to credit the late John Muth, who would later become a colleague for a while at Carnegie Mellon, with inventing "rational expectations." He also cites Milton Friedman, with whom Mr. Lucas took a first-year graduate course.

"He was just an incredibly inspiring teacher. He really was a life-changing experience." Friedman, he recalls, was a skeptic of the Phillips curve—the Keynesian idea that when businesses see prices rising, they assume demand for their products is rising and hire more workers—even if the real reason for higher prices is inflation.

"Milton brought this [Phillips curve] up in class and said it's gotta be wrong. But he wasn't clear on why he thought it was wrong." In his paper for Friedman's class, Mr. Lucas remembers reaching for a very rudimentary notion of expectations to try to explain why the curve could not operate as predicted.

Growing up in the Seattle area, Mr. Lucas recalls a road trip he took as a youngster that terminated in Chicago, a city with two baseball teams! Chicago, in his mind, became "the big city," a gateway to a wider world. That, and a scholarship, is how he would end up spending most of his career at the University of Chicago.

We are sitting in an inauspicious guest office at NYU. A late summer sprinkle dampens the city. Mr. Lucas describes his parents as intelligent, reading people, neither of whom finished college—he suspects the Great Depression had something to do with it. "They got into left-wing politics in the '30s, not really to do anything about it, but to talk about. That was our background—me and my siblings—relative to our neighbors and relatives, who were all Republicans." In a community not noted for its diversity, his parents were especially committed to civil rights, his mother giving talks on the subject.

I ask about a report that he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, supposedly only the second time he had voted for a Democrat for president. "Yeah, I did. My parents are dead for a long time, but my sister says, 'You have to vote for Obama, for what it would have meant for Mom and Dad.' I felt that too. It's a huge thing. This [history of racism] has been the worst blot on this country. All of a sudden this charming, intelligent guy just blows it away. It was great."

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..A complementary consideration was John McCain's inability to say anything cogent about the financial crisis then engulfing the nation. "He didn't have a clue about the economy. I just assumed the guy [Obama] could do it. I thought he was going to be more Clinton-like in his economics and politics. I was caught by surprise by how far left the guy is and how much he's hung onto it and, I would say, at considerable cost to his own standing."

Refreshing, even bracing, is Mr. Lucas's skepticism about the "deleveraging" story as the sum of all our economic woes. "If people start building a lot of high-rises in Chicago or any place and nobody is buying the units, obviously you're going to shut down the construction industry for a while. If you've overbuilt something, that's not the problem, that's the solution in a way. It's too bad but it's not a make-or-break issue, the housing bubble."

Instead, the shock came because complex mortgage-related securities minted by Wall Street and "certified as safe" by rating agencies had become "part of the effective liquidity supply of the system," he says. "All of a sudden, a whole bunch of this stuff turns out to be crap. It is the financial aspect that was instrumental in the meltdown of '08. I don't think housing alone, if it weren't for these tranches and the role they played in the liquidity system," would have been a debilitating blow to the economy.

Mr. Lucas believes Ben Bernanke acted properly to prop up the system. He doesn't even find fault with Mr. Obama's first stimulus plan. "If you think Bernanke did a great job tossing out a trillion dollars, why is it a bad idea for the executive to toss out a trillion dollars? It's not an inappropriate thing in a recession to push money out there and trying to keep spending from falling too much, and we did that."

But that was then. In the U.S. at least, the liquidity problems that manifested themselves in 2008 have long since been addressed. To repeat the exercise now with temporary tax and spending gimmicks is to produce the opposite of the desired effect in consumers and business owners, who by now are back to taking a longer view. Says

Mr. Lucas: "The president keeps focusing on transitory things. He grudgingly says, 'OK, we'll keep the Bush tax cuts on for a couple years.' That's just the wrong thing to say. What I care about is what's the tax rate going to be when my project begins to bear fruit?"


Mr. Lucas pulls up a bit when I ask him what specific advice he'd give President Obama (this is before Mr. Obama's two back-to-back speeches, one promising temporary tax cuts and the other permanent tax hikes, which mysteriously fail to levitate the economy). Unlike many of his colleagues, Mr. Lucas has not spent stints in Washington advising politicians, or on Wall Street cashing in on his Nobel laureate reputation. "No, that doesn't interest me at all," he says. "Now I've taken a salary cut. I don't go to faculty meetings. I don't teach undergraduates. I just write papers. It's great. I feel lucky about this."

Still, an answer comes. Mr. Lucas launches into a brisk dissertation on the work of colleagues—Martin Feldstein, Michael Boskin, others—whom he credits with disabusing him and fellow economists of a youthful assumption that taxes have little effect on the overall amount of capital in society. A lesson for Mr. Obama might be: If you want to stimulate growth in investment, productivity and income, cut taxes on capital.

Alas, don't look for this idea to feature in the next Obama speech on the economy, due any minute now.

Mr. Jenkins writes the Journal's Business World column.

23527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Big Brother is tracking you with "stingrays" on: September 24, 2011, 08:48:28 AM


By JENNIFER VALENTINO-DEVRIES
For more than a year, federal authorities pursued a man they called simply "the Hacker." Only after using a little known cellphone-tracking device—a stingray—were they able to zero in on a California home and make the arrest.

 
A Harris StingRay II, one of several devices dubbed 'stingrays.'

Stingrays are designed to locate a mobile phone even when it's not being used to make a call. The Federal Bureau of Investigation considers the devices to be so critical that it has a policy of deleting the data gathered in their use, mainly to keep suspects in the dark about their capabilities, an FBI official told The Wall Street Journal in response to inquiries.

A stingray's role in nabbing the alleged "Hacker"—Daniel David Rigmaiden—is shaping up as a possible test of the legal standards for using these devices in investigations. The FBI says it obtains appropriate court approval to use the device.

Stingrays are one of several new technologies used by law enforcement to track people's locations, often without a search warrant. These techniques are driving a constitutional debate about whether the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but which was written before the digital age, is keeping pace with the times.

On Nov. 8, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether or not police need a warrant before secretly installing a GPS device on a suspect's car and tracking him for an extended period. In both the Senate and House, new bills would require a warrant before tracking a cellphone's location.

More
Key Documents in 'Stingray' Case
Digits: How 'Stingray' Devices Work
Digits: How Technology Is Testing the Fourth Amendment
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.And on Thursday in U.S. District Court of Arizona, Judge David G. Campbell is set to hear a request by Mr. Rigmaiden, who is facing fraud charges, to have information about the government's secret techniques disclosed to him so he can use it in his defense. Mr. Rigmaiden maintains his innocence and says that using stingrays to locate devices in homes without a valid warrant "disregards the United States Constitution" and is illegal.

His argument has caught the judge's attention. In a February hearing, according to a transcript, Judge Campbell asked the prosecutor, "Were there warrants obtained in connection with the use of this device?"

The prosecutor, Frederick A. Battista, said the government obtained a "court order that satisfied [the] language" in the federal law on warrants. The judge then asked how an order or warrant could have been obtained without telling the judge what technology was being used. Mr. Battista said: "It was a standard practice, your honor."

Judge Campbell responded that it "can be litigated whether those orders were appropriate."

On Thursday the government will argue it should be able to withhold details about the tool used to locate Mr. Rigmaiden, according to documents filed by the prosecution. In a statement to the Journal, Sherry Sabol, Chief of the Science & Technology Office for the FBI's Office of General Counsel, says that information about stingrays and related technology is "considered Law Enforcement Sensitive, since its public release could harm law enforcement efforts by compromising future use of the equipment."

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Close.The prosecutor, Mr. Battista, told the judge that the government worries that disclosure would make the gear "subject to being defeated or avoided or detected."

A stingray works by mimicking a cellphone tower, getting a phone to connect to it and measuring signals from the phone. It lets the stingray operator "ping," or send a signal to, a phone and locate it as long as it is powered on, according to documents reviewed by the Journal. The device has various uses, including helping police locate suspects and aiding search-and-rescue teams in finding people lost in remote areas or buried in rubble after an accident.

The government says "stingray" is a generic term. In Mr. Rigmaiden's case it remains unclear which device or devices were actually used.

The best known stingray maker is Florida-based defense contractor Harris Corp. A spokesman for Harris declined to comment.

Harris holds trademarks registered between 2002 and 2008 on several devices, including the StingRay, StingRay II, AmberJack, KingFish, TriggerFish and LoggerHead. Similar devices are available from other manufacturers. According to a Harris document, its devices are sold only to law-enforcement and government agencies.

Some of the gadgets look surprisingly old-fashioned, with a smattering of switches and lights scattered across a panel roughly the size of a shoebox, according to photos of a Harris-made StingRay reviewed by the Journal. The devices can be carried by hand or mounted in cars, allowing investigators to move around quickly.

A rare public reference to this type of technology appeared this summer in the television crime drama "The Closer." In the episode, law-enforcement officers use a gadget they called a "catfish" to track cellphones without a court order.

The U.S. armed forces also use stingrays or similar devices, according to public contract notices. Local law enforcement in Minnesota, Arizona, Miami and Durham, N.C., also either possess the devices or have considered buying them, according to interviews and published requests for funding.

The sheriff's department in Maricopa County, Ariz., uses the equipment "about on a monthly basis," says Sgt. Jesse Spurgin. "This is for location only. We can't listen in on conversations," he says.

Sgt. Spurgin says officers often obtain court orders, but not necessarily search warrants, when using the device. To obtain a search warrant from a court, officers as a rule need to show "probable cause," which is generally defined as a reasonable belief, based on factual evidence, that a crime was committed. Lesser standards apply to other court orders.

A spokeswoman with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in Minnesota says officers don't need to seek search warrants in that state to use a mobile tracking device because it "does not intercept communication, so no wiretap laws would apply."

FBI and Department of Justice officials have also said that investigators don't need search warrants. Associate Deputy Attorney General James A. Baker and FBI General Counsel Valerie E. Caproni both said at a panel at the Brookings Institution in May that devices like these fall into a category of tools called "pen registers," which require a lesser order than a warrant. Pen registers gather signals from phones, such as phone numbers dialed, but don't receive the content of the communications.

To get a pen-register order, investigators don't have to show probable cause. The Supreme Court has ruled that use of a pen register doesn't require a search warrant because it doesn't involve interception of conversations.

But with cellphones, data sent includes location information, making the situation more complicated because some judges have found that location information is more intrusive than details about phone numbers dialed. Some courts have required a slightly higher standard for location information, but not a warrant, while others have held that a search warrant is necessary.

The prosecution in the Rigmaiden case says in court documents that the "decisions are made on a case-by-case basis" by magistrate and district judges. Court records in other cases indicate that decisions are mixed, and cases are only now moving through appellate courts.

The FBI advises agents to work with federal prosecutors locally to meet the requirements of their particular district or judge, the FBI's Ms. Sabol says. She also says it is FBI policy to obtain a search warrant if the FBI believes the technology "may provide information on an individual while that person is in a location where he or she would have a reasonable expectation of privacy."

Experts say lawmakers and the courts haven't yet settled under what circumstances locating a person or device constitutes a search requiring a warrant. Tracking people when they are home is particularly sensitive because the Fourth Amendment specifies that people have a right to be secure against unreasonable searches in their "houses."

"The law is uncertain," says Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University Law School and former computer-crime attorney at the Department of Justice. Mr. Kerr, who has argued that warrants should be required for some, but not all, types of location data, says that the legality "should depend on the technology."

In the case of Mr. Rigmaiden, the government alleges that as early as 2005, he began filing fraudulent tax returns online. Overall, investigators say, Mr. Rigmaiden electronically filed more than 1,900 fraudulent tax returns as part of a $4 million plot.

Federal investigators say they pursued Mr. Rigmaiden "through a virtual labyrinth of twists and turns." Eventually, they say they linked Mr. Rigmaiden to use of a mobile-broadband card, a device that lets a computer connect to the Internet through a cellphone network.

Investigators obtained court orders to track the broadband card. Both orders remain sealed, but portions of them have been quoted by the defense and the prosecution.

These two documents are central to the clash in the Arizona courtroom. One authorizes a "pen register" and clearly isn't a search warrant. The other document is more complex. The prosecution says it is a type of search warrant and that a finding of probable cause was made.

But the defense argues that it can't be a proper search warrant, because among other things it allowed investigators to delete all the tracking data collected, rather than reporting back to the judge.

Legal experts who spoke with the Journal say it is difficult to evaluate the order, since it remains sealed. In general, for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, the finding of probable cause is most important in determining whether a search is reasonable because that requirement is specified in the Constitution itself, rather than in legal statutes, says Mr. Kerr.

But it is "odd" for a search warrant to allow deletion of evidence before a case goes to trial, says Paul Ohm, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School and a former computer-crime attorney at the Department of Justice. The law governing search warrants specifies how the warrants are to be executed and generally requires information to be returned to the judge.

Even if the court finds the government's actions acceptable under the Fourth Amendment, deleting the data is "still something we might not want the FBI doing," Mr. Ohm says.

The government says the data from the use of the stingray has been deleted and isn't available to the defendant. In a statement, the FBI told the Journal that "our policy since the 1990s has been to purge or 'expunge' all information obtained during a location operation" when using stingray-type gear.

As a general matter, Ms. Sabol says, court orders related to stingray technology "will include a directive to expunge information at the end of the location operation."

Ms. Sabol says the FBI follows this policy because its intent isn't to use the data as evidence in court, but rather to simply find the "general location of their subject" in order to start collecting other information that can be used to justify a physical search of the premises.

In the Rigmaiden example, investigators used the stingray to narrow down the location of the broadband card. Then they went to the apartment complex's office and learned that one resident had used a false ID and a fake tax return on the renter's application, according to court documents.

Based on that evidence, they obtained a search warrant for the apartment. They found the broadband card connected to a computer.

Mr. Rigmaiden, who doesn't confirm or deny ownership of the broadband card, is arguing he should be given information about the device and about other aspects of the mission that located him.

In the February hearing, Judge Campbell said he might need to weigh the government's claim of privilege against the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights, and asked the prosecution, "How can we litigate in this case whether this technology that was used in this case violates the Fourth Amendment without knowing precisely what it can do?"

Write to Jennifer Valentino-DeVries at Jennifer.Valentino-DeVries@wsj.com

23528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Why gold/silver going down on: September 24, 2011, 08:38:23 AM


The wave of selling that has washed over financial markets in recent weeks swamped precious metals on Friday, sending gold and silver prices plummeting and raising the stakes for key weekend meetings of global finance officials.

 Gold and silver prices have seen sharp declines lately, but Barron's economics editor Gene Epstein says the long-term value of the commodities still shines.
.In the past week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 6.4%, its worst week since October 2008. Currencies, too, have had a wild ride. The dollar this month has soared against its rivals. The euro has tumbled 6% in September, while emerging currencies like Brazil's real have been punished.

Gold futures dropped 5.8% Friday, the biggest one-day loss in five years, as investors rushed to cash out of some of their most profitable investments in the hopes of making up for losses elsewhere. The decline capped gold's worst week since 1983. Silver was even harder hit, plunging 18% for its largest single-day decline since 1987.

 Precious metals posted deep losses as investors continued to leave the market in favor of cash. Comex silver for September delivery dropped $6.4870, the worst dollar-decline since 1980. Liam Denning has details on The News Hub.
.The week highlighted a growing sense of despondency among investors concerned that policy makers have neither the will nor power to juice their economies.

The broad market declines have added pressure on finance ministers and central bankers as they gather for the International Monetary Fund's annual meeting in Washington this weekend.

"We are in a red zone," said World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy, one of many officials attending the meeting. "We are at risk of repeating what happened in 2008"—when market upheaval shook the global economy—"occurring again for different reasons but through the same channel, the financial system."

Friday's exodus from gold and silver underscores the unpredictable and volatile nature of financial markets in recent weeks.

 .Investors have grown increasingly skeptical of policy makers' ability to revive the global economy, and of their willingness to bring about a resolution to the European debt crisis.

The broader rout has left many investors with unexpected losses, driving some to part with some of their better performing investments, among them gold and silver.

The declines are a turnabout for gold, in particular, which has recently found strong demand in good times and bad. It has enjoyed a special status as a safe haven from financial crisis and political turmoil, as well as a hedge against inflation.

Gold has risen six-fold in the past decade, including a 15% gain this year. In August, it reached a nominal record of $1,888.70 per troy ounce, rising on a trajectory that many had speculated could not last.

Gold settled at $1,637.50 an ounce, down 9.6% for the week. Silver, which had risen 28% this year by the end of April, settled at $30.05 per ounce, falling into negative territory for the year.

 Fears of a possible Greek default and the U.S economy dipping back into recession pushed the blue-chip index to its worst weekly decline in nearly three years. Brendan Conway has details on The News Hub.
.Some hedge funds were selling to raise cash to meet margin calls from lenders. Other investors were using proceeds of silver and gold sales to replenish other parts of their portfolios, which had fallen in value in recent sessions, said George Gero, precious metals strategist at RBC Global Futures.

In addition, it appeared that European banks were selling gold, possibly in order to raise cash and shore up their balance sheets, Mr. Gero said. This selling was then magnified by so-called momentum traders whose strategy is to piggyback on moves up or down in price.

Silver faces the added woe of being widely used in industry, and therefore vulnerable to fears that weak economies will consume less. Moreover, the Shanghai Gold Exchange said Friday that it will expand the upper and lower trading limits for its silver contract.

Exchange-traded funds that invest in, and track, the metals also have helped investors move quickly in and out of gold and silver.

"It feels like there's tremendous macro headwinds for the metals," said David Lutz, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus.

The recent downdraft for precious metals came after the Federal Reserve this week acknowledged the economy is in worse shape than it thought, a sign that inflation will be of no concern for some time. As well, economic data out of China and Europe indicated that the global economy continues to lose steam.

"What's exacerbating the situation right now is that the global economy is in bad shape," said Andreas Utermann, global chief investment officer for money manager RCM, a subsidiary of Allianz Global Investors.

On Friday, members of the Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations met to see what measures they could devise to boost confidence in financial markets. But there was little expectation that they would produce anything concrete.

 .The euro fell from nearly $1.38 to end the week at $1.35, and German, French and British stocks all fell too. Stocks in Hong Kong and Seoul fell, too, and the Shanghai Composite suffered its fourth straight week of declines. The Korean won tumbled 9.3% against the dollar, forcing the central bank to intervene.

In the U.S., the Dow's declines this week take the blue-chip index down 18% from its late-April highs. On Friday, the Dow rose 37.65 points, to 10771.48.

The fact that gold is falling along with other assets complicates life for those who bought gold because they thought it would rise or fall independently.

"There is nowhere really to hide at the moment," said Fredrik Nerbrand, global head of asset allocation at HSBC.

23529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scary piece on EMP on: September 24, 2011, 08:30:50 AM
http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/bobbeauprez/2011/09/24/iran_at_our_doorstep_-_part_ii,_the_emp_threat/page/full/

In Part I of this series, "Iran at our Doorstep," published in the August issue of A Line of Sight, I documented Iran's continued quest to develop a nuclear weapon. Additionally, I explained the Iran-Venezuela-Russia alliance currently constructing a military missile base on the extreme northern coast of Venezuela well within reach of many heavily populated U.S. cities. The publicly stated purpose of building the base is to provide the capability for Venezuela to launch missiles at "Iran's enemies."

Subsequently on September 4 we published contributing editor Major General Paul Vallely's article summarizing the release by the United Nation's IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) of a "restricted report" regarding Iran's continued nuclear activity. Consistent with the documentation shared on these pages last month, the U.N. nuclear agency said it is "increasingly concerned" by a stream of "extensive and comprehensive" intelligence coming from "many member states" suggesting that Iran continues to work secretly on developing a nuclear payload for a missile and other components of a nuclear weapons program.

General Vallely now serves as Chairman of Stand Up America, a private organization that includes numerous former military and intelligence community experts and analysts. In his September 4 article, Vallely wrote, "SUA believes strongly that Iran now possesses low yield nuclear war heads that can be mounted on the Shehab missile and deployed on the oceans in container ships with the Russian provided Club K missile launch system." The General went on to explain that Iran's objective is to "launch EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) weapons on U.S. Coastal cities and freeze our national grid systems."

A June, 2011 RAND report agreed with Vallely's analysis. According to RAND senior defense policy analyst Gregory S. Jones, Tehran's nuclear program has progressed to the point that "it will take around two months for the Iranian regime to produce the 20kg of uranium enriched to 90 percent required for the production of a nuclear warhead."

The window may have slammed shut on the opportunity to prevent Iran from going nuclear.

Americans are increasingly concerned about the vulnerability to a cyber-attack. On a personal level, that could involve the hacking into one's personal financial or other identity information. A cyber-attack could also escalate to a much larger scale of a corporate or large network cyber-theft, and certainly a cyber-attack that penetrated our various government, military or national security agencies could be catastrophic.

But, an EMP attack would be even far more destructive and life threatening. For those unfamiliar, one of America's most experience terrorism experts, RP Eddy, offers this layman's definition: "An EMP is a result of a nuclear explosion, or of another weapon, that releases a wave of electrons that will fry every electronic gizmo or tool that civilization needs to survive." Among his lengthy and distinguished credentials, Eddy served the Clinton Administration on the National Security Council as the Director of Counterterroism, and following the 9/11 attacks founded the Center of Tactical Counterterrorism in New York.

This isn't just theoretical or "Hollywood" fantasy. A quick search will yield a large library full of information and warnings about EMPs dating back over many decades. The U.S. found out about EMPs somewhat by accident during the World War II era when some of our own planes were affected by our own nuclear weapons tests. Although no nation has deployed an EMP, it is commonly accepted that many developed nations have such weapons. Since the technology required is considerably less sophisticated than advanced nuclear weaponry, experts believe that nations with developing nuclear capabilities and terrorist organizations may find EMPs far too appealing.

In a 2009 interview with Fox News, Eddy explained that part of the appeal to perceived lesser powers is that an EMP is far easier to build than a traditional nuclear weapon in part because it doesn't have to be as accurate nor as long range. And there are far too many bargain priced aged missiles lying around that can be picked on the cheap and nukes galore, too. Most estimates put the Russian stockpile alone of old and new nukes at more than 10,000. Eddy also referenced the ability to launch an EMP from a "floating barge" – the same Club K Russian weapons technology that looks like a common semi-truck trailer highlighted by Vallely in his September 4 article, and now being marketed to the world.



The above graphic is from 1997 congressional testimony, and it has been repeatedly referenced since that time to demonstrate that a single explosion sufficiently high in the atmosphere could paralyze the entire North American continent. As Eddy explains, an EMP attack would "fry" everything electric, and the "power grid would be out for months." Not only would our cell phones and computers not work, neither would hospital systems, air traffic control, food production and refrigeration, manufacturing, distribution of goods and services, financial transactions and records….you get the picture.

Frank Gaffney is a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and was in charge of Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy at the Pentagon under President Reagan. Currently, Gaffney is President of the Center for Security Policy. His warning of the potential devastation from an EMP attack is terrifying. "Within a year of that attack, nine out of 10 Americans would be dead, because we can't support a population of the present size in urban centers and the like without electricity," he says. "And that is exactly what I believe the Iranians are working towards."

Senator Jon Kyl, previously the Chairman and now Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary's Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, is deeply concerned about the vulnerability to an EMP attack. He says that it "is one of only a few ways that the United States could be defeated by its enemies – terrorist or otherwise. And it is probably the easiest."

"A terrorist organization might have trouble putting a nuclear warhead on target with a Scud, but it would be much easier to simply launch and detonate in the atmosphere," Kyl wrote in the Washington Post. "No need for risk and difficulty of trying to smuggle a nuclear weapon over the border or hit a particular city. Just launch a cheap missile from a freighter in international waters – al Qaida is believed to own about 80 such vessels – and make sure to get it a few miles in the air."

In addition to the 9/11 Commission charged with review and making recommendations following the 9/11 attacks, the government established The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. The Commission released their first report in 2004, about the same time as the 9/11 Commission, and a subsequent report in 2008. Unfortunately, only a few politicians like Sen. Kyl even paid attention. In fact, there have been at least six national commissions as well as the government commissions to issue reports on the threat of EMP. But, virtually all of the warnings and recommendations of the experts have been ignored. "Congress has merely deliberated it, but has not taken substantive action," according to the Heritage Foundation. "The Administration and federal agencies remain mostly ambivalent."

One of the most damning indictments of the 9/11 Commission's findings was a "failure of imagination." America couldn't imagine that we were vulnerable to a terrorist attack inside our border on the scale of 9/11. Have we allowed our imaginations to fall asleep again?

As threatening as an EMP attack is, there is also a great deal that can be done. The EMP Commission says the "appropriate national-level approach should balance prevention, protection, and recovery." Both comprehensive reports by the Commission contain specific recommendations to accomplish that balanced strategic approach. Unfortunately, we have done virtually nothing while the capabilities of our adversaries continue to advance.

James Carafano, the National Defense and Homeland Security expert at the Heritage Foundation offers this straightforward agenda:

1. Fund comprehensive missile defense

2. Develop a National Recovery Plan and a plan to respond to severe space emergencies.

3. Require more research on the EMP Threat.

Carafano also voices a frustration that echoes across the pages of the EMP Commission's 2008 report. "Simply recognizing the EMP threat would go a long way toward better preparing America for the unthinkable."

It has been ten years since the 9/11 attacks, and America has not suffered another significant attack on the homeland during the decade. Our national bravado and the passage of time cause us to not dwell on the unknown nor take seriously "death to America" pledges by tyrants like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If as the experts warn, a single EMP attack could put America "back to the 19th century," do we not need to be vigilant?

In addition to a complacency developed from extended relative peace, by ignoring our increasing national security vulnerabilities and the capabilities of our enemies, America presented a target that was exploited by our enemies on 9/11. We have done much in the last ten years to prevent terrorists from flying planes into buildings, again, but are we ignoring an even bigger threat?

Iran either already has or is rapidly developing weapons technologies capable of great damage to America and our allies. In addition, the regime is expanding influence globally, particularly in South and Central America that further threatens our national security and global balance of power. In the coming weeks, we will expose more of the extended threatening web that the Iranians are weaving, and why it can neither be ignored nor tolerated.
 
Bob Beauprez
Bob Beauprez is a former Member of Congress and is currently the editor-in-chief of A Line of Sight, an online policy resource. Prior to serving in Congress, Mr. Beauprez was a dairy farmer and community banker. He and his wife Claudia reside in Lafayette, Colorado. You may contact him at: http://bobbeauprez.com/contact/
23530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: Remilitarized Sinai? on: September 24, 2011, 08:24:12 AM
Will the Egyptian military be permitted to remilitarize the Sinai? Since Palestinian and Egyptian terrorists crossed into Israel from Sinai on August 18 and murdered eight Israelis this has been a central issue under discussion at senior echelons of the government and the IDF.

Under the terms of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, Egypt is prohibited from deploying military forces in the Sinai. Israel must approve any Egyptian military mobilization in the area. Today, Egypt is asking to permanently deploy its forces in the Sinai. Such a move requires an amendment to the treaty.

Supported by the Obama administration, the Egyptians say they need to deploy forces in the Sinai in order to rein in and defeat the jihadist forces now running rampant throughout the peninsula. Aside from attacking Israel, these jihadists have openly challenged Egyptian governmental control over the territory.

So far the Israeli government has given conflicting responses to the Egyptian request. Defense Minister Ehud Barak told The Economist last week that he supports the deployment of Egyptian forces. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he would consider such deployment but that Israel should not rush into amending the peace treaty with Egypt.

Saturday Barak tempered his earlier statement, claiming that no decision had been made about Egyptian deployment in the Sinai.

The government's confused statements about Egyptian troop deployments indicate that at a minimum, the government is unsure of the best course of action. This uncertainty owes in large part to confusion about Egypt's intentions.

Egypt's military leaders do have an interest in preventing jihadist attacks on Egyptian installations and other interests in the Sinai. But does that interest translate into an interest in defending Israeli installations and interests? If the interests overlap, then deploying Egyptian forces may be a reasonable option. If Egypt's military leaders view these interests as mutually exclusive, then Israel has no interest in such a deployment.

Israel’s confusion over Egypt's strategic direction and interests echoes its only recently abated confusion over Turkey's strategic direction in the aftermath of the Islamist AKP Party's rise to power in 2002. Following the US's lead, despite Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hostile rhetoric regarding Israel, Israel continued to believe that he and his government were interested in maintaining Turkey's strategic alliance with Israel. That belief began unraveling with Erdogan's embrace of Hamas in January 2006 and his willingness to turn a blind eye to Iranian use of Turkish territory to transfer arms to Hezbollah during the war in July and August 2006.

Still, due to US support for Erdogan, Israel continued to sell Turkey arms until last year. Israel only recognized that Turkey had transformed itself from a strategic ally into a strategic enemy after Erdogan sponsored the terror flotilla to Gaza in May 2010.

As was the case with Turkey under Erdogan, Israel's confusion over Egypt's intentions has nothing to do with the military rulers' behavior. Like Erdogan, the Egyptian junta isn't sending Israel mixed signals.

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was never a strategic ally to Israel the way that Turkey was before Erdogan. However, Mubarak believed that maintaining a quiet border with Israel, combating the Muslim Brotherhood and keeping Hamas at arm's length advanced his interests. Mubarak's successors in the junta do not perceive their interests in the same way.

To the contrary, since they overthrew Mubarak in February, the generals ruling Egypt have made clear that their interest in cultivating ties with Israel's enemies - from Iran to the Muslim Brotherhood - far outweighs their interest in maintaining a cooperative relationship with Israel.

From permitting Iranian naval ships to traverse the Suez Canal for the first time in 30 years to opening the border with Hamas-ruled Gaza to its openly hostile and conspiratorial reaction to the August 18 terrorist attack on Israel from the Sinai, there can be little doubt about the trajectory of Egypt's relations with Israel.

But just as was the case with Turkey - and again, largely because of American pressure - Israel's leaders are wary of accepting that the strategic landscape of our relationship with Egypt has changed radically and that the rules that applied under Mubarak no longer apply.

After Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, terrorists in Gaza and Sinai took down the border. Gaza was immediately flooded with sophisticated armaments. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon made a deal with Mubarak to deploy Egyptian forces to the Sinai to rebuild the border and man the crossing point at Rafah. While there were problems with the agreement, given the fact that Mubarak shared Israel's interests, the move was not unjustified.

Today this is not the case. The junta wants to permanently deploy forces to the Sinai and consequently is pushing to amend the treaty. The generals' request comes against the backdrop of populist calls from across Egypt's political spectrum demanding the cancellation of the peace treaty.

If Israel agrees to renegotiate the treaty, it will lower the political cost of a subsequent Egyptian abrogation of the agreement. This is the case because Israel itself will be on record acknowledging that the treaty does not meet its current needs.

Beyond that, there is the nature of the Egyptian military itself, which was exposed during and in the aftermath of the August 18 attack. At a minimum, the Egyptian and Palestinian terrorists who attacked Israel that day did so with no interference from Egyptian forces deployed along the border.

The fact that they shot into Israel from Egyptian military positions indicates that the Egyptian forces on the ground did not simply turn a blind eye to what was happening. Rather, it is reasonable to assume that they lent a helping hand to the terror operatives.

Furthermore, the hostile response of the Egyptian military to Israel's defensive operations to end the terror attack indicates that at a minimum, the higher echelons of the military are not sympathetically disposed towards Israel's right to defend its citizens.

Both the behavior of the forces on the ground and of their commanders in Cairo indicates that if the Egyptian military is permitted to deploy its forces to the Sinai, those forces will not serve any helpful purpose for Israel.

The military’s demonstrated antagonism toward Israel, the uncertainty of Egypt's political future, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the hatred of Israel shared by all Egyptian political factions all indicate that Israel will live to regret it if it permits the Egyptian military to mobilize in the Sinai. Not only will Egyptian soldiers not prevent terrorist attacks against Israel, their presence along the border will increase the prospect of war with Egypt.

Egypt's current inaction against anti-Israel terror operatives in the Sinai has already caused the IDF to increase its force levels along the border. If Egypt is permitted to mass its forces in the Sinai, then the IDF will be forced to respond by steeply increasing the size of its force mobilized along the border. And the proximity of the two armies could easily be exploited by Egyptian populist forces to foment war.

In his interview with The Economist, Barak claimed bizarrely, "Sometimes you have to subordinate strategic considerations to tactical needs." It is hard to think of any case in human history when a nation's interests were served by winning a battle and losing a war. And the stakes with Egypt are too high for Israel's leaders to be engaging in such confused and imbecilic thinking.

The dangers emanating from post-Mubarak Egypt are enormous and are only likely to grow. Israel cannot allow its desire for things to be different to cloud its judgment. It must accept the situation for what it is and act accordingly.
23531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Baraq says he is expanding State's educational options , , , on: September 24, 2011, 08:01:41 AM
I had a hard time deciding where to post this one-- it easily could have gone in the Education thread here on SC&H or Constitutional issues due to Separation of Powers/Executive Overreach-- but I settled on here:


With his declaration on Friday that he would waive the most contentious provisions of a federal education law, President Obama effectively rerouted the nation’s education history after a turbulent decade of overwhelming federal influence.

Related
Times Topic: No Child Left Behind ActMr. Obama invited states to reclaim the power to design their own school accountability and improvement systems, upending the centerpiece of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, a requirement that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014.

“This does not mean that states will be able to lower their standards or escape accountability,” the president said. “If states want more flexibility, they’re going to have to set higher standards, more honest standards that prove they’re serious about meeting them.”

But experts said it was a measure of how profoundly the law had reshaped America’s public school culture that even in states that accept the administration’s offer to pursue a new agenda, the law’s legacy will live on in classrooms, where educators’ work will continue to emphasize its major themes, like narrowing student achievement gaps, and its tactics, like using standardized tests to measure educators’ performance.

In a White House speech, Mr. Obama said states that adopted new higher standards, pledged to overhaul their lowest-performing schools and revamped their teacher evaluation systems should apply for waivers of 10 central provisions of the No Child law, including its 2014 proficiency deadline. The administration was forced to act, Mr. Obama said, because partisan gridlock kept Congress from updating the law.

“Given that Congress cannot act, I am acting,” Mr. Obama said. “Starting today, we’ll be giving states more flexibility.”

But while the law itself clearly empowers Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to waive its provisions, the administration’s decision to make the waivers conditional on states’ pledges to pursue Mr. Obama’s broad school improvement agenda has angered Republicans gearing up for the 2012 elections.

On Friday Congressional leaders immediately began characterizing the waivers as a new administration power grab, in line with their portrayal of the health care overhaul, financial sector regulation and other administration initiatives.

“In my judgment, he is exercising an authority and power he doesn’t have,” said Representative John Kline, Republican of Minnesota and chairman of the House education committee. “We all know the law is broken and needs to be changed. But this is part and parcel with the whole picture with this administration: they cannot get their agenda through Congress, so they’re doing it with executive orders and rewriting rules. This is executive overreach.”

Mr. Obama made his statements to a bipartisan audience that included Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a Republican, Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, an independent, and 24 state superintendents of education.

“I believe this will be a transformative movement in American public education,” Christopher Cerf, New Jersey’s education commissioner under Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, said after the speech.

The No Child law that President George W. Bush signed in 2002 was a bipartisan rewrite of the basic federal law on public schools, first passed in 1965 to help the nation’s neediest students. The 2002 law required all schools to administer reading and math tests every year, and to increase the proportion of students passing them until reaching 100 percent in 2014. Schools that failed to keep pace were to be labeled as failing, and eventually their principals fired and staffs dismantled. That system for holding schools accountable for test scores has encouraged states to lower standards, teachers to focus on test preparation, and math and reading to crowd out history, art and foreign languages.

Mr. Obama’s blueprint for rewriting the law, which Congress has never acted on, urged lawmakers to adopt an approach that would encourage states to raise standards, focus interventions only on the worst failing schools and use test scores and other measures to evaluate teachers’ effectiveness. In its current proposal, the administration requires states to adopt those elements of its blueprint in exchange for relief from the No Child law.

Mr. Duncan, speaking after Mr. Obama’s speech, said the waivers could bring significant change to states that apply. “For parents, it means their schools won’t be labeled failures,” Mr. Duncan said. “It should reduce the pressure to teach to the test.”

Critics were skeptical, saying that classroom teachers who complain about unrelenting pressure to prepare for standardized tests were unlikely to feel much relief.

“In the system that N.C.L.B. created, standardized tests are the measure of all that is good, and that has not changed,“ said Monty Neill, executive director of Fair Test, an antitesting advocacy group. “This policy encourages states to use test scores as a significant factor in evaluating teachers, and that will add to the pressure on teachers to teach to the test.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said her union favored evaluation systems that would help teachers improve their instruction, whereas the administration was focusing on accountability. “You’re seeing an extraordinary change of policy, from an accountability system focused on districts and schools, to accountability based on teacher and principal evaluations,” Ms. Weingarten said.

For most states, obtaining a waiver could be the easy part of accepting the administration’s invitation. Actually designing a new school accountability system, and obtaining statewide acceptance of it, represents a complex administrative and political challenge for governors and other state leaders, said Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which the White House said played an important role in developing the waiver proposal.

Only about five states may be ready to apply immediately, and perhaps 20 others could follow by next spring, Mr. Wilhoit said. Developing new educator evaluation systems and other aspects of follow-through could take states three years or more, he said.

Officials in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and in at least eight other states — Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Idaho, Minnesota, Virginia and Wisconsin — said Friday that they would probably seek the waivers.

23532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on the gold/silver downturn on: September 24, 2011, 07:19:45 AM
Wesbury has some interesting thoughts on the Fed's twist, and the sharp downturn in gold and silver (a risk of which I have warned btw-- which has not stopped me from getting badly dinged in silver, but I digress)

http://www.ftportfolios.com/Commentary/EconomicResearch/2011/9/23/bernanke-squashes-gold-bugs
23533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 23, 2011, 09:30:57 PM
Of course I like Christie for his plain speaking but IMHO it would be quite silly for him to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. 

Santorum has shown the substance he showed at the end of his time in the Senate but hasn't a prayer.  Huntsman would make a responsible Democratic candidate.  Paul has become MUCH more polished and his articulateness on economic and constitutional issues hleps stiffen the spine of the others and makes hardcore American Creed positions more palatable to the masses.  Bachman?  Says many things I like, but too many weaknesses (No executive experience, innoculations causing retardation brain fart, too MILF to be taken seriously as a president, etc).   Newt?  I confess to hoping lightning will strike and he will catch fire.  Cain is doing better and better, his 9-9-9 plan seems both sound and appealing to voters to me, but NO depth on foreign affairs.

The more I think about it, the more I think Perry hurt himself last night.   At the moment Romney is doing a fairly good job of pivoting right until he gets the nomination.
23534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: September 23, 2011, 09:14:57 PM
Well, she was there with a camera crew and she was on "Dancing with the Stars" last year (which I am guessing is big in the gay community) and infuriated many on the left by being voted to the next round far beyond her actual talents (i.e. Sarah Palin fans voted for her regardless of her performance).
23535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interesting conversation on: September 23, 2011, 09:12:20 PM
Comments by poster on another forum:

"OK, so, according to his lawyer, Howard was actually trying to get that ATF agent to incriminate herself in those conversations. And DOJ's inspector general cannot be trusted to investigate the department she works for. What a surprise."

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

Quote:
Lawmakers Claim Justice Inspector Obstructed Probe Into ‘Fast and Furious’

By William Lajeunesse

Published September 21, 2011 | FoxNews.com


The inspector general of the Department of Justice undermined and obstructed a congressional investigation by releasing secret tape recordings that corroborate allegations of misconduct in "Operation Fast and Furious," according to a letter written by Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley.

The two lawmakers leading the probe into the Obama administration scandal claim Justice Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar compromised their investigators' ability to get to the truth and potentially prosecute those responsible for selling thousands of weapons to the Mexican drug cartels.

Schnedar failed to even listen to the recordings before handing them over to the actual targets of the investigation, the letter alleges.

"Each of these disclosures undermines our ability to assess the candor of witnesses in our investigation and thus obstructs it," they wrote in a letter dated Tuesday. "Moreover, your decision to immediately disclose the recordings to those you are investigating creates at least the appearance, if not more, that your inquiry is not sufficiently objective and independent.

"It appears that you did not consider the significant harm that providing these recordings to the very individuals under investigation could cause to either our inquiry or your own. You did not consult with us about the recordings even though the congressional inquiry and reactions to it are discussed at length."

The OIG argues that under discovery rules it is required to turn the tapes over to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The tapes Issa and Grassley refer to were recorded by Andre Howard, owner of the Lone Wolf Trading Co., after he suspected the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was lying to him about the guns they recruited him to sell to buyers of the Sinaloa Cartel.

On two occasions Howard taped Hope MacAllister, the lead agent in the Fast and Furious case.

Dallas lawyer Larry Gaydos, who represents the Lone Wolf Trading Co., claims Howard was trying to get MacAllister to implicate herself and the ATF in the illegal gun-running scheme.

"He became very suspicious and in his own defense would tape key conversations with Ms. MacAllister and try to get her to make admissions about the truth of the matter," said Dallas attorney Larry Gaydos. "Andre was trying to get her to admit that indeed they let guns go to Mexico."

Howard has become a key witness in the congressional investigation of the Department of Justice and its alleged cover up of Operation Fast and Furious. The Justice Department has repeatedly said it did not allow guns -- purchased under its direction and authority -- to reach Mexico.

The facts in the case suggest otherwise, but the agency continues to deny it and refuses to turn over pertinent documents to Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Andre was acting under the direct supervision of the Department of Justice and ATF. And he thought he was making a difference and that these people were being arrested and there were going to be indictments and that there were going to be prosecutions," Gaydos told Fox News exclusively on Tuesday.

"He is appalled at the position being taken by the Department of Justice and the lack of candor and the lack of cooperation with Congress. He wants the truth to come out for the American people and the Terry Family."

Howard is not alone in his regret. Speaking in reaction to the tapes Tuesday was ATF agent and whistleblower Larry Alt, who has never spoken publicly about his opposition to the case and the retaliation he has suffered as a result of it.

"Agent Terry's death brought just a tremendous amount of, I guess, regret and sorrow, disappointment, disgust to myself, to other members of the group. I can't express enough--I've never had an opportunity to publicly express condolences to the Terry family," Alt told Fox News. "I'm almost speechless when it comes to that."

Alt stepped forward after hearing MacAllister disparage his wife and family on the tapes. He felt it was necessary to defend them, and his own reputation. A decorated soldier and police officer, an instructor at the ATF academy, Alt says he and fellow whistleblower John Dodson were transferred to dead-end jobs after standing up to Agent-in-Charge Bill Newell. The ATF in Phoenix and U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona then attempted to conceal the role they played in directing area gun dealers to sell weapons to buyers the agency knew were breaking the law.

"We were transferred from the group. We were placed in positions away from the investigation itself, denied access to the investigation," said Alt. "I would view that as a measure of control and if you want to call it a cover up, that would be an accurate statement."

Howard made the tapes in March 2011 after a meeting he and his attorneys held with federal officials. In that meeting, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley continued to insist the guns Lone Wolf sold were stopped and seized before reaching Mexico.

But ATF officials are quoted in a Washington Post article and the Spanish language daily La Opinion saying just the opposite -- blaming Lone Wolf for "selling guns to the cartels" with no mention that Howard was operating under the federal government's direction, encouragement and approval.
 


===========================
What do we make of this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ec667Esbjec
23536  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: September 23, 2011, 04:56:18 PM
Working title  "Wielding a big stick, doggy style"
23537  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Possible narco hit on a PRI Congressman on: September 23, 2011, 04:41:53 PM
Possible Cartel Hit on a Federal Lawmaker

On Sept. 17, the bodies of Mexican federal legislator Moises Villanueva de la Luz and his driver were found along a riverbank below a bridge in Huamuxtitlan, Guerrero state. The men had been missing since Sept. 4, when they disappeared following an Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) political event Villanueva de la Luz attended in his congressional district.

Shortly before his disappearance, Villanueva de la Luz had submitted a proposal to Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Attorney General Marisela Morales asking them to establish a special commission to investigate crimes against migrants, probably triggered by the discovery of several mass graves of migrants across Mexico and neighboring Guatemala over the past year. Though Mexican law enforcement authorities have not speculated on suspects in the case, and though his death may have been the result of some sort of personal or political dispute unrelated to the proposed migrant crimes commission, the cartels have been known to traffic and forcibly recruit (or sometimes kill) migrants, and may have been involved in Villanueva de la Luz’s killing in response to his attempt to investigate those crimes.

A report from the coroner’s office indicated that the men were executed by gunshots to the temple, and the bodies were found with no signs of torture. From the severe level of decomposition, the two men were likely killed shortly after they were kidnapped — they were also found wearing the same clothes they wore the day they disappeared. The location where they were discovered, on a riverbank below a bridge, could indicate that they were killed somewhere else and their bodies were quickly dumped from a vehicle off the bridge. According to the Guerrero state attorney general’s office, investigators have ruled out a kidnapping for ransom as the motive because Villanueva de la Luz’s family was never contacted about ransom demands.

Establishing a commission to investigate the abuse of migrants, a known cartel activity, may have been cause enough for Villanueva de la Luz to be targeted, but cartels have been known to attack lawmakers for a variety of reasons. In some instances, the cartels have tried to kill lawmakers known to be on the payroll of a rival drug cartel, or who have refused to cooperate with a cartel after being approached.

One other theory on Villanueva de la Luz’s death bears mentioning — though at this point it seems very unlikely. The PRI chapter in Guerrero state sent an official letter to local authorities suggesting the murder may have been politically motivated and demanded rural development secretary Socorro Sofio Ramirez Hernandez of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (who previously had held Villanueva de la Luz’s congressional seat) be detained for questioning. The PRI party chief said Ramirez had unsuccessfully pressured Villanueva de la Luz in the past to “subordinate him to his personal interests,” but provided no specifics. Given the ambiguity of the accusation from a single source, the relatively rare political violence between parties in Mexico and the fact that the state attorney general has said there is no evidence indicating Ramirez was involved, this seems an unlikely explanation for the congressman’s death.

If the killing was orchestrated by the cartels, there are a number of potential suspects. Los Zetas, due to their well-known role in trafficking migrants and sometimes forcibly recruiting them into their ranks, would be among the most hostile to an investigative body examining and publicizing their activities. Besides the large drug cartels, other, smaller criminal groups have been known to target migrants and would not have welcomed Villanueva de la Luz’s proposed commission. A STRATFOR source in U.S. federal law enforcement said that remnants of the defunct Beltran Leyva Organization are believed to be connected to the killing. One of those remnant groups, La Barredora, has been very active in nearby Acapulco, making statements threatening state-level political leaders in Guerrero state. It is also known to have connections to the Sinaloa Federation, currently Mexico’s most powerful drug-trafficking organization. The ties to Sinaloa mean La Barredora may act at the behest of the larger group and can easily take actions outside of the typical activities of the small-time gangs, like kidnappings for ransom, though Mexican authorities have already eliminated that as a possibility in this case.

Regardless of which cartel or criminal organization was responsible, the congressman’s death could have a chilling effect on other Mexican lawmakers with intentions to investigate anti-migrant crimes.


Teachers Killed in Guerrero State

Reports emerged Sept. 18 that a vehicle carrying four teachers was stopped and fired upon by gunmen in the town of Puerto Rico del Sur, Guerrero state. Three of the people in the car were killed, and the fourth was wounded. (A separate, conflicting story described the victims as three people, only one a teacher, who were attacked driving in a pickup truck in a nearby municipality.) The attack coincides with the closure of elementary and high schools across the state since the beginning of September after extortion letters were sent to school administrators.

The letters demanded the names, addresses, phone numbers, voter registration information and district payroll records for all teachers being paid more than 20,000 pesos (about $1,400) per month. It said that by Oct. 1, all teachers making more than that amount would be required to forfeit half of their monthly salary to the extortioner as well as half of their annual bonus, and threatened unspecified but “severe” consequences for noncompliance. According to a Mexican media report, the teachers’ union has said the teachers in the closed schools will not return to work until the government guarantees their safety.

While the extortion letter’s deadline has not arrived, it is possible that teachers refused to allow their information to be passed to the extortion group (the extortion letter demanded administrators provide the names of any teachers who refused and that they would address the matter). If all the occupants in the car were teachers, it seems unlikely that they were the victims of a random act of violence, and if the gunmen were connected to the extortion letter, they may have attacked the teachers before the deadline to reinforce fear and ensure compliance by the appointed time.

The Guerrero state prosecutor’s office reportedly denied any connection between the attack on the teachers and the known extortion threat, though it would obviously be reluctant to confirm a connection, given the potential for an attack against teachers to cause a panic and exacerbate the situation. Most cartels, and many of the smaller criminal organizations, have proven well to the Mexican population that threats rarely are hollow; intimidation related to the extortion threat appears to be the motive for the attack.



(click here to view interactive graphic)

Sept. 12

Three “narcomantas,” or banners posted by drug cartels, were posted in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, and signed by the Carrillo Leyva brothers. The banners criticized the Mexican government and invited citizens to join the Juarez cartel.
Mexican authorities arrested an individual for smuggling 102 pellets of cocaine weighing a total of about 1.14 kilograms (2.5 pounds), in his stomach at the Mexico City International Airport. The individual had flown to Mexico City from Cancun, Quintana Roo state, and was destined for Spain.
Mexican authorities arrested seven members of the Gulf cartel in San Cristobal de la Barranca, Jalisco state.

Sept. 13

Narcomantas signed by Los Zetas were left with two bodies hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The messages threatened anyone who uses social media networks to report on Mexican cartel activity.

Sept. 14

Gunmen attacked the State Investigation Agency office in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The gunmen used high-powered rifles and at least one grenade.
About 70 Gulf cartel members entered Juchipila, Zacatecas state, in 22 trucks and stopped at the municipality’s headquarters. The members stayed in the area for approximately five hours, carrying rifles, grenades and grenade launchers. The Gulf members stated to observers they were in the area to “do a good cleaning.”

Sept. 15

Gunmen in two separate incidents in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state, attacked five transit officers. The attacks resulted in the deaths of three police officers and the kidnapping of another.
A bomb in a vehicle was detonated on a street in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state. No deaths were reported from the explosion.
Members of Knights Templar handed out flyers to citizens in Apatzingan, Michoacan state, warning of upcoming attacks by Los Zetas.

Sept. 16

At least thirty narcomantas were posted in at least 10 municipalities of Michoacan state signed by the Knights Templar. The banners denounced Los Zetas and claim that the Knights Templar are protecting the citizens of Michoacan. Some of the cities with banners include Apatzingan, Morelia and Quiroga.
The Mexican military dismantled a drug lab in Culiacan, Sinaloa state. The military seized approximately 60 kilograms of methamphetamine, 2 liters (about half a gallon) of liquid methamphetamine, and chemical precursors.

Sept. 17

Gunmen kidnapped a PRI party member in front of his home in Jose Azueta, Veracruz state. The individual was a leader of a municipal committee.
The body of PRI federal legislator Moises Villanueva de la Luz, was discovered in Huamuxtitlan, Guerrero state. The congressman and his driver had been missing since Sept. 4.

Sept. 18

Mexican authorities captured six Los Zetas members in Santa Catarina, Nuevo Leon state. One of the members was allegedly a lookout for the Casino Royale attack in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.
Three men were arrested in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, while attempting to post narcomantas. The contents of the banners were not released.
A member of the Sinaloa Federation, Jesus Hernandez Valenzuela, was arrested at a safe house in Tijuana, Baja California state.

Sept. 19

A confrontation between rival criminal groups left at least eight dead in Nocupetaro, Michoacan state.
Mexican authorities discovered the bodies of five executed individuals in Ixtapaluca, Mexico state. Left with the body was a narcomanta signed by La Familia Michoacana, which claimed ownership of the area.
23538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bristol Palin in West Hollywood bar on: September 23, 2011, 04:38:00 PM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S18gsZ37QXY&feature=player_embedded
23539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 23, 2011, 04:36:55 PM
My sense of things is that Perry is weakening and that in the second tier Cain, Santorum, Newt, Paul, did well.  Romney may have "won" last night, but loyalty to him is very shallow.  Generally, the candidates seemed looser and more human.  Good to see several of them saying that any of them would be better than Baraq.



23540  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: September 23, 2011, 03:14:15 PM
That was for , , , something else wink
23541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: September 23, 2011, 02:37:24 PM
The Oath Accountability Civil Action
Join the tens of thousands of Patriots who have already signed on to the Oath Accountability Civil Action for Constitutional Integrity.

To enforce our Constitution's limits on the central government, we believe a formal legal action is necessary. This action, if successful, would require that all members of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, first and foremost, abide by their oaths "to support and defend" our Constitution, under penalty of law, and comport with its enumerated limitations on the federal government. The current scope of federal activities provides abundant evidence that many members of those three co-equal branches have long since abandoned their oaths, and, at present, there is no recourse for prosecution to enforce compliance.

To that end, we urge you to join this action with Patriots across the nation in this effort to establish legal standing as citizens, particularly those in our Armed Services who defend their oaths with blood and life. If we are unsuccessful in our effort to seek remedy for the lack of any proscription against, and penalty for breach of oath, it will be because the judiciary refuses any such accountability regarding the wanton violation of our Constitution. Such rejection would in effect condemn Americans once again to the abuse previously characterized in American history as "Taxation Without Representation."

Our goal is 500,000 signatures. Please join us, and encourage other like-minded Patriots to do so. A large support base will be necessary if the federal judiciary refuses to hear this action and we are forced to take it to the national legislature for codification into federal law.


    


The Foundation
"The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men." --Alexander Hamilton


Government & Politics
Chicago-Style Government
The Era of Obama was supposed to be a time of Hope and Change, transparent and accountable government, and bipartisan song-singing -- indeed, as Obama himself put it, "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Reality has been wholly different. A recession that, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, ended in June 2009 but has given way to crippling economic stagnation, with no end in sight. Promised transparency quickly gave way to unaccountable czars and closed-door dealings, and bipartisanship was cast aside for the Democrat partisan ramrodding of hard-left legislation through the chambers of Congress. We don't pretend to speak for the planet, but nothing much seems healed.

Amid that bleak picture, there are (at least) three administration scandals that continue to simmer, despite the fact that the Leftmedia and Obama Re-Election Outlets (but we repeat ourselves) have given them scant attention. First is the story of Solyndra's bankruptcy following a $535 million federal loan guarantee from the Obama Department of Energy (part of the 2009 "stimulus"). The hastily issued loan to the California-based solar cell producer was greater than the amount given to 35 states to complete their respective lists of "shovel-ready" infrastructure jobs. When even that wasn't enough, Solyndra sought another $469 million. "Green energy" sure does seem to require an awful lot of green.

Solyndra went bankrupt when its unworkable business model collapsed. Yet, consistent with leftist cronyism, certain creditors who happened to be Democrat donors were placed in front of the taxpayers in the line of recovery -- much as unions were placed in the front of the line for the GM and Chrysler bailouts. Lost in the cover-up are the 1,100 workers abruptly laid off in August who will have a tough time finding jobs, as California is already reeling from high unemployment and is hardly a climate conducive to economic recovery.

Former employees are beginning to tell all, too. "After we got the loan guarantee, they were just spending money left and right," said former Solyndra engineer Lindsey Eastburn. "Because we were doing well, nobody cared. Because of that infusion of money, it made people sloppy." No wonder Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison and CFO W.G. Stover Jr. have announced that they will invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when they testify before Congress today.

Second is the administration's widening venture socialism scandal involving wireless network company LightSquared, which is financed by billionaire Democrat donor Philip Falcone. Military, civilian and government experts are objecting to LightSquared's potential to interfere with the military's GPS network. Air Force Commander Gen. William Shelton blew the whistle last week, claiming that the White House pressured him to modify testimony before Congress to make it more favorable toward LightSquared. He didn't.

LightSquared executives insist that their proposed system's wavelength won't interfere with the adjacent wavelengths used by the military's GPS on the available broadcast spectrum. Despite industry-wide protests, however, LightSquared received fast-track approval for an FCC waiver granting them the right to construct a 4G wireless network for far less capital than the billions the government would extract from its competitors. To address the industry's concerns about GPS interference, LightSquared proposed that everyone else pay to retrofit their GPS devices instead of revising its network to avoid broadband spillover.

Prior to its current incarnation, LightSquared was known as Skyterra, and its ownership included major Obama backers going back to 2004. Obama sold his Skyterra stock in 2005. Along with so much in the president's background, the Leftmedia seem content to characterize such connections as coincidental.

Finally, and most serious, is the continuing cover-up of Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious. As our readers well know, this project of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has resulted in more than 2,000 American weapons illegally crossing into Mexico, not only under the nose of the ATF, but with its consent, fueling the raging drug war south of the border. Reports this week indicate that a third gun linked to Fast and Furious was recovered at the scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry's murder in December. Furthermore, according to Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee investigating this scandal, Fast and Furious guns were used in at least 200 murders in Mexico -- and that's a conservative estimate. The administration is in full rear-covering mode, and the Leftmedia have, predictably, remained virtually silent.

Is it too much to ask that the media start doing their jobs? It's high time the Chicago thugs in the White House are held accountable for their actions.

What can be done about the thugs in Washington?
Obama's Novel Debt Plan: Raise Taxes
On Monday, Barack Obama put forward his plan for the congressional debt-reduction super committee to consider. Not surprisingly, it's heavy on tax increases and light on actual debt reduction. To read the full story, don't miss Mark Alexander's essay, Taking Down Socialist 'Tax Fairness' Rhetoric.


News From the Swamp: Spending and Jobs
Late Thursday night, the House barely passed a short-term continuing resolution to authorize spending for FY2012. The vote was 219-203. Earlier in the week, Republican leaders were dealt a defeat by conservative members of their own caucus when a similar CR failed with 48 Tea Party conservatives opposed. Those 48 wanted to stick with the House's April spending deal, while the leadership was putting forward the August bipartisan agreement. Some two dozen Republicans were brought back into the fold with an amendment that included $100 million in cuts to the Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, the Department of Energy program responsible for the Solyndra debacle.

In the Senate, Barack Obama's much touted jobs bill is lacking the support it needs to pass -- among Democrats. Reports are that Democrats Mark Begich (AK), Jim Webb (VA), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Barbara Mikulski (MD) outright oppose the bill, with some others not entirely decided yet. Administration officials met with several Democrats on the Hill this week to try to persuade them, but even if all Democrats are on board, the president's bill is in trouble.

Quote of the Week
"We're home alone. There's no adult in charge." --Larry Summers, former director of Obama's White House National Economic Council, as quoted in Confidence Men, Ron Suskind's newly released book about the Obama economic team

From the 'Non Compos Mentis' File
A number of federal agencies and departments are proudly making an effort to cut costs in these trying economic times by taking stock of their stationery and office equipment and buying in bulk. The plan adopted by the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury is expected to save $600 million over four years. Wow. We hate to criticize cost savings, but this amount won't even register on the chart compared to the government's multi-trillion-dollar debt. Sure, buying in bulk makes sense, but the trouble with government is that it took them so long to figure out basic business economics. Perhaps the whole thing is merely an offset for the new Washington Post report that, "In the past five years, the Office of Personnel Management has made more than $601 million in benefits payments to deceased federal annuitants."

New & Notable Legislation
The Senate Appropriations Committee has added a measure to the 2012 appropriations package that would provide for taxpayer-funded abortions in the District of Columbia. The House version maintains the abortion ban that has been in place since April, so now all eyes are on what deal may be hammered out. The National Right to Life Committee estimates that removing the Dornan Amendment, which prevents congressionally appropriated funds for abortion, would mean an additional 1,000 abortions a year in DC alone paid by taxpayers. The ban was originally in place from 1996-2009, but Barack Obama lifted it when he took office. Republicans reinstated it earlier this year after winning the House, but once again it's up for debate.


 

Hope 'n' Change: Finding Out What's in It
Add CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Support) to the growing list of Obama administration scandals. CLASS was ostensibly designed to be the long-term care component of ObamaCare. Its real purpose was to allow the administration to claim that the health care reform package was "deficit neutral." CLASS would collect premiums upwards of $75 billion during a 10-year period beginning in 2012, but those premiums would not go back to the citizens who paid them. Instead, they would be funneled into other parts of ObamaCare that are short on cash. When the bill for CLASS comes due in 2021, taxpayers will take a big hit to keep the "deficit neutral" ObamaCare afloat -- unless, of course, 2012 provides opportunity for repeal.

CLASS recently folded up shop, but a public airing of several internal emails regarding the program reveals that the White House knew all along that it was unsustainable, and that they had no way to fix it. A congressional investigation led by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) notes that, within the Department of Health and Human Services, "the program was repeatedly referred to as 'a recipe for disaster' with 'terminal problems.'" The only viable solution to fix CLASS would be for Congress to repeal it immediately. It doesn't work, it never worked, and it never will work.

From the Left: Staying in Touch With the Little Guy
Remember the flap about Nancy Reagan's red dress? Well, in hard-times America, the current First Lady showed up at a DNC fundraiser (the one for millionaires at $35,000 a plate) wearing jewelry including a Lotus cuff priced at $15,000 with 2.9 carats of diamonds, her Gothic cuff at $15,350 with 2.17 carats in diamonds, and the Quatrefoil bracelet at $11,800 with 1.73 carats in diamonds. Total value -- $42,150.

Let them eat cake. No coverage in the Leftmedia for our modern-day Marie Antoinette.


National Security
Palestinian Statehood Takes Center Stage
The muddled mess that is the Middle East continued to churn this week, threatening to splatter the rest of the world, via the United Nations, with its toxic ooze. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is pushing the UN Security Council to grant Palestinian statehood during the current General Assembly meeting. On Wednesday, however, Barack Obama tried to head off Abbas by giving yet another of his platitudinous speeches and declaring the painfully obvious: "Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now." Interestingly, it was this same Obama who, at last year's UN meeting, breezily said that he wanted a sovereign Palestinian state established by this year's UN meeting. So in the span of one year, a completely inept Obama managed to stab both the Israelis and the Palestinians in the back.

The Palestinians won't get their state just yet, as the U.S., even under Obama, cannot allow it. (That doesn't mean he doesn't support the idea.) However, reports are that the Security Council needs only two more votes for statehood from countries such as Bosnia (the Muslim country we created in the Clinton years), Gabon and Nigeria, which would force the U.S. to veto it. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced legislation to defund the UN if it votes to recognize a Palestinian state.

Ultimately, what the Palestinians want out of a UN vote isn't so much a state as much as another weapon in their arsenal to ultimately destroy Israel. "We are going to complain that as Palestinians we have been under occupation for 63 years," Abbas said this week. In other words, that "occupation," began with the creation of Israel in 1948, and it won't end until Israel is destroyed. So goes the Middle East "peace process."

What do you make of the Palestinians' efforts?
It Would Be a Comedy of Errors If It Weren't So Serious
This week, the Obama administration proved yet again that Hope 'n' Change is no substitute for wisdom and experience. After dragging out discussions for almost two full years on whether to provide new F-16 fighter-bombers to Taiwan, the White House decided instead to upgrade Taiwan's existing F-16s without providing new aircraft. In typical fashion, Obama managed to anger both Taiwan and China. Our largest foreign creditor is angry over any U.S. upgrades to Taiwan's military, while Taiwan is rightly angry that the United States caved in to communist pressure and stiffed a democratic ally. China was going to complain no matter what -- why not get our money's worth and provide new F-16s to a friendly democracy?

Meanwhile, in another transparently cynical move to placate the president's leftist base, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the administration remains committed to closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The January 2010 deadline for doing so flew by without fanfare, so now they promise to close it by Election Day 2012. Holder at least had the courtesy to provide the obvious motivation -- the election. Obama's base has been increasingly disenchanted with his performance lately, and he obviously wants some highly visible leftist dream to come true just in time for the election. Congress will have a great deal to say about Guantanamo's final disposition, but for the White House even to float this idea -- and so explicitly tie it to the next election -- is dangerously amateurish.

Department of Military Correctness: Orientation Genie Out of the Closet
At the stroke of midnight Tuesday, the Pentagon laid out the welcome mat for homosexual members of the military and for those in civilian life to join. After an 18-year "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" interregnum during which homosexuals were allowed in the military as long as they stayed "in the closet," the long-standing ban on their serving openly in the United States military formally came to a close. Obviously this came as a relief to service members such as "J.D. Smith," who in real life is Air Force First Lieutenant Josh Seefried. He adopted the pseudonym last year when he founded OutServe, a heretofore underground network of homosexual service members that has grown to 4,300 members. It's estimated that there are around 65,000 such members of the military, a presumption likely drilled into the 2.3 million active-duty and reserve members around the world who sat through an hour-long sensitivity course on accepting homosexuals within their ranks earlier this year.

Critics saw the change as an attempt to "reshape social attitudes" and warned that the number of military personnel may drop further than the 14,346 members discharged over the years by running afoul of the old DADT rules. Those who had been so discharged will be eligible to rejoin but won't have any specific preference over others who want to re-enter the service, the Pentagon announced.

It isn't clear whether benefits given to the spouses and families of married service members will eventually be extended to same-sex partners. A proposal to allow Navy chaplains to conduct "marriage" ceremonies in states where civil unions are allowed was scrapped after lawmakers objected.

  
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Business & Economy
Income Redistribution: Bonuses for GM Workers, the Shaft for Taxpayers
Last week General Motors and its UAW workforce reached a tentative four-year labor agreement, which is likely to be ratified overwhelmingly by the rank and file. As usual, the devil is in the details. Despite the fact that the automaker is still on the hook for billions of dollars to the federal government, which remains the owner of about one-quarter of GM's stock, the agreement includes a provision that UAW workers will receive a $5,000 "signing bonus" in lieu of a cost-of-living increase this year and maintain their health care and pensions. Newly hired workers will get a significant raise from their current $14 per hour to perhaps $17 per hour over the life of the contract. All workers will have "improved" profit sharing. In addition, the automaker will reopen the former Saturn assembly line in Spring Hill, Tennessee, which was idled in 2009.

Undoubtedly union leaders are thrilled about these concessions from the company, but they also knew whom to thank. As UAW Bob King noted, "None of this would have been possible without the efforts of President Obama, who invested federal funds to help turn the company around, protect the auto supplier base, and keep good-paying jobs in America." Unfortunately, those efforts have cost taxpayers roughly $15 billion that is yet to be repaid.

Have you driven a Ford lately?

Regulatory Commissars: Don't Create Jobs
With all the talk of saving and creating jobs, we find it disturbing that someone has been punished for doing just that. Peter Schiff, president and CEO of EuroPacific Capital, committed the unpardonable offense of hiring more brokers than regulations allow. "In my own business, securities regulations have prohibited me from hiring brokers for more than three years," Schiff testified before Congress. "I was even fined $15,000 expressly for hiring too many brokers in 2008. In the process I incurred more than $500,000 in legal bills to mitigate a more severe regulatory outcome as a result of hiring too many workers. I have also been prohibited from opening up additional offices. I had a major expansion plan that would have resulted in my creating hundreds of additional jobs. Regulations have forced me to put those jobs on hold."

Furthermore, says Schiff, "[T]he added cost of security regulations [has] forced me to create an offshore brokerage firm to handle foreign accounts that are now too expensive to handle from the United States. Revenue and jobs that would have been created in the U.S. are now being created abroad instead." As National Review's Andrew McCarthy quipped, "He's in finance. I guess he should have tried solar panels."

In related news, the EPA's overzealous regulators will soon cost another 500 workers their jobs. Texas energy company Luminant will be forced to stop generating energy at two of its power plants and shutter three lignite mines, thanks to requirements within the EPA's recently mandated Cross-State Air Pollution Rule in 2012. In a statement, the company said that while it is "launching a significant investment program to reduce emissions across our facilities" it couldn't otherwise comply with the "unrealistic deadline" without eliminating the 500 jobs. Also, it has taken the step of suing the EPA to overturn the edicts.

  
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Culture & Policy
Around the Nation: Ground Zero Mosque 'Opens'
In August 2010, we noted the controversy over the building of an Islamic cultural center (a.k.a. mosque) two blocks from Ground Zero. It was sometimes called The Cordoba Initiative, which was a thinly veiled religious reference to the long-ago Muslim conquest of the Christian city of Cordoba, Spain. Most commonly, however, the project is known by the more palatable -- and secular -- Park51.

On Wednesday, the project launched its first public exhibit featuring the work of New York City photographer Danny Goldfield. For the past seven years, Goldfield has been working on a collection of photographs of children from every country in the world who are living in New York City. The exhibit is a sorry attempt to soften the blow of the timing of the mosque's opening. Who could be opposed to children? Not only is it less than two weeks since the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but it also comes during a week of tense meetings between Barack Obama and Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Last year, in the midst of the heated debate, Obama felt it was his duty to impart his wisdom on the subject. What he said, of course, completely missed the point. Everyone knows that Park51 is legally viable, but that knowledge does little to assuage the hurt and rage of the thousands of people directly affected by 9/11, let alone the millions of Americans who were forever changed by that day. Against their protests, construction continued, but apparently the message didn't go completely ignored, considering the whitewash that is taking place now. "Looking forward to welcoming you to the NY Children's opening," Park51 tweeted, "We have a surprise guest to cut the ribbon. Make sure you're there!"

On Sept. 27, PBS will air the documentary "The Man Behind the Mosque" profiling developer Sharif El-Gamel. Last January, Park51 booted Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam best known for his statements that America brought the terrorists attacks upon itself. Despite the feel-good PR, this mosque is nothing more than a thumb in the eye from the very extremists who want to punish the "Great Satan."

Village Academic Curriculum: No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
Reading, writing, 'rithmetic and recipes? Since the launch of the federal school lunch program in 1946, the government has required schools to provide low-cost or free lunches to qualifying students. Now, under the new child nutrition law signed by Barack Obama late last year, the feds are mandating that schools make these meals more nutritious. In other words, not only are Washington bureaucrats subsidizing school lunches, they're also packing them. And that's not all. For the first time, the government is now inserting itself into the pricing process, and, as happens when Washington steps in, costs are going up. As The New York Times notes, under the law "school districts are required to start bringing their prices in line with what it costs to prepare the meals, eventually charging an average of $2.46 for the lunches they serve." Although the law says that price increases should be capped at 10 cents per year, some school districts have raised prices by as much as a quarter.

Districts across the country are preparing for backlash against the price hikes, but it's Washington bureaucrats who really should be taken to task for assuming "food service" is found anywhere in the Constitution. They say it's bad having two cooks in the kitchen. It's downright scary, though, when one of them is Barack Obama.

In related news, the administration will soon detail plans to revamp No Child Left Behind through waivers, not through Congress. Specifically, the White House wants to waive the requirement that students be proficient in math and reading by 2014 or risk sanctions.

  
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Faith and Family: City Orders Halt to Home Bible Study
The city of San Juan Capistrano, California, was founded as a mission in the late 1700s. Now, more than 200 years later, a couple in that city is facing fines for holding weekly Bible studies in their home. CBS Los Angeles reports, "Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm ... were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called 'a regular gathering of more than three people.'" They could face another $500 fine for every additional gathering. According to Section 9-3.301 of the city code, "religious, fraternal, or service organizations (non-profit)" cannot meet in residential areas without obtaining a conditional use permit. We question, however, whether the city would have enforced this ordinance against a similarly sized "fraternal" gathering.

The Fromms appealed the fine to the city but were denied, and now the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is taking the ruling to the California Superior Court. PJI President Brad Dacus noted, "An informal gathering in a home cannot be treated with suspicion by the government, or worse than any other gathering of friends, just because it is religious. We cannot allow this to happen in America, and we will fight as long and as hard as it takes to restore this group's religious freedom." If the court has any understanding of our nation's foundation of religious liberty, it will agree.

Share your thoughts on this banned Bible study
Catholic Archbishop Writes in Support of Marriage
Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York sent a letter to Barack Obama this week to seek an end to the administration's campaign against traditional marriage and religious liberty. Dolan specifically sited the Obama Justice Department, which claims that supporters of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by Bill Clinton, are motivated by "prejudice and bias." Such language presents a threat to religious liberty. "The institution of marriage is built on this truth," Dolan wrote, "no other relationships provide for the common good what marriage between husband and wife provides. The law should reflect this reality." Dolan further warned, "The Administration's failure to change course on this matter will ... precipitate a national conflict between Church and State of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions." When has "conflict ... to the detriment" of anything stopped Obama before?

And Last...
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) was censured by the House (333-79) just nine months ago for several ethics violations, including tax evasion. Yet Thursday, Rangel hosted a ceremony to unveil his official portrait in the Longworth House Office Building. The list of speakers at the ceremony included Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), as well as New York Democrat senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer. After getting an "OK" from the FEC, Rangel paid for the $65,000 portrait using campaign cash.

Truly, this is beyond words. These people really do live in a parallel universe -- one in which, as Pelosi once put it, they "drain the swamp" apparently by hanging portraits of swamp creatures. What next? Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize? Oh, wait...

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team

23542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IN CA stop SB 48 on: September 23, 2011, 12:38:43 PM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnMYTeO3BjI&feature=player_embedded#!
23543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 23, 2011, 12:10:27 PM
Any comments on the debates last night?
23544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Green Free Market solutions on: September 23, 2011, 12:09:50 PM
I thought Cain had a great night last night in the debate, but his comment about abolishing the EPA in my opinion in political terms was profoundly stupid.  It plays right into some of the deepest fears independents have about the Republican Party.
23545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: September 23, 2011, 12:08:12 PM
"There is no part of the administration of government that requires extensive information and a thorough knowledge of the principles of political economy, so much as the business of taxation. The man who understands those principles best will be least likely to resort to oppressive expedients, or sacrifice any particular class of citizens to the procurement of revenue." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 35, 1788
23546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist 35, 1788 on: September 23, 2011, 12:07:40 PM
"There is no part of the administration of government that requires extensive information and a thorough knowledge of the principles of political economy, so much as the business of taxation. The man who understands those principles best will be least likely to resort to oppressive expedients, or sacrifice any particular class of citizens to the procurement of revenue." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 35, 1788
23547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Uighur leader on what's happening there on: September 23, 2011, 10:44:12 AM


By REBIYA KADEER
As the U.S. and its allies were reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities, China's Communist regime manipulated the occasion to present itself as a victim of Islamic extremism. Beijing also accused the U.S. of practicing double standards by not giving unqualified support to its military offensive against what it calls "Muslim separatism" in northwest China. It insisted this campaign is an integral component of the war on terror.

These complaints are entirely driven by the regime's domestic agenda. The West should not be fooled by China's attempt to make its nationalities policy more palatable. For decades, China has brutally crushed even the mildest aspirations for self-rule among the non-Han Chinese peoples in its midst.

Beijing's actions in Tibet are the best-known example of this policy, yet it is no different in northwest China, the ancient homeland of the Uighur people. In 2009, the state's response to mass demonstrations for democracy and human rights was to beat and shoot at protesters, and to randomly arrest male Uighurs on a mass scale.

Since then, a palpable tension has prevailed. In recent weeks, following the reported killing in July of more than 20 Uighurs by security forces in the city of Hotan, China has deployed an additional 200,000 security personnel as well as its special anti-terror force, in order to deter fresh protests in a region that is home to 10 million Uighurs.

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An elderly Chinese Muslim Uighur man prays at his hat shop in Kashgar, China.
.China's leaders have enthusiastically offered a justification for the repression of Uighurs that is not available to them in the case of Tibet. For while most Tibetans are Buddhists, Uighurs are overwhelmingly Muslim. So the Beijing regime presents its campaign against the Uighur people's peaceful struggle for self-rule as part of the global battle against Islamists.

The hypocrisy on display here is astonishing. China, after all, has consistently supported radical, anti-Western currents in the Middle East. It is a stalwart ally of Iran's murderous regime and has opposed international measures to curb Syria's rulers. In Libya, China supplied Gadhafi's dictatorship with weapons until the last possible minute.

Even before 9/11, Beijing was effectively encouraging al Qaeda, using its position on the United Nations Security Council to oppose sanctions against Afghanistan's Taliban after the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.

Within days of 9/11, China's official Xinhua news agency was lauding the attacks as a "humbling blow" against America, a theme that continued this anniversary year, even as Beijing's propagandists complained about Washington's "blind eye" toward the conflict in the Uighur region. Clearly, China does not object to rooting out terrorist groups as long as it is allowed to define who the terrorists are.

Meanwhile, China has skillfully taken advantage of the West's ignorance of Uighur history and culture to insert itself into the antiterror camp.

As practiced by the vast majority of Uighurs, the religion of Islam has nothing in common with the radical Wahhabi and Salafi strains that have caused such terrible strife in the Middle East and South Asia. Just as we reject communism, we reject clerical rule. We aspire to a democratic state in which religion is a matter of individual conscience.

Indeed, if China had honored its 1955 commitment to the autonomy of the Uighur people, there would probably be no conflict. Our demands—to fly our own flag, to reap a fair dividend from the oil, coal and other natural resources flowing through our region, to end the mass transfer of Chinese settlers into our territory—are hardly unique. Some leading European democracies have reached similar arrangements with their constituent nationalities, such as Spain's Catalans.

Rather than negotiate with us, China's rulers prefer to label the Uighurs as terrorists, with myself as their leader. I am often asked why such a powerful state apparently regards me—a slight, elderly woman who has spent many years in Beijing's jails—as an existential threat. I always reply that China should fear not me, but the consequences of resisting the legitimate demands I articulate. For as the Soviet Union and then Yugoslavia demonstrated, states that refuse any compromise with their minorities can easily implode.

As the U.N. General Assembly's 66th session proceeded this week, I participated in the We Have a Dream Global Human Rights Summit (www.ngosummit.org) just down the street, which brought together human rights defenders from all over the world. Our final declaration was a rallying cry based upon the U.N.'s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It included the demand that China and other authoritarian states be removed from the U.N.'s key human rights bodies.

In confronting China's cynical and hypocritical identification of our legitimate struggle with terrorism, we will counter that the true issue is the trampling of basic human rights under the excuse of national sovereignty.

Ms. Kadeer is president of the World Uighur Congress and the author of "Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Epic Struggle for Peace with China" (Kales Press, 2009).

23548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Psuedo upgrade of Taiwanese jets on: September 23, 2011, 10:40:31 AM
The Obama Administration is claiming that its decision to upgrade Taiwan's aging F-16s rather than furnish it with new versions of the fighter is proof that the U.S. remains firmly committed to the island democracy's defense. But a revealing comment by an Administration official shows it isn't fooling anyone.

The comment, from an unnamed source quoted in the Washington Post, came in response to a suggestion from Andrew N.D. Yang, Taiwan's vice minister of defense, that the U.S. might sell Taiwan the state-of-the-art F-35, which outmatches every fighter in China's arsenal and could restore Taiwan's old qualitative edge. Replied the U.S. official: "It's like not getting a Prius and asking for a custom-built Ferrari instead."

The quick dismissal shows the Administration has no intention of selling the island modern aircraft. That's especially true of the stealth F-35s, which the U.S. hasn't even deployed yet and whose advanced technology needs to be protected from foreign spies.

That "like not getting a Prius" line also isn't quite what the Administration would have the Taiwanese believe. "The upgraded A/Bs will provide essentially C/D quality planes," another Administration official told the Wall Street Journal—the A/Bs referring to the F-16s Taipei already has and C/Ds meaning the better versions they won't get. The official added that "Taiwan gets them quicker and they get them cheaper than the C/Ds."

The Taiwanese aren't drinking the Administration Kool-Aid. The notion that the upgraded planes are the equivalent of new ones is "not a very honest opinion," says one savvy Taipei legislator. Among other deficiencies, the upgraded planes will not have new engines. The deal also means that Taiwan will be unable to retire its ancient and diminished fleet of F-5s.

Yesterday in the Senate, Texas Republican John Cornyn tried to move his legislation co-sponsored by New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez to require the U.S. to sell 66 of the new fighters to Taiwan. That would help keep the U.S. F-16 production line open while honoring our treaty commitments to defend Taiwan. He was blocked by Senate Democrats who were responding to pressure from the White House, which is responding to pressure from China. The big winner is Beijing.

23549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Ajami on: September 23, 2011, 10:37:47 AM


By FOUAD AJAMI
'U.N. 194" is the slogan of the campaign to grant the Palestinians a seat at the United Nations, to recognize their authority as the 194th nation in that world body. This is the Palestinians' second chance, for there was the session of the General Assembly in 1947 that addressed the question of Palestine, and the struggle between Arabs and Jews over that contested land.

A vote took place on the partition resolution that November and provided for two states to live side by side. It was a close affair. It required a two-thirds majority, and the final tally was 33 states in favor, 13 opposed, 10 abstentions, and one recorded absence. Israel would become the 58th member state. The Palestinians refused the 59th seat.

Arab diplomacy had sought the defeat of the resolution, and the Palestinians had waited for deliverance at the hands of their would-be Arab backers. The threat of war offered the Palestinians a false promise; there was no felt need for compromise. The influential secretary-general of the Arab League, the Egyptian Azzam Pasha (by an exquisite twist of fate a maternal grandfather of al Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri), was to tell a talented, young Zionist diplomat, Abba Eban, that the Arab world was not in a compromising mood. "The Arab world regards the Jews as invaders. It is going to fight you," he said. "War is absolutely inevitable."

For the Zionists, the vote was tantamount to a basic title to independence. But the Jewish community in Palestine had won the race for independence where it truly mattered—on the ground. Still, theirs was a fragile enterprise.

Britain, the Mandatory Power in Palestine since the end of World War I, had wearied of the Zionists, of the Arabs, and of the whole sordid burden of adjudicating their competing claims. The British Empire was broke and looking for a way to reduce its burdens. In August 1947, it had given up India, the Jewel of the Crown, and stood aside as a wave of cataclysmic violence between Hindus and Muslims provided a shameful end to a long imperial dominion. It was no use shedding blood and treasure in Palestine, and Pax Britannia was eager to pass the problem onto the U.N.

Nor were matters clinched for partition, and for the cause of a Jewish state, in the American councils of power. President Harry Truman was indecisive. He drew sustenance from the Bible and the cause of Jewish statehood tugged at him, but he was under immense pressure from a national security bureaucracy that had no sympathy for the Zionist project. An accidental president who had come to the presidency after the death of FDR, he lacked the self-confidence a crisis of this kind called for.

His secretary of state, Gen. George Marshall, was dubious of the idea of partition, fearful that a war would break out over Palestine that would require the intervention of American troops. Truman stood in awe of Marshall, regarded him as one of the "great commanders of history." Secretary of Defense James Forrestal was more antagonistic still. There were oil interests in the Arab world, and a big strategic position in the region to protect.

The voting at the U.N. was messy. In the end, all American doubts were swept aside, and the United States opted for partition, lobbied for it, and was joined by the Soviet Union. Britain abstained. The tire magnate Harvey Firestone secured Liberia's vote for partition. The Philippines hesitated but cast a favorable vote. India had hinted that it was in sympathy with partition but in the end chose not to run afoul of the sensibilities of its own Muslim population. Rumor had it that the delegate from Costa Rica sold his country's vote for $75,000.

"The partition line shall be nothing but a line of fire and blood," Azzam Pasha warned. And history would vindicate him. Six months later, with Britain quitting Palestine without even a ceremonial handover of responsibility, war would break out.

Related Video
 Matt Kaminski on President Obama's U.N. speech, Palestine's statehood gambit, and attitudes toward the U.S. in Muslim countries.
..But the scenarios of doom for the new Jewish state were not to be fulfilled. Israel held its own. And the Palestinians who had bet on the Arab cavalry riding to the rescue were to know defeat and dispossession. Their cause was subsumed under a wider Arab claim, mandatory Palestine was to be divided—there was the new Jewish state, Jordanian sovereignty over the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Egyptian control over Gaza. The victory of Israel two decades later in the Six Day War reunited the land and, ironically, gave the Palestinians a chance to release themselves from pan-Arab captivity.

"We need to have full membership at the U.N. We need a state, a seat at the United Nations," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared last week in Ramallah as he launched this bid, in defiance of American wishes. Thus state-building would be bypassed, and the Palestinians, in a familiar pattern of their history, would place their faith in deliverance through the indulgence of others.

But were the Palestinians to look at their history, they would come to recognize that the one break that came their way happened in 1993, through direct negotiations with Israel. The peace of Oslo that secured them their national authority, that brought Yasser Arafat from his Tunisian exile to Gaza, was a gift of direct diplomacy. Arafat was looking for redemption; he had bet on Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War of 1990-91 and lost the financial support of the Arab oil states. Israel, for its part, had just elected a war hero, a stoical, determined man, Yitzhak Rabin, as its leader, and he had campaigned on the promise of getting "Gaza out of Tel Aviv."

True, the ceremony of reconciliation on Sept. 13, 1993, had taken place on the South Lawn of the White House, Bill Clinton nudging Arafat and Rabin together for that reluctant handshake. But the Americans were giving away the bride long after the couple had eloped.

A generation after that handshake, the lesson of that accord remains unaltered. There can be no avoiding the toil and the exertions of direct negotiations. The deliberations at the U.N. are only theater, just another illusion.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and co-chair of the Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.

23550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 23, 2011, 10:23:46 AM
For the record, with regard to post 991 by GM, I happened to see a clip of this.  The photogs were taking an inordinate amount of time and finally BO politely raised his hand to as part of saying "Yo! Can we wrap this up please?" at just the moment the photog snapped the photo.
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