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23701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Car bomb issues on: April 20, 2011, 11:16:59 AM
Third post of the morning

The Perceived Car Bomb Threat in Mexico
April 13, 2011

By Scott Stewart

Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
On April 5, Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that a row of concrete Jersey barriers was being emplaced in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico. The story indicated that the wall was put in to block visibility of the facility, but being only about 107 centimeters (42 inches) high, such barriers do little to block visibility. Instead, this modular concrete wall is clearly being used to block one lane of traffic in front of the consulate in an effort to provide the facility with some additional standoff distance from the avenue that passes in front of it.

Due to the location and design of the current consulate building in Monterrey, there is only a narrow sidewalk separating the building’s front wall from the street and very little distance between the front wall and the building. This lack of standoff has been long noted, and it was an important factor in the decision to build a new consulate in Monterrey (construction began in June 2010 and is scheduled to be completed in January 2013).

The U.S. Consulate in Monterrey has been targeted in the past by cartels using small arms and grenades. The last grenade attack near the consulate was in October 2010. However, the Jersey barriers placed in front of the consulate will do little to protect the building against small arms fire, which can be directed at portions of the building above the perimeter wall, or grenades, which can be thrown over the wall. Rather, such barriers are used to protect facilities against an attack using a car bomb, or what is called in military and law enforcement vernacular a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED).

That such barriers have been employed (or re-employed, really, since they have been used before at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey) indicates that there is at least a perceived VBIED threat in Mexico. The placement of the barriers was followed by a Warden Message issued April 8 by the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey warning that “the U.S. government has received uncorroborated information Mexican criminal gangs may intend to attack U.S. law enforcement officers or U.S. citizens in the near future in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi.” It is quite possible that the placement of the barriers at the consulate was related to this Warden Message.

The Mexican cartels have employed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the past, but the devices have been small. While their successful employment has shown that the cartels could deploy larger devices if they decided to do so, there are still some factors causing them to avoid using large VBIEDs.

Some History

The use of IEDs in Mexico is nothing new. Explosives are plentiful in Mexico due to their widespread use in the country’s mining and petroleum sectors. Because of Mexico’s strict gun laws, it is easier and cheaper to procure explosives — specifically commercial explosives such as Tovex — in Mexico than it is firearms. We have seen a number of different actors use explosive devices in Mexico, including left-wing groups such as the Popular Revolutionary Army and its various splinters, which have targeted banks and commercial centers (though usually at night and in a manner intended to cause property damage and not human casualties). An anarchist group calling itself the Subversive Alliance for the Liberation of the Earth, Animals and Humans has also employed a large number of small IEDs against banks, insurance companies, car dealerships and other targets.

Explosives have also played a minor role in the escalation of cartel violence in Mexico. The first cartel-related IED incident we recall was the Feb. 15, 2008, premature detonation of an IED in Mexico City that investigators concluded was likely a failed assassination attempt against a high-ranking police official. Three months later, in May 2008, there was a rash of such assassinations in Mexico City targeting high-ranking police officials such as Edgar Millan Gomez, who at the time of his death was Mexico’s highest-ranking federal law enforcement officer. While these assassinations were conducted using firearms, they supported the theory that the Feb. 15, 2008, incident was indeed a failed assassination attempt.

Mexican officials have frequently encountered explosives, including small amounts of military-grade explosives and far larger quantities of commercial explosives, when they have uncovered arms caches belonging to the cartels. But it was not until July 2010 that IEDs began to be employed by the cartels with any frequency.

On July 15, 2010, in Juarez, Chihuahua state, the enforcement wing of the Juarez cartel, known as La Linea, remotely detonated an IED located inside a car as federal police agents were responding to reports of a dead body inside a car. The attack killed two federal agents, one municipal police officer and an emergency medical technician and wounded nine other people. Shortly after this well-coordinated attack, La Linea threatened that if the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation did not investigate and remove the chief of the Chihuahua state police intelligence unit — who La Linea claimed was working for the Sinaloa Federation — the group would deploy a car bomb containing 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives. The threat proved to be an empty one, and since last July, La Linea has deployed just one additional IED, which was discovered by police on Sept. 10, 2010, in Juarez.

The Sept. 10 incident bore a striking resemblance to the July 15 Juarez bombing. The device was hidden in a vehicle parked near another vehicle that contained a dead body that was reported to police. The Sept. 10 device appears to have malfunctioned, since it did not detonate as first responders arrived. The device was noticed by authorities and rendered safe by a Mexican military explosive ordnance disposal team. This device reportedly contained a main charge of 16 kilograms of Tovex, and while that quantity of explosives was far smaller than the 100-kilogram device La Linea threatened to employ, it was still a significant step up in size from the July 15 IED. Based upon the amount of physical damage done to buildings and other vehicles in the area where the device exploded, and the lack of a substantial crater in the street under the vehicle containing the device, the July 15 IED appears to have contained at most a couple of kilograms of explosives.

Seemingly taking a cue from La Linea, the Gulf cartel also began deploying IEDs in the summer of 2010 against law enforcement targets it claimed were cooperating with Los Zetas, which is currently locked in a heated battle with the Gulf cartel for control of Mexico’s northeast (see the map here for an understanding of cartel geographies). Between August and December 2010, Gulf cartel enforcers deployed at least six other IEDs against what they called the “Zeta police” and the media in such cities as Ciudad Victoria in Tamaulipas state and Zuazua in Nuevo Leon. However, these attacks were all conducted against empty vehicles and there was no apparent attempt to inflict casualties. The devices were intended more as messages than weapons.

The employment of IEDs has not been confined just to the border. On Jan. 22, a small IED placed inside a car detonated near the town of Tula, Hidalgo state, injuring four local policemen. Initial reports suggested that local law enforcement received an anonymous tip about a corpse in a white Volkswagen Bora. The IED reportedly detonated when police opened one of the vehicle’s doors, suggesting either some sort of booby trap or a remotely detonated device.

The damage from the Tula device is consistent with a small device placed inside a vehicle, making it similar to the IEDs deployed in Juarez and Ciudad Victoria in 2010. The setup and the deployment of the IED in Tula also bear some resemblance to the tactics used by La Linea in the July 2010 Juarez attack; in both cases, a corpse was used as bait to lure law enforcement to the scene before the device was detonated. Despite these similarities, the distance between Tula and Juarez and the makeup of the cartel landscape make it unlikely that the same group or bombmaker was involved in these two incidents.

Car Bombs vs. Bombs in Cars

The IEDs that have been detonated by the Mexican cartels share a very common damage profile. The frames of the vehicles in which the devices were hidden remained largely intact after detonation and damage to surrounding structures and vehicles was relatively minor, indicating the devices were rather small in size. The main charges were probably similar to the device found in a vehicle recovered from an arms cache in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, on Sept. 10, 2010 — a liquor bottle filled with no more than a kilogram of commercial explosives.

In fact, most of the devices we have seen in Mexico so far have been what we consider “bombs in cars” rather than “car bombs.” The difference between the two is one of scale. Motorcycle gangs and organized crime groups frequently place pipe bombs and other small IEDs in vehicles in order to kill enemies or send messages. However, it is very uncommon for the police investigating such attacks to refer to these small devices as car bombs or VBIEDs. As the name implies, “vehicle borne” suggests that the device is too large to be borne by other means and requires a vehicle to convey it to the target. This means the satchel device that prematurely detonated in Mexico City in February 2008 or the liquor-bottle charge recovered in Guadalajara in September 2010 would not have been considered VBIEDs had they been detonated in vehicles. None of the devices we have seen successfully employed in Mexico has been an actual VBIED, as defined by those commonly used in Iraq, Pakistan or Afghanistan — or even Colombia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The only explosive device we have seen that even remotely approached being considered a VBIED was the 16-kilogram device discovered in Juarez in September 2010. This means that those who are referring to the devices deployed in Mexico as VBIEDs are either mistaken or are intentionally hyping the devices. Claiming that the cartels are using “car bombs” clearly benefits those who are trying to portray the cartels as terrorists. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, there are both political and practical motives for labeling the Mexican drug cartels terrorists rather than just vicious criminals.

That said, the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization and the Gulf cartel have demonstrated that they can construct small devices and remotely detonate them using cellphones, Futaba radio-control transmitters and servos (as have the still unidentified groups responsible for the Tula attack and the radio-controlled device recovered in Guadalajara in September 2010). Once an organization possesses the ability to do this, and has access to large quantities of explosives, the only factor that prevents it from creating and detonating large VBIED-type devices is will.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s in Colombia, powerful Colombian drug trafficking organizations such as the Medellin cartel used large-scale terrorist attacks in an effort to get the Colombian government to back off on its counternarcotics efforts. Some of the attacks conducted by the Medellin cartel, such as the December 1989 bombing of the Colombian Administrative Department of Security, utilized at least 450 kilograms of explosives and were incredibly devastating. However, these attacks did not achieve their objective. Instead, they served to steel the will of the Colombian government and also caused the Colombians to turn to the United States for even more assistance in their battle against the Colombian cartels.

A U.S. government investigator who assisted the Colombian government in investigating some of the large VBIED attacks conducted by the Medellin cartel notes that Medellin frequently employed Futaba radio-control devices in its VBIEDs like those used for model aircraft. A similar Futaba device was recovered in Guadalajara in September 2010, found wired to the explosives-filled liquor bottle inside the car. This may or may not provide the Mexican authorities with any sort of hard forensic link between the Mexican and Colombian cartels, but it is quite significant that the Futaba device was used in an IED in Mexico with a main explosive charge that was much smaller than those used in Colombia.

On April 1, 2011, the Mexican military discovered a large arms cache in Matamoros. In addition to encountering the customary automatic weapons, grenades and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the military also seized 412 chubs (plastic sleeves) of hydrogel commercial explosives, 36 electric detonators and more than 11 meters of detonation cord. (The Mexican government did not provide photos of the explosives nor the weight of the material recovered, but chubs of gel explosives can range in size from less than half a kilogram to a couple of kilograms in weight.) This means there were at least a hundred kilograms of explosives in the cache, enough to make a sizable VBIED. Given that the cache was located in Matamoros and appears to have been there for some time, it is likely that it belonged to the Gulf cartel. This, like other seizures of explosives, indicates that the reason the Gulf cartel has used small explosive devices in its past attacks is not due to lack of explosives or expertise but lack of will.

Assessing the Threat

When assessing any threat, two main factors must be considered: intent and capability. So far, the Mexican cartels have demonstrated they have the capability to employ VBIEDs but not the intent. Discerning future intent is difficult, but judging from an actor’s past behavior can allow a thoughtful observer to draw some conclusions. First, the Juarez cartel has been hard-pressed by both the Mexican government and the Sinaloa Federation, and it is desperately struggling to survive. Despite this, the leaders of that organization have decided not to follow through with their threats from last July to unleash a 100-kilogram VBIED on Juarez. The Juarez cartel is not at all squeamish about killing people and it is therefore unlikely that the group has avoided employing VBIEDs for altruistic or benevolent reasons. Clearly, they seem to believe that it is in their best interests not to pop off a VBIED or a series of such devices.

Although the Juarez cartel is badly wounded, the last thing it wants to do is invite the full weight of the U.S. and Mexican governments down upon its head by becoming the Mexican version of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel, which would likely happen should it begin to conduct large terrorist-style bombings. Escobar’s employment of terrorism backfired on him and resulted not only in his own death but also the dismantlement of his entire organization. A key factor in Escobar’s downfall was that his use of terrorism not only affected the government but also served to turn the population against him. He went from being seen by many Colombians as almost a folk hero to being reviled and hated. His organization lost the support of the population and found itself isolated and unable to hide amid the populace.

Similar concerns are likely constraining the actions of the Mexican cartels. It is one thing to target members of opposing cartels, or even law enforcement and military personnel, and it is quite another to begin to indiscriminately target civilians or to level entire city blocks with large VBIEDs. While the drug war — and the crime wave that has accompanied it — has affected many ordinary Mexicans and turned sentiment against the cartels, public sentiment would be dramatically altered by the adoption of true terrorist tactics. So far, the Mexican cartels have been very careful not to cross that line.

There is also the question of cost versus benefit. So far, the Mexican cartels have been able to use small IEDs to accomplish what they need — essentially sending messages — without having to use large IEDs that would require more resources and could cause substantial collateral damage that would prompt a public-opinion backlash. There is also considerable doubt that a larger IED attack would really accomplish anything concrete for the cartels. While the cartels will sometimes conduct very violent actions, most of those actions are quite pragmatic. Cartel elements who operate as loose cannons are often harshly disciplined by cartel leadership, like the gunmen involved in the Falcon Lake shooting.

So while the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey may be erecting Jersey barriers to protect it from VBIED attacks, it is likely doing so based on an abundance of caution or some bureaucratic mandate, not hard intelligence that the cartels are planning to hit the facility with a VBIED.

23702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: April 20, 2011, 11:12:35 AM
Is that 500+k number measuring the same thing as Beck's previously >2mil numbers?  (Granted it comes after nearly two weeks of GB substitutes such as Napolitano , , ,)
23703  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 4/13 Stratfor on: April 20, 2011, 11:07:13 AM
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron will meet in Paris on Wednesday over a dinner to discuss the situation in Libya, according to a French government source quoted by the AFP on Tuesday. The announcement comes after London and Paris leveled criticism at NATO, saying that the alliance was essentially not doing enough in Libya to have an impact on the ground. It also follows an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday where the European Union endorsed the basic outlines of an EU “military-humanitarian” mission that has no identified purpose or mission structure, but is the first foray into at least introducing the idea of a potential mission shift that would necessitate “boots on the ground.”

“The situation in Libya is quickly becoming Europe’s very own Middle East ‘quagmire.’”
The situation in Libya is quickly becoming Europe’s very own Middle East “quagmire,” to borrow the term used to describe the Iraqi and Vietnamese conflicts. France and the United Kingdom pushed for an intervention in Libya, but are now faced with a situation that has quickly devolved into a stalemate, with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi set to rule western Libya and with eastern Libya under some level of control of a yet undefined rebel movement, tangentially represented by the Libyan National Transition Council. The main distinction between where Europeans are today and where America was in Vietnam and Iraq is that the sunk costs of a ground commitment have not yet been made, which makes it easier, albeit politically unpalatable, for France and the United Kingdom to quit.

There are three primary reasons for the stalemate. First, the ultimate goal of the intervention, despite not being cited by the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the military operation, is regime change. However, this cannot be achieved solely via airstrikes. Second, the rebel forces that were supposed to provide the ground troops to topple Gadhafi and provide an element of authority following his ouster are inadequate as a fighting force. Third, while the strikes have not brought down Gadhafi or even prevented him from attacking Misurata, they have proved effective in preventing an eventual attack on Benghazi.

How did the Europeans find themselves in this predicament? France and the United Kingdom were emboldened by a slew of early Gadhafi loyalist defections and examples of relatively quick ousters of neighboring Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to pursue a limited military intervention in Libya. Their motivations were diverse, but what unites London and Paris today is that a stalemate in Libya will be perceived as a failure on the part of both, and Europe in general, to make and execute effective international security policy. This is an issue of reputation both regionally and domestically, particularly for Sarkozy, whose approval rating has not benefited from the overall popularity of the intervention among the French public.

France has, for example, begun leveling criticism against NATO primarily to absolve itself of the ineffectiveness of the current mission. On Tuesday alone, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet and Foreign Minister Alain Juppe hinted at everything from the idea that certain NATO member states are preventing the French air force from conducting aggressive airstrikes, to the suggestion that the United States has removed its ground strike capacity too quickly and withdrawn into the background before the mission was accomplished.

The question now is where do the Europeans go from the current predicament. The statements from Paris seem to suggest that some sort of a stalemate is becoming acceptable and that the French government is working hard to absolve itself from responsibility of the failure to enact regime change, setting the stage to lay the blame on the less aggressive NATO allies.

Yet even a stalemate will not be easy to maintain. While it is true that with significant coalition airpower in place, Gadhafi will ultimately be unable to cross the desert that separates the Gulf of Sidra from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi (and all that is east of it), the problem remains that the rebels will not be completely secure. Enforcing some sort of a demilitarized zone would be largely ineffective. While it would be simple to place a small number of foreign troops on the main coastal highway, it is not as if Gadhafi loyalists would not be able to go through the desert south of the highway with small sabotage teams to harass the rebels’ command and control, as well, energy-producing facilities. Furthermore, foreign troops separating the two sides would become targets. This leaves the rebels holding on to the northeastern portion of the country with no safe link to the energy fields in the south. It also leaves Gadhafi in control of the western portion of the country with all the security implications that will have for the Mediterranean.

This leaves Europe where it started, almost 20 years to the day in the emerging conflict in the former Yugoslavia, with a reputation for not being able to resolve security problems in its own neighborhood. That is exactly the perception that Paris set out to change with an aggressive policy in Libya. Paris and London understand this, which is why they have the incentive to spread the blame to other NATO member states and to make sure that the stalemate is ultimately resolved. However, it is becoming clear that the only way to do the latter, considering the woeful inadequacy of rebel forces, is to engage in a war against Gadhafi via ground forces. This is why the issue is being floated via the yet undefined “military-humanitarian” missions and through various leaks to the European press. The Europeans are testing the public perception to the idea, while trying to bluff Gadhafi into thinking that the stakes are about to become higher.

The current state of affairs in Libya is ultimately the product of Europeans, and the United States along with them, having not pursued an aligned military strategy consistent with political goals. Military objectives were based on a loosely worded U.N. Security Council resolution that defined defending civilians as the primary goal of the intervention. Setting aside our argument that the real political goal has from the beginning been regime change, the military strategy wasn’t wholly capable of accomplishing the humanitarian goal either. This is primarily because the intervening countries placed an upper limit of how much effort they would exert in the pursuit of such a humanitarian goal. Namely, as was the case with Kosovo, no Western soldiers would be put in harm’s way in a ground invasion. This limit on effort merely meant that Benghazi was saved from Gadhafi’s heavy artillery so that Misurata could be destroyed through urban combat two weeks later.

23704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US border corruption on: April 20, 2011, 10:58:02 AM
Last week, Margarita Crispin, a female officer working on the border, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for taking $5 million in bribes for allowing vehicles with marijuana to come through her point of entry. Today we’re going to look at the increase in corruption cases along the U.S. and Mexican border.

In the last five years, nearly 80 U.S. border patrol and customs and border protection officers have been arrested for corruption. The up tick in the arrests along the border are in parallel to the enhanced physical security measures that have been put into place with the laser focus on border security efforts. For example, walls and fences had been built along the border, along with unmanned surveillance vehicles such as drones. On the technology front, very sophisticated license plate readers, which can very quickly identify cartel suspects or stolen automobiles, as well as the enhanced SIGINT capability, which is the intercept of text messages, cellular telephone calls and email between cartel suspects in Mexico and the United States. As a result of the enhanced physical security measures along the border, the cartels are operating as a foreign intelligence agency, utilizing the exploitation of human capital, human assets, people, to provide intelligence to their organizations.

From an exploitation perspective, cartels are utilizing the principle of MICE. The “M” in MICE stands for money, and as we look at the corruption cases on the border, clearly the bulk are as a result of money: paying bribes to law enforcement officers throughout the border. “I” is ideology and we don’t see that being used along the border. “C” is compromise, and we have seen evidence of that surfacing, primarily using sex as a tool to compromise law enforcement officers. “E” is for ego and in that case it is the promotion or looking at individuals that think they deserve a better position and haven’t gotten that inside their police department or government agency, but we haven’t seen a lot of ego being used along the border.

To recap, looking at the acronym of MICE, money and compromise are the primary drivers for the border corruption. The Above the Tearline aspect is there really needs to be an aggressive background investigation process engaged with any law enforcement personnel working the border, with routine and thorough updates. The polygraph can also play an important part here with a line of questioning focusing on finances, extravagant lifestyle, multiple vacations, as well as other kinds of suitability issues that could surface. The use of an updated background investigation process, combined with the polygraph, can be used to help stem the tide of corruption that appears to be increasing along the border

Click for more videos

23705  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Insane bike race in Chile on: April 20, 2011, 10:44:29 AM
23706  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Passover on: April 20, 2011, 10:40:28 AM
In each one of us there is an Egypt and a Pharaoh and a Moses and Freedom in a Promised Land. And every point in time is an opportunity for another Exodus.

Egypt is a place that chains you to who you are, constraining you from growth and change. And Pharaoh is that voice inside that mocks your gambit to escape, saying, "How could you attempt being today something you were not yesterday? Aren't you good enough just as you are? Don't you know who you are?"

Moses is the liberator, the infinite force deep within, an impetuous and all-powerful drive to break out from any bondage, to always transcend, to connect with that which has no bounds.

But Freedom and the Promised Land are not static elements that lie in wait. They are your own achievements which you may create at any moment, in any thing that you do, simply by breaking free from whoever you were the day before.

Last Passover you may not have yet begun to light a candle. Or some other mitzvah still waits for you to fulfill its full potential. This year, defy Pharaoh and light up your world. With unbounded light.

23707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: April 20, 2011, 10:17:39 AM
Agenda: Mexican Drug Cartels
April 15, 2011 | 2156 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart looks at the potential for an escalation of violence as Mexican drug cartels fight for power and control.

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

Colin: More than 230 American cities have now been affected by the presence of Mexican drug cartels. This weekend, Australia’s Crime Commission reported that the cartels have taken ahold of organized crime syndicates in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. In Mexico, the seemingly unstoppable violence continues. A few days ago we had the gruesome discovery of at least 116 bodies in mass graves near the city of San Fernando, just 100 miles away from the Texan border. And, perhaps as evidence of more violence to come, we have the erection of concrete car-bomb barriers outside the busy United States consulate in Monterrey.

Welcome to Agenda. Joining me this week to discuss Mexican security is Scott Stewart. Scott, let’s start with this latest security measure. Has this building been targeted before, and is there intelligence that it’s about to be hit by a large car bomb?

Scott: Well first of all yes, the U.S. consulate general in Monterrey has been targeted before by attacks but these have been attacks using hand grenades and small arms, and that’s something different from a large car bomb attack. At this point we don’t believe there is any imminent car bomb threat to that facility, or any other U.S. facilities in Mexico for that matter.

Colin: Why would a cartel want to escalate the battle and invite the further wrath of the United States?

Scott: The Mexican cartels certainly don’t shy away from violence. We see them regularly beheading and dismembering people. However they tend to try to target most of their violence against opponents of the fellow cartels or against government employees, and a lot of times the government employees that they target are actually working for opposition cartels. So there’s really a relation there between the targeting. We have not seen the Mexican cartels really get into widespread attacks against the public at large. They have really tried to target their violence. And in times where we have seen them have incidents where there’s been indiscriminate violence, or violence that has impacted negatively on their public image - things like the Falcon Lake shooting - we have seen the cartels come down hard on operatives that made those mistakes and that brought the heat down upon the cartel.

One thing to remember is that these cartels are not terrorist groups. They are really businesses, and they’re organized crime organizations. So their end is making money. That is their objective. And anything that gets in the way of that objective, bringing down massive heat upon them, is bad for business, and they try to shy away from that sort of activity.

Colin: Are the authorities making any progress in their fight against the cartels?

Scott: Well, I think it depends on how one defines progress. Certainly, they have been arresting the heads of certain cartels and they have been disrupting the operations of some of these cartels. For example, over the last five or six years, organizations such as the Arellano-Felix organization, which is also known as the Tijuana cartel; another organization, the Juarez Cartel or the VCF, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization; they’ve both been decimated. Likewise, we’ve seen the Beltran Leyva organization decapitated and split up. So, they’re making headway against certain organizations, but at the same time, the largest cartel, Sinaloa cartel, that is headed up by a gentleman by the name of El Chapo, “the short one,” Sinaloa has been getting stronger and stronger. And they are really becoming more of a regional hegemon in the cartel landscape. And right now, they control the border from Tijuana all the way over to Juarez, for the most part. And they are acting to increase their control over that area. So while certain cartels have been weakened, other cartels, like Sinaloa, have become stronger.

Of course, one other measure of progress against the cartels would be violence. And indeed, we have not seen violence come down at all. This fracturing, this splintering of these cartel organizations, has really led to more fighting. What happens is, when a cartel organization has very good control of an area - or what we call a plaza, a smuggling corridor - there’s generally peace in that area. But when they become weakened and another organization comes in and tries to take over there territory, that’s when you see the violence, that’s when you see the fighting. And of course the death toll then will increase. So as some of these organizations have been weakened, others have tried to move in. And that has escalated the violence.

Colin: How safe is it for a businessperson to go to Mexico now, and where should they avoid?

Scott: There are certain hotspots right now. Indeed, in Acapulco at this present time we have a three-way struggle for control of that city between three factions of the former Beltran Leyva organization. One that now calls itself the Cartel del Pacifico Sur, the South Pacific Cartel; another faction has gone on to form this independent cartel of Acapulco; and still another little faction has gone and they’re working with Sinaloa. And so you have these three organizations fighting each other for control of Acapulco, which generally in the past had been a very popular tourist resort.

Likewise, in the Northeast we see a lot of violence right now in places like Monterrey. And one of the reasons that Monterrey is so concerning is because it is really the industrial heart of Mexico. You have not only large Mexican corporations that are headquartered there, but also U.S. companies have gone down into Monterrey in order to manufacture. The things that make Monterrey attractive to businesses, the fact that they have good lines of communication and roads, and then of course lines of communication to the U.S. border to ship stuff, also makes it an ideal place to control as a drug organization. If you can control Monterrey, you can control the flow of a lot of goods and a lot of contraband to the border. So we really expect to see a lot of continued violence in the Northeast in the coming months.

Colin: Scott, thank you. Scott Stewart there, ending Agenda for this week.

23708  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor on: April 20, 2011, 10:17:05 AM
Agenda: Mexican Drug Cartels
April 15, 2011 | 2156 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart looks at the potential for an escalation of violence as Mexican drug cartels fight for power and control.

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

Colin: More than 230 American cities have now been affected by the presence of Mexican drug cartels. This weekend, Australia’s Crime Commission reported that the cartels have taken ahold of organized crime syndicates in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. In Mexico, the seemingly unstoppable violence continues. A few days ago we had the gruesome discovery of at least 116 bodies in mass graves near the city of San Fernando, just 100 miles away from the Texan border. And, perhaps as evidence of more violence to come, we have the erection of concrete car-bomb barriers outside the busy United States consulate in Monterrey.

Welcome to Agenda. Joining me this week to discuss Mexican security is Scott Stewart. Scott, let’s start with this latest security measure. Has this building been targeted before, and is there intelligence that it’s about to be hit by a large car bomb?

Scott: Well first of all yes, the U.S. consulate general in Monterrey has been targeted before by attacks but these have been attacks using hand grenades and small arms, and that’s something different from a large car bomb attack. At this point we don’t believe there is any imminent car bomb threat to that facility, or any other U.S. facilities in Mexico for that matter.

Colin: Why would a cartel want to escalate the battle and invite the further wrath of the United States?

Scott: The Mexican cartels certainly don’t shy away from violence. We see them regularly beheading and dismembering people. However they tend to try to target most of their violence against opponents of the fellow cartels or against government employees, and a lot of times the government employees that they target are actually working for opposition cartels. So there’s really a relation there between the targeting. We have not seen the Mexican cartels really get into widespread attacks against the public at large. They have really tried to target their violence. And in times where we have seen them have incidents where there’s been indiscriminate violence, or violence that has impacted negatively on their public image - things like the Falcon Lake shooting - we have seen the cartels come down hard on operatives that made those mistakes and that brought the heat down upon the cartel.

One thing to remember is that these cartels are not terrorist groups. They are really businesses, and they’re organized crime organizations. So their end is making money. That is their objective. And anything that gets in the way of that objective, bringing down massive heat upon them, is bad for business, and they try to shy away from that sort of activity.

Colin: Are the authorities making any progress in their fight against the cartels?

Scott: Well, I think it depends on how one defines progress. Certainly, they have been arresting the heads of certain cartels and they have been disrupting the operations of some of these cartels. For example, over the last five or six years, organizations such as the Arellano-Felix organization, which is also known as the Tijuana cartel; another organization, the Juarez Cartel or the VCF, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization; they’ve both been decimated. Likewise, we’ve seen the Beltran Leyva organization decapitated and split up. So, they’re making headway against certain organizations, but at the same time, the largest cartel, Sinaloa cartel, that is headed up by a gentleman by the name of El Chapo, “the short one,” Sinaloa has been getting stronger and stronger. And they are really becoming more of a regional hegemon in the cartel landscape. And right now, they control the border from Tijuana all the way over to Juarez, for the most part. And they are acting to increase their control over that area. So while certain cartels have been weakened, other cartels, like Sinaloa, have become stronger.

Of course, one other measure of progress against the cartels would be violence. And indeed, we have not seen violence come down at all. This fracturing, this splintering of these cartel organizations, has really led to more fighting. What happens is, when a cartel organization has very good control of an area - or what we call a plaza, a smuggling corridor - there’s generally peace in that area. But when they become weakened and another organization comes in and tries to take over there territory, that’s when you see the violence, that’s when you see the fighting. And of course the death toll then will increase. So as some of these organizations have been weakened, others have tried to move in. And that has escalated the violence.

Colin: How safe is it for a businessperson to go to Mexico now, and where should they avoid?

Scott: There are certain hotspots right now. Indeed, in Acapulco at this present time we have a three-way struggle for control of that city between three factions of the former Beltran Leyva organization. One that now calls itself the Cartel del Pacifico Sur, the South Pacific Cartel; another faction has gone on to form this independent cartel of Acapulco; and still another little faction has gone and they’re working with Sinaloa. And so you have these three organizations fighting each other for control of Acapulco, which generally in the past had been a very popular tourist resort.

Likewise, in the Northeast we see a lot of violence right now in places like Monterrey. And one of the reasons that Monterrey is so concerning is because it is really the industrial heart of Mexico. You have not only large Mexican corporations that are headquartered there, but also U.S. companies have gone down into Monterrey in order to manufacture. The things that make Monterrey attractive to businesses, the fact that they have good lines of communication and roads, and then of course lines of communication to the U.S. border to ship stuff, also makes it an ideal place to control as a drug organization. If you can control Monterrey, you can control the flow of a lot of goods and a lot of contraband to the border. So we really expect to see a lot of continued violence in the Northeast in the coming months.

Colin: Scott, thank you. Scott Stewart there, ending Agenda for this week.

23709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Marshall, 1819 on: April 20, 2011, 09:59:30 AM
"An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation." --John Marshall, McCullough v. Maryland, 1819

23710  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / He's baaaack :-) on: April 20, 2011, 09:14:07 AM
After several days off (understandably!)  GB is back  cool  Both yesterday's show and the day before were excellent.
23711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SA and Iran on: April 20, 2011, 08:32:54 AM
Saudi Arabia's Iranian Conundrum

Iran warned Saudi Arabia on Monday of the dire consequences of Riyadh’s intervention in Bahrain. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s adviser for military affairs, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, told journalists, “The presence and attitude of Saudi Arabia (in Bahrain) sets an incorrect precedence for similar future events, and Saudi Arabia should consider this fact that one day the very same event may recur in Saudi Arabia itself and Saudi Arabia may come under invasion for the very same excuse.” A post-U.S. Iraq renders the Saudi kingdom vulnerable to a future Iranian invasion.

The remarks made by Safavi, who formerly served as commander of Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (1997-2007), constitute the first time Tehran has issued such a direct warning. The Saudis and the Iranians have had tense relations since the founding of the Islamic republic in 1979 and increasingly so since the U.S. invasion of Iraq toppled the Baathist regime, which led to a Shiite-dominated Iraqi state and the empowering of Iran. But never before has Iran issued a public statement about an invasion of the Saudi kingdom.

“The key problem for Saudi Arabia is that Tehran doesn’t have to actually resort to war to achieve its ends.”
So, why is the Persian Shiite state engaging in such threats now? The Saudi move to intervene in neighboring Bahrain, where popular unrest was largely waged by the Shiite majority, threatened to topple a Sunni monarchy. Well aware of the implications, the Saudis embarked on their first long-term, overseas military deployment, sending in 1,500 troops to help Bahraini forces crush the Shiite opposition.

The Saudi move succeeded in quelling the unrest (for now at least), which placed Iran in a difficult position. Lacking the capability to physically aid their fellow Shia in the Persian Gulf, the Iranians were caught in an awkward situation. Iran had to do more than issue diplomatic statements and engineer protests against the Saudis and their allies.

Warning the Saudis that they too could be invaded on the same pretext that they used to go into Bahrain is definitely an escalation on the part of the Iranians. Since Iran making good on its threat is unlikely to happen anytime soon (given that the United States would not stand by and allow Iran to attack Saudi Arabia), this can be argued as yet another hollow threat. A more nuanced examination of the situation, however, suggests that Tehran is not just simply engaging in bellicose rhetoric.

Instead, Iran is trying to exploit Saudi fears. The Wahhabi kingdom fears instability (especially now when it is in the middle of a power transition at home and the region has been engulfed by popular turmoil). The clerical regime in Iran sees regional instability as a tool to advance its position in the Persian Gulf region.

Riyadh can never be certain that Tehran won’t ever attack but Iran would have to overcome many logistical difficulties to make good on its threat. The Saudis are also not exactly comfortable with the idea of overt military alignment with the United States. The last time the Saudis entered into such a relationship with the Americans was during the 1991 Gulf War and it lead to the rise of al Qaeda.

Put differently, any conflict involving Iran entails far more risks than rewards for the Saudis. Cognizant of the Saudi perceptions, the Iranian statement is designed as a signal to the Saudis that they should accept Iran as a player in the region or be prepared to deal with a very messy situation. The key problem for Saudi Arabia is that Tehran doesn’t have to actually resort to war to achieve its ends. But Riyadh’s efforts to counter Iran and its Arab Shiite allies are likely to create more problems for the Saudis because crackdowns are contributing to long-term instability in the region and causing agitation among the Shia, which Iran can use to its advantage.

23712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gingrich, Ryan on: April 20, 2011, 08:30:07 AM
From Paul Revere to Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan Responds to President Obama
by Newt Gingrich

Monday was the 236th anniversary of Paul Revere’s midnight ride to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that British troops were coming to arrest them and seize colonial arms at Concord. While riding, Revere stopped at houses along the way to warn everyone that “the British are coming.” His warning galvanized patriots to meet the British at Lexington and Concord, leading to the “shot heard around the world” and the first military battle of the American Revolution.

This year the anniversary fell on the same day income taxes were due. It was unfair taxation that sparked the protests in Massachusetts and other colonies against British rule that came to shape the Founders’ view of limited government. Today, an out-of-control government spending our nation into a debt crisis has sparked another rebellion.

Today, Congressman Paul Ryan has been our generation’s Paul Revere, warning his fellow Americans about the coming danger and rallying us to a plan to meet the threat head on.
Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity

The 2012 “Path to Prosperity” budget plan Paul Ryan wrote was passed by the House last week. His plan stands in stark contrast to the 2012 budget proposed by the White House earlier this year. Unlike Ryan’s plan, President Obama’s budget proposal did not deal with entitlement spending, which encompasses the largest share of the federal budget. This led to the president’s budget being widely panned as unserious about the urgent challenge of our time.

In a tacit admission that he had failed to provide leadership on the deficit, President Obama wanted a do-over. Last week he gave a speech to try and regain the high ground and compete with the serious proposal offered by Ryan. Instead, he offered a campaign-style partisan response that only served to diminish him.
In last week’s newsletter, I proposed two big tests by which to measure the president’s plan to tackle our looming deficit crisis.

The first was whether his plan would create jobs or destroy them. Trying to balance the budget without addressing unemployment is futile. The most immediate step necessary to move towards a balanced budget is to employ the policies that lead to job-creation. The more people taken off the welfare roll and moved onto payrolls will decrease the need for food stamps and unemployment compensation. Working people pay tax dollars instead of receiving them through welfare.

The second was whether his plan to control the cost of entitlements relied on merely squeezing the current systems through rationing, reduced benefits and cost controls or if he proposed fundamental structural reforms that would deliver better results at lower costs.

On both tests, the president failed spectacularly. The president proposed nearly $2 trillion in tax increases that would destroy jobs and flatly rejected the idea of fundamental reform of Medicare and Medicaid, proposing instead to kick the can to a board of unelected bureaucrats to find ways to save money within the boundaries of the current system, through even more rationing than what has already been enacted under Obamacare.

In his speech, the president lauded the effort of Republicans and Democrats to work together to balance the budget in the 1990s. Yet the solutions he proposed in his speech are precisely the opposite of what Republicans did when I was Speaker.

We passed the first tax cuts in sixteen years to encourage the private sector to create jobs, including what Art Laffer called the largest capital gains cut in history. This led to a drop in unemployment from 5.6% to below 4%. We also successfully reformed welfare to lift the poor out of poverty in much the same way Paul Ryan proposes to save Medicaid. And we actually increased defense spending as opposed to Obama who proposes to cut it. Through those pro-growth and pro-freedom measures, we balanced the budget and paid off over $405 billion in debt.

Just as troubling as the bad plan put forward by the president was the extraordinary partisan spectacle he engaged in when he slandered Paul Ryan and the GOP 2012 budget. The distortions the president employed while describing the Ryan plan were so malicious, that I wanted to give Congressman Ryan the opportunity to respond himself in this newsletter.

The following is from Congressman Ryan and refutes the president’s most erroneous claims.


Paul Ryan Responds

Two months ago, the president introduced an unserious budget that locks in Washington's spending spree, adds $13 trillion to the debt over the next decade, and accelerates our nation toward a fiscal crisis. His budget imposes $1.5 trillion in tax increases on job creators and American families, stifling the private-sector job creation that we urgently need. His budget commits seniors to bureaucratically rationed health care, burdens families with ever-higher taxes, and consigns our children and grandchildren to a diminished future.

Two weeks ago, House Republicans advanced their Fiscal Year 2012 budget resolution – The Path to Prosperity. The House Republican budget spurs economic growth and job creation, strengthens the social safety net for those in need, fulfills the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans, and lifts our crushing burden of debt. The Path to Prosperity prevents the president’s tax increases and instead focuses on the root cause of our debt problem: wasteful Washington spending. The House Republicans’ budget reduces government spending by $6.2 trillion over the next decade, and puts the budget on a path to balance in the years ahead.

The Path to Prosperity has reshaped the budget debate – giving the American people an honest assessment of our fiscal challenges and delivering real solutions that restore the promise of our exceptional nation. In the wake of criticism that House Republicans were leading where his budget had failed, the president followed with a speech intended to show that he shared our concerns about the nation’s most urgent fiscal challenges. Unfortunately, instead of delivering solutions, the president delivered a partisan campaign speech, heavy on overheated rhetoric and light on ideas. Where the president did offer ideas, it was more of the same: huge tax increases and a plan for Medicare that builds on last year’s government takeover of health care and involves restricting seniors’ access to care.

As I noted last week, the president’s speech was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate, and hopelessly inadequate to the task of averting a fiscal crisis.

Let’s examine further the factual missteps and egregious errors in the president’s speech.

Discretionary Spending

CLAIM: “A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That’s what they’re proposing.”

REALITY: The House Republican budget simply returns non-defense discretionary spending to below 2008 levels. What the president is inadvertently admitting is that he and his party’s leaders in Congress have increased spending by these breathtaking amounts. Americans elected a new Republican majority in 2010 in part because they were appalled at this lack of spending discipline. The House Republican budget simply adheres to our mandate to stop the Democrats’ unchecked spending spree.

CLAIM: “These aren’t the kind of cuts you make when you’re trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget…These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in.”

REALITY: Incorrect. By returning spending to below 2008 levels, they are the kind of cuts that tell us we cannot afford the Democrats’ unsustainable spending spree. The president has every right to defend his spending record, but implying that common-sense spending restraint is un-American crossed the line.


CLAIM: “[The House Republican budget is] a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors.”

REALITY: The president’s commitment to the status quo will end Medicare, period. According to the non-partisan CBO, Medicare will go bankrupt in nine short years. The president announced in his speech that he would rely on strict limitations on how much care seniors could receive in order to achieve savings. Contrary to the president’s opinion, CBO does not believe this would result in lower costs. Current seniors would receive less care through Medicare against a backdrop of relentlessly rising health care costs.

This stands in sharp contrast to the House Republican Budget, which gives seniors the tools to fight back against rising costs by empowering them in a personalized Medicare program, giving future generations the same kinds of health care choices members of Congress now enjoy.

CLAIM: “It says that ten years from now, if you’re a 65 year old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today.”

REALITY: This is a false comparison based on a false reality. As mentioned above, the CBO reports that Medicare’s trust fund will become insolvent in nine years unless we act. This would necessitate harsh restrictions on seniors’ access to care – the kind of restrictions that the president himself alluded to later in his speech. The president is taking CBO numbers out of context and omitting the CBO’s clear warnings about Medicare’s impending bankruptcy.
That’s why comparing a Republican plan that saves Medicare to an unsustainable status quo means comparing a real solution with a false reality.The Medicare program as it exists today cannot exist in the future.The real choice is this: Do we act now to protect the program for current seniors while building a strengthened Medicare for future generations? Or do we restrict access to care for current and future seniors, as the president has proposed, while ignoring our crushing burden of debt until it becomes a fiscal crisis?

CLAIM: “It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher.”

REALITY: The changes in the House Republican budget will not affect those in and near retirement in any way. When younger workers become eligible for Medicare, they will be able to choose the kind of plan that best suits their needs from a list of Medicare plans that are guaranteed to offer coverage to all beneficiaries regardless of pre-existing conditions. Medicare would then provide a payment to subsidize the cost of the plan. This is not a voucher – it is a payment that flows through to whatever plan recipients choose.

CLAIM: “And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck – you’re on your own.”

REALITY: Under the House Republican Budget, Medicare will provide increased assistance for lower-income beneficiaries and those with greater health risks, guaranteeing that Medicare will be there for those who need it most. Wealthy seniors will receive less assistance, and the Medicare benefit will grow every year, while using competition to lower costs and make health care for seniors more affordable.

CLAIM: “Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.”

REALITY: The president’s plan – a commitment to the status quo – condemns Medicare to a bankrupt future. The greatest threat to the health security of America’s seniors is the president’s plan to deeply and systematically ration Medicare.


CLAIM: “This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit.”

REALITY: Republicans have a vision for patient-centered health-care that requires the removal of the partisan roadblock to reform that the president and his party’s leaders enacted last year. Our budget repeals the government takeover of health care to make way for reforms that will make health insurance more affordable and accessible for Americans.

Contrary to the president’s false claims that the House Republicans’ Medicaid reform plan would leave millions without coverage, Medicaid spending grows every year under our budget. The Medicaid program is already failing those who need it most, because excessive federal mandates have made it so that the only way for states to control costs in the current system is to lower doctor reimbursement rates. This is why so many doctors refuse to see Medicaid patients. States need to be able to tailor their Medicaid programs to the needs of their unique populations. Our reforms help them create better programs. The president’s approach is just to throw more money at a broken system.


CLAIM: “Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.”

REALITY: The House Republican budget keeps revenue within its historical range of 18-19 percent of GDP. The president’s distortion is based on the fact that our budget prevents $1 trillion in tax increases. Many Democrats have claimed that our plan includes huge new tax cuts for the rich. This is completely false. Our plan calls for revenue-neutral tax reform along the lines of what the president’s Fiscal Commission proposed – lower rates with a broader base. The president appeared to have endorsed this idea in his speech, but he also called for higher rates. Despite this contradiction on tax policy, the president was clear in his intent to raise taxes again on job creators and American families.

Deficit reduction

CLAIM: “Today, I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years. It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission I appointed last year, and builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It’s an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table, but one that protects the middle-class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.”

REALITY: The president’s plan lacks credibility. For one thing, is simply does not put “every kind of spending on the table” – the president ruled out changes to Social Security and exempted 90 percent of all federal spending from his debt-reduction as “failsafe.” For another, the president’s use of a 12-year budget window is bizarre – it is clearly contrived to make the president’s proposal appear to come close to matching the House Republicans’ proposal in terms of deficit reduction, when it actually falls a full trillion dollars short.


The president had an opportunity to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans by putting serious deficit-reduction ideas on the table. Instead, he decided to use this opportunity to kick off his 2012 campaign. It is no wonder that a few days after the president’s speech, rating agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. debt outlook to negative, expressing skepticism about the president’s approach and implying that his stated position would make it harder, not easier, for the two parties to reach agreement on a serious plan before the 2012 election.

House Republicans will be here if the president changes his mind and decides that the next generation is more important than the next election. Until then, we will continue to lead.

-Congressman Paul Ryan

Lack of faith in Americans

In addition to the misleading and demonstrably false description of Paul Ryan’s budget and the consequences of his own plan, there is a deeper problem with President Obama’s message, one that reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of American Exceptionalism.

The president pretends to speak in the language of hope, change, optimism and compassion. Scratch the surface of his message, however, and you will see that it reveals a profound cynicism about the character of the nation he leads.

During his speech last week, and at subsequent campaign stops, the president said “The America I know is generous and compassionate.” Yet, in describing the generosity and compassion of America, the president cites government programs instead of the countless acts of charity Americans engage in every day without the involvement of government.

This is a profoundly different view of American compassion than the one experienced by most Americans. Throughout our history, it has been through a strong and vibrant civil society – the actions of charities, churches, civic organizations and associations - that Americans have expressed their compassion, not through big government.

In fact, the founding fathers believed that America’s strong volunteer ethic was essential to defend liberty because civil society fulfills roles that government is always tempted to assume. This puts the big government programs that President Obama and liberals want to preserve and expand profoundly at odds with the traditional American model of limited government and vibrant civil society. As big government expands, civil society gets crowded out by taking more money and resources away from civil society and directs it towards government. It also erodes the sense of personal responsibility Americans feel to take care of themselves and their neighbors by shifting that responsibility to government.

This brings us back to the issue of compassion, which President Obama seems to be setting up to be the aspirational “hope and change” of the 2012 campaign.

The president is trying to argue that Republican plans to reduce government spending reveal they do not believe in a compassionate America. He is 180 degrees wrong.

By placing faith in government, not civil society, to help those Americans in need, it is President Obama and the left who defend and want to expand the big government welfare state and who do not believe in a compassionate America.

Rather than a compassionate American people, the left believes in compassionate politicians compensating for uncompassionate Americans by taking their money and spending it on what they consider more benevolent things.

So when President Obama and the left try to take the moral high ground and say that an America with less big government is not the compassionate America they know, remember it is because their low view of the American people is not the same as what we know is true.

Your Friend,

23713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Totally contrary to the dominant line of analysis around here on: April 19, 2011, 05:02:54 PM

Dueling Fixed Income heavy hitters:

"The bonds that PIMCO’s Bill Gross sold to take a 3% short position in the Treasury market may have found a buyer in Doubleline’s Jeffrey Gundlach."

Gundlach: Treasuries will Rally When QE2 Ends
By Robert Huebscher
April 19, 2011

The bonds that PIMCO’s Bill Gross sold to take a 3% short position in the Treasury market may have found a buyer in Doubleline’s Jeffrey Gundlach.  In a conference call with investors last week, Gundlach said that Treasury prices would rise in the near term, once QE2 expires on June 30.

For over a year, Gundlach has forecast a “long-term bottoming process” in government bond yields.  Last week he said he remains committed to that outlook.

If you are a buy-and-hold investor with a 10-year horizon, Gundlach said, you should position your portfolio with the expectation of inflation. But he doesn’t expect inflation to unfold any time soon.  “I am not in the camp that believes Treasury rates are about to rocket higher because of the end of QE2,” he said.  “I think just the opposite, actually.”

The $236 billion in Gross’ Total Return fund makes him the world’s largest bond investor, dwarfing the $6.1 billion in Doubleline’s Total Return fund.  But Gundlach’s performance record over the past decade, including the results at his previous employer, TCW, has surpassed Gross’.   That helps explain why Doubleline’s Total Return fund just celebrated its first anniversary by establishing a new record for assets gathered in in its first year and why Gundlach’s comments are closely followed by market observers.

I’ll look at the assessment of the economic and market conditions that underlies Gundlach’s contrarian position in the Treasury market, and I’ll also discuss why another prominent bond manager, Hoisington Investment Management, reached the same conclusion as him but for different reasons.

The elephant in the kitchen

A common theme in Gundlach’s analyses over the last several years has been increasing total credit market debt as a percentage of GDP, which peaked at 365% in 2009 and had dropped only slightly to 345% as of the end of 2010. The slight dip was caused by consumer deleveraging, but the underlying trend remains.

Gundlach called this debt the “elephant in the kitchen,” because it dominates the fundamentals underlying the investment markets.

The challenge investors face, Gundlach said, is figuring how that debt will be repaid, while at the same time funding the liabilities of federal entitlement programs, without debasing the dollar.

The present level of federal borrowing will detract from future economic growth and productive investments, Gundlach said.  “That is not a good framework, and this is why we are having so much trouble now in Washington, DC,” he said.

In the 1940s, federal receipts as a percentage of debt, as shown in the chart below, were as precarious as they are now, with debt equal to ten times receipts.  Gundlach said that imbalance was corrected with tax increases, with tax receipts rising from 5% to 20% of GDP in the 1940s. As a result, debt decreased to merely two times receipts in 1980.  But that was when consumer leveraging accelerated, putting us back where we were 70 years ago.

The problem, Gundlach said, is if interest rates go up it would cause a “really difficult fiscal situation” with interest expenses.  “We really need to get this in order if we are going to be on a sound footing,” he said.

Gundlach noted that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has estimated that the government’s fiscal position will improve slightly over the next four years, but he said he is skeptical of those forecasts.

Slow growth ahead

The Federal Reserve, thanks to its quantitative easing policies, is now the largest purchaser of government debt, supplanting China for that distinction.  The latest round, a $600 billion bond-buying program dubbed QE2, is set to end on June 30.  “That is going to be a moment of truth for the US economy,” Gundlach said.

Without further monetary stimulus and with conservative fiscal policies like the $38.5 billion in budget cuts recently passed by Congress, Gundlach said the US economy will weaken substantially.

“If we are going to stop stimulating the economy to the tune of $1.65 trillion a year, it is blatantly obvious that the economy will suffer pretty dramatically if a true budget-cutting exercise were to take place,” Gundlach said.

Gundlach called the direction of proposed fiscal policies an “austerity program,” which by definition means lower economic growth.  “It's a little late to be starting that, because it is going to be really painful,” he said. “My view is that it is going to be so painful that it is going to be abandoned, and that is when the inflationists might be right.”

One likely outcome will be increased taxes on individuals, particularly wealthy ones.  Gundlach said that taxes would need to rise from 20% to 35% of GDP to solve federal debt problems.  He considers an increase of that magnitude likely, but he said that top marginal tax rates could increase to 60%.

The market reaction to prior quantitative easing events

Turning to Gundlach’s interest rate forecast, he said it is critical to review the market’s reaction to various monetary policies over the last several years, as shown in the graph of the 10-year Treasury bond below:

QE1 was announced (the first red arrow on the left) amid and because of a global banking panic, Gundlach said.   The result was a continued decline in rates that ended in December of 2008.

When the purchases actually began, though, bond yields started to rise.  That was counterintuitive, Gundlach said, because government’s buying actions should have pushed prices up and yields down.  His explanation was that bond investors get nervous when there is a strong inflationary-biased policy.   While government buying supported the prices of newly issued securities, investors holding the other $8 trillion of Treasury bonds were unsettled and pushed yields on the 10-year from 2% to 4%. 

When QE1 was extended, yields rose even further.

On March 31, 2010, purchases from QE1 ended and bond yields collapsed.  Gundlach said this was probably because the stimulus that quantitative easing represented was withdrawn, and that hurt the economy. The withdrawal of QE1 may have also made bond investors feel better that inflationary policies were no longer being pursued.

“The implementation of quantitative easing has produced exactly the opposite market behavior that some people intuitively expected,” he said. 

When QE2 was announced, yields bottomed, and when bond purchases began, yields rose.

“The idea that ending QE2 would necessarily mean a rate rise flies in the face of the bloodless verdict of the market,” he said, “which is that when quantitative easing was in place, bond yields rose, and when it was taken off it led to weaker economy and rates falling.  I think that is going to happen again.”

Gundlach also said that the start of QE1 triggered a rally in equities, and that rally was amplified when QE1 was extended.  When QE1 ended, stocks fell.  Stocks rallied again when Bernanke made his speech in Jackson Hole announcing QE2 and rallied again when the buying program began.  Gundlach said he expects that pattern to repeat, and that stocks will go down when QE2 ends.  “The discounting for that should be starting in the relatively near term,” he said.

Gross has not spoken publicly about his decision to short the Treasury market.  But in his last monthly commentary, he offered the likely explanation – his disgust with Congress’ inability to address its debt burden and, in particular, federal entitlement programs.  He wrote that the inevitable outcome would be higher inflation or its equivalent, a declining dollar.

Gross also wrote that the government could manage its debt “stealthily via policy rates and Treasury yields far below historical levels – paying savers less on their money and hoping they won’t complain” – and that policy direction supports Gundlach’s position.

More support for a bond rally

Texas-based Hoisington Investment Management supervises over $4 billion in fixed-income assets.  In their most recent commentary, the firm’s principals, Van Hoisington and Lacy Hunt, were sharply critical of the Fed’s quantitative easing policy.  They argued that it encouraged speculation, slowed economic growth and “eviscerated” the standard of living for the average American family.

On their last point, Hoisington and Hunt cited the “misery index,” which combines the unemployment and inflation rates.  This metric was less than 7% prior to the financial crisis.  Since the Fed announced QE2 in the second quarter of last year, it has risen from 9.1% to an estimated 14% in the current quarter. 

“The Bernanke Fed provides fresh confirmation that trying to substitute higher inflation for lower unemployment harms the economy,” they wrote.

Hoisington and Hunt concurred with Gundlach, arguing that the end of QE2 will bring about lower interest rates.  It will not restore the Fed’s balance sheet to a “reasonable size,” they said, but it will reinforce the actions of the other major central banks (the ECB, the People’s Bank of China, and the Bank of England), which have all commenced raising interest rates.

“The global upturn in inflation will reverse, thereby placing the global economy on a more stable footing,” they wrote.

Hoisington and Hunt advised investors to move gradually into Treasury securities, although they warned (as did Gundlach) that the economy would slow in the second half of this year.   Deflation will be the dominant theme, creating a favorable environment for holders of long-dated Treasury bonds.  “Positioning for an inflation boom will prove to be disappointing,” they said.

The likelihood of QE3

What if Gundlach, Hoisington and Hunt are correct and the economy slows appreciably in the second half of this year?  Tighter Fed policy, rising interest rates and higher commodity prices could combine to bring about that outcome.

In an email exchange, Gundlach wrote that slower growth could also be a consequence of “a well-intentioned attempt to rein in the out-of-control budget deficit through tax hikes and spending cuts. “

If so, then pressure will build for another round of quantitative easing.

“When a debt-logged economy experiences even a moderate growth slowdown, the deflation winds begin to blow,” Gundlach wrote.  “When that happens, the population will be screaming for QE3, and so they will get it.”

For active managers like Gundlach, the challenge will be to anticipate the Fed’s moves, assess market sentiment and correctly position their portfolios on the yield curve – a challenge that Gundlach has more than met over the last decade.   

In light of Gundlach’s advice, however, a long-term buy-and-hold investor should simply position his or her portfolio for inflation.

23714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gov. Brown delivers for Prison Guard Union on: April 19, 2011, 11:29:37 AM,0,3637836.story
23715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / But , , , but , , , Clapper said they were secular! on: April 19, 2011, 11:12:13 AM
23716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glazov on: April 19, 2011, 10:41:02 AM
How Vittorio Arrigoni Went to Gaza Hoping to Die
Is it really still a mystery why political pilgrims are exterminated by the totalitarian entities they worship?
April 18, 2011 - by Jamie Glazov   Share | 
Bit by bit, decorate it, arrange the details, find the ingredients, imagine it, choose it, get advice on it, shape it into a work without spectators, one which exists only for oneself, just for the shortest little moment of life.

—Michel Foucault, describing the pleasure of preparing oneself for suicide.

The Italian cheerleader for Hamas, Vittorio Arrigoni, has died at the hands of the Islamic terrorism that he venerated throughout his life. The fellow traveler journeyed to the Gaza Strip to prostrate himself before his secular deity, Hamas, and to assist its venture of perpetrating genocide against Israelis. Islamic terrorists, who call themselves “Salafists,” showed their gratitude to Arrigoni by kidnapping, mercilessly beating, and executing him.

This episode was, of course, all part of an expected script: even though the media and our higher literary culture never discuss the reasons, the historical record reveals one undeniable fact: like thousands of political pilgrims before him, Vittorio Arrigoni went to Gaza to die. Indeed, consciously or unconsciously, in their unquenchable quest for sacrificing human life on the altar of their utopian ideals, fellow travelers always lust for death, and if not the death of others, then of their own.

It is no coincidence that a short while before “Salafists” killed Arrigoni, Juliano Mer-Khamis, a cheerleader of terrorism in Israel who, like Arrigoni, dedicated his life to praising the Palestinian death cult and working for the annihilation of Israel, was murdered by Islamic terrorists in Jenin. It is no coincidence that Rachel Corrie, the infamous enabler of the International Solidarity Movement, a group that disrupts anti-terrorism activities of the Israel Defense Forces, committed suicide in protecting Hamas terrorists by throwing herself in front of an Israeli bulldozer. And it is no coincidence that female leftist “peace” activists are routinely raped, brutalized, and enslaved by the Arabs of Judea and Samaria that they come to aid and glorify in their Jew-hating odyssey against Israel. And don’t hold your breath, by the way, waiting for leftist feminists to protest this phenomenon; they are faithfully following in the footsteps of American fellow traveler Anna Louise Strong and the Stalinist German writer Bertolt Brecht, two typical leftist believers who were completely undisturbed by the arrests and deaths of their friends in the Stalinist purges — having never even inquired about them after their disappearance.

Beneath the leftist believer’s veneration of the despotic enemy lies one of his most powerful yearnings: to submit his whole being to a totalist entity. This psychological dynamic involves negative identification, whereby a person who has failed to identify positively with his own environment subjugates his individuality to a powerful, authoritarian entity, through which he vicariously experiences a feeling of power and purpose. The historian David Potter has succinctly crystallized this phenomenon:

. . . most of us, if not all of us, fulfill ourselves and realize our own identities as persons through our relations with others; we are, in a sense, what our community, or as some sociologists would say, more precisely, what our reference group, recognizes us as being. If it does not recognize us, or if we do not feel that it does, or if we are confused as to what the recognition is, then we become not only lonely, but even lost, and profoundly unsure of our identity. We are driven by this uncertainty into a somewhat obsessive effort to discover our identity and to make certain of it. If this quest proves too long or too difficult, the need for identity becomes psychically very burdensome and the individual may be driven to escape this need by renouncing his own identity and surrendering himself to some seemingly greater cause outside himself.

This surrender to the totality involves the believer’s craving not only to relinquish his individuality to a greater whole but also, ideally, to sacrifice his life for it. Lusting for his own self-extinction, the believer craves martyrdom for the idea. As Eric Hoffer points out in his classic The True Believer, the opportunity to die for the cause gives meaning to the believer’s desire to shed his inner self: “a substitute embraced in moderation cannot supplant and efface the self we want to forget. We cannot be sure that we have something worth living for unless we are ready to die for it.”

Thus, Vittorio Arrigoni, Juliano Mer-Khasin, and Rachel Corrie were simply just faithfully continuing the long suicidal tradition of their political faith. We are well aware, after all, of the dark fate of the believers who journeyed to Russia after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution to build communism; we are well versed of what happened to the leftist Iranians who returned to their country after the 1979 Iranian Revolution to aid Khomeini in building the Islamic paradise. Only those who cannot accept the true motivations of utopian believers can still deny what those political pilgrims were searching for in their odyssey to shed themselves of their own unwanted selves.

Does one need to excessively explain why “progressive” feminist Naomi Klein called out for bringing “Najaf to New York” in her infamous 2004 column in The Nation, in which she reached her hand out in solidarity to Muqtada al-Sadr and his Islamofascist Mahdi Army in the Iraqi Shi’ite stronghold of Najaf? Bringing Najaf to New York would mean that the Iraqi Shi’ite stronghold, where Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army at one time ran their torture chambers and sowed their terror, would be replicated on America’s shores. What could Naomi Klein possibly see admirable in the vicious nihilistic terror of the Mahdi Army? Would she remain alive for more than sixty seconds upon contact with it?

Is it possible that Klein’s impulses are related to those of Noam Chomsky, a Jew, who has distinguished himself, among other intriguing ways, by traveling to Lebanon to personally embrace the leaders of Hezbollah, whose stated top priority is to rid the world of Jews?

The murder by Iraqi terrorists of American hostage Tom Fox in March 2006 was a perfect example of this pathological phenomenon. Fox was among four members of the leftist group Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) who were kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Iraq in November 2005. Aside from voicing support for the terrorists, one of the group’s most powerfully articulated themes entailed the longing for death. In the 1984 speech, “God’s People Reconciling,” for example, which gave rise to the formation of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Mennonite minister Ron Sider urged his listeners: “We must be prepared to die by the thousands.”

It is not unsurprising that when British and American troops rescued the other three CPT hostages and saved their lives, the freed captives refused to thank their liberators — who had risked their own lives participating in the rescue — or to cooperate in a critical debriefing session with intelligence officers. Doug Pritchard, the co-chairman of CPT, went out of his way to tell the world that the kidnapping itself (and by implication Fox’s murder) was America’s fault, not the kidnappers’ or the executioners’. “The illegal occupation of Iraq by multinational forces,” he affirmed, was the “root cause” of the kidnappings. In other words, the devil made them do it.

The freed captives resented the fact that they had been liberated by the very forces they despised. And the rescuers had robbed the remaining hostages of the idealized fate suffered by Fox. Jan Benvie, an Edinburgh teacher who was getting ready to go to Iraq with the group in the summer of 2006, learned the lesson well. She announced before her departure: “We make clear that if we are kidnapped we do not want there to be force or any form of violence used to release us.”

To the end of his life, the French philosopher Michel Foucault, who supported and adored Khomeini’s killing fields, adamantly defended “everyone’s right to kill himself.” Suicide, he boastfully wrote in a 1979 essay, was “the simplest of pleasures.” Is it a coincidence that Foucault, who had attempted to kill himself several times out of guilt feelings regarding his homosexuality, passionately supported an Islamic death cult that murdered homosexuals?

Gaza terrorists have a long history of kidnapping and abusing, raping and killing those who come to aid and abet them.

Vittorio Arrigoni knew that very well.

In the end, Arrigoni’s story is the story of the Left – a story best summarized by the dictum of Goethe’s devil, which Marx perpetually invoked, as he did in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon: “All that exists deserves to perish.”

Arrigoni is the contemporary poster boy for the political pilgrims who traveled to despotisms to help build the paradises in which they hoped to shed themselves of their own unwanted selves.  They paid the ultimate price. And no lesser cost must be paid for the momentous transformation of sterilizing the unclean earth. Such disinfection can be made possible only by the purifying power of human blood — blood which, in the utopian enterprise, must, in the final chapter, become one’s own.

Jamie Glazov is the editor of He is the author of the new book United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.

23717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: End of the Deng Dynasty on: April 19, 2011, 10:15:22 AM
Well, that sounds rather significant!


China and the End of the Deng Dynasty
April 19, 2011

By Matthew Gertken and Jennifer Richmond

Beijing has become noticeably more anxious than usual in recent months, launching one of the more high-profile security campaigns to suppress political dissent since the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. Journalists, bloggers, artists, Christians and others have been arrested or have disappeared in a crackdown prompted by fears that foreign forces and domestic dissidents have hatched any number of “Jasmine” gatherings inspired by recent events in the Middle East. More remarkable than the small, foreign-coordinated protests, however, has been the state’s aggressive and erratic reaction to them.

Meanwhile, the Chinese economy has maintained a furious pace of credit-fueled growth despite authorities’ repeated claims of working to slow growth down to prevent excessive inflation and systemic financial risks. The government’s cautious approach to fighting inflation has emboldened local governments and state companies, which benefit from rapid growth. Yet the risk to socio-political stability posed by inflation, expected to peak in springtime, has provoked a gradually tougher stance. The government thus faces twin perils of economic overheating on one side and overcorrection on the other, either of which could trigger an outburst of social unrest — and both of which have led to increasingly erratic policymaking.

These security and economic challenges are taking place at a time when the transition from the so-called fourth generation of leaders to the fifth generation in 2012 is under way. The transition has heightened disagreements over economic policy and insecurities over social stability, further complicating attempts to coordinate effective policy. Yet something deeper is driving the Communist Party of China’s (CPC’s) anxiety and heavy-handed security measures: the need to transform the country’s entire economic model, which carries hazards that the Party fears will jeopardize its very legitimacy.

Deng’s Model

Former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping is well known for launching China’s emergence from Mao’s Cultural Revolution and inaugurating the rise of a modern, internationally oriented economic giant. Deng’s model rested on three pillars.

The first was economic pragmatism, allowing for capitalist-style incentives domestically and channels for international trade. Deng paved the way for a growth boom that would provide employment and put an end to the preceding decade of civil strife. The CPC’s legitimacy thus famously became linked to the country’s economic success rather than to ideological zeal and class warfare.

The second pillar was a foreign policy of cooperation. The lack of emphasis on political ideology opened space for international maneuver, with economic cooperation the basis for new relationships. This gave enormous impetus to the Sino-American detente Nixon and Mao initiated. In Deng’s words, China would maintain a low profile and avoid taking the lead. China would remain unobtrusive to befriend and do business with almost any country — as long as it recognized Beijing as the one and only China.

The third pillar was the primacy of the CPC’s system. Reform of the political system along the lines of Western countries could be envisioned, but in practice would be deferred. That the reform process in no way would be allowed to undermine Party supremacy was sealed after the mass protests at Tiananmen, which the military crushed after a dangerous intra-Party struggle. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police would serve as Deng’s “Great Wall of steel” protecting the Party from insurrection.

For three decades, Deng’s model remained mostly intact. Though important modifications and shifts occurred, the general framework stands because Chinese-style capitalism and partnership with the United States have served the country well. Deng also secured his policy by establishing a succession plan: He was instrumental in setting up his immediate successor, Jiang Zemin, and Jiang’s successor, current President Hu Jintao.

Hu’s policies have not differed widely in practice from Deng’s. China’s response to the global economic crisis in 2008 revealed that Hu sought recourse to the same export- and investment-driven growth as his predecessors. Hu’s plans of boosting household consumption have failed, the economy is more off-balance than ever, and the interior remains badly in need of development. But along the general lines of Deng’s policy, the country has continued to grow and stay out of major conflict with the United States and others, and the Party has maintained indisputable control.

Emergent Challenges

Unprecedented challenges to Deng’s model have emerged in recent years. These are not challenges involving individuals; rather, they come from changes in the Chinese and international systems.

First, more clearly than ever, China’s economic model is in need of restructuring. Economic crisis and its aftermath in the developed world have caused a shortfall in foreign demand, and rising costs of labor and raw materials are eroding China’s comparative advantage even as its export sector and industries have built up extraordinary overcapacity.

Theoretically, the answer has been to boost household consumption and rebalance growth — the Hu administration’s policy — but this plan carries extreme hazards if aggressively pursued. If consumption cannot be generated quickly enough to pick up the slack — and it cannot within the decade period that China’s leaders envision — then growth will slow sharply and unemployment will rise. These would be serious threats to the CPC, the legitimacy of which rests on providing growth. Hence, the attempt at economic transition has hardly begun.

Not coincidentally, movements have arisen that seek to restore the Party’s legitimacy to a basis not of economics but of political power. Hu’s faction, rooted in the Chinese Communist Youth League (CCYL), has a doctrine of wealth redistribution and Party orientation. It is set to expand its control when the sixth generation of leaders arrives. This trend also exists on the other side of the factional divide. Bo Xilai, the popular Party chief in Chongqing, is a “princeling.” Princelings are the children of Communist revolutionaries, who often receive prized positions in state leadership, large state-owned enterprises and the military. This group is expected to gain the advantage in the core leadership after the 2012 transition. Bo made himself popular by striking down organized-crime leaders who had grown rich and powerful from new money and by bribing officials. Bo’s campaign of nostalgia for the Mao era, including singing revolutionary songs and launching a “Red microblog” on the Internet, has proved hugely popular. It also has added an unusual degree of public support to his bid for a spot on the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012. Both sides appeal to the inherent value of the Party, rather than its role as economic steward, for justification.

The second challenge to Deng’s legacy has arisen from the military’s growing self-confidence and confrontational attitude toward foreign rivals, a stance popular with an increasingly nationalist domestic audience. The foreign policy of inoffensiveness for the sake of commerce thus has been challenged from within. Vastly more dependent on foreign natural resources, and yet insecure over prices and vulnerability of supply lines, China has turned to the PLA to take a greater role in protecting its global interests, especially in the maritime realm. As a result, the PLA has become more forceful in driving its policies.

In recent years, China has pushed harder on territorial claims and more staunchly defended partners like North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and Myanmar. This trend, especially observable throughout 2010, has alarmed China’s neighbors and the United States. The PLA is not the only institution that seems increasingly bold. Chinese government officials and state companies have also caused worry among foreigners. But the military acting this way sends a particularly strong signal abroad.

And third, Deng’s avoidance of political reform may be becoming harder to maintain. The stark disparities in wealth and public services between social classes and regions have fueled dissatisfaction. Arbitrary power, selective enforcement of the law, official and corporate corruption, and other ills have gnawed at public content, giving rise to more and more frequent incidents and outbursts. The social fabric has been torn, and leaders fear that it could ignite with widespread unrest. Simultaneously, rising education, incomes and new forms of social organization like non-governmental organizations and the Internet have given rise to greater demands and new means of coordination among dissidents or opposition movements.

In this atmosphere, Premier Wen Jiabao has become outspoken, calling for the Party to pursue political reforms in keeping with economic reforms. Wen’s comments contain just enough ambiguity to suggest that he is promoting substantial change and diverging from the Party, though in fact he may intend them only to pacify people by preserving hope for changes in the unspecified future. Regardless, it is becoming harder for the Party to maintain economic development without addressing political grievances. Political changes seem necessary not only for the sake of pursuing oft-declared plans to unleash household consumption and domestic innovation and services, but also to ease social discontent. The Party realizes that reform is inevitable, but questions how to do it while retaining control. The possibility that the Party could split on the question of political reform, as happened in the 1980s, thus has re-emerged.

These new challenges to the Deng approach reveal a rising uncertainty in China about whether his solutions are adequate to secure the country’s future. Essentially, the rise of Maoist nostalgia, the princelings’ glorification of their Communist bloodline and the CCYL’s promotion of ideology and wealth redistribution imply a growing fear that the economic transition may fail, and that the Party therefore may need a more deeply layered security presence to control society at all levels and a more ideological basis for the legitimacy of its rule. Meanwhile, a more assertive military implies growing fears that a foreign policy of meekness and amiability is insufficient to protect China’s access to foreign trade from those who feel threatened by China’s rising power, such as Japan, India or the United States. Finally, a more strident premier in favor of political reform suggests fear that growing demands for political change will lead to upheaval unless they are addressed and alleviated.

Containing the Risks

These emerging trends have not become predominant yet. At this moment, Beijing is struggling to contain these challenges to the status quo within the same cycle of tightening and loosening control that has characterized the past three decades. Though the cycle is still recognizable, the fluctuations are widening — and the policy reactions are becoming more sudden and extreme.

The country is continuing to pursue the same path of economic development, even sacrificing more ambitious rebalancing to re-emphasize, in the 2011-15 Five-Year Plan, what are basically the traditional methods of growth. These include massive credit expansion fueling large-scale infrastructure expansion and technology upgrades for the export-oriented manufacturing sector, all provided for by transferring wealth from depositors to state-owned corporations and local governments. Modifications to the status quo have been slight, and radical transformation of the overall growth model has not yet borne fruit.

In 2011, China’s leaders also have signaled a swing away from last year’s foreign policy assertiveness. Hu and Obama met in Washington in January and declared a thaw in relations. Recently, Hu announced a “new security concept” for the region. He said that cooperation and peaceful negotiation remain official Chinese policy, and that China respects the “presence and interests” of outsiders in the region, a new and significant comment in light of the U.S. re-engagement with the region. The United States has approved China’s backpedaling, saying the Chinese navy has been less assertive this year than the last, and Washington has since toned down its own threats. China’s retreat is not permanent, and none of its neighbors have forgotten its more threatening side. But China has signaled an attempt to diminish tensions, as it has done in the past, to avoid provoking real trouble abroad (while focusing on troubles at home) for the time being.

Finally, the security crackdown under way since February — part of a longer trend of security tightening since at least 2008, but with remarkable new elements — shows that the state remains committed to Deng’s general deferral of political reform, choosing strict social control instead.

The Deng model thus has not yet been dismantled. But the new currents of military assertiveness, ideological zeal and demand for political reform have revealed not only differences in vision among the elite, but a rising concern among them for their positions ahead of the leadership transition. Sackings and promotions already are accelerating. Unorthodox trends suggest that leaders and institutions are hedging political bets to protect themselves, their interests and their cliques in case the economic transition goes wrong or foreigners take advantage of China’s vulnerabilities, or ideological division and social revolt threaten the Party. And this betrays deep uncertainties.

The Gravity of 2012

As the jockeying for power ahead of the 2012 transition has already begun in earnest, signs of vacillating and conflicting policy directives suggest that the regime is in a constant state of policy adjustment to try to avoid an extreme shift in one direction or another. Tensions are rising between leaders as they try to secure their positions without upsetting the balance and jeopardizing a smooth transfer of power. The government’s arrests of dissidents underline its fear of these growing tensions, as well as its sharp reactions to threats that could disrupt the transition or cause broader instability. Everything is in flux, and the cracks in the system are widening.

One major question is how long the Party will be able to maintain the current high level of vigilance without triggering a backlash. The government effectively has silenced critics deemed possible of fomenting a larger movement. The masses have yet to rally in significant numbers in a coordinated way that could threaten the state. But the regime has responded disproportionately to the organizational capabilities that the small Jasmine protests demonstrated, and has extended this magnified response to a number of otherwise-familiar spontaneous protests and incidents of unrest.

As security becomes more oppressive in the lead up to the transition — with any easing of control unlikely before then or even in the following year as the new government seeks to consolidate power — the heavy hand of the state runs the risk of provoking exactly the type of incident it hopes to prevent. Excessive brutality, or a high-profile mistake or incident that acts as a catalyst, could spark spontaneous domestic protests with the potential to spread.

Contrasting Deng’s situation with Hu’s is illuminating. When Deng sought to step down, his primary challenges were how to loosen economic control, how to create a foreign policy conducive to trade, and how to forestall democratic challenges to the regime. He also had to leverage his prestige in the military and Party to establish a reliable succession plan from Jiang to Hu that would set the country on a prosperous path.

As Hu seeks to step down, his challenges are to prevent economic overheating, counter any humiliating turn in foreign affairs such as greater U.S. pressure, and forestall unrest from economic left-behinds, migrants or other aggrieved groups. Hu cannot allow the Party (or his legacy) to be damaged by mass protests or economic collapse on his watch. Yet, like Jiang, he has to control the process without having Deng’s prestige among the military ranks and without a succession plan clad in Deng’s armor.

More challenging still, he has to do so without a solid succession plan. Hu is the last Chinese leader Deng directly appointed. It is not clear whether China’s next generation of leaders will augment Deng’s theory, or discard it. But it is clear that China is taking on a challenge much greater than a change in president or administration. It is an existential crisis, and the regime has few choices: continue delaying change even if it means a bigger catastrophe in the future; undertake wrenching economic and political reforms that might risk regime survival; or retrench and sacrifice the economy to maintain CPC rule and domestic security. China has already waded deep into a total economic transformation unlike anything since 1978, and at the greatest risk to the Party’s legitimacy since 1989. The emerging trends suggest a likely break from Deng’s position toward heavier state intervention in the economy, more contentious relationships with neighbors, and a Party that rules primarily through ideology and social control.

23718  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The healthy vagina on: April 18, 2011, 10:02:33 PM
Part One

One of the legends of St. Valentine says that he was a priest arrested by Roman Emperor Claudius II for secretly performing marriages. Claudius wanted to enlarge his army and believed that married men did not make good soldiers, rather like Halsted’s feelings about surgical residents. But Valentine’s Day is about love, and if you remember a romantic gut feeling when you met your significant other, it might have a physiological basis.

It has long been known that Drosophila raised on starch media are more likely to mate with other starch-raised flies, whereas those fed maltose have similar preferences. In a study published online in the November issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigators explored the mechanism for this preference by treating flies with antibiotics to sterilize the gut and saw the preferences disappear (Proc. Nad. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2010 Nov. 1).

In cultures of untreated flies, the bacterium  L. plantarum was more common in those on starch, and sure enough, when L. plantarum was returned to the sterile groups, the mating preference returned. The best explanation for this is revealed in the significant differences in their sex pheromones. These experiments also support the hologenome theory of evolution wherein the unit of natural selection is the “holobiont,” or combination of organism and its microorganisms, that determines mating preferences.

Mating gets more interesting when you have an organism that can choose between sexual and asexual reproduction, like the rotifer. Biologists say that it’s more advantageous for a rotifer to remain asexual and pass 100% of its genetic information to the next generation. But if the environment changes, rotifers must adapt quickly in order to survive and reproduce with new gene combinations that have an advantage over existing genotypes. So in this new situation, the stressed rotifers, all of which are female, begin sending messages to each other to produce males for the switch to sexual reproduction (Nature 2010 Oct. 13). You can draw your own inference about males not being needed until there’s trouble in the environment.

As far as humans are concerned, you may think you know all about sexual signals, but you’d be surprised by new findings. It’s been known since the 1990s that heterosexual women living together synchronize their menstrual cycles because of pheromones, but when a study of lesbians showed that they do not synchronize, the researchers suspected that semen played a role. In fact, they found ingredients in semen that include mood enhancers like estrone, cortisol, prolactin, oxytocin, and serotonin; a sleep enhancer, melatonin; and of course, sperm, which makes up only 1%-5%. Delivering these compounds into the richly vascularized vagina also turns out to have major salutary effects for the recipient. Female college students having unprotected sex were significantly less depressed than were those whose partners used condoms (Arch. Sex. Behav. 2002;31:289-93). Their better moods were not just a feature of promiscuity, because women using condoms were just as depressed as those practicing total abstinence. The benefits of semen contact also were seen in fewer suicide attempts and better performance on cognition tests.

So there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.

Part Two
23719  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Its a beautiful day on: April 18, 2011, 09:44:39 PM
23720  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle April 16-17 on: April 18, 2011, 05:33:22 PM
Good times as always with Rob, Sean, and friends.  Tricky Dog and crew came down from Vancouver and Ryan and crew came up from Portland. Met Rory Miller and Bobbe Edmonds at Rob's house on Friday night and well lubricated discussion ensued smiley

As promised the weekend revolved around the theme of Consistency Across Categories: The integration of Kali Tudo and Die Less Often.  Saturday was Kali Tudo.  Amongst the themes:
a) Zirconia
b) Integration of Dodger and Dracula
c) The Bolo from Hell
d) and various things too varied to list here
Sunday we turned to SIW (Short Impact Weapons) for the street then Dog Catcher vs Mongo Ice Pick and Ice Pick Sewing Machine.
We concluded with Bando Stick Stretches and some others (e.g. some Chris Gizzi material)
23721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: April 18, 2011, 05:10:03 PM
"Don't tax you.  Don't tax me.  Tax that fellow behind the tree."

the late Cong. Everett Dirksen?
23722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Delay of withdrawal? on: April 18, 2011, 05:06:03 PM
Analyst Nathan Hughes examines the possibility of the United States delaying its withdrawal from Iraq and what that will mean for Iran and the region.

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

Two suicide car bombs were detonated outside the perimeter of the former Green Zone in Baghdad on Monday, killing five and wounding as many as three times that. Recent militant activity in the country has been on the upswing but one of the most important dynamics is the looming withdrawal of the remaining American military forces by the end of the year.

The current Status of Forces Agreement between Washington and Baghdad stipulates the remaining nearly 50,000American troops still in country must be withdrawn by the end of the year. The United States has expressed some interest in extending this deadline, including during the visit sending U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Baghdad earlier this month. However, all such overtures thus far have been rejected by the Iraqi government. The numbers being discussed go as high as 20,000 American troops, and Washington has attempted to emphasize the capabilities the United States provides Iraq that the Iraqi military is not yet capable of providing for itself — everything from the defense of Iraqi airspace, to more sophisticated capabilities in planning, logistics, maintenance and intelligence. U.S. officials have also reportedly emphasized to Baghdad that once the withdrawal of American combat forces is complete, that it will be much more difficult for the United States to come to Iraq’s aid militarily in the future.

At the heart of this discussion is the fundamental importance of the U.S. military in counterbalancing Iranian power in Iraq and in the wider region. The large American military presence in Iraq has been the single most important element of American power in Iraq and in the region since the U.S. invasion in 2003. But it is far from clear how Washington is going to balance resurgent Iranian power in Iraq and in the wider region once those forces withdraw. It is not clear whether a new agreement or an extension can be negotiated between Washington and Baghdad — the U.S. has signaled the ball is in Iraq’s court. But an increasingly rapid withdrawal will have to begin no later than late summer or early fall, this quarter and the next are of pivotal importance not only for the United States and Iraq, but for Iranian power and the wider region.

23723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: April 18, 2011, 11:20:41 AM
Is it true that Trump has given lots more money to Democrats than Republicans and that he has donated lots of money to Chuck Schumer?
23724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Three Cups of Spilt Tea on: April 18, 2011, 10:42:43 AM
Report: "Three Cups of Tea" inaccurate

NEW YORK (AP) — A "60 Minutes" investigation alleges that the inspirational multimillion seller "Three Cups of Tea" is filled with inaccuracies and that co-author Greg Mortenson's charitable organization has taken credit for building schools that don't exist.

The report, which airs Sunday night on CBS television, cites "Into the Wild" author Jon Krakauer as among the doubters of Mortenson's story of being lost in 1993 while mountain climbing in rural Pakistan and stumbling upon the village of Korphe, where the kindness of local residents inspired him to build a school. The "60 Minutes" story draws upon observations from the porters who joined Mortenson on his mountain trip in Pakistan and dispute his being lost. They say he only visited Korphe a year later.

The "60 Minutes" report alleges that numerous schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that Mortenson's Central Asia Institute is said to have established either don't exist or were built by others. According to the CAI's website, the institute has "successfully established over 170 schools" and helped educate over 68,000 students, with an emphasis on girls' education."

In a statement issued Friday through the institute, Mortenson defended the book he co-authored with David Oliver Relinhis, and his humanitarian work.

"Afghanistan and Pakistan are fascinating, inspiring countries, full of wonderful people. They are also complex places, torn by conflicting loyalties, and some who do not want our mission of educating girls to succeed," Mortenson said.

"I stand by the information conveyed in my book and by the value of CAI's work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students. I continue to be heartened by the many messages of support I receive from our local partners in cities and villages across Afghanistan and Pakistan, who are determined not to let unjustified attacks stop the important work being done to create a better future for their children."

"Three Cups of Tea" was released by Penguin in 2006. Spokeswoman Carolyn Coleburn declined comment, saying the publisher had not seen the "60 Minutes" story. The book sold moderately in hardcover, but was a word-of-mouth hit as a paperback and became an international sensation, selling more than 3 million copies.

Mortenson has received numerous honors, including the Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan), a civilian award rarely given to foreigners.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
And from this monring's POTH, Greg Mrortenson responds:

60 Minutes Charges Author Greg Mortenson Fabricated Key Stories and Misspent Charitable Funds
60 Minutes aired a report Sunday night on Greg Mortenson, author of the bestselling THREE CUPS OF TEA, questioning "whether some of the most dramatic stories in his books are even true" and raising "serious questions about how millions of dollars have been spent" by the charity he set up and "whether Mortenson is personally benefiting."

The most direct accuser was author Jon Krakauer, who says of the tale in the book about how Mortenson was inspired to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, "It's a beautiful story, and it's a lie." Mortenson's central storyline is that he "stumbled into" the village of Korphe after trying to climb K2 and getting lost, but two of his porters (and "three other sources") say he didn't visit the town--where he says he promised to come back and build them a school in return for their kindness--until almost a year later. "If you go back and read the first few chapters of that book you realize 'I'm being taken for a ride here,'" Krakauer charges.

In a written response Mortenson first claimed the local people and language have "only a vague concept of tenses and time." But in an updated version of an interview last Friday with his local paper, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, he concedes the book's account of "the time about our final days on K2 and ongoing journey to Korphe village and Skardu is a compressed version of events that took place in the fall of 1993.... What was done was to simplify the sequence of events for the purposes of telling what was, at times, a complicated story."

60 Minutes also contests a story in the book in which Mortenson writes that he was kidnapped and held hostage by the Taliban for 8 days. His subsequent book STONES INTO SCHOOLS includes a picture of his alleged captors, but some of those men directly deny the story. CNN also speaks to one, Mansur Khan Mahsud, who runs a Pakstani think tank, who tells them the story "is a pack of lies and not a single word of it is true." He and others say they were Mortenson's protectors rather than his captors. CNN adds that the Taliban "had no presence in Waziristan in 1996" and they also had a ban on photography at the time. In the Bozeman interview, Mortenson revised his wording, saying that he was "detained" and claiming "I thought it best to befriend the people detaining me." In a later written statement, he appears to redefine what he meant by the Taliban, writing "a 'Talib' means student in Arabic, and yes there were Taliban in the region. Waziristan is an area where tribal factions and clan ties run deep. Some people are Taliban, some are not, and affiliations change overnight often on a whim."

Examining the tax returns of the charity Mortenson established, the Central Asia Institute, 60 Minutes reports that in a recent year the organization spent $1.5 million on advertising to promote Mortenson's books, and another $1.3 million in domestic travel expenses, mostly for his often-paid speaking engagements, "some of it on private jets." The Bozeman newspaper offers this explanation: "Mortenson responded that he gets a royalty of about 40 or 50 cents per book, and that he has contributed more than $100,000 of his own money to CAI, which has more than offset the book royalties."

The Central Asia Institute claims in their written response that "because of [their] programmatic focus, he faces significant security risks that are unique in the charitable sector," which is why he often flies charters. While it seems clear that Mortenson's "donations" are but a fraction of what the institute spent on promotion, the organization's more plausible position is that "the contributions generated by Greg's presentations at these events far exceed the travel expenses." They also say they have "purchased thousands of copies" of Mortenson's books over the years to donate to various organizations, saying "the costs of the books vary depending on when they were purchased and from whom." 

As for the schools that CAI funds, their tax return itemizes 141 schools it "claimed to have built or supported," but investigating 30 of those schools, CBS found that "roughly half were empty, built by somebody else, or not receiving support at all.... In Afghanistan, we could find no evidence that six of the schools had ever been built at all." On that point, the institute speculates the CBS may have been misled in their investigation by a "former disgruntled manager in Pakistan who was involved in some improprieties."

In classic 60 Minutes fashion, they also feature brief footage of Mortenson avoiding the camera. When they approach him at a signing, he has hotel security remove the camera crew and then he slips out the back. Here the author and his institute offered a variety of responses. On Friday the CAI said Mortenson "was diagnosed with a tear hole in his heart wall that causes significant blood shunting and he will have a heart surgical procedure done on Thursday to correct it. Once his cardiologist allows he will be able to comment on his story in person." But in the meantime he spoke to his local newspaper, as noted, and then he posted a response on the institute's web site.

CBS says they first asked for an interview last fall, and more recently tried two weeks of messages and e-mails. But in yet another dispatch, Mortenson writes he "made the very difficult decision to not engage with 60 Minutes on camera, after they attempted an eleventh hour aggressive approach to reach me, including an ambush in front of children at a book signing at a community service leadership convention in Atlanta. It was clear that the program's disrespectful approach would not result in a fair, balanced or objective representation of our work, my books or our vital mission."

In another statement, he said "I stand by the information conveyed in my book and by the value of CAI's work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students."

Mortenson also writes that he "heard...last week" that Krakauer has written "a similar negative an unknown magazine." On camera, after his accusations, Krakauer tries to provide context by underscoring that Mortenson "has done a lot of good. He has helped thousands of school kids in Pakistan and Afghanistan....He has become perhaps the world's most effective spokesperson for girls' education in developing countries. And he deserves credit for that... Nevertheless, he is now threatening to bring it all down, to destroy all of it by this fraud and by these lies.

60 Minutes transcript
CAI statement
23725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, & the US Dollar on: April 18, 2011, 10:16:45 AM
Certainly not a surprise to anyone around here, but WOW nontheless , , ,  cry
23726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man formerly in Iraq on: April 18, 2011, 10:14:33 AM
reports that his interpreter has been badly wounded in a blast but is expected to live.  Prayers for his speedy recovery.

Update: "Laith is out of surgery.  He has a pierced abdomen (two holes) lots of blood loss, lost most of his teeth, is very bruised and battered.  They say that he is going to be fine though.  More as I learn it."
23727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: April 18, 2011, 03:34:53 AM
Balance Budget amendment would be a big mistake.  For the Dems its stalking horse for higher taxes and for the Reps a trap to become tax collectors for the welfare state.  THE ISSUE IS SPENDING AND ECONOMIC INTERVENTION/MANIPULATION OF THE ECONOMY.
23728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fascinating piece. Why is it on this thread ??? on: April 18, 2011, 03:31:19 AM
Why is this piece on this thread?

23729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: April 17, 2011, 12:42:53 AM
I am enjoying being a fly on the wall for this one smiley
23730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: April 17, 2011, 12:36:59 AM
Would someone care to summarize that?
23731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: April 17, 2011, 12:34:12 AM
Comments BD?
23732  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle April 16-17 on: April 16, 2011, 02:46:29 AM
BTW, the times are 12:00-17:00
23733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: April 15, 2011, 07:31:32 PM
Please continue to follow this for us GM!
23734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: April 15, 2011, 01:21:44 AM
That AQ and the Taliban are not signatories is, IIRC, irrelevant.  We are.

IIRC there is language about irregulars in their own country fighting foreigners so the German spy case may not be on point.
23735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: April 15, 2011, 01:18:34 AM
Interesting point about the ROTH, CL.

Concerning interest rates:  Not only is Bill Gross of Pimco (considered by most the alpha dog of bonds with over $1T (!!!) IIRC) 100% out of Treasuries, my understanding he is now SHORTING them!!!  shocked shocked shocked

BTW, for the record, I have long given up on the perfect market theory and now believe the market can be wrong longer than I can stay solvent.
23736  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle April 16-17 on: April 15, 2011, 12:36:49 AM
23737  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: April 14, 2011, 10:17:20 PM
Truly and without any sarcasm whatsoever I say that that is quite fascinating-- and legally irrelevant.  Since the Civil War, things have changed quite a bit.  For example, we are now signatories to the Geneva Convention.
23738  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: April 14, 2011, 09:57:55 PM
No intention to be disingenuous here; I'm just saying that while it may momentarily feel good to say "If they have no rules, then we have no rules" IMHO this

a) is wrong
b) does not work as well as having something higher for which we fight, which informs how we fight.

If I may anticipate an argument GM may be tempted to make, this does not mean I am in accord with pussified legalistic claptrap.
23739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Defecate or get off the pot on: April 14, 2011, 08:27:35 PM
See my comment at the end:

So Pakistan now demands that the United States withdraw hundreds of American intelligence operatives and special-ops trainers from its soil and stop the CIA drone strikes on al Qaeda, Taliban and affiliated terrorists. Maybe the Obama Administration can inform its friends in Islamabad that, when it comes to this particular fight, the U.S. will continue to pursue its enemies wherever they may be, with or without Pakistan's cooperation.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad historically have never been easy, and now they seem to have reached something of a watershed. The fault is not all one-sided. Congressional potentates have made a habit of criticizing Pakistan publicly even when it was cooperating with the U.S. and deploying thousands of troops to fight elements of the Taliban. And promised American aid has been haltingly disbursed.

View Full Image

Protesters during a rally against Raymond Davis in Karachi in February.
.Then again, Pakistan's behavior hasn't exactly been exemplary. Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, has longstanding links to terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network. The government and military have made no move against the Quetta Shura, the operational nerve center in Pakistan of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Islamabad's U.S. cooperation has also been double-edged. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari allowed the U.S. to increase the number of drone strikes. Yet it has made a point of complaining about them publicly, playing a particularly cheap form of politics to shore up its waning popularity with a domestic constituency smart enough to see through the hypocrisy.

The Pakistani army was also happy to cooperate with the U.S. when the targets of the strikes were members of the Pakistani Taliban who had their sights set on Islamabad. But the army has been less cooperative when the targets were the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan or the ISI's terrorist partners.

Matters came to a head in January with Pakistan's arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, after he had shot and killed two armed pursuers. Mr. Davis, who carried an official passport, ought to have been released immediately to U.S. custody under the terms of the Vienna Convention. Instead he was held for 47 days, questioned for 14, and released only after the U.S. government agreed to pay a multimillion-dollar indemnity to the families of the pursuers.

The failure to release Mr. Davis was an indication of how easily cowed Pakistan's civilian government has become in the face of an anti-American public. It also suggested a darker turn by Pakistan's military and the ISI, which were infuriated that Mr. Davis was investigating the activities of the Lashkar-e-Taiba now that it has expanded operations to include terrorism in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also complained bitterly about a drone strike in North Waziristan last month that it claims killed tribal leaders meeting with the Taliban.

A more charitable explanation is that Pakistan's military is angry the CIA is sharing less intelligence with the ISI. In this reading, the mass expulsion of U.S. security officials is really a demand for closer cooperation, even if it's a peculiar way of eliciting it. It's also possible that Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is trying to burnish his own public image by way of an anti-American tantrum that will pass in time.

Still, if the CIA doesn't trust the ISI, that's because it has demonstrated repeatedly that it isn't trustworthy. The Pakistani army has yet to reconcile itself to the idea that Afghanistan should be something other than its strategic backyard, preferably under the control of clients such as the Taliban, and it harbors paranoid illusions that India will encroach on Afghanistan to encircle its old enemy.

Pakistan's civilian government has also done itself neither credit nor favor by failing to tell Pakistan's people the truth about drone strikes, which is that they strike with pinpoint accuracy and that claims of civilian casualties are massively inflated for the benefit of Taliban propaganda. The government could also add that insofar as those drones are taking out leaders of the Pakistan Taliban, they are safeguarding Pakistan's beleaguered democracy.

However Islamabad chooses to act, the U.S. has a vital national interest in pursuing Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in their Pakistani sanctuaries, both for the sake of the war in Afghanistan and the security of the American homeland. Pakistan can choose to cooperate in that fight and reap the benefits of an American alliance. Or it can oppose the U.S. and reap the consequences, including the loss of military aid, special-ops and drone incursions into their frontier areas, and in particular a more robust U.S. military alliance with India.

In the wake of 9/11, the Bush Administration famously sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to Islamabad to explain that the U.S. was going to act forcefully to protect itself, and that Pakistan had to choose whose side it was on. It's time to present Pakistan with the same choice again.


What is the point if we are leaving?
23740  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: One language mother of all others? on: April 14, 2011, 05:35:38 PM
The world's 6,000 or so modern languages may have all descended from a single ancestral tongue spoken by early African humans between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago, a new study suggests.

The finding, published Thursday in the journal Science, could help explain how the first spoken language emerged, spread and contributed to the evolutionary success of the human species.

Quentin Atkinson, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and author of the study, found that the first migrating populations leaving Africa laid the groundwork for all the world's cultures by taking their single language with them—the mother of all mother tongues.

"It was the catalyst that spurred the human expansion that we all are a product of," Dr. Atkinson said.

About 50,000 years ago—the exact timeline is debated—there was a sudden and marked shift in how modern humans behaved. They began to create cave art and bone artifacts and developed far more sophisticated hunting tools. Many experts argue that this unusual spurt in creative activity was likely caused by a key innovation: complex language, which enabled abstract thought. The work done by Dr. Atkinson supports this notion.

His research is based on phonemes, distinct units of sound such as vowels, consonants and tones, and an idea borrowed from population genetics known as "the founder effect." That principle holds that when a very small number of individuals break off from a larger population, there is a gradual loss of genetic variation and complexity in the breakaway group.

Dr. Atkinson figured that if a similar founder effect could be discerned in phonemes, it would support the idea that modern verbal communication originated on that continent and only then expanded elsewhere.

In an analysis of 504 world languages, Dr. Atkinson found that, on average, dialects with the most phonemes are spoken in Africa, while those with the fewest phonemes are spoken in South America and on tropical islands in the Pacific.

The study also found that the pattern of phoneme usage globally mirrors the pattern of human genetic diversity, which also declined as modern humans set up colonies elsewhere. Today, areas such as sub-Saharan Africa that have hosted human life for millennia still use far more phonemes in their languages than more recently colonized regions do.

"It's a wonderful contribution and another piece of the mosaic" supporting the out-of-Africa hypothesis, said Ekkehard Wolff, professor emeritus of African Languages and Linguistics at the University of Leipzig in Germany, who read the paper.

Dr. Atkinson's findings are consistent with the prevailing view of the origin of modern humans, known as the "out of Africa" hypothesis. Bolstered by recent genetic evidence, it says that modern humans emerged in Africa alone, about 200,000 years ago. Then, about 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, a small number of them moved out and colonized the rest of the world, becoming the ancestors of all non-African populations on the planet.

The origin of early languages is fuzzier. Truly ancient languages haven't left empirical evidence that scientists can study. And many linguists believe it is hard to say anything definitive about languages prior to 8,000 years ago, as their relationships would have become jumbled over the millennia.

But the latest Science paper "and our own observations suggest that it is possible to detect an arrow of time" underlying proto-human languages spoken more than 8,000 years ago, said Murray Gell-Mann of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, who read the Science paper and supports it. The "arrow of time" is based on the notion that it is possible to use data from modern languages to trace their origins back 10,000 years or even further.

Dr. Gell-Mann, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist with a keen interest in historical linguistics, is co-founder of a project known as Evolution of Human Languages. He concedes that his "arrow of time" view is a minority one.

Only humans have the biological capacity to communicate with a rich language based on symbols and rules, enabling us to pass on cultural ideas to future generations. Without language, culture as we know it wouldn't exist, so scientists are keen to pin down where it sprang from.

Dr. Atkinson's approach has its limits. Genes change slowly, over many generations, while the diversity of phonemes amid a population group can change rapidly as language evolves. While distance from Africa can explain as much as 85% of the genetic diversity of populations, a similar distance measurement can explain only 19% of the variation in phonemic diversity. Dr. Atkinson said the measure is still statistically significant.

Another theory of the origin of modern humans, known as the multiregional hypothesis, holds that earlier forms of humans originated in Africa and then slowly developed their anatomically modern form in every area of the Old World. This scenario implies that several variants of modern human language could have emerged somewhat independently in different locations, rather than solely in Africa.

Early migrants from Africa probably had to battle significant odds. A founder effect on a breakaway human population tends to reduce its size, genetic complexity and fitness. A similar effect could have limited "the size and cultural complexity of societies at the vanguard of the human expansion" out of Africa, the paper notes.

Write to Gautam Naik at

23741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Palestinian Birth Certificate? on: April 14, 2011, 05:28:29 PM
23742  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / American Patriot Defined on: April 14, 2011, 11:51:05 AM
American Patriot Defined
This Patriots' Day, the 236th Anniversary of the Opening Salvo for American Liberty, The Spirit of Their Sacred Honor Endures
"Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations." --George Washington
A young reader in the Czech Republic contacted me recently with a question. (Yes, The Patriot Post's message of Liberty is global.)

She wrote, "We as a Czech family subscribe to The Patriot Post and read it with great interest. My homeland has been subject to the tyranny of Nationalist and Marxist Socialism. Could you please help me understand the difference between 'patriotism' and 'nationalism'? In Europe, anyone who puts his country first is called a nationalist and this pejorative term is equated with patriotism."

I responded, "Nationalism refers to a blind allegiance to the state, no matter what the nature of the state may be. American Patriotism refers to the steadfast devotion to the fundamental principles of our nation's Founding, individual Liberty as 'endowed by our Creator,' and the extension of that legacy to our posterity. American Patriotic devotion to Liberty will always be in contest with allegiance to the state or its sovereigns, especially when it manifests in some form of Socialism."

It is easy to understand how a Czech student might find it challenging to distinguish between patriotism and nationalism. Sadly most American students, heirs to the great legacy of Liberty bestowed upon them by generations of Patriots gone before, also can't articulate the difference.

In the early morning hours of the first Patriots' Day, April 19th, 1775, farmers and laborers, landowners and statesmen alike, pledged through action what Thomas Jefferson would later frame in words as "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor." Thus began the great campaign to reject the predictable albeit tyrannical order of the state and to embrace the difficult toils of securing individual Liberty. It was this as-yet unwritten pledge by militiamen in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which would delineate the distinction between Liberty and tyranny in Colonial America.

Why would the first generation of American Patriots forgo, in the inimitable words of Samuel Adams, "the tranquility of servitude" for "the animating contest of freedom"?

The answer to that question defined the spirit of American Patriotism at the dawn of the American Revolution, and to this day and for eternity, that spirit will serve as the first line of defense between Liberty and tyranny.

In the first months of the American Revolution, English author and lexicographer Samuel Johnson, a Tory loyalist, wrote that American Patriots' quest for liberty was nothing more than "the delirious dream of republican fanaticism" which would "put the axe to the roots of all government." Johnson concluded famously, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Unlike King George's partisans, however, American Patriots were unwaveringly loyal to something much larger than a mere man or geo-political institution. They pledged their sacred honor in support of Essential Liberty as "endowed by our Creator" and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and its subordinate guidance, our Constitution.

It is this resolute devotion to the natural rights of man, the higher order of Liberty as endowed by God not government, which defines the spirit of American Patriots, and has obliged the animated contest of freedom from Lexington Green to this day.

In all the generations since the Revolution, and loudly again in the present era, the essence of Johnson's denigration of patriotism has been repeated by all statists, who augment their disdain for Patriots with words like "fascist, nationalist and jingoist."

These statists, Democratic Socialists in the current vernacular, would have you believe that they are the "true patriots," and only they deserve to be the arbiters of Liberty. But caveat emptor: As George Washington implored in his Farewell Address, "Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism."

Liberty, as affirmed through natural law, is an abject affront to Socialists, who can claim dominion over others only if they supplant Rule of Law with their own rule. For such statists, the notion of serving a higher purpose than oneself is enigmatic; consequently, there is a raging ideological battle between Democratic Socialists and Patriots across our nation today.

Our steadfast support for Liberty and limited government is diametrically opposed to the Socialist manifesto of the Democrat Party, as reframed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, and renewed by every Democrat president since.

Regardless of how statists choose to promote Democratic Socialism, like Nationalist Socialism, it is nothing more than Marxist Socialism repackaged. Ultimately, it likewise seeks a centrally planned economy directed by a single-party state that controls economic production through regulation and income redistribution.

Mustering in response to the current threat of tyranny, the Tea Party movement is the latest incarnation in the lineage of American Patriots serving a cause much greater than our own self-interest. It is a direct ideological descendant of the Sons of Liberty who, in 1773, boarded three East India Company ships and threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor, the first Tea Party.

According to the Democratic Socialists of Barack Obama's ilk, the Tea Party rank and file are an "angry mob" who are "waving their little tea bags" while they "bitterly cling to guns and religion." Indeed, the spirit of American Patriots is anathema to these statists.

In fact, today's Patriots are much like those of previous generations.

We are mothers, fathers and other family members nurturing the next generation of young Patriots. We are farmers, craftsmen, tradesmen and industrial producers. We are small business owners, service providers and professionals in medicine and law. We are employees and employers. We are in ministry at home and missionaries abroad. We are students and professors at colleges and universities, often standing alone for what is good and right.

We are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and public servants standing in harm's way at home and around the world, who are loyal, first and foremost, to our revered oath to "support and defend" our Constitution.

We are consumers and taxpayers. We are voters.

We are not defined by race, creed, ethnicity, religion, wealth, education or political affiliation, but by our devotion to our Creator, and the Liberty He entrusted to us, one and all.

We are Patriot sons and daughters from all walks of life, heirs to the blessings of Liberty bequeathed to us at great personal cost by our Patriot forebears, confirmed in the opinion that it is our duty to God and Country to extend that blessing to our posterity, and avowed upon our sacred honor to that end. We are vigilant, strong, prepared and faithful.

23743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, & the US Dollar on: April 14, 2011, 11:25:58 AM
Can't say that I blame them.

The damage being done by our profoundly irrresponsible leadership is incalculable.
23744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / If I leave I ain't comin' back! on: April 14, 2011, 11:23:57 AM

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqi leaders should not expect US forces to return to help in a crisis once they leave at the end of the year, a senior American military official said on Wednesday.
The remarks came just days after US Defence Secretary Robert Gates ended a visit to Iraq during which he urged the country's leaders to assess if they wanted any US troops to remain beyond 2011.
All American forces must leave Iraq by the end of the year under a bilateral security pact.
"If we left -- and this is the health warning we would give to anybody -- be careful about assuming that we will come running back to put out the fire if we don't have an agreement," the official said on condition of anonymity.
"It's hard to do that," he told reporters at Al-Faw Palace in the US military's Camp Victory base on Baghdad's outskirts.
23745  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: April 14, 2011, 10:39:08 AM
1)  Murder laws and enforcement seem to have a significant effect on the net amount of murder.   I'm not seeing that the same can be said of the WOD.

2) Concerening your example of Mexican decriminalization, part of the libertarian argument is that criminalization, which remains the case here in the US, creates extreme profits and thus extreme criminal behavior.  Thus the argument is that the evil behaviors we see in Mexico are fomented by the illegal mega profits here in the US. 

3) In my case, I tend to organize my thinking to distinguish drugs that tend to transcend free will (e.g. heroin, meth, etc) and those that don't (e.g. pot)

4) I think BBG's point that GM tends to avoid cost/benefit analysis has merit

5) I think GM has moved my heart with some of his entries about the costs to the children of drug users
23746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: April 14, 2011, 10:18:29 AM
THEY may not deserve any better, but it serves us to stay who we are, yes?
23747  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: No pay gap on: April 13, 2011, 05:24:13 PM
Tuesday is Equal Pay Day—so dubbed by the National Committee for Pay Equity, which represents feminist groups including the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, the National Council of Women's Organizations and others. The day falls on April 12 because, according to feminist logic, women have to work that far into a calendar year before they earn what men already earned the year before.

In years past, feminist leaders marked the occasion by rallying outside the U.S. Capitol to decry the pernicious wage gap and call for government action to address systematic discrimination against women. This year will be relatively quiet. Perhaps feminists feel awkward protesting a liberal-dominated government—or perhaps they know that the recent economic downturn has exposed as ridiculous their claims that our economy is ruled by a sexist patriarchy.

The unemployment rate is consistently higher among men than among women. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 9.3% of men over the age of 16 are currently out of work. The figure for women is 8.3%. Unemployment fell for both sexes over the past year, but labor force participation (the percentage of working age people employed) also dropped. The participation rate fell more among men (to 70.4% today from 71.4% in March 2010) than women (to 58.3% from 58.8%). That means much of the improvement in unemployment numbers comes from discouraged workers—particularly male ones—giving up their job searches entirely.

Men have been hit harder by this recession because they tend to work in fields like construction, manufacturing and trucking, which are disproportionately affected by bad economic conditions. Women cluster in more insulated occupations, such as teaching, health care and service industries.

Yet if you can accept that the job choices of men and women lead to different unemployment rates, then you shouldn't be surprised by other differences—like differences in average pay.

Feminist hand-wringing about the wage gap relies on the assumption that the differences in average earnings stem from discrimination. Thus the mantra that women make only 77% of what men earn for equal work. But even a cursory review of the data proves this assumption false.

The Department of Labor's Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.

Choice of occupation also plays an important role in earnings. While feminists suggest that women are coerced into lower-paying job sectors, most women know that something else is often at work. Women gravitate toward jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours, more personal fulfillment and greater flexibility. Simply put, many women—not all, but enough to have a big impact on the statistics—are willing to trade higher pay for other desirable job characteristics.

Men, by contrast, often take on jobs that involve physical labor, outdoor work, overnight shifts and dangerous conditions (which is also why men suffer the overwhelming majority of injuries and deaths at the workplace). They put up with these unpleasant factors so that they can earn more.

Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. Given that women are outpacing men in educational attainment, and that our economy is increasingly geared toward knowledge-based jobs, it makes sense that women's earnings are going up compared to men's.

Should we celebrate the closing of the wage gap? Certainly it's good news that women are increasingly productive workers, but women whose husbands and sons are out of work or under-employed are likely to have a different perspective. After all, many American women wish they could work less, and that they weren't the primary earners for their families.

Few Americans see the economy as a battle between the sexes. They want opportunity to abound so that men and women can find satisfying work situations that meet their unique needs. That—not a day dedicated to manufactured feminist grievances—would be something to celebrate.

Ms. Lukas is executive director of the Independent Women's Forum.

23748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Ryan's budget on: April 13, 2011, 05:18:36 PM

One point of a document as subversive as Paul Ryan's 2012 budget is to provoke debate, and has it ever. But amid the thoughtful musings about starving orphans and grandma in a snowbank, could his critics at least get their facts right?

Let's unpack the distortions.

• Deficits and debt. Perhaps the most bizarre complaint is that Mr. Ryan's blueprint would worsen the U.S. fiscal imbalance compared to current law. So the House Budget Chairman has proposed supposedly hideous cuts to popular entitlements at great political risk for . . . the fun of it?

Federal deficits have increased 259% over the last three years and the Ryan budget starts to repair the damage. It would bring next year's deficit below $1 trillion, down from estimates of roughly $1.6 trillion for 2011. The false claim that Mr. Ryan would increase deficits and debt seems to be based on a Congressional Budget Office baseline that assumes $4 trillion in new taxes will land after 2012 with the expiration of all the Bush-era tax rates, that the Alternative Minimum Tax will apply to the middle class, and that Medicare physician payments will fall 20% next year.

No one thinks that baseline is at all realistic, least of all President Obama, so the right comparison is with Mr. Obama's 2012 budget. Mr. Ryan proposes smaller deficits for the next 10 years, falling to 1.6% of GDP in 2021 versus 4.9% for the White House. According to CBO, debt held by the public falls to 67.5% of the economy a decade from now from about 69% today, while it rises to 87.4% in Mr. Obama's version.

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Bloomberg News
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan during a news conference on the House Republican budget.
.• Tax cuts for "the rich." The Ryan budget outline by design does not provide many tax specifics, aside from an instruction to the Ways and Means Committee to propose a reform plan that would swap lower rates for fewer loopholes and special exclusions. This overhaul is not even a net tax cut—the instructions are to design a reform that is revenue neutral. It would hold tax receipts to their post-World War II average of between 18% to 19% as a share of the economy.

The liberal claim that this means a tax cut for the wealthy is based entirely on the fact that marginal tax rates would decline, even though the loopholes primarily benefit higher-income taxpayers. At any rate, Mr. Obama's own deficit commission also favored lowering the rates and broadening the base for a more efficient and competitive tax code.

• Medicare "cuts." The Mediscare machinery is grinding into gear, and the same people who say Mr. Ryan is imposing too much pain on seniors by requiring them to pay a larger portion of their health costs also claim that he's a coward for exempting everyone in or near retirement. In other words, the soup is terrible and the portions are too small.

Mr. Ryan's plan, known as premium support, would gradually bring down health costs and spending, but it's a "cut" only in the sense of slowing the rate of growth. The premium support subsidy—for seniors to choose from a list of regulated private health plans—would start at $15,000 a year and increase annually. It is also means-tested to provide more help for lower-income seniors.

• Real health-care reform. The best way to think about Mr. Ryan's plan is that it offers the true health-care reform that Mr. Obama promised but which vanished in the political drive to put 30 million more Americans on the government rolls. Economists from the center-left to center-right have been recommending premium support for decades, and it was first proposed by Stanford's Alain Enthoven in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1978.

Some version has since been endorsed by everyone from President Clinton's 1999 Medicare commission, chaired by Democrat John Breaux, to Bob Dole and Tom Daschle in 2009. Another iteration was floated this week by a group of Nobel laureates including Ned Phelps, Vernon Smith and George Akerlof.

The core economic distortion in the current health market is that consumers rarely have the incentive to seek the best value for their money. By capping the Medicare subsidy, seniors would pay for the marginal costs of their care, promoting competitive insurance. That would in turn incrementally change how doctors and hospitals provide care, encouraging competition in price and quality.

• Health-care inflation. Aha, retort the critics, Mr. Ryan would only increase Medicare premium support based on the rate of overall inflation, while health costs are growing far faster. This is true, and we can debate whether the annual increase should be indexed to GDP growth or something else.

But the key point is that premium support would reduce health costs over time by changing the incentives of the health market. MIT economist Amy Finkelstein's research suggests that Medicare's 1965 creation led to market-wide changes that explain about half of the increase in real per capita health spending between 1950 and 1990. Mr. Ryan's plan would be as consequential in reverse.

These attacks amount to false fronts for the real objection, which is over the role of government. Mr. Ryan's critics understand very well that he wants to substitute markets for bureaucratic central planning. What he would dismantle isn't Medicare, but its system of one-size-fits-all coverage and price controls. The liberal answer to runaway costs, passed as part of ObamaCare, is the Independent Payment Advisory Board that will decide how much the government will pay for what treatments and was deliberately shielded from Congressional supervision.

Medicare "as we know it" will change because it must. The only issue is how. Mr. Ryan is offering Americans a reform rooted in consumer choice and private competition, rather than political control and bureaucratic rationing. This is why he is under such ferocious liberal assault.

23749  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / KPCC Los Angeles on: April 13, 2011, 04:45:10 PM

Sorry for their over crediting me as starting the group, of course Top Dog and Salty Dog were there too.
23750  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: April 13, 2011, 04:12:09 PM
I had occasion to be in a California Board of Equalization office today (this is CA's IRS).  Lots of purple on the walls and some purple SEIU shirts to be seen.  Naturally I was wearing my "Nobama: Keep the change!" t-shirt  wink

I must say that I was pleasantly shocked at being taken quickly, and treated with considerable humanity by the bureaucrat in question.  She definitely let me slide on something that could have been a big inconvenience, and trusted me to phone in to her information that I did not have with me.

With business concluded, she politely queried about my shirt.  I commented that BO IMHO was a nice man but was bankrupting us.  She answered that he came in at a tough time, when anyone taking office would not have looked good.  I allowed that that had merit and we continued the conversation.  Naturally, I beat her up with simple facts, which I made sure to do in a nice and respectful way.  It was a nice conversation and ended well, in a positive spirit.  I had the impression that I had given her some things to think about.
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