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23701  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Strat 11/17 on: November 17, 2011, 01:27:28 PM

Zetas Paymaster Apprehended

After receiving a tip about suspicious activity Nov. 11 in the Hacienda Las Palmas area of Escobedo, Nuevo Leon state, Mexican marines arrested five suspected members of Los Zetas. Among those arrested was Juan Carlos “El Charly” Morales Magallanes, a high-ranking financial operator who, according to the Navy Secretariat, is believed to be responsible for preparing and disbursing the Zetas’ payroll in multiple cities across Nuevo Leon state, including Cienega de Flores, China, Santiago, Monterrey, Villa Garcia, Escobedo, Allende, Marin, Apodaca, Montemorelos and others.

Given the illicit nature of the cartels’ businesses and the propensity toward violence, it can be easy to forget that drug cartels and other criminal organizations are bound by many of the same business practices as legitimate enterprises. Like licit businesses, these organizations have bills to pay and records to maintain. They have cash inflows and cash outflows, and whoever is tasked with the flow of money must ensure that all “accounts” are reconciled. This includes doling out salaries to “employees” — from street-level informants to high-level assassins to corrupt police officers and politicians.

If the Navy Secretariat’s description is accurate, Morales had a unique position within his organization: As a paymaster, he paid salaries, procured weapons and bought everything from vehicles to cellphones. He thus would have keen insight into whom the cartel employs in his region — atypical for someone in a criminal organization that takes steps to minimize its members’ knowledge of its various branches. Most important, however, is that his arrest and the search of the location where he was arrested could lead authorities to financial information on the Zetas that can and likely will be exploited. It also could lead them to other cartel targets.

As a general rule, a criminal organization’s survival depends upon a high degree of compartmentalization. Low-level informants or operatives who provide around-the-clock surveillance of street corners, blocks or neighborhoods report only to their boss; they know which organization they work for and, likely, who that organization’s leader or leaders are, but they have little knowledge as to the criminal operations, money flows and movement of people of the group. The prevailing wisdom is that the less the various members of an organization know about other compartments, the less valuable they are to law enforcement. Thus, criminal organizations such as the Zetas maintain dozens of layers between a low-level corner lookout and overall leader Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano.

Law enforcement officials therefore place great value on the paymasters of illicit enterprises. They are singular points of failure, whereby the capture of one can compromise many aspects of the organization’s structure or, in the case of the Zetas, the structure of a particular region. Nuevo Leon state, where Morales was arrested, is the Zetas’ largest territory, and Morales’ capture potentially opens up to law enforcement the single most vulnerable component of the organization in that region: money, and the knowledge of where and to whom that money goes.

Morales may or may not cooperate with the authorities. If he does provide the authorities with actionable intelligence — and if the authorities quickly follow up on the intelligence he provides — the damage to Los Zetas in Monterrey and central Nuevo Leon state may be profound and extensive. This is especially true if he can provide them with information that could allow the authorities to seize accounts or shut down funding channels of Los Zetas, a top priority for the Mexican government.

Sinaloa Federation Lieutenant Captured

Mexican authorities on Nov. 9 arrested a senior member of the Sinaloa Federation in what has been described as a well-planned and well-executed military raid in Culiacan, Sinaloa state. Believed to be part of Sinaloa leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera’s inner circle, Ovidio Limon Sanchez reportedly oversaw the purchase, transportation and distribution of cocaine and other drugs to the United States, mainly to Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California. Limon had been wanted for extradition to the United States, which had placed a $5 million reward on his capture.

His arrest has precipitated a number of theories in the mainstream media, the most striking of which is that in retaliation the Sinaloa Federation commissioned the assassination of Mexican Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora, who died in a helicopter crash four days after Limon’s arrest.

STRATFOR considers this story unlikely. To mobilize an assassination against an official as high-ranking as the interior minister (or Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who reportedly was supposed to fly later that day in the same helicopter that crashed) would require unmatched intelligence, planning, and logistical and operational capabilities. Sinaloa would have to activate, and perhaps pay up front, multiple operatives with the skill set to conduct such an attack. It would also require knowledge of the helicopter flight schedule and the president’s and interior minister’s travel itinerary. In short, there are too many working parts to successfully plan and execute this kind of sophisticated plot in a mere 100 hours.

(click here to view interactive map)

Nov. 8

At least 10 gunmen ambushed Alejandro Higuera Osuna, the mayor of Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, while he was traveling along the Autopista del Pacifico. Higuero survived the ambush unharmed.
A firefight between the Mexican army and gunmen took place in Saltillo, Coahuila state. Three unidentified individuals were killed and two soldiers were injured.
Mexican authorities announced the capture of Alejandro “El Alex” Chavez Moreno, identified by authorities as the leader of Los Mano con Ojos. Chavez is believed to be responsible for more than 70 executions.

Nov. 9

Federal police arrested three members of La Familia Michoacana in Chalco, Mexico state.
Unidentified gunmen killed the manager of a hardware store in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state.

Nov. 10

Five gunmen were killed in two separate shootouts with the Mexican military in Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila state.
Mexican authorities announced the seizure of a training camp near Madero, Chihuahua state. Authorities seized assault rifles, ammunition, grenades and vehicles.
Police discovered a residence used by a criminal organization in Marin, Nuevo Leon state. Authorities discovered the burned bodies of two men inside the residence.
Gunmen opened fire on a gas station in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon state, killing a 16-year-old boy.
The Mexican army seized more than 9 tons of marijuana from four vehicles in Culiacan, Sinaloa state.

Nov. 11

Mexican authorities arrested five Los Zetas operators in Escobedo, Nuevo Leon state, two of whom were financial operators for the criminal organization.
Mexican authorities discovered the decapitated bodies of a man and a woman in a taxi in Acapulco, Guerrero state.

Nov. 12

Mexican authorities announced the arrest of Samuel Reynoso Garcia, also known as Inocencio Carranza Reynoso, a senior member of the Knights Templar. Directly linked to the leader of the Knights Templar, Servando “La Tuta” Gomez Martinez, Reynoso Garcia was arrested with nine accomplices.

Nov. 13

Gunmen ambushed agents from Durango state’s bureau of investigations in Santiago Papasquiaro, Durango state. One agent was wounded in the ambush.

Nov. 14

Mexican authorities arrested Rigoberto “Comandante Chapparo” Zamarripa Arispe, a Zetas plaza boss in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon state.

Read more: Mexico Security Memo: Authorities Arrest Suspected Zetas Paymaster | STRATFOR
23702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: November 17, 2011, 01:22:35 PM
I'll not take the other side of that bet  cheesy

I have an email in to him asking for his comments.
23703  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris on Newt and the FMs on: November 17, 2011, 01:21:37 PM

Now that Newt's candidacy is rising to the top, expect the brickbats to be aimed at his head.  The first to fly is the charge that he was paid off by Freddie Mac to do their bidding as the company, in concert with Fannie Mae, flooded the world with funny money mortgages and brought on the global collapse of 2008.
(By the way, we have a petition to block the $13 million in bonuses Freddie and Fannie execs have voted themselves.  Go here to sign the petition.  We have gotten a large number of signatures and Congress is holding hearings leading to a possible roll back.  Sign up!)
According to Bloomberg News, Newt got between $1.6 and $1.8 million in consulting fees from Freddie Mac over eight years - about $17,000 per month - a not unusual fee these days. 
Newt's consulting agreement specified that he would not lobby and the bylaws of his consulting firm bar lobbying by any of its employees.   So if he didn't lobby what did he do for the money?
Bear in mind that F and F were paying off everybody they could find.  Jim Johnson, Mondale's manager, Jamie Gorelick, Clinton's Deputy AG, Rahm Emanuel, and dozens of others made a mint in consulting fees.  Newt was not unique.
Doubtless Freddie hired him to show that it was not an arm of the Democratic Party and to buy some credibility on the right.  His contract started after he left office and there is no evidence that he brought any concrete influence to bear on Freddie's behalf.
But this scrutiny gives Newt an incredible opportunity.  He can produce memos and e mails that show that he warned Freddie about its mortgage policies.  In one of the presidential debates, Newt said that he warned Freddie that they were "creating a bubble" that would burst and have enormous implications when it did.
If Newt can show that he sounded the alarm and had the wisdom and foresight to raise hell about the mortgages, he can put himself in much rarified company.  To be exact: alone.  Nobody else had that kind of foresight.
This scandal can either hurt or help.  But if Newt used his contacts at Freddie to warn them and to try to change the Titanic's course before it hit the iceberg, it could be a good credential for his candidacy.
23704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Developments on: November 17, 2011, 11:35:45 AM

Within the past two months, Yemen’s Zaidi al-Houthi rebels have expanded their area of control from their traditional stronghold in the northern province of Saada to the neighboring al-Jawf province. More significantly, reports have indicated that the al-Houthis have managed to gain control of several towns and villages in Hajja province, which means they have moved toward the Red Sea. They will face challenges as they expand their territory, but Sanaa’s distractions might allow them to gain access to the coast, which could facilitate better access to foreign weapons suppliers and would push Saudi Arabia to respond.

Yemen’s Zaidi al-Houthi rebels recently have been able to expand their control across Yemen’s northern provinces. This expansion comes as Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces are concentrating on stifling anti-regime protesters and battling defected Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar’s forces in Sanaa province and central Yemen — all while dedicating resources to the southern provinces, where battles with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and tribal militias continue.

The next goal for the al-Houthi expansion appears to be Midi, a small town with access to the Red Sea. Midi is strategically valuable for gaining access to arms and resources, as the al-Houthis’ indigenous resources and the general availability of arms in Yemen have been insufficient for the al-Houthis to gain the autonomy they had before Saleh came to power. Midi’s importance was evident in November 2009, when Saudi Arabia’s navy blockaded northern Yemen’s Red Sea coast for fear that the al-Houthis were being supplied through Midi and Salif.

(click here to enlarge image)
STRATFOR sources have said that the al-Houthis have gained tactical control of territory in Yemen’s Saada and al-Jawf provinces, both of which border Saudi Arabia. This is an important development because Saudi Arabia could feel forced to respond militarily if the rebels threaten its provinces of Jizan and Najran again. Sources have also said the al-Houthis are moving toward Midi. Reports in The Yemen Observer have cited residents of Hajja province as saying the al-Houthis are seizing towns and villages in the province, including the mountainous Kuhlan al Sharaf district, to secure an open route to the Red Sea port.

Before unrest ensued elsewhere in the country at the beginning of the year, the rebels’ expansion into the northern provinces was much more difficult, as the Yemeni regime was able to maintain pressure on the al-Houthis and provide financing and resources to various tribes and militant groups to keep the al-Houthis in check. For example, in Hajja province, Saleh’s regime supported such tribal groups as the Kushar and Aahim, according to The Yemen Observer. But now that the regime’s focus and resources have shifted to central and southern Yemen, the tribes that once resisted the al-Houthi expansion are much weaker. In al-Jawf province, the Yemeni and Saudi regimes gave various tribal forces resources to attack the al-Houthis. However, it is clear that such efforts have been less effective of late; since the al-Houthis have been able to exploit Sanaa and, given Riyadh’s distractions with unrest at home and elsewhere in Bahrain, expand their area of influence.

The Strategic Significance of Red Sea Ports
The acquisition and control of Midi has been one of the al-Houthis’ main strategic goals. The port does not hold great economic significance for Yemen; it is very small, and it is unclear if it can accommodate large container ships. However, the port has been the rebels’ main access point to small arms, funding and possibly foreign advisers. In 2009, Midi — along with the port in Salif — was thought to facilitate the smuggling of weapons and materials to the rebels. Midi in particular is known as an entry point for illegal immigrants being smuggled into Yemen. In November 2009, Yemeni authorities arrested 30 illegal Somali migrants believed to have been smuggled through the port city; these immigrants allegedly were deployed to take up armed with the al-Houthis. Some could have been on their way elsewhere, as Yemen has served as an intermediary destination for African migrants on their way to jobs in Saudi Arabia.

If the al-Houthis could gain full control of Midi or Salif, it would be easier for them to acquire weapons and resources to secure and defend the provinces where they have established influence. It could also give them control of some amount of trade, which would give them tax revenue to support their attempts at autonomy. But Riyadh fears that any success by the al-Houthis in Yemen would inspire the group’s fellow Zaidis across the border; if the al-Houthis can secure a path to these ports, the Saudis likely would intervene.

In fact, Saudi Arabia intervened on a previous occasion in 2009 during an incident known as the al-Houthi rebellion. The Saudi response, dubbed “Operation Scorched Earth,” began after the al-Houthis gained control of areas Riyadh considered dangerously close to the border with the Saudi provinces of Najran and Jizan. The operation entailed a small naval blockade with an emphasis on aerial bombardments and artillery fire targeting rebel positions to prevent the al-Houthis from gaining access to the Red Sea.

Struggle for Power in the Persian Gulf
The Saudis fear that Iran is supporting the al-Houthis in a proxy battle between the Arab and Persian powers, who are continuing their geopolitical competition over the Middle East. Unconfirmed reports from STRATFOR sources indicate that during the 2009 al-Houthi rebellion, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) trained the al-Houthis in producing improvised explosive devices and even sent supplies along a route via Eritrea’s Assab Harbor. According to the sources, IRGC officers bought and transported weapons in Somalia and Eritrea and shipped them to Yemen’s Salif port, where the supplies then passed through Hajja and Huth in northern Yemen before reaching Saada. The IRGC also reportedly used a more traditional route from Assab Harbor along the heel of the Arabian Peninsula in the Gulf of Aden, then to Shaqra in southern Yemen and on to Marib, then Baraqish and finally to the mountains in Saada.

The al-Houthi expansion is occurring as Saudi Arabia views the United States as struggling to form a coherent containment strategy against Iran, especially as the deadline looms for U.S. forces to withdraw from neighboring Iraq. In addition, Saudi Arabia has been trying to clamp down on Shiite unrest in Bahrain while attempting to keep Iranian clandestine activity on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula at bay. Saudi Arabia has a similar interest in keeping potential Iranian influence in Yemen away from the southern Saudi border. Although the Iranians would like to get involved in such conflicts, their involvement with the al-Houthis would be limited, due to sectarian disagreements and the difficulty of accessing al-Houthi territory.

Indeed, the al-Houthis likewise face geographic challenges as they attempt to gain control along the coast. If successful, they would be more vulnerable to conventional fighting — air strikes and artillery — and would not have the advantages of guerrilla tactics that they have in the mountains at present. These challenges will be particularly difficult as the rebels move through Hajja, a majority Sunni Arab province where they likely will face resistance before they can control either port.

Meanwhile, Saleh’s forces will be operating under heavy constraints, as they remain focused on quashing other unrest and fighting AQAP. With Saleh’s regime preoccupied, if the al-Houthis continue expanding to the southwest and securing a path to Midi, it will become increasingly likely that the Saudis will move to crush the possibility of a strengthening al-Houthi force that could threaten Saudi stability.

23705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: The printing press cometh? on: November 17, 2011, 11:25:31 AM
Vice President of Analysis Peter Zeihan examines the equally unpleasant choice of monetizing the euro or letting the euro fail.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Related Links
•   Special Report: Europe’s North-South Divide on Infrastructure
•   Europe’s Crisis: Beyond Finance
The Europeans are running out of tools to combat their deepening financial crisis. The bailout fund is at best compromised, European banks are degrading by the day and borrowing costs are rising week by week. One of the very few tools that remaining is something called monetization. In essence, the European Central Bank expanding the money supply to purchase distressed government debt, most notably for Italy. Monetization proponents argue that such activity would melt European debt away. The reality is not so clear-cut, and the Northern Europeans are at best leery of this option.
In the Northern European mind, monetization will not solve the core European problem — competition. Southern Europe is already non-competitive with Northern Europe. The average Southern European worker is 1/4 to 1/3 less productive than the average Northern European worker. Throwing free money at them will only make them less competitive. And for those who can remember back a few years, it’s obvious that throwing free money at Southern Europe is in a large part what caused the current debt crisis.
Instead what would be achieved is inflation. Monetization encourages consumption, which largely explains why the United States, United Kingdom and Japan have used the tool in recent years. But in the European case, it would be encouraging consumption in only part of the currency zone — in an area that is already a substantial importer. Southern Europe needs to get their consumption production in balance. Monetization does the opposite — deepening the existing imbalances while boosting inflation.
Now inflation does eat away at the relative value of debt. But it also eats away at the relative value of assets. Since Southern Europe is more debt-driven than asset-driven economy, it is easy to see why countries in the South see monetization as desirable option.
But in Northern Europe the circumstances are reversed. Northern European economies are creditors and very high-value-added, sporting massive industrial bases, highly educated work forces and excellent educational systems. Northern Europe is not high in debt — it is high credits and high in assets. And those assets are the key to Northern European income streams and Northern European political power within the EU. Monetization would directly endanger all of it. The Germans are particularly nervous about this aspect of monetization.
Monetizing Southern European debt would also have no clear chance for improving the European financial crisis. Monetization eliminates pressure upon states to reform. Case in point: the European Central Bank started buying Italian debt back in August. Italy abandoned their austerity plans in August. Unless watertight restrictions on state spending are in place before monetization begins, there is no reason for fiscal conservatism. And if those constraints are already in place, there’s no reason for monetization.
Finally, there’s demography. There is a big bulge in late-40-somethings in the German demographic with a very sharp drop off in younger population cohorts. These late-40-somethings know all the tricks of their trade — they are massively productive. They also have few bills and are at the height of their earning potential, so they are also massive creditors.
The skills and personal wealth of this group are the foundation of the current German geopolitical strategy — trade financial and economic strength to force the rest of Europe to agree to a rewiring of the EU to German preferences. And to achieve this before the demographic advantage dissolves in about 10 or 15 years, when the population bulge retries en masse.
Monetization would upend this strategy. First it would decrease competitiveness vis-a-vis Southern Europe, weakening the German leverage in reformulating Europe. Second, it would debase the assets and savings of Germany’s most economically and politically powerful demographic in favor of Southern Europeans. It is the monetary equivalent of the American government using Social Security funds to pay for services to Mexican immigrants, and expecting retirees to be ok with it.
But despite myriad disadvantages, monetization may well be emerging as the only tool that can preserve the euro, albeit in an increasingly damaging and distorted form. As Europe’s other tools fail, Northern Europe is going to be faced with a stark and painful choice — monetize and suffer the consequences, or let the euro fail and suffer the consequences.
Click for more videos
23706  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: November 17, 2011, 11:21:32 AM
Just watched the debates last night.  Overall I thought everyone did pretty well and some real differences were expressed.

Perry had a nice moment on a human level about his brain fart, but continues to underwhelm and comes across as a simplistic jingoistic Texan stereotype.

Ron Paul presented his POV without coming across as a crank.

Bachman actually sounded somewhat substantive at moments

Romney actually plainly stated that if all else failed, he would war on Iran to stop its nukes! (Did I get this right?!?)

For me, again Newt stood out head and shoulders above the rest.  Tangentially I note how utterly he has set the standard that the others now follow when it comes to how they all talk about each other.
23707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Calculating Iran's next move on: November 17, 2011, 11:16:19 AM
Calculating Iran's Next Move
Three days after explosions at an  Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) base near Tehran killed 17 people — including senior commander Brig. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, a key figure in Iran’s ballistic missile program — Iranian officials have publicly held to the official line that the blast was accidental. Privately, however, they appear to be contemplating whether the blast was an act of sabotage worthy of response. In a eulogy posted on Fardanews on Tuesday, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said, “Moghaddam was unknown in the Revolutionary Guard. Our enemies knew him better than our friends. He is irreplaceable.”

“Though the geopolitical climate is working in Iran’s favor, Tehran has to be aware of possible pitfalls — especially in its covert battles against its adversaries. “

In an equally cryptic statement following the explosions, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli military radio, “I don’t know the extent of the explosion, but it would be desirable if they multiply.” Regardless of whether it was involved in the incident, Israel has an interest in spreading the perception that the mountainous barriers of the Islamic republic are not impervious to Israeli covert operations. Though the circumstances of the blast leave open the possibility that it was accidental, there remains a strong chance that this was in fact a case of Israel pulling off a significant sabotage attack against the IRGC.

If so, we would expect to see Iran clamp down internally for a while to understand how such a significant failure in munitions handling could have occurred in the first place. At minimum this was a serious accident caused by the IRGC’s negligence; at most it was a breach of operational security by foreign infiltrators. The psychological impact of such a sabotage effort is just as critical as the physical elimination of the intended target. The worries caused over where along the line the breach occurred — and the time and resources spent trying to track that leak down while reinforcing security at other potential targets that may have been compromised — is a major drain on the victim and a major boon for the saboteur. This same type of impact could potentially be accomplished by a successful Israeli disinformation campaign to falsely claim credit for an accident and label it as an attack.

During Tehran’s period of introspection, Iran will also likely contemplate the much broader question of what barriers Iran could face as it pursues its strategic aims in the region. Iran’s strong position in Iraq is beyond doubt, as the United States is withdrawing its forces and leaving a power vacuum that Iran will fill. At the same time, Iran has maintained an effective deterrence strategy against a military strike — the most potent component of that strategy being Iran’s feared ability to disrupt 40 percent of the world’s seaborne crude through the Strait of Hormuz by unconventional military means. Simply put, there is little hiding the fact that the United States, Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council states are struggling to develop an effective containment strategy against Iran.

Though the geopolitical climate is working in Iran’s favor, Tehran has to be aware of possible pitfalls — especially in its covert battles against its adversaries. The assassinations, kidnappings and defections of Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years help sketch the outlines of a U.S.-Israeli campaign designed to slow down Iran’s nuclear program. As part of that campaign, the United States and Israel appear to have focused much of their resources on developing cyberweapons like the Stuxnet worm. The political crisis in Syria further complicates matters for Iran by threatening Tehran’s strategic foothold in the Levant. As Turkey and the Arab League states watch Iran’s moves warily, they are more likely to view the crisis in Syria as an opportunity to break Iran’s arc of influence in the region — and will increasingly focus their efforts toward this end.
 As Iran becomes more confident in the region and asserts its influence more boldly, more clandestine efforts against the country are likely to intensify. Iran’s leadership will likely consider this dynamic when contemplating a potential response to the Nov. 12 explosions. STRATFOR has already been receiving indications from Hezbollah that the Shiite militant organization is readying its artillery rocket arsenal under orders from Tehran. Though Hezbollah and its Iranian proxies have a strategic interest in spreading such information to create the perception that Iran has a potent retaliatory option to ward off further attacks, Hezbollah’s actions in and beyond the region should be watched in the coming weeks. Iran could also deploy its covert capabilities in places like Bahrain, Iraq, the Palestinian territories and northern Yemen, but Tehran faces limitations in all these arenas, particularly in Iraq, where Iran does not want to give the United States any reason to push back its timetable for withdrawal.

Iran is not likely to respond quickly or rashly to this situation — it may not even respond at all. Following the February 2008 assassination of Imad Mughniyah, one of Hezbollah’s top commanders, Iran’s adversaries braced for a response that never came. Iran likely calculated that such a response was not worth the campaign of mutual retaliation that would have ensued. It remains unclear just how shell-shocked Iran’s leaders are from the Nov. 12 explosion, but if the blast was indicative of Israel’s covert reach into Iran, we would expect Iran to be expending a lot of energy in the coming weeks trying to recover from and repair what could have been a significant breach in its internal security apparatus.
23708  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Newt & the FMs on: November 17, 2011, 11:13:30 AM

Gingrich's Freddie Ties Draw Scrutiny
Consulting work Newt Gingrich performed for Freddie Mac is drawing new scrutiny, now that the Republican presidential candidate has risen in polls on the backs of tea-party supporters and other conservatives skeptical of Washington institutions.

Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, was hired by Freddie Mac for two stretches after leaving Congress, beginning in 1999 and again in 2006, during periods when the housing-finance company faced growing threats from policy makers who wanted to clips its wings, people familiar with events said.

Mr. Gingrich and his firm gave advice on how to portray Freddie Mac to conservatives, people familiar with his role said.

Freddie and its larger cousin, Fannie Mae, remain deeply unpopular with some conservatives and tea-party supporters. Mr. Gingrich has joined fellow Republicans in blaming members of Congress, Washington lobbyists and Freddie and Fannie for contributing to the decline in the U.S. housing market.

A consulting firm run by Mr. Gingrich was paid more than $1.6 million over seven years by Freddie Mac, according to people familiar with events. The payments were first reported by Bloomberg News.

Mr. Gingrich's campaign said the former House speaker didn't lobby Congress on behalf of Freddie Mac. "I was approached to offer strategic advice," Mr. Gingrich told reporters on the campaign trail in Urbandale, Iowa. "I was glad to offer strategic advice, and we did it for a number of companies, and Gingrich Group was very successful."

People familiar with his role said Mr. Gingrich and his firm were paid to provide advice on how to portray the company to skeptical conservatives who wanted to cap the firm's growth.

 Newt Gingrich's effort to cast himself as the big thinker of the 2012 campaign appears to be paying off. While other candidates have stumbled on policy, voters in Iowa say they like Gingrich's policy smarts. Danny Yadron has details on Lunch Break.
.Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond said the former House speaker met with Freddie Mac officials about once a month. "They would present problems, and he would give them ideas and solutions," Mr. Hammond said. "They were hiring him to think about their problems."

In a debate last month, Mr. Gingrich singled out Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), the former chairman of the House's financial-services panel, for blame.

"Go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to at Freddie Mac," Mr. Gingrich said. "Everybody in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to start by going after the politicians who have been at the heart of the sickness."

Chip Saltsman, who managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign, said the issue is likely to prove troublesome for Mr. Gingrich over the next several days. "Obviously, Freddie and Fannie have not been a very popular program among conservatives," said Mr. Saltsman, who isn't affiliated with a presidential campaign this year.

With about seven weeks left before voting begins in Iowa, "even the smallest missteps can turn into big problems for a candidate running for president," he said. "Right now, you should be looking to consolidate your support, not damage it."

Two polls released in recent days showed him contending for the lead in Iowa. Steve Armstrong, the chairman of the Republican Party in Linn County, said it could be problematic for Mr. Gingrich as a candidate if he was advocating for Freddie Mac.

"I would view that negatively," said Mr. Armstrong, who is uncommitted in the 2012 race. "The government should not be in the loan business."

But Mark Lundberg, the chairman of Iowa's Sioux County GOP, who said he was leaning toward Mr. Gingrich, said he was unperturbed, since Mr. Gingrich had no official title in government.

"He had no political power to make legislation," said Mr. Lundberg. "If he can make $20 million on contracts on any business, have at it."

Freddie first hired Mr. Gingrich in 1999, as the Clinton administration raised concerns over the firms' growth. He worked for the company until 2002. At that time, Fannie and Freddie, which had cultivated deep political ties across Washington, faced more critics—including a lobbying group formed by other financial-services and mortgage companies to voice concerns over the expansion of Fannie and Freddie's influence.

Fannie and Freddie were created by Congress and benefited from tax exemptions and implied government support that allowed them to borrow money at rates only modestly higher than the U.S. Treasury.

By 2005, Fannie and Freddie's dominance of the market for pooling mortgages and selling them as securities was eclipsed by big lenders such as Countrywide Financial Corp. More Republican lawmakers and other critics pointed to the changed market as proof Fannie and Freddie weren't needed.

Mr. Gingrich was brought back in 2006 for two years to provide advice to the company on how leaders could present the firm in favorable ways to conservatives who were set on curbing its growth, according to people familiar with the matter. He wasn't registered as a lobbyist and didn't have the job of contacting members of Congress, these people said.

Until the government took over Fannie and Freddie in 2008 to avoid their collapse, the companies regularly offered lucrative jobs to officials exiting the government, such as President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who served on Freddie Mac's board of directors. The government rescues have cost taxpayers around $151 billion.

—Danny Yadron contributed to this article.
23709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Housing starts looking good on: November 17, 2011, 10:55:02 AM
Housing starts fell 0.3% in October to 628,000 units at an annual rate To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 11/17/2011
Housing starts fell 0.3% in October to 628,000 units at an annual rate, but still came in above the consensus expected pace of 610,000.  Starts are up 16.5% versus a year ago.
The slight decline in starts in October was all due to multi-family units, which are extremely volatile from month to month. Single-family starts were up 3.9%. Multi-family starts are up 88.6% from a year ago while single-family starts are down 0.9%.
Starts rose in all regions of the country except in the West, which fell 16.5%.
New building permits increased 10.9% in October to a 653,000 annual rate, coming in well above the consensus expected pace of 603,000. Compared to a year ago, permits for multi-unit homes are up 48.0% while permits for single-family units are up 6.6%.
Implications:  The long-awaited rebound in home building has finally begun. In the past four months, the total number of homes under construction has increased three times. This is a major break from the recent past. From 2006 through four months ago there had been no increases at all. So far, the gains have been due to multi-family construction, particularly buildings with 5 or more units. However, we are now seeing signs that single-family construction is starting to stir. Although the number of single-family homes under construction hit a new record low in October, single-family starts were up 3.9%. Moreover, single-family completions increased 7.1%, which contributed to the drop in the number still under construction. Multi-family starts fell 8.3% in October, but given the general trend away from owner-occupancy and toward rental occupancy, multi-family units should continue to trend higher. Permits for multi-family construction are now the highest in three years. Based on population growth and “scrappage,” home building must increase substantially over the next several years to avoid eventually running into shortages. For more on the housing market, please see our recent research report (link). In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment insurance declined 5,000 last week to 388,000.  The four-week moving average is 397,000 versus 440,000 in April/May.  Continuing claims for regular state benefits fell 57,000 to 3.61 million.  Looks like another month of respectable job growth in November.
23710  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: November 17, 2011, 10:49:28 AM
In isolation and without comment you posted this:

""Not once have any of my personal investment decisions been a function of marginal tax rates," Gruener said. "We just don't think about it.""

This sure gives the impression that you are agreeing with this denial of the law of supply & demand (price affects supply and vice versa) and this certainly is quite distinct from

Why else bother to post it?

Then, in response to his posts, you said "But I give up, I concede, as have others, that I will never be able to keep up with your frequent, albeit irrelevant posts."

This sure gives the impression that it is a response to his posts in response to your post.  As I have already posted, I found his posts quite responsive to your posting of someone denying the law of supply and demand when it came to tax rates.  To answer this with examples of where the two of you have agreed (and generally it is a good thing to note areas of agreement) is not really taking responsibility for what you have said here.
23711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Better approach to poorly thought out federal bill on: November 17, 2011, 10:42:03 AM
Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill
Passes House
Troubling Amendment Added

The House passed national concealed carry reciprocity legislation on Wednesday evening by a vote of 272-154.

The bill, H.R. 822, is intended to allow persons who hold a concealed carry permit from one state to also carry anywhere in the country, with the exception of Illinois and Washington, D.C.

Though the bill passed by a wide margin, it was not without controversy on the pro-gun side of the debate. In previous alerts, GOA has pointed out several flaws in the legislation:

•   It forces Vermont residents (who do not need a permit to carry) to either obtain an out-of-state permit or to push their state to pass a more restrictive concealed carry law than it now enjoys;
•   By requiring permits for reciprocity, the bill undermines efforts at the state level to pass constitutional carry (i.e., Vermont-style carry);
•   In restrictive “may issue” states, the bill allows for non-residents to carry firearms in the state while most residents would still be prohibited, and;
•   The bill is yet another example of Congress distorting of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

Representative Justin Amash (R-MI), who voted against the bill, addressed this last point in a statement, calling H.R. 822 “an unconstitutional bill that improperly applies the Commerce Clause to concealed carry licensing.”

Another freshman Representative, Rob Woodall (R-GA), noted that the right to carry a concealed firearm is already protected by the Second Amendment.

“If the Second Amendment protects my rights to carry my concealed weapon from state to state to state, I don’t need another federal law,” Rep. Woodall said. He went on to remind his colleagues of the original intent of the right to keep and bear arms.

“I don’t believe the Second Amendment was put in the Bill of Rights to allow me to shoot targets [or] hunt for deer and turkey. I think the Second Amendment was put in the Bill of Rights so that I could defend my freedom against an overbearing federal government.”

Anti-gun Amendment Passes

One extremely troubling amendment to the bill was slipped in on a voice vote. Sponsored by Republican David Reichert (“C” rated by GOA), the amendment instructs the Government Accounting Office to:

“Conduct a study of the ability of State and local law enforcement authorities to verify the validity of licenses or permits, issued by other States, to carry a concealed firearm.”

Nowhere in the Constitution is there even a hint of authority for the federal government to “study” the exercising of a right. Even worse, you can be sure that anti-gunners will use any excuse, including this study, to push for some type of national carry license.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where GOA is already working with key Senators to address ALL of the problems with the bill. GOA is also working with Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) on legislation, H.R. 2900, that takes a constitutional approach to concealed carry recognition.

Click here to act
23712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: November 17, 2011, 02:20:08 AM
Thank you.
23713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: November 17, 2011, 02:19:35 AM

Of course there is a de minimis point at which behavior arguably is unaffected and where that point is can reasonably be discussed, but that does not seem to be the point you apparently are trying to present-- you go much broader than that.

GM's posts are EXACTLY on point.  He is backing us his assertions with a number of examples of fact directly contrary to your assertions. 

I gotta say, I find your argument here ultimately it reduce to a disbelief in the law of supply and demand.

This is tedious.
23714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: November 17, 2011, 02:10:29 AM
Hoping the testiness can , , , move forward now.

On the merits, Doug's analysis seem well reasoned to me.
Even if ObamaCare survives Supreme Court scrutiny next spring, its trials will be far from over. That's because the law has a major glitch that threatens its basic functioning. It's so problematic, in fact, that the Obama administration is now brazenly trying to rewrite the law without involving Congress.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offers "premium assistance"—tax credits and subsidies—to households purchasing coverage through new health-insurance exchanges. This assistance was designed to hide a portion of the law's cost to individuals by reducing the premium hikes that individuals will face after ObamaCare goes into effect in 2014. (If consumers face the law's full cost, support for repeal will grow.)

The law encourages states to create health-insurance exchanges, but it permits Washington to create them if states decline. So far, only 17 states have passed legislation to create an exchange.

This is where the glitch comes in: ObamaCare authorizes premium assistance in state-run exchanges (Section 1311) but not federal ones (Section 1321). In other words, states that refuse to create an exchange can block much of ObamaCare's spending and practically force Congress to reopen the law for revisions.

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 .The Obama administration wants to avoid that legislative debacle, so this summer it proposed an IRS rule to offer premium assistance in all exchanges "whether established under section 1311 or 1321." On Nov. 17 the IRS will hold a public hearing on that proposal. According to a Treasury Department spokeswoman, the administration is "confident" that offering premium assistance where Congress has not authorized it "is consistent with the intent of the law and our ability to interpret and implement it."

Such confidence is misplaced. The text of the law is perfectly clear. And without congressional authorization, the IRS lacks the power to dispense tax credits or spend money.

What about congressional intent? Law professor Timothy Jost suggests that since ObamaCare requires all exchanges to report information about premium assistance, and it would be silly to impose that requirement on federal exchanges if their enrollees were not eligible, that shows Congress could not have intended anything but to provide assistance in federal exchanges. At least, he argues, there's enough ambiguity here about Congress's intent that federal courts will permit the administration to resolve it.

Not so fast. The Supreme Court has increasingly limited such deference to cases where the text of the law—rather than Congress's intent—is ambiguous. In this case the language of the law is clear, as even Mr. Jost admits.

The health law's authors in Congress deliberately chose to pass the bill with known imperfections and to use the reconciliation process to make only limited amendments. Writing a perfect bill would have required too many votes and risked failure. If what they passed was an imperfect bill with no premium assistance in federal exchanges, then that is what Congress intended.

And there are plausible reasons why Congress may have wanted to limit assistance to state-run exchanges—including encouraging states to create exchanges so that the federal government doesn't have the burden.

Supporters of ObamaCare, including George Washington University's Sarah Rosenbaum, have argued that nobody will have standing to challenge the IRS rule in court. That's not the case.

Under the law, employers must pay penalties when their employees receive premium assistance—a measure designed to encourage employers to keep offering coverage. Any employer whose employees receive premium assistance through a federal exchange would therefore suffer harm from the IRS rule and would have standing to challenge these illegal tax credits and outlays.

Public-interest lawyers could file suit as soon as the IRS rule becomes final and they find an employer that will be harmed. Any firm that doesn't offer health benefits and that employs lots of full-time, low-skilled, young workers in a state that fails to create an exchange should suffice. A successful challenge would block the law's employer mandate in that state.

In addition, under the Congressional Review Act, a simple (filibuster-proof) majority vote in each chamber of Congress could send to President Obama's desk a resolution blocking this IRS rule. Even if Mr. Obama vetoed the resolution (taking personal responsibility for this assault on the rule of law), a future president could still rescind the rule. Quite a perilous situation in which to leave the president's signature accomplishment.

Like the rest of the nation, the Obama administration wants a different health-care law than the one we got. But that doesn't give it the authority to rewrite the law by fiat.

Mr. Adler is professor of law and director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University. Mr. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute.

23715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey-Syria (and Kurds) on: November 16, 2011, 05:47:16 PM

Director of Analysis Reva Bhalla discusses the risks Turkey will likely consider in deciding how far it wants to go in supporting the Syrian opposition.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Related Links
•   Intelligence Guidance: Iran’s Next Move, Eurozone Crisis, Pressure on Syria
•   The Syrian Regime, Under Pressure but Holding
•   The Syrian Opposition: Perception and Reality
Syrian activists claimed Wednesday that army defectors belonging to the Free Syrian Army fired machine guns and RPGs at an Air Force Intelligence base in Hastara, just north of Damascus, around 2:30 a.m. local time. They also claimed to have targeted military checkpoints in the suburbs of Douma, Qaboun, Arabaeen and Saqba. There has been no independent confirmation of these claims, but the reports are directing attention toward the capabilities of the Free Syrian Army and just how far the Turkish government is willing to go in supporting this group of army defectors.
The Free Syrian Army is a group of mostly Sunni conscripts and mid- to low-rank officers who fled to Turkey. This group, led by a Col. Riad al-Asaad, has, with the permission of the Turkish government, set up a base of operations in southern Turkey and has announced the creation of what it calls a temporary military council to oust the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
This group of army defectors is operating under extremely heavy constraints considering that the Syrian security apparatus is dominated by the country’s Alawite minority, the vast majority of which view the current struggle as an existential crisis against the Sunni majority. Unless serious cracks in the army occur among this Alawite command, it will be very difficult for lower ranking Sunni members to find the opening they need to wage a successful coup. Another factor greatly hampering this group is that they need a sanctuary to organize and sustain an armed resistance within effective operating range of the main areas of resistance.
Turkey’s willingness to host the Free Syrian Army raises the question of whether Turkey would be willing to go further in supporting an armed opposition in Syria. Speculation has been raised over whether the refugee camps in southwestern Turkey, where the Free Syrian Army leadership is located, could be extended into a staging ground for Syria’s fledgling armed opposition. Turkey has many options in terms of arming, advising and training these forces, and an idea that has also been raised prominently in the Turkish press and in private talks among Turkish officials is that of Turkey establishing a military buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border with Arab League and possibly U.N. backing. Speculation over how far such a buffer zone would actually extend into Syrian territory varies greatly and there is no clear indication that Turkey is close to a decision on this matter.
Though Turkey has been trying to demonstrate that it has real clout — beyond rhetoric — in pressuring Syria, there are also risks in escalating matters and going so far as to commit forces to the problem. First, it’s important to keep in mind that the areas where the opposition is concentrated — in Homs and Hamas, as well as the Damascus suburbs and Daraa in the southwest — are a fair distance from the northern border with Turkey.
Second, Turkey’s primary security imperative in dealing with Syria is to ensure the instability in Syria does not reach a level that would encourage Kurdish separatist activity from spilling across the border. So far, Kurdish protesters in Syria have been relatively contained. And while there are several thousands of Syrian refugees living in Turkish refugee camps, Turkey is no longer facing an imminent crisis of refugees flooding across the border since most of the Syrian military’s crackdowns have been focused much further south.
Further Turkish escalation would make Turkey vulnerable to Syrian and Iranian militant proxy attacks, a factor that is likely weighing heavily on the minds of the Turkish leadership as they are already dealing with a significant rise in PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) activity and are more interested in focusing their military assets on uprooting PKK cells in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. Syria and Iran may not have a great deal of influence on the PKK’s command structure based out of Qandil mountain, but there are a number of splinter factions that could be exploited to demonstrate to the Turks the repercussions of pushing the al Assad regime over the edge.
If Turkey were to seriously contemplate further escalation in Syria and absorb the risks associated with such action, it would be more likely in response to their concerns over the Kurdish threat than their concerns for Syrian citizens. This is why it will be extremely important to watch for signs of unusual Kurdish militant activity in Turkey that the Turkish leadership could trace back to Syria. That would be the game changer that could lead to more serious action from the Turks.
23716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson 1823 on: November 16, 2011, 03:44:17 PM
"[T]he States can best govern our home concerns and the general government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore ... never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold at market." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge William Johnson, 1823
23717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IPT: Amer-Muslims on Iranian TV on: November 16, 2011, 03:15:35 PM

Tune in to Press TV, the Iranian government's English-language broadcast outlet, and you will see reports of the pervasive evil represented by the United States. It seeks war. It fabricated an international report on Iran's nuclear weapons program. It leads an elaborate "Iranophobic" conspiracy aimed at invading Iran and "plundering its natural resources."
Watch long enough and you'll also see a parade of American Muslim activists, all lamenting their problems with government policies and decrying the plight of life here for Muslims.
In the past 12 months, representatives of American Islamist groups have appeared on Press TV for interviews more than 35 times, the most recent example taking place Tuesday. Most of those included representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who appeared at least 29 times. Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) officials appeared at least six times.
Both groups claim to stand for civil rights and against terrorism, but their appearances feed into the narrative of the Iranian regime, which is a designated state sponsor of terrorism and a notorious human and civil rights violator.
A review of the appearances finds not one which included any criticisms of the Iranian regime for its oppression of its own people or for its support for terrorist groups. That is not surprising, given that the groups fail to make critical statements about Iran even to American audiences.
When positive things were said about religious freedom in America during Press TV appearances, it was always outweighed by claims Muslims are being singled out for scrutiny or having their rights abused.
"The American Muslims are free to practice their faith," CAIR national spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said in an Aug. 3 interview. "We live in a free society; there are many good things about being an American Muslim. But there is also a sense of being under siege from these hate mongers that are constantly trying to demonize our faith."
Later that month, Hooper expressed distrust of law enforcement, accusing the New York Police Department of blackmailing Muslims to become informants.
"We get calls all the time from individuals who are being coerced to be informants on the American Muslim community and the coercion usually takes the form of immigration issues, tax issues and other personal issues, financial issues that can be brought to bear to force people to become a spy in their own faith community," Hooper said.
MPAC government and policy analyst Alejandro Beutel appeared in a March 11 Press TV segment criticizing the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on radicalization in American Muslim communities.
"It spoke to a lot of the feelings that I think many Muslim Americans have with respect to their position here in America post-9/11," Beutel said. "We are loyal citizens to this nation and we are trying to do everything we can to keep it safe and secure. And yet even when we're doing the right things and in many cases, laying our lives down on the line for our nation, we still get stigmatized."
MPAC's profile in Washington has grown dramatically, especially when it comes to outreach directly from the White House. MPAC officials attended the White House Iftar Dinner, President Obama's 9/11 Memorial at the Kennedy Center, and Secretary Hillary Clinton's Eid ul-Fitr reception at the State Department, which was planned to commemorate the conclusion of the month of Ramadan.
On July 13, President Obama even called Haris Tarin, head of MPAC's Washington office, to commend his organization's work with the Muslim American community and the nation as a whole.
Both CAIR and MPAC have a long history of denouncing U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and particularly of accusing the FBI and law enforcement of entrapment and lying to Muslims to secure their help in locating terror suspects. For examples, see here, here, or here.
There is no denying anyone's right to appear on any program. But invitations can be declined. It's a mystery what officials of either of these organizations hope to accomplish by criticizing their own country on an official arm of a hostile Iranian regime.
Hooper again criticized the FBI on Oct. 25. That was two weeks after law enforcement disrupted an alleged Iranian-driven assassination plot on U.S. soil targeting the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington. And he appeared again on Tuesday, discussing new FBI hate crime data from 2010 showing an increase in anti-Muslim attacks.
The problem, Hooper said, is a conspiracy to issue a constant barrage of bigotry from "a coordinated, well-financed group" against Muslims in America.
"You cannot help but be aware of the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society," he said. "You can't turn on a talk radio program, you cannot read the comments on articles online related to Islam and Muslims, you cannot watch the right-wing cable news programs without seeing, reading and hearing anti-Muslim rhetoric on a daily basis."
If supposedly "mainstream" groups like MPAC and CAIR are comfortable on Press TV, it is no wonder more openly extremist groups embrace the chance to appear on camera.
As-Sabiqun, a Washington, D.C.-based Islamist organization that has openly called for an Islamic state in America by 2050, has provided interview subjects for Press TV five times in 2011. In them, the group's leader Imam Abdul Alim Musa has accused the United States of "fighting a global war against Islam," and entrapping innocent Muslims.
"Americans have become obese and very lazy people, Musa said during a July appearance. "Americans have become addicted to television, internet, and they sit at home. But here is the thing, what we call the fall, and the decline of the American empire is in process. The American empire is so vast that it is an empire that will crumble in on itself. This is happening right now, we don't have to worry about an external rebellion, or an internal rebellion, the US economy is dead. The US military has lost all respect, not only Afghanistan, Iraq and lately Libya."
Representatives from the Muslim American Society (MAS), which was founded as the U.S. chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood, appeared twice on Press TV in the past year. Like its counterparts, they said nothing of Iranian misdeeds but they did defend a convicted terrorist, Sami Al-Arian, and also accused President Obama of contributing to rising "Islamophobia" by failing to close Guantanamo Bay.
Musa also appeared with Shaker Elsayed, imam of Northern Virginia's Dar al-Hijrah mosque, in repeating the FBI entrapment allegation. Dar al-Hijrah representatives made at least two Press TV appearances this year.
FBI agents "are not investigating to see if the individual is engaged, they are engaging the person in terrorist activities, in conspiracies, in plotting," Elsayed said. "Our experience here at al-Hijrah was very positive with the FBI leadership in Washington Field Office, until we found out that getting very close to the FBI came at a very serious price," he added.
On its website, Press TV identifies part of its vision as being "heeding the often neglected voices and perspectives of a great portion of the world" and "embracing and building bridges of cultural understanding."
But Press TV has come under fire before. In January, Britain's National Westminster Bank froze its bank account, presumably as part of an effort to cut off funding for Iranian government enterprises and force the country to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
At the time, writer Shiraz Maher applauded the act as "a welcome development," noting that Press TV "has a long track record in producing agitprop for the Iranian state, including the lie that Neda Soltan's murder by the regime was a hoax."
Iran's leadership again finds itself in the spotlight following the release of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report which finds that Iran is progressing toward making nuclear weapons.
Commenting on the report, Press TV echoed the recent accusation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the director general of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, is an American "pawn" reporting what the U.S. government tells him to say.
"In an atmosphere of cringing obedience to Washington, Mr. Amano cannot choose but to play into the hands of the US officials who look over his shoulders and observe with diligence what he puts to paper in the report he writes about Iran," a Press TV article Nov. 8 noted.
Press TV's message today is that America is a terrorist state, and that its actions – from the allegations in the Saudi assassination plot to the saber-rattling over Iran's nuclear program – are either manipulated by Israel or direct favors to the Jewish state.
By making frequent appearances critical of the United States, American Islamists reinforce a propaganda machine sowing hatred and distrust.
23718  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: November 16, 2011, 03:11:31 PM
No SS tax on cap gains, on dividends, not sure what requirements are concerning the self-employed.  Anyone?
23719  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: November 16, 2011, 03:10:06 PM
Back in May when Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign was imploding, his spokesman Rick Tyler released a statement blasting the "sheep" in the conservative media for unloading "their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods."

Mr. Gingrich at the time was under attack for dismissing fellow Republican Paul Ryan's Medicare premium-support plan on "Meet the Press" as radical "right-wing social engineering."

(Shame on this reporter.  This accusation, which I bought into at the time, has been shown to be disingenuous-- read the question to which he was responding when he made this comment and all will be clear.)

 Mr. Tyler went on to forecast that "out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead."

It's true that three new polls show Mr. Gingrich has re-emerged from the political rubble, but it's not clear whether he's ready to lead.

A Public Policy Polling survey places the former House speaker in front with 28%. Herman Cain and Mitt Romney trail him at 25% and 18%, respectively. Since June Mr. Gingrich's favorability rating has flipped from 36-49 to 68-23, a 58-point improvement in his spread. A CNN/Opinion Research poll also shows Mr. Gingrich in second-place with 22%, which puts him in a statistical tie with Mr. Romney. Mr. Cain trails both at 14%. But perhaps the best news for the former congressman is a new Polling Company survey that has him deadlocked with Mr. Cain in Iowa.

Mr. Gingrich has staked his campaign on winning Iowa, which would give him momentum going into South Carolina, Nevada, and Florida. He even sold himself to the ethanol lobby, vigorously promoting industry subsidies. The Center for Public Integrity reported earlier this year that Mr. Gingrich had performed consulting work for an ethanol firm at a charge of $312,500.

Now that Mr. Gingrich is rising in the polls, these issues are likely to come back to haunt him. We're also likely to learn more about his marital problems, ethics violations and lucrative work as a consultant for Freddie Mac. Mr. Gingrich has hitherto gotten a pass on these issues because of his irrelevancy. Now that he's getting more traction, he should prepare for heavier fire.

23720  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: November 16, 2011, 03:05:25 PM
Subscribe to The Patriot Post — It's Right and It's FREE: click here.
Chronicle • November 16, 2011
The Foundation
"If it be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws -- the first growing out of the last." --Alexander Hamilton
Editorial Exegesis
"The 'constitutionality' of the Obama health care law, Harvard Law School's Laurence Tribe wrote in the New York Times earlier this year, 'is open and shut,' adding that the challenge against it is 'a political objection in legal garb.' In announcing [Monday] that it will consider the law's constitutionality, the Supreme Court said it would give an historic five-and-a-half hours to oral arguments. Perhaps by his Cambridge standard, Mr. Tribe thinks the nine Justices are a little slow. We prefer to think this shows the Court recognizes the seriousness of the constitutional issues involved. It makes those who cavalierly dismissed the very idea of a challenge two years ago look, well, constitutionally challenged. ... It's true that without the mandate the law is unlikely to work, but the law is such a Rube Goldberg contraption that it won't work with the mandate. We'd like to see the entire law overturned, but the mandate deserves its own constitutional judgment. It shouldn't be found constitutional merely because Justice's lawyers say its excision would ruin the entire law. Congress can't drop unconstitutional provisions into laws hoping that the Court will bless them simply because not doing so would invalidate the larger law. ... The Court itself deserves credit for deciding to take this case this year, even though it probably means issuing a decision in an election year. The law is already speeding the ruin of U.S. health care, increasing costs and reducing competition. It is easily the most unpopular major reform in decades and the most unpopular entitlement expansion ever. ... These are issues involving the nation's core understanding of the citizenry's relationship to its government. Voters should have the chance to include the Court's verdict on the law when they go to the polls in 2012." --The Wall Street Journal
Essential Liberty
"The justices reportedly expect to make a decision by June. Whenever it comes, they'd better get it right. The case's main focus is the law's individual mandate, a provision that requires every American adult who doesn't have health care insurance to buy coverage. If a majority of justices decide that such a demand is constitutional, this nation will suffer through a fundamental transformation that rises to the level of the 'change' candidate Barack Obama promised -- or threatened -- if he were elected president. An America in which Washington can require the citizenry to do its bidding in all things is no longer a free republic -- though some might argue that freedom and our republican style of government have been crumbling for decades. If Washington can force Americans to buy health care insurance, then Washington can do whatever it wants. Old limits will be gone. A soft tyranny will replace the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. It's impossible to overstate the magnitude of this case." --Investor's Business Daily
How do you think the Court will rule?
"The individual mandate is the poster child of this Administration and the liberals in Congress overstepping their authority to inject the government into the lives of its citizens. ... If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate, as it should, it should also strike down the rest of the law in its entirety. But the second step (the 'severability' issue) is a closer question. The Court might get the first part right (striking down the individual mandate) but get the severability question wrong and not strike down the rest of the law. So, until the day the law is fully repealed, the job is not done." --Heritage Foundation's Nina Owcharenko
"A couple of months ago, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Beth Brinkmann was standing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, defending the federal law requiring Americans to buy government-approved health insurance, when Judge Laurence Silberman asked her about broccoli. Specifically, he wanted to know whether a law requiring Americans to buy broccoli would exceed the federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce. 'No,' Brinkmann said. 'It depends,' she added. ... Imagine the fun that Congress could have coming up with mandates aimed at coercing healthier lifestyles once it has a constitutional blessing as well as a fiscal justification. ... If you value your freedom to spend your money as you choose, you should hope the Supreme Court rejects the Obama administration's open-ended view of the Commerce Clause -- no matter how you feel about broccoli." --columnist Jacob Sullum
"President Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected for an unprecedented third term after two terms in which unemployment was in double digits for eight consecutive years. We may lament the number of people who are unemployed or who are on food stamps today. But those who give the Obama administration credit for coming to their rescue when they didn't have a job are likely to greatly outnumber those who blame the administration for their not having a job in the first place. ... There has probably never been a time in the history of this country when we more urgently needed to get a president out of the White House, before he ruined the country. But will the conservative Republican candidates let that guide them?" --economist Thomas Sowell
"President Obama was wrong to say at the Asia-Pacific economic summit that America has gotten 'lazy' in the past few decades at attracting foreign investment. What he should have said, in the light of his administration's handling of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, is that America has become quite adept at blocking foreign investment. ... TransCanada wants to invest $7 billion in building a pipeline across the United States to carry oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. If we were merely lazy, we'd have accepted the project and the thousands of associated construction jobs long ago. That would be the path of least resistance, not to mention common sense." --National Review editor Rich Lowry
"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force." --novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
23721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / These numbers sound pretty good , , , on: November 16, 2011, 03:01:15 PM
Industrial production rose 0.7% in October To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 11/16/2011
Industrial production rose 0.7% in October; easily beating the consensus expected gain of 0.4%. Including revisions to prior months, production increased 0.5%. Output is up 4.0% in the past year.
Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, was up 0.4% in October. Auto production spiked up 3.1%. Non-auto manufacturing increased 0.3%. Auto production is up 8.9% versus a year ago and non-auto manufacturing has risen 3.9%.
The production of high-tech equipment rose 0.1% in October and is up 7.0% versus a year ago.
Overall capacity utilization rose to 77.8% in October from 77.3% in September. Manufacturing capacity use increased to 75.4% in October from 75.1% in September.
Implications:  Industrial production soared in October, easily beating consensus expectations and showing no sign of recession. Mining activity increased 2.3%, the most in three years. However, manufacturing was strong too, up 0.4% in October and 0.3% if a booming auto sector is excluded. From a year ago, manufacturing is up 4.5%, 3.9% excluding autos. Auto production is up at a 17.3% annual rate over the past six months, a rebound from the supply-chain disruptions that came from Japan earlier this year. It’s still an open question what temporary impact recent massive flooding in Thailand will have on auto production in November. The production of business equipment has been particularly strong in recent months, up 10.2% from a year ago and up at a 12.7% annual rate in the past six months. The outlook for continued growth in business investment looks good. Corporate profits are at a record high and so is cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies. Meanwhile, capacity utilization looks set to be at the long-term average of 80% by the end of 2012, which will give firms more of an incentive to build out capacity. 
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) declined 0.1% in October To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 11/16/2011
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) declined 0.1% in October. The consensus expected no change. The CPI is up 3.5% versus a year ago.
“Cash” inflation (which excludes the government’s estimate of what homeowners would charge themselves for rent) slipped 0.2% in October, but is up 4.1% in the past year.
The decline in the CPI was due to a 2.0% drop in energy prices. Food prices were up 0.1% and the “core” CPI, which excludes food and energy, was up 0.1%, matching consensus expectations. Core prices are up 2.1% versus last year.
Real average hourly earnings – the cash earnings of all employees, adjusted for inflation – increased 0.3% in October but are down 1.6% in the past year. Real weekly earnings are down 1.7% in the past year.
Implications: Like producer prices, consumer prices also took a breather in October, with the CPI down 0.1%. However, the slight dip in consumer prices is going to be temporary and the Federal Reserve should not assume it has more room to execute another round of quantitative easing. The reason the overall CPI fell in October was that energy prices dropped 2%. But now, with oil pushing $100 per barrel again, we already know energy prices will likely be up in November. Meanwhile, despite the decline in overall prices in October, the CPI is still up 3.5% from a year ago. “Cash” inflation, which excludes the government’s estimate of what homeowners would pay themselves in rent, is up 4.1% in the past year.  In our opinion, this is a more accurate measure of the inflation actually being felt by consumers.  “Core” prices, which exclude food and energy (what the Fed seems to focus on) are up 2.1% in the past year, held down by owners’ equivalent rent (up just 1.6% in the past 12 months), which makes up one-third of the core. But, because of the shift from home ownership to rental occupancy, rents are now accelerating (see chart to right). As a result, core inflation is likely to accelerate in the year ahead. The best news in today’s report was that “real” (inflation-adjusted) earnings per hour were up 0.3% in October. Although these earnings are down 1.6% from a year ago, consumers have been able to increase their spending by slowing the pace at which they’re paying down debt. This makes sense with consumers’ financial obligations now at the smallest share of income since the early 1990s.   
23722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dick Morris: Newt can win on: November 16, 2011, 02:06:18 PM

As the debates accumulate, it becomes more and more evident that Newt Gingrich’s intellect, experience, articulateness and depth of knowledge elevate him to the top of the GOP field. Anyone should be happy to pay admission to watch him duel with President Obama in debate! He’s not as charismatic as Herman Cain or as smooth as Mitt Romney, but boy, does he have a brain!

Ever since the campaign started, Newt has always gotten in his own way. Now he has graciously stepped aside and let his creativity and intellect shine through.

Earlier in the debates, he bit the questioners’ heads off in a pique of surly crankiness. No longer. Now he just answers the questions as they come, often hitting them out of the ballpark. His perspective and insights are penetrating and his condescension has vanished (or at least is sublimated).

Unfortunately, he does owe some of his current surge to the unsubstantiated and vague charges against Cain. While Republicans generally dismiss these charges, they worry that they will hurt him in November should he win the nomination. Herman will recover. His positive solutions for our economy will lift him back into the top tier of contention. Michele Bachmann might also come back, lifted by a tide of opposition to any tax increases embedded in the deficit-reduction supercommittee’s recommendations.

But any recovery by Cain or Bachmann will not bump Newt from the top tier. The likely result of the debate process is to bequeath to Iowa three or four contending candidates and leave it to them to sort out.

If Newt is the candidate, will his personal baggage drag him down? It will hurt, no doubt about that. His marriages will be dissected by the media, and his family will be deluged with questions and well-laid traps.

His ratings will decline as the inevitable baptism of fire begins. As with Cain, he will experience a few bad weeks. But, as with Cain, his positive strengths will carry him through the fire and he will come out the other end.

But once Newt survives the process, he will be inoculated against the charges. He will have immunity against the issue.

And here is the core of Obama’s problem. All of the Republican candidates will be so thoroughly vetted — and purified — by the brutal process they are going through that they will be immune to his charges against them in the fall.

John Kerry never went through that process. His quick knockout of Howard Dean and the tepid challenge mounted by John Edwards did nothing to vet his claims of hero status in Vietnam.

Obama, on the other hand, survived the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers charges in the primary. When the general election came, they were old hat and had no electoral punch. Similarly, Bill Clinton got the nomination only after he had survived Gennifer Flowers and the accusations of draft-dodging. In November, those charges were spent bullets.

That’s the good news for Republicans. The nominating process has been so combative and the media scrutiny so searing that the candidates have been pre-screened. The FBI screening process is nowhere near as intense as the negative-research capacities of the media and political opponents.

If nominated, Romney will have survived the accusations of flip-flopping, Cain will have overcome the sexual harassment charges and Newt’s marital history will be yesterday’s news. And then we can get on with the business of winning the election.

And win it we will. Obama cannot survive his 60 percent disapproval rating on his handling of the economy (the highest ever recorded by CBS during his administration). Under his leadership, Gallup reports an almost 10-point edge for the Republican Party on handling the economy. Against a generic opponent, Obama draws only 43 percent of the vote. With the personal negatives on the Republican candidates aired and used up during the primaries, there will be nothing for Obama to hide behind.

23723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: November 16, 2011, 02:02:29 PM
SUPER busy-- Would someone be kind enough to give the URL for the debates that took place while I was out of town?

23724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Death of SdG Blake on: November 16, 2011, 01:19:01 PM
I was in Mexico this past weekend.  While this piece is sound, Stratfor is not yet up to speed on various variables.  No time for a thorough post-- sorry.  As a teaser I will add that the post of Secretaria de Gobernacion (roughly Sec'y of Internal Affairs) is THE second most powerful post in a country where the Executive is THE dominant player and that usually the post leads to becoming the next president.  In the past 5 years this post has had 4 occupants, two of whom have died in air crashes.  Oddly the aircraft that fly officials about have no black boxes and the helo in question had no instruments for zero visibility conditions-- yet the route in question (between Cueravaca and the DF) takes one through the near 10,000 foot mountains FREQUENTLY has fog/low clouds etc.  On the flight in question, route was changed precisely in order to go through less of a cloud/fog bank.  Also interesting is that the locals at the site of the crash (common people in an area of contested land ownership) did NOT hear the sound of a helicopter-- i.e. was the motor not functioning at the moment of impact?

Question:  So why was Blake planning on returning to Baja California as Governor?  When he left BC, he was rumored to be involved with the narcos there and oddly enough upon his departure the anticipated turf wars did not develop; instead reasonable understandings were reached.

Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton uses the recent helicopter crash involving Mexican officials to discuss the best practices that should be used to investigate air disasters.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Related Links
•    Above the Tearline: Reconstructing Air France Flight 447 Wreckage
In light of the helicopter crash that killed Mexican Interior Minister Mora, we thought it would be a good time to revisit how air crashes should be investigated. Having done quite a few investigations of air disasters, it is important for the lead investigator to focus on four primary areas.
The first is mechanical and electrical. Number two is weather. Three, pilot error. Four, man-made or foul play (for example, sabotage or terrorism).
With the helicopter going down in Mexico carrying the Mexican Interior Minister, it is easy to jump to conclusions and suspect foul play. There have also been two previous ministers’ deaths in aviation disasters, adding to the conspiracy hype. However, the investigator needs to keep an open mind and proceed methodically through the investigation.
Behind the scenes, the team should be looking for a range of different factors to include: 1) evidence of prior threats against any of the passengers; 2) intelligence from sources to indicate foul play; 3) the overall mechanical condition of the aircraft, with an eye towards the engines and the hydraulics; 4) the number of flight hours; 5) geography and route of travel; 6) maintenance records; 7) fuel tests; Cool pilot suitability; 9) security of the aircraft before the crash; 10) radio transmissions between the aircraft and tower; 11) phone or message text records of passengers during the flight; 12) eyewitness accounts; 13) weather conditions such as fog or hail and 14) GPS tracking data.
A critical factor in any air crash is autopsies of the victims, to check for smoke inhalation in the lungs to rule in or out onboard fires or explosions and gunshot wounds to the pilots.
What is Above the Tearline about this video?
It has been my experience that the facts will speak for themselves, if the investigators are allowed access to all of the data and the crime scene. Internal politics may come into play in this case due to the politics of the Mexican military aircraft carrying the Interior Minister, complicated by the fact that due to rampant corruption, trust in the Mexican government by the public is in short supply.
We have seen source reports indicating fuel contamination as a possible cause of the crash. The helo (helicopter) was also allegedly scheduled to transport President Calderon later in the day. If true, these facts could point towards a man-made cause.
However, we have also seen a report that poor maintenance has plagued Mexican aircraft this year by at least one credible law enforcement source.
Regardless, the investigators should be able to get to the bottom of the crash if allowed to do their jobs. It is a positive step that the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) has been called upon to assist. They will have more credibility, so their participation will be important.
23725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: November 16, 2011, 11:56:58 AM
My sympathies for Newt are of long standing record around here, yet I should mention Brit Hume's comments the other night on the Bret Baier Report:  Now that Newt is number 1 or 2, there are things that are going to get scrutiny that haven't e.g. his ethics troubles while Speaker of the House, his demise as Speaker, etc. 
23726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: November 16, 2011, 10:23:29 AM
Another perceptive reader of our forum!

GM:  Please double post that in the Military Science thread too.  Thank you.
23727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: November 16, 2011, 10:17:06 AM
I have been remiss is posting MY's missives.  Anyone who would lbe willing to take up the mission?
23728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, corruption etc. on: November 16, 2011, 10:14:53 AM
Regarding the last two posts:   cry cry cry
23729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How to fire a public employee? on: November 16, 2011, 10:12:11 AM
re-posting this here,0,7958658.story
23730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: November 16, 2011, 10:10:03 AM
Seems to me that the larger point about it being insanely difficult to fire state employees for cause has considerable merit.
23731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Looks like Kagan will not recuse on: November 16, 2011, 09:56:06 AM
23732  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: November 16, 2011, 12:40:54 AM
WOW  cry cry cry

though probably better in US-China thread , , ,
23733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: November 16, 2011, 12:39:20 AM

My respect for your response-- it shows search for Truth and this is to what we aspire around here.
23734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: November 16, 2011, 12:36:14 AM
PS:  The look of utter smugness on the questioner's face before Newt answers him says quite a bit.
23735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 3 Alternatives to the Super Committee on: November 16, 2011, 12:29:59 AM

Super Committee Disaster and Three Alternatives for America
by Newt Gingrich
As the deadline for the so-called "Super Committee" to put forward a deficit reduction plan approaches, officials in Washington are arguing over whether the government or the American people will have to bear the pain.
What they do not realize is that the United States is actually caught between three possible futures:

1. Fantasy and collapse (the Greek model)
2. Pain and Austerity (the Washington establishment model)
3. Innovation and Growth (the Hamilton-Lincoln-Reagan-Thatcher-Gingrich model).

President Obama is wandering around the country promising billions in his bid for reelection. He is spending our children's and grandchildren's money like a teenager with his first credit card.
Such policies are clearly unsustainable. If we continue to pile up $2 trillion a year in debt, we will crush the economy under massive interest payments. We only need to witness what is happening in Greece and Italy to glimpse where that model leads.
The Washington establishment’s reaction to the runaway spending is a policy of austerity and pain.
Democrats would cause austerity and pain on the individual by raising taxes, thereby shrinking family and business purchasing power.  
Republicans would cause austerity and pain to government by cutting spending and thereby shrinking the services and income transfers government provides.
Clearly, shrinking government is preferable to overtaxing the American people but we must remember that there is a third alternative to pain. It is the path of innovation and growth. Historically, this has always been the American solution.
Alexander Hamilton was an early advocate of an economic growth model. His first report on manufactures paints the picture of a growing, industrializing America.

Abraham Lincoln spoke for those who wanted transcontinental railroads and other examples of modern innovation and growth.
Both President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher believed that a better future could be achieved through innovation and growth.
The key to today's budget problems is to recognize that there is a world that works (largely but not entirely in the private sector) and there is a world that fails (bureaucracies in both the public and private sectors). With even a little creativity, we should be able to maximize the world that works and eliminate the world that fails.
For instance, if we applied modern private-sector management systems to government they would save up to $500 billion a year. That is three times the goal of the Super Committee. To see the incredible savings such systems can offer take a look at the examples Strong America Now already provides.
If we applied the American Express, Visa, Mastercard, and IBM models of fraud suppression to Medicaid and Medicare to stop paying crooks who are committing fraud, we would save $70 to $120 billion a year. (For a detailed plan to stop Medicare and Medicaid fraud, see the book Stop Paying the Crooks published by the Center for Health Transformation.)
Block-granting Medicaid and returning it to the states, as Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan advocates, we would save $700 billion over the next ten years. That is almost half the goal of the Super Committee.
With just these few examples we have already come up with most of the savings the Super Committee is trying to achieve, with no pain involved.
Adding a training requirement to unemployment compensation would strengthen America’s human capital. Many would probably leave the program if they actually had to do something to earn the money.
History has shown us that innovation, reform, and growth will be better than the pain and austerity being discussed in Washington today on both sides of the aisle.
Your Friend,
PS I acknowledge Newt has had some really off key moments along the way, but I'm not sure I'd take that opinion piece's author at his word on his descriptions of them-- and I have no time or energy at the moment to look into it further,.
23736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: November 16, 2011, 12:27:34 AM
Well, no internet connection while I was there (so a plethora of threads upon which I need to catch up) but I am back safe and sound.
23737  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Chicago Nov 19-21 on: November 16, 2011, 12:23:09 AM
BTW folks, do note that there is a limited group organized for Monday (max of 15 I think).  There are still a few slots open.  Contact Carlos for details.
23738  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMAA: Dog Brothers Martial Arts Association on: November 15, 2011, 09:34:00 PM
This thread is for teasers and other matters related to provoking interest in the DBMA Association.

Kicking things off by mentioning that I am now looking at the ruff edit of our what will be our next Vid-Lessonofrom Night Owl of Damain Halforty, a South African LEO whose work forcused on the very active and violent world of South African carjacking.  He is also the author of a book on the subject. The vid-lesson is from Damian's section at the DBMAA Summer Camp.
23739  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: November 15, 2011, 09:18:46 PM
Acabo de regresar del DF.  Parece que se murio' en un accidente de helicopetero la Secretaria de Gobernacion Blake.  Hace tres anos en maneras semajantes se murio' OTRO Secretaria de Gobernacion.  Dado que fueron despedidos dos otros SdeG, en 5 anos, han habido 4! 

Mucho mas por reportar, pero ahora estoy cansado.
23740  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Mexico City Nov 12-13 on: November 15, 2011, 07:03:45 PM
Home!  More tomorrow.
23741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Place nicely children while I'm gone on: November 11, 2011, 01:06:55 PM
Off to Mexico City until Tuesday.  I should have internet access while I am there.
23742  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Salt Lake City January 21-22 on: November 11, 2011, 11:44:28 AM
Sometimes that email of Jared's is a problem.  Also try
23743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: November 11, 2011, 11:37:48 AM
Disagree completely. 

The MSM needs "product"!

Should Newt become the Rep. candidate and he simply went wherever Baraq went and issued his challenge, it would become impossible to ignore.
23744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on Iran and related matters on: November 11, 2011, 08:03:01 AM
In the wake of the latest IAEA report on Iran, STRATFOR CEO George Friedman and special guest Robert Kaplan discuss potential threats to world oil supplies from the Persian Gulf, and U.S. President Barack Obama’s limited options.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Related Links
•   Iran’s Nuclear Program and its Nuclear Option
Colin: Few will be surprised by the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran. Its finding that the Tehran regime has computer models that can only be used to develop a nuclear weapon has triggered a new wave of speculation on the prospects of an Israeli strike. But there may be other more pressing concerns as U.S. forces leave Iraq.
Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman, and joining also this week is a special guest — the writer and defense expert Robert Kaplan.
The obvious question as we move to a point where Israeli bombers can fly in clear skies over Iraq, or soon will be able to be, is this “high noon” for Iran?
Robert: Not necessarily, because just the fact that they are moving closer to developing a weapons capacity for their nuclear material does not mean that they can miniaturize, put it on a warhead and send it somewhere. It could be a long way from that. Of course it is a much more acute threat for Israel than it is for the United States. You also have to consider the possibility that so what if Iran has three or four nuclear weapons with no air defense system, relative to what the Americans can do. But what does that mean? Isn’t the 100 nuclear weapons in Pakistan a much greater threat? Or would the Saudis respond by parking Pakistani nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia, thereby fusing the South Asian and the greater Middle East crisis into one? There are a lot of questions out there and they will continue to play out. But this is nothing particularly new at this point.
Colin: So George, there’s all this talk of an Israeli strike, and we’ve heard it before, is it just rhetoric?
George: We are at a critical point. The critical point is not about nuclear weapons. The critical point is that the U.S. is completing its withdrawal from Iraq. We’ve seen recently the arrests of Sunnis in Iraq by the Maliki government and the Iranians are increasing their power. The balance of power is shifting in the region. The United States and Israel both want the Iranians to pull back and as has happened several times before, they increased the drumbeat of the threat of nuclear weapons in order to create a psychological situation where the Iranians would reconsider their position. The problem that you have here is that the Israelis really don’t have the ability to carry out the kind of strikes we are talking about. They certainly have nuclear weapons if they want to use nuclear weapons on some of the facilities near Tehran. The more interesting question is do they have the ability to carry out the multiday attacks on multiple sites with a relatively small air force? The answer is they may be but they cannot deal with something else. What if the Iranians respond by putting mines in the Straits of Hormuz?
Colin: And this is critical, isn’t it, because 40 percent of the world’s sea-bound oil goes through the Straits. The Iranians have the longest coastline along the Straits of Hormuz and along the whole Persian Gulf.
Robert: The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps navy, which is separate from the Iranian navy, is developing a very impressive asymmetric warfare capability of suicide boats that can ram into everything from merchant tankers to destroyers. Keep in mind in this “hot house” media environment where the world is all together, simply pinprick attacks on destroyers of other nations will garner incredible media news. It will seem to be an attack on an American Navy that has been inviolate since World War II in fact.
George: This is really crucial, that the psychological effect is substantial. But the effect on markets in this case is substantial. If the perception was that the Iranians have the ability to mine the Straits or some other way threaten these extremely expensive tankers that are up to a billion dollars including their cargo, which has to be insured, could really be threatened. The price of oil would rise dramatically and stock markets would tumble in a situation where Europe is in a major crisis and the financial system of the world is shaky. If we suddenly wound up with $200, $300 or $400 for a barrel of oil, the global landscape could be reshaped forever.
Robert: Keep in mind that personalities enter into this a bit. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been seen for years and even decades in fact seen as a very flawed personality in and of himself, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with his viewpoints. As we enter into a presidential election season in the United States where even someone like President Obama would be forced not to criticize Israel publicly, the Israelis thinking cynically — and all governments think cynically — would say this is a window of opportunity for us to bomb Iran, with fewer American domestic repercussions.
George: That may be but it’s very important that there is one domestic American repercussion. If the oil is cut off, the effect on the United States would be enormous and Israel will be blamed for a massive recession or depression.
Robert: But as I was saying, Netanyahu has the kind of personality where he would risk that.
Colin: This will be a catastrophe given the situation that could evolve in the Persian Gulf. What kind of advice is Obama’s defense department giving him? Given that he is a man of great caution, I think what would you expect him to be doing?
George: I think it is very clear what they are saying to him — bluff. He is going out very publicly, which you don’t do if you are planning a major attack, and very publicly bluffing.
Robert: The U.S. Defense Department does not have the appetite for war with Iran. Remember, all Iranians, not just the regime, supports Iran being a nuclear power. Ten years from now we might have closer relations with Tehran than we have with Riyadh. The last thing we want to do is alienate even the Iranians who are sympathetic to us. Iran is a crucial country. It fronts not just the oil-rich Persian Gulf but also the oil-rich Caspian Sea. No other country does that. It has a window onto Central Asia, which no other country in the Middle East has. So it’s enormously important. We are playing for high long-term stakes with Iran, which may be a future ally of the United States.
George: We have to also recognize that with their increased power in Iraq, with the probability that the al Assad regime in Syria — Iranian allies — can survive, and with Hezbollah in Lebanon, we are looking at a situation where Iranian influences could stretch from the Afghan border to the Mediterranean. This is an enormously dangerous situation and it’s not really about nuclear weapons.
Robert: Afghanistan to the Mediterranean approximates the ancient Persian empire of antiquity. Remember, Persia — Iran — as a linguistic cultural force extends from Alawite Syria eastward right up to the Indus River in Pakistan.
Colin: George and Robert, we need to leave it there. Thank you very much. That is George Friedman and special guest Robert Kaplan ending Agenda for this week.
23745  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson 1821 on dangers of power concentrating in Washington on: November 11, 2011, 06:28:32 AM
"[W]hen all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Charles Hammond, 1821
23746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dick Morris on the accusations of Cain on: November 11, 2011, 04:25:13 AM
Dick Morris was Bill Clinton's pollster, so his opinion may carry particular weight on this subject  cheesy

I learned something important from my polling in the Lewinsky scandal.  While the political world and the media were focused on the narrow question of who was right, Clinton or Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, most voters opted for a third choice:  "We don't care.  We don't want to hear more about this.  This is no way to run a government or choose a president."  Some resented the public discussion of oral sex, noting that their children were watching.  They didn't want to hear it.
So it is with the accusations against Herman Cain.  We are mired in the worst economic condition in eighty years and will not tolerate more talk about who invited whom up to their room and for what.  We don't care.  We don't want to know.  We want you to go away and let us choose a president based on the serious and grave issues we are trying to consider.  We think the media is a distraction and we want it to stop its drumbeat coverage.  Pro-Cain or anti-Cain is irrelevant.  We want the issue to go away!
This third dimension of public reaction was evident when the CNBC reporters in last night's debate tried to ask Cain about the accusations.  The crowd would have none of it. When the reporters tried to couch the questions as relating to managerial ability or the character required of a CEO, they still hooted down the question.  In that moment, I realized that Cain would survive for the same reason Clinton made it - we have more important things to worry about.
The media does not admit of this third dimension.  Its mavens and executives give themselves the job of deciding what is news.  They present the news.  We render our verdict on it.  That's how its supposed to work.  But when the news media goes crazy covering something we don't care about, we make our voices heard.  And that's what the audience did last night.
In the meantime, Cain was his usual charismatic, brilliant debater articulating his 9-9-9 proposal better than he ever has and demonstrating its centrality to solving our economic problems.  The contrast between the statesmanship and breadth of his remedy and the tawdriness of the charges and counter-charges was evident.
In case the media didn't get the message, it is this:  WE DON'T WANT TO HEAR, READ, OR SEE MORE ABOUT THIS STUPID STORY -- GO AWAY!
23747  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: November 10, 2011, 05:15:28 PM
Concerning Baraq trying to duck Newt's Lincoln-Douglas challenge-- check out his strategy in the final couple of minutes of this 10 minute clip-- which after a minute or two of speech intro pleasantries, is quite strong.  Baraq wouldn't have a choice!

Newt will destroy Obama in such a context.  It is an absolutely brilliant strategy! 

I rather like the sound of President Gingrich! (the idea of Cain vs. Biden for the VP debates appeals to me too)

23748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: November 10, 2011, 05:04:54 PM
You are welcome CW.

I see I should add one more key point.  The lower the tax rates, the less sense it makes to invest in tax shelters.

For example, during the 70% pre-Reagan era, it made sense for Hillary Clinton to play "commodity straddles".  These were an entirely different concept where the trader bought a futures contract (usually on margin) on each side of the fence.

"Why bother then?" you may ask "The winning trade cancels out the losing trade."  The answer is that, for example, you take the loss in December, but the gain in January.  Thus for example a loss in 12/77 neutralizes taxes paid in 4/78, (four months later) but the gain taken in 1/78 is not paid until 15 months later-- in 4/79.  The value of this is the time value of having the money to play with for the extra 11 months (15-4=11). 

Even better is when you cheat, as Hillary did, you have the largest employer in the state of Arkansas, Tyson Foods, advising you on grains futures in 30 day or less contracts (which have virtually no reporting requirements) in the brokerage house used by Tyson Foods while your husband is running for Governor where the brokerage firm in question asigns winning and losing trades at the end of the day!  Doing this, you can turn $2k into $97K in a few months!   Awesome!    A $95K payoff to the governor that is completely laundered!  Isn't this great?!?

But I digress , , ,

Returning to the original point, when tax rates go down, so too does the logic of tax shelters and high bracket earners begin to allow their income to be exposed to taxes.   Whereas investing at a 70% rate only means 30% out of pocket, at a 30% rate it means the reverse—70% out of pocket.

And so it was with the Reagan tax RATE cuts.   

Remember the squalling I spoke about?  When, as always, it was to be found – for the increase in the concentration of wealth that the data showed!

And the Adventure continues , , ,
23749  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA Tribal Gathering: May 19-20 on: November 10, 2011, 04:28:56 PM
May 19-20 is the probable date for this year's Tribal Gathering.
23750  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: November 10, 2011, 04:24:51 PM

AFO Lieutenant Arrested

Mexican authorities arrested a senior member of the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO) on Nov. 5 in Tijuana, Baja California state. According to a statement from the Mexican Defense Ministry, Juan Francisco “La Rueda” Sillas Rocha, the AFO’s top enforcer, who is believed to have reported directly to current AFO leader Fernando Sanchez Arellano, was arrested after shooting and wounding two rival cartel members near Insurgentes Boulevard. An army spokesman said Sillas was captured after police and soldiers cordoned off the area immediately following the attack.

In 2007, the Sinaloa Federation encroached on the AFO’s long-held territory in Baja California, prompting an all-out turf war between the groups. AFO leader Luis Fernando “El Ingeniero” Sanchez Arellano, a nephew of the cartel’s founders, allegedly ordered Sillas to regain Tijuana from rival Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Simental, who had defected from the AFO and joined ranks with Sinaloa. As a result, Tijuana was extremely violent from 2007 to 2009, with decapitations, hangings and daylight shootouts becoming common occurrences. The violence subsided after Garcia was arrested and after Sinaloa absorbed AFO’s territory, relegating Sanchez Arellano’s organization, which was severely damaged by the war and unable to resist, to a reluctant vassal that paid Sinaloa for the right to exist.

Sillas’ arrest furthers the trend of cartel dynamics in the area. Any push from the AFO to regain territory lost to Sinaloa likely would have been conducted by Sillas. Though the AFO has not been eliminated completely, the arrest of Sillas means that the AFO’s chances of countering Sinaloa and regaining power in Tijuana are diminishing. Likewise, as the AFO’s power continues to wane, the Sinaloa Federation’s grip on territory along Mexico’s Pacific coast only strengthens.

Mayor Killed in Michoacan

While distributing campaign material for Michoacan state gubernatorial candidate Luisa Mario Calderon Hinojosa, Ricardo Guzman, the mayor of La Piedad, Michoacan state, was shot and killed Nov. 3 by an unidentified gunman in a black SUV bearing Jalisco state plates. According to reports, Guzman died as he was being transported to a hospital by ambulance.

With the presence of multiple drug cartels, including Los Zetas, the Knights Templar, remnants of La Familia Michoacana and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, Michoacan public officials on all levels are vulnerable to competing cartel pressure. Candidates from all three major Mexican political parties reportedly have been threatened during the recent campaign season in Michoacan, and six municipal police chiefs have been killed in the state in 2011 alone.

Mayors and other local officials are particularly susceptible to cartel pressure. Unlike governors or presidents — but like cartels — mayors must operate in their local environments (state and federal officials are by no means insulated from cartel machinations, but they are further removed from the warlike environments found in some of these locations). If such officials are perceived to favor a cartel, they will be attacked by a rival cartel. If they refuse to work for a specific cartel, that organization will attack them in retribution. If they have no support from any cartel, they are vulnerable to attack by all.

For mayors and other local officials, consorting with criminal groups often is a matter of necessity, and since they generally have security inferior to that of presidents and governors, they often fall victim to attacks or pressure. In fact, 25 mayors have been killed throughout Mexico since 2006. The timing of this incident, however, is notable, as are those involved.

The candidate for whom Guzman was campaigning is the sister of current Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Like her brother, she is a member of the National Action Party (PAN), as was Guzman, who, according to Calderon Hinojosa’s campaign manager, had received threats prior to the shooting. The campaign manager did not give any specifics as to why or by whom the threats were made, and at present there is no hard evidence to suggest the killing was a targeted political assassination. The possibility cannot be ruled out, however. Neither can it be ruled out that Guzman was attacked to send Calderon Hinojosa or her brother a message.

There is another line of investigation into the murder. According to media reports, Guzman is rumored to have issued permits that would grant casinos authorization to operate in La Piedad. Authorities are looking into this theory, as it suggests an element of corruption in Guzman. But even though casinos and organized crime often are intimately linked, any concrete connection tying Guzman to organized crime remains unconfirmed. Of course, the attack could be personal and completely unrelated to his position as mayor.

Whatever the precise motive behind Guzman’s killing, the timing of the attack serves as a reminder that politicians are not immune to cartel operations; in fact, they are often the targets of such operations. Politicians can guarantee key access and cover for cartels looking to operate in a number of arenas, including money laundering and entering legitimate businesses. They also are limited to serving only one term, so they are somewhat expendable. The gubernatorial elections in Michoacan are the final elections in Mexico before the presidential election takes place in 2012. In light of the Nov. 3 attack, STRATFOR will be watching the lead-up to the presidential election carefully for signs of cartel influence.

(click here to view interactive map)

Nov. 1

The bodies of two men shot multiple times were discovered in an SUV in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state. Their hands were bound.
Mexican authorities raided a Gulf cartel safe-house in Temixco, Morelos state. An unidentified number of Gulf cartel lookouts were arrested in the raid.
Mexican authorities arrested 21 municipal police officers in the cities of Pesqueria, Linares and Mina, Nuevo Leon state, for their connections with criminal organizations.

Nov. 2

Gunmen attacked Mexican soldiers as they raided a safe-house in Xochitepec, Morelos state. One gunman was killed and three others were arrested.
Federal police rescued at least eight kidnapping victims from a safe-house in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state.
Two criminal groups engaged in a firefight in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state. Gunmen used public and private transit vehicles to block several roads in the city.
Mexican military forces seized four residences in Xochitepec, Morelos state, used by a criminal organization. During the operation, authorities seized weapons, chemical precursors and surveillance equipment used to monitor pedestrians entering and exiting an adjacent airport.
Unidentified gunmen shot and killed a Federal Ministerial Police commander in Saltillo, Coahuila state.
Unidentified gunmen shot and killed Ricardo Guzman Romero, the mayor of La Piedad, Michoacan state.

Nov. 3

Mexican military forces engaged in a firefight with unidentified gunmen while on patrol in Tantoyuca, Veracruz state. One of the gunmen was arrested, though the rest escaped.
Federal police arrested Hector Russel “El Toro” Rodriguez Baez, a leader of La Familia Michoacana, in Chalco, Mexico state.

Nov. 4

Mexican military forces engaged in a firefight with gunmen while on patrol in Mocorito, Sinaloa state. All of the gunmen escaped.
Unidentified gunmen executed 15 individuals in various areas of Culiacan, Sinaloa state.

Nov. 6

Mexican authorities announced the arrest of Victor Manuel “El Gordo” Rivera Galeana in Mexico state. Rivera was a founder and leader of La Barredora, a criminal organization operating in Acapulco, Guerrero state.
A narcomanta signed by La Familia Michoacana was left with a dead body in Chalco, Mexico state.
Armed men executed a man at a bar in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. All gunmen escaped before the police arrived.
Mexican authorities seized 2,913.4 kilograms (6,422.9 pounds) of marijuana stored in a warehouse in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas state.
Gunmen entered the offices of El Buen Tono news agency in Cordoba, Veracruz state, destroying computers and other equipment before setting an office on fire.

Nov. 7

Mexican authorities announced the arrest of Juan Francisco “La Rueda” Sillas Rocha, a lieutenant of Arellano Felix Organization leader Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano. Sillas was arrested over the previous weekend in Tijuana, Baja California state.
Mexican authorities discovered two bodies in Mexico City with a narcomanta signed by La Mano con Ojos and The New Administration organization.

Read more: Mexico Security Memo: AFO Continuing To Lose Power in Tijuana | STRATFOR
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