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23501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 1824 on: August 19, 2011, 01:15:33 PM
"I should consider the speeches of Livy, Sallust, and Tacitus, as preeminent specimens of logic, taste and that sententious brevity which, using not a word to spare, leaves not a moment for inattention to the hearer. Amplification is the vice of modern oratory." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to David Harding, 1824
23502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Sinai, Egypt & Hamas on: August 19, 2011, 11:53:15 AM
The  series of armed assaults that took place Aug. 18 in Israel underscores the dilemma Cairo is facing in trying to simultaneously  manage a shaky political transition at home and its increasingly complicated relationship with Israel. Egypt hopes to address this dilemma by bringing Hamas under its direct influence. The Egyptian military-intelligence elite sees such a move — which could be facilitated by the crisis in Syria — as increasingly necessary, but it still carries substantial risk.


Security Concerns Building Again in the Sinai

Israel claimed the Aug. 18 attackers had infiltrated southern Israel from the Sinai Peninsula, where the Egyptian army on Aug. 12 launched Operation Eagle and deployed around 1,000 troops backed by armored vehicles and commandos to contain a rise in jihadist activity in the region. The Egyptian security and military presence in the Sinai is regulated by the Camp David Accords, and any shift in this presence must be negotiated with Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly approved the latest Egyptian military deployment to the Sinai. Israel’s concern over jihadist activity in the Sinai spreading to Israel currently outweighs its concern over Egypt’s military presence in the Sinai buffer region.

Egypt has faced a jihadist threat in the Sinai region for years, but the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak was largely successful in keeping this threat in check. However, the instability that began in Egypt this past January and led to Mubarak’s ouster created a security vacuum in the Sinai when police forces abruptly withdrew from the area, allowing smugglers and Salafist-jihadist groups to strengthen their foothold in the desert region. Such groups, whose ability to operate in this area depends heavily on cooperation from local Bedouins, have been suspected of responsibility for attacks on police stations and patrols as well as most if not all of five recent successful attacks on the El Arish natural gas pipeline that runs from Egypt to Israel.

Along with this rise in militant activity, a previously unknown al Qaeda franchise calling itself al Qaeda in the North Sinai started promoting itself with fliers posted in mosques in the Egyptian Sinai city of El Arish following the first evening of Ramadan. The group proclaimed a campaign to transform the Sinai into an Islamic Emirate, address the injustices suffered by Bedouins, lift the blockade on Gaza and dissolve the Camp David agreements. The group said it was planning attacks on Egyptian police stations and security forces and notably pitted itself against Hamas in accusing the organization of not respecting Shariah in Gaza.

The main and immediate strategic intent of this group is to create an Egyptian-Israeli crisis that will undermine Cairo’s influence in the Sinai and give militant groups room to expand. This supposed new al Qaeda franchise is most likely another name for Takfir wal-Hijra, a Sinai-based Salafist group that has been able to expand its operations in the current security vacuum. It may be operating independently or following recent calls by new al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri for jihadists to get more active in Egypt, or even maintaining sporadic contact with the al Qaeda core.

As Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak articulated Aug. 18 following the attacks, the “incident reflects the weakness of the Egyptian hold on Sinai and the expansion of activity there by terror elements.” The question now is how Egypt plans to address this growing threat.


Egypt’s Islamist Militant Management

Egypt’s military regime is already facing a significant challenge in trying to manage a political transition at home among varied opposition groups. Its strategy so far to contain the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has been to allow the emergence of various Islamist actors, including Salafist groups, to broaden competition in the political arena. Sowing divisions among political Islamists can be a tricky process (and one that is extremely worrying for Israel), especially as Egypt also has to worry about preventing coordination between these groups and militant factions in nearby Gaza, such as Hamas. The security vacuum in the Sinai is now compounding these concerns as the Egyptian regime has been struggling to reassert its influence over groups operating in the Sinai-Gaza borderland. As a recent example, Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported Aug. 15 that the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has refused multiple Egyptian requests to hand over Palestinian militants that were suspected of having participated in a recent attack on a police station in El Arish and who allegedly escaped back into Gaza via tunnels.

Egypt’s growing frustration over Hamas has led some leading members of the Egyptian security establishment to make the case that Cairo needs to do more to bring Hamas under its control. According to a STRATFOR source, the director of the Egyptian intelligence service, Maj. Gen. Murad Mi’rafi, has been trying to convince Supreme Council of the Armed Forces leader Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to allow Hamas to move its headquarters from Damascus to Cairo. Mi’rafi’s reasoning is that by allowing Hamas to set up its headquarters in Cairo, it will reciprocate by doing more to cooperate with Egyptian authorities to stem the activities of Salafist-jihadists in the Sinai, primarily by denying them sanctuary in Gaza and by sharing information on their operations. After all, the Salafist-jihadists are a direct threat to Hamas’ ability to dominate the Palestinian Islamist landscape.

Talks between Egypt and Hamas over relocating Hamas offices to Cairo have been in the works since at least early May, when rumors first started circulating that the Hamas politburo, led by Khaled Meshaal, might be moving its headquarters from the Syrian capital. Hamas’ relationship with the Syrian regime has deteriorated significantly in recent months as Hamas has found itself in the awkward position of being politically pressured by Damascus to defend the Syrian regime in the face of widespread protests and intensifying crackdowns. Hamas’ refusal to issue statements or organize demonstrations in support of regime of President Bashar al Assad has created a great deal of friction between the Syrian government and Hamas leadership, leading the Syrian army to attack the al-Raml Palestinian refugee camp in Latakia on Aug. 13. The Syrian army offensive in Latakia was perceived by the Hamas politburo in Damascus as a direct attack on the organization and, according to a Hamas source, was one of the main reasons Meshaal decided to visit Cairo on Aug. 17 to discuss the relocation proposal. It should be noted that Hamas official Salah al-Badawil on Aug. 17 denied the talks in Cairo dealt with the politburo relocation issue and instead downplayed the talks as dealing primarily with Hamas’ efforts to improve cooperation with Egypt in managing the  Rafah border crossing into Gaza.

The Egyptian regime seems to still be considering welcoming Hamas. Having the Hamas politburo based in Cairo creates a dependency relationship in which Hamas will be beholden to the Egyptian authorities for the free flow of money and goods to sustain its operations. This level of clout has proved highly useful to Syria and Iran, which are pressuring Hamas to remain in Damascus for fear of losing this leverage in the Palestinian territories to Egypt and its Arab allies.

By hosting the Hamas politburo, Egyptian authorities would also have much deeper insight into the group’s activities to keep Hamas and its proxies contained in Gaza. Egypt could use a tighter relationship with Hamas for intelligence sharing on the jihadist presence in the Sinai and Gaza, as neither Cairo nor Hamas wants to see such groups expanding their influence at the expense of known groups with narrow militant goals like Hamas. Egypt, in turn, could use an intelligence boost with Hamas to further its security relationship with Israel and reassume its position as the primary mediator between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

The Egyptian MB, which has made a conscious effort to cooperate with the ruling military council during Egypt’s political transition, also seems to be in favor of the Hamas politburo move to Cairo. A Hamas political presence in Cairo would theoretically provide the MB with foreign policy leverage once it becomes a domestic political force via elections, as it would be the Egyptian political entity with the closest ties to the Islamist Palestinian organization. Moreover, as the MB tries to navigate the post-Mubarak landscape, it wants to ensure its colleagues in Hamas do not engage in actions that could undermine the Muslim Brotherhood’s political agenda and give the military regime the excuse to crack down. From the MB’s point of view, the more influence the Egyptian security apparatus has over Hamas, the less likely Hamas will become a point of contention in the MB’s delicate negotiations with the military. Notably, Meshaal also met with MB leader Mohammed Badie and other members at the group’s Cairo headquarters during his visit.

Hosting Hamas in Cairo would not come without risks, however. With more influence over the group comes responsibility, and Egypt would have to accept that tighter control over Hamas means Israel will hold Egypt accountable for Hamas’ actions. Egypt would thus be gambling that it will be able to sufficiently influence the group to contain its militant activity and resolve the issue of rival jihadist groups eroding Hamas’ clout in Gaza. It is also unclear whether such a move would exacerbate existing fault lines in the Hamas leadership. The question moving forward is whether Syria’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with Hamas along with a growing threat of jihadist activity spreading from the Sinai will be enough to drive Cairo and Hamas together.

23503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: August 19, 2011, 10:09:45 AM
I hope I did not inadvertently communicate that I was taking anything amiss.
23504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The United States of Entitlements on: August 19, 2011, 10:07:11 AM

The United States of Entitlements
by Bruce Thornton (Research Fellow and W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow, 2009–10, 2010–11)
The 2012 presidential election will be a referendum on democracy.
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Ancient Athens birthed both democracy and its most penetrating critics. The fundamental contentious issue was whether average people had the ability to manage the state and determine its proper interests, policies, and goals. For the defenders of democracy like the philosopher Protagoras, the politikê technê—i.e. the skills and knowledge necessary for coexistence in a community—belongs to all men by nature. Otherwise, no community could even exist. It would degenerate into a Hobbesian war of all against all. For its critics like Aristophanes, Plato, and Thucydides, radical democracy empowered people who did not have the skills or virtues necessary for seeing beyond their immediate private interests and desires in order to choose policies that benefitted the state as a whole, both in the present and the future.

 
Illustration by Barbara Kelley On the whole, the American Founders agreed with these critics of democracy. The founders rejected democracy for the same reason they rejected monarchy and oligarchy: given that, as Alexander Hamilton wrote, "men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious," these irrational appetites and passions inherent in human nature, when concentrated in one governing faction, would cause each to degenerate into oppression and disorder if left unchecked. Fearing this outcome, the founders created a republican mixed government like that of ancient Sparta or Rome as described in the work of the Greek historian Polybius. "The balance of a well-ordered government," John Adams wrote, "will alone be able to prevent that emulation [rivalry for power] from degenerating into dangerous ambition, irregular rivalries, destructive factions, wasting seditions, and bloody civil war." Thus the Constitution established a monarchical executive, an oligarchic Senate, and a democratic House of Representatives, each empowered to balance the other and forestall the inevitable decline into tyranny each alone would undergo if it possessed too much power.

Will voters make decisions that are necessary for the long-term health of the country?

The excesses of ancient Athenian democracy and its near destruction at the hands of Sparta made the founders particularly wary of direct democracies, which as James Madison wrote, "have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." By empowering people no matter how lacking in virtue, character, or knowledge, democracy gives greater scope to their irrational appetites, leaving them vulnerable to factional strife or the demagogue who promises them the gratification of their desires at the expense of freedom and political order. Then democracy becomes "ochlocracy," a "mob rule" that descends into tyranny: "For the mob," Polybius writes, "habituated to feed at the expense of others, and to have its hopes of a livelihood in the property of its neighbors, as soon as it has got a leader sufficiently ambitious and daring, being excluded by poverty from the sweets of civil honors, produces a reign of mere violence. Then come tumultuous assemblies, massacres, banishments, redivisions of land; until, after losing all trace of civilization, it has once more found a master and a despot."

Though this may seem like a dusty political philosophy lesson, remember that the United States has evolved perilously close to the sort of direct democracy that would have horrified the founders. In addition to certain constitutional changes such as the 17th amendment’s direct election of senators—which subjects that body more directly to the short-term selfish interests of constituents—more recent developments in communication technology are altering the nature of our republic. Daily polling, the blogosphere, and the 24-7 news cycle have exposed politicians to incessant pressure from fickle public opinion. The growth of special-interest lobbies, also empowered by those same developments in communication technology, has made it easier for political leaders eager for reelection or private gain to pursue short-term economic and political advantage at the expense of long-term planning and the collective good. And the evolution of "democracy" into an unexamined, self-evident good sidelines the traditional criticisms of democracy that so influenced the American Founders.

In the next few years our country will be a sort of laboratory in which these old ideas about the dangers of democracy will be put to the test. Particularly worrisome is the increasing inclination to see the state not as an object of collective affection, duty, and loyalty in which individuals find some measure of their identities and meaning, but rather as a mere dispenser of entitlements that each faction tries to control for its own benefit. This weakness of democracy was apparent at its birth in ancient Athens. By the middle of the 4th Century B.C., an Athenian citizen could expect some form of state pay practically every day of the year, such as a stipend for attending the Assembly, serving on a jury, or attending a festival. Meanwhile, the citizen’s responsibility to manage the state and its military was given over to professional generals and politicians.

Demosclerosis is the modern expression of the dangers of direct democracy.

More dangerous than the abdication of civic duty is the threat of violent revolution to enrich one’s faction, as when Polybius speaks of the democratic "mob" as "habituated to feed at the expense of others, and to have its hopes of a livelihood in the property of its neighbors"—a hope that is made real by violence. Traditional criticisms of democracy that influenced the American Founders invariably focus on its tendency to sacrifice the good of the state in order to redistribute wealth by expropriating it from others, whether through manipulation of the machinery of government or through violence.

In our own day, violent revolution is unlikely. But expansive and expensive entitlements managed and dispensed by government bureaucracies achieve the same end using democratic means: the redistribution of wealth at the expense of the long-term planning and policies needed for civic and economic well-being. The clash of numerous competing factional interests as they enrich themselves via such government transfers of wealth has led to what journalist Jonathon Rauch in 1994 called "demosclerosis."

"By definition," Rauch explains, "the government's power comes from its ability to reassign resources, whether by taxing, spending, regulating, or simply passing laws. But that very ability energizes countless investors and entrepreneurs and ordinary Americans to go digging for gold by lobbying government. In time, a whole industry––large, sophisticated, professionalized, and self-serving––emerges and then assumes a life of its own. This industry is a drain on the productive economy, and there appears to be no natural limit to its growth. As it grows, the steady accumulation of subsidies and benefits, each defended in perpetuity by a professional interest group, calcifies government. Government loses its capacity to experiment and so becomes more and more prone to failure." Demosclerosis is the modern expression of the dangers of direct democracy that the founders feared.

The present crisis of entitlement costs––$2.4 trillion in 2011––and the burgeoning government debt needed to pay for them give force to Rauch’s analysis. According to the Heritage Foundation, if the country stays on its present course, by 2050 the national debt will hit 344 percent of GDP, while by 2080 spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Obamacare subsidy program will reach 24.2 percent of GDP, a sum that will consume all federal tax revenues (assuming the amount of taxes collected averages 18 percent of GDP).

Americans know that Medicare is in trouble. But they don't want to do anything about it.

Yet despite this swiftly advancing economic catastrophe, Representative Paul Ryan’s proposal to reform Medicare, the only specific plan to appear so far, is not popular with most Americans. According to a CNN poll, just 35 percent favor Ryan’s plan, while 58 percent oppose it. And even though the plan does not apply to anyone over 55 years old, 64 percent of those over 65 oppose it. Still, Americans do recognize that Medicare is in trouble—but they do not want to do anything about it: a CBS News poll finds that 53 percent believe that Medicare needs fundamental changes, while 58 percent say it should continue functioning as it does now. This cognitive dissonance applies to entitlement spending in general. A Bloomberg poll finds that 49 percent of those polled are more worried about Republican cuts to entitlement programs, while 40 percent are more worried about Democrats maintaining current spending levels.

The practical political fallout of these conflicting attitudes was apparent in the May special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District, a traditional Republican stronghold. Democrat Kathy Hochul won in part because her opponent, Jane Corwin, had endorsed Representative Ryan’s plan. During the campaign, Corwin was cast as eager to reduce entitlements in order to give tax-breaks to the rich. Lurid ads appeared in which a Ryan look-alike pushed an old lady in a wheelchair over a cliff. This was not a far cry from Paul Krugman’s hyberbolic assertion that Republican calls for budget cuts "are literally stealing food from the mouths of babes."

President Obama, for his part, legitimized these scare tactics. In April, he called the Ryan plan a "vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors," and claimed that seniors would have to pay $6,000 more for health care in order to finance "tax cuts for the wealthy."

Will the New York special election, with its Mediscare tactics, be a harbinger for 2012? The debt and economic growth will surely be on the electorate’s mind. But more profoundly, the 2012 elections will be a referendum on democracy itself, a contest between Plato and Protagoras. It will show whether a critical mass of American voters are able to see beyond their own private interests and make decisions that, while causing themselves some pain, are nonetheless necessary for the long-term fiscal health of the country—or whether, consistent with the ancient critics of democracy and the fears of the founders, they will choose instead a government that uses its power to benefit those who are, as Polybius put it, "habituated to feed at the expense of others, and to have [their] hopes of a livelihood in the property of its neighbors."


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Bruce S. Thornton is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He received his BA in Latin in 1975 and his PhD in comparative literature–Greek, Latin, and English–in 1983, both from the University of California, Los Angeles. Thornton is currently a professor of classics and humanities at California State University in Fresno, California. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays and reviews on Greek culture and civilization and their influence on Western civilization. He has also written on contemporary political and educational issues, as well as lecturing at venues such as the Smithsonian Institute, the Army War College, and the Air Force Academy and appearing on television, including the History Channel and ABC’s Politically Incorrect. His latest book, published in March 2011, is titled The Wages of Appeasement: Ancient Athens, Munich, and Obama's America.


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23505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: August 19, 2011, 12:28:30 AM
We can be a really strange bunch some times , , ,
23506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: August 19, 2011, 12:27:05 AM
Asssessing the politics of this:  Net I think it gets Baraq more votes.  I doubt the Reps will draw much attention to this-- the cases that meet the criteria are precisely those most susceptible to heart strings.
23507  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A moment of contrast on: August 19, 2011, 12:22:59 AM
Not really grin

Moving along now , , , here's a moment of contrast (for the record, I suspect the US would fare equally poorly in the comparison) :

Japan Earthquake: Ethical Residents Return $78 Million From Rubble

 

First Posted: 8/18/11 04:45 PM ET

 

While looting often becomes an issue post-disaster, it's been the exact opposite in Japan.

 

Since the March earthquake and tsunami that leveled much of Japan, thousands of wallets containing a total of $48 million in cash have washed ashore -- and been turned in, ABC reports. In addition, 5,700 safes containing $30 million in cash also have turned up.

 

Ryuji Ito, professor emeritus at Japan's Yokohama City University, tells the Daily Mail that these acts of integrity are simply reflective of the culture:

 

"...The fact that a hefty 2.3 billion yen in cash has been returned to its owners shows the high level of ethical awareness in the Japanese people."

 

And doing the right thing doesn't just end with the people who found the money. Japanese officials have also worked tirelessly to track down owners and return safes and other valuables.

 

Police in Miyagi prefecture searched for residents at evacuation centers and made their way through missing person reports and address forms at the post office, according to ABC. Police also met with mayors and called any cell phone numbers they could find.

 

Officials tell the news outlet that the difficulty lay in determining whether homes were gone and if the owners were actually still alive.

23508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Res Ipsa Loquitor on: August 19, 2011, 12:20:50 AM

Japan Earthquake: Ethical Residents Return $78 Million From Rubble

 

First Posted: 8/18/11 04:45 PM ET

 

While looting often becomes an issue post-disaster, it's been the exact opposite in Japan.

 

Since the March earthquake and tsunami that leveled much of Japan, thousands of wallets containing a total of $48 million in cash have washed ashore -- and been turned in, ABC reports. In addition, 5,700 safes containing $30 million in cash also have turned up.

 

Ryuji Ito, professor emeritus at Japan's Yokohama City University, tells the Daily Mail that these acts of integrity are simply reflective of the culture:

 

"...The fact that a hefty 2.3 billion yen in cash has been returned to its owners shows the high level of ethical awareness in the Japanese people."

 

And doing the right thing doesn't just end with the people who found the money. Japanese officials have also worked tirelessly to track down owners and return safes and other valuables.

 

Police in Miyagi prefecture searched for residents at evacuation centers and made their way through missing person reports and address forms at the post office, according to ABC. Police also met with mayors and called any cell phone numbers they could find.

 

Officials tell the news outlet that the difficulty lay in determining whether homes were gone and if the owners were actually still alive.

23509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Laws? We don't need no stinkin' laws! Baraq cancels illegality. on: August 18, 2011, 08:19:45 PM
Hat tip to CCP; pasting his post from Cognitive Dissonance here as well

****New DHS Rules Cancel Deportations – Washington Times

The Homeland Security Department said Thursday it will halt deportation proceedings on a case-by-case basis against illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria such as attending school, having family in the military or are primarily responsible for other family members’ care.

The move, announced in letters to Congress, won immediate praise from Hispanic activists and Democrats who had chided President Obama for months for the pace of deportations and had argued he had authority to exempt broad swaths of illegal immigrants from deportation.

“Today’s announcement shows that this president is willing to put muscle behind his words and to use his power to intervene when the lives of good people are being ruined by bad laws,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat.

In the letters to Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said her department and the Justice Department will review all ongoing cases and see who meets the new criteria on a case-by-case basis.

“This case-by-case approach will enhance public safety,” she said. “Immigration judges will be able to more swiftly adjudicate high priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons.”

The new rules apply to those who have been apprehended and are in deportation proceedings, but have not been officially ordered out of the country by a judge. Miss Napolitano said a working group will try to come up with “guidance on how to provide for appropriate discretionary consideration” for “compelling cases” in those instances where someone has already been ordered deported.

It was unclear how many people might be affected by the new rules, though in fiscal year 2010 the government deported nearly 200,000 illegal immigrants who it said did not have criminal records.

The Obama administration has argued for months that it did not have authority to grant blanket absolution, and Miss Napolitano stressed that these cases will be treated individually, though the new guidance applies across the board.

In June, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that handles interior immigration law enforcement, issued new guidance expanding authority to decline to prosecute illegal immigrants. The goal, ICE leaders said, was to focus on their priority of catching illegal immigrants who have also committed other crimes or are part of gangs.

The chief beneficiaries of the new guidance are likely to be illegal immigrant students who would have been eligible for legal status under the Dream Act, which stalled in Congress last year.

“Today is a victory not just for immigrants but for the American people as a whole because it makes no sense to deport Dream Act students and others who can make great contributions to America and pose no threat,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “It is not in our national interest to send away young people who were raised in the U.S. and have been educated here and want only to contribute to this country’s success. “

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who earlier this year wrote asking Homeland Security to exempt illegal immigrant students from deportation, said the move will free up immigration courts to handle cases involving serious criminals.

Both men said, though, that they will continue to push for legislation that would grant a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants and expands new pathways for more immigrants to come legally in the future.

But groups pushing for a crackdown on illegal immigration said the administration’s move abused the Constitution by usurping a power Congress should have.

“Supporters of comprehensive and targeted amnesties for illegal aliens have consistently failed to win approval by Congress or gain support from the American public,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “Having failed in the legislative process, the Obama administration has simply decided to usurp Congress’s constitutional authority and implement an amnesty program for millions of illegal aliens.”****

23510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ben Franklin on the First Amendment on: August 18, 2011, 04:01:19 PM


"If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law and shall chearfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others for the privilege of not being abused myself." --Benjamin Franklin, An Account of the Supremest Court of Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz. The Court of the Press, 1789


23511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Again the DB forum leads the way on: August 18, 2011, 03:27:29 PM
Doug posted my internet friend Scott Grannis's blog on August 15.  Three days later Larry Kudlow catches up grin
==========

Scott Grannis is cited again by Larry Kudlow on National Review.

 

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/274988/deflationary-m2-explosion-larry-kudlow

 

The Deflationary M2 Explosion
Fears over the safety and solvency of European government debt and banks are haunting the stock market.

Amidst the financial flight-wave to safety, with stocks plunging, gold soaring, and Treasury bond rates collapsing — and all the European banking fears which go with that — there’s an important sub-theme developing: An almost-forgotten monetary indicator, M2, which is mostly cash, demand-deposit checking accounts, savings deposits, and retail money-market funds, has been soaring.

According to the St. Louis Fed, M2 is up 24.2 percent at an annual rate over the past two months. Almost out of the blue, that comes to a near $500 billion increase. In rough terms, the M2 explosion breaks down to $165 billion in demand deposits and $335 billion in savings deposits.

What’s going on here? There’s a flight to government-guaranteed accounts. Some people believe Europeans are withdrawing from their own banking system and parking their money in the U.S. banking system, guaranteed by Uncle Sam. Kelly Evans reports in her Wall Street Journal column of a $30 billion outflow from equity mutual funds that has probably gone into cash.

This is a very disconcerting development. Normally, big M2 growth would signal a faster economy, and maybe even higher inflation. But as economist Michael Darda points out, the velocity, or turnover, of money seems to be plunging.

“The recent pickup in broad money in the U.S. looks like a dash for risk-free cash assets,” writes Darda. He also notes that widening corporate-credit risk spreads and shrinking government-bond rates signal a recession risk, not a coming boom.

So contrary to monetarist theory, the M2 explosion seems more closely related to a deflation/recession risk. Economist-blogger Scott Grannis writes, “The recent growth of M2 surpasses even the explosive safe-haven demand for money that accompanied 9/11 and the financial crisis of late 2008. Something big is going on, and it can only be the financial panic that is sweeping Europe as money flees a banking system that is loaded to the gills with PIIGS debt.”

Grannis concludes, “In short, it looks like there is a run on the European banks and the U.S. banking system is the safe-haven of choice.”

On the other hand, all may not be lost — at least from the standpoint of the American economy.

Economist Conrad DeQuadros, who acknowledges the precautionary demand for high cash balances in the current financial uncertainty, believes that the economic data do not yet signal recession. DeQuadros points out that jobless claims, hours worked, retail sales, and industrial production are all picking up. He also notes that profits are still rising, even though their growth is slowing. And C&I business loans have grown at an 8 percent annual rate over the past three months.

I would just add to all this: The biggest problem for the plunging stock market is coming out of Europe. Fears over the safety and solvency of European government debt and banks are haunting the stock market. I still don’t believe it’s 2008. But yes, like everyone else, I’m worried.

That said, we are awash with liquidity everywhere. U.S. banks and companies have more cash than they know what to do with. The problem is they are immobilized by fiscal policy run amok. We desperately need a regulatory rollback and flat-tax reform to boost asset prices and to get banks to loan, companies to invest, and America back to work.

23512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury beginning to hedge? on: August 18, 2011, 02:52:51 PM

Data Watch

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Existing home sales declined 3.5% in July to an annual rate of 4.67 million units To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 8/18/2011


Existing home sales declined 3.5% in July to an annual rate of 4.67 million units, coming in below the consensus expected pace of 4.90 million units. Existing home sales are down 21.0% versus a year ago.

Sales in July were down in the West and South, but up in the Northeast and Midwest. All of the decline in sales was due to single-family sales; condos-coops sales were unchanged.
 
The median price of an existing home fell to $174,000 in July (not seasonally adjusted), and is down 4.4% versus a year ago. Average prices are down 3.2% versus last year.
 
The months’ supply of existing homes (how long it would take to sell the entire inventory at the current sales rate) rose to 9.4 from 9.2 in June.  The increase in the months’ supply was mostly due to the slowdown in the pace of sales. An increase in condos-coops inventories also boosted the months’ supply.
 
Implications:  Sales of existing homes fell to an eight-month low in July.  The consensus expected a gain to 4.90 million units at an annual rate due to the strong showing of pending home sales over the past couple of months. Pending home sales are homes that have gone under contract to be purchased. What seems to have happened is that people have decided to cancel on their contracts. The National Association of Realtors said that cancelled contracts to buy existing homes remained at higher levels over the past two months from a more typical 9% - 10% over the past year. The spike in cancellations is probably due to a couple factors. First, stricter lending rules and low appraisals seem to be playing a large factor. Second, with the debt debate looming in July this may have spooked some people from closing on their contracts. We expect a bounce back in existing homes next month. In other news, The Philly Fed index fell to -30.1, the lowest level in over two years. The consensus expected a decline to 2.0. There are times when manufacturing surveys are more based on sentiment, and we believe with all the financial turmoil that has been happening in Europe, along with the large market losses over the last couple weeks, that this is one of those times. However, mid-month manufacturing indicators should not be completely ignored and we will be paying close attention to these along with the weekly indicators we follow to see if we see any change to our forecast. So far, other than data which measure sentiment, the economy appears to be avoiding any sharp downturn.
 
23513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Congressman West on a rampage! :-) on: August 18, 2011, 02:26:02 PM

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/allen-west-im-here-to-lead-blacks-off-the-democratic-party-plantation/
23514  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: August 18, 2011, 01:59:32 PM
Fascinating!
23515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jihad Watch has questions for Perry on: August 18, 2011, 11:07:04 AM


http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/08/why-shouldnt-rick-perrys-islamic-ties-be-vetted.html
23516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FTC about to go after Google? on: August 18, 2011, 11:04:47 AM


The Federal Trade Commission is ready to formally declare war against Google, reports the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—The Federal Trade Commission is poised to serve Google Inc. with civil subpoenas, according to people familiar with the matter, signaling the start of a wide-ranging, formal investigation into whether the Internet-search giant has abused its dominance on the Web.

The agency’s five-member panel of commissioners is preparing to send its formal demands for information to Google within days, these people said. They said other companies are likely to receive official requests for information about their dealings with Google at a later stage.

Representatives for Google and the FTC declined to comment.

[...]

The [FTC's] inquiry…will examine fundamental issues relating to Google’s core search-advertising business, said people familiar with the matter. The business is the source of most of Google’s revenue. The issues include whether Google—which accounts for around two-thirds of Internet searches in the U.S. and more abroad—unfairly channels users to its own growing network of services at the expense of rival providers.

In November, the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, opened its own formal investigation into allegations by several companies that Google had violated European competition laws. Google denies the allegations.
==========
a friend comments:
A key player in the FTC’s investigation will be the Bureau of Economics antitrust unit — which is now headed by a British government official with extensive ties to European Union authorities. I suspected something was up yesterday, but now I think it’s clear: Jon Leibowitz brought in a foreign economist to help oversee the Google investigation because he couldn’t trust any American economist to validate his insane obsession with destroying one of America’s most successful companies.

23517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: inflation accelerating on: August 18, 2011, 10:40:01 AM
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.5% in July To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 8/18/2011


The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.5% in July versus a consensus expected increase of 0.2%. The CPI is up 3.6% versus a year ago.

“Cash” inflation (which excludes the government’s estimate of what homeowners would charge themselves for rent) was up 0.6% in July and is up 4.3% in the past year.
 
The increase in the CPI was mostly due to a 2.8% rise in energy prices. Food prices were up 0.4%. Excluding food and energy, the “core” CPI increased 0.2%, matching consensus expectations. Core prices are up 1.8% versus last year.
 
Real average hourly earnings – the cash earnings of all employees, adjusted for inflation – fell 0.1% in July and are down 1.3% in the past year. Real weekly earnings are down 1.0% in the past year.
 
Implications: The Consumer Price Index roared ahead 0.5% in July, handily beating consensus estimates.  While most of the increase was due to energy, which rose 2.8% for the month, it’s important to note that nearly all other major categories rose as well.  “Cash” inflation, which excludes the government’s estimate of what homeowners would pay themselves in rent, rose 0.6% in July, the most since November 2008.  This measure of inflation is up 4.3% in the past year.  “Core” inflation (which excludes food and energy) rose 0.2%, matching expectations, and is accelerating.  Over the past year, core prices are up 1.8%, but in the past six months, prices are up at a 2.6% annual rate and an even faster 3.1% rate in the last three months.  This is not welcome news for Fed officials who are trying to justify QE3.  Some say rising inflation is caused by “temporary factors” and will dissipate.  But they can’t explain what caused the temporary factors in the first place.  We believe their hopes of fading inflation will be dashed. In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment benefits rose 9,000 last week to 408,000.  The four-week moving average fell to 403,000 versus 440,000 in May.  Continuing claims for regular state benefits increased 14,000 to 3.70 million.  We are closely watching high-frequency indicators like this to see if there is a sharp downturn in economic activity.  Today’s jobless claims numbers don’t indicate there is one.
23518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Buffer on: August 18, 2011, 09:40:58 AM
The Buffer Between Mexican Cartels and the U.S. Government
August 17, 2011


By Scott Stewart

It is summer in Juarez, and again this year we find the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization (VCF), also known as the Juarez cartel, under pressure and making threats. At this time in 2010, La Linea, the VCF’s enforcer arm, detonated a small improvised explosive device (IED) inside a car in Juarez and killed two federal agents, one municipal police officer and an emergency medical technician and wounded nine other people. La Linea threatened to employ a far larger IED (100 kilograms) if the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) did not investigate the head of Chihuahua State Police intelligence, whom the VCF claimed was working for the Sinaloa Federation.

La Linea did attempt to employ another IED on Sept. 10, 2010, but this device, which failed to detonate, contained only 16 kilograms of explosives, far less than the 100 kilograms that the group had threatened to use.

Fast-forward a year, and we see the VCF still under unrelenting pressure from the Sinaloa Federation and still making threats. On July 15, the U.S. Consulate in Juarez released a message warning that, according to intelligence it had in hand, a cartel may be targeting the consulate or points of entry into the United States. On July 27, “narcomantas” — banners inscribed with messages from drug cartels — appeared in Juarez and Chihuahua signed by La Linea and including explicit threats against the DEA and employees of the U.S. Consulate in Juarez. Two days after the narcomantas appeared, Jose Antonio “El Diego” Acosta Hernandez, a senior La Linea leader whose name was mentioned in the messages, was arrested by Mexican authorities aided by intelligence from the U.S. government. Acosta is also believed to have been responsible for planning La Linea’s past IED attacks.

As we have discussed in our coverage of the drug war in Mexico, Mexican cartels, including the VCF, clearly possess the capability to construct and employ large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) — truck bombs — and yet they have chosen not to. These groups are not averse to bloodshed, or even outright barbarity, when they believe it is useful. Their decision to abstain from certain activities, such as employing truck bombs or targeting a U.S. Consulate, indicates that there must be compelling strategic reasons for doing so. After all, groups in Lebanon, Pakistan and Iraq have demonstrated that truck bombs are a very effective means of killing perceived enemies and of sending strong messages.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for the Mexican cartels to abstain from such activities is that they do not consider them to be in their best interest. One important part of their calculation is that such activities would remove the main buffer that is currently insulating them from the full force of the U.S. government: the Mexican government.


The Buffer

Despite their public manifestations of machismo, the cartel leaders clearly fear and respect the strength of the world’s only superpower. This is evidenced by the distinct change in cartel activities along the U.S.-Mexico border, where a certain operational downshift routinely occurs. In Mexico, the cartels have the freedom to operate far more brazenly than they can in the United States, in terms of both drug trafficking and acts of violence. Shipments of narcotics traveling through Mexico tend to be far larger than shipments moving into and through the United States. When these large shipments reach the border they are taken to stash houses on the Mexican side, where they are typically divided into smaller quantities for transport into and through the United States.

As for violence, while the cartels do kill people on the U.S. side of the border, their use of violence there tends to be far more discreet; it has certainly not yet incorporated the dramatic flair that is frequently seen on the Mexican side, where bodies are often dismembered or hung from pedestrian bridges over major thoroughfares. The cartels are also careful not to assassinate high-profile public figures such as police chiefs, mayors and reporters in the United States, as they frequently do in Mexico.

The border does more than just alter the activities of the cartels, however. It also constrains the activities of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. These agencies cannot pursue cartels on the Mexican side of the border with the same vigor that they exercise on the U.S. side. Occasionally, the U.S. government will succeed in luring a wanted Mexican cartel leader outside of Mexico, as it did in the August 2006 arrest of Javier Arellano Felix, or catch one operating in the United States like Javier’s oldest brother, Francisco Arellano Felix. By and large, however, most wanted cartel figures remain in Mexico, out of the reach of U.S. law.

One facet of this buffer is corruption, which is endemic in Mexico, reaching all the way from the lowest municipal police officer to the presidential palace. Over the years several senior Mexican anti-drug officials, including the nation’s drug czar, have been arrested and charged with corruption.

However, the money generated by the Mexican cartels has far greater effects than just promoting corruption. The billions of dollars that come into the Mexican economy via the drug trade are important to the Mexican banking sector and to the industries in which the funds are laundered, such as construction. Because of this, there are many powerful Mexican businessmen who profit either directly or indirectly from the narcotics trade, and it would not be in their best interest for the billions of drug dollars to stop flowing into Mexico. Such people can place heavy pressure on the political system by either supporting or withholding support from particular candidates or parties.

Because of this, sources in Mexico have been telling STRATFOR that they believe that Mexican politicians like President Filipe Calderon are far more interested in stopping drug violence than they are in stopping the flow of narcotics. This is a pragmatic approach. Clearly, as long as there is demand for drugs in the United States there will be people who will find ways to meet that demand. It is impossible to totally stop the flow of narcotics into the U.S. market.

In addition to corruption and the economic benefits Mexico realizes from the drug trade, there is another important element that causes the Mexican government to act as a buffer between the Mexican cartels and the U.S. government — geopolitics. The Mexico-U.S. relationship is a long one that has involved considerable competition and conflict. The United States has long meddled in the affairs of Mexico and other countries in Latin America. And from the Mexican perspective, American imperialist aggression, via the Texas War of Independence and the Mexican-American War, resulted in Mexico losing nearly half of its territory to its powerful northern neighbor. Less than a century ago, U.S. troops invaded northern Mexico in response to Pancho Villa’s incursions into the United States.

Because of this history, Mexico — as with most of the rest of Latin America — regards the United States as a threat to its sovereignty. The result of this perception is that the Mexican government and the Mexican people in general are very reluctant to allow the United States to become too involved in Mexican affairs. The idea of American troops or law enforcement agents with boots on the ground in Mexico is considered especially threatening from the Mexican perspective.


A Thin Barrier

While Mexican sovereignty and international law combine with corruption and economics to create a barrier to assertive U.S. intervention in Mexico’s drug war, this barrier is not inviolable. There are two distinct ways this type of barrier has been breached in the past: by force and by consent.

An example of the first was seen following the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. DEA special agent Enrique Camarena. The DEA was not able to get what it viewed as satisfactory assistance from the Mexican government in pursuing the case despite the tremendous pressure applied by the U.S. government. This prompted the DEA to unilaterally enter Mexico and snatch two Mexican citizens connected to the case. Because of his involvement in the Camarena case, Honduran drug kingpin Juan Matta-Ballesteros was also rendered from his home in Honduras by U.S. government agents.

As a result of the U.S. reaction to the Camarena murder, the Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful criminal organization at the time, was decapitated, its leaders — Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Rafael Caro Quintero — all arrested and convicted for their part in ordering the killing. The tremendous pressure applied to Mexican authorities by the U.S. government to arrest the trio, coupled with the fear that they too might be rendered, ultimately led to their detention, although they did maintain sufficient influence to ensure that they were not extradited to the United States.

The Guadalajara Cartel also lost its primary connection to the Medellin cartel (Matta-Ballesteros) as a result of the Camarena case, and the cartel was eventually fractured into smaller units that would become today’s Sinaloa, Juarez, Gulf and Tijuana cartels. The Camarena case taught the Mexican cartel bosses to be careful not to provoke the Americans to the point where it will bring the full power of the U.S. government to bear upon their organizations (a lesson recently demonstrated by the unilateral U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan).

But in addition to unilateral force, sometimes the U.S. government can be invited into a country despite concerns about sovereignty. This happens when the population has something it fears more than U.S. involvement, and this is what happened in Colombia in the late 1980s. In an effort to influence the Colombian government not to cooperate with the U.S. government and extradite him to the United States, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellin Cartel, resorted to terrorism. In 1989 he launched a string of terrorist attacks that included the assassination of one presidential candidate, the bombing a civilian airliner in an attempt to kill a second presidential candidate and several large VBIED attacks, including the detonation of a 1,000-pound truck bomb in December 1989 targeting the Colombian Administrative Department of Security (DAS, Colombia’s primary national intelligence and security service) that caused massive damage in the area around the DAS building in downtown Bogota. These attacks had a powerful impact on the Colombian government and Colombian people and caused them to reach out to the United States for increased assistance despite their concern about U.S. power. The increased U.S. assistance eventually led to the death of Escobar and the systematic dismantling of his organization.

The lesson in the Escobar case was: Do not push your own government or population too far or they will turn on you and invite the Americans in.


Full Circle

So, in looking at the situation in Mexico today, there are indeed cartel organizations that have been hit hard. Over the past few years, we have seen groups such as the Beltran Leyva Organization, the Arellano Felix Organization, the VCF and Los Zetas heavily damaged. Many of these groups, particularly the VCF, the Arellano Felix Organization and Los Zetas, have been forced to resort to other criminal activity such as kidnapping, extortion and human trafficking to fund their operations. However, they have not yet undertaken large-scale terrorist attacks. The VCF tiptoed along that line last year, with La Linea’s small-scale IED attacks, as did the Gulf cartel, but these groups were careful not to use IEDs that were too large, and La Linea never employed the huge IED it threatened to. In fact, the overall use of IEDs is down dramatically in 2011 compared to the same period last year — despite the fact that explosives are readily available in Mexico and the cartels have the demonstrated capability to manufacture and employ them.

It is also important to recognize that in the past couple of years, when the United States has become heavily interested in attacks linked to the Mexican cartels, the cartel figures believed to be responsible for these actions have been arrested or killed. This has happened in cases such as the March 2010 murders of three people with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, the September 2010 murder of David Hartley on Falcon Lake, the February 2011 murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime Zapata, and even the previously mentioned July 27 threats against U.S. interests in Juarez. This means that the chances of a cartel such as the VCF getting the United States directly involved without the cartel being directly impacted are probably quite slim. In other words, if the VCF attacks the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, it can expect to be targeted directly by the U.S. and Mexican governments, instead of the governments focusing on other cartel players in the city, such as the VCF’s rival, the Sinaloa Federation.

As noted in our last cartel update, we anticipate that in the coming months the Mexican government campaign against Los Zetas will continue to impact that group, as will the attacks against Los Zetas by the Gulf cartel and its criminal allies. We also anticipate that the aforementioned Sinaloa pressure against the VCF in Juarez will not diminish. Nor will Mexican government pressure: We have seen reports that Luis Antonio Flores (also known as El Comen 2 or El Tarzan), El Diego’s replacement as the leader of La Linea, was arrested Aug. 16. However, we have seen nothing that would indicate that this pressure will cause these groups to lash out in the form of large-scale terrorist attacks like those associated with Pablo Escobar. Even when wounded, these Mexican organizations have shown that they seek to maintain the buffer protecting them from the full power of the U.S. government.

23519  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / The Buffer on: August 18, 2011, 09:40:08 AM
The Buffer Between Mexican Cartels and the U.S. Government
August 17, 2011


By Scott Stewart

It is summer in Juarez, and again this year we find the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization (VCF), also known as the Juarez cartel, under pressure and making threats. At this time in 2010, La Linea, the VCF’s enforcer arm, detonated a small improvised explosive device (IED) inside a car in Juarez and killed two federal agents, one municipal police officer and an emergency medical technician and wounded nine other people. La Linea threatened to employ a far larger IED (100 kilograms) if the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) did not investigate the head of Chihuahua State Police intelligence, whom the VCF claimed was working for the Sinaloa Federation.

La Linea did attempt to employ another IED on Sept. 10, 2010, but this device, which failed to detonate, contained only 16 kilograms of explosives, far less than the 100 kilograms that the group had threatened to use.

Fast-forward a year, and we see the VCF still under unrelenting pressure from the Sinaloa Federation and still making threats. On July 15, the U.S. Consulate in Juarez released a message warning that, according to intelligence it had in hand, a cartel may be targeting the consulate or points of entry into the United States. On July 27, “narcomantas” — banners inscribed with messages from drug cartels — appeared in Juarez and Chihuahua signed by La Linea and including explicit threats against the DEA and employees of the U.S. Consulate in Juarez. Two days after the narcomantas appeared, Jose Antonio “El Diego” Acosta Hernandez, a senior La Linea leader whose name was mentioned in the messages, was arrested by Mexican authorities aided by intelligence from the U.S. government. Acosta is also believed to have been responsible for planning La Linea’s past IED attacks.

As we have discussed in our coverage of the drug war in Mexico, Mexican cartels, including the VCF, clearly possess the capability to construct and employ large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) — truck bombs — and yet they have chosen not to. These groups are not averse to bloodshed, or even outright barbarity, when they believe it is useful. Their decision to abstain from certain activities, such as employing truck bombs or targeting a U.S. Consulate, indicates that there must be compelling strategic reasons for doing so. After all, groups in Lebanon, Pakistan and Iraq have demonstrated that truck bombs are a very effective means of killing perceived enemies and of sending strong messages.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for the Mexican cartels to abstain from such activities is that they do not consider them to be in their best interest. One important part of their calculation is that such activities would remove the main buffer that is currently insulating them from the full force of the U.S. government: the Mexican government.


The Buffer

Despite their public manifestations of machismo, the cartel leaders clearly fear and respect the strength of the world’s only superpower. This is evidenced by the distinct change in cartel activities along the U.S.-Mexico border, where a certain operational downshift routinely occurs. In Mexico, the cartels have the freedom to operate far more brazenly than they can in the United States, in terms of both drug trafficking and acts of violence. Shipments of narcotics traveling through Mexico tend to be far larger than shipments moving into and through the United States. When these large shipments reach the border they are taken to stash houses on the Mexican side, where they are typically divided into smaller quantities for transport into and through the United States.

As for violence, while the cartels do kill people on the U.S. side of the border, their use of violence there tends to be far more discreet; it has certainly not yet incorporated the dramatic flair that is frequently seen on the Mexican side, where bodies are often dismembered or hung from pedestrian bridges over major thoroughfares. The cartels are also careful not to assassinate high-profile public figures such as police chiefs, mayors and reporters in the United States, as they frequently do in Mexico.

The border does more than just alter the activities of the cartels, however. It also constrains the activities of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. These agencies cannot pursue cartels on the Mexican side of the border with the same vigor that they exercise on the U.S. side. Occasionally, the U.S. government will succeed in luring a wanted Mexican cartel leader outside of Mexico, as it did in the August 2006 arrest of Javier Arellano Felix, or catch one operating in the United States like Javier’s oldest brother, Francisco Arellano Felix. By and large, however, most wanted cartel figures remain in Mexico, out of the reach of U.S. law.

One facet of this buffer is corruption, which is endemic in Mexico, reaching all the way from the lowest municipal police officer to the presidential palace. Over the years several senior Mexican anti-drug officials, including the nation’s drug czar, have been arrested and charged with corruption.

However, the money generated by the Mexican cartels has far greater effects than just promoting corruption. The billions of dollars that come into the Mexican economy via the drug trade are important to the Mexican banking sector and to the industries in which the funds are laundered, such as construction. Because of this, there are many powerful Mexican businessmen who profit either directly or indirectly from the narcotics trade, and it would not be in their best interest for the billions of drug dollars to stop flowing into Mexico. Such people can place heavy pressure on the political system by either supporting or withholding support from particular candidates or parties.

Because of this, sources in Mexico have been telling STRATFOR that they believe that Mexican politicians like President Filipe Calderon are far more interested in stopping drug violence than they are in stopping the flow of narcotics. This is a pragmatic approach. Clearly, as long as there is demand for drugs in the United States there will be people who will find ways to meet that demand. It is impossible to totally stop the flow of narcotics into the U.S. market.

In addition to corruption and the economic benefits Mexico realizes from the drug trade, there is another important element that causes the Mexican government to act as a buffer between the Mexican cartels and the U.S. government — geopolitics. The Mexico-U.S. relationship is a long one that has involved considerable competition and conflict. The United States has long meddled in the affairs of Mexico and other countries in Latin America. And from the Mexican perspective, American imperialist aggression, via the Texas War of Independence and the Mexican-American War, resulted in Mexico losing nearly half of its territory to its powerful northern neighbor. Less than a century ago, U.S. troops invaded northern Mexico in response to Pancho Villa’s incursions into the United States.

Because of this history, Mexico — as with most of the rest of Latin America — regards the United States as a threat to its sovereignty. The result of this perception is that the Mexican government and the Mexican people in general are very reluctant to allow the United States to become too involved in Mexican affairs. The idea of American troops or law enforcement agents with boots on the ground in Mexico is considered especially threatening from the Mexican perspective.


A Thin Barrier

While Mexican sovereignty and international law combine with corruption and economics to create a barrier to assertive U.S. intervention in Mexico’s drug war, this barrier is not inviolable. There are two distinct ways this type of barrier has been breached in the past: by force and by consent.

An example of the first was seen following the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. DEA special agent Enrique Camarena. The DEA was not able to get what it viewed as satisfactory assistance from the Mexican government in pursuing the case despite the tremendous pressure applied by the U.S. government. This prompted the DEA to unilaterally enter Mexico and snatch two Mexican citizens connected to the case. Because of his involvement in the Camarena case, Honduran drug kingpin Juan Matta-Ballesteros was also rendered from his home in Honduras by U.S. government agents.

As a result of the U.S. reaction to the Camarena murder, the Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful criminal organization at the time, was decapitated, its leaders — Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Rafael Caro Quintero — all arrested and convicted for their part in ordering the killing. The tremendous pressure applied to Mexican authorities by the U.S. government to arrest the trio, coupled with the fear that they too might be rendered, ultimately led to their detention, although they did maintain sufficient influence to ensure that they were not extradited to the United States.

The Guadalajara Cartel also lost its primary connection to the Medellin cartel (Matta-Ballesteros) as a result of the Camarena case, and the cartel was eventually fractured into smaller units that would become today’s Sinaloa, Juarez, Gulf and Tijuana cartels. The Camarena case taught the Mexican cartel bosses to be careful not to provoke the Americans to the point where it will bring the full power of the U.S. government to bear upon their organizations (a lesson recently demonstrated by the unilateral U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan).

But in addition to unilateral force, sometimes the U.S. government can be invited into a country despite concerns about sovereignty. This happens when the population has something it fears more than U.S. involvement, and this is what happened in Colombia in the late 1980s. In an effort to influence the Colombian government not to cooperate with the U.S. government and extradite him to the United States, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellin Cartel, resorted to terrorism. In 1989 he launched a string of terrorist attacks that included the assassination of one presidential candidate, the bombing a civilian airliner in an attempt to kill a second presidential candidate and several large VBIED attacks, including the detonation of a 1,000-pound truck bomb in December 1989 targeting the Colombian Administrative Department of Security (DAS, Colombia’s primary national intelligence and security service) that caused massive damage in the area around the DAS building in downtown Bogota. These attacks had a powerful impact on the Colombian government and Colombian people and caused them to reach out to the United States for increased assistance despite their concern about U.S. power. The increased U.S. assistance eventually led to the death of Escobar and the systematic dismantling of his organization.

The lesson in the Escobar case was: Do not push your own government or population too far or they will turn on you and invite the Americans in.


Full Circle

So, in looking at the situation in Mexico today, there are indeed cartel organizations that have been hit hard. Over the past few years, we have seen groups such as the Beltran Leyva Organization, the Arellano Felix Organization, the VCF and Los Zetas heavily damaged. Many of these groups, particularly the VCF, the Arellano Felix Organization and Los Zetas, have been forced to resort to other criminal activity such as kidnapping, extortion and human trafficking to fund their operations. However, they have not yet undertaken large-scale terrorist attacks. The VCF tiptoed along that line last year, with La Linea’s small-scale IED attacks, as did the Gulf cartel, but these groups were careful not to use IEDs that were too large, and La Linea never employed the huge IED it threatened to. In fact, the overall use of IEDs is down dramatically in 2011 compared to the same period last year — despite the fact that explosives are readily available in Mexico and the cartels have the demonstrated capability to manufacture and employ them.

It is also important to recognize that in the past couple of years, when the United States has become heavily interested in attacks linked to the Mexican cartels, the cartel figures believed to be responsible for these actions have been arrested or killed. This has happened in cases such as the March 2010 murders of three people with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, the September 2010 murder of David Hartley on Falcon Lake, the February 2011 murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime Zapata, and even the previously mentioned July 27 threats against U.S. interests in Juarez. This means that the chances of a cartel such as the VCF getting the United States directly involved without the cartel being directly impacted are probably quite slim. In other words, if the VCF attacks the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, it can expect to be targeted directly by the U.S. and Mexican governments, instead of the governments focusing on other cartel players in the city, such as the VCF’s rival, the Sinaloa Federation.

As noted in our last cartel update, we anticipate that in the coming months the Mexican government campaign against Los Zetas will continue to impact that group, as will the attacks against Los Zetas by the Gulf cartel and its criminal allies. We also anticipate that the aforementioned Sinaloa pressure against the VCF in Juarez will not diminish. Nor will Mexican government pressure: We have seen reports that Luis Antonio Flores (also known as El Comen 2 or El Tarzan), El Diego’s replacement as the leader of La Linea, was arrested Aug. 16. However, we have seen nothing that would indicate that this pressure will cause these groups to lash out in the form of large-scale terrorist attacks like those associated with Pablo Escobar. Even when wounded, these Mexican organizations have shown that they seek to maintain the buffer protecting them from the full power of the U.S. government.





88260
23520  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bureaucracy and Regulations in action: The Fourth Branch of the US Govt. on: August 18, 2011, 09:25:57 AM
SEC destroyed files?

http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/mikeshedlock/2011/08/18/sec_destroys_9000_fraud_files
23521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on the UK and US riots on: August 18, 2011, 09:22:50 AM


A once civil and orderly England was recently torn apart by rioting and looting -- at first by mostly minority youth, but eventually also by young Brits in general. This summer, a number of American cities witnessed so-called "flash mobs" -- mostly African-American youths who swarmed at prearranged times to loot stores or randomly attack those of other races and classes.

The mayhem has reignited an old debate in the West. Are such criminally minded young Americans and British turning to violence in protest over inequality, poverty and bleak opportunities? The Left, of course, often blames cutbacks in the tottering welfare state and high unemployment. The havoc and mayhem, in other words, are a supposed wake-up call in an age of insolvency not to cut entitlements, but to tax the affluent to redistribute more of their earnings to those unfairly deprived.

The Right counters that the problem is not too few state subsidies, but far too many. The growing -- and now unsustainable -- state dole of the last half-century eroded self-reliance and personal initiative. The logical result is a dependent underclass spanning generations that becomes ever more unhappy and unsatisfied the more it is given from others. Today's looters have plenty to eat. That is why they target sneaker and electronics stores -- to enjoy the perks of life they either cannot or will not work for.

We might at least agree on a few facts behind the violence. First, much of the furor is because poverty is now seen as a relative, not an absolute, condition. Per-capita GDP is $47,000 in the U.S. and $35,000 in Britain. In contrast, those rioting in impoverished Syria (where average GDP is about $5,000) or Egypt (about $6,000) worry about being hungry or being shot for their views, rather than not acquiring a new BlackBerry or a pair of Nikes. Inequality, not Tiny Tim-like poverty, is the new Western looter's complaint.

So when the president lectures about fat-cat "corporate jet owners," he doesn't mean that greed prevents the lower classes from flying on affordable commercial jets -- only that a chosen few in luxury aircraft, like himself, reach their destinations a little more quickly and easily. Not having what someone richer has is our generation's lament instead of lacking elemental shelter, food or electricity. The problem is not that the bathwater in Philadelphia is not as hot as in Martha's Vineyard, but that the conditions under which it is delivered in comparison are far more basic and ordinary.

Second, the wealthy have not set an example that hard work and self-discipline leads to well-deserved success and the good life. Recently, a drunken, affluent young prospect for the U.S. ski team urinated on a sleeping 11-year old during a transcontinental flight. And the more the psychodramas of drones like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, or some members of the royal family, become headline news, the more we see boredom and corruption among the pampered elite. The behavior of John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Arnold Schwarzenegger does not remind us that good habits of elite public figures follow from well-deserved riches and acclaim -- but only that with today's wealth and power comes inevitable license and decadence.

Third, communism may be dead, but Marxist-inspired materialism still measures the good life only by equal access to "things." We can argue whether those who loot a computer store are spoiled or oppressed. But even a person in faded jeans and a worn T-shirt can still find all sorts of spiritual enrichment at no cost in either a museum or a good book. Did we forget that in our affluent postmodern society, being poor is often an impoverishment of the mind, not necessarily the result of a cruel physical world?

Finally, there is far too much emphasis on government as the doting, problem-solving parent. What made Western civilization rich and liberal was not just free-market capitalism and well-funded constitutional government, but the role of the family, community and church in reminding the emancipated individual of an affluent society that he should not always do what he was legally permitted to. Destroy these bridles, ridicule the old shame culture of the past, and we end up with unchecked appetites -- as we now witness from a smoldering London to the flash mobbing in Wisconsin.

Our high-tech angry youth are deprived not just because their elders put at risk their future subsidies, but because they were not taught what real wealth is -- and where and how it is obtained and should be used.
23522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! on: August 18, 2011, 08:54:21 AM
My friedn "F" sent me the following:
==========================
Recall that Boeing decided to built a 787 production plant in South Carolina because of a history of union strikes in Seattle.  No Seattle jobs would be lost, but new jobs would be created in  South Carolina.  Boeing built the plant for $750 million, then the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sued Boeing saying it had engaged in unfair labor practices in building the plant, and ruled the plant could not open.
 
The NLRB Chairman is an Obama appointee, former union guy.
 
Now the legal paste is hitting the mixmaster with Freedom of Information requests to NLRB concerning its decision and communications leading up to the ruling.  The NLRB is ignoring them, in  violation of Federal Law.   
 
Have a read through to see how it is unfolding.  It is most amazing in this day and age.  This is how Obama is creating jobs.   F
=======================
 
NLRB Sued For Documents Concerning Boeing Lawsuit
 
Judicial Watch Seeks Documents Pertaining To Decision To Sue Boeing, Shut Down Dreamliner Aircraft Production in SC
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit has been filed by Judicial Watch against the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The suit seeks records concerning the NLRB's decision to file a lawsuit against Seattle-based Boeing for opening a $750 million non-union assembly plant in North Charleston, South Carolina to manufacture its Dreamliner plane (JW v National Labor Relations Board (No. 01470)).
 
 
 
With its July 14, 2011, FOIA request and related lawsuit Judicial Watch seeks records of internal communications between officials, officers, and employees of the NLRB related to Boeing and the agency's decision to file a lawsuit. Judicial Watch also seeks records of communication between the NLRB and the Obama White House, the Internal Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and any other third party trade union, among others. Judicial Watch also seeks any NLRB records related to the impact of the new Boeing plant on employment in South Carolina. The timeframe for these requests is January 20, 2009, to July 14, 2011.
 
By letter of July 28, 2011, the NLRB acknowledged that the agency received Judicial Watch's complaint on July 14, 2011. However, the NLRB has failed to respond within the statutory allotted twenty business days. To date, the NLRB has failed to produce any documents or indicate when responsive documents will be released.
 
 
 
The NLRB filed a lawsuit in April 2011, against Boeing, claiming that the company's decision to open a Dreamliner production line in South Carolina was in retaliation against The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers for a series of union strikes that reportedly slowed production of the plane in 2008 in Washington State. According to Boeing's spokesman, the NLRB's "claim is legally frivolous and represents a radical departure from both NLRB and Supreme Court precedent. Boeing has every right under both federal law and its collective bargaining agreement to build additional U.S. Production capacity outside of the Puget Sound region."
 
In addition to refusing to respond to Judicial Watch's FOIA request, the NLRB has also reportedly failed to respond to a subpoena issued by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee seeking information related to the lawsuit. "This refusal by NLRB to abide by the law further heightens concerns that this is a rogue agency acting improperly," Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa said. "The integrity of NLRB and its leadership is clearly in question."
 
 
 
Last year, President Obama bypassed the U.S. Senate and recess-appointed Craig Becker to head the NLRB's five-member board. The Becker appointment was made after the U.S. Senate refused to move forward on his confirmation. An ally of ACORN, Becker had previously worked for the SEIU and the AFL-CIO, major financial backers of Obama and the Democratic Party. Controversially, Becker has refused to recuse himself from certain NLRB decisions affecting his former union clients.
 
"The American people have a right to know the facts surrounding the extraordinary decision by the NLRB to sue Boeing in order to effectively shut down an entire factory in South Carolina. There are serious questions about the NLRB's apparent abuse of power. There is simply no good reason for the NLRB to keep these records secret – unless it has something to hide. Yet again we see that President Obama, through his appointees, is contemptuous of an open and accountable federal government," stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
23523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 6 killed near Egytian border on: August 18, 2011, 08:50:22 AM

http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/08/18/israel.shooting/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

 

Jerusalem (CNN) -- At least six people were killed and more than two dozen others were injured in southern Israel when attackers fired shots at a bus, assaulted Israeli soldiers, and fired mortars and an anti-tank missile.

 

The assault occurred about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Israeli city of Eilat -- close to the Israeli-Egyptian border. Israeli soldiers exchanged gunfire with the assailants.

 

"This is a serious terrorist attack in a number of locations," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.

 

"The event reflects the weakening of Egyptian control over Sinai and the expansion of the activity of terrorist forces. The origin of these acts of terror is in Gaza and we will act against them in our full force and determination."
23524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: European matters on: August 18, 2011, 12:20:40 AM
EU Leaders Face A Crossroads In European Integration

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met in Paris today to prepare for the next meeting of European Union heads of government. At the conclusion of their summit, the pair announced a series of measures meant to push European integration forward.

Instead of addressing Europe’s short-term financial crisis, the two leaders focused on longer-term fiscal and political issues. Specifically, they announced that France and Germany would unify their corporate tax systems within five years and that the countries would together push for debt limits to be written into eurozone-member constitutions. They also agreed to advocate for governance measures to reinforce Europe’s economy.

Markets were left puzzled. The European financial crisis is now in its twentieth month. As recently as a few days ago, many observers were expecting bailouts for Spain, defaults in Italy and downgrades in France. Why would Europe’s top leaders choose to introduce measures that will require a new treaty, while the European project is already struggling so badly on its current terms?

“Considering that the Germans are in the process of rewiring the EU to suit their own national preferences, the entire premise behind EU membership for many states rests on precarious ground. “
What the markets often lose sight of is that this situation is not only — or even primarily — a financial and economic crisis. France originally intended European integration as a means to bolster its international position. Germany was shattered after the conclusion of World War II. The French picked up the pieces and, by initiating the process that eventually led to the creation of the European Union, Paris refashioned Germany into a platform from which France could project power. This system used German strength to entice other states to join the growing union. France promised three things: that European states would be more important collectively; that members would become rich by relying on German wealth; and that Germany would never again be in a position to hurt other European states.

By the middle part of the last decade, though, Germans had outgrown sixty years of policymaking shaped by what can be best described as an extended national apology. Germany began acting like a real country again. Real countries have many characteristics in common. They obviously like to speak for themselves, and they don’t like to be taken advantage of by their neighbors.

Germany started using its superior economic position to rework EU institutions to its liking. Until now, France has cooperated, driven by a mix of inertia, opportunity and fear. Inertia because it takes more than a few years to admit that after two generations, the ability to feed off the strengths of another economy without paying any price is gone. Nevertheless, opportunity still motivates because Paris may yet prove able to manage Germany and ride on its coattails. Fear of what might happen should Germany outgrow France also fuels Parisian cooperation.

The European economy is hardly a zero sum game. However, in the modern European system, economics is the glue that has held together the unstable political alignments of the post-World War II order. And that glue is not sticking like it once did.

Of the three main benefits that drew states into the European Union, two — that European states are more important collectively, and that other states can become rich thanks to German wealth — are no longer in play. The European Union’s efforts at political and military unification can best be described as stillborn. Economically, the current crisis has robbed the European Union of much of its shine. Data released today put collective EU growth at an unenviable 0.2 percent compared to the previous quarter. French growth came in at a flat zero. If the European Union cannot guarantee importance or wealth, then its remaining raison d’etre comes down to keeping the Germans in line. Considering that the Germans are in the process of rewiring the union to suit their own national preferences, the entire premise behind EU membership for many states rests on precarious ground.

Against this backdrop sits a massive disconnect between what the European elites — especially in the financial sector – desire and what the general population prefers. The elites have invested seventy years and tens of trillions of euros (once financial assistance, bond purchases and cross-collateralization of debt are all added up) to make European institutions work. The European Union is the key to their political and economic positions. They have already made it clear that they will pay any price to keep the European Union alive.

However, the average German, Frenchman or Latvian feels somewhat differently. With the benefits of the European system losing their luster, questions are starting to be asked about not just the EU institutions, but about whether European leaders are still fit to lead. Polls regularly indicate that half of Germans want the deutschemark back, and more than half think the Greeks should be unceremoniously ejected from the eurozone. So far these attitudes have not translated into a rejection of any major state’s political mainstream — but the Germans’ general disgust with the bailout programs is hardly an enthusiastic endorsement.

23525  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: August 17, 2011, 08:48:06 PM
GM:  Remind me to tell you of the carjacking I foiled using exactly this technique.  In the meantime, please don't be obtuse  cheesy  

PS: PC is quite correct  wink grin
23526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Schultz apologizes on: August 17, 2011, 12:44:47 PM


http://www.theblaze.com/stories/update-schultz-apologizes-for-editing-perry-clip-out-of-context-sort-of/
23527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Canadian Muslim: Islamic Fascism reaching into White House and much more on: August 17, 2011, 12:34:44 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/new-warning-about-muslim-brotherhoods-influence-on-white-house-from-liberal-marxist-muslim/
23528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Increasing inflation on the way on: August 17, 2011, 11:57:20 AM
Data Watch

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Producer Price Index (PPI) rose 0.2% in July To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 8/17/2011


The Producer Price Index (PPI) rose 0.2% in July, a larger increase than the consensus expected (0.1%).  Producer prices are up 7.2% versus a year ago.

The increase in PPI in July was largely due to food prices which rose 0.6%.  Energy prices fell 0.6%. The “core” PPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.4%, a worrisome, and large, jump.
 
Consumer goods prices gained 0.1% in July and are up 9.1% versus last year.  Capital equipment prices were up 0.4% in July and are up 1.8% in the past year.
 
Core intermediate goods prices increased 0.2% in July and are up 7.8% versus a year ago.  Core crude prices rose 0.7% in July and are up 27.0% in the past twelve months.
 
Implications:  The Federal Reserve is in a bind. The overall producer price index rose a moderate 0.2% in July (7.2% year-over-year), but the "core" PPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.4% (2.5% YOY).  At 2.5%, the 12-month increase in “core” producer prices may seem small to many, but these prices are up at a 3.9% annual rate in the past three months – a worrisome increase.  Given that the Fed has used low core price inflation to justify QE2 and 0% interest rates, the acceleration in these prices during recent months creates a serious dilemma.  At the least, it would seem to make a third round of quantitative easing very, very difficult, if not impossible, to justify.  This is especially true because further up the production pipeline, inflation is even worse.  “Core” intermediate prices – components and parts in the production pipeline – rose 0.2% in July and are up 7.8% versus a year ago.  “Core” crude prices – the raw materials of production – are up 27% in the past year.  As a result, it is hard to see producer or consumer prices moderating anytime soon.  Inflation is a clear and present danger and the Fed is behind the curve.
23529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / When in doubt, STFU. on: August 17, 2011, 09:54:10 AM


http://technolog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/08/16/7387638-man-steals-57k-from-neighbors-using-their-facebook-info?GT1=43001
23530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on property 1788 on: August 17, 2011, 09:42:07 AM
"He who is permitted by law to have no property of his own, can with difficulty conceive that property is founded in anything but force." --Thomas Jefferson, to Bancroft, 1788
23531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spencer: The Sharia Question on: August 17, 2011, 09:38:09 AM


In Human Events this morning I discuss the plethora of pro-Sharia candidates and hopefuls. Can't we have a few more pro-freedom, anti-Sharia candidates?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has set many a heart a-flutter by joining the hunt for the Republican presidential nomination, but not so fast: Hard-Left advocacy journalist Justin Elliott of Salon hailed Perry as the “pro-Sharia candidate,” and exulted that Perry “is a friend of the the Aga Khan, the religious leader of the Ismailis, a sect of Shia Islam that claims a reported 15 to 20 million adherents worldwide. Sprouting from that friendship are at least two cooperation agreements between the state of Texas and Ismaili institutions, including a far-reaching program to educate Texas schoolchildren about Islam.”
The Ismailis are a peaceful sect, but such educational efforts are unlikely to be honest about the Islamic texts and teachings that jihad terrorists use to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims. Nor are they likely to be forthright about Islam’s bloody history of war against and conquest and subjugation of Jews, Christians, Hindus and others. All that is likely to be whitewashed, especially given Perry’s apparent friendship with Republican power broker Grover Norquist​.

David Horowitz wrote years ago that Norquist was working with “prominent Islamic radicals who have ties to the Saudis and to Libya and to Palestine Islamic Jihad​, and who are now under indictment by U.S. authorities.” Norquist is unrepentant and continues to partner with Islamic supremacists.

Also among the presidential hopefuls, albeit as yet undeclared, is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who this year appointed a Muslim attorney, Sohail Mohammed, to a Superior Court judgeship in Passaic County. Mohammed was the lawyer for Mohammad Qatanani​, a Muslim Brotherhood​ operative who pleaded guilty to membership in the jihad terror group Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Christie knew this, yet called Qatanani “a man of great good will” and “a constructive force,” and fought Department of Homeland Security efforts to deport him. When challenged, Christie defended his actions and went out of his way to slam opposition to Sharia in the U.S. as “crap.”

Is Qatanani entitled to legal representation? Of course. Should Mohammed's taking of the case stigmatize him as sympathetic with Qatanani's pro-jihad views and ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood? Certainly not. But when Christie praises Qatanani as a “constructive force” and fights his deportation despite knowing of his membership in a jihad terror group (Hamas) and the Islamic supremacist group par excellence (the Muslim Brotherhood), and then appoints his lawyer to a judgeship, it becomes clear what is going on here.

Then there is Herman Cain​, who started out strongly, albeit with some clumsily worded statements, as the only candidate who manifested a deep awareness of the magnitude of the threat from Islamic law, a comprehensive political system that denies the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience and the equality of rights of all people before the law. Islamic law has now been a determining factor in court cases in 23 states, so this is no trivial matter, and Cain seemed determined to resist its advance in the United States.

Determined, that is, until he met with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked All Dulles Area Muslim Society—the ADAMS Center. Cain then issued a statement saying he was “humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim Americans and their friends,” and “truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it.”

Betrayed his commitment to the U.S. Constitution by appearing determined to fight against a serious threat to it? Betrayed his commitment to the freedom of religion by resisting a radically intolerant ideology that mandates second-class status for all people who believe differently?

Herman Cain will never be President of the United States, and that’s a good thing. His only distinctive position in this campaign was his opposition to Sharia, and now that he has surrendered to pro-Sharia Islamic supremacists, there is nothing noteworthy about his campaign at all. He joins Perry, Mitt “Jihadism Is Not Islam” Romney, Ron “They’re Terrorists Because We’re Occupiers” Paul and the rest in their general myopia about the nature of the threat we face, and cluelessness about what to do about it.

If any of these woefully inadequate candidates gets the Republican nomination and defeats Barack Obama​, the only certainty for the subsequent four years will be more jihad, aided and abetted by shortsighted U.S. policies.

23532  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Kidnapping in Pakistan on: August 17, 2011, 09:33:48 AM
Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton examines the recent abduction of an American citizen in Pakistan and discusses ways expats can protect themselves while abroad.


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

This week’s Above the Tearline, we thought we would examine the abduction of an American ex-pat in Lahore, Pakistan, with an eye towards ex-pat security.

Last weekend Warren Weinstein, an employee of JE Austin Company, a USAID contractor in Lahore, Pakistan, was abducted from his home at 3 o’clock in the morning. Motivation-wise we don’t know whether or not this was a criminal abduction or a hostage taking for the purposes of some sort of political statement. One of the fears you have in any kind of abduction would be the potential for the hostage to be sold to a terrorist organization.

The police are looking at the potential for some degree of complicity either with household staff or security guards hired to protect the residents. Having investigated many hostage takings overseas, there are two components that I want to bring to your attention. The first being: it’s important that you have trusted and vetted security as well as household staff that you’re bringing into your home to rule out the potential for an inside job or complicity.

The second thing that is critical is making sure that you have a good safe haven inside your apartment or house to retreat to. A safe haven would be a location that is hardened up. It has either hardened doors or a hardened frame that will enable you to lock the door and retreat to in the times of emergency. Ideally you would have a ability to communicate from that safe haven with an outside line or a cell phone that’s stored there so you can call for help.

In examining the video from the crime scene, I saw something that caught my eye that needs to be looked into. Whether or not this has anything to do with the case, it’s the kind of lead that you need to run down. I think it looks like the individual had personalized license plates or license plates that were issued to the car, which would make it very easy to identify the individual operating that vehicle. Case and point: in one of the investigations I worked involving Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Yousef and the informant that we subsequently worked that led to Yousef’s arrest walked around Islamabad, Pakistan, and was able to identify U.S. and British residents based on license plates that were parked in their driveway. And I’m wondering, in this case, whether or not the very unique license plates led to the individual’s location being identified to the criminal abductors or to the potential terrorist organization.

The Above the Tearline aspect of this video is: complacency had probably done Mr. Weinstein in. He’d been in and out of Pakistan for seven years — probably the last thing he’s thinking about is something happening to him. It’s important that long-term expats maintain a high degree of situational awareness and revisit their security posture.

23533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Medved: The Iowa debate on: August 17, 2011, 08:52:01 AM
Some merit in the criticisms here I think, though I disagree with the praise of the questioning; I thought Newt was right.
==========
GOP Should Learn from Debate Mistakes It’s probably a good thing that coverage of the Iowa Straw Poll and Rick Perry’s announcement of candidacy upstaged the discussion about the televised GOP debate two days before. That two hour encounter highlighted profound problems with the Republican field and increased the widespread yearning for some additional Republican choices. In fact, Rick Perry emerged as the clear winner of the debate because he displayed the good sense not to show up.

The losers? All of the eight candidates who stood on the stage, sniping at each other and looking unserious and unpresidential. The Republican Party lost as well: with Americans increasingly sour on Barack Obama, the Ames debate offered an obvious chance to show that the GOP offered constructive, refreshing, hopeful alternatives. Instead the candidates looked petty and petulant and full of bile—angry at the world in general, at their opponents, and, in the case of Newt Gingrich, full of righteous indignation at the moderators from Fox News.

In fact, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier also emerged as conspicuous winners, since their tough, needling interrogation, probing each candidate’s embarrassments, blunders, and contradictions (what Newt described as “gotcha” questions) should serve to rebut ongoing charges from the left that Fox functions as a partisan, cheerleading wing of the Republican Party. If the panel put comparably nasty and insistent questions to President Obama or Vice President Biden, David Axelrod and Jay Carney would no doubt holler foul.

Of course, no one forced the contenders to respond to these challenges in the self-destructive style that most of them chose.When baited to confront each other and to abandon the restraints of “Minnesota Nice,” both Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty promptly and disastrously obliged. Pawlenty in particular felt forced to display a more aggressive style after his widely panned performance in the New Hampshire debate in June, when he pointedly declined to confront Mitt Romney on his health-care reform in Massachusetts. This time he not only stood by his gibe about “Obamneycare” but managed a gratuitous dig at his rival’s wealth: When saying he’d come over and mow the lawn of anyone who could find an Obama plan for economic recovery, he added that if Mitt won the prize he’d only cover the first acre of Romney’s presumably vast swaths of greenery.

Pawlenty also made the fair point that Bachmann had achieved nothing in Congress and that for all her talk about a “titanium spine,” the major fights she emphasizes in her campaign boasts—against TARP, Obamacare, the debt ceiling deal—all proved to be losing battles. It didn’t help T-Paw, however, that Bachmann looked hurt, dazed, and almost deflated at his criticism; she never answered him with a persuasive citation of any legislative accomplishment. Instead, she offered outrageous lies about Pawlenty’s gubernatorial record—claiming he’d said the era of small government was over, or that he imposed cap and trade—that quickly provoked appropriate scolds from some of the truth-squadding crews that try to clean up the factual detritus that follows such events.

Under the “what might have been” category, Bachmann could have enhanced her stature and her status as Iowa front-runner, had she smiled back at the taunts from Pawlenty and the moderators, placing herself above the fray. “Actually, I always supported Tim when he was governor of my state—because he was a good governor,” she could have said. “And I’m surprised to hear him speaking about me as he has tonight, because he’s always provided generous support in all my congressional races. If he really thought I wasn’t accomplishing anything, why did he help campaign for my reelection? And the fact is, Tim and I agree on most issues, as do all of us on this stage. It’s just a question of who can offer the sharpest contrast with Barack Obama—who can paint in bright, primary colors, not pale pastels, as Ronald Reagan used to say. I know I have the passion and the toughness and the clarity on the issues to take the fight to the president.”

Had she responded in that style, she could have empowered her candidacy, as she did in the New Hampshire debate, when she seemed vastly more energetic and zesty and positive. The key difference? This time Bachmann didn’t look as if she were enjoying herself; none of the candidates did.

Perhaps most uncomfortable (and disastrous) of them all was the new kid on the block, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who badly fumbled a precious opportunity to differentiate himself from his competitors. Questioners pressed him on two issues on which Huntsman’s position corresponds to the American mainstream and even to a plurality of self-described Republicans, according to polls: his support for civil unions for same-sex couples (not gay marriage) and for a path to earned legalization for undocumented immigrants (not blanket amnesty). On both issues, Huntsman could have made firm, conservative arguments on behalf of his positions and come across as a straight shooter—a plain-talking Westerner who might disagree with some primary voters but could still win their respect by courageously and clearly making his case. Instead, he punted and dodged, repeatedly (and irrelevantly) asking people to examine his Utah record to prove his right-wing bona fides. Considering Utah’s status as, arguably, the most rock-ribbed red state in the union, it hardly makes Huntsman a pillar of conservative righteousness that he compiled a more rightist record there than did Pawlenty and Romney in liberal Minnesota and Massachusetts. And speaking of Romney, his polished, suave demeanor served him well, as usual. As the widely perceived front-runner, he gains by avoiding stumbles (as he did) and by his superior mastery of television mechanics (finding the camera, listening earnestly and respectfully to his opponents).

The sad news for Republicans is that the two candidates who gave the most impressive performance in terms of substance and forceful argument, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, have no war chests, no campaign organization, and no chance of winning anything of note in caucuses or primaries.

Meanwhile, the two candidates considered the front-runners for the crucial straw poll in Ames on Saturday, Bachmann and Ron Paul, looked utterly inconceivable as president of the United States. When Paul faced the obvious question of whether he actually expected his radical program (ditching our current monetary system, restoring the gold standard) to miraculously clear a divided Congress, he seemed flustered and disarmed, revealing his underlying aim of advancing ideas rather than winning the White House. The wild cheering from his claque in the big crowd gathered at Iowa State University only added to the sense that Paulestinians represent a quasi-religious cult unconcerned with real-world results, à la the relentless, glassy-eyed followers of Lyndon LaRouche. Paul’s repeated, energetic denunciations of U.S. “militarism” also sounded a jarring note in a party that has always revered our men and women in uniform.

The presence of eight candidates dividing time and attention made each of them seem smaller and reduced the credibility of the more serious contenders by putting them on equal footing with hopeless, long-shot distractions like Paul, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum, who really should be running to reclaim his Senate seat in Pennsylvania. One can only hope that by the time of the next televised encounter, the field will look more formidable with the addition of Perry (and, very possibly, other fresh faces) and the departure of some of the participants who are bidding for attention more than presidential power.

A version of this column appeared originally in THE DAILY BEAST on August 12, 2011.
23534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kudlow on Perry on Bernanke on: August 17, 2011, 08:45:45 AM
I did not know that Romney was soft on Bernanke.
=================

Texas Gov. Rick Perry scorched the political pot Tuesday with a red-hot rhetorical attack on Fed-head Ben Bernanke. When asked about the Fed's reopening the monetary spigots, Perry said, "If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas."

And that wasn't all. In a more controversial slam, Perry said, "Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous -- or treasonous -- in my opinion." (Italics mine.)

Pretty rough stuff. Very aggressive language. And undoubtedly way too strong. It was poorly received in the financial world.

No, Ben Bernanke is not a traitor. This is a policy dispute; it's not a matter of patriotism. However, and this is an important however, the rest of Perry's statement suggests that his analysis of Fed policy is right on target. In other words, wrong words, right analysis.

The Texas governor, who by some polls is the new Republican presidential front-runner, went on to say: "We've already tried this. All it's going to be doing is devaluing the dollar in your pocket. And we cannot afford that."

Well, to me that is exactly right.

Let's take a quick look at Bernanke's QE2 record of pump priming: The dollar fell 12 percent on foreign exchange markets. The consumer price index jumped more than 5 percent at an annual rate. And the $600 billion cheapening of the greenback led to skyrocketing commodity prices, including oil, gasoline and food. That oil price shock is one of the principal factors behind the 0.8 percent first-half economic stutter. As a result of the jump in inflation linked to QE2, real consumer incomes slumped badly and consumer spending fell substantially.

Before QE2, the economy was growing about 2.5 percent, even though it already was blunted by numerous tax and regulatory obstacles. But the cheap-dollar oil shock came perilously close to pushing us into recession.

So it turns out that Perry -- even with his overly strong language -- is a pretty sharp economic and monetary analyst.

In fact, Perry's analysis actually channels recent Fed dissents by reserve bank presidents Dick Fisher of Dallas, Charles Plosser of Philadelphia and Narayana Kocherlakota of Minneapolis. They object to a two-year extension of the Fed's zero-interest-rate policy and, in so doing, have set down an opposition marker to a potential new shock-and-awe quantitative easing that many fear will be announced Aug. 26 when Bernanke speaks to the Jackson Hole, Wyo., Fed conference.

What makes Perry's position even more interesting is his disagreement with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. When I interviewed Romney this past April, he essentially defended Bernanke and dollar depreciation. "Well, you know, I think Ben Bernanke is a student of monetary policy," Romney said. "He's doing as good a job as he thinks he can do in the Federal Reserve."

Meanwhile, in tea party circles on the campaign trail, Bernanke is a much-disliked figure. Rightly or wrongly, he is blamed for bailing out Wall Street. Also, many view Bernanke's massive money creation, along with President Barack Obama's massive federal stimulus spending, as another failed big-government attempt to revive the economy.

Tea partyers and many others fervently believe in lower spending, reduced tax burdens and a regulatory rollback to strengthen small businesses and the private economy. They're against Uncle Sam's just throwing money at problems.

So in this sense, Perry's red-hot riposte at Bernanke may be shrewd politics, as well as a much-needed defense of stable money.

The former Air Force captain piloted C-130 missions in Central America, South America and North Africa and all over Europe. He's a fierce devotee of American exceptionalism and greatness. My hunch is that just like Ronald Reagan, Perry views a collapsing-dollar threat as more evidence of American decline. And he is very much opposed to any of that.

23535  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: August 17, 2011, 08:30:48 AM
@GM

"The intended meaning of "wherein my truck was enveloped" is that I am blocked from departing."

"Blocked by what?"

Other cars on all sides e.g. at a red light.
=======

@PD:  " I was VERY impressed with the Police tactics, the use of horses and dogs.  Their snatch and grab methods of specific people from the crowd were smooth!"

Please describe smiley
23536  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: August 17, 2011, 12:19:22 AM
The intended meaning of "wherein my truck was enveloped" is that I am blocked from departing.
23537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Space Taxis ahead of schedule (surprise! they are private sector) on: August 17, 2011, 12:02:08 AM
By ANDY PASZTOR
Private spacecraft will begin docking with the International Space Station before the end of the year, months sooner than planned, after NASA gave the green light for the first cargo delivery by such a capsule.

Space Exploration Technology Corp. said the U.S. space agency has given tentative approval for it to conduct the late November flight. The launch will accelerate the shift to private ventures for future manned missions.

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.The flight will feature the initial effort to dock the company's Dragon capsule—the pioneer commercial spacecraft— with the space station, orbiting more than 200 miles above the earth.

In accelerating by at least several months the timetable for linking up with the station, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will provide the company and other private space outfits a symbolic and potentially important financial boost. Closely held SpaceX, as it is known, is based in Hawthorne, Calif., and was founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The technical sign-off by NASA is expected to be followed shortly by final agency approval. And it marks a transition for the U.S. manned-exploration program, which previously relied entirely on government-funded and federally operated boosters and space vehicles to take both astronauts and cargo into space.

The latest schedule shift, according to some industry officials, also appears intended to deflect criticism that commercial space-transportation providers may find it difficult to quickly replace NASA's recently retired space shuttles.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, slated to blast the capsule into orbit, is nearly three years behind the company's ambitious early projections. SpaceX originally envisioned as many as four test flights in 2010 to show that the booster and the capsule would be ready for service.

Until a few months ago, NASA officials were still expecting a pair of demonstration flights of the Dragon capsule in 2011 to ensure the safety and reliability of its systems. According to that scenario, SpaceX would have had to demonstrate rendezvous and berthing capabilities in separate flights.

Monday, SpaceX said the agency "has agreed in principle" to combine separate software and hardware tests into a single mission, slated to blast off at the end of November on a Falcon 9 rocket and dock with the station about a week later.

As a result, SpaceX expects to use the upcoming flight to deliver the first few hundred pounds of crew supplies to orbit. If all goes well, that will be at least several months faster than was projected under previous NASA schedules.

In its Monday release, SpaceX said that by combining government and private funding, it hopes to increase the reliability, safety and frequency of space travel. Depending on demand, the company said it has manufacturing plans that could turn out up to six Dragon capsules annually. A spokeswoman for the company, which signed more than a dozen launch contracts in the past year, said the late 2011 mission "kicks off what will be a rapid increase in the frequency" of operations.

Last December, SpaceX became the first company to successfully launch and recover a capsule from Earth orbit.

The pear-shaped Dragon capsules are slated to begin regular cargo-delivery missions for NASA in 2012, under a $1.6 billion commercial contract structured to pay the company based on the total amount of material shipped to the space station.Such performance-based payouts weren't part of traditional NASA contracts, which often relied on features that assured contractor profits regardless of delays or budget overruns.

Seeking to cut costs and revitalize NASA for deep-space exploration, President Barack Obama wants to use private space taxis to support the space station. NASA has provided seed money to SpaceX and a number of other companies to work on projects capable of transporting astronauts to and from the station by the second half of this decade.

Simultaneously, SpaceX and other commercial-space groups are vying to provide larger rockets and more-capable capsules, required for longer-term manned missions to venture deeper into the solar system.

NASA officials have said they are pleased with the progress made by SpaceX but also intend to continue to pursue other options, including a rival commercial rocket-capsule combination that has its own contracts to deliver cargo to orbit.

Between the fall of 2006 and spring of 2011, congressional auditors determined that NASA paid SpaceX more than $290 million for certain work to develop and test the company's cargo-transportation system. According to the same report, the company achieved more than three-quarters of 40 pre-determined milestones on schedule.

The accelerated cargo-delivery schedule comes as NASA and congressional leaders continue to spar over the cost and schedule of a proposed NASA heavy-lift rocket eventually intended to take astronauts to an asteroid and beyond.

NASA officials have said they are refining final cost estimates for a heavy-lift rocket able to blast 130 tons into space. It would emphasize space-shuttle designs and, at least initially, rely on solid rocket-motor technology. In later versions, NASA experts envision shifting more to liquid propellants and in-orbit refueling options.

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Getty Images
 
Space Exploration Technology CEO Elon Musk
.NASA's proposed next-generation rocket would fly just twice in the next 10 years and, along with a manned capsule dubbed Orion, could carry a price tag as high as $38 billion, according to industry officials and lawmakers. Inside and outside NASA, critics of the heavy-lift alternative have said those cost and schedule projections compare unfavorably with projects being pursued by SpaceX and its peers.

NASA has also been hit by bipartisan criticism it hasn't adequately complied with congressional mandates to use shuttle-derived technologies for its proposed heavy-lift rocket. These critics fault its long-range exploration plans for improperly favoring commercially developed manned systems.

To try to resolve that dispute, some lawmakers have taken the extraordinary step of voting to issue congressional subpoenas to obtain internal NASA documents detailing agency decision-making. Such critics have accused agency officials of trying to sabotage the heavy-lift rocket concept, by giving Congress allegedly inflated cost figures and unrealistically long development timetables for that launcher system.

Write to Andy Pasztor at andy.pasztor@wsj.com

23538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Venezuelan 3 Card Monte: Where's the money? on: August 16, 2011, 11:57:37 PM
By JOSé DE CóRDOBA And EZEQUIEL MINAYA
CARACAS—Venezuela plans to transfer billions of dollars in cash reserves from abroad to banks in Russia, China and Brazil and tons of gold from European banks to its central bank vaults, according to documents reviewed Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal.

The planned moves would include transferring $6.3 billion in cash reserves, most of which Venezuela now keeps in banks such as the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, and Barclays Bank in London to unnamed Russian, Chinese and Brazilian banks, one document said.

Venezuela also plans to move 211 tons of gold it keeps abroad and values at $11 billion to the vaults of the Venezuelan Central Bank in Caracas where the government keeps its remaining 154 tons of bullion, the document says.

Venezuelan officials were tight-lipped. Representatives of the ministry of finance and the central bank said there was no official comment, and no one was authorized to address the issue.

Lately, senior Venezuelan officials have criticized Venezuela's dependence on the dollar. Last Saturday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the world's financial system, based on the dollar, "had entered into a crisis of uncertainty and we are planning to construct a new international monetary system, and especially in South America, protect ourselves from this situation," he said.

The Bank of England recently received a request from the Venezuelan government about transferring the 99 tons of gold Venezuela holds in the bank back to Venezuela, said a person familiar with the matter. A spokesman from the Bank of England declined to comment whether Venezuela had any gold on deposit at the bank.

A spokesman for the Bank for International Settlements where Venezuela keeps $3.7 billion of its cash reserves, and 11.2 tons of gold, Venezuela values at $544 million, according to the document, also declined to comment.

Analysts said the planned move made little economic or financial sense, since Venezuela would be taking its money out of secure banks in safe countries and putting it in countries that are not as safe and perhaps in currencies such as the Chinese yuan or the Russian ruble, which are not reserve currencies. "It's a big risk," said José Guerra, a former official at Venezuela's central bank. Mr. Guerra said he also had heard about the documents whose authenticity was confirmed to him by Central Bank officials.

Mr. Guerra said one possible reason for the planned moves could be that Venezuela is afraid it could be compelled to pay billions of dollars in compensations to foreign companies that have gone to court to recover damages for companies Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has nationalized. Another reason could be that China may have asked for collateral for billions of dollars it has loaned Venezuela, Mr. Guerra said.

Venezuela faces a sizable bill from arbitration but it's difficult to pin down a reliable estimate.

"It's a wide range from $10 billion to $40 billion and beyond," says Tamara Herrera, chief economist of Síntesis Financiera, an economic consulting firm based in Caracas. "There are many ongoing negotiations; the major ones of course are with oil companies."

One of the documents outlining the moves appears to have been drafted by Jorge Giordani, Venezuela's planning and finance minister, in conjunction with Nelson Merentes, the central bank president, for Mr. Chávez's approval. It calls for the transfer of the cash and gold reserves as of Aug. 8 in a maximum of two months.

Another document prepared by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro for Mr. Chávez's approval calls for Messrs. Giordani and Merentes to prepare a plan to safeguard Venezuela's international reserves given "the recent U.S. debt crisis and its impact on the dollar as a world reserve currency."

The crisis, the document says, "has lit all the alarm signals as to whether it's convenient to maintain our reserves in that currency."

The document also notes that "the powers of the North" have "pillaged" Libya's international reserves as a result of the sanctions applied to Libya. "That makes us reflect on the need to elaborate a plan to monitor and secure the funds that the Republic maintains in international banks to meet its commitments abroad.

For some analysts, the reference to Libya signaled a possible political motive. The charismatic Mr. Chávez, who has said he will run again for president next year's elections, is being treated with chemotherapy for cancer in Cuba. Neither Mr. Chávez's type of cancer nor Mr. Chávez's prognosis has been made public. Moving the reserves may signal that Mr. Chávez and his associates could be preparing some drastic political moves—such as canceling elections—that could incur international condemnation and perhaps trigger sanctions.

"It doesn't augur well for Venezuela," says Roger Noriega, a former high-ranking state department official during the Bush administration.

Opposition congressman Julio Montoya said he received leaked copies of the proposal to move the funds from concerned officials of the finance ministry.

"We don't know if (Chávez) has signed it," Mr. Montoya said during a press conference Tuesday. The congressman from Zulia state criticized what he called the "secretive" nature of the president's deliberation over the measure.

Mr. Montoya said that the proposal raised the question if Venezuela was being pressured into transferring its reserves because of its growing ties with China and Russia.

To fund the country's large-scale social programs, Mr. Chávez has turned to resource-hungry China for assistance on everything from financing to housing and machinery. Last year, Venezuela received a $20 billion credit line from the China Development Bank for housing, which it is paying back with oil shipments.

While China has been Venezuela's largest creditor in recent years, Russia has been a major arms supplier to the South American nation.

Most recently, Venezuela announced it was finalizing agreements for two additional credit lines of $4 billion each with Russia and China, with a portion of the Russian funds earmarked for the Venezuelan military. Venezuelan officials have also said they have recently reached an agreement with Brazil for a $4 billion line of credit.

23539  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: August 16, 2011, 09:24:42 PM
I always wondered about carrying a fire extinguisher in the car and should a chaotic situation develop wherein my truck was enveloped simply spraying everybody within range.   Does anybody know about whether this would run the risk of damaging the eyes of the nefarious n'er do wells?
23540  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: August 16, 2011, 09:21:31 PM
A number of registrations have come in.  Know that Pretty Kitty is wading her way through 2000+ emails  shocked that came in while we were on family vacation. 
23541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That'll teach 'em on: August 16, 2011, 09:19:20 PM
Pravda on the Beach reported this morning that the three officials at BATF responsible for Op F&F have been promoted, , , cry angry angry
23542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GB on Gov. Perry on Bernanke on: August 16, 2011, 05:03:51 PM


http://www.glennbeck.com/2011/08/16/rick-perry-calls-out-the-fed-for-treason/
23543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Lessons from Europe-2 on: August 16, 2011, 04:49:34 PM
'The real lesson from Europe," wrote Paul Krugman in January 2010, "is actually the opposite of what conservatives claim: Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works." Here are some postcards from the social democracy that works.

• In Britain, 239 patients died of malnutrition in the country's public hospitals in 2007, according to a charity called Age U.K. And at any given time, a quarter-million Britons have been made to wait 18 weeks or longer for medical treatment. This follows a decade in which funding for the National Health Service doubled.

• In France, the incidence of violent crimes rose by nearly 15% between 2002 and 2008, according to statistics provided by Eurostat. In Italy violent crime was up 38%. In the EU as a whole, the rate rose by 6% despite declines in robbery and murder.

• As of June 2011, Eurostat reports that the unemployment rate in the euro zone was 9.9%. For the under-25s, it was 20.3%. In Spain, youth unemployment stands at 45.7%, which tops even the Greek rate of 38.5%. Then there's this remarkable detail: Among Europeans aged 18-34, no fewer than 46%—51 million people in all—live with their parents.

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Zuma Press
 
Rioters in London: Poster children for social democracy.
.• In 2009, 37.4% of European children were born outside of marriage. That's more than twice the 1990 rate of 17.4%. The number of children per woman for the EU is 1.56, catastrophically below the replacement rate of 2.1. Roughly half of all Europeans belong in the "dependency" category on account of their youth or old age. Just 64% of the working-age population actually works.

I could go on in this vein for pages, but you get the point. Europe is not a happy place and hasn't been for nearly a generation. It's about to get much worse.

This isn't simply because Europe's economic crisis is still in its infancy, although it is. The tab for bailing out Greece, Portugal and Ireland alone—which together account for about 5% of euro-zone GDP—already runs to hundreds of billions of euros, with no resolution in sight. By contrast, Italy's GDP is more than seven times as large as Greece's. Italy is too big to fail—and too big to save. If the so-called PIIGS wind up leaving the euro zone (or if Germany beats them to it by returning to a Deutsche mark), the dislocations will take years to sort through.

Even then, Europe will still have to address the more profound challenges of economic growth, demography and entitlement reform. But in order for it to do so it must have a clear idea of the nature of the challenges it faces. It doesn't. It also requires political resources to overcome the beneficiaries—labor unions, pensioners, university students, farmers, Brussels technocrats and so on—of the current system. That's not going to happen.

Politics, for starters, prevents it. Whenever a supposed "neo-liberal" comes to power—whether it's Nicolas Sarkozy or Silvio Berlusconi or Angela Merkel—they typically wind up doing no more than tinkering around the edges of regulatory or tax reform. That's because they are stymied by coalition compromises at home, or by European compromises in Brussels, or by some deeper failure of will and character.

Margaret Thatcher was the exception to this rule. But in both Britain and Europe she has had neither equals nor heirs.

Demography also prevents reform. The median age in the EU is 40.6 years. (In the U.S. it's 36.9). Older populations typically resist change, demand the benefits they've been taxed all their working lives for—and vote. The demographic balance is only going to tip further in their favor, and it will change only when younger Europeans decide that children, plural, are worth having. What that will take, only a faith in future prosperity—and in God—can provide. Outside of its growing Muslim population, Europe has neither.

Finally, there is ideology. For the past four decades, "Europeanism" has been an amalgam of Keynesian economics, bureaucratic centralization, and welfarism, corporate and social. Even now, the ideology remains unshaken by events. Though there is plenty of talk about getting spending under control and balancing budgets (typically by way of tax increases), nobody in Europe is proposing a serious growth agenda. At the beginning of the Greek crisis I asked a visiting official from Athens what his ideas were for growth: He suggested olive tree plantations and wind farms. He might as well have thrown a Sicilian Expedition into the mix.

For the U.S., none of this is yet in our cards: That's guaranteed by the tea party that so many Europeans (and Paul Krugman) find so vulgar. But it's worth noting what the fruits of social democracy—a world in which, as Kipling once wrote, "all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins"—really are. And in the wake of the U.K. riots, the rest of his prophecy also bears repeating:

As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as fire will burn,

The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

23544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Grow, baby, grow on: August 16, 2011, 02:16:21 PM


second post:

By STEPHEN MOORE
Even with a lousy jobs report, weak GDP numbers and stock market turbulence, House Republicans have been slow to propose policies that would help expand the economy. The GOP has chosen to emphasize austerity—reduced spending, less debt—instead of growth. Where are today's Jack Kemps?

The good news is that key House Republicans are planning on rolling out a tax-reform plan with growth incentives as early as next month. My sources say this would be a pre-emptive move to get out ahead of the bipartisan "super committee" charged with raising revenues and possibly modernizing the tax code.

The idea taking shape is to pass something like the broad outline of the tax changes in the "roadmap" budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the House earlier this year. That plan called for a 25% top tax rate on individuals and corporations. There is also interest in moving to a "territorial" tax system so that U.S.-based multinational firms don't face one of the highest tax rates in the industrialized world. The GOP plan is expected to be revenue neutral so that it does not increase the deficit.

House Republicans are hoping to blunt criticism voiced often by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that the GOP has done nothing for job creation. Republicans also hope a House-passed tax reform bill will put intense pressure on Senate Democrats to come up with their own plan.

"We've got to be seen as promoting our own growth and jobs agenda," said Rep. Jim Jordan, who heads the conservative Republican Study Committee and is a fan of the House passing an ambitious tax plan. "We haven't done that of late."

Any Republican plan would have to move through the House Ways and Means Committee, and that means GOP Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the committee chairman, would play a big role. Mr. Camp's office didn't respond to a call for comment, but in the past he has told me that he's a big supporter of lower rates in exchange for a broader base. And in recent weeks Mr. Camp has held committee hearings on tax reform. As one House member put it to me, "we've got to convince Dave that this is his chance to make history."

23545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: August 16, 2011, 02:14:36 PM
Prentice:

Would you please post that in the Islam in American thread as well?  Thank you.
23546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: August 16, 2011, 02:02:29 PM


http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2011/08/14/
23547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: August 16, 2011, 12:27:16 PM



See 8/16/11 entry of John Stewart on Ron Paul's lack of media coverage:

http://eutrapelia.blogspot.com/2011/08/ron-paul-looking-for-love.html
23548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman: Rethinking Arab Spring on: August 16, 2011, 12:21:54 PM
By George Friedman

On Dec. 17, 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire in a show of public protest. The self-immolation triggered unrest in Tunisia and ultimately the resignation of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. This was followed by unrest in a number of Arab countries that the global press dubbed the “Arab Spring.” The standard analysis of the situation was that oppressive regimes had been sitting on a volcano of liberal democratic discontent. The belief was that the Arab Spring was a political uprising by masses demanding liberal democratic reform and that this uprising, supported by Western democracies, would generate sweeping political change across the Arab world.

It is now more than six months since the beginning of the Arab Spring, and it is important to take stock of what has happened and what has not happened. The reasons for the widespread unrest go beyond the Arab world, although, obviously, the dynamics within that world are important in and of themselves. However, the belief in an Arab Spring helped shape European and American policies in the region and the world. If the assumptions of this past January and February prove insufficient or even wrong, then there will be regional and global consequences.

It is important to begin with the fact that, to this point, no regime has fallen in the Arab world. Individuals such as Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have been replaced, but the regimes themselves, which represent the manner of governing, have not changed. Some regimes have come under massive attack but have not fallen, as in Libya, Syria and Yemen. And in many countries, such as Jordan, the unrest never amounted to a real threat to the regime. The kind of rapid and complete collapse that we saw in Eastern Europe in 1989 with the fall of communism has not happened in the Arab world. More important, what regime changes that might come of the civil wars in Libya and Syria are not going to be clearly victorious, those that are victorious are not going to be clearly democratic and those that are democratic are obviously not going to be liberal. The myth that beneath every Libyan is a French republican yearning to breathe free is dubious in the extreme.

Consider the case of Mubarak, who was forced from office and put on trial, although the regime — a mode of governing in which the military remains the main arbiter of the state — remains intact. Egypt is now governed by a committee of military commanders, all of whom had been part of Mubarak’s regime. Elections are coming, but the opposition is deeply divided between Islamists and secularists, and personalities and ideological divisions in turn divide these factions. The probability of a powerful democratic president emerging who controls the sprawling ministries in Cairo and the country’s security and military apparatus is slim, and the Egyptian military junta is already acting to suppress elements that are too radical and too unpredictable.

The important question is why these regimes have been able to survive. In a genuine revolution, the regime loses power. The anti-communist forces overwhelmed the Polish Communist government in 1989 regardless of the divisions within the opposition. The sitting regimes were not in a position to determine their own futures, let alone the futures of their countries. There was a transition, but they were not in control of it. Similarly, in 1979, when the Shah of Iran was overthrown, his military and security people were not the ones managing the transition after the shah left the country. They were the ones on trial. There was unrest in Egypt in January and February 2011, but the idea that it amounted to a revolution flew in the face of the reality of Egypt and of what revolutions actually look like.


Shaping the Western Narrative

There were three principles shaping the Western narrative on the Arab Spring. The first was that these regimes were overwhelmingly unpopular. The second was that the opposition represented the overwhelming will of the people. The third was that once the unrest began it was unstoppable. Add to all that the notion that social media facilitated the organization of the revolution and the belief that the region was in the midst of a radical transformation can be easily understood.

It was in Libya that these propositions created the most serious problems. Tunisia and Egypt were not subject to very much outside influence. Libya became the focus of a significant Western intervention. Moammar Gadhafi had ruled Libya for nearly 42 years. He could not have ruled for that long without substantial support. That didn’t mean he had majority support (or that he didn’t). It simply meant that the survival of his regime did not interest only a handful of people, but that a large network of Libyans benefitted from Gadhafi’s rule and stood to lose a great deal if he fell. They were prepared to fight for his regime.

The opposition to him was real, but its claim to represent the overwhelming majority of Libyan people was dubious. Many of the leaders had been part of the Gadhafi regime, and it is doubtful they were selected for their government posts because of their personal popularity. Others were members of tribes that were opposed to the regime but not particularly friendly to each other. Under the mythology of the Arab Spring, the eastern coalition represented the united rage of the Libyan people against Gadhafi’s oppression. Gadhafi was weak and isolated, wielding an army that was still loyal and could inflict terrible vengeance on the Libyan people. But if the West would demonstrate its ability to prevent slaughter in Benghazi, the military would realize its own isolation and defect to the rebels.

It didn’t happen that way. First, Gadhafi’s regime was more than simply a handful of people terrorizing the population. It was certainly a brutal regime, but it hadn’t survived for 42 years on that alone. It had substantial support in the military and among key tribes. Whether this was a majority is as unclear as whether the eastern coalition was a majority. But it was certainly a substantial group with much to fight for and a great deal to lose if the regime fell. So, contrary to expectations in the West, the regime has continued to fight and to retain the loyalty of a substantial number of people. Meanwhile, the eastern alliance has continued to survive under the protection of NATO but has been unable to form a united government or topple Gadhafi. Most important, it has always been a dubious assertion that what would emerge if the rebels did defeat Gadhafi would be a democratic regime, let alone a liberal democracy, and this has become increasingly obvious as the war has worn on. Whoever would replace Gadhafi would not clearly be superior to him, which is saying quite a lot.

A very similar process is taking place in Syria. There, the minority Alawite government of the Assad family, which has ruled Syria for 41 years, is facing an uprising led by the majority Sunnis, or at least some segment of them. Again, the assumption was that the regime was illegitimate and therefore weak and would crumble in the face of concerted resistance. That assumption proved wrong. The Assad regime may be running a minority government, but it has substantial support from a military of mostly Alawite officers leading a largely Sunni conscript force. The military has benefited tremendously from the Assad regime — indeed, it brought it to power. The one thing the Assads were careful to do was to make it beneficial to the military and security services to remain loyal to the regime. So far, they largely have. The danger for the regime looking forward is if the growing strain on the Alawite-dominated army divisions leads to fissures within the Alawite community and in the army itself, raising the potential for a military coup.

In part, these Arab leaders have nowhere to go. The senior leadership of the military could be tried in The Hague, and the lower ranks are subject to rebel retribution. There is a rule in war, which is that you should always give your enemy room to retreat. The Assad supporters, like the Gadhafi supporters and the supporters of Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, have no room to retreat. So they have fought on for months, and it is not clear they will capitulate anytime soon.

Foreign governments, from the United States to Turkey, have expressed their exasperation with the Syrians, but none has seriously contemplated an intervention. There are two reasons for this: First, following the Libyan intervention, everyone became more wary of assuming the weakness of Arab regimes, and no one wants a showdown on the ground with a desperate Syrian military. Second, observers have become cautious in asserting that widespread unrest constitutes a popular revolution or that the revolutionaries necessarily want to create a liberal democracy. The Sunnis in Syria might well want a democracy, but they might well be interested in creating a Sunni “Islamic” state. Knowing that it is important to be careful what you wish for, everyone seems to be issuing stern warnings to Damascus without doing very much.

Syria is an interesting case because it is, perhaps, the only current issue that Iran and Israel agree on. Iran is deeply invested in the Assad regime and wary of increased Sunni power in Syria. Israel is just as deeply concerned that the Assad regime — a known and manageable devil from the Israeli point of view — could collapse and be replaced by a Sunni Islamist regime with close ties to Hamas and what is left of al Qaeda in the Levant. These are fears, not certainties, but the fears make for interesting bedfellows.


Geopolitical Significance

Since late 2010, we have seen three kinds of uprisings in the Arab world. The first are those that merely brushed by the regime. The second are those that created a change in leaders but not in the way the country was run. The third are those that turned into civil wars, such as Libya and Yemen. There is also the interesting case of Bahrain, where the regime was saved by the intervention of Saudi Arabia, but while the rising there conformed to the basic model of the Arab Spring — failed hopes — it lies in a different class, caught between Saudi and Iranian power.

The three examples do not mean that there is not discontent in the Arab world or a desire for change. They do not mean that change will not happen, or that discontent will not assume sufficient force to overthrow regimes. They also do not mean that whatever emerges will be liberal democratic states pleasing to Americans and Europeans.

This becomes the geopolitically significant part of the story. Among Europeans and within the U.S. State Department and the Obama administration is an ideology of human rights — the idea that one of the major commitments of Western countries should be supporting the creation of regimes resembling their own. This assumes all the things that we have discussed: that there is powerful discontent in oppressive states, that the discontent is powerful enough to overthrow regimes, and that what follows would be the sort of regime that the West would be able to work with.

The issue isn’t whether human rights are important but whether supporting unrest in repressive states automatically strengthens human rights. An important example was Iran in 1979, when opposition to the oppression of the shah’s government was perceived as a movement toward liberal democracy. What followed might have been democratic but it was hardly liberal. Indeed, many of the myths of the Arab Spring had their roots both in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and later in Iran’s 2009 Green Movement, when a narrow uprising readily crushed by the regime was widely viewed as massive opposition and widespread support for liberalization.

The world is more complicated and more varied than that. As we saw in the Arab Spring, oppressive regimes are not always faced with massed risings, and unrest does not necessarily mean mass support. Nor are the alternatives necessarily more palatable than what went before or the displeasure of the West nearly as fearsome as Westerners like to think. Libya is a case study on the consequences of starting a war with insufficient force. Syria makes a strong case on the limits of soft power. Egypt and Tunisia represent a textbook lesson on the importance of not deluding yourself.

The pursuit of human rights requires ruthless clarity as to whom you are supporting and what their chances are. It is important to remember that it is not Western supporters of human rights who suffer the consequences of failed risings, civil wars or revolutionary regimes that are committed to causes other than liberal democracy.

The misreading of the situation can also create unnecessary geopolitical problems. The fall of the Egyptian regime, unlikely as it is at this point, would be just as likely to generate an Islamist regime as a liberal democracy. The survival of the Assad regime could lead to more slaughter than we have seen and a much firmer base for Iran. No regimes have fallen since the Arab Spring, but when they do it will be important to remember 1979 and the conviction that nothing could be worse than the shah’s Iran, morally or geopolitically. Neither was quite the case.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in the Arab world who want liberal democracy. It simply means that they are not powerful enough to topple regimes or maintain control of new regimes even if they did succeed. The Arab Spring is, above all, a primer on wishful thinking in the face of the real world.

23549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / T. Paine on: August 16, 2011, 12:13:52 PM
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." --Thomas Paine, The American Crises, No. 1, 1776


23550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: determined bull on: August 16, 2011, 12:10:34 PM
The man has not flinched in his call.

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Data Watch

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Industrial production surged 0.9% in July, blowing away the consensus expected gain of 0.4% To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 8/16/2011


Industrial production surged 0.9% in July, blowing away the consensus expected gain of 0.4%. Including revisions to prior months, production rose 1.2%. Output is up 3.7% in the past year.

Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, was up 0.7% in July, but down 0.2% including revisions to previous months. Auto production rose 5.2% in July. Non-auto manufacturing increased 0.2%. Auto production is down 0.2% versus a year ago while non-auto manufacturing has risen 4.0%.
 
The production of high-tech equipment fell 0.1% in July but is up 8.3% versus a year ago.
 
Overall capacity utilization rose to 77.5% in July from 76.9% in June. Manufacturing capacity use increased to 75.0% in July from 74.6% in June.
 
Implications: As of July, the soft patch in manufacturing had ended. Industrial production surged 0.9% in July, the largest monthly gain this year. The July jump was fueled by a 5.2% expansion in auto production.  This monthly increase – at an 83% annualized rate - suggests that the supply-chain disruptions coming from Japan have ended.  We expect more increases like this in the next few months.  Excluding autos, manufacturing production increased 0.2% in June, and is up 4% versus a year ago.  Corporate profits and cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies are at record highs.  Meanwhile, companies can fully expense these purchases for tax purposes through year-end.  This suggests business equipment purchases and production should rise as the second half of 2011 unfolds.  Today’s report also showed that capacity utilization hit its highest level since August 2008, coming in at 77.5. As it did in 2010, the industrial sector has reasserted its leadership of the recovery.  The rise in overall, nation-wide production during July suggests that the weakness reported by the Empire State manufacturing index (which fell to -7.7 in August from -3.8 in July) is unlikely to continue.  We believe that purchasing managers surveys have become less reliable.  They seem to be influenced more by emotion and uncertainty than they have in the past.
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