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23601  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hours? on: January 13, 2010, 11:22:36 AM
We are thinking of:

Start 10:00
Lunch: 12:30
Resume: 14:00
Finish: 16:30

The idea is to allow everyone a good night's sleep, to begin lunch after the lunch rush hour, have a leisurely lunch, and have a fine day full of training.
23602  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm) Training Camp Feb 6-7 on: January 13, 2010, 11:16:29 AM
Best Western Sunrise
www.bestwestern-sunrise.com
400 N Harbor Dr
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 376-0746

Holiday Inn Express
125 Pacific Coast Hwy
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
(310) 798-9898

Hotel Hermosa
http://www.hotelhermosa.com/
2515 PCH Hwy
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
310-318-6000
23603  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: January 13, 2010, 09:32:36 AM
Stratfor says the guy published regularly as an academic, but did not seem to be involved in nuke production , , , AND that he was supporting the opposition?
23604  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Upcoming elections, part 1 on: January 13, 2010, 09:31:15 AM
Summary
Ukraine’s next presidential election is scheduled for Jan. 17. All of the leading candidates are pro-Russian. This means that the last vestiges of pro-Western government brought on by the 2004 Orange Revolution will be swept away and Russia’s ongoing consolidation of power will become evident in Kiev.

Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a three-part series on Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election.

Analysis
Related Link
Ukraine: More than a Religious Schism
STRATFOR’s 2010 Annual Forecast said, “For Russia, 2010 will be a year of consolidation — the culmination of years of careful efforts.” Moscow will purge Western influence from several countries in its near abroad while laying the foundation of a political union enveloping most of the former Soviet Union. Although that union will not be completed in 2010, according to our forecast, “by year’s end it will be obvious that the former Soviet Union is Russia’s sphere of influence and that any effort to change that must be monumental if it is to succeed.”

Ukraine is one country where Russia’s consolidation will be obvious, mainly because the most important part of reversing the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution will occur: the return of a pro-Russian president in Kiev. Ukraine’s presidential election is slated for Jan. 17, and all the top candidates in the race are pro-Russian in some way.

Russia considers Ukraine to be vital to its national interests; indeed, of all the countries where Moscow intends to tighten its grip in 2010, Ukraine is the most important. Because of its value to Moscow, Ukraine has been caught for years in a tug-of-war between Russia and the West. Since the Orange Revolution, Russia has used social, media, energy, economic and military levers — not to mention Federal Security Service assets — to break the Orange Coalition’s hold on Ukraine and the coherence of the coalition itself. Russia even managed to get a pro-Russian prime minister placed in Kiev for more than a year. However, the presidency remained in the hands of pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko. And in Ukraine, it is the president who controls the military (including the military-industrial sector and its exports), the secret services (which, while littered with Russian influence, are still controlled by a pro-Western leader) and Ukraine’s foreign policy.

Typically, STRATFOR does not focus on personalities because long-term trends in geopolitics act as constraints on human agency, limiting the value of individual-level analysis in forecasting. However, the Ukrainian election is a critical part of Russia’s resurgence, and STRATFOR will shed light on the colorful and complicated world of Ukrainian politics and offer clarity on the personalities that will lead Ukraine back into the Russian fold — and explain how Moscow has ensured their loyalty.

The candidates STRATFOR will examine are not all front-runners, necessarily, but they are the most important candidates in the race. Yushchenko is running for re-election but, according to polls from the past year, has support from only 3.8 percent of Ukrainian voters, which is little more than the margin of error. Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich — who won Ukraine’s initial 2004 presidential election but was swept from power in the re-vote sparked by the Orange Revolution — has always been staunchly pro-Russian and stands a good chance of victory on Jan. 17. Current Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko is also in the running. She was Yushchenko’s partner in the Orange Revolution, but Russia’s growing influence in Ukraine persuaded her to make a deal with Moscow, and she is now running on a relatively pro-Russian platform. The last candidate we will examine is Arseny Yatsenyuk, a young politician once thought to be free of both pro-Western and pro-Russian ties. However, STRATFOR sources have said that Yatsenyuk is not exactly what he seems, and that much more powerful forces — with Russian ties — are behind this Ukrainian wild card.
23605  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Khost Attack and the Intel War Challenge on: January 13, 2010, 08:08:41 AM
The Khost Attack and the Intelligence War Challenge
January 11, 2010
By George Friedman and Scott Stewart

As Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi exited the vehicle that brought him onto Forward Operating Base (FOB) Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, on Dec. 30, 2009, security guards noticed he was behaving strangely. They moved toward al-Balawi and screamed demands that he take his hand out of his pocket, but instead of complying with the officers’ commands, al-Balawi detonated the suicide device he was wearing. The explosion killed al-Balawi, three security contractors, four CIA officers and the Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID) officer who was al-Balawi’s handler. The vehicle shielded several other CIA officers at the scene from the blast. The CIA officers killed included the chief of the base at Khost and an analyst from headquarters who reportedly was the agency’s foremost expert on al Qaeda. The agency’s second-ranking officer in Afghanistan was allegedly among the officers who survived.

Al-Balawi was a Jordanian doctor from Zarqa (the hometown of deceased al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi). Under the alias Abu Dujanah al-Khurasani, he served as an administrator for Al-Hesbah, a popular Internet discussion forum for jihadists. Jordanian officers arrested him in 2007 because of his involvement with radical online forums, which is illegal in Jordan. The GID subsequently approached al-Balawi while he was in a Jordanian prison and recruited him to work as an intelligence asset.

Al-Balawi was sent to Pakistan less than a year ago as part of a joint GID/CIA mission. Under the cover of going to school to receive advanced medical training, al-Balawi established himself in Pakistan and began to reach out to jihadists in the region. Under his al-Khurasani pseudonym, al-Balawai announced in September 2009 in an interview on a jihadist Internet forum that he had officially joined the Afghan Taliban.

A Lucky Break for the TTP
It is unclear if al-Balawi was ever truly repentant. Perhaps he cooperated with the GID at first, but had a change of heart sometime after arriving in Pakistan. Either way, at some point al-Balawi approached the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the main Pakistani Taliban group, and offered to work with it against the CIA and GID. Al-Balawi confirmed this in a video statement recorded with TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud and released Jan. 9. This is significant because it means that al-Balawi’s appearance was a lucky break for the TTP, and not part of some larger, intentional intelligence operation orchestrated by the TTP or another jihadist entity like al Qaeda.

The TTP’s luck held when a group of 13 people gathered to meet al-Balawi upon his arrival at FOB Chapman. This allowed him to detonate his suicide device amid the crowd and create maximum carnage before he was able to be searched for weapons.

In the world of espionage, source meetings are almost always a dangerous activity for both the intelligence officer and the source. There are fears the source could be surveilled and followed to the meeting site, or that the meeting could be raided by host country authorities and the parties arrested. In the case of a terrorist source, the meeting site could be attacked and those involved in the meeting killed. Because of this, the CIA and other intelligence agencies exercise great care while conducting source meetings. Normally they will not bring the source into a CIA station or base. Instead, they will conduct the meeting at a secure, low-profile offsite location.

Operating in the wilds of Afghanistan is far different from operating out of an embassy in Vienna or Moscow, however. Khost province is Taliban territory, and it offers no refuge from the watching eyes and gunmen of the Taliban and their jihadist allies. Indeed, the province has few places safe enough even for a CIA base. And this is why the CIA base in Khost is located on a military base, FOB Chapman, named for the first American killed in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion. Normally, an outer ring of Afghan security around the base searches persons entering FOB Chapman, who the U.S. military then searches again at the outer perimeter of the U.S. portion of the base. Al-Balawi, a high-value CIA asset, was allowed to skip these external layers of security to avoid exposing his identity to Afghan troops and U.S. military personnel. Instead, the team of Xe (the company formerly known as Blackwater) security contractors were to search al-Balawi as he arrived at the CIA’s facility.

A Failure to Follow Security Procedures
Had proper security procedures been followed, the attack should only have killed the security contractors, the vehicle driver and perhaps the Jordanian GID officer. But proper security measures were not followed, and several CIA officers rushed out to greet the unscreened Jordanian source. Reports indicate that the source had alerted his Jordanian handler that he had intelligence pertaining to the location of al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. (There are also reports that al-Balawi had given his handlers highly accurate battle damage assessments on drone strikes in Pakistan, indicating that he had access to high-level jihadist sources.) The prospect of finally receiving such crucial and long-sought information likely explains the presence of the high-profile visitors from CIA headquarters in Langley and the station in Kabul — and their exuberance over receiving such coveted intelligence probably explains their eager rush to meet the source before he had been properly screened.

The attack, the most deadly against CIA personnel since the 1983 Beirut bombing, was clearly avoidable, or at least mitigable. But human intelligence is a risky business, and collecting human intelligence against jihadist groups can be flat-out deadly. The CIA officers in Khost the day of the bombing had grown complacent, and violated a number of security procedures. The attack thus serves as a stark reminder to the rest of the clandestine service of the dangers they face and of the need to adhere to time-tested security procedures.

A better process might have prevented some of the deaths, but it would not have solved the fundamental problem: The CIA had an asset who turned out to be a double agent. When he turned is less important than that he was turned into — assuming he had not always been — a double agent. His mission was to gain the confidence of the CIA as to his bona fides, and then create an event in which large numbers of CIA agents were present, especially the top al Qaeda analyst at the CIA. He knew that high-value targets would be present because he had set the stage for the meeting by dangling vital information before the agency. He went to the meeting to carry out his true mission, which was to deliver a blow against the CIA. He succeeded.

The Obama Strategy’s Weakness
In discussing the core weakness in the Afghan strategy U.S. President Barack Obama has chosen, we identified the basic problem as the intelligence war. We argued that establishing an effective Afghan army would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, because the Americans and their NATO allies lacked knowledge and sophistication in distinguishing friend from foe among those being recruited into the army. This problem is compounded by the fact that there are very few written documents in a country like Afghanistan that could corroborate identities. The Taliban would seed the Afghan army with its own operatives and supporters, potentially exposing the army’s operations to al Qaeda.

This case takes the problem a step further. The United States relied on Jordanian intelligence to turn a jihadist operative into a double agent. They were dependent on the Jordanian handler’s skills at debriefing, vetting and testing the now-double agent. It is now reasonable to assume the agent allowed himself to be doubled in an attempt to gain the trust of the handler. The Jordanians offered the source to the Americans, who obviously grabbed him, and the source passed all the tests to which he was undoubtedly subjected. Yet in the end, his contacts with the Taliban were not designed to provide intelligence to the Americans. The intelligence provided to the Americans was designed to win their trust and set up the suicide bombing. It is therefore difficult to avoid the conclusion that al-Balawi was playing the GID all along and that his willingness to reject his jihadist beliefs was simply an opportunistic strategy for surviving and striking.

Even though encountering al-Balawi was a stroke of luck for the TTP, the group’s exploitation of this lucky break was a very sophisticated operation. The TTP had to provide valuable intelligence to allow al-Balawi to build his credibility. It had to create the clustering of CIA agents by promising extraordinarily valuable intelligence. It then had to provide al-Balawi with an effective suicide device needed for the strike. And it had to do this without being detected by the CIA. Al-Balawi had a credible cover for meeting TTP agents; that was his job. But what al-Balawi told his handlers about his meetings with the TTP, and where he went between meetings, clearly did not indicate to the handlers that he was providing fabricated information or posed a threat.

In handling a double agent, it is necessary to track every step he takes. He cannot be trusted because of his history; the suspicion that he is still loyal to his original cause must always be assumed. Therefore, the most valuable moments in evaluating a double agent are provided by intense scrutiny of his patterns and conduct away from his handlers and new friends. Obviously, if this scrutiny was applied, al-Balawi and his TTP handlers were still able to confuse their observers. If it was not applied, then the CIA was setting itself up for disappointment. Again, such scrutiny is far more difficult to conduct in the Pakistani badlands, where resources to surveil a source are very scarce. In such a case, the intuition and judgment of the agent’s handler are critical, and al-Balawi was obviously able to fool his Jordanian handler.

Given his enthusiastic welcome at FOB Chapman, it would seem al-Balawi was regarded not only as extremely valuable but also as extremely reliable. Whatever process might have been used at the meeting, the central problem was that he was regarded as a highly trusted source when he shouldn’t have been. Whether this happened because the CIA relied entirely on the Jordanian GID for evaluation or because American interrogators and counterintelligence specialists did not have the skills needed to pick up the cues can’t be known. What is known is that the TTP ran circles around the CIA in converting al-Balawi to its uses.

The United States cannot hope to reach any satisfactory solution in Afghanistan unless it can win the intelligence war. But the damage done to the CIA in this attack cannot be underestimated. At least one of the agency’s top analysts on al Qaeda was killed. In an intelligence war, this is the equivalent of sinking an aircraft carrier in a naval war. The United States can’t afford this kind of loss. There will now be endless reviews, shifts in personnel and re-evaluations. In the meantime, the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan will be attempting to exploit the opportunity presented by this disruption.

Casualties happen in war, and casualties are not an argument against war. However, when the center of gravity in a war is intelligence, and an episode like this occurs, the ability to prevail becomes a serious question. We have argued that in any insurgency, the insurgents have a built-in advantage. It is their country and their culture, and they are indistinguishable from everyone else. Keeping them from infiltrating is difficult.

This was a different matter. Al-Balawi was Jordanian; his penetration of the CIA was less like the product of an insurgency than an operation carried out by a national intelligence service. And this is the most troubling aspect of this incident for the United States. The operation was by all accounts a masterful piece of tradecraft beyond the known abilities of a group like the TTP. Even though al-Balawi’s appearance was a lucky break for the TTP, not the result of an intentional, long-term operation, the execution of the operation that arose as a result of that lucky break was skillfully done — and it was good enough to deliver a body blow to the CIA. The Pakistani Taliban would thus appear far more skilled than we would have thought, which is the most important takeaway from this incident, and something to ponder.
23606  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post Brief on: January 13, 2010, 07:49:00 AM
Brief · Monday, January 11, 2010

The Foundation
"Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve." --Benjamin Franklin

Culture
"The fact is that post-Umar Farouk, post-Richard Reid, and eight years post-9/11, this country is still flying blind when it comes to airline security. Another young male Islamic extremist tries to kill hundreds of innocent people, and the response is the same: Heightened airport security for travelers of all ages, nationalities, and religious backgrounds -- instead of increased focus on those who look, act, worship, and travel like terrorists. Even worse, this is the second major vulnerability revealed inside of a few weeks. Remember the embarrassment of the leaked 93-page TSA Standard Operating Procedures manual? Most reports focused on the fact that the document revealed how certain government or law enforcement credentials looked. Or that only 20 percent of checked bags are given a 'full open-bag search.' Or that disabled individuals' wheelchairs, casts, and orthopedic shoes are potentially exempt from explosives screening. But most frightening to me was that while the leaked document deemed that holders of passports from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, and Algeria should be subjected to additional screening, no such special attention was given to holders of passports from Saudi Arabia -- the home of 15 of the 9/11 hijackers. And now it's worth noting that the list doesn't include Pakistan or Nigeria -- Umar Farouk's home -- either. At the time of the memo's leak, Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA unit tasked with tracking Osama bin Laden, told me that the federal government 'knows without question that al-Qaeda and its allies pore over the U.S. media for operationally applicable information.' There was 'no chance' that the misstep had gone unnoticed by our enemies, he said. Nor, I suspect, will the fact that in the wake of this latest attempted act of Islamic terrorism, the United States will keep refusing to apply the most invasive screening techniques to travelers with the most in common with the 9/11 attackers." --columnist Michael Smerconish

Re: The Left
"President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- all of whom have in recent years promised unprecedented levels of transparency in government -- are flouting their own words by meeting in secret to write the final version of Obamacare. They are doing this to avoid the public meetings of a bipartisan conference committee representing the Senate and House and the multiple, on-the-record roll call votes required in both chambers on a conference committee report. The most radical expansion of central government power in American history is happening right under journalists' noses, and yet they raise not a peep of protest when the doors close, effectively barring them from doing their jobs at a critical juncture. ... It's time for a sit-down protest by journalists whose first job is to uphold the public's right to know what its government is doing. Invite readers to come join them in demanding open meetings. The last thing Reid and Pelosi want is the spectacle of the Capitol Hill Police dragging protesting journalists away from the closed doors. It's time to show some cojones, people." --The Washington Examiner


Government
"President Obama is a great admirer of the Mayo Clinic. Time and again he has extolled it as an outstanding model of health-care excellence and efficiency. ... They 'offer the highest quality care at costs well below the national norm,' he wrote. 'We need to learn from their successes and replicate those best practices across our country.' On the White House web site, you can find more than a dozen other instances of Obama's esteem. So perhaps the president will give some thought to the Mayo Clinic's recent decision to stop accepting Medicare payments at its primary care facility in Glendale, Ariz. More than 3,000 patients will have to start paying cash if they wish to continue being seen by doctors at the clinic; those unable or unwilling to do so must look for new physicians. For now, Mayo is limiting the change in policy to its Glendale facility. But it may be just a matter of time before it drops Medicare at its other facilities in Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota as well. Why would an institution renowned for providing health care of 'the best quality and the lowest cost' choose to sever its ties with the government's flagship single-payer insurance program? Because the relationship is one it can't afford. Last year, the Mayo Clinic lost $840 million on its Medicare patients. At the Glendale clinic specifically, a spokesman told Bloomberg, Medicare reimbursements covered only 50 percent of the cost of treating elderly primary-care patients. Not even the leanest, most efficient medical organization can keep doing business with a program that compels it to eat half its costs. In breaking away from Medicare, the Mayo Clinic is hardly blazing a trail. Back in 2008, the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission reported that 29 percent of Medicare beneficiaries -- more than 1 in 4 -- have trouble finding a primary-care doctor to treat them. A survey by the Texas Medical Association that year found that only 38 percent of that state's primary-care physicians were accepting new Medicare patients. But if you think things are bad now, just wait until Congress enacts the president's health care overhaul." --columnist Jeff Jacoby

For the Record
"For those of you who may have been off the grid over the weekend the big news was an item in a new book by Mullpal Mark Halperin and John Heilemann titled 'Game Change' in which Majority Leader Harry Reid was quoted as using inappropriate language when describing then-Senator Barack Obama. According to the reporting: 'Reid said Obama could fare well nationally as an African-American candidate because he was "light-skinned" and didn't speak with a "Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one."' Ok. The whole double standard thing was duly marinated over the weekend -- if this had been an Republican would Al Sharpton have given him/her a pass as he did to Reid? And so on. ... President Obama issued a statement forgiving Harry Reid before the ink had even dried on the pages of the book. Yet it took him three days to figure out what to say about the guy who tried to blow up that plane on Christmas Day. Second, according to the reporting, Reid made those statements to 'a group of reporters.' Whoa! Check, please! To a group of reporters? None of whom thought this was newsworthy? For whom did those reporters write, 'My Weekly Reader'? If not evidence of a double standard, then it is certainly evidence of journalistic incompetence." --political analyst Rich Galen

Faith & Family
"The secular left -- and some self-described Christians -- criticize Brit Hume, the Fox News commentator, for suggesting that the solution to Tiger Woods' problems is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Hume made his remarks on 'Fox News Sunday.' Disclosure: I also appear on Fox News. Hume said, 'My message to Tiger would be: Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.' That is a message shared for 2,000 years by those who follow Jesus of Nazareth. It apparently continues to escape the secular left that Christians feel compelled to share their faith out of gratitude for what Jesus has done for them (dying in their place on a cross and offering a new life to those who repent and receive Him as savior). In a day when some extremists employ violence to advance their religion, it is curious that many would save their criticism for a truly peace-bringing message such as the one broadcast by Brit Hume. Criticism of Hume has taken two forms. One is that it is hubris to presume the Christian faith is superior to other faiths. The other criticism is that Hume used Fox as a pulpit and if he wants to preach he should resign from the network and go door to door like a Jehovah's Witness. ... Christians like Hume are not trying to impose anything on anyone. They know the difference Jesus has made in their lives and they care enough about others to want to share His message in the hope that other lives will be similarly transformed." --columnist Cal Thomas

Opinion in Brief
"If there is any lesson in the history of ideas, it is that good intentions tell you nothing about the actual consequences. But intellectuals who generate ideas do not have to pay the consequences. Academic intellectuals are shielded by the principles of academic freedom and journalists in democratic societies are shielded by the principle of freedom of the press. Seldom do those who produce or peddle dangerous, or even fatal, ideas have to pay a price, even in a loss of credibility. ... Even political leaders have been judged by how noble their ideas sounded, rather than by how disastrous their consequences were. ... It may seem strange that so many people of great intellect have said and done so many things whose consequences ranged from counterproductive to catastrophic. Yet it is not so surprising when we consider whether anybody has ever had the range of knowledge required to make the sweeping kinds of decisions that so many intellectuals are prone to make, especially when they pay no price for being wrong. Intellectuals and their followers have often been overly impressed by the fact that intellectuals tend, on average, to have more knowledge than other individuals in their society. What they have overlooked is that intellectuals have far less knowledge than the total knowledge possessed by the millions of other people whom they disdain and whose decisions they seek to override. We have had to learn the consequences of elite preemption the hard way -- and many of us have yet to learn that lesson." --economist Thomas Sowell

The Gipper
"Since when do we in America believe that our society is made up of two diametrically opposed classes -- one rich, one poor -- both in a permanent state of conflict and neither able to get ahead except at the expense of the other? Since when do we in America accept this alien and discredited theory of social and class warfare? Since when do we in America endorse the politics of envy and division?" --Ronald Reagan

Political Futures
"A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll taken in mid-December showed that 55 percent of Americans believed the country was headed in the wrong direction. Just 47 percent approved of the job Obama was doing as president. Twenty-two percent approved of the job Congress was doing. And a whopping 35 percent have positive feelings toward the Democratic Party. And yet the public seems to like Republicans even less. Just 28 percent have positive feelings toward the GOP -- a rating lower than poll results just before the party's defeats in 2006 and 2008. You can't make as many mistakes as Republicans did and expect to be forgiven quickly. That could lead to a dilemma for voters next November. Many will be fully ready to vote Democrats out of office but will not be fully ready to vote in Republicans. Faced with an either/or choice, they will weigh whether they want to get rid of Democrats more than they want to stay away from Republicans. That dilemma could have been avoided. A slightly less disastrous end to the Republican reign might well have resulted in one or two additional GOP senators this year. And that, in turn, might have prevented some of the runaway Democratic excesses we've seen. Republicans think about that a lot these days, as Democrats overreach in ways that could burden the country for generations. All GOP lawmakers can do now is to oppose. But in their heart of hearts, they know they share some of the blame." --columnist Byron York

Insight
"Well, there's something known as American conservatism, though it does not even call itself that. It's been calling itself 'voting Republican' or 'not liking the New Deal.' But it is a very American approach to life, and it has to do with knowing that the government is not your master, that America is good, that freedom is good and must be defended, and communism is very, very bad." --National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)
23607  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ's new strategy on: January 13, 2010, 07:40:44 AM
Al-Qaeda has a new strategy. Obama needs one, too.
By Bruce Hoffman
Bruce Hoffman is a professor of security studies at Georgetown University
and a senior fellow at the U.S. Military Academy's Combating Terrorism
Center.
Sunday, January 10, 2010; B01

In the wake of the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing and the killing a
few days later of seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan, Washington is, as it
was after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, obsessed with "dots" -- and our
inability to connect them. "The U.S. government had sufficient information
to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day
attack, but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots," the
president said Tuesday.

But for all the talk, two key dots have yet to be connected: Umar Farouk
Abdulmutallab, the alleged Northwest Airlines Flight 253 attacker, and Humam
Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the trusted CIA informant turned assassin.
Although a 23-year-old Nigerian engineering student and a 36-year-old
Jordanian physician would seem to have little in common, they both exemplify
a new grand strategy that al-Qaeda has been successfully pursuing for at
least a year.

Throughout 2008 and 2009, U.S. officials repeatedly trumpeted al-Qaeda's
demise. In a May 2008 interview with The Washington Post, then-CIA Director
Michael Hayden heralded the group's "near strategic defeat." And the
intensified aerial drone attacks that President Obama authorized against
al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan last year were widely celebrated for having
killed over half of its remaining senior leadership.

Yet, oddly enough for a terrorist movement supposedly on its last legs,
al-Qaeda late last month launched two separate attacks less than a week
apart -- one failed and one successful -- triggering the most extensive
review of U.S. national security policies since 2001. Al-Qaeda's newfound
vitality is the product of a fresh strategy that plays to its networking
strength and compensates for its numerical weakness. In contrast to its plan
on Sept. 11, which was to deliver a knock-out blow to the United States,
al-Qaeda's leadership has now adopted a "death by a thousand cuts" approach.
There are five core elements to this strategy.

First, al-Qaeda is increasingly focused on overwhelming, distracting and
exhausting us. To this end, it seeks to flood our already
information-overloaded national intelligence systems with myriad threats and
background noise. Al-Qaeda hopes we will be so distracted and consumed by
all this data that we will overlook key clues, such as those before
Christmas that linked Abdulmutallab to an al-Qaeda airline-bombing plot.

Second, in the wake of the global financial crisis, al-Qaeda has stepped up
a strategy of economic warfare. "We will bury you," Soviet Premier Nikita
Khrushchev promised Americans 50 years ago. Today, al-Qaeda threatens: "We
will bankrupt you." Over the past year, the group has issued statements,
videos, audio messages and letters online trumpeting its actions against
Western financial systems, even taking credit for the economic crisis.
However divorced from reality these claims may be, propaganda doesn't have
to be true to be believed, and the assertions resonate with al-Qaeda's
target audiences.

Heightened security measures after the Christmas Day plot, coupled with the
likely development of ever more sophisticated passenger-screening and
intelligence technologies, stand to cost a lot of money, while the war in
Afghanistan constitutes a massive drain on American resources. Given the
economic instability here and abroad, al-Qaeda seems to think that a
strategy of financial attrition will pay outsize dividends.

Third, al-Qaeda is still trying to create divisions within the global
alliance arrayed against it by targeting key coalition partners. Terrorist
attacks on mass-transit systems in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 were
intended to punish Spain and Britain for participating in the war in Iraq
and in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, and al-Qaeda continues this approach
today. During the past two years, serious terrorist plots orchestrated by
al-Qaeda's allies in Pakistan, meant to punish Spain and the Netherlands for
participating in the war on terrorism, were thwarted in Barcelona and
Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, suicide bombers and roadside explosives target
contingents from countries such as Britain, Canada, Germany and the
Netherlands, where popular support for deployments has waned, in hopes of
hastening their withdrawal from the NATO-led coalition.

Fourth, al-Qaeda is aggressively seeking out, destabilizing and exploiting
failed states and other areas of lawlessness. While the United States
remains preoccupied with trying to secure yesterday's failed state -- 
Afghanistan -- al-Qaeda is busy staking out new terrain. The terrorist
network sees failing states as providing opportunities to extend its reach,
and it conducts local campaigns of subversion to hasten their decline. Over
the past year, it has increased its activities in places such as Pakistan,
Algeria, the Sahel, Somalia and, in particular, Yemen.

Once al-Qaeda has located or helped create a region of lawlessness, it
guides allies and related terrorist groups in that area, boosting their
local, regional and -- as the Northwest Airlines plot demonstrated -- 
international attack capabilities. Although the exact number of al-Qaeda
personnel in each of these areas varies, and in some cases may include no
more than a few hard-core terrorists, they perform a critical
force-multiplying function. Their help to indigenous terrorist groups
includes support for attacks -- by providing weapons, training and
intelligence -- and, equally critical, assistance in disseminating
propaganda, such as by building Web sites and launching online magazines
modeled on al-Qaeda's.

Fifth and finally, al-Qaeda is covetously seeking recruits from non-Muslim
countries who can be easily deployed for attacks in the West. The group's
leaders see people like these -- especially converts to Islam whose
appearances and names would not arouse the same scrutiny that persons from
Islamic countries might -- as the ultimate fifth column. Citizens of
countries that participate in the U.S. visa-waiver program are especially
prized because they can move freely between Western countries and blend
easily into these societies.

Al-Qaeda has become increasingly adept at using the Internet to locate these
would-be terrorists and to feed them propaganda. During the past 18 months,
American and British intelligence officials have said, well over 100
individuals from such countries have graduated from terrorist training camps
in Pakistan and have been sent West to undertake terrorist operations.

In adopting and refining these tactics, al-Qaeda is shrewdly opportunistic.
It constantly monitors our defenses in an effort to identify new gaps and
opportunities that can be exploited. Its operatives track our congressional
hearings, think-tank analyses and media reports, all of which provide
strategic intelligence. By coupling this information with surveillance
efforts, the movement has overcome many of the security measures we have put
in its path.
=============
 Part II

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A survey of terrorist incidents in the past seven months alone underscores
the diversity of the threats arrayed against us and the variety of tactics
al-Qaeda is using. These incidents involved such hard-core operatives as
Balawi, the double agent who played American and Jordanian intelligence to
kill more CIA agents than anyone else has in more than a quarter-century.
And sleeper agents such as David Headley, the U.S. citizen whose
reconnaissance efforts for Lashkar-i-Taiba, a longtime al-Qaeda ally, were
pivotal to the November 2008 suicide assault in Mumbai. And motivated
recruits such as Abdulmutallab, the alleged Northwest Airlines bomber, and
Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-born U.S. resident arrested in New York last
September and charged with plotting a "Mumbai on the Hudson" suicide
terrorist operation. And "lone wolves" such as Maj. Nidal Hassan, accused of
killing 13 people at Fort Hood in November, and Abdulhakim Muhammad, a
convert to Islam who, after returning from Yemen last June, killed one
soldier and wounded another outside an Army recruiting center in Little
Rock.

But while al-Qaeda is finding new ways to exploit our weaknesses, we are
stuck in a pattern of belated responses, rather than anticipating its moves
and developing preemptive strategies. The "systemic failure" of intelligence
analysis and airport security that Obama recently described was not just the
product of a compartmentalized bureaucracy or analytical inattention, but a
failure to recognize al-Qaeda's new strategy.


The national security architecture built in the aftermath of Sept. 11
addresses yesterday's threats -- but not today's and certainly not
tomorrow's. It is superb at reacting and responding, but not at outsmarting.
With our military overcommitted in Iraq and Afghanistan and our intelligence
community overstretched by multiplying threats, a new approach to
counterterrorism is essential.
"In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step
ahead of a nimble adversary," Obama said Thursday. He spoke of the need for
intelligence and airport security reform, but he could have, and should
have, been talking about the need for a new strategy to match al-Qaeda's.


Remarkably, more than eight years after Sept. 11, we still don't fully
understand our dynamic and evolutionary enemy. We claim success when it is
regrouping and tally killed leaders while more devious plots are being
hatched. Al-Qaeda needs to be utterly destroyed. This will be accomplished
not just by killing and capturing terrorists -- as we must continue to do -- 
but by breaking the cycle of radicalization and recruitment that sustains
the movement.


Bruce Hoffman is a professor of security studies at Georgetown University
and a senior fellow at the U.S. Military Academy's Combating Terrorism
Center.
__________________
23608  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pending Treasury Deficit numbers on: January 13, 2010, 07:25:08 AM
The consensus expects the Treasury deficit to fall from $120 billion in November to $92 billion in December. The estimate is in-line with the latest Congressional Budget Office forecast.

The CBO puts together a monthly budget preview based upon daily Treasury estimates. The CBO's estimate of a $92 billion deficit is $40 billion higher than what was recorded in December 2008. When adjusted for timing changes, the deficit only increased by $11 billion.

Federal tax receipts are expected to decline by $18 billion from December 2008 to $220 billion. Half of the drop in receipts is attributed to holiday timing changes and the rest is due to tax relief provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Outlays are expected to increase $22 billion from December 2008 to $312 billion. Most of the increase was due to shifting of payments due to holidays and a $13 billion payment to Fannie Mae.

The market generally does not trade on the deficit numbers, but the steady decline in the value of the dollar over the last few months may accelerate if the deficit comes in much wider than expected.
23609  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Ali Mohammadi hit on: January 13, 2010, 07:22:20 AM



AFP/Getty Images
Iranian security guards, firemen and municipal workers outside the home of Massoud Ali-Mohammadi on Jan. 12An improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in the Qeyterieh district of Tehran at approximately 8:05 a.m. on Jan. 12, killing University of Tehran physics professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi in front of his home. Ali-Mohammadi’s association with the Iranian opposition movement and possible participation in the country’s nuclear program have led to a host of possible suspects in the attack, but details remain murky, and who was behind the attack remains unclear. However, a close examination of photographs and video of the blast scene reveals the sequence of events and clues to the type of IED employed in this attack.

The IED detonated as Ali-Mohammadi exited the driveway of his gated home and turned left on the street in front of the residence. Several reports have stated that the IED was remotely detonated, and the precision timing involved in this attack supports these reports and indicates that there was at least one spotter that had a line of sight to the target. There would have been an approximately two- to three-second window as Ali-Mohammadi exited his driveway for this attack to have been successful. A timing device would not be dynamic enough to detonate the IED at the specific time or account for possible delays. A remotely detonated device and an eyes-on spotter would provide the precision needed for this type of attack to be successful, and the largely residential area where the attack took place offers ample places for a spotter to hide in wait.

The photos and video of the site also demonstrate that the IED was located to the left of the exit of Ali-Mohammadi’s driveway along the street in front of his home, either placed in a garbage can or on a motorcycle parked along the road. The damage to the left side of Ali-Mohammadi’s vehicle and to the motorcycle indicates the IED was located outside the vehicle, as does the pattern of fragmentation at the scene.

The damage caused by the IED appears to be consistent with that of a low-velocity explosive packed with a form of shrapnel (perhaps something like ball bearings) — similar to a shotgun blast. Low explosives, like gunpowder or perchlorate mixtures, tend to heave and propel objects, while high explosives, such as RDX and PETN, tend to shatter and cut objects. The IED was located only a few feet from Ali-Mohammadi’s vehicle, but the metal frames of the vehicle and the motorcycle and Ali-Mohammadi’s body were intact – noticeably absent the type of blast effects normally associated with high explosives. There also was consistent 1-inch to 1.5-inch fragmentation damage all around the blast scene, indicative of some form of shrapnel being packed into the IED to make the device more lethal.

The use of a low-explosive device does not fit the typical modus operandi of a national intelligence agency. If an intelligence agency was involved, it is possible that such a device was used in order to conceal the author of the attack, or the attack could have been subcontracted out to a local organization. The materials used in this device likely were readily available and procured locally in Tehran. The fact that the device functioned as planned shows a degree of expertise, but that is not necessarily indicative of the involvement of a national intelligence agency.
23610  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Geithner & AIG deal on: January 13, 2010, 06:30:52 AM
Timothy Geithner is back in piñata mode, with House Oversight Chairman Edolphus Towns asking him to testify next week about bailout giant AIG. By all means Members should swing away at the Treasury Secretary, but only if they focus on the right questions.

The trigger for the Towns hearing is the release of emails between the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and AIG in November and December 2008. The New York Fed urged AIG to limit disclosure of its deal to buy out derivative trading partners at 100 cents on the dollar. But since AIG went ahead and disclosed it anyway, this line of inquiry doesn't get to the heart of the taxpayer interest.

Likewise, asking if Mr. Geithner helped write the emails to AIG will simply allow him to continue avoiding the bigger questions: Why did he believe AIG could not fail? Why should he receive more authority to declare firms systemically important, when he will still not fully explain his previous multibillion-dollar judgments in the name of countering "systemic risk"?

Mr. Geithner was president of the New York Fed when it began sending what has become $182.3 billion in taxpayer assistance to AIG in September 2008. Much of this money was used to meet collateral calls from big banks that had bought AIG's credit default swaps. AIG had resisted handing over more collateral. But once Mr. Geithner was in charge of AIG, the cash flowed freely to these bank counterparties.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
.The Fed and AIG ultimately bought the underlying securities at par. This was not only much more than the counterparties might have received from a bankrupt AIG, but even a healthy AIG would never have handed over so much cash in the midst of a panic in which cash was king. Mr. Geithner's New York Fed demanded the 100-cents on the dollar deal for these counterparties, and it demanded that their identities be kept secret. The Journal nonetheless reported this sweet deal and the names of some beneficiaries, including Goldman Sachs, in early November 2008, but taxpayers had to wait months before AIG finally released the full story.

Given the sweet deal and the fact that Mr. Geithner sought to keep secret the identities of the beneficiaries, logic would suggest that the AIG intervention was intended as a bailout for these counterparties. Supporting this conclusion is the fact that Mr. Geithner has sold his plan to regulate derivatives as a way to prevent such problems in the future. Yet when asked directly by the inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program why he opted to buy out the counterparties at par, Mr. Geithner said "the financial condition of the counterparties was not a relevant factor."

OpinionJournal Related Stories:
•Review & Outlook: Spitzer's AIG Emails
•Review & Outlook: Banker Baiting
•Review & Outlook: Saying No to Spitzer, Four Years Later
.Then last November, he suggested that the systemic risk was in AIG's traditional insurance business. "AIG was providing a range of insurance products to households across the country. And if AIG had defaulted, you would have seen a downgrade leading to the liquidation and failure of a set of insurance contracts that touched Americans across this country and, of course, savers around the world," he said. So which was it?

Taxpayers also still haven't been told why there couldn't have been any sunshine on Mr. Geithner's beloved AIG counterparties. If some of them really would have failed, with systemic consequences, why not announce that they were all getting a deal to bolster liquidity and allow them to resume lending? That is exactly what regulators had just done in October 2008 by naming recipients of TARP capital injections.

On the other hand, if the counterparties weren't the systemic risk, then what's the argument for regulating derivatives?

The evidence builds that AIG's "systemic risk" wasn't a mathematical answer to a rigorous and thoughtful review of data, but rather a seat-of-the-pants judgment by regulators in a panic. If that is the case, someone should ask Mr. Geithner why the American people should give him even more authority to make more such judgments from his hip pocket—with little public scrutiny.

Under the House regulatory reform, Mr. Geithner would chair a new Financial Services Oversight Council. The council could declare virtually any company in America a systemic risk, making them eligible for intervention on the taxpayer's dime. The law firm Davis Polk reports that since this council is not an agency, it will not be subject to the Administrative Procedure Act, the Freedom of Information Act or the Sunshine Act, among other laws intended to allow citizens to scrutinize government.

It's difficult to learn and apply the lessons of AIG because the New York Fed has done so much to conceal them. Mr. Towns appears to be getting closer to the truth, deciding yesterday to issue subpoenas focused on the New York Fed's decision-making, as opposed to whatever it told AIG to say in public. Let's hope lawmakers explore what the "systemic risk" actually was—and why Mr. Geithner should get nearly open-ended power to define it again.
23611  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part 2 on Homeland Infiltration on: January 13, 2010, 06:24:28 AM
http://www.pjtv.com/v/2934

and here's this strange developing detail in the Salahi affair, which no doubt will be ignored by the MSM:

DOES ANY HERE LOOK ILLEGAL?
 
DOES ANYONE HERE LOOK FAMILIAR??



I knew there was a “Paul Harvey” version to this story!!! (you know the line.....and NOW the rest of the story)

See the white guy in the white suit?  Now see the blond with the white dress!  See the guy in the middle huuuummmm.

This picture was taken 6/9/05. It seems Obama has known these two phoneys for awhile, at least when he was a Senator.

They’re getting all this press now as “party crashers” and the secret service is taking heat.  Funny how this has not come out in the press isn’t it!





No wonder the couple who crashed Obama’s State dinner keep insisting they were invited guests.  They know Barry from way back when he was still an Illinois Senator.  Is Obama trying to throw the Secret Service under the bus?

Tareq and Michaele Salahi  snapped the pic above with Obama at a “Rock The Vote” event on June 9, 2005

Michaele Salahi is getting quite a ribbing in the press for lying about being a Redskins cheerleader, but Tareq is the more interesting of the two to me.

He has ties to Palestinian terrorists.

Tareq is a board member of the ATFP- American Task Force on  Palestine, which has quickly scrubbed it’s site of the fact.  Thank the Lord for Google cache.

 And just who are the ATFP?

The ATFP has ties to Chicago, ties to Muslim radicals, ties to Hamas, and ties to Saudi Wahhabists. It is arguably the American wing of Hamas. The group’s co-founder is Rashid Khalidi, the guy purported to have helped finance Obama’s Harvard education and who was also instrumental in getting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University.

During the Beruit war, Khalidi was a PLO spokesperson.  After the war, he came back to teach at the University of Chicago. He is a virulent critic of Israel, and a strong supporter of Fatah terrorist Yassar Arafat.  Obama has referred to Khalidi as someone who challenges his “own biases.”

Why do the same dubious tentacles seem to continually surround Obama?  The fact that the ATFP is scrubbing information on Salahi from their website suggests possible damage control coordination between the ATFP and the White House.  If the ATFP was acting independently, there would be no reason to scrub Salahi’s name from their site.  It looks like Salahi was an invited guest to the dinner, that he was “outed” and the administration had to come up with a rational excuse for his presence.

The Secret Service has already apologized for the incident, but they may clear their names if the Salahis start singing. If someone with ties to the American wing of Hamas can get face to face with the President without the Secret Service realizing it that is a major security lapse.  However, if Obama’s people knowingly allowed Salahi in and are now throwing the Secret Service under the bus to cover themselves, that would be a major  scandal.

Some in Congress are calling for an investigation Something is VERY fishy in the White House.
======
snopes reveals:  http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/photos/crashers.asp
23612  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson to Madison, 1789 on: January 13, 2010, 06:19:34 AM
"But with respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19 years." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, 1789
23613  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hit was by the IRANIANS? on: January 13, 2010, 06:06:29 AM


Caroline Glick says the scientist in question was preparing to defect to the US and was hit pre-emptively by the Iranian regime:

http://www.pjtv.com/video/Middle_East_Update/Assassination_in_Iran%3A_What_the_MSM_Won%27t_Tell_You_About_The_Middle_East/2935/;jsessionid=abcaKBElDdUnp-ufJJNys
23614  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: January 13, 2010, 05:59:04 AM
Business is often the enemy of free enterprise and the friend of fascism.

==================
In a different vein , , ,

http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2010/01/07/
23615  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkish-Russian Struggle over the Caucasus on: January 13, 2010, 05:56:49 AM
The Turkish-Russian Struggle Over the Caucasus
TURKISH PRIME MINISTER RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN travels to Moscow Tuesday for a two-day trip in which he will meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev. Although Erdogan and Putin are chummier with each other than they are with most world leaders, this meeting has been planned and postponed a number of times in recent months.

The relationship began to decline last summer as Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party continued pushing for a peace deal with Armenia that would open up another major outlet for Turkish expansion in the Caucasus, a mountainous region that encompasses the states of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Russia, however, had been busy building up clout in this region long before the Turks started focusing on neighborhood relations again. Since Armenia is essentially a client state of the Russians, it was Moscow that was calling the shots every time Turkey attempted a dialogue with Yerevan.

Russia has been happy to chaperone these negotiations for Ankara while seizing the opportunity to get on the good side of a critical rival in the Black Sea region. At the same time, Russia was not about to grant Turkey its wish of an Armenian rapprochement that would encroach on Russia’s own sphere of influence in the Caucasus. Moreover, Russia had a golden opportunity at hand to encourage Turkey to alienate Azerbaijan, its tightest ally in the region. Azerbaijan sees Turkey’s outreach to Armenia –- an enemy of Azerbaijan that occupies disputed territory inside of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region –- as an outright betrayal to the historic brotherly alliance between Turkey and Azerbaijan. While keeping Georgia in a vice and Armenia’s moves in check, Russia strategically coaxed Turkey’s allies in Azerbaijan into an alliance that would provide Moscow with a crucial lever to control the flow of energy to Europe. Turkey, meanwhile, has been left empty-handed: no deal with Armenia and very angry allies in Azerbaijan.

“Gazprom’s chief said Baku was considering a deal in which all of Azerbaijan’s natural gas could be sold to Russia.”
Just one day prior to Erdogan’s trip to Moscow, the Russians decided to flaunt their rapidly developing relationship with Azerbaijan. Following a meeting between Russia’s natural gas behemoth, Gazprom, and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), Gazprom’s chief Alexei Miller said Monday that Baku was considering a deal in which all of Azerbaijan’s natural gas — present and future — could be sold to Russia. This would in effect allow Moscow to sabotage any plans by Turkey and Europe to diversify energy flows away from Russia.

Azerbaijan has already been prodding Turkey with its blossoming relationship with Russia, throwing out threats here and there of sending more of its natural gas to Russia instead of Turkey. But if Azerbaijan has actually agreed to such a deal with Moscow to send not just some, but all of its natural gas to Russia, then a major shift has taken place in the Caucasus — one in which the Turks cannot afford to remain complacent.

Azerbaijani national security rests on its ability to diversify its trade and political alliances to the greatest extent possible. If Azerbaijan entered into a committed relationship with the Russians, however, it would be just as vulnerable as Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Turkmenistan or any other state in the Russian periphery that is frequently subjected to Russian economic and military pressure tactics to fit Moscow’s political agenda. What, then, would encourage such a fundamental shift in Azerbaijani foreign policy?

Our first task is to verify with the Azerbaijanis whether the Gazprom chief is speaking the truth in claiming such a deal. Miller, after all, has been known to spin a few tales from time to time when it comes to Russian energy politics. If the story is true, then we need to nail down what caused the shift in Baku to sacrifice its energy independence to Moscow. Russia would have to pay a hefty price for such a deal, and that price could very well be tied to Azerbaijan’s territorial obsession: Nagorno-Karabakh.

If Azerbaijan is prepping its military to settle the score with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, and we have heard rumors building to this effect, it would want guarantees from Moscow to stay out of the fray. We have no evidence of this hypothesis as of yet, but it is some serious food for thought for Erdogan as he makes his way to Moscow.
23616  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: January 12, 2010, 04:16:20 PM
I know that.  It just seemed fair to mention it.  smiley
23617  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: January 12, 2010, 12:27:34 PM
Indeed.

BTW, I am feeling very prescient with my post of August 18  cheesy
23618  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Top SA scholar: AQ un-Islamic on: January 12, 2010, 12:22:17 PM
Saudi Arabia: Top Scholar Calls Al Qaeda Membership Un-Islamic
January 12, 2010
A senior Saudi cleric declared that joining al Qaeda is forbidden by Islam, Middle East Online reported Jan. 12. Speaking to the Okaz newspaper, Sheikh Abdul Mohsen al-Obeikan, a leading religious scholar and adviser in King Abdullah’s court, reiterated the official Saudi stance that al Qaeda’s philosophy is one of “takfirism,” or accusing others of apostasy. “Takfir thinking” is forbidden in Islam, he said.
23619  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: January 12, 2010, 10:11:19 AM
Summary
According to widespread rumors in the United States, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence had a hand in the Dec. 30, 2009, attack in Khost, Afghanistan, which killed several CIA agents. While luck played a definite role in the attack, the skill in preparing the double agent who detonated the suicide bomb used in the attack has lead some to see a state role. Such a role is unlikely, however, as Pakistan has little to gain by enraging the United States. Even so, the rumors alone will harm U.S.-Pakistani relations, perhaps giving the Taliban some breathing room.

Analysis
Speculation is rife in the United States about the possible role played by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, Pakistan’s foreign intelligence service, in the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack on Forward Operating Base Chapman in eastern Afghanistan that killed multiple CIA agents. Much of this discussion traces back to a report citing unnamed U.S. and Afghan government sources as saying a chemical analysis of explosive residue suggesting the use of military-grade equipment points to ISI involvement in the incident.

This is a faulty basis to establish an ISI link, as the Pakistani Taliban have used military-grade explosives in numerous attacks against the Pakistani security establishment since late 2006. Still, rumors alone of ISI involvement will suffice to harm U.S.-Pakistani relations, which will serve the jihadists’ ends quite nicely.

To a large extent, chance aided the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in carrying out the attack. Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi’s arrival gave the group the opportunity to carry out an attack at a heavily fortified facility belonging to the world’s most powerful intelligence organization. That said, the preparation of the double agent for the attack showed definite skill. While it has shown a great degree of skill in pulling off attacks against major army, intelligence and other security installations in Pakistan, the TTP previously has not been seen as being capable of handling a foreign double agent for a complex operation outside Pakistan.

In this incident, the TTP managed to conceal al-Balawi’s true activities while in Pakistan. Admittedly, keeping close track of al-Balawi in Pakistan would have been a challenge to the CIA due to the agency’s fairly weak humint capabilities there, and because his jihadist hosts would have been extremely cautious about using communications devices that would show up on sigint monitoring. And while remaining below the radar while in jihadist country in the Pakistani northwest is one thing, circumventing all CIA countermeasures is quite another — and is something previously thought beyond the TTP’s known capabilities. Such sophistication rises to the level of the skills held by a national-level intelligence organization with tremendous resources and experience at this kind of tradecraft.

However, even this does not mean the ISI was involved in the attack.

The ISI falls under the control of the Pakistani army and the government, and the Pakistani state has no interest in carrying out actions against the United States, as this could seriously threaten Pakistani national interests. Also, it is clear that the ISI is at war with the TTP. For its part, the main Pakistani Taliban rebel group has specifically declared war on the ISI, leveling three key ISI facilities in the last eight months. It is therefore most unlikely this could have been an officially sanctioned Pakistani operation.

The possibility that jihadist sympathizers in the lower ranks of the Pakistani intelligence complex may have offered their services to the TTP cannot be ruled out, however. Given its history of dealing with Islamist nonstate proxies, the Pakistani intelligence apparatus is penetrated by the jihadists, which partially explains the ability of the TTP to mount a ferocious insurgency against the state.

Even though there is no clear smoking gun pointing at the ISI, rumors of its involvement alone will harm the already-fragile U.S.-Pakistani relationship. Concerns similar to those in the aftermath of the November 2008 Mumbai attack — that the situation in Pakistan has reached a point where the state no longer has control over its own security apparatus and now represents an intolerable threat to U.S. national security — will emerge again.

While the situation in Islamabad might not be dire, a U.S.-Pakistani and Indian-Pakistani breakdown is exactly what that the jihadists want so they can survive the U.S. and Pakistani offensives they currently face.
23620  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: January 12, 2010, 10:09:31 AM
The HELL they are not!!!  With near zero interest rates for savers (or negative if one counts, as one should, inflation and taxes) and the destruction of the currency-- they are stealing plenty from me and from every American who looks to save.
23621  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: January 12, 2010, 10:07:44 AM
Iran: Nuclear Scientist Killed
Stratfor Today » January 12, 2010 | 1041 GMT



AFP/Getty Images
The scene of the explosion that killed Iranian nuclear scientist Massoud Ali-Mohammadi outside his home Jan. 12 in TehranAn Iranian nuclear scientist was killed Jan. 12 in an IED explosion in the Iranian capital. According to the early details, Massoud Ali-Mohammadi was killed around 7:30 a.m. local time near his home in northern Tehran’s upscale district of Qeyterieh with a bomb that some report was hidden in a trashcan and others state was part of a booby-trapped motorcycle. Authorities in Tehran identified Ali-Mohammadi as a professor of nuclear physics at Tehran University. There are reports he may have been affiliated with the country’s controversial nuclear program, but his exact importance with respect to the nuclear program remains unclear.

This is also not the first time that an Iranian nuclear scientist has been killed in mysterious circumstances. Three years ago, a noted Iranian nuclear scientist, Ardeshir Hassanpour, was killed. At the time, STRATFOR had learned that the Israeli intelligence service Mossad was behind the assassination. Indeed, even this time around, Iranian officials have pointed fingers at the Jewish state. It is, however, too early to tell if that is the case.

Assassinations of individual scientists and even defection or kidnapping of others are not unprecedented. Furthermore, there have been bombings in recent months that have targeted senior military commanders of the country’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The timing of this attack (the first involving the use of an IED against a nuclear scientist), however, comes at a time of considerable domestic unrest and increasing international pressure on Iran to accept an enrichment compromise or face potential military action on the part of the United States or Israel.

Today’s attack will provide the pretext for Iranian authorities to crack down even harder on opponents at home who are already accused of collaborating with foreign enemies of the state. More importantly, it will make Tehran even more intransigent on the nuclear issue as the Islamic republic cannot be seen as caving into pressure, especially not from the West and Israel. The killing of the scientist also places considerable pressure on Iran to engage in retaliatory action.
23622  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: January 12, 2010, 08:43:52 AM
A new variation on the Dracula which we call "Dracula prays to the cross" seems to have a lot of promise in dealing with skilled front legs (see e.g. the problems Randy Couture had with Brandon Vera's front leg)
23623  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives on: January 12, 2010, 08:33:59 AM
http://policelink.monster.com/news/articles/130661-slain-officers-last-words-to-emts-thank-you?utm_source=nlet&utm_content=pl_c1_20100112_lastwords

January 11, 2010

OTTAWA – As Constable Eric Czapnik lay dying from a mortal knife wound to the throat, he spoke two final and poignant words to his paramedic rescuers.

The patrolman had been writing case notes inside his cruiser, parked outside the emergency department of The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic campus, when a man approached and attacked him with a knife.

Four paramedics, none yet publicly identified, ran from the emergency room to help. It wasn’t until a male paramedic grabbed the attacker in a headlock from behind, that they realized the assailant had a knife.


As the attacker tried to reach around and stab the male paramedic, a petite female paramedic wrestled the weapon from his hand. A second female paramedic kicked him in the groin, and all three wrestled him to the ground. Another female paramedic attended to Const. Czapnik.
As he lay dying from the random attack, Const. Czapnik, 51, uttered his last words to the paramedics, according to police sources.

“Thank you,” he said.

That his very final act was an expression of gratitude to others is a powerful testament of a man who, as his mourners heard last week, cared deeply about others and about this community.

The first police officers to arrive on the scene found the suspect restrained with Const. Czapnik’s handcuffs, sitting in the back seat of his cruiser.

None of the paramedics were physically injured. But the incident is reviving debate whether paramedics should wear body armour and possibly even carry arms of some sort.

Kevin Gregson, 43, an RCMP officer on suspension from the force since 2006, is charged with first-degree murder. His next court appearance is on Jan. 19.
23624  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: January 12, 2010, 07:37:00 AM


http://www.pjtv.com/v/2929
23625  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson to Eppes, 1813 on: January 12, 2010, 07:15:28 AM
"It is a wise rule and should be fundamental in a government disposed to cherish its credit, and at the same time to restrain the use of it within the limits of its faculties, never to borrow a dollar without laying a tax in the same instant for paying the interest annually, and the principal within a given term; and to consider that tax as pledged to the creditors on the public faith." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Wayles Eppes, 1813
23626  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 12, 2010, 07:01:07 AM
I have no idea if such is feasible or not, but I do like that we include thinking outside of the box. 

I am but a beginning student in these things, but the idea that the Durand line is but a fiction to which only we pay attention seems pretty sound to me.  The idea of abanding it and allowing the unification of Pashtunland seems pretty intriguing to me.
23627  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Dollar; Monetary Policy on: January 12, 2010, 06:55:01 AM
Federal Reserve earned $45 billion in 2009
By Neil Irwin
Wall Street firms aren't the only banks that had a banner year. The Federal Reserve made record profits in 2009, as its unconventional efforts to prop up the economy created a windfall for the government.

The Fed will return about $45 billion to the U.S. Treasury for 2009, according to calculations by The Washington Post based on public documents. That reflects the highest earnings in the 96-year history of the central bank. The Fed, unlike most government agencies, funds itself from its own operations and returns its profits to the Treasury.



The numbers are good news for the federal budget and a sign that the Fed has been successful, at least so far, in protecting taxpayers as it intervenes in the economy -- though there remains a risk of significant losses in the future if the Fed sells some of its investments or loses money on its stakes in bailed-out firms.

This turn of events comes as the banks that benefited from the Fed's actions are under the microscope. Starting at the end of the week, major banks are expected to announce significant earnings and employee bonuses. Anger in Washington is at such a high boil that the Obama administration will probably propose a fee on financial firms to recoup the cost of their bailout, officials confirmed Monday.

As it happens, the Fed's earnings for the year will dwarf those of the large banks, easily topping the expected profits of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase combined.

Much of the higher earnings came about because of the Fed's aggressive program of buying bonds, aiming to push interest rates down across the economy and thus stimulate growth. By the end of 2009, the Fed owned $1.8 trillion in U.S. government debt and mortgage-related securities, up from $497 billion a year earlier. The interest income on those investments was a major source of Fed profits -- though that income comes with risks, as the central bank could lose money if it later sells those securities to reduce the money supply.

The Fed also made money on its emergency loans to banks and other firms and on special programs to prop up lending, such as one that supports credit cards, auto loans, and other consumer and business lending. Those programs impose interest and fees on participants, with the aim of ensuring that the Fed does not lose money.

And while the central bank in its most recent financial report had recorded a $3.8 billion decline in the value of loans it made in bailing out the investment bank Bear Stearns and the insurer American International Group, the Fed also logged $4.7 billion in interest payments from those loans. Further losses -- or gains -- on the two bailouts are possible as time goes by. The Fed also charges fees for operating the plumbing of the financial system, such as clearing checks and electronic payments between banks.


From its revenue, the Fed deducts operating expenses, such as employee salaries, then returns to the Treasury almost all of the earnings that remain. The largest previous refund to the Treasury was $34.6 billion, in 2007.

"This shows that central banking is a great business to be in, especially in a crisis," said Vincent Reinhart, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Fed official. "You buy assets that have a nice yield, and your cost of funds is very low. The difference is profit."

The Fed plans to release its estimate of 2009 earnings Tuesday. The Post's calculation is based on combining data through September from the Fed's monthly balance sheet report with more recent data from the Treasury's daily budget statement.

Fed officials do not make policy with an eye toward maximizing profits. They are charged by law with managing the nation's money supply to keep employment high and prices stable, and earnings fluctuate depending on a wide range of factors as they pursue that goal. In the crisis, the central bank's policy has been to create money and use it to buy a wide variety of assets, which in turn pay interest.

In effect, the unprecedented range of actions taken to address the crisis has made the Fed's balance sheet more like that of a private bank. A firm such as Bank of America takes money from depositors, whom it pays little or nothing in interest, and lends it out at significantly higher rates. The Fed, similarly, takes money that banks keep on deposit, at a rate of 0.25 percent, and lends it to the U.S. government by buying Treasury securities and, lately, to home buyers and other private borrowers though more exotic investments.

While that resulted in higher earnings in 2009, it exposes the Fed to more risks down the road. "They've moved up the risk-return curve, as they have more long-term assets and more things that involve credit risk," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.

If the price of Treasury bonds or mortgage-related securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were to fall in the years ahead, and Fed leaders decided they need to drain money from the financial system by selling off some of their portfolio, the central bank would lose money. "If they do enough asset sales and rates go high enough, that could eat into future profits pretty substantially," said Michael Feroli, an economist at J.P. Morgan Chase.

Even as the Fed comes to resemble private banks in terms of its balance sheet and its earnings power, there remains one big difference. The CEO of the Federal Reserve, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, received a modest cost-of-living raise for 2010, despite the record earnings: He now makes $199,700, with no bonus at all.


23628  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: January 11, 2010, 09:22:44 PM
I don't get it.  What on earth has she done?

With regard to:

Russia?

Poland/Czech Republic?

Nuclear Policy?

Iran?

Honduras?

Pakistan?

Afpakia?

What?
23629  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BStephens: Can Intelligence by intelligent? on: January 11, 2010, 07:07:42 PM
'Intelligence," Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed, "is not to be confused with intelligence." To read two recent analyses of U.S. intelligence failures is to be reminded of the truth of that statement, albeit in very different ways.

Exhibit A is last week's unclassified White House memo on the attempted bombing of Flight 253 over the skies of Detroit. Though billed by National Security Adviser Jim Jones as a bombshell in its own right, the memo reads more like the bureaucratic equivalent of the old doctor joke about the operation succeeding and the patient dying. The counterterrorism system, it tells us, works extremely well and the people who staff it are top-notch. No doubt. It just happens that in this one case, this same terrific system failed comprehensively at the most elementary levels.

For contrast—and intellectual relief—turn to an unsparing new report on the U.S. military's intelligence operations in Afghanistan. "Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy," it begins. "U.S. intelligence officers and analysts can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-makers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage successful counterinsurgency."

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Afghan security forces stand next to a vehicle destroyed in a roadside bomb on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010.
.That's not happy talk, particularly given that it comes from the man who now runs the Army's intelligence efforts in the country, Major General Michael T. Flynn. But Gen. Flynn, along with co-authors Paul Batchelor of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Marine Captain (and former Journal reporter) Matt Pottinger, are just getting warmed up. Current intel products, they write, "tell ground units little they do not already know." The intelligence community is "strangely oblivious of how little its analytical products, as they now exist, actually influence commanders." There is little by way of personal accountability: "Except in rare cases, ineffective intel officers are allowed to stick around."

All this is told in prose that is crisp, engaging and almost miraculously free of bureaucratic gobbledygook. The report illuminates the distinction between the kind of intel needed for anti-insurgency—information about the bad guys—as opposed to that needed for counterinsurgency: That is, the kind that tells you something about the people you are fighting for (and who you eventually want to get to do the fighting for you), and what they actually need and want.

OpinionJournal Related Stories:
•John Bolton: Let's Take the Bureaucracy Out of Intelligence
•Eliot Cohen: Taking the Measure of Obama's Foreign Policy
•Reuel Marc Gerecht: The Meaning of al Qaeda's Double Agent
•Michael Mukasey: What Does the Detroit Bomber Know?
.Case study in point: As recently as last June, the Nawa district in Afghanistan's embattled Helmand Province was largely under the Taliban's control. "American and British troops could not venture a kilometer from their base without confronting machine gun and rocket fire from insurgents. Local farmers, wary of reprisals by the Taliban, refused to make eye contact with foreign soldiers, much less speak with them or offer valuable battlefield and other demographic information."

But that began to change in July with the arrival of 800 Marines, who fanned out through the district with the goal of discovering its so-called anchor points: "local personalities and local grievances that, if skillfully exploited, could drive a wedge between insurgents and the greater population."

In Nawa, the anchor point turned out to be the resentment of local elders to the Taliban's usurpation of their traditional authority. As in Anbar province in Iraq, winning the trust of those elders turned out to be more important for Nawa's rapid transformation into a relatively thriving, peaceful place than simply killing Talibs.

This is the sort of story that we'd all like to see replicated throughout Afghanistan. Yet the success in Nawa was never communicated through official channels, and became known mainly through the media. When it comes to bureaucracies, including the military's, information always seeks a cubby hole. That's also where it tends to stay.

The report's solution, in part, is the creation of new information centers that can synthesize intelligence as it works its way from the bottom up. But the more important recommendation concerns the type of officer who would staff these centers: "Analysts must absorb information with the thoroughness of historians, organize it with the skill of librarians, and disseminate it with the zeal of a journalist," the authors write. "Sufficient knowledge will not come from slides with little more text than a comic strip."

Uh oh: A military analyst without his PowerPoint? Terrifying as the thought may be to many of its current practitioners, the true art of intelligence requires, well, intelligence. That is a function neither of technology nor of "systems," which begin as efforts to supplement and enhance the work of intelligence and typically wind up as substitutes for it. It is, instead, a matter of experience, intellect, initiative and judgment, nurtured within institutions that welcome gadflies in their midst.

It remains to be seen whether the report's ideas will be put fully into practice, or whether the administration will fight the war long enough for them to make a difference. But there's no doubting that the Pentagon got lucky when Gen. Flynn, Capt. Pottinger and Mr. Batchelor managed to find one another and allowed them to have their say. Judging from recent performances, you've got to wonder how often that happens at other institutions of state that too often mistake intelligence for intelligence.
23630  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: January 11, 2010, 12:09:00 PM
I think Glen Beck is leading the way here.

And frankly, I think WE have to see the potential here instead of staying mired in the "patricians and demogogues" feedback loop.
23631  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 11, 2010, 12:06:25 PM
This could just as easily be posted in the Liberal Fascism thread, the Government Programs thread, the Corruption thread, etc. cheesy
23632  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / South Bay, LA, CA Tea Party on: January 11, 2010, 07:51:43 AM
South Bay Tea Party
Freedom * Responsibility * Truth * Openness
January 2010 Newsletter
Dear Tea Party Patriots,


Happy New Year and Welcome to 2010!  This year is shaping up to be even more exciting than last and we are counting on all of you to keep up the pressure on local, state, and national politicians.  Your hard work, dedication, and effort are required if we are going to return our government to We the People and make 2010 the Year of the Citizen!  You are receiving this newsletter because you signed up with us or an affiliated Tea Party.  If you wish to be removed from this list, please click the unsubscribe button below. 

In this newsletter:

January General Meeting
An Evening with Tom Campbell
Neighborhood Tea Parties
Petition Updates
Upcoming Events
 

January General Meeting
 
What better way to start off 2010 than with a good ol’ Tea Party meeting? 
 
Guest speakers for this event is Mattie Fein.  Mattie Fein is a Republican candidate running for Congress against Jane Harman in the 36th Congressional District. 
Our Chairman Nathan Mintz will also be making a special announcement that you won't want to miss!  Make sure to “Bring a Friend” and we hope to see you there!
 

Date and Time: January 20, 2010, 7:00-9:00PM

Location: Old Albertson’s (Next to Hope Chapel)

2510 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

South East Corner of Artesia and PCH

 

 

An Evening with Tom Campbell
 
With the Primaries just around the corner, we invite you to come and meet one of the candidates up close and personal in “An Evening with Tom Campbell.”  Tom Campbell is a former Republican candidate for California Governor and one of the most respected fiscal minds in California politics today.  Tom Campbell has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago where he was mentored by Milton Friedman.  Mr. Campbell also served as a five term United States Congressman and a California State Senator.

 

Date and Time: February 3, 2010, 7:00-9:00PM

Location: Redondo Beach Veterans Park Community Center

309 Esplanade , Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Click here for a map
 

 

Neighborhood Tea Parties
 
Want to get more involved?  Want to make a difference in your neighborhood?  Then throw a Neighborhood Tea Party! Neighborhood Tea Parties are a fun and friendly way to educate your friends and neighbors about the policies and issues going on in our country today.  Interested?  Just let us know and we’ll do the rest.  Thanks to our fabulous committee leaders Flora and Sharon all you need to do is provide the venue and the guests and we’ll provide the rest! 

 

Please send all inquiries to info@southbayteaparty.com  with ‘Neighborhood Tea Party’ in the subject line.

 

 

Petition Updates

 

Citizen Legislature Project

 

Citizens for California Reform is a non-partisan public interest advocacy organization. Its goal is to improve the quality of life in California by advancing a more limited and transparent state government.  A Citizen Legislature is composed of every-day citizens, not professional politicians, who meet on a part-time basis to pass the state budget and consider new legislation. The Citizen Legislature Act will appear on the November 2010 ballot.

 

The Citizen Legislature Project outlines a legislative session, which will convene in regular session on the first Monday in January of each year for a period not to exceed 30 calendar days. The Legislature will then reconvene in regular session on the first Monday in May for a period not to exceed 60 calendar days.

 

For more information on Citizen Legislature Project, please visit: www.reformcal.com

 

You can also download the petition to circulate yourself from their website at:  http://www.reformcal.com/petition.html Please print using 8 1/2" x 14" (legal) size paper-- the secretary of state office will not accept this petition in any other format. Follow the directions on the petition precisely, including filling yourself in as petitioner on the sheet. We are happy to collect filled out petitions from you.

 

Unplug the Political Machine

 

Unplug the Political Machine is “a gathering of rank-and-file citizens and taxpayers of California who understand the devastation which the Public Employee Unions are wreaking on California.”  The Public Employee Unions have been able to convert a big piece of their rank-and-file members' dues into an “unprecedented and oppressive political war chest” which they use to “seduce and bully the politicians” in Sacramento and putting the average citizen at a major disadvantage.


The only solution is for the citizens and taxpayers to take their power back, and so they have created The Citizen Power Campaign.  This movement plans to place an initiative on the 2010 ballot to prevent the Public Employee Unions from converting taxpayer dollars into special interest political contributions to rig elections and ultimately push California into bankruptcy.”

 

For more information on Unplug the Political Machine, please visit:
www.unplugthepoliticalmachine.org
 
You can also download the petition to circulate yourself from their website here. This petition has a different format than the other one. Please print using two sided 8 1/2" x 11" (letter) or 8.5” x 14” (legal) size paper-- the secretary of state office will not accept this petition in any other format. You can also sign the petition using your iPhone!  To learn how, click here.  Follow the directions on the petition precisely, including filling yourself in as petitioner on the sheet. We are happy to collect filled out petitions from you.

 
23633  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Meese: Prop 8 on: January 11, 2010, 07:41:10 AM
Stacking the Deck Against Proposition 8 Recommend
by EDWIN MEESE III
January 10, 2010
Washington

THE much-anticipated trial to determine the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 is scheduled to begin this morning in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger. What’s at stake in this case, filed in federal district court in San Francisco on behalf of two gay couples, is not just the right of California voters to reaffirm the definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman, but also whether marriage may be otherwise defined in any state.

The entire premise of this litigation is disquieting — that traditional marriage is nothing but “the residue of centuries of figurative and literal gay bashing,” as David Boies, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, has written. According to the plaintiffs, there is just no rational basis for government to privilege marriage between a man and a woman. Thus, in their minds, Proposition 8, which was supported by more than seven million California voters, could have been adopted only as a result of “animus,” as the complaint puts it, toward gays and lesbians.

It’s disquieting that the trial is taking place in San Francisco, probably the venue most likely to support gay marriage. More than 75 percent of San Francisco voters opposed Proposition 8. That’s quite a home-court advantage for same-sex marriage advocates.

But most disquieting for supporters of traditional marriage is a series of pretrial rulings issued by Judge Vaughn R. Walker that have the effect of putting the sponsors of Proposition 8, and the people who voted for it, on trial.

Judge Walker’s decisions have been surprising because they differ from those of other judges who have previously scrutinized marriage laws — in Iowa, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and elsewhere in California, for example. In those instances, the courts have decided legal challenges to state marriage laws based on legislative history, scholarly articles and testimony by social scientists and other experts. They have, in some cases, looked for evidence of legislative intent in the statements published in official voter information pamphlets.

But in this case, Judge Walker has ruled that things like TV advertisements, press releases and campaign workers’ statements are also relevant evidence of what the voters intended. The judge went so far as to order the Proposition 8 campaign to disclose private internal communications about messages that were considered for public use but never actually used. He has even ordered the campaign to turn over copies of all internal records and e-mail messages relating to campaign strategy.

Most troubling, Judge Walker has also ruled that the trial will investigate the Proposition 8 sponsors’ personal beliefs regarding marriage and sexuality. No doubt, the plaintiffs will aggressively exploit this opportunity to assert that the sponsors exhibited bigotry toward homosexuals, or that religious views motivated the adoption of Proposition 8. They’ll argue that prohibiting gay marriage is akin to racial discrimination.

To top it all off, Judge Walker has determined that this case will be the first in the Ninth Circuit to allow cameras in the courtroom, with the proceedings posted on YouTube. This will expose supporters of Proposition 8 who appear in the courtroom to the type of vandalism, harassment and bullying attacks already used by some of those who oppose the proposition.

Thankfully, some of Judge Walker’s rulings have been overturned. For example, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the disclosure of internal communications among the core Proposition 8 organizers. But there is no question that virtually every ruling by Judge Walker so far has put advocates of traditional marriage at an increasing disadvantage.

Despite this, during the trial, the supporters of Proposition 8 will work hard to demonstrate that it was rational for voters to conclude that marriage is a unique institution that promotes the interests of child-rearing, and that those interests are broader than the personal special interests of the adults involved. And they’ll make the case that voters were very much within their rights, when casting their ballots, to consider their own moral and religious views about marriage — or any other subject.

It remains to be seen whether traditional marriage, and the rights of the voters who approved Proposition 8, will prevail in Judge Walker’s courtroom. Most likely, no matter how the judge rules, the Perry case is destined for appeals and a final decision in the United States Supreme Court. But it is during the present trial that the facts in the case will be determined, and it is there that the two sides should be able to present their cases on a level playing field.

Edwin Meese III, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, was attorney general of the United States during the Reagan administration.
23634  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malaysia on: January 11, 2010, 07:29:11 AM
BANGKOK — An uproar among Muslims in Malaysia over the use of the word Allah by Christians spread over the weekend with the firebombing and vandalizing of several churches, increasing tensions at a time of political turbulence.

Arsonists struck three churches and a convent school early Sunday, and black paint was splashed on another church. This followed the firebombing of four churches on Friday and Saturday. No injuries were reported, and only one church, Metro Tabernacle in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, had extensive damage.

The attacks, unlike anything Malaysia has experienced before, have shaken the country, where many Muslims are angry over a Dec. 31 court ruling that overturned a government ban on the use of the word Allah to denote the Christian God.

Though that usage is common in many countries, where Arabic- and Malay-language Bibles describe Jesus as the “son of Allah,” many Muslims here insist that the word belongs exclusively to them and say that its use by other faiths could confuse Muslim worshipers.

That dispute, in turn, has been described by some observers as a sign of political maneuvering, as the governing party struggles to maintain its dominance after setbacks in national and state elections in March 2008.

Some political analysts and politicians accuse Prime Minister Najib Razak of raising racial and religious issues as he tries to solidify his Malay base. In a difficult balancing act, he must also woo ethnic Chinese and Indians whose opposition contributed to his party’s setback in 2008.

“The political contestation is a lot more intensified,” said Elizabeth Wong, a state official who is a member of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, an opposition party. “In Malaysia the central theme will always be about the Malay identity and about Islam. The parties come up with various policies or means to attempt to appeal to the Muslim Malay voters.”

Mr. Najib condemned the violence, saying the government would “take whatever steps it can to prevent such acts.”

In an interview, the main opposition figure, Anwar Ibrahim, implied that the government was behind the current tensions. “This is the last hope — to incite racial and religious sentiments to cling to power,” he said. “Immediately since the disastrous defeat in the March 2008 election they have been fanning this.”

The government has appealed the court decision and has been granted a stay. The dispute has swelled into a nationwide confrontation, with small demonstrations at mosques and passionate outcries on the Internet.

The tensions are shaking a multiethnic, multiracial state that has tried to maintain harmony among its citizens: mostly Muslim Malays, who make up 60 percent of the population, and minority Chinese and Indians, who mostly practice Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.

About 9 percent of Malaysia’s population of 28 million people are Christians, most of them Chinese or Indian. Analysts say this is the first outright confrontation between Muslims and Christians.

But race has become a staple of political discourse in recent years, and religion has been its vehicle, said Ooi Kee Beng, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

“Religion has become a much more useful tool for parties who depend on playing on ethnic divisions,” Mr. Ooi said. “They find it difficult to talk about racial issues but possible to talk about religious issues. We are seeing the result of that political opportunism over the last two decades.”

The line between race and religion is blurred in a country where the Constitution equates Muslim and Malay identities, said Jacqueline Ann Surin, editor of The Nut Graph, an analytical Malaysian news site.

“Malaysia is peculiar in that we have race-based politics and over the past decade or so we have seen an escalation of this notion that Malay Malaysians are superior,” she said. “That has been most apparent from consistent attempts by the U.M.N.O. leadership to promote the notion of ‘ketuanan Melayu,’ or Malay supremacy or dominance.” The United Malays National Organization is the governing party.

“So it’s a logical progression that if the Malay is considered superior by the state to all others in Malaysia, then Islam will also be deemed superior to other religions,” she said.

In a widely quoted speech given Thursday, Razaleigh Hamzah, a former finance minister, said the governing party, founded on a formula of communal power sharing, “had ossified into what appeared to be an eternal racial contract, a model replicated at every level of national life.”

He called the 2008 election “a watershed in Malaysian politics” as the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lost its dominating two-thirds majority in Parliament and lost five states to the opposition.

“The entire political landscape had changed overnight,” Mr. Hamzah said, and has left the formerly invincible Malay-based party seeking to redefine its electoral base and political rationale.

The political uncertainty comes against the backdrop of a flagging economy in a country that once had ambitions to lead the economies of Southeast Asia.

In a speech in December, the second-ranking finance official, Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, said: “Our economy has been stagnating in the last decade. We have lost our competitive edge to remain as the leader of the pack in many sectors of the economy. Our private investment has been steadily in decline.”

He called for changes in an economic system that gives preferential treatment to Malays, saying that all Malaysians should be given “equal opportunity to participate in the economy.”

At the same time, the country has had a rise in political Islam, along with continuing ethnic and religious tensions.

Hindus have protested the destruction of some temples, and in November Muslims paraded a severed cow’s head in the streets of Shah Alam, capital of Selangor state, to protest the construction of a new one.

On New Year’s Day, the Islamic morality police arrested 52 unmarried couples in budget hotels — mainly students and young factory workers — who were expected to be charged with the offense of close proximity.

Last year, a Muslim woman was sentenced to a public caning for drinking beer in a hotel. The sentence has not yet been carried out, with the authorities saying that they have not found a woman trained to carry out a caning.

In this atmosphere, there is a danger that the furor over religious language will feed on itself, said Marina Mahathir, daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is a newspaper columnist and social activist.

“It’s only a few people who are inflamed about it, while the rest of the country is going on as if normal,” she said in an interview. “But if you keep stoking and if you keep giving these people leeway, sooner or later more and more people will think, ‘Oh, maybe we should be upset as well.’ ”
23635  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 11, 2010, 07:23:14 AM
Didn't say it would be easy  cheesy  Nor do I even say it is the right course of action.   Only that it should be considered.
23636  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington, 1793: discharge of the public debt. on: January 11, 2010, 07:20:00 AM
"No pecuniary consideration is more urgent, than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt: on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy of time more valuable." --George Washington, Message to the House of Representatives, 1793
23637  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Eliot Cohen on: January 10, 2010, 11:27:35 PM
By ELIOT A. COHEN
If the first year of President Barack Obama's foreign policy were a law firm in Charles Dickens's London, it would have a name like Bumble, Stumble and Skid.

It began with apologies to the Muslim world that went nowhere, a doomed attempt to beat Israel into line, utopian pleas to abolish nuclear weapons, unreciprocated concessions to Russia, and a curt note to the British to take back the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office. It continued with principled offers of serious negotiation to an Iranian regime too busy torturing, raping and killing demonstrators, and building new underground nuclear facilities, to take them up. Subsequently Beijing smothered domestic coverage of a presidential visit but did give the world the spectacle of the American commander in chief getting a talking-to about fiscal responsibility from a Communist chieftain.

The lovely town of Copenhagen staged not one, but two humiliations: the first when the Olympic Committee delivered the bad news that the president's effort to play hometown booster had failed utterly, before he even landed back in the U.S.; the second when the Chinese once again poked the U.S. in the eye by sending minor officials to meet with Mr. Obama, as they, the Indians and Brazilians tried to shoulder him out of cozy meetings aimed at sabotaging his environmental policy. Even smitten foreign admirers—in the case of the Nobel Prize, some addled Norwegian notables—managed to make him look bad.

It was nonetheless a year of international displays of presidential ego, sometimes disguised as cosmic modesty ("I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war"), but mainly of one slip after another. The decision to reinforce our military in Afghanistan came after an excruciating dither that undermined the confidence of our allies. Mr. Obama's loose talk of withdrawal beginning in 18 months then undid much of the good in his decision to send troops.

Some of these follies stemmed from the inevitable glitches of a new administration settling in—the foreign-policy equivalent of the White House social secretary failing to keep party crashers out. Some of them resulted from sheer naivete, much from the puerile vendetta Mr. Obama waged against the previous administration's record, a bad rhetorical habit that fogged the brains of people who should know better. One hopes that his advisers, and the president himself, recognize the weight of the query reportedly posed last April by the most formidable contemporary leader of a free country, Nicolas Sarkozy: "Est-il faible?" (Is he weak?). If a year from now world leaders think the answer is "yes," the U.S. will be in deep trouble.

In at least one way, Mr. Obama resembles his predecessor: He has enormous self-confidence. But where George W. Bush's certainty stemmed from moral conviction, Mr. Obama's arises from a sense of intellectual superiority. Given the centrality of his intelligence to his own self-perception, how might he use it to redeem a record of, at the moment, fairly unrelieved failure?

Much of foreign policy consists of a rough and ready game of adaptation to unforeseen, occasionally awful events. Indeed, Mr. Obama has been fortunate that his first year in office did not witness a real foreign-policy crisis. We have yet to see how he will meet that test. But there are large questions that require some high intellectual effort that he might consider tackling.

The first is explaining to the American people, and indeed to the world, what kind of war we are waging against Islamist movements. Neither Mr. Obama nor the predecessor he still complains of have been able to get beyond the trope of "extremists who have perverted a great religion." J. K. Rowling has given her readers a more thorough understanding of Lord Voldemort than the West's leaders have given their populations of whom we fight, what really animates them, and what the challenges that lie ahead will be. In particular, Mr. Obama has not articulated an effective policy of dealing with enemies who are neither criminals nor soldiers. Instead, he has tried to walk down both sides of a street at once, trying some in courts and keeping others in Guantanamo (or, in the future, a Gitmo North in Illinois) for handling by military tribunals.

The second problem is Iraq, the war that the president opposed, but the success of which is a matter of cardinal importance. The U.S. must have a broad policy for the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Such a policy should—must—work Iraq into a broader pattern of relationships. The emergence of a free Iraq offers great opportunities. A relatively stable, representative and secular Iraq would help counterbalance Iran, support moderate regimes such as Jordan, and fuel a world economy that, however climate conscious, will need oil. Simply to talk about "responsibly leaving Iraq to its people" is, in fact, irresponsible. Iraq will need care and attention to stay on its current fragile trajectory to success, but it is also an opportunity not to be neglected.

Part of un-Bushism as foreign policy has been a self-inflicted muteness by this most articulate of politicians on the topic of democracy, freedom and human rights. American foreign policy has always been a long and difficult dialogue between realpolitik and our values, our pursuit of our own interests, and our deliberate efforts to spread freedom abroad. Saying that the U.S. will "bear witness" to abuses and brutality around the world is, in effect, to say that we will send flowers to funerals. Mr. Obama needs to say something considerably more serious. In the case of Iran, for example, he could make it altogether unambiguous that we stand with those risking their lives to confront and, if fortune favors them, overthrow a dangerous, indeed evil regime.

Finally, all the globalist talk of this past year has obscured the importance of our alliances, which are evolving, but above all, need tending. New and rising allies—as different as the United Arab Emirates and Colombia—need to be identified and described as such. But more importantly, they, as well as old allies, need to hear from the U.S. president the importance we attribute to them and a conceptual description of how they fit into our policy.

It's a large agenda, but then, Mr. Obama likes to give speeches. And it still leaves plenty—articulating the need for and meaning of American primacy, for example—for 2011.

Mr. Cohen was counselor of the Department of State from 2007 to 2009. He teaches at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
23638  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Will: Golden No Longer on: January 10, 2010, 11:09:21 PM
http://townhall.com/columnists/GeorgeWill/2010/01/10/golden_no_longer
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Golden No Longer
by George Will


WASHINGTON -- Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) was a hero to the American left, partly because of his 1939 anti-war novel "Johnny Got His Gun." Trumbo's title modified the lyric "Johnny get your gun" from the World War I song "Over There." Trumbo's "Johnny" is horribly maimed in that war. Now we need a novel titled "Berkeley Got Its Liberalism." Pending that, we have Tad Friend's report, in the Jan. 4 New Yorker, on maimed Berkeley.

California, a laboratory of liberalism, is spiraling downward, driven by a huge budget deficit. So the University of California system's budget was cut 20 percent. Then the system increased in-state student fees 32 percent to ... $10,302. But that is still 70 percent below student costs at Stanford and other private institutions in California that Berkeley considers no better than it is.

Last September, Friend reports, 5,000 Berkeley employees and students rallied in Sproul Plaza, scene of protests that ignited the 1960s and helped make Ronald Reagan governor. Some protesters, says Friend, were "naked except for signs that read 'BUDGET TRANSPARENCY.'" At an indoor meeting, a "student facilitator" used a projection screen to summarize proposals, which included: "rolling strikes"; "nationalize all universities"; "socialist revolution"; "a tent city in Sacramento"; "create a shadow Board of Regents"; "occupy Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Oakland"; "worker-student control of the university"; "strike in March"; "act now, f--- March"; "capitalism is bad." Toward the end of the seven-hour meeting, participants shouted "General strike! General strike!"

In its impact on the institution, and on students trying to grip the lower rungs of the ladder of social mobility, the UC system's crisis is sad. This academic year, only one-sixth of the normal number of new faculty have been hired at Berkeley. The Cal State system -- a cut below the UC campuses -- will enroll 40,000 fewer students this year than last. But because the professoriate is overwhelmingly liberal, there is rough justice in its having to live with liberalism's consequences, which include this:

Kevin Starr, author of an eight-volume -- so far -- history of the (formerly) Golden State, says California is "on the verge" of becoming something without an American precedent -- "a failed state." William Voegeli, writing in the Claremont Review of Books, tartly says that "Rome wasn't sacked in a day, and California didn't become Argentina overnight." Indeed.

It took years for liberalism's redistributive itch to create an income tax so steeply progressive that it prompts the flight from the state of wealth-creators: "Between 1990 and 2007," Voegeli writes, "some 3.4 million more Americans moved from California to one of the other 49 states than moved to California from another state."

And the state's income tax -- liberalism codified -- intensifies the effects of business cycles on the state's revenue stream: During booms, the stream surges and stimulates government spending; during contractions, revenues dwindle but the new government spending continues. Voegeli says that if California's spending had grown no faster than population growth and inflation from 1992 to 2006, it would have been $65 billion less in 2006, and per capita government outlays then would have equaled not those of Somalia or Mississippi but of Oregon, which is hardly "a hellish paradigm of Social Darwinism."

It took years for liberalism's mania for micromanaging life with entangling regulations to make California's once creative economy resemble Gulliver immobilized by the Lilliputians' many threads. The state, which between 1990 and 2007 lost 26 percent of its factory jobs and 35 percent of its high-tech manufacturing jobs, ranks behind only New York, another of liberalism's laboratories, in the number of outward-bound moving vans.

It took years for compassionate liberalism to make California's welfare menu contribute to the state becoming an importer of Mexico's poverty. It took years for servile liberalism to turn the state into what Voegeli calls a "unionocracy," run by and for unionized public employees, such as public safety employees who can retire at 50 and receive 90 percent of the final year's pay for life.

Friend reports that when the seven-hour meeting ended, the protest moved to the UC president's house. Two buses carried "some hundred Berkeley students and members of AFSCME." Perfect.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is one reason why California's government employees -- their numbers grew 24 percent between 1997 and 2007 -- are the nation's most highly compensated. And why California's economy is being suffocated by the weight of government. And why the state's budget has little left over for Berkeley.
23639  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: earthquake 09/01/2010 on: January 10, 2010, 09:51:32 PM
Some twelve years ago Cindy and I were in a really big one (7.6?) in Huatulco Mexico at a Club Med during dinner.  The dinner hall had some 200 people in it-- who promptly stampeded under a huge plate glass window.  When the dust cleared, the only people left in the dining room were Cindy and me and three people at a nearby table.

We were all from Los Angeles. cheesy
23640  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: January 10, 2010, 08:00:11 PM
I think what Glenn Beck is doing communicating with black Americans is quite interesting and potentially quite powerful.

It starts in the opening seconds of the show, wherein MLK is shown as a Founding Father to be mentioned as an equal of Washington and Jefferson. (Coincidentally enough something that I have been doing for a couple of years now in the Founding Fathers thread on our SCH forum)  It continues there with the iconic civil rights era foto of a civil rights protester carrying a sign "I AM somebody."  And the point is driven home in a variety of ways during the show.  Nothing forced, nothing phony, nothing condescending.  

PS:  I think the fact that white American voted for BO had a very powerful effect on black America's perception of white America that has the potential for a deep paradigm shift.
23641  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 10, 2010, 07:54:38 PM
"Well worth the reading"

NOW I know you've read it  smiley
23642  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chart: More govt workers than mfg on: January 10, 2010, 07:51:08 PM


http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-goods-producing-wrokers-vs-government-payroll-2010-1
23643  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: earthquake 09/01/2010 on: January 10, 2010, 01:32:38 AM
Huh?

Not that I noticed  cheesy
23644  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: January 09, 2010, 09:58:48 PM


For those of you who haven't seen this yet:

http://www.zimbio.com/Barack+Obama/articles/fthL9FEqPPn/SNL+Obama+Skit+Shows+Economic+Crisis+China
23645  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: January 09, 2010, 09:14:10 PM
A WSJ NEWS ROUNDUP
CARACAS -- President Hugo Chávez said he ordered two F-16 jets to intercept a U.S. military plane that twice violated Venezuelan airspace on Friday in what he called the latest provocation in the South American nation's skies.

Brandishing a photo of the plane, which he described as a P-3, Mr. Chávez said the overflight was the latest incursion in Venezuelan skies by the U.S. military from its bases on the Netherlands' Caribbean islands and from neighboring Colombia.

There was no immediate response from the U.S. Defense Department or the White House.

Mr. Chávez said the F-16s escorted the U.S. plane away after two incursions lasting 15 and 19 minutes each.

The perceived threat of U.S. intervention has become a central element of Mr. Chávez's political discourse and a rallying cry for his supporters.

Foes say the president is hyping the idea of a foreign threat to distract Venezuelans from domestic problems such as a recession and inadequate public services. Mr. Chávez surprised the diplomatic world in December when he accused the Netherlands of abetting potential offensive action against his government by granting U.S. troops access to its islands close to Venezuela.

The Dutch government says the U.S. presence is only for counternarcotics and surveillance operations over Caribbean smuggling routes.
23646  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 09, 2010, 09:13:09 PM
GM:

That Jihad Watch piece is interesting, but it would carry more a lot more weight if it were more identifiable.
23647  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 09, 2010, 07:03:05 PM
"Islamo-fascist is accurate, if a bit redundant."

I understand the point, but what then are we to make of the actions of the father of Crispy Weiner Christmas bomber?
23648  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Walk away from your mortgage? on: January 09, 2010, 06:53:43 PM
January 10, 2010
THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Walk Away From Your Mortgage!
By ROGER LOWENSTEIN

Source: First American CoreLogic, November 2009

John Courson, president and C.E.O. of the Mortgage Bankers Association, recently told The Wall Street Journal that homeowners who default on their mortgages should think about the “message” they will send to “their family and their kids and their friends.” Courson was implying that homeowners — record numbers of whom continue to default — have a responsibility to make good. He wasn’t referring to the people who have no choice, who can’t afford their payments. He was speaking about the rising number of folks who arevoluntarily choosing not to pay.

Such voluntary defaults are a new phenomenon. Time was, Americans would do anything to pay their mortgage — forgo a new car or a vacation, even put a younger family member to work. But the housing collapse left 10.7 million families owing more than their homes are worth. So some of them are making a calculated decision to hang onto their money and let their homes go. Is this irresponsible?

Businesses — in particular Wall Street banks — make such calculations routinely. Morgan Stanley recently decided to stop making payments on five San Francisco office buildings. A Morgan Stanley fund purchased the buildings at the height of the boom, and their value has plunged. Nobody has said Morgan Stanley is immoral — perhaps because no one assumed it was moral to begin with. But the average American, as if sprung from some Franklinesque mythology, is supposed to honor his debts, or so says the mortgage industry as well as government officials. Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. declared that “any homeowner who can afford his mortgage payment but chooses to walk away from an underwater property is simply a speculator — and one who is not honoring his obligation.” (Paulson presumably was not so censorious of speculation during his 32-year career at Goldman Sachs.)

The moral suasion has continued under President Obama, who has urged that homeowners follow the “responsible” course. Indeed, HUD-approved housing counselors are supposed to counsel people against foreclosure. In many cases, this means counseling people to throw away money. Brent White, a University of Arizona law professor, notes that a family who bought a three-bedroom home in Salinas, Calif., at the market top in 2006, with no down payment (then a common-enough occurrence), could theoretically have to wait 60 years to recover their equity. On the other hand, if they walked, they could rent a similar house for a pittance of their monthly mortgage.

There are two reasons why so-called strategic defaults have been considered antisocial and perhaps amoral. One is that foreclosures depress the neighborhood and drive down prices. But in a market society, since when are people responsible for the economic effects of their actions? Every oil speculator helps to drive up gasoline prices. Every hedge fund that speculated against a bank by purchasing credit-default swaps on its bonds signaled skepticism about the bank’s creditworthiness and helped to make it more costly for the bank to borrow, and thus to issue loans. We are all economic pinballs, insensibly colliding for better or worse.

The other reason is that default (supposedly) debases the character of the borrower. Once, perhaps, when bankers held onto mortgages for 30 years, they occupied a moral high ground. These days, lenders typically unload mortgages within days (or minutes). And not just in mortgage finance, but in virtually every realm of our transaction-obsessed society, the message is that enduring relationships count for less than the value put on assets for sale.

Think of private-equity firms that close a factory — essentially deciding that the company is worth more dead than alive. Or the New York Yankees and their World Series M.V.P. Hideki Matsui, who parted company as soon as the cheering stopped. Or money-losing hedge-fund managers: rather than try to earn back their investors’ lost capital, they start new funds so they can rake in fresh incentives. Sam Zell, a billionaire, let the Tribune Company, which he had previously acquired, file for bankruptcy. Indeed, the owners of any company that defaults on bonds and chooses to let the company fail rather than invest more capital in it are practicing “strategic default.” Banks signal their complicity with this ethos when they send new credit cards to people who failed to stay current on old ones.

Mortgage holders do sign a promissory note, which is a promise to pay. But the contract explicitly details the penalty for nonpayment — surrender of the property. The borrower isn’t escaping the consequences; he is suffering them.

In some states, lenders also have recourse to the borrowers’ unmortgaged assets, like their car and savings accounts. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond found that defaults are lower in such states, apparently because lenders threaten the borrowers with judgments against their assets. But actual lawsuits are rare.

And given that nearly a quarter of mortgages are underwater, and that 10 percent of mortgages are delinquent, White, of the University of Arizona, is surprised that more people haven’t walked. He thinks the desire to avoid shame is a factor, as are overblown fears of harm to credit ratings. Probably, homeowners also labor under a delusion that their homes will quickly return to value. White has argued that the government should stop perpetuating default “scare stories” and, indeed, should encourage borrowers to default when it’s in their economic interest. This would correct a prevailing imbalance: homeowners operate under a “powerful moral constraint” while lenders are busily trying to maximize profits. More important, it might get the system unstuck. If lenders feared an avalanche of strategic defaults, they would have an incentive to renegotiate loan terms. In theory, this could produce a wave of loan modifications — the very goal the Treasury has been pursuing to end the crisis.

No one says defaulting on a contract is pretty or that, in a perfectly functioning society, defaults would be the rule. But to put the onus for restraint on ordinary homeowners seems rather strange. If the Mortgage Bankers Association is against defaults, its members, presumably the experts in such matters, might take better care not to lend people more than their homes are worth.

Roger Lowenstein, an outside director of the Sequoia Fund, is a contributing writer for the magazine. His book “The End of Wall Street” is coming out in April.

23649  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: January 09, 2010, 12:34:03 PM
The reason I posted his piece is because it addresses the Republican Party.

Do YOU think the Republican Party stands for Free Minds and Free Markets?

Do you think the Reps are going to fare well with the already built into the pipeline demographics of the American people?  And what happens if/when amnesty and immigration deform are voted in?  shocked

Do you think the Reps are going to fare well with a population educated by the DOEducation, public schools, our Universities, and People magazine?

Do you think the Reps are going to fare well when most voters don't pay taxes?
23650  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 09, 2010, 12:28:25 PM
I can think of much better ways, but in case the enemy lurks here I will not articulate them smiley

By the way, may I suggest that we name the enemy?  My preferred term for the enemy is "Islamo Fascists", others like "Jihadis", etc.  But what I suggest is an error is to have a war on a technique (GWOT, GWon-made-disasters, etc.) instead of naming the enemy.

This error is due to PC excrement and leads to PC errors like the responses to the Fort Hood jihadi or the Crispy Weiner Christmas bomber.
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