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23551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 19, 2010, 08:13:15 AM
Looks like "Our man in Iraq" will be going back , , ,.  Our prayers for his safety and the success of his good work, and our gratitude for the reports he will be sending back.

PS:  He sent this to me while I was out of town. 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/08/AR2010080801923.html
23552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pres. Clinton from the memory hole on: August 19, 2010, 08:11:55 AM
Nice find on that clip of President Clinton.
23553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pelosi, in line behind Biden on: August 19, 2010, 08:05:56 AM
Is this country becoming a banana republic right before our eyes or what?

http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/...wtc-mosque-op/

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, called for an investigation of those who are protesting the building of the Ground Zero Mosque on Tuesday. She told San Francisco's KCBS radio:
AUDIO
"There is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some. And I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded," she said. "How is this being ginned up that here we are talking about Treasure Island, something we've been working on for decades, something of great interest to our community as we go forward to an election about the future of our country and two of the first three questions are about a zoning issue in New York City." (h/t Kristinn)

Calls to investigate the funding for those proposing the $100 million "Cordoba House" have fallen on deaf ears, though, as New York's Mayor Mike Bloomberg has described such an investigation as "un-American."

Ms. Pelosi called the Ground Zero mosque an "urban development decision" for New Yorkers to work through. Her remarks happened on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, parting ways with President Barack Obama on the issue. Mr. Reid suggested the mosque should be built somewhere else.
23554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In our near future on: August 19, 2010, 07:35:03 AM
Undocumented Imam's Refusal to Perform Interracial Gay Handicapped Wedding Leads to Charges of Racism

NEW YORK - Charges of racism, sexism, and religious discrimination filled the air this afternoon outside the just-completed Cordoba House, the gleaming new $100 million 15 story mosque and Islamic cultural center near the ruins of New York's World Trade Center, following a tense 5-hour standoff prompted by the mosque's refusal to host a wedding between a lesbian African-American woman and her blind white transgendered partner.

Over 200 NYPD officers and multicultural crisis counselors were bused to the site to quell the simmering 17-way tensions between Muslim, Black, LGBT, immigrant, disabled, and lawsuit community activists. The scene was punctuated by outbursts of pushing and shoving, including a brief confused intramural scuffle among members of Reverend Louis Farrakan's Nation of Islam, but the only serious injuries reported was a hernia suffered by a legal aide distributing plaintiff's briefs. The incident resulted in one arrest, a 7-year old girl who was seen operating a lemonade stand without a permit.

According to witnesses, the standoff began at 11 AM EDT when Eleanor Davis, 38, and her partner Mary Markowicz, 43, entered Cordoba House and requested the use of the mosque for a wedding ceremony. They were escorted from the building, but quickly returned with a 9th District Court of Appeals injunction ordering the mosque's Imam to perform the ceremony, citing the US Supreme Court's Kelo and Proposition 8 decisions. They were barred at the door by security guards who countered with their own injunction citing First Amendment religious protections.

Following the incident, Davis, who is African-American, called a press conference on the sidewalk in front of the Cordoba House to complain of racial and gender discrimination. She was eventually shoved from the podium by Abdul Mohammed-Haq, the Mosque's controversial Yemeni Imam who is currently battling a federal deportation case against the ICE, who countered with complaints of profiling discrimination by Davis and Markowicz. Within minutes the streets in front of the center were filled with chanting protesters from the Gay, Muslim, Black and handicapped communities. A disaster was narrowly averted when the Reverend Al Sharpton's limousine rammed a parked EMS ambulance before it could careen through the crowd.

Amid the growing crisis, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a SWAT team of negotiators from the city's Multicultural Affairs Office parachuted to the scene. A brief truce was reached when negotiators pointed out to the Imam Markowicz's status as a pre-op transexual, obviating his religious objections to performing a same-sex marriage. But tensions erupted again after Markowicz - who is legally blind - tried to enter the mosque with a seeing-eye guide dog.
Multicultural Paratroopers eventually persuaded Markowicz to leave his/her dog outside the mosque during the ceremony. Cordoba House officials reluctantly agreed to allow the couple inside for continued negotiations, but a brief melee ensued after Markowicz lit a marijuana cigarette in the lobby. Mohammed-Haq angrily demanded that police arrest him/her for violating New York's anti-smoking ordinance, but Markowicz quickly produced a prescription for medical marijuana for his/her glaucoma condition. In turn, he/she demanded police arrest Mohammed-Haq for violating the National Health Care Access Act, and for failure to post braille No Smoking signs. The angry Imam was restrained by police before he could unsheathe his scimitar, and lodged a complaint against Davis and Markowicz for violating New York's official Immigration Sanctuary Act.
As the center lobby filled with police, community leaders and lawyers, filing charges and counter-charges, a near-riot erupted outside when wedding reception catering trucks began arriving from Porky's 34th Street Barbecue and Midtown Liquors.

By late afternoon, federal, state, city, and borough courts reported over 1400 lawsuits filed related to the incident. Mayoral Spokesperson Karen Sternthal said that Bloomberg would be seeking emergency federal funding for an Appelate Judge troop surge to cope with the load, but expressed hopes that a "peaceful, mutually agreeable, transfat-free resolution" could be worked out between all parties.

"The good news is that this will be all worked out right here in New York," noted Sternthal. "And there's no other place this open minded."

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk...eapalooza.html
23555  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 19, 2010, 07:16:05 AM
Grateful for a wonderful trip:  my son travelling with me to spend some time with his grandmother and on to Switzerland, for the people I trained, the two days of the Gathering, my seminar, and to be home united with my family.
23556  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: August 19, 2010, 07:14:03 AM
HOME!!!
23557  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Euro Gathering 8/13-14, 2010 on: August 19, 2010, 07:13:17 AM
IIRC there were 40 fighters on Friday and 45 on Saturday.
23558  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Registered Fighters for the Sept 2010 Gathering on: August 19, 2010, 07:10:59 AM
Just back from the Euro Gathering and am beginning to catch up.

Yutthana "Toki" Tokijkla
Gordon Walker
23559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: August 14, 2010, 08:46:31 PM
May I ask you to please post the JB pension piece in the California thread?
23560  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Euro Gathering 8/13-14, 2010 on: August 14, 2010, 08:30:32 PM
Another stellar day today.

There were 40 fighters yesterday and about 45 today. 

Much to report, but I am on a crummy laptop and it is 03:30 here anyway and I have a seminar to teach at 11:00.

HCTCH!

TAC! 
23561  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 14, 2010, 08:26:40 PM
Grateful for some wonderful time with my son.
23562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: August 14, 2010, 01:38:56 AM
May I suggest that this piece better belongs in the Housing thread?
23563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: August 14, 2010, 01:31:55 AM
Thank you very much for taking the time to put that post together.

I note that one of the legs of Stratfor's analysis of the US's geopolitical position in the world includes the ability to project serious force anywhere in the world with impunity via our aircraft carrier groups.

23564  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Euro Gathering 8/13-14, 2010 on: August 14, 2010, 01:16:46 AM
The Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering yesterday was simply outstanding!

Today the Open Gathering.

TAC!
23565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: August 13, 2010, 01:39:48 AM
I would restate that as "That is the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment".
23566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: August 13, 2010, 01:30:59 AM
So, BBG, what do you make of this piece?
23567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: August 13, 2010, 01:23:26 AM
The site wanted to run something on my computer but I wouldn't let it do so. Coincidentally, the page is coming up blank for me.  May I ask for a summary of the material at p. 12 et seq?
23568  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Euro Gathering 8/13-14, 2010 on: August 13, 2010, 12:38:10 AM
The DBMA Camp has been underway for a few days now.  Guro Lonely is in fine form and I am impressed by the general skill level I am seeing on the part of Camp participants.  The Camp is being held at a beautiful campsite on the banks of a river.  Additional fighers are arriving each day.  The energy is building , , ,

The Adventure contintues!  Higher consciousness through harder contact!
23569  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Registered Fighters for the Sept 2010 Gathering on: August 13, 2010, 12:33:53 AM
The form from Jesus of AZ arrived today.
23570  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: August 12, 2010, 05:41:05 PM
Although it is really horrible, I finally have internet connection.  Hope to post a bit tomorrow.
23571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: August 12, 2010, 05:37:25 PM
Finally have internet connection and hope to be able to post a bit tomorrow.

The connection and the keyboard are really lousy so my posts will be very brief.
23572  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Old, Old School Martial Arts / H2H Articles on: August 08, 2010, 10:25:52 PM
Mick:

Very good idea for a thread.  I am on the road at the moment, but I look forward to giving these a proper read when I get back.
23573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: August 08, 2010, 10:20:39 PM
To me Boener epitomizes the sort of Rep that has led the Reps into the cul de sac in which they find themselves.

OTOH Ryan seems quite promising.
23574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, corruption etc. on: August 08, 2010, 10:08:54 AM
I am on my mom's apple computer and don't know how to do cut and paste on it, but in today's WSJ's Political Diary it says it looks like absentee ballots were used in the city of Bell CA's very lightly voted election to push through the changes necessary for the mayor to make $800k and the police chief to make nearly $500k.
23575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: August 07, 2010, 07:06:47 PM
Unlikely to have gone through the Suez Canal; so from NK, around the Horn of Africa, through Gibralter, and east to Lebanon?  That's a very long trip , , ,
23576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: August 06, 2010, 11:59:39 AM
Freki:

Outstanding recall on your part!  The article you post has many details that I did not know.

Please refresh my memory if you can:  wasn't this the same cluster that had Bernie Schwartz of Loral Satellites donating $345,000 to President Clinton (perhaps a personal meeting was involved?)
23577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: August 06, 2010, 11:55:34 AM
Interesting question.  I am not aware of Iran having any , , ,
23578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: August 06, 2010, 11:50:03 AM
Very interesting article, but may I suggest double checking anything from that site?  IMHO it has a poor track record for accuracy.
23579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: August 06, 2010, 11:40:04 AM
Interesting.

Trivia:  George Gilder called this over ten years ago back when he was evangelizing for Qualcom's technology.
23580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: August 06, 2010, 11:14:46 AM
A bit of thread drift here cheesy  Perhaps this would be better on the Citizen-LEO thread on the Martial Arts forum?
23581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: August 06, 2010, 06:55:42 AM
An Israeli friend with an interesting background has posted the following on another forum:
=============================
I have had a long briefing from a contact at home. Look for a major war breaking out at the end of the month.

Evidence is building that shows things are marching toward a major war.

1. Hizbullah has dug tunnels into northern Israel.

2. Hizbullah has 60,000 rockets many with chemical war heads.

3. USA aircraft carrier was supposed to head back to USA and is waiting at Malta

4. Israeli satellite captured photos of submarine off loading weapons to Hizbullah in Northern Lebanon intelligence later showed weapons were special chemical weapons engineered to
eat through protective equipment. This agent may now be loaded on Hizbullah rockets.

5. Israel Air Force training in long range missions, jets, helicopters which would suggest commando raids a long way from home.

6. IDF reserves called up and trained at an abnormal pace.

7. Israel delivers letter to UN, Lebanon and USA showing where Hizbullah has hidden rocket in civilian areas. Israel tell Hizbullah to move the weapons or we will hit them where they are.

8. Israeli subs sitting off Iran

9. IAF has airbase in Saudi Arabia

10. Israeli intelligence has captured data showing Hizbullah will attack Israel at months end, objective to take out IAF bases so our planes cannot hit Iran.

What will Obama do?
23582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese anti-carrier missile on: August 06, 2010, 06:04:54 AM
Hat tip to PC who posted this in the China thread:

By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press Writer Eric Talmadge, Associated Press Writer – Thu Aug 5, 5:43 pm ET
ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON – Nothing projects U.S. global air and sea power more vividly than supercarriers. Bristling with fighter jets that can reach deep into even landlocked trouble zones, America's virtually invincible carrier fleet has long enforced its dominance of the high seas.

China may soon put an end to that.

U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China — an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles).

___

EDITOR'S NOTE — The USS George Washington supercarrier recently deployed off North Korea in a high-profile show of U.S. sea power. AP Tokyo News Editor Eric Talmadge was aboard the carrier, and filed this report.

___

Analysts say final testing of the missile could come as soon as the end of this year, though questions remain about how fast China will be able to perfect its accuracy to the level needed to threaten a moving carrier at sea.

The weapon, a version of which was displayed last year in a Chinese military parade, could revolutionize China's role in the Pacific balance of power, seriously weakening Washington's ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea. It could also deny U.S. ships safe access to international waters near China's 11,200-mile (18,000-kilometer) -long coastline.

While a nuclear bomb could theoretically sink a carrier, assuming its user was willing to raise the stakes to atomic levels, the conventionally-armed Dong Feng 21D's uniqueness is in its ability to hit a powerfully defended moving target with pin-point precision.

The Chinese Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to the AP's request for a comment.

Funded by annual double-digit increases in the defense budget for almost every year of the past two decades, the Chinese navy has become Asia's largest and has expanded beyond its traditional mission of retaking Taiwan to push its sphere of influence deeper into the Pacific and protect vital maritime trade routes.

"The Navy has long had to fear carrier-killing capabilities," said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the nonpartisan, Washington-based Center for a New American Security. "The emerging Chinese antiship missile capability, and in particular the DF 21D, represents the first post-Cold War capability that is both potentially capable of stopping our naval power projection and deliberately designed for that purpose."

Setting the stage for a possible conflict, Beijing has grown increasingly vocal in its demands for the U.S. to stay away from the wide swaths of ocean — covering much of the Yellow, East and South China seas — where it claims exclusivity.

It strongly opposed plans to hold U.S.-South Korean war games in the Yellow Sea off the northeastern Chinese coast, saying the participation of the USS George Washington supercarrier, with its 1,092-foot (333-meter) flight deck and 6,250 personnel, would be a provocation because it put Beijing within striking range of U.S. F-18 warplanes.

The carrier instead took part in maneuvers held farther away in the Sea of Japan.

U.S. officials deny Chinese pressure kept it away, and say they will not be told by Beijing where they can operate.

"We reserve the right to exercise in international waters anywhere in the world," Rear Adm. Daniel Cloyd, who headed the U.S. side of the exercises, said aboard the carrier during the maneuvers, which ended last week.

But the new missile, if able to evade the defenses of a carrier and of the vessels sailing with it, could undermine that policy.

"China can reach out and hit the U.S. well before the U.S. can get close enough to the mainland to hit back," said Toshi Yoshihara, an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College. He said U.S. ships have only twice been that vulnerable — against Japan in World War II and against Soviet bombers in the Cold War.

Carrier-killing missiles "could have an enduring psychological effect on U.S. policymakers," he e-mailed to The AP. "It underscores more broadly that the U.S. Navy no longer rules the waves as it has since the end of World War II. The stark reality is that sea control cannot be taken for granted anymore."

Yoshihara said the weapon is causing considerable consternation in Washington, though — with attention focused on land wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — its implications haven't been widely discussed in public.

Analysts note that while much has been made of China's efforts to ready a carrier fleet of its own, it would likely take decades to catch U.S. carrier crews' level of expertise, training and experience.

But Beijing does not need to match the U.S. carrier for carrier. The Dong Feng 21D, smarter, and vastly cheaper, could successfully attack a U.S. carrier, or at least deter it from getting too close.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned of the threat in a speech last September at the Air Force Association Convention.

"When considering the military-modernization programs of countries like China, we should be concerned less with their potential ability to challenge the U.S. symmetrically — fighter to fighter or ship to ship — and more with their ability to disrupt our freedom of movement and narrow our strategic options," he said.

Gates said China's investments in cyber and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, along with ballistic missiles, "could threaten America's primary way to project power" through its forward air bases and carrier strike groups.

The Pentagon has been worried for years about China getting an anti-ship ballistic missile. The Pentagon considers such a missile an "anti-access," weapon, meaning that it could deny others access to certain areas.

The Air Force's top surveillance and intelligence officer, Lt. Gen. David Deptula, told reporters this week that China's effort to increase anti-access capability is part of a worrisome trend.

He did not single out the DF 21D, but said: "While we might not fight the Chinese, we may end up in situations where we'll certainly be opposing the equipment that they build and sell around the world."

Questions remain over when — and if — China will perfect the technology; hitting a moving carrier is no mean feat, requiring state-of-the-art guidance systems, and some experts believe it will take China a decade or so to field a reliable threat. Others, however, say final tests of the missile could come in the next year or two.

Former Navy commander James Kraska, a professor of international law and sea power at the U.S. Naval War College, recently wrote a controversial article in the magazine Orbis outlining a hypothetical scenario set just five years from now in which a Deng Feng 21D missile with a penetrator warhead sinks the USS George Washington.

That would usher in a "new epoch of international order in which Beijing emerges to displace the United States."

While China's Defense Ministry never comments on new weapons before they become operational, the DF 21D — which would travel at 10 times the speed of sound and carry conventional payloads — has been much discussed by military buffs online.

A pseudonymous article posted on Xinhuanet, website of China's official news agency, imagines the U.S. dispatching the George Washington to aid Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

The Chinese would respond with three salvos of DF 21D, the first of which would pierce the hull, start fires and shut down flight operations, the article says. The second would knock out its engines and be accompanied by air attacks. The third wave, the article says, would "send the George Washington to the bottom of the ocean."

Comments on the article were mostly positive.
23583  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: August 06, 2010, 04:17:41 AM
What is your legal reasoning there?
23584  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Viaje on: August 06, 2010, 02:02:19 AM
Salgo en ocho horas y regreso el 19 de Agosto (NY and Suiza).  Mientras yo no este', no hagan nada que no hiciera yo  wink
23585  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: August 06, 2010, 02:00:45 AM
I leave in the 8 hours for a two week trip (NY and Switzerland) and return on the 19th.  I will be here intermittently during that time.
23586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: August 06, 2010, 02:00:13 AM
I leave in the AM for a two week trip (NY and Switzerland) and return on the 19th.  I will be here intermittently during that time.
23587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No Lame Duck Congress! on: August 05, 2010, 11:32:16 PM
http://www.americansolutions.com/lameduck/
23588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Body scans stored? on: August 05, 2010, 02:48:06 PM
I interrupt the witty repartee for this:

August 4, 2010 4:00 AM PDT
Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images

by Declan McCullagh

 TSA's X-ray backscatter scanning with "privacy filter"
(Credit: TSA.gov)

For the last few years, federal agencies have defended body scanning by insisting that all images will be discarded as soon as they're viewed. The Transportation Security Administration claimed last summer, for instance, that "scanned images cannot be stored or recorded."

Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.

This follows an earlier disclosure (PDF) by the TSA that it requires all airport body scanners it purchases to be able to store and transmit images for "testing, training, and evaluation purposes." The agency says, however, that those capabilities are not normally activated when the devices are installed at airports.

Body scanners penetrate clothing to provide a highly detailed image so accurate that critics have likened it to a virtual strip search. Technologies vary, with millimeter wave systems capturing fuzzier images, and backscatter X-ray machines able to show precise anatomical detail. The U.S. government likes the idea because body scanners can detect concealed weapons better than traditional magnetometers.

This privacy debate, which has been simmering since the days of the Bush administration, came to a boil two weeks ago when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that scanners would soon appear at virtually every major airport. The updated list includes airports in New York City, Dallas, Washington, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, and Philadelphia.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to grant an immediate injunction pulling the plug on TSA's body scanning program. In a separate lawsuit, EPIC obtained a letter (PDF) from the Marshals Service, part of the Justice Department, and released it on Tuesday afternoon.
These "devices are designed and deployed in a way that allows the images to be routinely stored and recorded, which is exactly what the Marshals Service is doing," EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg told CNET. "We think it's significant."

William Bordley, an associate general counsel with the Marshals Service, acknowledged in the letter that "approximately 35,314 images...have been stored on the Brijot Gen2 machine" used in the Orlando, Fla. federal courthouse. In addition, Bordley wrote, a Millivision machine was tested in the Washington, D.C. federal courthouse but it was sent back to the manufacturer, which now apparently possesses the image database.
The Gen 2 machine, manufactured by Brijot of Lake Mary, Fla., uses a millimeter wave radiometer and accompanying video camera to store up to 40,000 images and records. Brijot boasts that it can even be operated remotely: "The Gen 2 detection engine capability eliminates the need for constant user observation and local operation for effective monitoring. Using our APIs, instantly connect to your units from a remote location via the Brijot Client interface."
 TSA's millimeter wave body scan
(Credit: TSA.gov)

This trickle of disclosures about the true capabilities of body scanners--and how they're being used in practice--is probably what alarms privacy advocates more than anything else.

A 70-page document (PDF) showing the TSA's procurement specifications, classified as "sensitive security information," says that in some modes the scanner must "allow exporting of image data in real time" and provide a mechanism for "high-speed transfer of image data" over the network. (It also says that image filters will "protect the identity, modesty, and privacy of the passenger.")

"TSA is not being straightforward with the public about the capabilities of these devices," Rotenberg said. "This is the Department of Homeland Security subjecting every U.S. traveler to an intrusive search that can be recorded without any suspicion--I think it's outrageous." EPIC's lawsuit says that the TSA should have announced formal regulations, and argues that the body scanners violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable" searches.

For its part, the TSA says that body scanning is perfectly constitutional: "The program is designed to respect individual sensibilities regarding privacy, modesty and personal autonomy to the maximum extent possible, while still performing its crucial function of protecting all members of the public from potentially catastrophic events."

Declan McCullagh has covered the intersection of politics and technology for over a decade. E-mail Declan.
__________________
www.NoPoliticalLemmings.com
23589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Border Clash on: August 05, 2010, 12:39:05 PM
The Regional Context of the Israeli-Lebanese Border Clash

Any clashes on the Israeli-Lebanese border normally involve Hezbollah guerillas. The last such incident happened four years ago and resulted in the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war. Tuesday, though, in an odd turn of events, Lebanese army personnel appeared to have opened fire on Israeli troops engaged in routine maintenance of the border fence. The Israeli troops responded with small arms as well as artillery and attack helicopters. A brief skirmish followed. Three Lebanese troops, one Israeli soldier and a journalist lost their lives in the clash.

Since the war in the summer of 2006 — especially given its outcome in which Israel could not decisively defeat Hezbollah — there has been a constant fear as to when the next war would take place between Israel and pro-Iranian Lebanese Shia Islamist movement guerillas. But in the latest skirmish, from very early on, both the Israelis and Hezbollah relayed that the clash was a minor incident that would not lead to a major escalation. Later in the day, though, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that his group could respond to any Israeli attack on Lebanese army forces in the future.

There are various reports suggesting that Tuesday’s clash may have been engineered by Hezbollah to deflect attention away from the fact that the group is being implicated in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri. There are also reports that indicate that the opening of fire on the Israeli troops may have been the decision of a local commander. The precise reasons notwithstanding, we have an anomalous situation where Lebanese armed forces soldiers engaged in a rare attack on Israeli Defense Forces.

Not only was it a rare event, its timing was extremely intriguing. It took place at a time when there are multiple significant developments taking place. First and foremost, the clash took place within days of the joint visit of Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar al Assad to Beirut — an unusual and unprecedented development. Abdullah’s trip to Syria and then Beirut is part of Riyadh’s efforts to pull Damascus out of the Iranian orbit and undermine Tehran’s ability to use Hezbollah as a proxy to expand its influence within the Arab world. While the Saudis have to a certain degree been successful in their efforts to create problems for Hezbollah — and by extension the Iranians — Tehran can be expected to do everything in its power to ensure that its premier regional proxy remains a formidable force within Lebanon.

“The clash was not only a rare event, its timing was also extremely intriguing.”
Hezbollah provides the Islamic republic with a significant amount of the leverage it needs to negotiate with the United States on Iraq and the nuclear issue. And we are seeing that both issues are fast approaching key impasses. At the end of this month the United States is scheduled to complete the drawdown of its forces from Iraq. At the same time, Tehran and Washington have reached a critical stage in their nuclear negotiations, where it appears the two sides could engage in some serious talks.

One of the key hurdles blocking a U.S.-Iranian understanding on these issues is that it raises fears among Washington’s allies in the Arab world (particularly Saudi Arabia) and Israel. In other words, the United States is having a hard time balancing its need to deal with Iran and maintain its commitments to the Arab states and Israel. A U.S.-Iranian settlement of sorts is far more problematic for the Israelis than the Arab states. This is because Israel’s immediate region has grown increasingly hostile in recent years. It has to deal with a Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip, a Turkey that is no longer an unquestioning ally of the Jewish state and an Egypt in transition.

Israeli fears about Egypt were heightened Monday when a couple of artillery rockets apparently fired from the Sinai landed in the Israeli port city of Eilat. A few days prior to that, Palestinian militants fired rockets from the Gaza Strip that struck the Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Sderot — the first in the area in quite a while. Thus, the Israelis experienced security incidents from three different directions in as many days.

The biggest threat undoubtedly comes from Hezbollah during a time when Iran is growing increasingly assertive given the United States’ need to negotiate with the Islamic republic. Although Tuesday’s incident on the Israeli-Lebanese border does not currently appear likely to flare up into a major conflict, it remains the main issue in the region, especially given the fact that the United States and Iran are gearing up for what could be a serious round of talks. From the point of view of the Israelis, those talks could undermine Israel’s national security interests.
23590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post: Alexander on Newsweek on: August 05, 2010, 12:33:36 PM
Alexander's Essay – August 5, 2010

The Fundamental Transformation of Newsweek and America
Common Threads of Delusion and Demise

"During the course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been leveled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare. These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted..." --Thomas Jefferson
Freedom of the press is codified in the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights ("Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of ... the press") because our Founders rightly understood that a free and impartial press was a vital component of Essential Liberty.

However free, the press has rarely risen to the challenge of impartiality, not even during earliest days of our Republic. Thomas Jefferson observed as president, that the nation's newspapers "serve as chimnies to carry off noxious vapors and smoke." With the advent of the 24-hour "news" cycle, the press has never been more partisan than it is today.

Hence in 1996, when we launched The Patriot Post, one of our primary objectives was to break the mainstream media's chokehold on public opinion. Since our inception, The Patriot has devoted much-needed attention to the threat that a partial press poses to liberty, even receiving the Accuracy in Media Award for Grassroots Journalism for our efforts.

The Leftmedia's threat to liberty has been perilous in recent years, while we've been at war with a formidable adversary -- Jihadistan and its terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters around the world.

By way of confirmation that our foreign Jihadi enemy understand the power of the American Leftmedia as an instrument of propaganda, as do domestic Leftist politicos, consider this authenticated communiqué between Osama bin Laden's chief lieutenant, Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi at the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom: "I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media."

In the midst of that critical period for OIF, one of the most egregious Leftmedia print propagandists, Newsweek, under the leadership of its (now former) editor Jon Meacham, ran defeat and surrender cover stories with headlines like "We're losing...", in which Meacham claimed the expertise to chart a retreat from Iraq before total defeat.

The unmitigated arrogance of such positions notwithstanding, surely Meacham understood that such cover stories serve only to embolden our enemy, which results in the deaths of America's uniformed Patriots on the warfront. Some call giving "aid and comfort" to the enemy, "treason." At best, it brands Meacham with the same stripes as Hanoi Jane Fonda.

Meacham, whose "golden boy" career was christened by a benefactor heiress of The New York Times, became editor of Newsweek in late 2006, 10 years into his stint with the magazine. He then promptly set about to transform the magazine into an elitist tabloid for those who want to read, in his words, "what I'm interested in."


MeachamOf that transformation, columnist Jeff Goldberg punned, "[T]he redesigned Newsweek. (Now with even more Meacham!)"

While dragging Newsweek deeper into the Leftist abyss, Meacham insisted, "We're not a partisan magazine. ... I am not a reflexive lefty. Far from it." At the same time, he editorialized, "Obama is essentially a centrist."

One trademark characteristic of most "reflexive lefty" elitists in media and politics is that their capacity for introspection is short circuited by pathological narcissism. Thus, they self-righteously believe they embody the "spirit of the people," and perceive themselves to be centrist, just much smarter than the masses whose devotion they desire.

Narcissists with Obama-like charisma can create a cult following among their devotees, which is sustainable until enough of them open their eyes and realize that the emperor has no clothes.

When asked recently, "Think of one of your least favorite people in Washington and describe what makes that person so unappealing," Meacham responded, "Total lack of self-awareness." At least he can see it in others.

Of his plan to fundamentally transform Newsweek, Meacham said, "It's hugely counterintuitive. The staff doesn't even understand it."

Apparently, it was so "counterintuitive" that Meacham's readers didn't understand it either.

According to Business Insider, "Newsweek's negligible operating loss of $3 million in 2007 (its first year under the Meacham plan) turned into a bloodbath: the business lost $32 million in 2008 and $39.5 million in 2009. Even after reducing headcount by 33 percent, and slashing the number of issues printed and distributed to readers each week, from 2.6 million to 1.5 million, the 2010 operating loss is still forecast at $20 million."

Consequently, Newsweek was sold this week to another Lefty, billionaire Sidney Harman (hubby to Leftcoast Rep. Jane Harman), who agreed to assume the glut of debt accumulated since Meacham took the helm. The winning bid? One dollar. No kidding. Given all the debt Harman took on, another bidder, Fred Drasner (former CEO of US News and World Report) quipped, "I think he paid a very full price."

I took note of the sale not because of Meacham's abysmal performance at Newsweek (most of the antique print media outlets are in financial trouble) but because 25 years ago I arranged payment of Jon's tuition at a very fine private high school that his family could not afford. At the time, he was a polite, adroit teenager, a Young Republican cheerleader for Ronald Reagan with a promising future.

While I had hoped that my investment in his education would produce a good return for our national heritage of Liberty and its extension to our posterity, I also realize that some seeds fall upon fertile ground and some upon the rocks. Instead of a stalwart constitutionalist, Jon, under the stewardship of various Leftmedia employers, lost his bearing and veered Left. (I recently wrote Jon and asked for a refund of that tuition, but got no response. Perhaps it was because of the salutation, "Dear Jon.")

Further, I was struck with the similarities between Jon's delusional vision to transform Newsweek as a microcosm of Obama's failed vision for the "fundamental transformation of America." Both visions reveal unbridled arrogance and an underlying contempt for those who are just not smart enough to see it their way, and both set a course for demise.

In a recent essay on Obama, Meacham wrote that if not for "a series of counterintuitive bets," he would not be president. Unfortunately for the nation, Obama's bets are meeting with the same disastrous fate as Meacham's bets at Newsweek. Fortunately for the remaining employees of Newsweek, Harman bailed them out, while Red China is bailing out (Read: "taking ownership of") America.

Thomas Jefferson concluded, "[T]he press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood," asserting that partisanship undermines the vital role of a free and impartial press in defense of liberty against tyranny. In the case of Newsweek, Meacham and company betrayed that trust, and his readers, like a growing number of Obama's supporters, unsubscribed.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post
23591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / unsustainable -2 on: August 05, 2010, 11:45:16 AM
Has the Scheme Run its Course?

The above example describes how the money-laundering scheme is playing out in the food distribution sector, but the same concept can be applied to the electricity, medicine and energy sectors. The priority of many officials working in the state-owned electricity company EDELCA is to enrich themselves through a similar money- laundering scheme in which they can exploit and arbitrage the exchange-rate regime, place exorbitant orders for parts, airbrush their books and then pocket the difference. Unlike the engineers working on the power plants, state electricity officials ordering parts lack technical knowledge and have no interest in consulting the engineers when placing the orders. The result is a mishmash of parts and equipment collecting dust in warehouses while power rationing continues across the country. Even more alarming is the fact that Brazilian engineers for Eurobras, a Brazilian-German-Venezuelan consortium, abandoned their work on Venezuela’s Guri dam in May after having failed to receive their paychecks from EDELCA. The work they were doing — the implementation of larger and more efficient hydroelectric turbines — was highly specialized and crucial to Venezuela maintaining its electricity output. Yet EDELCA, having already reaped its profits from placing the contract orders for the parts, apparently had little motivation to come up with the funds to allow these workers to finish the job. This is why, despite better-than-expected rainfall over the past couple months, Venezuela remains mired in an electricity crisis since the dilapidated electricity infrastructure is incapable of keeping up with demand.

The money-laundering scheme is prevalent in many strategic sectors, but the food sector brings especially unique benefits to the money launderers while raising the stakes for the Venezuelan leadership. Since food is perishable, it readily lends itself to hoarding and “screw ups” when it goes rotten, requiring more orders, more dollars and more imports. By contrast, while one can still make money by importing a dozen hydroelectric turbines or an expensive new oil rig, there are only so many excuses for having ordered the wrong piece of equipment, and the black market for such equipment is not nearly as good as the black market for food (which, again, is essential for survival).

While this elaborate racket has kept a good portion of state officialdom financially content, the warehouses full of rotten food, expired medicine and unused electricity equipment, along with the gross neglect and disrepair of the Guri dam — a vital piece of the country’s electricity infrastructure — indicate that the state is losing control over the “essential” sectors. In short, this racket has become so prevalent that it is now threatening the core stability of the state. This is why, despite the obvious political risk of exacerbating food shortages and basic supplies by increasing the costs for importers, the Venezuelan regime has put most of its effort in the past month into cracking down on the “speculators” in the parallel market. The cost of not doing something about these speculators has proved to be higher than the cost of alienating political supporters in the lead-up to legislative elections in September.

When the food scandal recently broke, the government was quick to name its scapegoat: former PDVAL President Luis Pulido, who, along with several other officials, has been arrested and put on trial for corruption. The Chavez regime is using PDVAL as an example to others who have taken the money-laundering scheme to dangerous levels. Many of those who are most deeply entrenched in the racket and have been less conscious of the long-term risk to the state are the more radical officials within the Chavez government, who are now being sought out by Cuban intelligence services working in league with the upper echelons of the Venezuelan regime. But these efforts could be too little too late. Cracking down on speculators who are operating outside the state’s jurisdiction may alleviate part of the problem and provide the state with a cover to expand its control over key sectors, but what of the vast numbers of speculators working within the state, particularly those higher up the chain who could pose a real threat to the regime’s hold on power?

Indeed, the government’s most recent attempts to rein in this food scandal are already showing signs of floundering. A June 26 ban on unregulated food sales passed in the wake of news about the scandal was revoked shortly thereafter by the president himself, who called on authorities to target the “food mafias” behind the gaming scheme as opposed to the sellers on the streets. The problem with such a directive is that those involved in the food mafias are likely to involve members high up in the regime, which makes the likelihood of enforcement questionable. The government is also introducing new legislation that aims to sideline speculators from the gaming process by changing the currency-for-food transactions altogether. The draft legislation, entitled the Organic Law for the Promotion and Development of the Community Economic System, calls for food in local communes to be “bought” and “sold” primarily through bartering. For exchanges of non-equal value, the legislation calls on communes to create their own currencies (independent of the bolivar) to buy and sell food on the local level. The local communes’ strategy is encompassed in a package of legislation dubbed “People Power,” which aims to undermine state and city governments while augmenting the power of community councils (220 local communes have been listed by the government thus far.) The majority of members of these communes would come from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV,) thereby providing the regime with direct access to small, local governing bodies that will stay loyal to PSUV interests.

Though the idea of sidelining money launderers from the cash-based food industry makes strategic sense from the point of view of a government trying to reverse the crippling side-effects of this gaming scheme, a number of pitfalls can already be seen in this legislation. Introducing dozens of alternative currencies for a specific sector will further complicate the already-complicated two-tiered currency exchange regime that differentiates between essential and non-essential foods, while undermining an already-weak bolivar by cutting the local currency out of the food trade. A proliferation of local currencies also means additional layers of bureaucracy will be necessary to manage and implement the new law, and more bureaucracy in Venezuela means more potential for corruption. The local food currency would also eventually have to be transacted into bolivars, and deep-seated corruption in the higher levels of the institutions responsible for such large-scale transactions could end up greatly undermining the primary objective of the plan to root out speculation. In short, the government is still treating the symptoms, and not the cause, of this money laundering scheme and the proposals made thus far to rein in speculators look to have a number of shortcomings.


The Legal Battle

A crackdown within the regime’s inner circle to rein in this racket could turn politically explosive, especially when senior members of the Chavez government already appear to have piles of evidence stacked against them in U.S. courts. In mid-May, Chavez publicly warned in a speech broadcast on state television station Venezolana de Television that a U.S. district judge in Miami may soon be ordering the arrest of Chavez, Vice President Elias Jaua, Minister of Planning and Finance Jorge Giordani and other members of the president’s inner circle, “instead of the real culprits.” Chavez’s unusual warning is yet another manifestation of how the state’s money-laundering scheme has grown too large and too loud for the regime to manage. Venezuelan businessman and banker Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, for example, was a close associate of Venezuelan political elites like Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello and the president’s older brother, Adan Chavez. Barrueco is believed to have used his main business front, the Proarepa Group, to open a number of offshore accounts in the Caribbean, Lebanon, Europe and elsewhere to store funds looted from the state oil firm and its subsidiaries. Barrueco’s operation eventually got too exposed and he became a liability for the regime, leading to his reported arrest in November 2009. But silencing Barrueco alone will not assuage the regime’s concerns over the evidence sitting in courts in Miami and New York that could implicate senior members of the Chavez regime.


Other Beneficiaries

Considering the prevalence of the black market, it would appear logical that the country’s unsustainable currency arrangement is benefiting a number of other illicit actors. For those state entities experiencing cash-flow problems, local drug dealers (who have expertise swapping currency at multiple rates in multiple places) are believed to be providing local currency to at least some of these firms and thus filtering their drug money through the exchange-rate regime. The drug revenues are also strongly believed to form the basis of Venezuela’s financial support for U.S.-designated terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) — allegations which are now regaining steam following Colombia’s recent decision to release new evidence of Venezuelan support for FARC and ELN rebels.

Driving the U.S. interest in this issue is the connection between Venezuela’s money- laundering scheme and Iran. In recent years, in an effort to escape the heavy weight of economic sanctions, Iran has turned to Venezuela to facilitate Iran’s access to Western financial markets. Banco Internacional de Desarrollo (EBDI) is a financial institution based in Caracas that operates under the jurisdiction of the Export Development Bank of Iran, designated as a sanctions violator by the European Union as recently as July 27 and by the U.S. Treasury Department in October 2008 for providing financial access to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a major force in the Iranian economy and the prime target of the U.S. sanctions campaign. Though the extent to which Iranian money is funneled through Venezuelan channels is unclear, evidence has been building in the United States that reveals murky transactions among IRGC-owned companies, a Caracas-based EBDI subsidiary, PDVSA entities in Europe and the Caribbean and even banks in Lebanon. And with the U.S. sanctions effort accelerating in Washington, any state willing to enforce the sanctions and crack down on IRGC-affiliated entities can shut down these financial loopholes at any point. STRATFOR cannot quantify the Iranian-Venezuelan money-laundering connection, but any such connection to the IRGC would be a red flag for U.S. Treasury officials looking to fortify sanctions against Iran.

Combined with the developing money-laundering and drug-trafficking cases in Miami that threaten to implicate senior members of the Venezuelan regime, the Iranian link is yet another tool that Washington could use to pressure the Venezuelan government should the need arise. Putting the significant enforceability issues of such court cases aside, the district court attorneys preparing these cases against the Chavez government would not be able to launch them without the permission of the Obama administration, given the diplomatic fallout that could follow. So far, there are no indications that the administration is looking to pick this fight with Chavez, but the mere threat that Washington is now able to hang over the Chavez regime’s head is enough to make the Venezuelan leader nervous, hence his public warning to his constituents that Washington is preparing a grand conspiracy against him. The nightmare scenario for Caracas is one in which the White House chooses to expose the charges against the regime and use the evidence to justify a temporary cutoff of the roughly 12.5 percent of U.S. crude oil imports (47 percent of Venezuelan crude exports) that the United States receives from Venezuela for just enough time to crack the regime. Though Venezuela is far down on the U.S. foreign-policy priority list, making such a scenario extremely unlikely for the moment, Venezuela’s vulnerability to Washington’s whims is increasing with each day that this money- laundering scheme shows signs of unraveling.

In addition to the money-laundering scheme explained above, the Venezuelan economy is currently dealing with a rash of other problems:

The devaluation has only been partly effective and the short-term benefits have largely run their course. Devaluing helps recalibrate the bolivar by bringing it closer to its true (lower) value, but it does not address the underlying causes of continued bolivar weakness. Therefore the bolivar remains overvalued and the supply of foreign exchange (U.S. dollars) to the market is still restricted. Cracking down on the parallel market and regulating it will likely lead to the emergence of another black market. Consequently, the fixed exchange rate will again become overvalued, which will eventually require further devaluation (most likely after the September elections), which will generate more inflation.
These problems are forcing the government to take increasing control of and/or regulate large sectors of the economy, while state-owned companies that control the most strategic sectors are having cash-flow problems and are unable to manage these sectors.
The currency regime has given rise to widespread fraud and corruption; the scheme described above is just the most visible one. There is undoubtedly more corruption and fraud permeating the system, exacerbated by the multi-tiered exchange rate and the government’s restricting access to it.
The economy is becoming increasing reliant on PDSVA oil revenues while the non-oil economy buckles. Venezuelan non-commodity exports are too expensive, and the government must increase its imports of goods to make up for domestic production shortfalls. This makes the economy increasingly reliant on the dollar revenues generated by the state-owned oil company, which has experienced declining production for almost a decade.
All these problems combined are raising the political stakes for the Venezuelan government. The government’s response to the crisis has been to bolster its control of the economy — particularly its control over the most strategic sectors — in an effort to slow the economic decline. The government has shut down or nationalized hundreds of businesses in the wake of January’s devaluation for various stated reasons, including price gouging, hoarding and speculation. More recently, the government made sweeping changes to the mandate of the Venezuelan Central Bank to vastly expand its influence over the real economy. And in an effort to both clean the books and root out the speculators, hundreds of brokerage firms have been shut down by the state. Without the technical skills and basic logistical ability to manage enlarged state enterprises, however, the state is exacerbating the very symptoms it is trying to treat. Venezuela still has dollars to draw from the central bank and the state development fund Fonden to delay its day of reckoning, but it can no longer conceal the unsustainability of this economic regime.


23592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unsustainable on: August 05, 2010, 11:44:30 AM
Despite being a major energy exporter, Venezuela is currently mired in economic recession and suffering from record-high levels of inflation, a dismal condition known as “stagflation.” As the country’s economy deteriorates on a number of fronts, the government continues to struggle with an electricity crisis and worsening food shortages that are threatening to undermine support for the ruling party in the lead-up to September legislative elections. The Venezuelan government has tried to impose a range of currency controls, from currency devaluations to parallel market crackdowns, in an effort to resuscitate the economy. But the country’s distortionary and unsustainable currency regime not only is forcing more of the economy underground (leading to higher inflation and shortages of basic goods), but it is also catalyzing an elaborate money-laundering scheme that now appears to be spiraling out of control, thereby weakening the regime’s grip on power.

Analysis

From the energy and food sectors to banks and steel mills, Venezuela has been on an aggressive nationalization drive over the past four years in order to draw more money into state coffers while increasing the number of Venezuelan citizens who are politically (and economically) beholden to the state for their livelihoods. While this policy has brought a number of short-term benefits to the government, it has come at the cost of gross inefficiency, mismanagement and corruption, leading to an overall decline in Venezuelan productivity. In an attempt to redress the extreme macroeconomic imbalances, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was forced to make a substantial adjustment to the country’s fixed peg to the U.S. dollar. On June 8, the Venezuelan government devalued the bolivar against the dollar by 17 percent and 50 percent, simultaneously creating a dual exchange-rate regime.


The Currency Regime

An exchange rate of 2.15 bolivars per dollar was established for “essential goods,” such as food and medicine, while all other items used a weaker rate of 4.3 bolivars per dollar. The parallel market that used to exist in tandem (and where, unregulated, the dollar recently cost upward of 8 bolivars) is now strictly regulated by the Venezuelan government in a trading band of 4.2 to 5.4 bolivars per dollar, making the parallel market the third official exchange rate. For all intents and purposes, that parallel market was the closest thing to a genuine exchange rate that the country had because the other two rates were subsidized and access to them was restricted by the government.

Clearly there are problems with the current arrangement. Although dual or multi-tiered exchange rate regimes do provide the government with the ability to impose tighter capital controls, address economic imbalances and make imported goods more affordable, they are inefficient and difficult to manage. In most economic systems, the cost of capital is the single most important factor for determining growth and development, and when the cost of capital has three different values, entire sectors shift (and even disappear). For example, the ability to import food for a third of the real market price via the “essential” exchange rate largely destroys incentives to produce food locally. Unsurprisingly, countries with such regimes most often experience lower growth and much higher inflation than countries with a single, unified exchange rate. To mute the very high reported inflation (about 32 percent annually, according to Venezuela’s central bank), the government has militantly enforced price repression, which is beginning to cause shortages of even the most basic goods (since it makes more financial sense for businesses to stop producing altogether than be able to sell only at artificially low prices).



(click here to enlarge image)

Second, since the parallel rate was upward of 8 bolivars per dollar before the government began regulating the market, even the weakest possible official rate — the 5.4 at the weakest end of the official trading band — would still be overvalued. With dollars becoming harder to obtain in the regulated markets, more of the economy is being driven underground, and it is probably only a matter of time before another black market emerges (assuming that such a market has not already emerged). The existence of another parallel currency market would bring the total number of foreign exchange rates in Venezuela to four — the subsidized rate, the petrodollar rate, the now-regulated parallel rate and a new black-market rate — the consequences of which would be dizzying.

Moreover, because multi-tiered exchange-rate regimes skew the value of money, they also reward particularly creative individuals and companies who can figure out ways to shuffle goods back and forth through the exchange regime (for example, by placing an import order for a good at one rate, importing it at another and selling it at a third). The various and intricate incentives that arise from distortionary currency regimes invariably lead to spiraling corruption and fraud. Venezuela’s currency regime is no exception, especially since practically all public-sector entities have the ability to import via the most subsidized rate by virtue of their being public enterprises.


The Gaming Process

Conspicuously enough, warehouses have recently been discovered in Venezuela containing mountains of rotting food, expired medications and unusable electricity-generating equipment — at a time when Venezuela is ostensibly suffering from severe food and power shortages. However, there’s a very logical reason why the warehouses are filled with “essential” goods. The most apparent is that the mismanagement of state entities responsible for the purchasing and distribution of these goods renders them unable to keep up with the logistical demands of their trade. The state-run entity Bolipuertos (of which the Cuban government holds a significant stake) that runs Venezuela’s ports, for example, is years behind on its repair schedule. As a result, goods arriving at Venezuelan ports will often sit for weeks and months without the necessary electricity and refrigeration to preserve them. But the less obvious — and more nefarious — reason is that many of the ports are also mafia-run, and Venezuela’s state-owned companies and their subsidiaries are exploiting their privileged access to the subsidized exchange rate in order to enrich themselves. Simply put, there may be deliberation behind many of these shortages.

Before the government began regulating the parallel market, which more accurately reflected the forces of supply and demand (and thus the bolivar’s genuine value), private Venezuelan companies would finance anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of their imports through a dollar/bolivar rate of about 8. However, all state-owned enterprises can exchange just 2.6 bolivars for one U.S. dollar, provided that the dollar goes toward importing a good on the government-determined list of essential goods. So, the game is this: maximize the bolivar amount exchanged at the subsidized rate, minimize the dollar amount that has to be spent on importing the goods and pocket the difference.

Overstating the price, or intended amount, of goods to be imported — be they actually essential or simply deemed essential for the sake of participating in this racket — would provide the importer with extra U.S. dollars, as would directing the import business to friends in return for cash or favors.

For the importers to earn the “inefficiency premium” they charge on this process, they would want to be careful not to kill their golden goose by actually meeting the market demand for goods. So long as there exists a “shortage” of that particular good, the importers can make a strong argument for why they need to import even more of the goods — hence the “inexplicable” warehouses of essential goods containing unusable power-generating equipment and rotting food.


The Food Example

While any item on the government’s essential goods list is a potential candidate for the scam, food is perhaps the best “vehicle” simply because it is perishable, people have to eat and there will always be demand. The drawback to food as the vehicle, from the government’s point of view, is that bare shelves in food markets can quickly present an insurmountable challenge for even the most resilient of regimes. Venezuela imports about 70 percent of its food, most of which now comes from the United States, Brazil and Argentina (Caracas has sustained a de facto trade embargo on Colombian food imports over the past year). Since 2003, the government has placed heavy price controls on foodstuffs and has steadily harassed private food companies with charges of speculation and fraud to justify the state’s unwavering nationalization drive.

In Venezuela, the state-owned energy firm Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) — the country’s main revenue stream — is also responsible for much of the country’s food distribution network, a primarily cash-based business that makes tracking transactions all the more difficult. PDVSA subsidiaries work to restrict food supply in the country, thereby increasing demand and increasing their own profit when they turn around and sell food on the black market. Those that have squirreled away vast amounts of food can, for a hefty profit, supply the overwhelming demand for food on the black market. The fact that PDVSA is responsible for much of the country’s food distribution makes it much easier for those subsidiaries to corner the food market — they can both create the shortage (by hoarding food) and be there to satisfy the pent-up demand (with the food they’ve hoarded).

The two main PDVSA subsidiaries that operate in this particular money-laundering scheme are PDVAL and Bariven. PDVAL was created in January 2008 with a stated goal to correct the speculation of food prices through its own distribution network. Bariven, the acquisition arm of PDVSA, is tasked with obtaining materials for oil exploration and production, but it is also involved in managing inventories for PDVSA, a responsibility that extends into the food sector. From its headquarters in Houston, Bariven will place an order for food imports from American exporters in Texas and Louisiana. PDVSA Bank, a murky new entity whose creation was announced in the summer of 2009, was set up to facilitate banking agreements between PDVSA and Russian state energy giant Gazprom, and is believed to provide loans for such food-import transactions. (Bariven is also known to secure loans from major U.S. banks and is one of a select few state entities that has preferential access with the Commission of Foreign Exchange Administration in Venezuela to trade bolivars for dollars to facilitate these exchanges.) Bariven will then sell the food to PDVAL at a hefty discount, yet will report an even transaction on the books. The food will then sit on the docks until it is close to its expiration date, thus restricting supply in the state-owned markets and building up demand. When the food is already rotting (or close to it), it is sold on the black market for a profit (it’s no good to sell the food to the normal government distribution network, where the price of food is tightly controlled). Since PDVAL is the entity that collects all the revenue from state food distributors, the bolivar-denominated proceeds from its food sales can then be discreetly recycled back into PDVSA Bank, where the bolivars can be used again to place ever-increasing orders that will require more dollars and more imports.

The orders have increased to the point that the distributors are throwing out thousands of tons of rotting food. This is the root of a scandal that broke in Venezuela in May, when state intelligence agents began investigating the theft of powdered milk and found between 30,000 and 75,000 tons (estimates vary between state and opposition claims) of food rotting in warehouses in Puerto Cabello, La Guaira, Maracaibo and other major ports.
23593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: Illogical Immigration on: August 05, 2010, 11:36:09 AM
Second post of the morning:

Some 11 million to 15 million illegal aliens are now residing in America, most after crossing into America unlawfully. Once a federal law is arbitrarily not enforced, all sorts of bizarre paradoxes arise from that original contradiction. As proof, examine the following illogical policies and contradictions involving illegal immigration.

Take, for example, profiling -- the controversial questioning of those who appear likely to be illegal aliens. Apparently, American border guards have developed criteria for profiling those deemed likely to be unlawful aliens. Otherwise, how would they have arrested and deported hundreds of thousands in 2009?

Yet apparently, at some arbitrary point distant from the border, those who cross illegally are not supposed to be asked about their immigration status. OK, but exactly why did procedures so radically change at, say, five, 10, 20, or is it 100 miles from the border? A border patrolman often profiles, but a nearby highway patrolman cannot?

The federal government is suing Arizona for the state's efforts to enforce the federal immigration law. The lawsuit alleges that Arizona is too zealous both in enforcing immigration law and encroaching on federal jurisdiction.

But wait -- for years, several American cities have declared themselves sanctuary cities. City officials have even bragged that they would not allow their municipalities to enforce federal immigration statutes. So why does Washington sue a state that seeks to enhance federal immigration laws and yet ignore cities that blatantly try to erode them?

Something is going very wrong in Mexico to prompt more than half a million of its citizens to cross the border illegally each year. Impoverished Mexican nationals variously cite poor economic conditions back home, government corruption, a lack of social services, and racism. In other words, it is not just the desirability of America but also the perceived undesirability of Mexico that explains one of largest mass exoduses in modern history.

But why, then, would Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose country's conditions are forcing out its own citizens, criticize the United States, which is receiving so many of them? And why, for that matter, would many of those illegal immigrants identify, if only symbolically, with the country that made them leave, whether by waving its flag or criticizing the attitudes of the Americans who took them in?

And how does Mexico treat the hundreds of thousands of aliens who seek to illegally cross its own southern border with Central America each year? Does Mexico believe in sovereign borders to its south but not to its north?

Is Mexico more or less humane to illegal aliens than the country it so often faults? Why, exactly, does Mexico believe that nearly a million of its own nationals annually have claims on American residency, when Chinese, Indian, European and African would-be immigrants are deemed not to? Is the reason proximity? Past history?

Proponents of open borders have organized May Day rallies, staged boycotts of Arizona, sued in federal and state courts, and sought to portray those who want to enforce existing federal immigration law as racially insensitive. But about 70 percent of Americans support securing our borders, and support the Arizona law in particular. Are a clear majority of Americans racist, brainwashed or deluded in believing that their laws should be enforced? And if so, why would immigrants wish to join them?

It is considered liberal to support open borders and reactionary to want to close them. But illegal immigration drives down the hourly wages of the working American poor. Tens of thousands of impoverished people abroad, from Africa to Asia, wait patiently to enter America legally, while hundreds of thousands from Latin America do not. How liberal can all that be?

America extends housing, food and education subsidies to illegal aliens in need. But Mexico receives more than $20 billion in American remittances a year -- its second-highest source of foreign exchange, and almost of it from its own nationals living in the United States. Are Americans then subsidizing the Mexican government by extending social services to aliens, freeing up cash for them to send back home?

These baffling questions are rarely posed, never addressed and often considered politically incorrect. But they will only be asked more frequently in the months ahead.

You see, once a law is not considered quite a law, all sorts of even stranger paradoxes follow.

23594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Elder on Sharpton on: August 05, 2010, 11:31:40 AM
A well-known "civil rights activist" made the cover of Newsweek, the left-wing "news" magazine reportedly sold for its debt and $1. Based on this cover story, the buyer overpaid.

The headline, above the flattering photograph of a Man of Gravitas, reads: "The Reinvention of the Reverend Al: From Tawana to Obama, What Sharpton's Longevity Says About Race in America."

It's good to be the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of America's pre-eminent race-hustlers and demagogues. The word "shameless" doesn't do him justice. The word "whitewash" understates the gushing makeover accorded him by Newsweek.

The article discusses, but minimizes, the how and why of Sharpton's rise to national prominence: He falsely accused a man of rape. Almost 20 years ago, Sharpton became famous by championing the cause of a black teenager named Tawana Brawley, who, it turned out, lied when she claimed that she'd been abducted and sexually assaulted by whites. Sharpton not only offered Tawana Brawley up as a sympathetic victim of America's alleged pervasive racism, he accused Steven Pagones, a white assistant district attorney, of committing the crime.

A grand jury found that Tawana Brawley fabricated the whole thing. Sharpton not only refused to apologize, he dared Pagones to sue him for defamation. Pagones obliged. A jury unanimously found Sharpton liable, and Pagones' lawyer spent years trying to get Sharpton to pay the judgment. To this day, Sharpton refuses to apologize to Pagones, who said he received death threats.

Newsweek says Sharpton "has been right much more often than wrong in his choice of causes." Obviously, this offsets the numerous times Sharpton, without due cause, screamed and blustered and bullied, pulling race cards from every pocket.

The piece barely touches on or completely ignores many items on his long list of schemes, fraudulent race-based hustles and scandals. Nothing about the FBI surveillance video of Sharpton arranging a cocaine/money laundering deal with a mobster-turned-informant. Nothing about Sharpton calling the first black mayor of New York a "n---er whore." (With typical gall, Sharpton later pushed to "ban" the use of the N-word.)

Newsweek says, "His enemies sometimes charge, bizarrely, that he has chosen a career as a peripatetic community activist for the money." Bizarrely? Nothing about how he signed with one of Hollywood's biggest agencies, which then shopped a sitcom starring Sharpton, called "Al in the Family." Nothing about his gig as a paid pitchman for LoanMax, a "predatory lender" that cannot legally operate in New York.

Crown Heights tells us everything one needs to know about Sharpton.

===========

A 7-year-old black child was accidentally struck and killed by a car driven by a Hasidic Jew in that section of Brooklyn, N.Y. It sparked three days of riots, resulting in a hundred people injured and the stabbing death of a young Jewish scholar, who was surrounded by a mob chanting, "Kill the Jew." Sharpton fanned the flames, leading some 400 protesters through a Jewish section of Crown Heights. He said: "The world will tell us that (the child) was killed by accident. ... What type of city do we have that would allow politics to rise above the blood of innocent babies? ... Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. ... All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise. Pay for your deeds." Later he said, "If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house."
Want a different perspective on the reverend? A November 2004 Village Voice article led with this title: "On a New High, Sharpton Hits a New Low: TV's Democratic Minister of 'Moral Values' Takes a Hypocritical Plunge."

Newsweek: "He has lived an upper-middle-class, although hardly opulent, life." The Village Voice: Sharpton and family lived in "their enormous Brooklyn mansion."

Newsweek: "(Sharpton) is one preacher who has managed to negotiate the temptations of fame untouched by sexual scandal." The Village Voice, on Sharpton's apparent extramarital relationship with a married employee: "The ... saga is not just a question of sex; it's a window into the dysfunction of Sharpton's universe."

So what, indeed, does Sharpton's "longevity say about race in America"? It says that Newsweek and others who should know better apply a different and lower standard of acceptability for a black race-hustler like Sharpton than for a white race-hustler like David Duke. And, assuming Sharpton ever mattered, does he now?

Blacks and whites were asked by Gallup in 2003 to name "the most important national leader in the black community today." Four percent of blacks and 2 percent of whites named Sharpton.

On some things, it appears, whites and blacks are not so far apart. Perhaps the Rev. Al achieved some racial unity after all.

23595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Coulter on: August 05, 2010, 11:25:34 AM
Although I suspect Coulter is sometimes guilty of writing while intoxicated, this one seems sound to me:

Democrats act as if the right to run across the border when you're 8 1/2 months pregnant, give birth in a U.S. hospital and then immediately start collecting welfare was exactly what our forebears had in mind, a sacred constitutional right, as old as the 14th Amendment itself.

The louder liberals talk about some ancient constitutional right, the surer you should be that it was invented in the last few decades.

In fact, this alleged right derives only from a footnote slyly slipped into a Supreme Court opinion by Justice Brennan in 1982. You might say it snuck in when no one was looking, and now we have to let it stay.

The 14th Amendment was added after the Civil War in order to overrule the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, which had held that black slaves were not citizens of the United States. The precise purpose of the amendment was to stop sleazy Southern states from denying citizenship rights to newly freed slaves -- many of whom had roots in this country longer than a lot of white people.

The amendment guaranteed that freed slaves would have all the privileges of citizenship by providing: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

The drafters of the 14th amendment had no intention of conferring citizenship on the children of aliens who happened to be born in the U.S. (For my younger readers, back in those days, people cleaned their own houses and raised their own kids.)

Inasmuch as America was not the massive welfare state operating as a magnet for malingerers, frauds and cheats that it is today, it's amazing the drafters even considered the amendment's effect on the children of aliens.

But they did.

The very author of the citizenship clause, Sen. Jacob Howard of Michigan, expressly said: "This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers."

In the 1884 case Elk v. Wilkins, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment did not even confer citizenship on Indians -- because they were subject to tribal jurisdiction, not U.S. jurisdiction.

For a hundred years, that was how it stood, with only one case adding the caveat that children born to legal permanent residents of the U.S., gainfully employed, and who were not employed by a foreign government would also be deemed citizens under the 14th Amendment. (United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 1898.)

And then, out of the blue in 1982, Justice Brennan slipped a footnote into his 5-4 opinion in Plyler v. Doe, asserting that "no plausible distinction with respect to Fourteenth Amendment 'jurisdiction' can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful." (Other than the part about one being lawful and the other not.)

Brennan's authority for this lunatic statement was that it appeared in a 1912 book written by Clement L. Bouve. (Yes, the Clement L. Bouve -- the one you've heard so much about over the years.) Bouve was not a senator, not an elected official, certainly not a judge -- just some guy who wrote a book.

So on one hand we have the history, the objective, the author's intent and 100 years of history of the 14th Amendment, which says that the 14th Amendment does not confer citizenship on children born to illegal immigrants. On the other hand, we have a random outburst by some guy named Clement -- who, I'm guessing, was too cheap to hire an American housekeeper.

Any half-wit, including Clement L. Bouve, could conjure up a raft of such "plausible distinction(s)" before breakfast. Among them: Legal immigrants have been checked for subversive ties, contagious diseases, and have some qualification to be here other than "lives within walking distance."

But most important, Americans have a right to decide, as the people of other countries do, who becomes a citizen.

Combine Justice Brennan's footnote with America's ludicrously generous welfare policies, and you end up with a bankrupt country.

Consider the story of one family of illegal immigrants described in the Spring 2005 Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons:

"Cristobal Silverio came illegally from Oxtotilan, Mexico, in 1997 and brought his wife Felipa, plus three children aged 19, 12 and 8. Felipa ... gave birth to a new daughter, her anchor baby, named Flor. Flor was premature, spent three months in the neonatal incubator, and cost San Joaquin Hospital more than $300,000. Meanwhile, (Felipa's 19-year-old daughter) Lourdes plus her illegal alien husband produced their own anchor baby, Esmeralda. Grandma Felipa created a second anchor baby, Cristian. ... The two Silverio anchor babies generate $1,000 per month in public welfare funding. Flor gets $600 per month for asthma. Healthy Cristian gets $400. Cristobal and Felipa last year earned $18,000 picking fruit. Flor and Cristian were paid $12,000 for being anchor babies."

In the Silverios' munificent new hometown of Stockton, Calif., 70 percent of the 2,300 babies born in 2003 in the San Joaquin General Hospital were anchor babies. As of this month, Stockton is $23 million in the hole.

It's bad enough to be governed by 5-4 decisions written by liberal judicial activists. In the case of "anchor babies," America is being governed by Brennan's 1982 footnote.

23596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coulter on: August 05, 2010, 11:24:23 AM
Democrats act as if the right to run across the border when you're 8 1/2 months pregnant, give birth in a U.S. hospital and then immediately start collecting welfare was exactly what our forebears had in mind, a sacred constitutional right, as old as the 14th Amendment itself.

The louder liberals talk about some ancient constitutional right, the surer you should be that it was invented in the last few decades. In fact, this alleged right derives only from a footnote slyly slipped into a Supreme Court opinion by Justice Brennan in 1982. You might say it snuck in when no one was looking, and now we have to let it stay.

The 14th Amendment was added after the Civil War in order to overrule the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, which had held that black slaves were not citizens of the United States. The precise purpose of the amendment was to stop sleazy Southern states from denying citizenship rights to newly freed slaves -- many of whom had roots in this country longer than a lot of white people.

The amendment guaranteed that freed slaves would have all the privileges of citizenship by providing: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

The drafters of the 14th amendment had no intention of conferring citizenship on the children of aliens who happened to be born in the U.S. (For my younger readers, back in those days, people cleaned their own houses and raised their own kids.)

Inasmuch as America was not the massive welfare state operating as a magnet for malingerers, frauds and cheats that it is today, it's amazing the drafters even considered the amendment's effect on the children of aliens.

But they did.

The very author of the citizenship clause, Sen. Jacob Howard of Michigan, expressly said: "This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers."

In the 1884 case Elk v. Wilkins, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment did not even confer citizenship on Indians -- because they were subject to tribal jurisdiction, not U.S. jurisdiction.

For a hundred years, that was how it stood, with only one case adding the caveat that children born to legal permanent residents of the U.S., gainfully employed, and who were not employed by a foreign government would also be deemed citizens under the 14th Amendment. (United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 1898.)

And then, out of the blue in 1982, Justice Brennan slipped a footnote into his 5-4 opinion in Plyler v. Doe, asserting that "no plausible distinction with respect to Fourteenth Amendment 'jurisdiction' can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful." (Other than the part about one being lawful and the other not.)

Brennan's authority for this lunatic statement was that it appeared in a 1912 book written by Clement L. Bouve. (Yes, the Clement L. Bouve -- the one you've heard so much about over the years.) Bouve was not a senator, not an elected official, certainly not a judge -- just some guy who wrote a book.

So on one hand we have the history, the objective, the author's intent and 100 years of history of the 14th Amendment, which says that the 14th Amendment does not confer citizenship on children born to illegal immigrants. On the other hand, we have a random outburst by some guy named Clement -- who, I'm guessing, was too cheap to hire an American housekeeper.

Any half-wit, including Clement L. Bouve, could conjure up a raft of such "plausible distinction(s)" before breakfast. Among them: Legal immigrants have been checked for subversive ties, contagious diseases, and have some qualification to be here other than "lives within walking distance."

But most important, Americans have a right to decide, as the people of other countries do, who becomes a citizen.

Combine Justice Brennan's footnote with America's ludicrously generous welfare policies, and you end up with a bankrupt country.

Consider the story of one family of illegal immigrants described in the Spring 2005 Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons:

"Cristobal Silverio came illegally from Oxtotilan, Mexico, in 1997 and brought his wife Felipa, plus three children aged 19, 12 and 8. Felipa ... gave birth to a new daughter, her anchor baby, named Flor. Flor was premature, spent three months in the neonatal incubator, and cost San Joaquin Hospital more than $300,000. Meanwhile, (Felipa's 19-year-old daughter) Lourdes plus her illegal alien husband produced their own anchor baby, Esmeralda. Grandma Felipa created a second anchor baby, Cristian. ... The two Silverio anchor babies generate $1,000 per month in public welfare funding. Flor gets $600 per month for asthma. Healthy Cristian gets $400. Cristobal and Felipa last year earned $18,000 picking fruit. Flor and Cristian were paid $12,000 for being anchor babies."

In the Silverios' munificent new hometown of Stockton, Calif., 70 percent of the 2,300 babies born in 2003 in the San Joaquin General Hospital were anchor babies. As of this month, Stockton is $23 million in the hole.

It's bad enough to be governed by 5-4 decisions written by liberal judicial activists. In the case of "anchor babies," America is being governed by Brennan's 1982 footnote.

23597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: August 05, 2010, 10:02:44 AM
OK erudite one, please save me having to look it up.  What is/was "Templar Priory"?
23598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: August 05, 2010, 10:01:37 AM
I sense we are drifting from the subject of this thread.  JDN may I ask you to please post that at
http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1336.50
The subject is an important one and deserves its own discussion.
23599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: August 05, 2010, 09:59:18 AM
Glad we agree!
23600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: August 05, 2010, 09:55:40 AM
Sorry but I am not following your point at all.  How on earth does it get to a shooting war between the America and Mexico?

Not to say that there is not plenty of violence, but it looks more like this:

Mexico's Juarez Cartel Gets Desperate
August 5, 2010
By Scott Stewart

On Aug. 3, the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, Mexico, reopened after being closed for four days. On July 29, the consulate had announced in a warden message that it would be closed July 30 and would remain closed until a review of the consulate’s security posture could be completed.

The closure appears to be linked to a message found on July 15, signed by La Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juarez cartel. This message was discovered at the scene shortly after a small improvised explosive device (IED) in a car was used in a well-coordinated ambush against federal police agents in Juarez, killing two agents. In the message, La Linea claimed credit for the attack and demanded that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and FBI investigate and remove the head of Chihuahua State Police Intelligence (CIPOL), who the message said is working with the Sinaloa Federation and its leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera. The message threatened that if the intelligence official was not removed by July 30, La Linea would deploy a car bomb with 100 kilograms of high explosives in Juarez.

The deadline has now passed without incident and the consulate has reopened. Examining this chain of events provides some valuable insights into the security of U.S. diplomatic facilities as well as the current state of events in Juarez, a city that in recent years has experienced levels of violence normally associated with an active war zone.


Security Standards

When considering the threats in Juarez that led to the closure of the U.S. consulate, it is useful to examine the building itself. The consulate is housed in a new building that was constructed in accordance with security specifications laid out by the U.S. State Department’s Standard Embassy Design (SED) program, standards first established by the Inman Commission in 1985. This means that the building was constructed using a design intended to withstand a terrorist attack and providing concentric rings of security. In addition to an advanced concrete structure and blast-resistant windows, such facilities also feature a substantial perimeter wall intended to protect the facility and to provide a standoff distance of at least 100 feet from any potential explosive device. This standoff distance is crucial in defending against large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) because such a device can cause catastrophic damage to even a well-designed structure if it is allowed to get close to the structure before detonation. When combined, a heavy perimeter wall, sufficient standoff distance and advanced structural design have proved very effective in withstanding even large attacks.

The U.S. Consulate in Juarez is a well-designed building with adequate standoff. Certainly, the building could withstand the type of attacks that the cartels in Mexico have conducted to date, which have largely consisted of armed assaults, grenade attacks (the U.S. consulates in Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo have been attacked using hand grenades in the past two years) and occasional attacks involving small IEDs.

The building and its perimeter would also likely withstand a VBIED attack of the size threatened by La Linea, but such an attack in not something the U.S. government would want to risk. Despite the security design of the Juarez consulate, a VBIED attack would likely cause substantial damage to the facility and could result in the deaths of people outside the building. Perhaps the most vulnerable people during such an attack would be the hundreds of Mexican citizens (and other foreigners) who visit the consulate every day to apply for immigrant visas. Juarez and Mexico City are the only two U.S. diplomatic posts in Mexico that issue immigrant visas and both have a very heavy flow of visa applicants. U.S. consulates also frequently have a number of American citizens who visit each day in search of consular services.

Such visitors are screened at a security facility located on the edge of the consulate’s perimeter in order to keep weapons from entering the consulate complex. This screening facility/waiting area lacks standoff distance and would provide a soft target vulnerable to an attack. The local guards who provide perimeter security for the facility and screen visitors would also be vulnerable. The concern over the vulnerability of visitors was evidenced in the warden message that announced the Juarez consulate’s closure. In the message, people were urged to avoid the area of the consulate during the closure, which not only would reduce the risk of collateral damage if an attack occurred but would also give security personnel less activity to monitor for potential threats.

One other intriguing point about the security at the U.S. Consulate in Juarez and its closure due to La Linea’s VBIED threat is that the incident did not occur at a diplomatic post in a far-away terrorist hotspot like Yemen, Iraq or Pakistan. The U.S. Consulate in Juarez is located less than seven miles from downtown El Paso, Texas.


Desperate Measures

As we noted some months back, there have been persistent rumors that the Mexican government has favored the Sinaloa cartel and its leader, Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka “El Chapo.” This charge has been leveled by opposing cartels (like Los Zetas and the Juarez cartel), and events on the ground have seemingly supported the accusations, despite occasional indications to the contrary, like the July 29 death of Sinaloa operative Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal in a shootout with the Mexican military.

Whether or not such charges are true, it is quite evident that the Juarez cartel believes them to be so, and has acted accordingly. For example, in March, three local employees of the U.S. Consulate in Juarez were murdered, two of whom were U.S. citizens. According to the Mexican newspaper El Diario, a member of the Los Aztecas street gang was arrested and has confessed to his participation in the murders. Los Aztecas and its American cousin, Barrio Azteca, are both closely linked to the Juarez cartel. According to El Diario, the arrested Azteca member said that a decision was made by leaders in the Barrio Azteca gang and Juarez cartel to attack U.S. citizens in the Juarez area in an effort to force the U.S. government to intervene in the Mexican government’s war against the cartels and act as a “neutral referee,” thereby helping to counter the Mexican government’s favoritism toward El Chapo and the Sinaloa Federation.

Then, in the wake of the July 15 IED ambush in Juarez, La Linea left the message threatening to deploy a VBIED in Juarez if the FBI and DEA did not investigate and remove the head of CIPOL. Using an IED in an ambush to get the world’s attention (which it did) and then threatening to attack using an even larger device is further evidence that the Juarez cartel believes the Mexican government is favoring Sinaloa.

And this brings us to the current situation in Juarez. The Juarez cartel is wounded, its La Linea enforcer group and Los Aztecas ally having been hit heavily in recent months by both the Mexican government and Sinaloa forces. The last thing the group wants to do is invite the full weight of the U.S. government down upon its head by becoming the Mexican version of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel, which launched a war of terror upon Colombia that featured large VBIEDs and resulted in Escobar’s death and the destruction of his organization. In a similar case closer to home for the Juarez cartel, one of that cartel’s predecessors, the Guadalajara cartel, was dismantled after the U.S. government turned the full force of its drug enforcement power against the organization following the 1985 torture and execution of U.S. DEA special agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. Intervention by the U.S. government prompted by the Juarez cartel not only would focus on the organization in Mexico but also would likely result in U.S. law enforcement going after the organization’s assets and personnel inside the United States, which could be devastating for the cartel.

The current leader of the Juarez cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, is the nephew of Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, one of the leaders of the Guadalajara cartel and one of the Mexican traffickers arrested in 1985 and convicted of killing Camarena. Fonseca Carrillo was also convicted of murdering two American tourists in Guadalajara in 1985 and a host of other charges. Now in his late 70s and reportedly suffering from cancer, Fonseca Carrillo will die in prison. Because of this family history, there is very little doubt that Carrillo Fuentes realizes the potential danger of using such tactics against the U.S. government.

And yet despite these dangers, both to the organization and to himself, Carrillo Fuentes and his followers have apparently tried to draw the U.S. government deeper into the conflict in Juarez (though they have been careful so far not to assassinate any U.S. diplomats or conduct any large and indiscriminate terrorist attacks). At present, the Juarez cartel seems to be walking a tight line of trying to get the U.S. government’s attention in Juarez while not doing anything too provocative.

These actions reflect the desperate situation in which the cartel finds itself. In practical terms, an increase in U.S. activity in Juarez would not only hurt Sinaloa but also impact the ability of the Juarez cartel to traffic narcotics. Although the FBI has already noted that it believes Sinaloa now controls the flow of narcotics through Juarez, the willingness of the Juarez cartel to suffer this type of impact on its own operations indicates that the organization believes the deck is stacked against it and that it needs an outside force to help counter the combined efforts of the Sinaloa Federation and the Mexican government.

For its part, the U.S. government has not shown the willingness to become more actively involved in Juarez, nor does it have the permission of the Mexican government to do so. The Mexicans are very protective of their sovereignty, and the U.S. government has shown that it will not overstep its bounds unless it is provoked by an incident like the Camarena murder. This means that the limited threats and attacks the Juarez cartel has been using are unlikely to result in any real increase in the U.S. presence in Juarez.

Ordinarily our assessment would be that the various Mexican cartels learned from the Camarena case and Escobar’s experience in Colombia and have been very careful not to provoke the U.S. government and to avoid being labeled narco-terrorists. It simply would not be good for business, and the cartels are, in fact, businesses, even though they specialize in an illicit trade. That said, in the recent past, we have witnessed cartels doing things inside Mexico that used to be considered taboo, like selling narcotics on Mexico’s domestic market, in an effort to raise money so they can continue their fight for control of their territory. (Their ability to make money has been affected not only by the cartel wars but also by drug interdiction efforts.) We have also seen cartels that are desperate for cash becoming increasingly involved in human smuggling and in kidnapping and extortion rackets.

It will be important to watch the Juarez cartel closely over the next few months as the United States refuses to become more involved and as the cartel becomes increasingly desperate. We believe the Sinaloa Federation and the Mexican government will continue aggressively to target the remnants of the Juarez cartel. Faced with this continued onslaught, will the Juarez cartel choose to go quietly into the night and allow Sinaloa to exercise uncontested control over the Juarez plaza, or will it in desperation undertake an even more audacious attempt to draw the United States into Juarez? Killing U.S. consulate employees has not succeeded in increasing the U.S. presence, and neither has threatening a VBIED, so it may feel compelled to take things up a notch.

Although we have not yet seen a VBIED deployed in Mexico, explosives are readily available in the country, and the July 15 attack demonstrated that La Linea has the ability to deploy a small IED in a fairly sophisticated manner. It is quite possible that La Linea could use that same technology to craft a larger device, even a VBIED. The capability, then, seems to be there for larger attacks. This leaves the intent part of the threat equation. It will be important to see, above all, if desperation pushes Carrillo Fuentes and the Juarez cartel to take the next, large step.

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