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23851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 13, 2011, 10:55:49 AM
For our non-native English speakers, the reference is to a story that Ronald Reagan used to tell about his positive outlook.

Something to the effect of a boy who when he saw a pile of horse excrement was happy because it meant there was a pony somewhere nearby.
23852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: September 13, 2011, 10:51:53 AM
Indeed!  Look at the volatility of the oil futures market!

Though in fairness it should be noted that the low margin requirements may well magnify the volatiility.
23853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: The long run is now on: September 13, 2011, 10:49:26 AM
An uncommon event, we agree grin

The Long Run is Now To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/12/2011

President Obama delivered his long-awaited economic address Thursday night and Friday’s reaction in equities was a major Bronx cheer. Obviously the news from Greece, with that country teetering on the edge of a default, was also a big negative.

But we believe the lion’s share of the problem is that, once again, a president is proposing policies that are both primarily oriented toward the short-run and unlikely to succeed at lifting the pace of economic growth.
Back in 2008, under President Bush, we got a relatively small short-term “stimulus” bill. Then, in early 2009, President Obama got exactly the “stimulus” bill he wanted, in both grand size and scope. He had the votes and no compromise was necessary. Then, late last year, the president and the outgoing Congress agreed to yet another stimulus bill.
Each of these policies has mostly failed, yet the president is pushing for another set of proposals cut from the same cloth, with temporary payroll tax breaks, a temporary extension of full tax-expensing for plant and equipment, and more (politically-driven) infrastructure spending.
The Administration is also asking for an extension of the 99-week program of unemployment benefits, so it can cover workers who lost their jobs back in late 2009 thru 2010. Without any sense of irony, he wants the program to cover workers who lost their jobs during periods that his past stimulus efforts failed to stimulate.
Lord Keynes famously said that “in the long run we are all dead.” But with year after year of round after round of policies focused on the short-term, it’s about time to realize we are all living in the long-term now. What we need is for our lawmakers to get off the treadmill of short-termism and start focusing on where we want our country’s policies to be for the next generation.
The biggest opportunity is on the tax treatment of business purchases of plant and equipment, where the president is asking for just one more year of 100% full expensing. We think, given the priority he’s putting on this bill, that lawmakers who know better should demand to make this policy permanent.
We do not believe the US is doomed to become another (larger) version of Greece. But with each proposal that has put a priority on the short run, we have taken a step in that direction. Now it’s time for policymakers to show they have learned something over the past few years. A thorough rejection of the president’s recent proposals would be a great start.
23854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bovard: Fed job training worse than useless on: September 13, 2011, 10:17:20 AM

Last Thursday, President Obama proposed new federal jobs and job-training programs for youth and the long-term unemployed. The federal government has experimented with these programs for almost a half century. The record is one of failure and scandal.

In 1962, Congress passed the Manpower Development and Training Act (MDTA) to provide training for workers who lost their jobs due to automation or other technological developments. Two years later, the General Accounting Office (GAO) discovered that any trainee in this program who held a job for a single day was counted as "permanently employed"—a statistical charade by the Department of Labor to camouflage its lack of results. A decade after MDTA's inception, GAO reported that it was failing to teach valuable job skills or place trainees in private jobs and was marred by an "overriding concern with filling available slots for a particular program," regardless of what trainees actually needed.

Congress responded in 1973 by enacting the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). The preface to the new law noted that "it has been impossible to develop rational priorities" in job training. So instead of setting priorities, CETA spent vastly more money, especially on job creation. Notorious examples reported in the press in those years included paying to build an artificial rock for rock climbers, providing nude sculpture classes (where, as the Pharos-Tribune of Logansport, Ind., explained, "aspiring artists pawed each others bodies to recognize that they had 'both male and female characteristics'"), and conducting door-to-door food-stamp recruiting campaigns.

Between 1961 and 1980, the feds spent tens of billions on federal job-training and employment programs. To what effect? A 1979 Washington Post investigation concluded, "Incredibly, the government has kept no meaningful statistics on the effectiveness of these programs—making the past 15 years' effort almost worthless in terms of learning what works." CETA hirees were often assigned to do whatever benefited the government agency or nonprofit that put them on the payroll, with no concern for the trainees' development. An Urban Institute study of the mid-1980s concluded that participation in CETA programs resulted in "significant earnings losses for young men of all races and no significant effects for young women."

After CETA became a laughingstock, Congress replaced it in 1982 with the Job Training Partnership Act. JTPA spent lavishly—to expand an Indiana circus museum, teach Washington taxi drivers to smile, provide foreign junkets for state and local politicians, and bankroll business relocations. According to the Labor Department's inspector general, young trainees were twice as likely to rely on food stamps after JTPA involvement than before since the "training" often included instructions on applying for an array of government benefits.

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CloseAssociated Press
President Obama touts his jobs training proposals in Virginia, June 8.
.For years the Labor Department scorned the mandate in the 1982 legislation to speedily and thoroughly evaluate whether the programs actually benefitted trainees. Finally, in 1993, it released a study that showed participation in JTPA "actually reduced the earnings of male out-of-school youths." Young males enrolled in JTPA programs had 10% lower earnings than a control group that never participated.

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) replaced JTPA in 1998. Congress required a thorough evaluation of the law's impact on trainees by 2005. At last report, the Labor Department is promising it will be completed by 2015.

In his speech to Congress, Mr. Obama called for funding hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for teens, which he labeled "investing in low-income youth and adults." Yet such programs have been blighting work ethics for decades.

The GAO warned in 1969 that many teens in federal summer jobs programs "regressed in their conception of what should reasonably be required in return for wages paid." A decade later, it reported that most urban teens "were exposed to a worksite where good work habits were not learned or reinforced." And in 1985, a National Academy of Science study found that government jobs and training programs isolated disadvantaged youth, thus making it harder for them to fit into the real job market.

More recently, Mr. Obama's 2009 stimulus package expanded federally funded summer jobs. And so young men and women used puppets to greet aquarium visitors in Boston. Teens in Washington, D.C.'s Green Summer Jobs Corps maintained "school-yard butterfly habitats." And summer workers in Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reported, "practiced firm handshakes to ensure that employers quickly understand their serious intent to work."

Did any of this "investing" work? There's no evidence it did.

Mr. Obama also wants a new federal initiative to be based on Georgia Work$, which the president describes as a program in which "people who collect unemployment insurance participate in temporary work as a way to build their skills while they look for a permanent job." But Georgia Work$ has produced far more headlines than jobs—fewer than 200 this year, according to a recent article in Politico.

Begun in 2003, Georgia Work$ gives people a chance to "train" at an employer for eight weeks. They receive no salary but continue collecting unemployment compensation and as well as a $240 weekly stipend from the state of Georgia. Last year, the stipend was increased to $600 a week and anyone who said they needed a job was allowed to participate. After costs exploded, Georgia Work$ was scaled back early this year.

Mark Butler, Georgia's current labor commissioner, stated that the program suffered from a "lack of oversight" before he took over in January. At last report, only 14% of trainees were hired by employers—a success rate akin to other unemployed Georgians who do not participate in the program.

Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office reported that there were 47 different federal employment and training programs, costing taxpayers $18 billion a year. There is massive overlap and duplication, and few programs seriously evaluate their impact on trainees.

If federal job training efforts worked, Congress would not have thrown out the programs it has created every decade or so and enacted new ones. In reality, government training has always been driven by bureaucratic convenience, or politicians' re-election considerations. There is no reason to believe the latest round of proposals will be any different.

Mr. Bovard, the author of "Attention Deficit Democracy" (Palgrave, 2006), is working on a memoir.

23855  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: September 13, 2011, 09:56:01 AM
You guys crack me up cheesy
23856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: September 13, 2011, 09:55:06 AM
I've read that Al Gore is now worth $100,000,000.  Just how does a former Veep accumulate that kind of money?
23857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: September 13, 2011, 09:53:39 AM
Just as oil is fungible, to a certain partial extent, various forms of energy are fungible.  I may be misusing some of the terms, but Baraq has waged war on oil (offshore and otherwise) coal, tar sands, shale oil, natural gas (the fracking issue, which is one I for one do not shrug off) and so forth.  I think if we were to pursue growth oriented polices with all of these, US energy prices would be lower than would otherwise be the case.
23858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 13, 2011, 09:47:59 AM

I read that Perry defended subsidizing college tuition for illegals. angry

Several people have really ticked me off on Perry's SS comments.  Despite similar words to similar effect of his own, Romney (aided and abetted by supporter Tim Pawlenty) is now doing his best to establish a scurrilous meme to the effect that Perry's words means he wants to welch on SS.  I understand politics is hardball, but not only is this a lie, but it also serves the Dems.  Not that I liked Romney before, but this lowers my opinion of him as a man.  I heard, but have not seen for myself, that Bachman has played this game a bit too.
23859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 13, 2011, 08:47:18 AM
"Question to whoever:"

If I am not mistaken, that should be "whomever"  evil cheesy

"Do you feel like the Republican party is too divided to beat Obama?"

I see the risk as a matter of incompetence more than division.

"According to Brian Williams the other night, Obama would lose to a generic Republican candidate, but is still leading either Romney or Perry."

The polls I am seeing showing R or P winning by a point or two, but the larger point is valid: Baraq is shockingly strong when he goes head to head with a Rep candidate.

"Is the idea of a generic Republican dead right now? I feel like the Tea Party has divided the GOP enough that "generic Republican" means very different things to the different people."

IMHO the Tea Party is has energized the Rep Party.  You think a party of Poener and wuzzhisface in the Senate, Mitch O'Connel inspires anyone?

"Is there any hope of a new candidate that will appeal to moderate Republicans and the Tea Party?"

 A good question.. Perry;s "Fred Flintstone theory of evolution is going to cost him plenty of votes.

"I still think the GOP plans on losing this election and are just sacrificing all their crappy people to Obama."

Well, the Reps certainly have an amazing cpacity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory , , ,
23860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Laffer: Enterprise Zones on: September 13, 2011, 08:39:52 AM

Some people actually believe government can create jobs by taxing and borrowing from people with jobs and then giving that money to people without jobs. They call this demand stimulus. To make matters worse, other people think these demand-stimulus ideas warrant a serious response.

Government taxes cigarettes to stop people from smoking, not to get them to smoke. Government fines speeders so they won't speed, not to encourage them to drive faster. And yet contrary to common sense, it seems perfectly natural to some people that government would tax people who work or companies that are successful only to give that money to people who don't work and to bail out losing companies. The thought never crosses their minds that these policies are the very reason why our economy is in such bad shape.

I'm beginning to think that Irving Kristol was correct when he wrote, "It takes a Ph.D. in economics not to be able to understand the obvious." It shouldn't surprise anyone why the economy isn't getting better.

If the U.S. wants prosperity, government doesn't need to do something, it needs to undo much of what it already has done. Here is one area where, in the spirit of the late Congressman Jack Kemp, President Obama and I could agree.

African-Americans are suffering inordinately in the Obama aftermath of the Bush Great Recession. While overall U.S. unemployment stands at 9.1%, black unemployment has jumped to 16.7%. Black teenage unemployment is bordering on 50%, and that figure doesn't even take into account "discouraged" workers, "involuntary" part-time workers and "underemployed" workers. But even these numbers don't tell the real story. They represent real people who are suffering deeply and have been suffering for a long, long time.

Enlarge Image

Close...Behind these numbers are millions of lives discouraged and despondent. People who've lost their self-esteem and pride. The young who have given up on America and some of whom have even turned to crime. Scars are being made across a whole ethnic subset of America. Unemployment, underemployment and involuntary part-time employment represent the loss of a precious natural resource that can never be recouped. No one can feel good about himself if he's living on handouts from Uncle Sam. We as a nation can't wait until 2013 to address this issue.

Whether President Obama's base finds supply-side economics appealing or not, he should immediately join with all members of Congress from both parties to develop a full program for enterprise zones. And while enterprise zones are desperately needed in our inner cities, there are lots of areas in the hollows of Kentucky and West Virginia that need enterprise zones as well, not to mention barrios in California and New Mexico.

Enterprise zones should be areas that are geographically defined with exceptionally high concentrations of poverty, underachievement and unemployment. The policies applicable to enterprise zones should include:

A) For all employment within the enterprise zone of people whose principal residence is also the enterprise zone, there should be no payroll tax whatsoever, neither employer nor employee portions. The employer need not be headquartered in the enterprise zone to take advantage of the elimination of the employer's portion of the payroll tax. The locus of employment does have to be in the enterprise zone.

Don't for a moment think that this will be a budget buster. Right now there aren't many jobs in our inner cities anyway and the few dollars of tax revenues lost will be more than offset by reductions in welfare spending because people will have jobs and won't need welfare. The best form of welfare is still a good job.

B) Federal and state minimum wages must be suspended in the enterprise zone. If not for all employees, then at least for employees under 30. These young people need on-the-job training, and at the present minimum wage many of them aren't worth hiring. That is why they are unemployed.

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CloseAssociated Press
A job seeker fills out an application with Coca-Cola at a jobs fair hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus in Miami.
.Even for teenagers who are in school, a summer job is an enormous benefit for a future productive career. This summer and last summer only 30% of all teens worked—all-time lows. We need to break this vicious cycle right now by getting rid of the youth minimum wage in our enterprise zones.

C) In the enterprise zones the government should do an expedited review of all building codes, regulations, restrictions and requirements to make sure that they don't unjustifiably impede economic growth. For example, mandated union membership rules should be voided in enterprise zones as should all prevailing wage provisions and the like.

When I lived in Chicago I reviewed a number of rules and regulations and restrictions whose primary impact was to impede our inner cities from ever achieving prosperity. I'll bet they're even worse now.

D) Profits generated by companies operating and employing people within the enterprise zone should only be taxed at one-third the regular tax rate. No matter how many fewer regulations a company faces, those companies still quite rightly respond to profits for their shareholders.

Businesses don't move their plant facilities as a matter of social conscience. They do it to make profits for their shareholders. If you want more jobs in our most depressed areas, make those areas more profitable for companies to relocate there. It's as simple as that.

I guarantee Mr. Obama that he will receive the support necessary to carry the day in Congress. And once he sees how this plan works for our most depressed areas of America, he can then extend enterprise zones to cover the whole country.

Mr. Laffer, chairman of Laffer Associates, is co-author, with Stephen Moore, of "Return to Prosperity: How America Can Regain Its Economic Superpower Status" (Threshold, 2010).
23861  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: September 12, 2011, 07:55:11 PM
Subject to confirmation, yes.
23862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man formerly in Iraq reports on: September 12, 2011, 07:52:23 PM
BAGHDAD – Gunmen forced their way onto a bus of traveling Shiite pilgrims Monday and shot all 22 men onboard as they traveled through western Iraq's remote desert on a trip to a holy shrine, security officials said.

The bodies were discovered late Monday night, hours after the gang of gunmen stopped the bus at a fake security checkpoint and told all the women and children to get off, according to one security official who interviewed a survivor.

The gunmen then drove the bus a few miles (kilometers) off the main highway between Baghdad and the Jordanian border in Iraq's Sunni-dominated Anbar province. The pilgrims were ordered off the bus and shot one by one, the security officials said.

"The terrorists stopped the bus at gunpoint and killed 22 men," said Maj. Gen. Abdul-Hadi Rizayig, the provincial police chief.

Read more:
23863  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / CNN on: September 12, 2011, 04:46:16 PM
Looks like CNN is coming to do a piece on us.
23864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Perry, Romney, and SS on: September 12, 2011, 04:23:58 PM

Republicans have been more frustrated than usual with their Presidential candidates, and last Tuesday's debate exchange on Social Security between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney shows why. One candidate seemed to taunt his critics by showing disdain for anyone who supports the entitlement for seniors, while the other candidate sounded like a Democrat defending it.

Mr. Perry was asked about a passage from his recent book in which he called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. The question was inevitable, yet the Texas Governor gave the impression he hadn't given it more than a few moments of thought.

"Anybody that's for the status quo with Social Security today," he said, "is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and it's not right." Young people who "expect that program to be sound, and for them to receive benefits when they research retirement age" should be disabused of that notion, Mr. Perry added, repeating the "lie" bit as if he had little more to say.

Give Mr. Perry credit for addressing one of the third rails of American politics, but that doesn't mean he has to invite electrocution. The problem with his hot rhetoric is that it can turn off many voters before they even get a chance to listen to his reform proposals, assuming he eventually offers some.

He's even technically right that Social Security is a species of Ponzi scheme (if not a criminal enterprise) in the sense that young people today are putting more into the system than they can possibly get out in retirement.

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CloseAssociated Press
Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.
.Part of the problem is that current seniors get more than they put in thanks to the formula for increasing benefits over time. Eugene Steuerle and Stephanie Rennane of the Urban Institute estimate that a two-earner couple both earning an average wage who retire in 2010 will get $906,000 in benefits having paid $588,000 in payroll taxes. The same couple who retires in 2030 will get $1.23 million (in constant dollars) while having paid $796,000.

Even a pyramid system such as this could be solvent if it took advantage of compound interest. But the overriding problem is that not a dime of the payroll contributions the government collects over a lifetime is saved and invested for a worker's retirement. Social Security's pay-as-you-go financing model means that 12.4% of all wages are transferred to current beneficiaries, the surplus dollars are spent by Congress on other things, and Social Security gets an IOU from the Treasury.

In other words, the program is building up debt even as benefits become less sustainable as the baby boomers begin to retire and the ratio of workers to seniors shrinks. The feds will then have to pay out of other tax revenue to meet Social Security's obligations. This is the long-range problem Mr. Perry should attempt to explain, and the danger is that his rhetoric will scare the elderly rather than reassure them that reform is necessary for the sake of their grandchildren. He's now running to represent Republicans as their Presidential nominee, not hawking a book on conservative talk radio.

As for Mr. Romney, he seems to be taking Social Security assaults a notch or two beyond even the Democratic playbook. At the debate he implied Mr. Perry was "committed to abolishing Social Security," and he has since made this a major campaign theme.

His press shop followed up with a memo claiming Mr. Perry "Believes Social Security Should Not Exist," and Mr. Romney told a talk radio show that "If we nominate someone who the Democrats can correctly characterize as being opposed to Social Security, we would be obliterated as a party."

We'd give Mr. Romney more credit for his professed political prudence if he were at least proposing some Social Security reforms of his own. But his recent 160-page economic platform avoids anything controversial on the subject. If Mr. Romney rides to the nomination by sounding like President Obama on Social Security, he will make any reform he would eventually need to attempt that much harder to accomplish.

The key point is that, unlike a Ponzi scheme, Social Security can be reformed and it will have to be if current workers are to receive any return on their current taxes. Everyone serious knows what the reform options are—from changing the benefits schedule, to "progressive indexing," to raising the retirement age. We'd prefer private accounts so that young people could build wealth as a property right and not depend on the promises of politicians, while the money would be put to productive economic use in the meantime. Herman Cain mentioned it in last week's debate. But if that's too politically adventurous for the two Governors, maybe they can meet somewhere in between their rhetorical positions.

23865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ to JDN: You are wrong on: September 12, 2011, 04:13:27 PM

For all its soaring rhetoric, President Obama's "jobs speech" last week didn't demonstrate a lick of insight into why economies grow or how wealth is created. It was merely trademark Obamanomics: using government diktat to move money that's over here, over there.

Having spent an hour the day before with Ron Liepert, the energy minister from the Canadian province of Alberta, I found it especially disturbing to hear nothing in the speech about reversing the administration's anti-fossil-fuels agenda. Canada has recovered all the jobs it lost in the 2009 recession, and Alberta's oil sands are no small part of that. The province is on track to become the world's second-largest oil producer, after Saudi Arabia, within 10 years. Meanwhile Mr. Obama clings to his subsidies for solar panels and his religious faith in green jobs.

U.S. unemployment is high because capital is on strike. Short-term offers to coax investors into taking new risks aren't going to cut it when they have been forewarned that the president intends to pay for it all by raising taxes in the out years. The market dropped over 300 points the day after Mr. Obama's speech.

On the regulatory front the picture is even gloomier. Much of America's vast untapped energy potential lies dormant because Mr. Obama's regulatory watchdogs have spent the past three years throwing sand in the gears of the permitting process for exploration and exploitation on federal lands. Separately, TransCanada has been trying since September 2008 to get a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. The Environmental Protection Agency has so far blocked it.

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TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline could mean 118,000 American jobs, if the U.S. government ever issues the permit.
.A glimpse of what all this has cost the U.S. economy can be seen by looking north to Canada, where animal spirits have been unleashed in the energy sector. Canada's close economic ties to the U.S. have traditionally meant that when the U.S. gets the sniffles, Canada gets swine flu. This time it's been different. Part of the reason is that Canada's housing market was not poisoned by a federal government push to put unqualified borrowers into homes they could not afford. After the 2008 collapse of the housing bubble in the U.S., the Canadian financial sector remained strong.

That alone was not enough to protect Canada from the effects of the U.S. recession. The manufacturing sector was hit hard, and in the first quarter of 2009 the economy contracted by an annualized 7.9%.

Yet Canada has outperformed the U.S. since then. In 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund, Canada grew at 3.2% versus 2.9% in the U.S. In 2011, the IMF estimates Canada will grow at 2.9%; unemployment is now 7.3%. The IMF's U.S. growth forecast is 2.5% this year, and U.S. unemployment is 9.1%.

One explanation for Canada's more robust growth is its strong commitment to energy, which has become more valuable in U.S. dollar terms under Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's inflationary policies. Alberta is now producing two million barrels per day but expects that number will grow to four to five million within a decade.

Alberta's oil and gas industry supports more than 271,000 direct jobs and hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs in sectors such as construction, manufacturing and financial services. The province has an unemployment rate of 5.6%. There are also some 960 American companies involved in Alberta energy, supplying equipment and technology, among other things. As an example, Mr. Liepert says, "dozens of Caterpillar tractors, made in Illinois and Michigan and costing $5 million a piece" work the oil sands. He says the region is on track to create more than 400,000 direct American jobs by 2035. The Bakken region of North Dakota, where private land ownership gives drillers relief from federal obstructionism, shares a similar, if smaller, story. Oil production there is booming, and North Dakota unemployment is 3.3%.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, if the U.S. ever issues the permit, will mean $20 billion in investment. The company says the construction phase will require 13,000 direct hires and indirect new jobs could total 118,000 in the U.S.

But Keystone XL is only a fraction of the potential that could be released if Mr. Obama changed his energy policy. In a study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute and released last week, the energy consultancy Wood MacKenzie estimates that pro-development policies could, by 2030, "support an additional 1.4 million jobs, and raise over $800 billion of cumulative additional government revenue."

On the other hand, according to the study, current policies "which slow down the issuance of leases and drilling permits, increase the cost of hydraulic fracturing through duplicative water or air quality regulations, or delay the construction of oil sands export pipelines such as Keystone XL, will likely have a detrimental effect on production, jobs, and government revenues."

A serious jobs proposal would address these issues. Mr. Obama doesn't have one.

23866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: September 12, 2011, 04:10:29 PM
Analyst Kamran Bokhari examines Israel’s regional challenge and Egypt’s domestic challenge following an attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

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

Egyptian protesters storming the Israeli embassy in Cairo on Sept. 9 has created friction between Egypt and Israel, as both sides try to manage the uneasy relationship. This incident has domestic policy implications for Egypt as well as foreign policy implications for Israel.

Egyptian and Israeli authorities are trying to put behind the incident that took place on Friday when several protesters stormed the Israeli embassy, forcing the Israeli ambassador and his family to return to Israel. Authorities in both countries are trying to manage the diplomatic relationship that has become tense, given the fall of President Hosni Mubarak and the uncertain political conditions in Egypt.

The tensions involving Israel are not exactly completely negative from the point of view of Egypt’s military leadership. The Egyptian military authority is interested in delaying, as much as possible, the transition toward civilian rule. What that means is essentially postponing elections as long as possible. Given the current mood within Egypt, the military government doesn’t exactly have the leverage to be able to postpone those elections. That said, an issue like tensions with Israel can be used by the government in Cairo to be able to pull off that kind of postponement of elections. But, nonetheless, the situation right now is very premature and it’s not really clear whether the Egyptian authorities will be able to make use of the incident with Israel to manage domestic politics.

The tensions between Egypt and Israel come at a time when Israel is facing growing problems across its regional neighborhood. Israel has to worry about what is happening in Syria, what would be the fate of the embattled al Assad regime that is facing protests of its own. The Turkish government has announced that it is going to deploy its own naval forces in the eastern Mediterranean, which essentially is upping the anti with Israel, because Israel, thus far, has had freedom of movement in those waters.

In addition, there is the issue of the Palestinians who are trying to use the United Nations General Assembly session this year to be able to pull off a vote in favor of Palestinian statehood. Taken together, all of these issues complicate matters for Israel, and the key pillar of Israeli security is Egypt and the relationship with Egypt. And if Egyptian relations with Israel cannot be managed, then that becomes a far bigger problem for Israel and makes it less likely for Israel to be able to manage the other issues.

23867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Japan puts a finger into the wind to see which way the wind blows on: September 12, 2011, 10:38:53 AM
TOKYO—Japan's new defense minister said that while the American alliance remains the core of security policy, he wants to improve ties between Chinese and Japanese armed forces as a means of dealing with China's military rise.

"The U.S.-Japan security relationship is the cornerstone of our national security policy, but based on that foundation we need to improve relations with China," Yasuo Ichikawa said Monday in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, his first with a foreign media organization since taking office Sept. 2.

Mr. Ichikawa also said the contract for a next-generation fighter aircraft, a long-delayed and highly anticipated project sought by three global defense titans, will be awarded by year's end.

Sino-Japanese relations have been strained by a series of recent incursions by Chinese ships into Japan's territorial waters in the East China Sea. A war of words between Beijing and Tokyo followed the arrest of a Chinese fishing crew last year, raising alarms about China's intentions toward its Asian neighbors. The dispute came shortly after the resignation of Yukio Hatoyama, who as prime minister had made improved ties with China a central focus of policy.

Japan's new defense minister, appointed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, downplayed the territorial spat's impact and stressed the importance of opening communications channels with his counterparts in China.

"I'd like to work toward increasing interaction between Japanese and Chinese defense personnel," Mr. Ichikawa said, adding that he would try to visit China personally. He wouldn't be the first Japanese defense minister to do so, but a trip would signal a thaw.

That overture to Beijing evokes Mr. Hatoyama's embrace of China as a counterweight to the U.S., but Mr. Ichikawa said he has no intention of putting distance between Tokyo and Washington.

However, resolution of a long-simmering controversy involving plans to relocate a U.S. military base in Okinawa may take more time, he said. While Washington's desire to make progress is clear, the defense minister indicated Okinawan anti-base sentiment and budgetary limits might slow progress. The countries will share the cost of the move.

"We have to be mindful about the feelings of the Okinawan people and Japan's own schedule issues such as the deadline for budget requests" on defense-related allocations, he said.

In June, the U.S. and Japan agreed to postpone plans dating from 2006 to close a U.S. Marine Corps base at Futenma in Okinawa by 2014, citing cost concerns and local opposition to the proposed relocated Okinawa base.

At the same time, Japan's new defense minister signaled greater willingness to cooperate with the U.S. and other allies sharing the burden of developing advanced military technologies.

Noting the country's "three principles" banning arms exports has inhibited co-development of cutting-edge weapons, Mr. Ichikawa said he favors moving swiftly with the Japanese government's effort to "study" a relaxation of the ban.

"There's no set schedule, but it's not the kind of problem that we can take too long to consider," the defense minister said. "It's important to start taking gradual steps to sound out a direction as soon as possible." He added that relaxing the ban would bolster Japanese manufacturers who are struggling from weak domestic demand.

The review of the restrictions on weapons exports is politically sensitive in Japan because of the country's pacifist constitution. First established as policy in 1967, the principles were originally designed to prevent military technology from falling into the hands of Communist Bloc countries.

Earlier this month, the policy chief of the governing Democratic Party of Japan, former foreign minister Seiji Maehara, ruffled feathers by openly calling for a review of the ban at a speech in Washington, apparently without first consulting with Cabinet officials, including Mr. Ichikawa.

The issue of Japan's ban on arms exports has loomed large as it invests in developing expensive advanced weapons such as ballistic-missile systems. It has also colored the debate on Japanese plans to procure a new generation of fighter planes, since Japan has not been able to co-develop one with allies and missed an opportunity to do so with the F-35 joint strike fighter program spearheaded by the U.S.

Mr. Ichikawa said that Japan will accept formal bids for its next-generation fighter on Sept. 26 and that he expects a decision to be reached by December as part of budgetary discussions for fiscal 2012, at least three years later than initially planned.

The fighter program, dubbed the FX in Japan, will likely call for the purchase of about 40 to 60 planes in a deal expected to total around $4 billion, according to industry officials.

In an era of declining defense budgets, the project has attracted three of the world's biggest defense contractors: Boeing Co. with its F-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin Corp. with the F-35 JSF and Eurofighter GmbH with the Typhoon.

Mr. Ichikawa said it is too early to say who will prevail.

That latest delay in the FX program came earlier this year when the ministry, which had been expected to start vetting bids in March, postponed the process an additional six months due to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The new fighter will replace Japan's aging squads of F-4 Phantom fighters, made by McDonnell Douglas, now part of Boeing.

23868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 12, 2011, 10:22:50 AM

That's important stuff.  Lets post in on the Energy thread.
23869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: September 12, 2011, 10:21:32 AM
I will leave GM and JDN to work that particular point out, but in response to JDN's point about the fungibiity of oil and his assumption that therefor US oil will flow to the highest bidder, I could be wrong but I would interject that to the best of my recollection US law requires US oil to be sold in the US, though there may be an exception for Alaskan oil to Japan (and attendant purchases from Venezuela).  
23870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson to his wife 1787 on: September 12, 2011, 08:10:31 AM
"Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Martha Jefferson, 1787

23871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why the dollar may last longer than expected on: September 11, 2011, 10:34:40 PM
I have some problems with this piece, but it makes some very interesting points:

Why the Dollar May Last For Much Longer Than We Expect

The only way to value the dollar is in the context of a mercantilist, export-dependent global economy anchored by a sole "importer of last resort," the U.S., which funds these vast imports with its fiat currency, the dollar.

Yesterday I explained why a gold-backed currency cannot replace the fiat dollar without fatally disrupting global Capitalism and the political Status Quo everywhere from China to Europe: Why the U.S. Dollar "Works" and Why a Gold-Backed Currency Doesn't (September 7, 2011).

Today we look at why the fiat dollar is the one essential currency, and as a result, why it will rise in value in the Eurozone crisis ahead. I know this is heresy and sacrilege to those who believe the dollar is doomed, and soon, but if you're not yet locked into one quasi-religious faith or another just yet, then please follow along as I trace out the dynamics of trade and currency valuation.

To understand the essential role of the dollar and how its value is derived via trade flows, let's start with a simplified model of global trade.

Country A manufactures surplus goods and generates surplus services. Since its domestic demand is structurally constrained (for example, a mere 35% of China's GDP is domestic demand), the only way Country A can keep its citizens employed and politically pliable is to sell its surplus in other countries.

This is the basic mercantilist export model of growth pursued by Germany, Japan, South Korea, China et al.: growth and value are created by generating surplus goods and services, and exporting those to other nations.

In sum: Country A has stuff it has to sell to other countries to keep its economy from spiraling into depression. It can demand whatever it wants: gold, moon dust, etc., but it is not in the driver's seat: it has no alternative to dumping its surplus in whatever markets will take it. Managing its exports boils down to getting the best deal possible, but saying "no" is not an option.

There is little demand for Country A's currency, as what it is trading isn't currency, it's stuff: it trades its surplus production (stuff) for somebody else's currency.

Country B has a something called "the world's reserve currency" which is a fancy name for paper money that is universally recognized as a placeholder of value that can be traded everywhere from Burma (pristine $100 bills preferred) to Bolivia (cocaine-laced $100 bills OK) and accepted without question (even counterfeit bills are OK as long as they're the high-quality North Korean counterfeits). Let's call Country B's currency the doru.

Country B has exports, but its demand for imports far exceeds the value of its exports. For all imports over and above the value of its exports, it exchanges its paper money for the imported real goods and services.

Country C has no reserve currency and no gold-backed currency. It has paper money which it can print in unlimited quantities. Country C has exports, but its demand for imports far exceeds the value of its exports. For all imports over and above the value of its exports, it exchanges its paper money for the imported real goods and services.

Country C has a tricky problem. Since its paper money has no intrinsic value, the only value it can possibly have is scarcity value: the supply must be strictly limited so that exporting nations will accept County C's currency (let's call them quatloos) in exchange for tangible goods like oil and iPads.

In effect, Country C is asking exporters to accept a premium on the intrinsically worthless paper, a premium "earned" by scarcity: if there are relatively few quatloos floating around the world, then quatloos may well retain some scarcity value, even though their value based on other factors is basically zero.

The best way for Country C to finance its import trade is to exchange its intrinsically worthless quatloos for "the world's reserve currency," the doru, which is accepted everywhere.

Some would argue that Country C should buy gold with its quatloos, and that would certainly be an excellent trade: worthless paper for gold. But in terms of trade, shipping gold about is hazardous and costly: every nation engaged in trade needs an electronically traded currency that can be transferred, loaned, borrowed and so on, all in the blink of an eye.

Gold is a reliable store of value but it is a cumbersome means of exchange, especially globally.

Furthermore, gold's value in currency or other goods has a history of fluctuating wildly. Those managing quatloos could easily get burned, as the trade they're really managing is quatloos to gold to the reserve currency which can actually be traded globally for goods and services.

Any such commodity-based transactional chain is rife with risk from geopolitics and speculation. From the managers of the quatloo's perspective, the easiest way to lower risk is to cut out the middle step of buying and selling gold, and just buy the reserve currency (the doru) directly.

All this works until Country C succumbs to the temptation to print money to the point it is in surplus rather than scarcity. And what a temptation it is, to "increase our wealth" magically by printing quatloos.

But exporters, forced by circumstance to constantly assess the tradable value of all currencies they trade goods for, will quickly detect that the scarcity value of the quatloo--it's only real value--has rapidly declined.

The cost of imports priced in quatloos in Country C shoots up as quatloos lose scarcity value, and the residents of Country C find they can no longer afford to buy imports. The sales of imports collapses down to match Country C's exports.

These are the key dynamics of trade and currency valuation. Now let's consider Country B, owner of "the world's reserve currency," the doru.

Superficially, it might seem that the only value in dorus is also their scarcity value, and since Country B prints/creates large quantities of dorus every year, many observers make the understandable mistake of claiming the value of the doru should be zero, since it is has little to no scarcity value.

But the value of "the world's reserve currency" is not simply a matter of scarcity, as it is for other lesser fiat (paper) currencies. One factor is the nature of scarcity is different for the doru and the quatloo: the quatloo has only one use in terms of global trade: the imports and exports of Country C.

Since Country C's GDP is a thin sliver of global GDP, then demand for quatloos is limited to importers and tourists.

Compare that to "the world's reserve currency," which is in constant demand as a means of exchange in the entire $60 trillion global economy.

"The world's reserve currency" (in our example, the doru) has another unique feature: everybody eventually needs to exchange quatloos and all other currencies for doru, because that is the only universally accepted means of global exchange. Sure, Country C and its cronies can set up an exchange which only accepts gold and quatloos, but as soon as they need wheat, electronics, and everything else the cronies don't manufacture or harvest, then they will need to exchange the gold or quatloos for "the world's reserve currency."

As a result, the demand for doru ("the world's reserve currency") is stupendous and constant. Since currency is a commodity, albeit one with unique features, its ultimate value as a means of exchange is set by supply and demand. In other words, scarcity is not the only source of value: demand is the key driver of value of any commodity, good or service.

Let's say that Country B's economy is about 25% of global GDP. (In other words, like the U.S.) Let's further assume that Country B prints/creates about 10% of its GDP every year in paper doru.

Now if Country C printed 10% of its GDP every year in newly issued quatloos, the supply of quatloos would quickly overwhelm demand for quatloos, and the value of quatloos globally would crash.

Country B doesn't have that problem, because printing 10% of its GDP is a mere 2.5% of global GDP. Globally, the value of currencies exchanged daily exceeds 10% of Country B's GDP and more or less matches the total value of doru in global trade.

In other words, the demand for exchangable, tradable currency--"the world's reserve currency"-- far exceeds the supply of doru. Printing doru, even in quantity, is like adding a glass of water to a bathtub: the supply increase is not even close to the daily demand.

How did Country B get the "the world's reserve currency" instead of Country C? Most importantly, there has to be enough of the currency to grease the tremendous flows of goods, services, loans and hedges globally: the tiny quantity of quatloos is completely inadequate to the task.

Second, the "the world's reserve currency" must be relatively immune to increases in supply, i.e. money printing. For example, if global GDP is $60 trillion, and daily foreign-exchange trading is $2 trillion, then exactly how much impact can printing $1 trillion of "the world's reserve currency" generate? The answer globally is very little.

The third factor is one which few commentators recognize, sometimes called"the hidden export:" global security. All financial transactions involve trust, some more than others. In terms of currency, the primary trust being offered and accepted is that the mechanics of the currency are transparent and thus so are the risks.

The secondary trust is that the value of the currency will remain stable over the short term, which is long enough for the vast majority of trading.

A third trust is in the stability of the issuing nation. Once again, transparency is key: if that nation's problems are well-known and transparent, then the risks of that currency can be easily and accurately assessed. If its institutions are robust and its trade flows gigantic, then people recognize it's a safer bet to hold dorus than quatloos.

The key mechanism for creating surplus value in advanced Capitalism is trade, and the key mechanism for enabling that trade is a "reserve currency" of sufficient quantity and stability. The Chinese renminbi is a proxy for the U.S. dollar, the euro is unraveling, and the yen is not expansive enough to fund global trade and currency flows.

Envy is a key human trait, and the envy of all those who don't hold/print "the world's reserve currency" is understandable. But you can't create "the world's reserve currency" like some other paper money, as paper money only has two sources of value: demand and trust.

As Jesse of the always-valuable Jesse's Cafe Americain recently wrote (and I paraphrase), people often offer reasons why certain things that have happened could not happen. Conversely, they also often offer reasons why things that can't happen should happen.

At some point the trade imbalance of $600 billion a year between the mercantilist nations and the U.S. will go away, as will the notion that printing paper money is creating wealth, and debts that are unpayable will magically be paid instead of being liquidated or repudiated. The point here is that the Status Quo of all the major trading nations is committed to conserving the present system of fraying imbalances, as their own wealth and power flow from this shaky, unsustainable structure.

23872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 11, 2011, 10:27:28 PM

1) The Keynesian calamity of Obamanomics in conjunction with the attendant monetization of the US deficit has caused, as has been commented and discussed in the US dollar thread, the US dollar to dive-- thus triggering an inverse climb of commodity prices-- most certainly including oil.  Obamanomics IS responsible for high oil prices.

2) "But at what price?  Oil spills?  Costing billions of dollars?  Pollution?  Destruction of the environment?  Ask the fisherman in the Golf (sic) how their job is going? How sick they are...  How it affected the fish and the eco system...."

Of course this is why Obama is subsidizing the Brazilians to drill in the same area while puppeteer Soros profits  rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes
There is also the matter of Exxon now working the Arctic with the Russians because US policies block them here.  Meantime the deep water rigs that worked the Gulf have now permanently left US waters for Africa  shocked and elsewhere-- no doubt the environmental standards there are as rigorous as the US's. rolleyes  Similarly lets make sure that the Canadians do not connect their shale oil to the US and instead build a pipeline to the Pacific Ocean so the Chinese can buy it.  No doubt the planet will thank you , , ,  rolleyes

3) "Domestic drilling won't affect prices, so I still say, let's cut demand not increase supply.  In the end, we will all be better off." 

Yes I get that on the whole oil is fungible and so in a macro world economy sense prices may not be affected that much on the margin, but there is the matter of the vulnerability and political volatility of many of the supply sources (Libya, Nigeria, Venezuela, the whole fg mid-east) which puts a rather stiff risk premium on the prices from those sources which would NOT be the case of US sources.  Connected to this is the cost of foreign policies motivated by securing oil supplies.

"Cutting demand"?  That's just what our teetering on collapse economy needs!  Shrewd, real shrewd.

"In the end" we will be fuct if we follow your prescriptions.

23873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krugman is scum on: September 11, 2011, 10:09:14 PM


September 11, 2011, 8:41 am

The Years of Shame
Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?

Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.

What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. Te atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?

The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.

I’m not going to allow comments on this post, for obvious reasons.
In a similar vein, a friend relates:

I drove down to Clemson University  for a soccer match today. I had about 8 hours in the car and a lot of time for listening to the fare on satellite radio.

Astoundingly, on this of all days, the focus of the left on Serius Left, was the Truther movement. Not the victims, not the heroes- but the friggin conspiracy that we brought the attack on ourselves on purpose to benefit the war machine.

The horrible little people are abundant.

23874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: SCOTUS to rule on GPS surveillance on: September 11, 2011, 04:23:53 PM
WASHINGTON — The precedent is novel. More precisely, the precedent is a novel.

In a series of rulings on the use of satellites and cellphones to track criminal suspects, judges around the country have been citing George Orwell’s “1984” to sound an alarm. They say the Fourth Amendment’s promise of protection from government invasion of privacy is in danger of being replaced by the futuristic surveillance state Orwell described.

In April, Judge Diane P. Wood of the federal appeals court in Chicago wrote that surveillance using global positioning system devices would “make the system that George Orwell depicted in his famous novel, ‘1984,’ seem clumsy.” In a similar case last year, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the federal appeals court in San Francisco wrote that “1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it’s here at last.”

Last month, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn turned down a government request for 113 days of location data from cellphone towers, citing “Orwellian intrusion” and saying the courts must “begin to address whether revolutionary changes in technology require changes to existing Fourth Amendment doctrine.”

The Supreme Court is about to do just that. In November, it will hear arguments in United States v. Jones, No. 10-1259, the most important Fourth Amendment case in a decade. The justices will address a question that has divided the lower courts: Do the police need a warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspect’s car and track its movements for weeks at a time?

Their answer will bring Fourth Amendment law into the digital age, addressing how its 18th-century prohibition of “unreasonable searches and seizures” applies to a world in which people’s movements are continuously recorded by devices in their cars, pockets and purses, by toll plazas and by transit systems.

The Jones case will address not only whether the placement of a space-age tracking device on the outside of a vehicle without a warrant qualifies as a search, but also whether the intensive monitoring it allows is different in kind from conventional surveillance by police officers who stake out suspects and tail their cars.

“The Jones case requires the Supreme Court to decide whether modern technology has turned law enforcement into Big Brother, able to monitor and record every move we make outside our homes,” said Susan Freiwald, a law professor at the University of San Francisco.

The case is an appeal from a unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which said last year that the government was simply seeking too much information.

“Repeated visits to a church, a gym, a bar or a bookie tell a story not told by any single visit, as does one’s not visiting any of those places in the course of a month,” wrote Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg.

He added: “A person who knows all of another’s travel can deduce whether he is a weekly churchgoer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups — and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.”

Federal appeals courts in Chicago and San Francisco, on the other hand, have allowed the police to use GPS tracking devices without a warrant. The police are already allowed to tail cars and observe their movements without warrants, those courts said, and the devices merely allow them to do so more efficiently.

Judge Richard A. Posner, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel in the Chicago case, did caution that institutionalized mass surveillance might present a different issue.

Some judges say that world is fast approaching.

“Technology has progressed to the point where a person who wishes to partake in the social, cultural and political affairs of our society has no realistic choice but to expose to others, if not to the public as a whole, a broad range of conduct and communications that would previously have been deemed unquestionably private,” Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn wrote last year.

The case to be heard by the Supreme Court arose from the investigation of the owner of a Washington nightclub, Antoine Jones, who was suspected of being part of a cocaine-selling operation. Apparently out of caution, given the unsettled state of the law, prosecutors obtained a warrant allowing the police to place a tracking device on Mr. Jones’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. The warrant required them to do so within 10 days and within the District of Columbia. The police did not install the device until 11 days later, and they did it in Maryland. Now contending that no warrant was required, the authorities tracked Mr. Jones’s travels for a month and used the evidence they gathered to convict him of conspiring to sell cocaine. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The main Supreme Court precedent in the area, United States v. Knotts, is almost 30 years old. It allowed the use of a much more primitive technology, a beeper that sent a signal that grew stronger as the police drew closer and so helped them follow a car over a single 100-mile trip from Minnesota to Wisconsin.

The Supreme Court ruled that no warrant was required but warned that “twenty-four hour surveillance of any citizen of the country” using “dragnet-type law enforcement practices” may violate the Fourth Amendment.

Much of the argument in the Jones case concerns what that passage meant. Did it indicate discomfort with intense and extended scrutiny of a single suspect’s every move? Or did it apply only to mass surveillance?

In the Jones case, the government argued in a brief to the Supreme Court that the Knotts case disapproved of only “widespread searches or seizures that are conducted without individualized suspicion.”

The brief added: “Law enforcement has not abused GPS technology. No evidence exists of widespread, suspicionless GPS monitoring.” On the other hand, the brief said, requiring a warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspect’s car “would seriously impede the government’s ability to investigate leads and tips on drug trafficking, terrorism and other crimes.”

A decade ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the police needed a warrant to use thermal imaging technology to measure heat emanating from a home. The sanctity of the home is at the core of what the Fourth Amendment protects, Justice Antonin Scalia explained, and the technology was not in widespread use.

In general, though, Justice Scalia observed, “it would be foolish to contend that the degree of privacy secured to citizens by the Fourth Amendment has been entirely unaffected by the advance of technology.”

23875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Beer can wi-fi on: September 11, 2011, 04:16:05 PM
23876  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Gary Goodrich on: September 11, 2011, 08:26:29 AM

One of my memories from when I judged at UFC Ten was the gleam in Gary Goodrich's eye as he came forward after a pretty hellacious exchange.
23877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: NYPD since 911 on: September 10, 2011, 08:08:41 PM
By JUDITH MILLER A specter has haunted the New York Police Department during this week's torrent of 10th anniversary commemorations of 9/11—the 13 terrorist plots against the city in the past decade that have failed or been thwarted thanks partly to NYPD counterterrorism efforts.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and his 50,000-strong department know that the 9/11 gatherings are an occasion not only to reflect on that terrible day. They're also a prime target for al Qaeda and other Islamist extremists who long to convince the world, and perhaps themselves, that they're still capable of killing in the name of their perverse interpretation of Islam.

Commissioner Kelly allocates some $330 million of his $4.6 billion annual budget and 1,200 of his staff to counterterrorism. He and his staff, not surprisingly, spent the week bolstering security at the remembrance gatherings throughout the city. On Wednesday, he came to the Manhattan Institute to tout the NYPD's counterterrorism record and defend his department against press allegations that his intelligence division has been spying illegally on Muslims and infringing on their privacy and civil rights.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly
.The police have to factor terrorism into "everything we do," Mr. Kelly said. If that means following leads that take NYPD undercover detectives into mosques, Islamic bookstores, Muslim student associations, cafes and nightclubs, so be it. Mr. Kelly vowed to continue stationing liaisons in 11 cities abroad to "ask the New York question"—much to the occasional chagrin of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CIA.

It was an undercover officer in an Islamic bookstore who helped stop Shahawar Matin Siraj, a homegrown Muslim extremist and self-professed al Qaeda admirer, from bombing the Herald Square subway station during the 2004 Republican convention, Mr. Kelly said. Another undercover officer prevented homegrown terrorists Ahmed Ferhani, 26, and Mohamed Mamdouh, 20, from bombing a Manhattan synagogue and trying to "take out the entire building."

Would he continue sending NYPD officers across the Hudson into deepest, darkest New Jersey? Yes, he declared, if that was what was needed to keep tabs on the likes of Carlos Almonte and Mohammed Alessa—al Qaeda sympathizers arrested en route to Somalia at JFK Airport in 2010 "who were determined to receive terrorist training abroad only to return home to kill us here."

Michael Sheehan, a former NYPD deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, says that the NYPD has succeeded thanks to its collection and sharing of domestic and foreign intelligence through "humint" (human sources) and "sigint" (signals intelligence) such as electronic intercepts and the monitoring of Internet, cellphone and other communications. Tip-offs from concerned family or community members have also been vital.

Related Video
 Former editorial page deputy editor Melanie Kirkpatrick recollects her experiences on September 11th.
..Sigint was key in disrupting at least two of the most serious al Qaeda plots targeting New York since 9/11: the 2006 "Liquid Bomb Plot," or "Operation Overt," in which 25 British citizens of Pakistani descent targeted some seven transatlantic commercial flights from London to North America; and Operation Highrise, an attempt to use suicide bombers to blow up New York City subways in 2009.

The homegrown Islamist in that plot was Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan immigrant with al Qaeda ties who grew up in New York City and staged his operation from there and Colorado. In Zazi's case, investigators say, officials were initially tipped off by the intercept of an email he sent from Colorado to an address in Pakistan that was associated with another group of terrorists who had been arrested earlier that year in Manchester, England.

The "link man," or coordinator in Pakistan, writes Mitchell D. Silber, director of Intelligence Analysis for the New York Police Department, in his forthcoming book, "The Al Qaeda Factor," was corresponding with operatives in three different al Qaeda plots. Zazi's New York subway plot took off only after he contacted the coordinator, identified only as "Ahmad," and informed him that the "wedding," or suicide operation, "was ready to proceed," writes Mr. Silber.

Another serious plot that was disrupted thanks to Internet intercepts was a 2006 scheme by Assem Hammoud, a 31-year-old Lebanese al Qaeda member, and several other still unnamed Islamists—all overseas—to flood Lower Manhattan by setting off explosives in the PATH railway tunnels under the Hudson River. While no arrests in America were made, several suspects have been detained in Lebanon and other Arab states.

Mr. Silber argues that humint has proven even more valuable than sigint in detecting and thwarting homegrown threats—the fastest-growing category of militant Islamist terror. This explains Mr. Kelly's determination to preserve the NYPD's vast intelligence capabilities, even if he's forced to scale back elsewhere in the department due to budget cuts.

With Osama bin Laden dead and al Qaeda under pressure, some terrorism experts argue, as does Peter Bergen, author of the book "The Longest War," that al Qaeda, or at least its "core," "no longer poses a national security threat" to America "that could result in a mass-casualty attack anywhere close to the scale of 9/11."

Mr. Kelly isn't buying it. He's fixated on the recent jump in homegrown extremist plots throughout the country—to 10 in 2009 and 12 in 2010 from four in 2007 and just one in 2005. The increase, says John Miller, a former deputy director for analysis for the Director of National Intelligence, is most likely due to the influence of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric now hiding in Yemen whose stirring Internet sermons have inspired many of the would-be jihadis detained in recent plots.

Mr. Kelly also knows that in too many cases, New York has been lucky. Faisal Shazad, a middle-class Pakistani–American resident of Connecticut, failed last year to detonate a bomb in Times Square only because he received too little training in Pakistan.

Mr. Kelly calls the killing of bin Laden "success with complications." Those include the numerous references to New York found in his documents in Abbottabad, all of which suggest that bin Laden never abandoned his dream of striking the city again. The discovery on Thursday night of a specific and "credible" al Qaeda linked plot tied to the 9/11 commemorations suggests that Mr. Kelly's concern is justified.

Ms. Miller is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a commentator for Fox News.
23878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Steyn: Lets Roll Over on: September 10, 2011, 07:58:45 PM
'Let's Roll' Nation Mired In 'Let's Roll Over' Mush

Posted 09/09/2011 05:46 PM ET

Though 343 of these firefighters' comrades died when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, there won't be any firefighters at the official Ground Zero...

Waiting to be interviewed on the radio the other day, I found myself on hold listening to a public service message exhorting listeners to go to and tell their fellow citizens how they would be observing the 10th anniversary of the, ah, "tragic events."

There followed a soundbite of a lady explaining that she would be paying tribute by going and cleaning up an area of the beach. Great! Who could object to that? Anything else?

Well, another lady pledged that she "will continue to discuss anti-bullying tactics with my grandson." Marvelous. Because studies show that many middle-school bullies graduate to hijacking passenger jets and flying them into tall buildings?

Whoa, ease up on the old judgmentalism there, pal. In New Jersey, many of whose residents were among the dead, middle-schoolers will mark the anniversary with a special 9/11 curriculum that will "analyze diversity and prejudice in U.S. history."

And, if the "9/11 Peace Story Quilt" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art teaches us anything, it's that the "tragic events" only underline the "importance of respect." And "understanding." As one of the quilt panels puts it:

"You should never feel left out

You are a piece of a puzzle

And without you

The whole picture can't be seen."

And if that message of "healing and unity" doesn't sum up what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, what does? A painting of a plane flying into a building? A sculpture of bodies falling from a skyscraper? Oh, don't be so drearily literal.

"It is still too soon," says Midori Yoshimoto, director of the New Jersey City University Visual Arts Gallery, whose exhibition "Afterward and Forward" is intended to "promote dialogue, deeper reflection, meditation and contextualization."

So, instead of planes and skyscrapers, it has Yoko Ono's "Wish Tree," on which you can hang little tags with your ideas for world peace.

What's missing from these commemorations? Firemen? Oh, please. There are some pieces of the puzzle we have to leave out.

As Mayor Bloomberg's office has patiently explained, there's "not enough room" at the official Ground Zero commemoration to accommodate any firemen. "Which is kind of weird," wrote the Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle, "since 343 of them managed to fit into the exact same space 10 years ago."

On a day when all the fancypants money-no-object federal acronyms comprehensively failed — CIA, FBI, FAA, INS — the only bit of government that worked was the low-level unglamorous municipal government represented by the Fire Department of New York.

When they arrived at the World Trade Center the air was thick with falling bodies — ordinary men and women trapped on high floors above where the planes had hit who chose to spend their last seconds in one last gulp of open air rather than die in an inferno of jet fuel.

Far "too soon" for any of that at the New Jersey City University, but perhaps you could re-enact the moment by filling a peace tag for Yoko Ono's "Wish Tree" and then letting it flutter to the ground.

Upon arrival at the foot of the towers two firemen were hit by falling bodies. "There is no other way to put it," one of their colleagues explained. "They exploded." Any room for that on the Metropolitan Museum "Peace Quilt"? Sadly not. We're all out of squares.

What else is missing from these commemorations? "Let's Roll"? What's that — a quilting technique?

No, what's missing from these commemorations is more Muslims. I bumped into an old BBC pal the other day who's flying in for the anniversary to file a dispatch on why you see fewer women on the streets of New York wearing niqabs and burqas than you do on the streets of London. She thought this was a telling indictment of the post-9/11 climate of "Islamophobia."

I pointed out that, due to basic differences in immigration sources, there are far fewer Muslims in New York than in London. It would be like me flying into Stratford-on-Avon and reporting on the lack of Hispanics. But the suits had already approved the trip, so she was in no mood to call it off.

How are America's allies remembering the real victims of 9/11? "Muslim Canucks Deal With Stereotypes Ten Years After 9/11," reports CTV in Canada. And it's a short step from stereotyping to criminalizing. "How the Fear of Being Criminalized Has Forced Muslims Into Silence," reports The Guardian in Britain.

In Australia, a Muslim terrorism suspect was so fearful of being criminalized and stereotyped in the post-9/11 epidemic of paranoia that he pulled a Browning pistol out of his pants and hit Sgt. Adam Wolsey of the Sydney constabulary. Fortunately, Judge Leonie Flannery acquitted him of shooting with intent to harm on the grounds that "'anti-Muslim sentiment' made him fear for his safety," as Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported.

That's such a heartwarming story for this 9/11 anniversary they should add an extra panel to the peace quilt, perhaps showing a terror suspect opening fire on a judge as she's pronouncing him not guilty and then shrugging off the light shoulder wound as a useful exercise in healing and unity.

What of the 23rd Psalm? It was recited by Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer and the telephone operator Lisa Jefferson in the final moments of his life before he cried "Let's roll!" and rushed the hijackers.

No, sorry. Aside from firemen, Mayor Bloomberg's official commemoration hasn't got any room for clergy, either, what with all Executive Deputy Assistant Directors of Healing and Outreach who'll be there.

One reason why there's so little room at Ground Zero is because it's still a building site. As I write in my new book, 9/11 was something America's enemies did to us; the 10-year hole is something we did to ourselves — and in its way the interminable bureaucratic sloth is surely as eloquent as anything Nanny Bloomberg will say in his remarks.

In Shanksville, Pa., the zoning and permitting processes are presumably less arthritic than in Lower Manhattan, but the Flight 93 memorial has still not been completed. There were objections to the proposed "Crescent of Embrace" on the grounds that it looked like an Islamic crescent pointing towards Mecca.

The defense of its designers was that, au contraire, it's just the usual touchy-feely huggy-weepy pansy-wimpy multiculti effete healing diversity mush.

It doesn't really matter which of these interpretations is correct, since neither of them has anything to do with what the passengers of Flight 93 actually did a decade ago. 9/11 was both Pearl Harbor and the Doolittle Raid rolled into one, and the fourth flight was the only good news of the day, when citizen volunteers formed themselves into an ad hoc militia and denied Osama bin Laden what might have been his most spectacular victory.

A few brave individuals figured out what was going on and pushed back within half-an-hour. But we can't memorialize their sacrifice within a decade. And when the architect gets the memorial brief, he naturally assumes there's been a typing error and that "Let's roll!" should really be "Let's roll over!"

And so we commemorate an act of war as a "tragic event," and we retreat to equivocation, cultural self-loathing and utterly fraudulent misrepresentation about the events of the day.

In the weeks after 9/11, Americans were enjoined to ask "Why do they hate us?" A better question is: "Why do they despise us?" And the quickest way to figure out the answer is to visit the Peace Quilt and the Wish Tree, the Crescent of Embrace and the Hole of Bureaucratic Inertia.

© Mark Steyn, 2011
23879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 10, 2011, 03:57:02 PM
Thank you.
23880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Respose on Reagan; Perry on: September 10, 2011, 03:54:38 PM
Partially true.

a) "After a deep and stubborn recession early on, the economy thrived for much of Reagan's two terms and, though partisans may debate the causes and the ultimate costs of that boomlet, those frothy times compare quite favorably with today's anxiety-ridden environment."

Snarky and inaccurate.  Volcker, listening to Dem foolishness that tax rate cuts would be inflationary, slammed on the monetary brakes and politically Reagan had to phase in the tax rate cuts over three years, thus prolonging the recession as many business decisions were postponed in order to take advantage of impending tax rate decreases.  The acid test came the January when the final cut became effective.  Milton Friedman predicted a contraction, Jude Wanniski and the other supply siders predicted a big surge.  Working from memory, the surge was something like 10% growth!  Supply side was vindicated and monetarism had to get back to the lane where it has relevance.

b) Worth noting that Reagan's compromise on illegal aliens included Dem promises to control the border.  I suspect at this point he would say "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."

c) Reagan's mental acuity was beginning to decline at the time of the 1986 compromises on the tax code and illegal aliens.

If nominated, this business about Perry not believing in evolution is going to hurt him in the general election I think, especially when coupled with the turbulent state of public thinking about global warming.

Cheap shot by Romney on Perry's "Ponzi scheme" comment on SS.  It IS a Ponzi scheme-- but if Perry is not careful this will get painted as meaning PERRY wants to welch on SS.
An internet friend keeps sending me material on this:

Any thoughts?
23881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / StratforMedical Intel on: September 10, 2011, 10:35:27 AM

One of the primary purposes of intelligence agencies is to help countries plan for the future. One way that’s accomplished is by monitoring the health of foreign leaders. In this week’s Above the Tearline, we’re going to take a look at how that’s done from a tactical perspective.

Knowledge of health of a foreign leader gives you leverage points — points that can be exploited either clandestinely or in diplomatic negotiations. Intelligence surrounding the health of a foreign leader also helps you gameboard succession plans. This enables the analysts to hopefully figure out who’s next in line, who may take the country in a different direction or change the geopolitics of a nation.

The intelligence services of many nations today are monitoring the health of world leaders. Some notables come to mind, such as Gadhafi, Chavez from Venezuela as well as Castro. The health of Castro is always a topic of discussion and whoever replaces them poses a new challenge to the United States as to the direction of the country and the geopolitics of the region.

From a tactical perspective, in order to monitor the health of the foreign leader, the first thing you’re going to acquire is open source video or pictures that can be looked at and examined by the analysts at headquarters as well as by subject matter medical experts. A storyboard is put together looking back at pictures of the world leader to draw some assessments based on their physical appearance. Some of the things that are easily done are noticeable weight loss, or loss of hair as well as color of the skin: are they pale; are they suntan; are they bloated? Are there any outward physical blemishes or moles that could be indicative of a more concerning underlying health issue.

The open source is a wonderful tool to also track foreign leader health concerns such as Chavez traveling to Cuba to receive cancer treatment. Most Western intelligence agencies have full-time medical staff and nurses on the payroll. Those individuals can also be used to help you draw assessments of foreign leaders.

On the clandestine side of the house, you may try to recruit sources who would have access to hospital records such as a hospital administrator or individuals that conduct outsource blood tests or other kinds of tissue exams. Intelligence agencies can also attempt to obtain hair and urine samples from locations that the head of state or VIP has frequented. In addition, you could pay a maid or a hotel staff employee to secure trash from the hotel room, which may contain prescription bottles or other kinds of evidence of a medical issue, such as syringes.

Another interesting window into the health of a foreign leader is restricted or special diets, so an effort can be made to secure that from outsource catering staff or hotel employees. World-class subject matter medical experts that provide specialized healthcare to foreign leaders could also be targeted for recruitment by an intelligence agency. They would have very unique insight into exactly what’s occurring with that world leader. That’s also the kind of person that you would want to recruit if you needed that information.

The Above the Tearline aspect with this video is: medical intelligence about the health of a foreign leader can help you forecast the future of a nation and can help you predict and shape of the geopolitics of that specific country. Your ability to get that data is the challenge. It’s usually there — you just have to assign your intelligence agency to go out and collect it. But, in many cases, there’s so many people who have access to medical records that it’s usually there for the taking provided you want to spend the cash.

23882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) & Security Guarantees n Central Europe on: September 10, 2011, 09:52:27 AM

In the last few days I have made some snarky comments about Baraq's policies concerning BMD in Central Europe and Turkey.  Some informatin new to me is contained in the following.

Ballistic Missile Defense and Security Guarantees in Central Europe

Romanian President Traian Basescu announced Thursday that he plans to sign an agreement with the United States committing Washington to deploy ballistic missile defense (BMD) interceptors and American troops on Romanian soil. Basescu laid out both the number of U.S troops who would be deployed – 200 – and the specific interceptor — the RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM3). A land-based launcher for this successful sea-based interceptor is still in development, and while the newest version of the SM3 failed in its first test Thursday, the sea-based Aegis SM3 system has proven the most capable of U.S. BMD systems.

“For Warsaw and Prague, the BMD installations have nothing at all to do with ballistic missiles and everything to do with the American security guarantee.”
The Romanian president’s announcement cements Romania’s segment of the U.S. “European phased adaptive approach” — Washington’s replacement for the previous BMD scheme pursued under the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush. The previous plan envisioned a version of the interceptors already operational in Alaska and California (though with a questionable track record) and their concrete silos in Poland, while an X-band radar installation would have been placed in the Czech Republic. Warsaw and especially Prague had high hopes for the Bush-era plan and still remain frustrated with its 2009 cancellation.

Their hopes had little to do with the threat of ballistic missiles — and certainly nothing to do with the threat of Iranian ballistic missiles that Washington used to justify the system in the first place. Tehran and its crude stockpile of missiles could not be farther from Central European minds. What countries like Poland and the Czech Republic seek is a long-term U.S. military personnel presence, and Washington’s consequent imperative to defend them. For Warsaw and Prague, in other words, the BMD installations have nothing at all to do with ballistic missiles and everything to do with the American security guarantee.

The withdrawal of the previous scheme, under pressure from a resurgent Russia, was precisely what the Central Europeans feared and why they desired fixed American military installations. Washington’s broken commitment has already cost it a measure of credibility, in terms of its allies’ perceptions, in the durability of the American security guarantee. This U.S. credibility question has played no small part in the emergence of the proposal for a Visegrad battlegroup independent of NATO and the United States.

The perception of the U.S. security guarantee is precisely what remains at stake with this new phased adaptive approach. However, it is not clear that all parties view the approach in the same way. If the credibility of the American security guarantee is in question, it is partly because of the lessons Washington took from the failure to place fixed installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. The United States learned that flexibility and redundancy are desirable in any deal. With the immense political pressure from the Kremlin on potential host countries and populations, as well as on more pressing American interests elsewhere in the world, expanding the range of options is certainly preferable. Consequently, while the United States has laid out a coherent scheme for the phased adaptive approach, improvements in weapons technology have allowed the inclusion of more mobile and dispersed components. Washington has also created a degree of ambiguity by waiting to formally sign specific deals.

This equivocation strengthens the plans to deploy a viable BMD system in Europe to defend the continental United States against an Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (a weapon that does not yet exist). However, the consequence is a dimmed perception of American reliability among allies from Estonia to Romania, who are desperately seeking a firm, unambiguous demonstration of America’s commitment. To these allies, a U.S. demonstration of support is most important not when it is politically convenient, but when it is politically difficult.

This predicament is not lost on Russia. Both Moscow and Beijing have been refining their positions in order to make firm, unambiguous demonstrations of American commitment as politically inconvenient and difficult as possible. The issue was discussed Wednesday between Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and the U.S. Defense attache in Moscow.

For Moscow, the problem of BMD is twofold. Details aside, Washington is flirting with the Central Europeans who, unlike their Western brethren, are highly concerned about Russia’s military capabilities. A significantly more aggressive U.S. BMD stance would greatly challenge Moscow. Longer-term, as Russia’s population declines, it will come to rely increasingly on its nuclear arsenal to guarantee its sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. Therefore, no matter what assurances Moscow gleans from Washington concerning the current European scheme, the inexorable improvement in American BMD technology will increasingly challenge those promises.

23883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Fanny and Freddy as victims on: September 10, 2011, 09:38:15 AM
Amen to the appreciation of Pat's superb posts.


With the government's lawsuits last week against 17 big banks, we can now say we've seen it all. The suits attempt to argue that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-created mortgage giants at the center of the financial crisis, were in fact unwitting victims.

One has to laugh or cry examining the complaints drafted by Fan and Fred's regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). As the conservator for the two mortgage monsters since their federal rescue in 2008, the FHFA is suing most of the financial industry on grounds that banks misrepresented to Fan and Fred the quality of loans inside mortgage-backed securities bought by the two firms during the housing boom. Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now shocked, shocked to discover they were buying low-quality mortgages during the housing mania.

We know that FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco has a mission to protect the taxpayers who have bailed out Fannie and Freddie with $171 billion and counting. It's also true that Mr. DeMarco deserves taxpayer gratitude for his efforts to resist additional housing bailouts. But when examining the new bank lawsuits, it's worth remembering that an attorney doesn't have an obligation to sue everyone with whom his client has ever done business. And taxpayers may wonder if they'll really be better off after Washington attempts this cashectomy on a still-weak banking system.

Any cash would have to come from a settlement, because we can't imagine the feds bringing these cases into a courtroom. At that point the FHFA's attempt to cast Fan and Fred as victims might have to be reconciled with a voluminous FHFA paper trail blaming Fan and Fred for "unsafe and unsound practices," "imprudent decisions" to "purchase or guarantee higher risk mortgage products," and its determination to take on more risk despite internal and external warnings.

Even the report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, whose Democratic majority tried to minimize government's role in the meltdown, acknowledged the Fan and Fred mess. Its final report quoted an FHFA examiner who observed that Fannie was "the worst-run financial institution" he'd seen in 30 years as a regulator.

The common theme in the new lawsuits is that banks misled Fan and Fred about how many of the loans inside the mortgage pools were going to owner-occupants versus speculators, and how high the ratio was of the value of a loan to the value of the property.

Many of these securities included dodgy subprime and "Alt-A" loans, meaning the borrowers had low credit scores or provided little or no documentation to back up their claims. But Fan and Fred thought that by buying the triple-A tranche of these securities they would be the last ones stuck with the losses. The toxic twins were happy to enjoy the high yields while also fulfilling their federal affordable-housing mandates, even as they warned in securities filings that they were taking on more risk.

So to sum up the argument made by the FHFA: Fan and Fred were duped by banks because the two mortgage giants thought they were buying pools that included very risky mortgages, when in fact they included insanely risky mortgages.

Several of the bank defendants say that on their deals Fan and Fred could have studied the "loan tape," with detailed information on mortgage borrowers, if they had cared enough to make their own judgments on risk. On the question of property values, the government fed publicly available data into a computer model and decided that the properties were valued too highly during the real-estate bubble. No kidding.

But if there were fraudulent appraisals at the time, this would suggest a lawsuit against appraisers, unless one is simply looking for the deepest shareholder pockets. In any case, why didn't Fan and Fred use such a model before deciding to buy?

On the question of occupancy, if a buyer falsely claimed that he would occupy a given property, why is the bank any more liable than Fan and Fred are? The two mortgage giants had already agreed to buy pools of loans with little or no documentation of the borrowers' claims. Why? Because Fan and Fred's well-paid management and boards were enjoying the ride, and they knew that taxpayers would be there to pay the bill when it ended.

To be clear, not all of the loans went bad, and some of the securities mentioned in the suits are still paying on time and in full. So exactly how much harm are Fan and Fred alleged to have suffered at the hands of banks?

FHFA won't say. These look like lawsuits with a premise to be named later.

23884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Did the US overreact to 911? on: September 09, 2011, 09:24:37 PM
Editor's Note: We asked a group of leading national security thinkers to respond to the question: Did the United States overreact to the 9/11 attacks? Here are their answers:

We Had to Address State Sponsors of Terror
We Can't Reform the Arab World
Afghanistan Should Have Been the Focus
Resilience vs. Revenge
Right Cause, Wrong Response
Even Obama Embraces Drones
Islamist Extremists Are Losing
..We Had to Address State Sponsors of Terror
By Paul Wolfowitz

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans were put in concentration camps. That there was no comparable overreaction after 9/11, and that we have been able to preserve a free and open society, owes much to the fact that for 10 years there has been no repetition of those terrible attacks.

Preventing further attacks required the U.S. to drop its law-enforcement approach to terrorism and recognize that we were at war. Consider the difference between Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—the mastermind of 9/11 who told us much of what we now know about al Qaeda—and his nephew Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center who can't be questioned (even most courteously) without his lawyer present and has told us nothing of significance. Or consider the difference between the ineffective retaliatory bombing of Afghanistan in 1998 and the 2001 response that brought down the Taliban regime.

Enlarge Image

The Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001
.We went to war with Germany in 1941 not because it had attacked Pearl Harbor but because it was dangerous. After 9/11, we had to do more to deal with state sponsors of terrorism than simply place them on a prohibited list, especially if they had connections to biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein—who was defying numerous United Nations resolutions and was the only head of a government to praise 9/11, warning that Americans should "suffer" so they will "find the right path"—presented such a danger.

That we made mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq does not prove that we overreacted. (Costly mistakes were also made in World War II: sending poorly prepared troops to North Africa, failing to plan for the hedgerows beyond the beaches at Normandy, failing to anticipate the German counterattack in Belgium.) The real question is whether a significantly different response would have produced a better result.

Would massive strategic bombing of Afghanistan—the 1998 response on a larger scale—been enough to defeat al Qaeda? Would the failing sanctions against Iraq not have collapsed and left us today with a Saddam Hussein committed, as he told his FBI interrogator, "to reconstitute his entire WMD program"—chemical, biological and even nuclear? What about the Libyan WMDs that Moammar Gadhafi gave up after he saw Saddam's fate?

Unfortunately, after it turned out we had been wrong about the existence of WMD stockpiles in Iraq, some accused President Bush of having overreacted or, even worse, of having lied. Others charged that our overreaction "gave democracy a bad name." Nonsense. Tens of thousands of Arabs today are risking their lives in Syria and elsewhere, not for bin Laden's dream of a heavenly paradise but for freedom and democracy.

Mr. Wolfowitz, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, served as deputy U.S. secretary of defense from 2001-05.

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.We Can't Reform the Arab World
By Mark Helprin

When this war was brought to us, deliberations should have centered upon the aims and execution of our response. Instead, we debated its justice, and thus "whether or not" rather than "how best." The question here at issue echoes this, as if to inquire about the power of a shot rather than if it has hit its target. The answer is that in the absence of strategic clarity we have lurched from one extreme to another.

We underreacted in failing to declare war and put the nation on a war footing, and thus overreacted in trumpeting hollow resolution. We underreacted in attempting quickly to subdue and pacify, with fewer than 200,000 soldiers, 50 million famously recalcitrant people in notoriously difficult terrain halfway around the world. We are left with 10,000 American dead here and abroad, a bitterly divided polity, a broken alliance structure, emboldened rivals abroad, and two fractious nations hostile to American interests with little changed from what they were before.

We overreacted by attempting to revolutionize the political culture—and therefore the religious laws with which it is inextricably bound—of a billion people who exist as if in another age. The "Arab Spring" is less a confirmation of this illusion than its continuance. If you think not, just wait.

We underreacted when we allowed our military capacities other than counterinsurgency to atrophy while China strains for military parity—something that the architects of our national security a decade ago thought laughable, now deny, and soon will hopelessly admit.

Rather than embarking upon the reformation of the Arab world, we should have fully geared up, sacrificed for, and resolved upon war. Then struck hard and brought down the regimes sheltering our enemies, set up strongmen, charged them with extirpating terrorists, and withdrawn from their midst to hover north of Riyadh in the network of bases the Saudis have built within striking distance of Baghdad and Damascus. There we might have watched our new clients do the work that since 9/11 we have only partially accomplished, and at a cost in lives, treasure, and heartbreak far greater than necessary.

Mr. Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, is the author of, among other works, "Winter's Tale" (Harcourt, 1983) and "A Soldier of the Great War" (Harcourt, 1992).

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.Afghanistan Should Have Been the Focus
By Robert C. McFarlane

The 9/11 attacks gave evidence of a well-financed, operationally capable organization committed to waging unrestricted war on Americans. It was imperative that our response eliminate those who planned the attack and destroy their capability to carry on. Yet our understandable haste in launching that counterattack on al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts foreclosed thorough analysis of at least two fundamental matters:

First, the enormous complexity, time and resources involved in forging a functional government, let alone an effective security system, in a diverse alien culture. And second, the latent tensions and instability that had been brewing for over a decade in Pakistan, the key ally on whom we would have to rely for logistic and intelligence support.

Related Video
 Editorial page editor Paul Gigot and deputy editorial page editor Dan Henninger reflect on 9/11.
..More deliberate consideration of such factors could have limited our mission to the destruction of al Qaeda and the formation of a coalition government in Afghanistan (that alone a daunting challenge). It also could have foreclosed consideration of launching a second concurrent war in Iraq, where similar challenges were bound to emerge. Iraq posed no threat to us: The decision to invade it was inspired by quixotic zeal and towering hubris—the belief that we could easily establish there a functioning and prosperous democracy as a model to be adopted throughout the Muslim world.

However ill-conceived politically, the war in Iraq has been executed extremely well militarily. After eight and a half years, we have helped the Iraqis dislodge a tyrant and take the first steps toward a pluralistic, accountable future. In short, much of that original purpose could well be achieved in the years ahead—if we don't forfeit the potential gains out of fatigue and overreach.

The U.S. has also made gains in its national security institutions, notably in special operations and intelligence. Given the relationship of these capabilities to the threats we will continue to face—plus our nation's fiscal realities—the impending restructuring of our military is beginning to take shape.

Mr. McFarlane, who served as President Reagan's national security adviser, is a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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.Resilience vs. Revenge
By Anne-Marie Slaughter

It is possible to ask whether we overreacted to 9/11 only because of the hard and steady work of countless state, municipal and federal counterterrorism officials who have succeeded in preventing its repeat, or something even worse. After a decade without any such attacks (albeit with some near misses), and increasingly frequent and invasive security procedures permeating our daily lives, the costs of our reaction may be more immediately evident than the benefits. But another attack would change that calculus overnight.

One way in which Americans have overreacted, however, is emotionally—by assuming, as we so often do, that our experience of terrorism was qualitatively different from the experience of Europeans, Indonesians, Indians, Africans and others. We have since watched and admired the courage and determination of the British after coordinated attacks on subways and buses in July 2005, and of the Indians after the 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks in Mumbai in November 2008.

The world likewise watched the many acts of bravery and heroism on 9/11, from firefighters and police to the group of passengers who rushed the cockpit on United Flight 93. But as a society we were unable to resume business as usual in the way that the British and Indians and many others have done. Because the sensation of vulnerability to violent attack on American soil was so new to us, we gave the terrorists the satisfaction of knowing that they had changed our lives dramatically.

The lesson here is the power of resilience over revenge. As emotionally satisfying as the killing of Osama bin Laden and the attacks on other al Qaeda leaders are, in the long run they are a less effective response to terrorism than enhancing the resilience of our infrastructure, our economy and our people. If we are prepared for an attack and can return to normal as quickly as possible. even while grieving—with our planes flying, our markets open, and our heads high—we can diminish the impact and hence the value of that attack in the first place.

Ms. Slaughter, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, served as the director of Policy Planning at the State Department from 2009-11.

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.Right Cause, Wrong Response
By Zbigniew Brzezinski

It was natural that the brutal murder of 2,700 Americans would provoke not only public outrage but precipitate a very strong national response. Unfortunately, that response lacked strategic coherence and political wisdom. A vaguely generalized global war on jihadist terror made it easier for the terrorists to portray America as hostile to all of Islam, while the U.S. military response eventually devolved into two separate campaigns.

At the time, I strongly supported the decision to go into Afghanistan in order to wipe out the culprits and to overthrow the regime that sheltered them. But I also urged, both in a high-level meeting and in a note to the secretary of defense, that we shouldn't repeat the mistake made by the Soviets, who became bogged down in an ideologically driven effort to remake Afghanistan by force of arms.

I also argued in this newspaper shortly after 9/11 that the U.S. should focus on the political dimension of the terrorist challenge, seeking to isolate the terrorists by gaining the support of Arab governments through broader regional cooperation.

The Bush administration didn't heed these warnings. Making matters worse, it then downgraded the military effort in Afghanistan with the largely solitary U.S. invasion of Iraq, which was undertaken without the political benefit of Arab allies that the U.S. enjoyed back in 1991. The U.S. government sought support for that additional war through top-level demagogy about the potential "mushroom cloud," and by claims of biological agents allegedly secreted in mobile trailers. Neither such nuclear nor biological weapons turned out to have existed. The resulting damage to U.S. credibility handicaps American diplomacy to this day, especially in regard to Iran.

At home, meanwhile, acts of prejudice against American Muslims became more frequent, while abroad anti-American sentiments in Muslim countries became more widespread. Ten years after 9/11, the future of Afghanistan is still in doubt, Iran is increasingly influential in Iraq, and U.S. influence in the Middle East is at its lowest point since America's major entry into the region after World War II.

The cause was right; the response was inept.

Mr. Brzezinski was national security adviser in the Carter administration.

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.Even Obama Embraces Drones
By Leon Wieseltier

We responded to the atrocities of September 11 with a mess of reactions. Some of them were excessive, some of them were not.

The excess was Iraq. If our leaders launched that war because they were certain that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, then their incompetence was historically scandalous. If they launched it as a "demonstration war," to frighten enemies who might be emboldened by the terrorist triumph on September 11 to attack us again, then they failed: The war opened a new anti-American front for al Qaeda in the Middle East.

I was deceived in my support of the Iraq war, but I rejoice in the dictator's destruction, and in the stirrings of Iraqi democracy despite the best efforts of Islamists and Iranians to thwart it. Good outcomes may come of bad origins.

Yet our other military responses to September 11 seem to me justified. I have no difficulty with the "war on terrorism," as a concept or a policy. We appear to have almost completely decimated al Qaeda, or at least Osama bin Laden's main branch of it. President Obama's relentless drone campaign against terrorist havens in Pakistan, and his somewhat surprising willingness to use covert operations as an instrument in that struggle, stands as one of his few accomplishments in foreign policy.

I believe in ferocity in self-defense; in intelligent ferocity. Now new formations of al Qaeda have been established in southern Arabia and eastern Africa—this is not surprising: jihadist culture is not primarily a response to our responses—and we must confront them, too.

As a corollary of our proper retaliation against al Qaeda, moreover, we emancipated Afghanistan from a primitive theocratic tyranny. But the president's current plan in Afghanistan seems incoherent to me, and I have given up on Afghanistan's willingness to fight for itself. We have worked at it for 10 years, but there is no Afghan Spring. From the standpoint of counterterrorism, the Af-Pak problem is more Pak than Af.

And I have one other anxiety: that we will overreact to our "overreaction." If we conclude, as we are everywhere counseled to do, that the time has come for the United States to recede from the forefront of history, we will compromise and injure ourselves, and our allies, and all freedom-seeking people around the world.

Mr. Wieseltier is literary editor of the New Republic.

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.Islamist Extremists Are Losing
By Joe Lieberman

It has become fashionable to characterize the American response to the attacks of 9/11 as an overreaction, but this view is profoundly mistaken. The U.S. response to the attacks, and to the broader challenge of Islamist extremism, has been necessary and justified. We were right to recognize that 9/11, made us a "nation at war" with an enemy that is real, evil and violent, and we were right to put this conflict at the top of our national security agenda. Had we not done so, it is likely we would not have the luxury today of debating whether we overreacted.

That we have gone a decade without another major terrorist strike on American soil hasn't been for lack of trying by our enemies. Our increased security has required bipartisan determination across two presidencies, far-reaching reforms to our homeland security institutions, and difficult, dangerous work by countless heroic individuals around the world. We have taken the offensive overseas with focus and ferocity our enemies did not expect, building the most capable and lethal counterterrorism forces in human history. The result is that violent Islamist extremists have achieved no significant victories in the last decade.

Have we made mistakes since 9/11? Of course—just as every nation always has in war. But as we look back over the past 10 years, a lot more went right than wrong.

Among the lessons of the past decade is that we still live in a dangerous and unpredictable world. Despite the gains we have made, current geopolitical realities do not justify either a sense of complacency or closure about the world-wide war we are in. Our nation will face surprises again. In order to stay safe at home, the U.S. must remain engaged abroad, and—despite budgetary pressures—make the necessary investments to keep our military and other instruments of national power strong.

In addition, contrary to the current national pessimism, America has demonstrated since 9/11 that we remain a remarkably strong and resilient country, with people who are capable of bravery, ingenuity and resolve. When we pull together, we are able to achieve things no other country in the world can—and the best example of this is the new "greatest generation" who have chosen to serve our country in uniform during this past decade.

We do not know how long this conflict will last, but we can be certain of how it will end—in the triumph of our values, with the ideology of Islamist extremism joining fascism and communism on the ash heap of history.

Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut.

23885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / You can't make this stuff up on: September 09, 2011, 09:16:37 PM
23886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 09, 2011, 08:46:59 PM
With the moves in the UN that will give observer status to Gaza-West Bank (and the right to sit on various bodies such as the Human Rights Council if I am not mistaken), the Turks apparently planning to challenge the blockade of Gaza and the Israeli development of natural gas off its coastline, the apparent trajectory in Egypt towards ending the peace treaty, and Baraq Hussein Obowma in the White House, the prognosis is grim indeed.
23887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 09, 2011, 05:16:45 PM
Refresh my memory please; what is Soros saying?
23888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Bureaucracy and Regulations in action: The Fourth Branch of the US Govt. on: September 09, 2011, 02:59:00 PM
Like that animal in Dr. Doolittle that had a head at each end (Pushme-pullyou?) both of these guys are mouth.  Lacking an anus explains why they are full of excrement.
23889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Look out below! on: September 09, 2011, 02:55:01 PM
Second post of the day:

Horrendous day.  Looks like we are finishing below 11,000 again.
23890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Attack on the High Court on: September 09, 2011, 02:44:49 PM

Militants detonated an improvised explosive device outside the Delhi High Court on Sept. 7. Though Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami (HUJI) claimed responsibility, the attack was more likely carried out by an undefined network composed of the remnants of regional transnational militant groups that oppose the Indian government. Someone claiming to represent HUJI said the attack was staged to demand the death sentence of a Kashmiri militant involved in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament be revoked, and this incident may complicate plans for the Indian government, which has been reluctant to carry out the execution for fear of a militant backlash.

An improvised explosive device (IED) went off Sept. 7 near the reception line at the High Court in New Delhi, India. More than 100 people were waiting in line between Gate 4 and Gate 5 to obtain entry passes to the court to have their cases heard. According to officials, the blast killed 11 people and wounded 76 others. No judges were among the victims. Witnesses claim a man carrying a briefcase jumped to the front of the line before the device detonated. The investigation was quickly turned over to the National Investigation Agency, established after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. A top security official said a search for the culprit is under way, and security forces are surveilling all roads out of the city.

The attack is similar to other attacks recently witnessed in India; it was not an armed assault, and it was not a suicide bombing. Rather, it was a simple attack on a soft target, more akin to groups with indigenous capabilities such as the Indian Mujahideen, which is known to have connections with other militants that are or once were part of LeT. According to an email from a purported representative of Islamist militant group Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami (HUJI), the attack was staged to demand the death sentence of a Kashmiri militant involved in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament be revoked. Regardless of the veracity of that email, the claim could complicate the handling of the case by the Indian government, which has been reluctant to carry out the execution due to concerns of a possible militant backlash. Additionally, the Sept. 7 attack demonstrates a sustained level of indigenous militant capabilities, itself a worrying sign for New Delhi.

According to a police official, the blast took place outside the “controlled area” of the building at around 10:15 a.m., leaving a crater three to four meters (nine to 13 feet) deep. NDTV reported there were traces of ammonium nitrate. It is unclear whether there was a security cordon in front of the reception area or if the reception area was the first security checkpoint. What is clear is that the reception area was a softer target and thus more vulnerable to attack. (Two lawyers at the court said the scanner and the metal detector at Gate 5 had been inoperable since Sept. 6.)

Like past Indian Mujahideen attacks, the device utilized ammonium nitrate-based improvised explosives, was directed against a soft target, was concealed in a small container and left in a crowded area. It also was detonated via a timer rather than being a command-detonated suicide device. A similar attack was attempted on the same court May 25, with Indian officials later reporting the IED was a bag that contained 1.5 to 2 kilograms (3.3 to 4.4 pounds), had ammonium nitrate, a detonator attached to a timer and about 50 nails. It caused no casualties and damaged a car. In the wake of the attack, Indian media have speculated the earlier attack may have been a test case for the Sept. 7 attack, which is certainly possible, but it was more likely a failed attack.

Someone claiming to be a representative of HUJI allegedly wrote an email to the National Investigation Agency taking responsibility for the bombing, though this claim has yet to be verified. In the email, HUJI threatened to continue attacks against Indian courts if they did not revoke the death sentence of Kashmiri militant Afzal Guru, also known as Mohammad Afzal, who was convicted for his role in the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001.

It is possible that HUJI carried out the Sept. 7 attack on its own, but a more likely explanation is that local militants conducted the attack at the behest of transnational anti-Indian militants who lack the ability to conduct attacks against the India government on their own. This network is not clearly defined, but it includes HUJI, or former members of the organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and al Qaeda. The same network was responsible for the  2011 Mumbai attacks, and it is not a centralized group or command structure; rather, it is a new coordination of groups that formally existed prior to 2001. Due to crackdowns in Pakistan, militant group dynamics in the region and disagreements over targets, it has collaborated in different ways. It appears that this network has successfully created an indigenous capability inside India.

The Afzal issue has been a contentious one in India since the Supreme Court sentenced him to death in 2004. The Indian government has been reluctant to follow through on the sentence for fear of a militant backlash. It is not yet clear if the Sept. 7 attack will cause the government to further balk at executing Afzal, given that the alleged perpetrators threatened to attack courts in the future unless it revoked the sentence. That little is known about the network that conducted the attack may add to the government’s reluctance to see the Afzal execution through.

Read more: India: Militants Attack Delhi High Court | STRATFOR
23891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Realities of Withdrawal on: September 09, 2011, 02:37:52 PM
Several posts today.  Make sure to read YA's post.

The scheduled drawdown of U.S. and allied forces from Afghanistan has begun, and the need for a negotiated settlement to fill the eventual power vacuum in Afghanistan has become more evident. And as always, the key players each have their own set of goals for such a settlement.

Obama’s Afghanistan Plan and the Realities of Withdrawal

Afghanistan at the Crossroads: Insights on the Conflict

The United States has begun the scheduled drawdown of U.S. and allied forces from Afghanistan, but there are clear indications that it is seeking ways to accelerate this timeline. While the surge of U.S. and allied combat forces has had an effect, it was insufficient both in scale and time to impose a military reality on Afghanistan and pacify the Taliban insurgency. So while progress outlined by Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in terms of the counterinsurgency-focused strategy, can certainly be defended, the Taliban also — and with good cause — perceive themselves to be winning and have continued to wage an aggressive assassination campaign.

Now that it is clear the United States is leaving, all sides must begin actually reaching understandings and taking concrete action in anticipation of the looming power vacuum in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the United States has once again intensified its efforts to reach a comprehensive political accommodation with Mullah Muhammad Omar, the most senior Taliban figure, and the Taliban movement as a whole. Such a settlement would stabilize the security situation in the country and facilitate an orderly withdrawal of at least most Western forces from the country.

The Taliban

The Taliban cannot take the United States’ stated intention to withdraw at face value. And in any event, the Taliban have multiple incentives to maintain the current intensity of operations: Doing so maintains the pressure on Washington and Kabul to negotiate, maximizes the strength of their position in those negotiations and maintains their visibility and relevance to the wider Afghan population.

But the Taliban also do not harbor the same ambitions they once did. Having run Afghanistan as a pariah regime in the late 1990s and perceiving Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government as more robust than the regime the Soviets left in place when they withdrew in 1989, the Taliban seek a power sharing agreement rather than complete dominion of the country. Part of that sharing of power entails getting aid monies and a piece of the foreign investment flowing into the country as well as positioning themselves to gain from the withdrawal of foreign forces.

In recent communiques, the Taliban have even shifted from speaking of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to acknowledging that the Islamic Emirate does not seek to monopolize power. Instead, the Taliban seek certain broad achievements:

Negotiations before withdrawal that help establish the Taliban’s international legitimacy (which would also entail the removal of the movement’s leadership from international terrorism watch lists and ensure that any government in which the Taliban is involved would not be subject to the same sanctions imposed on its government in the late 1990s).
Ultimately, the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
A reshaping of the Afghan government. Karzai (with heavy input from the West) has carefully crafted his regime, its offices and the government’s entire structure for the better part of a decade, maximizing his influence and the power of those close to him. It makes little political sense for the Taliban to accept that structure.
A more Shariah-compliant government. Afghanistan is largely a mountainous, rural and conservative society, so the more extreme brand of Islamism espoused by the Taliban actually has considerable traction with large swaths of Afghan society, particularly the Pashtun population that straddles the Afghan-Pakistani border. In other words, this is not necessarily something that a much broader demographic would resist.
A solution for the foreign fighters that have been waging war alongside the Taliban. Whether this is a repatriation agreement or one that allows these fighters to settle and live in Afghanistan peacefully, the Taliban want some viable solution. The Taliban — along with many Pakistani and Arab actors among others — see the lack of a settlement regarding foreign fighters at the time of the Soviet withdrawal as part of a problem that has plagued Afghanistan ever since: Those actors retained their autonomy and used it to maintain chaos in Afghanistan, drawing in other players and complicating the security and political situation further. And if Afghanistan is truly to rein in Islamist extremists with transnational ambitions in a post-NATO Afghanistan, many of these fighters will need to be weaned away from such movements.

(click here to enlarge image)
However, the Taliban face considerable challenges in their negotiations. The diffuse, decentralized and amorphous nature of the Taliban phenomenon has both strengths and weaknesses. Many of these benefits are operational, but internal discipline and cohesion become significant as insurgency gives way to coherent negotiations. Washington originally had hoped to hive off so-called “reconcilable” elements of the Taliban, and the United States and its allies have certainly had some successes in dealing with localized elements that carried the Taliban flag more as a convenience for personal gain or personal grievance. But recent years have been just as rife with Afghan government and security officials in particular changing sides in the other direction.

Internal discipline and cohesion are a challenge for any revolutionary entity — demonstrated all too clearly by the lack of cohesion of Libya’s National Transitional Council forces now that Moammar Gadhafi’s regime has fallen. As the Taliban’s objective of the withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces nears, the ability of the Taliban’s senior leadership to speak as one voice for the overall phenomenon — and with the demonstrated ability to control the overall phenomenon operationally as well as ideologically — is critical to the strength and credibility of the Taliban’s negotiating position.

As occurs with loosely affiliated groups and in agreements that result in winners and losers, some groups will seek to derail any settlement. Those groups will include what remains of al Qaeda and associated radicalized Islamist groups with a transnational agenda, other foreign fighters and even some locals who have a vested interest in the perpetuation of conflict. Whether the senior Taliban leadership headed by Mullah Omar can contain and manage all these countervailing forces remains to be seen. What is clear is that Mullah Omar is the best chance for a settlement to work. If he cannot manage these players, it is unclear who else might command anything like that sort of broad appeal and deference.


For its part, Kabul also understands the need for reconciliation, though it will obviously seek terms that maintain the strength and cohesion of the regime Karzai has built. But having seen his brother killed as part of the Taliban’s assassination campaign and having announced that he has no intention of seeking another term in office, Karzai also wants an honorable retirement — one in which he remains in Afghanistan as a prominent and influential figure free of the constant threat of assassination by an unrestrained Taliban. (To retire in, say, northern Virginia, would be considered not only comparatively dishonorable but a repudiation of everything Karzai had ostensibly built since the U.S. invasion in 2001.) In short, he wants to survive.


Islamabad has long intended to be in the center of any negotiated settlement regarding Afghanistan so that it can maximize its influence in terms of the settlement itself and in post-settlement Afghanistan. Pakistan seeks to end the ideological basis for the ongoing armed struggle in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In other words, Islamabad wants everyone with influence and power — particularly within the Pashtun belt — to reject continued violent resistance. This would give Islamabad the basis for a broadly supported offensive against anyone who continues to fight and would strengthen Pakistan’s hand in its war against the Pakistani Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Pakistan sees this ability to exercise force in a more limited, but more effective and comprehensive, way as key to a lasting stabilization on both sides of the border. (Given the inherently cross-border nature of populations and fighting, stabilizing its side of the border entails stabilizing both sides.) Islamabad believes this stability would allow more comprehensive and deliberate efforts at consolidating Pakistani influence in Afghanistan.

At the same time, Pakistan will try to halt and ultimately reverse the expansion of Indian influence in Afghanistan. Similarly, Pakistan will also push for as small a U.S. presence in the country as possible.

Whether this sort of comprehensive settlement is achievable is open to question. But both Kabul and Islamabad see the way matters remained unsettled after the Soviet withdrawal as a major factor in the subsequent decades’ instability and war.

United States

After a decade of war,  Washington is attempting to reorient its international military presence and the focus of its foreign policy toward regions of more pressing geopolitical and long-term strategic significance. Having executed the surge as planned, the White House is now firmly committed to withdrawing most of its forces, though what sort of residual and special operations presence might remain is another question.

The sooner a viable political accommodation can be reached, the more orderly the U.S. withdrawal — and the more stable the region — will be. But the counterterrorism and sanctuary denial mission — keeping pressure on what remains of al Qaeda and preventing the re-emergence of a sanctuary from which it can plan and orchestrate transnational operations — will require at best a small fraction of the forces currently deployed in the country.

The question moving forward, then, is how quickly the United States and its allies can extract themselves from Afghanistan and what sort of negotiated settlement might be possible in the interim.

23892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: September 09, 2011, 02:28:10 PM
 cry cry cry
23893  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NYPD cop kills ex-pro wrestler on: September 09, 2011, 02:24:51 PM
NYPD Cop Kills Ex-Pro Wrestler Who Had Him in Chokehold


More in the story, but this stood out;

A former pro wrestler shot by a Manhattan narcotics cop has died, police said.

John Collado, 43, who police say had a plainclothes detective in a chokehold, was shot on Post Ave. in Inwood about 5 p.m. Tuesday. Collado died 12 hours later at Harlem Hospital.

A police source said Collado lifted the cop more than a foot off the ground, but was still able to grab a gun and fire backwards into Collado's lower chest.

Read more: 
23894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Apparently a third gun at the scene of BP Terry's murder was covered up on: September 09, 2011, 02:18:44 PM

EXCLUSIVE: Third Gun Linked to 'Fast and Furious' Identified at Border Agent's Murder


A third gun linked to "Operation Fast and Furious" was found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, new documents obtained exclusively by Fox News suggest, contradicting earlier assertions by federal agencies that police found only two weapons tied to the federal government's now infamous gun interdiction scandal.

Sources say emails support their contention that the FBI concealed evidence to protect a confidential informant. Sources close to the Terry case say the FBI informant works inside a major Mexican cartel and provided the money to obtain the weapons used to kill Terry.

Unlike the two AK-style assault weapons found at the scene, the third weapon could more easily be linked to the informant. To prevent that from happening, sources say, the third gun "disappeared."

In addition to the emails obtained by Fox News, an audio recording from a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent investigating the Terry case seems to confirm the existence of a third weapon. In that conversation, the agent refers to an "SKS assault rifle out of Texas" found at the Terry murder scene south of Tucson.

The FBI refused to answer a detailed set of questions submitted to officials by Fox News. Instead, agency spokesman Paul Bresson said, "The Brian Terry investigation is still ongoing so I cannot comment." Bresson referred Fox News to court records that only identify the two possible murder weapons.

However, in the hours after Terry was killed on Dec. 14, 2010, several emails written to top ATF officials suggest otherwise.
In one, an intelligence analyst writes that by 7:45 p.m. -- about 21 hours after the shooting -- she had successfully traced two weapons at the scene, and is now "researching the trace status of firearms recovered earlier today by the FBI."
In another email, deputy ATF-Phoenix director George Gillett asks: "Are those two (AK-47s) in addition to the gun already recovered this morning?"

The two AK-type assault rifles were purchased by Jaime Avila from the Lone Wolf Trading Co. outside of Phoenix on Jan. 16, 2010. Avila was recruited by his roommate Uriel Patino. Patino, according to sources, received $70,000 in "seed money" from the FBI informant late in 2009 to buy guns for the cartel.

According to a memo from Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, who oversaw the operation, Avila began purchasing firearms in November 2009, shortly after Patino, who ultimately purchased more than 600 guns and became the largest buyer of guns in Operation Fast and Furious.

Months ago, congressional investigators developed information that both the FBI and DEA not only knew about the failed gun operation, but that they may be complicit in it. House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, fired off letters in July requesting specific details from FBI director Robert Mueller and Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart.

"In recent weeks, we have learned of the possible involvement of paid FBI informants in Operation Fast and Furious," Issa and Grassley wrote to Mueller. "Specifically, at least one individual who is allegedly an FBI informant might have been in communication with, and was perhaps even conspiring with, at least one suspect whom ATF was monitoring."

Sources say the FBI is using the informants in a national security investigation. The men were allegedly debriefed by the FBI at a safe house in New Mexico last year.

Sources say the informants previously worked for the DEA and U.S. Marshall's Office but their contracts were terminated because the men were "stone-cold killers." The FBI however stopped their scheduled deportation because their high ranks within the cartel were useful.

In their July letter, Issa and Grassley asked Mueller if any of those informants were ever deported by the DEA or any other law enforcement entity and how they were repatriated.

Asked about the content of the emails, a former federal prosecutor who viewed them expressed shock.

"I have never seen anything like this. I can see the FBI may have an informant involved but I can't see them tampering with evidence. If this is all accurate, I'm stunned," the former prosecutor said.

“This information confirms what our sources were saying all along -- that the FBI was covering up the true circumstances of the murder of Brian Terry," added Mike Vanderboegh, an authority on the Fast and Furious investigation who runs a whistleblower website called Sipsey Street.

"It also confirms that the FBI was at least as culpable, and perhaps more culpable, than the ATF in the (Fast and Furious) scandal, and that there was some guiding hand above both these agencies (and the other agencies involved) coordinating the larger operation," Vanderboegh said.

Asked about the new evidence, Terry family attorney Pat McGroder said, "The family wants answers. They'd like to put this to rest and put closure to exactly what happened to Brian."

By William Lajeunesse
Published September 09, 2011
23895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Initial Radiation reports understated on: September 09, 2011, 02:10:02 PM
TOKYO—The Japanese government initially underestimated radiation releases from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, in part because of untimely rain, and so exposed people unnecessarily, a report released this week by a government research institute says.

Enlarge Image

An aerial view of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station as seen on March 24, 2011.
.Adding to earlier evidence of initial government missteps, the report by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency says an unlucky combination of heavy rains and shifting winds meant that much of the airborne radioactive debris washed down over a broad area around the crippled plant. Before the changing weather, the radiation had been expected to drift over the Pacific Ocean, which would have posed less of a risk to public health, at least in the short term.

"Local residents would have stayed indoors and avoided radiation if they had been told about the dangers of the rainfall," said Tetsuo Sawada, assistant professor of reactor engineering at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The Japanese government's initial evacuation zone—after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the plant's cooling systems and caused core meltdowns—was within 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) of the stricken plant. But as the study highlights, radiation spread far beyond the 20-kilometer radius, with rainstorms contributing to the ground contamination.

According to the agency, the rain came on the worst possible day for plant operators—March 15, the day an explosion struck the plant's No. 2 reactor, punching a large hole in the suppression chamber that is part of the primary containment vessel, the main shield for radiation releases. The gash allowed toxic air to leak into the atmosphere without check.

According to the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, radiation releases peaked around that day, dropping as workers managed to cool down the badly damaged No. 2 unit, as well as the other three seriously damaged reactors.

"If there was no rain on March 15, the ground contamination would have been far less severe than it is," said Haruyasu Nagai, an author of the report.

Two earlier explosions, just after the disaster, at reactors Nos. 1 and 3, didn't release nearly as much radiation because they occurred outside the primary containment vessels. The explosion at No. 2, by contrast, was caused by a buildup of pressure inside the containment vessel, as the overheating reactor kept producing steam.

The rain started falling in areas around the plant in the afternoon of March 15. At the same time, the wind, which had been heading east—as is normal for the season—shifted and started heading northwest, carrying the toxic air deep into the country.

By the time the rain stopped, a large swath of land to the northwest of the plant, well beyond the 20-kilometer radius, was contaminated far more than allowed for human habitation. In late April, the government belatedly decided to evacuate residents in these areas.

"Much of the radioactive substance would have been carried into the ocean on an easterly wind eventually," says the report's author, who estimates about half of the radiation released in March ended up falling into the ocean.

Asked about the latest report, a spokesman for the nuclear-safety agency said the results appeared to be valid. "The radiation is likely to have spread as the JAEA analysis suggests," Yoshinori Moriyama said.

23896  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: September 09, 2011, 02:04:35 PM

A cowboy appeared before St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

“Have you ever done anything of particular merit?” St. Peter asked.

“Well, I can think of one thing,” the cowboy offered.

“On a trip to the Big Horn Mountains out in Wyoming, I came upon a gang of bikers who were threatening a young woman. I directed them to leave her alone, but they wouldn’t listen. So, I approached the largest and most tattooed biker and smacked him in the face, kicked his bike over, ripped out his nose ring, and threw it on the ground. I yelled, “Now, back off or I’ll kick the crap out of all of you!”

St. Peter was impressed, “When did this happen?”

“Couple of minutes ago.”
23897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: September 09, 2011, 01:46:14 PM
"Thread Nazi" here again.  The preceding posts I think would do just fine on the China-US thread or the Military thread.

I picture this thread as being more about "the vision thing"; e.g. "The US's unipolar moment is over.  Now what?"
23898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 09, 2011, 12:29:29 PM
For the record I live some 15-20 miles from Santa Monica.  I drive a 21 year old truck and make my living teaching martial arts.   tongue
23899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: September 09, 2011, 12:24:36 PM
The US would not need Turkey for anti-Iranian missile defense if Baraq had not pussed out on the AMD batteries in eastern Europe.

Anyway, more to the point, it makes perfect sense to me that the best thing the US could do would be to sign a mutual defense treaty with Israel.  Reliable and highly capable ally (e.g. two nuke enemies-- Iraq and Syria-- nipped in the bud), permanent base of operations in the mid-east, end to any doubt about viability of Israel's survival, great intel, foxy women, and much more.

23900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fact checking Baraq's speech on: September 09, 2011, 11:42:19 AM
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