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23901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That'll teach 'em on: August 16, 2011, 09:19:20 PM
Pravda on the Beach reported this morning that the three officials at BATF responsible for Op F&F have been promoted, , , cry angry angry
23902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GB on Gov. Perry on Bernanke on: August 16, 2011, 05:03:51 PM
23903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Lessons from Europe-2 on: August 16, 2011, 04:49:34 PM
'The real lesson from Europe," wrote Paul Krugman in January 2010, "is actually the opposite of what conservatives claim: Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works." Here are some postcards from the social democracy that works.

• In Britain, 239 patients died of malnutrition in the country's public hospitals in 2007, according to a charity called Age U.K. And at any given time, a quarter-million Britons have been made to wait 18 weeks or longer for medical treatment. This follows a decade in which funding for the National Health Service doubled.

• In France, the incidence of violent crimes rose by nearly 15% between 2002 and 2008, according to statistics provided by Eurostat. In Italy violent crime was up 38%. In the EU as a whole, the rate rose by 6% despite declines in robbery and murder.

• As of June 2011, Eurostat reports that the unemployment rate in the euro zone was 9.9%. For the under-25s, it was 20.3%. In Spain, youth unemployment stands at 45.7%, which tops even the Greek rate of 38.5%. Then there's this remarkable detail: Among Europeans aged 18-34, no fewer than 46%—51 million people in all—live with their parents.

View Full Image

Zuma Press
Rioters in London: Poster children for social democracy.
.• In 2009, 37.4% of European children were born outside of marriage. That's more than twice the 1990 rate of 17.4%. The number of children per woman for the EU is 1.56, catastrophically below the replacement rate of 2.1. Roughly half of all Europeans belong in the "dependency" category on account of their youth or old age. Just 64% of the working-age population actually works.

I could go on in this vein for pages, but you get the point. Europe is not a happy place and hasn't been for nearly a generation. It's about to get much worse.

This isn't simply because Europe's economic crisis is still in its infancy, although it is. The tab for bailing out Greece, Portugal and Ireland alone—which together account for about 5% of euro-zone GDP—already runs to hundreds of billions of euros, with no resolution in sight. By contrast, Italy's GDP is more than seven times as large as Greece's. Italy is too big to fail—and too big to save. If the so-called PIIGS wind up leaving the euro zone (or if Germany beats them to it by returning to a Deutsche mark), the dislocations will take years to sort through.

Even then, Europe will still have to address the more profound challenges of economic growth, demography and entitlement reform. But in order for it to do so it must have a clear idea of the nature of the challenges it faces. It doesn't. It also requires political resources to overcome the beneficiaries—labor unions, pensioners, university students, farmers, Brussels technocrats and so on—of the current system. That's not going to happen.

Politics, for starters, prevents it. Whenever a supposed "neo-liberal" comes to power—whether it's Nicolas Sarkozy or Silvio Berlusconi or Angela Merkel—they typically wind up doing no more than tinkering around the edges of regulatory or tax reform. That's because they are stymied by coalition compromises at home, or by European compromises in Brussels, or by some deeper failure of will and character.

Margaret Thatcher was the exception to this rule. But in both Britain and Europe she has had neither equals nor heirs.

Demography also prevents reform. The median age in the EU is 40.6 years. (In the U.S. it's 36.9). Older populations typically resist change, demand the benefits they've been taxed all their working lives for—and vote. The demographic balance is only going to tip further in their favor, and it will change only when younger Europeans decide that children, plural, are worth having. What that will take, only a faith in future prosperity—and in God—can provide. Outside of its growing Muslim population, Europe has neither.

Finally, there is ideology. For the past four decades, "Europeanism" has been an amalgam of Keynesian economics, bureaucratic centralization, and welfarism, corporate and social. Even now, the ideology remains unshaken by events. Though there is plenty of talk about getting spending under control and balancing budgets (typically by way of tax increases), nobody in Europe is proposing a serious growth agenda. At the beginning of the Greek crisis I asked a visiting official from Athens what his ideas were for growth: He suggested olive tree plantations and wind farms. He might as well have thrown a Sicilian Expedition into the mix.

For the U.S., none of this is yet in our cards: That's guaranteed by the tea party that so many Europeans (and Paul Krugman) find so vulgar. But it's worth noting what the fruits of social democracy—a world in which, as Kipling once wrote, "all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins"—really are. And in the wake of the U.K. riots, the rest of his prophecy also bears repeating:

As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as fire will burn,

The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

23904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Grow, baby, grow on: August 16, 2011, 02:16:21 PM

second post:

Even with a lousy jobs report, weak GDP numbers and stock market turbulence, House Republicans have been slow to propose policies that would help expand the economy. The GOP has chosen to emphasize austerity—reduced spending, less debt—instead of growth. Where are today's Jack Kemps?

The good news is that key House Republicans are planning on rolling out a tax-reform plan with growth incentives as early as next month. My sources say this would be a pre-emptive move to get out ahead of the bipartisan "super committee" charged with raising revenues and possibly modernizing the tax code.

The idea taking shape is to pass something like the broad outline of the tax changes in the "roadmap" budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the House earlier this year. That plan called for a 25% top tax rate on individuals and corporations. There is also interest in moving to a "territorial" tax system so that U.S.-based multinational firms don't face one of the highest tax rates in the industrialized world. The GOP plan is expected to be revenue neutral so that it does not increase the deficit.

House Republicans are hoping to blunt criticism voiced often by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that the GOP has done nothing for job creation. Republicans also hope a House-passed tax reform bill will put intense pressure on Senate Democrats to come up with their own plan.

"We've got to be seen as promoting our own growth and jobs agenda," said Rep. Jim Jordan, who heads the conservative Republican Study Committee and is a fan of the House passing an ambitious tax plan. "We haven't done that of late."

Any Republican plan would have to move through the House Ways and Means Committee, and that means GOP Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the committee chairman, would play a big role. Mr. Camp's office didn't respond to a call for comment, but in the past he has told me that he's a big supporter of lower rates in exchange for a broader base. And in recent weeks Mr. Camp has held committee hearings on tax reform. As one House member put it to me, "we've got to convince Dave that this is his chance to make history."

23905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: August 16, 2011, 02:14:36 PM

Would you please post that in the Islam in American thread as well?  Thank you.
23906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: August 16, 2011, 02:02:29 PM
23907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: August 16, 2011, 12:27:16 PM

See 8/16/11 entry of John Stewart on Ron Paul's lack of media coverage:
23908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman: Rethinking Arab Spring on: August 16, 2011, 12:21:54 PM
By George Friedman

On Dec. 17, 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire in a show of public protest. The self-immolation triggered unrest in Tunisia and ultimately the resignation of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. This was followed by unrest in a number of Arab countries that the global press dubbed the “Arab Spring.” The standard analysis of the situation was that oppressive regimes had been sitting on a volcano of liberal democratic discontent. The belief was that the Arab Spring was a political uprising by masses demanding liberal democratic reform and that this uprising, supported by Western democracies, would generate sweeping political change across the Arab world.

It is now more than six months since the beginning of the Arab Spring, and it is important to take stock of what has happened and what has not happened. The reasons for the widespread unrest go beyond the Arab world, although, obviously, the dynamics within that world are important in and of themselves. However, the belief in an Arab Spring helped shape European and American policies in the region and the world. If the assumptions of this past January and February prove insufficient or even wrong, then there will be regional and global consequences.

It is important to begin with the fact that, to this point, no regime has fallen in the Arab world. Individuals such as Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have been replaced, but the regimes themselves, which represent the manner of governing, have not changed. Some regimes have come under massive attack but have not fallen, as in Libya, Syria and Yemen. And in many countries, such as Jordan, the unrest never amounted to a real threat to the regime. The kind of rapid and complete collapse that we saw in Eastern Europe in 1989 with the fall of communism has not happened in the Arab world. More important, what regime changes that might come of the civil wars in Libya and Syria are not going to be clearly victorious, those that are victorious are not going to be clearly democratic and those that are democratic are obviously not going to be liberal. The myth that beneath every Libyan is a French republican yearning to breathe free is dubious in the extreme.

Consider the case of Mubarak, who was forced from office and put on trial, although the regime — a mode of governing in which the military remains the main arbiter of the state — remains intact. Egypt is now governed by a committee of military commanders, all of whom had been part of Mubarak’s regime. Elections are coming, but the opposition is deeply divided between Islamists and secularists, and personalities and ideological divisions in turn divide these factions. The probability of a powerful democratic president emerging who controls the sprawling ministries in Cairo and the country’s security and military apparatus is slim, and the Egyptian military junta is already acting to suppress elements that are too radical and too unpredictable.

The important question is why these regimes have been able to survive. In a genuine revolution, the regime loses power. The anti-communist forces overwhelmed the Polish Communist government in 1989 regardless of the divisions within the opposition. The sitting regimes were not in a position to determine their own futures, let alone the futures of their countries. There was a transition, but they were not in control of it. Similarly, in 1979, when the Shah of Iran was overthrown, his military and security people were not the ones managing the transition after the shah left the country. They were the ones on trial. There was unrest in Egypt in January and February 2011, but the idea that it amounted to a revolution flew in the face of the reality of Egypt and of what revolutions actually look like.

Shaping the Western Narrative

There were three principles shaping the Western narrative on the Arab Spring. The first was that these regimes were overwhelmingly unpopular. The second was that the opposition represented the overwhelming will of the people. The third was that once the unrest began it was unstoppable. Add to all that the notion that social media facilitated the organization of the revolution and the belief that the region was in the midst of a radical transformation can be easily understood.

It was in Libya that these propositions created the most serious problems. Tunisia and Egypt were not subject to very much outside influence. Libya became the focus of a significant Western intervention. Moammar Gadhafi had ruled Libya for nearly 42 years. He could not have ruled for that long without substantial support. That didn’t mean he had majority support (or that he didn’t). It simply meant that the survival of his regime did not interest only a handful of people, but that a large network of Libyans benefitted from Gadhafi’s rule and stood to lose a great deal if he fell. They were prepared to fight for his regime.

The opposition to him was real, but its claim to represent the overwhelming majority of Libyan people was dubious. Many of the leaders had been part of the Gadhafi regime, and it is doubtful they were selected for their government posts because of their personal popularity. Others were members of tribes that were opposed to the regime but not particularly friendly to each other. Under the mythology of the Arab Spring, the eastern coalition represented the united rage of the Libyan people against Gadhafi’s oppression. Gadhafi was weak and isolated, wielding an army that was still loyal and could inflict terrible vengeance on the Libyan people. But if the West would demonstrate its ability to prevent slaughter in Benghazi, the military would realize its own isolation and defect to the rebels.

It didn’t happen that way. First, Gadhafi’s regime was more than simply a handful of people terrorizing the population. It was certainly a brutal regime, but it hadn’t survived for 42 years on that alone. It had substantial support in the military and among key tribes. Whether this was a majority is as unclear as whether the eastern coalition was a majority. But it was certainly a substantial group with much to fight for and a great deal to lose if the regime fell. So, contrary to expectations in the West, the regime has continued to fight and to retain the loyalty of a substantial number of people. Meanwhile, the eastern alliance has continued to survive under the protection of NATO but has been unable to form a united government or topple Gadhafi. Most important, it has always been a dubious assertion that what would emerge if the rebels did defeat Gadhafi would be a democratic regime, let alone a liberal democracy, and this has become increasingly obvious as the war has worn on. Whoever would replace Gadhafi would not clearly be superior to him, which is saying quite a lot.

A very similar process is taking place in Syria. There, the minority Alawite government of the Assad family, which has ruled Syria for 41 years, is facing an uprising led by the majority Sunnis, or at least some segment of them. Again, the assumption was that the regime was illegitimate and therefore weak and would crumble in the face of concerted resistance. That assumption proved wrong. The Assad regime may be running a minority government, but it has substantial support from a military of mostly Alawite officers leading a largely Sunni conscript force. The military has benefited tremendously from the Assad regime — indeed, it brought it to power. The one thing the Assads were careful to do was to make it beneficial to the military and security services to remain loyal to the regime. So far, they largely have. The danger for the regime looking forward is if the growing strain on the Alawite-dominated army divisions leads to fissures within the Alawite community and in the army itself, raising the potential for a military coup.

In part, these Arab leaders have nowhere to go. The senior leadership of the military could be tried in The Hague, and the lower ranks are subject to rebel retribution. There is a rule in war, which is that you should always give your enemy room to retreat. The Assad supporters, like the Gadhafi supporters and the supporters of Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, have no room to retreat. So they have fought on for months, and it is not clear they will capitulate anytime soon.

Foreign governments, from the United States to Turkey, have expressed their exasperation with the Syrians, but none has seriously contemplated an intervention. There are two reasons for this: First, following the Libyan intervention, everyone became more wary of assuming the weakness of Arab regimes, and no one wants a showdown on the ground with a desperate Syrian military. Second, observers have become cautious in asserting that widespread unrest constitutes a popular revolution or that the revolutionaries necessarily want to create a liberal democracy. The Sunnis in Syria might well want a democracy, but they might well be interested in creating a Sunni “Islamic” state. Knowing that it is important to be careful what you wish for, everyone seems to be issuing stern warnings to Damascus without doing very much.

Syria is an interesting case because it is, perhaps, the only current issue that Iran and Israel agree on. Iran is deeply invested in the Assad regime and wary of increased Sunni power in Syria. Israel is just as deeply concerned that the Assad regime — a known and manageable devil from the Israeli point of view — could collapse and be replaced by a Sunni Islamist regime with close ties to Hamas and what is left of al Qaeda in the Levant. These are fears, not certainties, but the fears make for interesting bedfellows.

Geopolitical Significance

Since late 2010, we have seen three kinds of uprisings in the Arab world. The first are those that merely brushed by the regime. The second are those that created a change in leaders but not in the way the country was run. The third are those that turned into civil wars, such as Libya and Yemen. There is also the interesting case of Bahrain, where the regime was saved by the intervention of Saudi Arabia, but while the rising there conformed to the basic model of the Arab Spring — failed hopes — it lies in a different class, caught between Saudi and Iranian power.

The three examples do not mean that there is not discontent in the Arab world or a desire for change. They do not mean that change will not happen, or that discontent will not assume sufficient force to overthrow regimes. They also do not mean that whatever emerges will be liberal democratic states pleasing to Americans and Europeans.

This becomes the geopolitically significant part of the story. Among Europeans and within the U.S. State Department and the Obama administration is an ideology of human rights — the idea that one of the major commitments of Western countries should be supporting the creation of regimes resembling their own. This assumes all the things that we have discussed: that there is powerful discontent in oppressive states, that the discontent is powerful enough to overthrow regimes, and that what follows would be the sort of regime that the West would be able to work with.

The issue isn’t whether human rights are important but whether supporting unrest in repressive states automatically strengthens human rights. An important example was Iran in 1979, when opposition to the oppression of the shah’s government was perceived as a movement toward liberal democracy. What followed might have been democratic but it was hardly liberal. Indeed, many of the myths of the Arab Spring had their roots both in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and later in Iran’s 2009 Green Movement, when a narrow uprising readily crushed by the regime was widely viewed as massive opposition and widespread support for liberalization.

The world is more complicated and more varied than that. As we saw in the Arab Spring, oppressive regimes are not always faced with massed risings, and unrest does not necessarily mean mass support. Nor are the alternatives necessarily more palatable than what went before or the displeasure of the West nearly as fearsome as Westerners like to think. Libya is a case study on the consequences of starting a war with insufficient force. Syria makes a strong case on the limits of soft power. Egypt and Tunisia represent a textbook lesson on the importance of not deluding yourself.

The pursuit of human rights requires ruthless clarity as to whom you are supporting and what their chances are. It is important to remember that it is not Western supporters of human rights who suffer the consequences of failed risings, civil wars or revolutionary regimes that are committed to causes other than liberal democracy.

The misreading of the situation can also create unnecessary geopolitical problems. The fall of the Egyptian regime, unlikely as it is at this point, would be just as likely to generate an Islamist regime as a liberal democracy. The survival of the Assad regime could lead to more slaughter than we have seen and a much firmer base for Iran. No regimes have fallen since the Arab Spring, but when they do it will be important to remember 1979 and the conviction that nothing could be worse than the shah’s Iran, morally or geopolitically. Neither was quite the case.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in the Arab world who want liberal democracy. It simply means that they are not powerful enough to topple regimes or maintain control of new regimes even if they did succeed. The Arab Spring is, above all, a primer on wishful thinking in the face of the real world.

23909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / T. Paine on: August 16, 2011, 12:13:52 PM
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." --Thomas Paine, The American Crises, No. 1, 1776

23910  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: determined bull on: August 16, 2011, 12:10:34 PM
The man has not flinched in his call.


Data Watch

Industrial production surged 0.9% in July, blowing away the consensus expected gain of 0.4% To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 8/16/2011

Industrial production surged 0.9% in July, blowing away the consensus expected gain of 0.4%. Including revisions to prior months, production rose 1.2%. Output is up 3.7% in the past year.

Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, was up 0.7% in July, but down 0.2% including revisions to previous months. Auto production rose 5.2% in July. Non-auto manufacturing increased 0.2%. Auto production is down 0.2% versus a year ago while non-auto manufacturing has risen 4.0%.
The production of high-tech equipment fell 0.1% in July but is up 8.3% versus a year ago.
Overall capacity utilization rose to 77.5% in July from 76.9% in June. Manufacturing capacity use increased to 75.0% in July from 74.6% in June.
Implications: As of July, the soft patch in manufacturing had ended. Industrial production surged 0.9% in July, the largest monthly gain this year. The July jump was fueled by a 5.2% expansion in auto production.  This monthly increase – at an 83% annualized rate - suggests that the supply-chain disruptions coming from Japan have ended.  We expect more increases like this in the next few months.  Excluding autos, manufacturing production increased 0.2% in June, and is up 4% versus a year ago.  Corporate profits and cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies are at record highs.  Meanwhile, companies can fully expense these purchases for tax purposes through year-end.  This suggests business equipment purchases and production should rise as the second half of 2011 unfolds.  Today’s report also showed that capacity utilization hit its highest level since August 2008, coming in at 77.5. As it did in 2010, the industrial sector has reasserted its leadership of the recovery.  The rise in overall, nation-wide production during July suggests that the weakness reported by the Empire State manufacturing index (which fell to -7.7 in August from -3.8 in July) is unlikely to continue.  We believe that purchasing managers surveys have become less reliable.  They seem to be influenced more by emotion and uncertainty than they have in the past.
23911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: August 16, 2011, 11:56:12 AM
I went to Scott Grannis's blog and read the whole piece as well as some other entries-- as always, Grannis is WELL worth the time.   What I took away is that a major source of the increase is inflows of money fleeing Europe.

1 in 3 in NJ? shocked  Citation?   

I lack citation, I think it was a FOX news piece, but the number I heard was 1 in 7 Americans is on food stamps shocked shocked shocked
23912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: July housing starts on: August 16, 2011, 11:43:19 AM
Housing starts fell 1.5% in July to 604,000 units at an annual rate To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 8/16/2011

Housing starts fell 1.5% in July to 604,000 units at an annual rate, slightly beating the consensus expected pace of 600,000.  Starts are up 9.8% versus a year ago.

The decline in July was due to single-family starts, which fell 4.9%.  Multi-family starts (which are extremely volatile from month to month) rose 7.8% in July. Multi-family starts are up 47.9% from a year ago while single-family starts are down 0.9%.
Starts fell in the Midwest and West, but rose in the Northeast and South.
New building permits fell 3.2% in July to a 597,000 annual rate, below the consensus expected pace of 605,000. Compared to a year ago, permits for multi-unit homes are up 16.3% while permits for single-family units are down 1.2%.
Implications: Housing starts came in at a 604,000 annual pace in July, slightly beating consensus expectations.  While this was lower than last month, the level of starts remains far above levels we saw earlier this year, supporting our view from a few months ago that the dip in home building in the Spring was due to the unusually harsh tornado season. The decline in July was due to single-family starts, which fell 4.9%.  In the volatile multi-family sector (which has been trending higher since late 2009), starts rose 7.8%.  After rising last month, the total number of homes under construction fell again – to the lowest level on record (since at least 1970).  This decline was largely due to the fact that building completions rose 11.8%, to the highest level in over a year.  We should see a shift again next month to fewer completions and rising starts as the housing market slowly recovers.  Based on population growth and “scrappage” rates, home building must increase substantially to avoid shortages in some regions of the country and with the ongoing shift toward renting rather than owning, growth in multi-family construction should continue to outpace the growth in single-family units.  In other news this morning, import prices rose 0.3% in July.  Overall import prices are up 14% in the past year and up 5.5% excluding oil.  Export prices declined 0.4% in July but are up 9.8% in the past year.  Ex-agriculture, export prices rose 0.2% in July and are up 8.3% in the past year, the largest increase on record (dating back to the mid-1980s).
23913  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: August 15, 2011, 03:56:33 PM
Glad to see Point Dog and Dog Kostas in the conversation.

I would raise the question that even when we note that the Greek riots and the British riots are arguably different in nature, is there not a certain commonality with the French riots/car burnings, even though the group involved there is defined by religion?

In other words, does the multi-culti progressive socialism of the Euro models tend to produce this result?   

Also to wonder-- where do things go from here?

Separate point:  As much as I enjoy lively political conversation, remember we are also allowed to examine unorganized militia issues and practical matters e.g. a tennis racket should be able to pass muster in an intensely NPE (non-permissive environment) like Great Britain, but should serve as a rather effective stick.
23914  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 15, 2011, 03:44:42 PM
I'm thinking your wife appreciates them more than me , , ,  cheesy
23915  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 63-year-old holds off robber with rear naked choke on: August 15, 2011, 03:43:23 PM
23916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: August 15, 2011, 03:42:02 PM
The question presented is a logical and fair one, but so far it appears the empirical evidence is as GM states.
23917  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 15, 2011, 07:28:42 AM
I am blessed to get to do what I do and to do it with whom I do.
23918  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 15, 2011, 06:40:15 AM
Woof C-Mighty:

So very glad to have you with us, and thanks for the use of your car for the anti-carjacking segment.

I feel blessed that I get to do what I do and to do it with the people with whom I do it.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog

PS:  I love that credo of "Small dog, big balls"  grin
23919  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife for Self Defense on: August 15, 2011, 06:36:42 AM
A lot of wisdom to be gleaned there.

Disclaimer: the following is of financial benefit to me  cheesy

Some additional thoughts:

1) KNOW THE LAW OF WHERE YOU LIVE!  Your legal environment matters!

2) All three volumes of our Die Less Often series.

Guro Crafty
23920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cryptogram on: August 15, 2011, 05:49:01 AM

                August 15, 2011

               by Bruce Schneier
       Chief Security Technology Officer, BT

A free monthly newsletter providing summaries, analyses, insights, and commentaries on security: computer and otherwise.

For back issues, or to subscribe, visit <>.

You can read this issue on the web at
<>.  These same essays and news items appear in the "Schneier on Security" blog at <>, along with a lively comment section.  An RSS feed is available.

** *** ***** ******* *********** *************

In this issue:
      Developments in Facial Recognition
      Schneier News
      Is There a Hacking Epidemic?

** *** ***** ******* *********** *************

      Developments in Facial Recognition

Eventually, it will work.  You'll be able to wear a camera that will automatically recognize someone walking towards you, and a earpiece that will relay who that person is and maybe something about him.  None of the technologies required to make this work are hard; it's just a matter of getting the error rate down low enough for it to be a useful system.
  And there have been a number of recent research results and news stories that illustrate what this new world might look like.

The police want this sort of system.  MORIS is an iris-scanning technology that several police forces in the U.S. are using.  The next step is the face-scanning glasses that the Brazilian police claim they will be wearing at the 2014 World Cup.

     A small camera fitted to the glasses can capture 400 facial images
     per second and send them to a central computer database storing up
     to 13 million faces.

     The system can compare biometric data at 46,000 points on a face
     and will immediately signal any matches to known criminals or
     people wanted by police.

In the future, this sort of thing won't be limited to the police.
Facebook has recently embarked on a major photo tagging project, and already has the largest collection of identified photographs in the world outside of a government.  Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have combined the public part of that database with a camera and face-recognition software to identify students on campus.  (The paper fully describing their work is under review and not online yet, but slides describing the results can be found here.)

Of course, there are false positives -- as there are with any system like this.  That's not a big deal if the application is a billboard with face-recognition serving different ads depending on the gender and age
-- and eventually the identity -- of the person looking at it, but is more problematic if the application is a legal one.

In Boston, someone erroneously had his driver's license revoked:

     It turned out Gass was flagged because he looks like another
     driver, not because his image was being used to create a fake
     identity. His driving privileges were returned but, he alleges in a
     lawsuit, only after 10 days of bureaucratic wrangling to prove he
     is who he says he is.

     And apparently, he has company. Last year, the facial recognition
     system picked out more than 1,000 cases that resulted in State
     Police investigations, officials say. And some of those people are
     guilty of nothing more than looking like someone else. Not all go
     through the long process that Gass says he endured, but each must
     visit the Registry with proof of their identity.


     At least 34 states are using such systems. They help authorities
     verify a person's claimed identity and track down people who have
     multiple licenses under different aliases, such as underage people
     wanting to buy alcohol, people with previous license suspensions,
     and people with criminal records trying to evade the law.

The problem is less with the system, and more with the guilty-until-proven-innocent way in which the system is used.

     Kaprielian said the Registry gives drivers enough time to respond
     to the suspension letters and that it is the individual's
     "burden'" to clear up any confusion. She added that protecting
     the public far outweighs any inconvenience Gass or anyone else
     might experience.

     "A driver's license is not a matter of civil rights. It's not a
     right. It's a privilege," she said. "Yes, it is an inconvenience
     [to have to clear your name], but lots of people have their
     identities stolen, and that's an inconvenience, too."

Related, there's a system embedded in a pair of glasses that automatically analyzes and relays micro-facial expressions.  The goal is to help autistic people who have trouble reading emotions, but you could easily imagine this sort of thing becoming common.  And what happens when we start relying on these computerized systems and ignoring our own intuition?

And finally, CV Dazzle is camouflage from face detection.


Brazilian face-scanning glasses:

Facebook photo tagging:

Carnegie Mellon research:

Billboard with face-recognition:

Boston false positive:

IEEE Spectrum and The Economist have published similar articles.

Micro facial expression analysis glasses.

CV Dazzle:

** *** ***** ******* *********** *************


Ross Anderson discusses the technical and policy details of the British
phone hacking scandal.

This is really clever: the Telex anti-censorship system uses deep-packet
inspection to avoid Internet censorship.

The police arrested sixteen suspected members of the Anonymous hacker group.

Google detects malware in its search data, and alerts users.  There's a
lot that Google sees as a result of its unique and prominent position in
the Internet.  Some of it is going to be stuff they never considered.
And while they use a lot of it to make money, it's good of them to give
this one back to the Internet users.

Smuggling drugs in unwitting people's car trunks.
This attack works because 1) there's a database of keys available to
lots of people, and 2) both the SENTRI system and the victims are

Revenge effects of too-safe playground equipment.

iPhone iris scanning technology:

Good article on liabilities and computer security.
I've been talking about liabilities for about a decade now.  Here are
essays I wrote in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006.

Matt Blaze analyzes the 2010 U.S. Wiretap Report.

I second Matt's recommendation of Susan Landau's book "Surveillance or
Security: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies" (MIT Press,
2011).  It's an excellent discussion of the security and politics of

Data privacy as a prisoner's dilemma: a good analysis.
The solution -- and one endorsed by the essay -- is a comprehensive
privacy law.  That reduces the incentive to defect.

ShareMeNot is a Firefox add-on for preventing tracking from third-party
buttons (like the Facebook "Like" button or the Google "+1" button)
until the user actually chooses to interact with them.  That is,
ShareMeNot doesn't disable/remove these buttons completely.  Rather, it
allows them to render on the page, but prevents the cookies from being
sent until the user actually clicks on them, at which point ShareMeNot
releases the cookies and the user gets the desired behavior (i.e., they
can Like or +1 the page).

Hacking Apple laptop batteries.

Bypassing the lock on luggage.

Interesting paper: "Science Fiction Prototyping and Security Education:
Cultivating Contextual and Societal Thinking in Computer Security
Education and Beyond," by Tadayoshi Kohno and Brian David Johnson. or

Breaking the Xilinx Virtex-II FPGA bitstream encryption.  It's a
power-analysis attack, which makes it much harder to defend against.
And since the attack model is an engineer trying to reverse-engineer the
chip, it's a valid attack.

Attacking embedded systems in prison doors.
This seems like a minor risk today; Stuxnet was a military-grade effort,
and beyond the reach of your typical criminal organization.  But that
can only change, as people study and learn from the reverse-engineered
Stuxnet code and as hacking PLCs becomes more common.  As we move from
mechanical, or even electro-mechanical, systems to digital systems, and
as we network those digital systems, this sort of vulnerability is going
to only become more common.

The article is in the context of the big Facebook lawsuit, but the part
about identifying people by their writing style is interesting.
It seems reasonable that we have a linguistic fingerprint, although 1)
there are far fewer of them than finger fingerprints, 2) they're easier
to fake.  It's probably not much of a stretch to take that software that
"identifies bundles of linguistic features, hundreds in all" and use the
data to automatically modify my writing to look like someone else's.

A good criticism of the science behind author recognition, and a paper
on how to evade these systems.

Seems that the one-time pad was not first invented by Vernam.
The paper:

Two items on hacking lotteries.  The first is about someone who figured
out how to spot winners in a scratch-off tic-tac-toe style game, and a
daily draw style game where expected payout can exceed the ticket price.
  The second is about someone who has won the lottery four times, with
speculation that she had advance knowledge of where and when certain
jackpot-winning scratch-off tickets would be sold.

Home-made Wi-Fi hacking, phone snooping, UAV.

German police call airport full-body scanners useless.

Here's a story about full-body scanners that are overly sensitive to
sweaty armpits.

The Zodiac cipher was announced as cracked, but the break was a hoax.

XKCD on the CIA hack.

I've been using the phrase "arms race" to describe the world's
militaries' rush into cyberspace for a couple of years now.  Here's a
good article on the topic that uses the same phrase.

New bank-fraud Trojan.

An article on MRI lie detectors -- lots of interesting research.
My previous blog post on the topic.

There's a security story from biology I've used a few times: plants that
use chemicals to call in airstrikes by wasps on the herbivores attacking
them.  This is a new variation:  a species of orchid that emits the same
signals as a trick, to get pollinated.

I'm a big fan of taxonomies, and this "Taxonomy of Operational Cyber
Security Risks" -- from Carnegie Mellon -- seems like a useful one.

GPRS hacked.

Security flaws in encrypted police radios:  "Why (Special Agent) Johnny
(Still) Can't Encrypt: A Security Analysis of the APCO Project 25
Two-Way Radio System," by Sandy Clark, Travis Goodspeed, Perry Metzger,
Zachary Wasserman, Kevin Xu, and Matt Blaze.  I've heard Matt talk about
this project several times.  It's great work, and a fascinating insight
into the usability problems of encryption in the real world.

Counterfeit pilot IDs and uniforms will now be sufficient to bypass
airport security.  TSA is testing a program to not screen pilots.

The African crested rat applies tree poison to its fur to make itself
more deadly.

A couple of weeks ago Wired reported the discovery of a new,
undeletable, web cookie.
The Wired article was very short on specifics, so I waited until one of
the researchers -- Ashkan Soltani -- wrote up more details.  He finally
did, in a quite technical essay.

** *** ***** ******* *********** *************

      Schneier News

My new book, "Liars and Outliers," has a cover.  Publication is still
scheduled for the end of February -- in time for the RSA Conference --
assuming I finish the manuscript in time.
Older posts on the book:

Interview with me from the Homeland Security News Wire.

** *** ***** ******* *********** *************

      Is There a Hacking Epidemic?

Freakonomics asks: "Why has there been such a spike in hacking recently?
Or is it merely a function of us paying closer attention and of
institutions being more open about reporting security breaches?"

They posted five answers, including mine:

     The apparent recent hacking epidemic is more a function of news
     reporting than an actual epidemic. Like shark attacks or school
     violence, natural fluctuations in data become press epidemics, as
     more reporters write about more events, and more people read about
     them. Just because the average person reads more articles about
     more events doesn't mean that there are more events -- just more

     Hacking for fun -- like LulzSec -- has been around for decades.
     It's where hacking started, before criminals discovered the
     Internet in the 1990s. Criminal hacking for profit -- like the
     Citibank hack -- has been around for over a decade.  International
     espionage existed for millennia before the Internet, and has never
     taken a holiday.

     The past several months have brought us a string of newsworthy
     hacking incidents. First there was the hacking group Anonymous, and
     its hacktivism attacks as a response to the pressure to interdict
     contributions to Julian Assange's legal defense fund and the
     torture of Bradley Manning.  Then there was the probably
     espionage-related attack against RSA, Inc. and its authentication
     token -- made more newsworthy because of the bungling of the
     disclosure by the company -- and the subsequent attack against
     Lockheed Martin. And finally, there were the very public attacks
     against Sony, which became the company to attack simply because
     everyone else was attacking it, and the public hacktivism by

     None of this is new.  None of this is unprecedented.  To a security
     professional, most of it isn't even interesting. And while
     national intelligence organizations and some criminal groups are
     organized, hacker groups like Anonymous and LulzSec are much more
     informal. Despite the impression we get from movies, there is no
     organization. There's no membership, there are no dues, there is
     no initiation. It's just a bunch of guys. You too can join
     Anonymous -- just hack something, and claim you're a member.
     That's probably what the members of Anonymous arrested in Turkey
     were: 32 people who just decided to use that name.

     It's not that things are getting worse; it's that things were
     always this bad. To a lot of security professionals, the value of
     some of these groups is to graphically illustrate what we've been
     saying for years: organizations need to beef up their security
     against a wide variety of threats. But the recent news epidemic
     also illustrates how safe the Internet is. Because news articles
     are the only contact most of us have had with any of these attacks.

** *** ***** ******* *********** *************

Since 1998, CRYPTO-GRAM has been a free monthly newsletter providing
summaries, analyses, insights, and commentaries on security: computer
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CRYPTO-GRAM is written by Bruce Schneier.  Schneier is the author of the
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and "Applied Cryptography," and an inventor of the Blowfish, Twofish,
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Copyright (c) 2011 by Bruce Schneier.
23921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington to Hebrew Congregation 1790. on: August 15, 2011, 05:29:13 AM
"The citizens of the United States of America have the right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were by the indulgence of one class of citizens that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support." --George Washington, letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, 1790
23922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: August 15, 2011, 05:28:30 AM

I think I get the point, but what of the meaning of someone acting as described out of a sense of duty, not feeling?
23923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Marriage and Family on: August 15, 2011, 05:24:47 AM
I'll be sharing that with my wife  cheesy
23924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Winning for the team; Krugman on Perry on: August 15, 2011, 05:19:00 AM
IMHO Newt best gets and has best spoken of the importance of winning in the Senate and House as well.   I have not heard from Romney on this at all.  Bachman gets it, and so does Perry, but Newt is the one with a track record of putting together a huge win for the team.  Whether he gets a lot of traction or not, I hope the others are taking notes.

Krugman airs out the attack strategy against Perry; in our responses I'd like to encourage us to keep snide reminders of what a terrible economist and raging progressive (a redundancy I know) to a minimum and keep our eye on the ball-- which is to discern if there is any truth to the comments and if not to rebut them in politically effective terms.

As expected, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, has announced that he is running for president. And we already know what his campaign will be about: faith in miracles.

Some of these miracles will involve things that you’re liable to read in the Bible. But if he wins the Republican nomination, his campaign will probably center on a more secular theme: the alleged economic miracle in Texas, which, it’s often asserted, sailed through the Great Recession almost unscathed thanks to conservative economic policies. And Mr. Perry will claim that he can restore prosperity to America by applying the same policies at a national level.

So what you need to know is that the Texas miracle is a myth, and more broadly that Texan experience offers no useful lessons on how to restore national full employment.

It’s true that Texas entered recession a bit later than the rest of America, mainly because the state’s still energy-heavy economy was buoyed by high oil prices through the first half of 2008. Also, Texas was spared the worst of the housing crisis, partly because it turns out to have surprisingly strict regulation of mortgage lending.

Despite all that, however, from mid-2008 onward unemployment soared in Texas, just as it did almost everywhere else.

In June 2011, the Texas unemployment rate was 8.2 percent. That was less than unemployment in collapsed-bubble states like California and Florida, but it was slightly higher than the unemployment rate in New York, and significantly higher than the rate in Massachusetts. By the way, one in four Texans lacks health insurance, the highest proportion in the nation, thanks largely to the state’s small-government approach. Meanwhile, Massachusetts has near-universal coverage thanks to health reform very similar to the “job-killing” Affordable Care Act.

So where does the notion of a Texas miracle come from? Mainly from widespread misunderstanding of the economic effects of population growth.

For this much is true about Texas: It has, for many decades, had much faster population growth than the rest of America — about twice as fast since 1990. Several factors underlie this rapid population growth: a high birth rate, immigration from Mexico, and inward migration of Americans from other states, who are attracted to Texas by its warm weather and low cost of living, low housing costs in particular.

And just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a low cost of living. In particular, there’s a good case to be made that zoning policies in many states unnecessarily restrict the supply of housing, and that this is one area where Texas does in fact do something right.

But what does population growth have to do with job growth? Well, the high rate of population growth translates into above-average job growth through a couple of channels. Many of the people moving to Texas — retirees in search of warm winters, middle-class Mexicans in search of a safer life — bring purchasing power that leads to greater local employment. At the same time, the rapid growth in the Texas work force keeps wages low — almost 10 percent of Texan workers earn the minimum wage or less, well above the national average — and these low wages give corporations an incentive to move production to the Lone Star State.

So Texas tends, in good years and bad, to have higher job growth than the rest of America. But it needs lots of new jobs just to keep up with its rising population — and as those unemployment comparisons show, recent employment growth has fallen well short of what’s needed.

If this picture doesn’t look very much like the glowing portrait Texas boosters like to paint, there’s a reason: the glowing portrait is false.

Still, does Texas job growth point the way to faster job growth in the nation as a whole? No.

What Texas shows is that a state offering cheap labor and, less important, weak regulation can attract jobs from other states. I believe that the appropriate response to this insight is “Well, duh.” The point is that arguing from this experience that depressing wages and dismantling regulation in America as a whole would create more jobs — which is, whatever Mr. Perry may say, what Perrynomics amounts to in practice — involves a fallacy of composition: every state can’t lure jobs away from every other state.

In fact, at a national level lower wages would almost certainly lead to fewer jobs — because they would leave working Americans even less able to cope with the overhang of debt left behind by the housing bubble, an overhang that is at the heart of our economic problem.

So when Mr. Perry presents himself as the candidate who knows how to create jobs, don’t believe him. His prescriptions for job creation would work about as well in practice as his prayer-based attempt to end Texas’s crippling drought.

23925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: August 15, 2011, 05:15:25 AM
Yeah, but we are cutting $21B this year and $45B next year  rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes   Sowell understates just how bad this deal was and just how incompetent the Reps have been in communicating with the American people.
23926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 15, 2011, 05:09:19 AM
Lets see if I have this right.  Pakistan has more people than Russia (I read this somewhere recently and was quite surprised); more nukes than everyone except the US, Russia, and China; a rogue nuclear program that is in alliance with the Norks rogue program and has connections with Iran's nuclear program, harbored Bin Laden, helps the Chinese get our military technology, etc etc , , , and they are an ally of ours , , ,
23927  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: August 15, 2011, 05:04:37 AM
Thanks for following up on this and keeping us informed Denny. 

With Chavez's apparently serious health issues, the growing military and nuclear connections with Iran, and Baraq at the helm here, it looks like Venezuela is going to be appearing on a lot more people's radar screens here in the next year or two; readers of the DB forum will be a step ahead of the curve once again:  smiley
23928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH goes after Cong. Darrell Issa on: August 15, 2011, 04:58:03 AM
Congressman Darrell Issa is doing an outstanding job of investigating Operation Fast & Furious (see the Gun Rights thread) to the discomfort of Baraq, AG Holder, et al.  Of course it is a coincidence that Pravada on the Hudson is now going after him. rolleyes  That said, things such as placing and voting on earmarks that happen to benefit a property you have bought is not my idea of the right way to do things.
VISTA, Calif. — Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Just a few steps down the hall, Representative Darrell Issa, the powerful Republican congressman, runs the local district office where his constituents come for help.
The proximity of the two offices reflects Mr. Issa’s dual careers, a meshing of public and private interests rarely seen in government.
Most wealthy members of Congress push their financial activities to the side, with many even placing them in blind trusts to avoid appearances of conflicts of interest. But Mr. Issa (pronounced EYE-suh), one of Washington’s richest lawmakers, may be alone in the hands-on role he has played in overseeing a remarkable array of outside business interests since his election in 2000.
Even as he has built a reputation as a forceful Congressional advocate for business, Mr. Issa has bought up office buildings, split a holding company into separate multibillion-dollar businesses, started an insurance company, traded hundreds of millions of dollars in securities, invested in overseas funds, retained an interest in his auto-alarm company and built up a family foundation.
As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.
He has secured millions of dollars in Congressional earmarks for road work and public works projects that promise improved traffic and other benefits to the many commercial properties he owns here north of San Diego. In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $10.3 million.
His constituents cheer the prospect of easing traffic. At the same time, the value of the medical complex and other properties has soared, at least in part because of the government-sponsored road work.
But beyond specific actions that appear to have clearly benefited his businesses, Mr. Issa’s interests are so varied that some of the biggest issues making their way through Congress affect him in some way.
After the forced sale of Merrill Lynch in 2008, for instance, he publicly attacked the Treasury Department’s handling of the deal without mentioning that Merrill had handled hundreds of millions of dollars in investments for him and lent him many millions more.
And in an era when the auto industry’s future has been a big theme of public policy, Mr. Issa has been outspoken on regulatory issues affecting car companies, while maintaining deep ties to the industry through the auto electronics company he founded, DEI Holdings.
He has a seat on its board, and his nonprofit family foundation, which seeks to encourage values like “hard work and selfless philanthropy,” has earned millions from stock in DEI, which bears his initials. Mr. Issa’s fortune, in fact, was built on his car alarm company, and to this day it is his deep voice on Viper alarms that warns potential burglars to “please step away from the car.”
In recent months, The New York Times has examined how some lawmakers have championed particular industries, pushing measures to protect and enrich supporters. In Mr. Issa’s case, it is sometimes difficult to separate the business of Congress from the business of Darrell Issa.
Mr. Issa, 57, did not respond to repeated written requests in the last three weeks to discuss his outside interests. In the past, he has said his business background has made him a better lawmaker. In at least one Congressional matter, however, he recused himself after being advised of a potential conflict.
But perhaps his clearest statement on the issue came last year amid Toyota’s recalls of millions of automobiles with dangerous acceleration problems. Then, Mr. Issa brushed aside suggestions that his electronics company’s role as a major supplier of alarms to Toyota made him go easy on the automaker as he led an investigation into the recalls.
“If anything,” the congressman said, “Toyota probably got a harder time by having an automobile supplier sitting up there on the dais saying ‘Hold it, I’m not letting you off the hook now.’ ”
A Powerful Gadfly
As the influential chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Mr. Issa has proven both a reliable friend to business and a constant annoyance to an Obama administration that he sees as anti-business. Even before formally taking over the committee in December, he made headlines by asking 150 businesses and trade groups to identify regulations that they considered overly burdensome, and he has issued numerous subpoenas on his own authority in investigating programs he believes are harmful.
(Page 2 of 4)
His pro-business policies usually align closely with those of the firms he has worked with in his wide-ranging business career both before and after he joined Congress. Congress has historically had more than its share of millionaires from storied American fortunes, from the Rockefellers to the Kennedys. But typically, those members lower their business profiles considerably and limit their active dealings to avoid potential conflicts of interest and the political repercussions that might follow from private business decisions.
Senator John D. Rockfeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, for one, has much of his money in blind trusts, run by outside trustees. And Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, has a number of family and marital trusts for money generated largely through the fortune of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Mr. Issa, who grew up in a hardscrabble neighborhood near Cleveland and now owns homes north of San Diego and in Washington, has assets totaling as much as $725 million, outstripping by some measures even Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Kerry. (Because lawmakers must disclose their assets only within broad dollar ranges, public reports do not allow for precise figures.)
According to his filings, Mr. Issa’s minimum wealth doubled in the last year, and he appears flush with cash: he bought dozens of mutual funds in 2010 worth as much as $80 million, managed by Wall Street powerhouses, without selling off any securities.
Mr. Issa’s transactions cover many pages in his annual disclosure reports, as he has traded huge volumes of stock funds and municipal bonds on a weekly or even daily basis. In 2008 alone, he traded some 360 securities totaling between $650 million and $2 billion.
Those investments have often produced sharp profits.
In one 2008 sale, months before the stock market crashed, his family foundation earned $357,000 on an initial investment of less than $19,000 — a return of nearly 1,900 percent in just seven months, the foundation reported to the Internal Revenue Service. It reported acquiring the security, then known as AIM International Small Company Fund, at a cost basis representing a tiny fraction of the market value.
In addition, Mr. Issa sold at least $1 million in personal holdings in the same fund that year but was not required to report what he paid.
Invesco, as the AIM fund’s manager is now known, told The Times it did not provide Mr. Issa’s foundation the steep discount. That suggests the foundation may have acquired the shares from a third-party broker.
A former government official said House ethics committee officials quietly inquired into Mr. Issa’s business interests last year because of possible conflicts in his electronics connections.
While the exact focus of those inquiries is not known, Mr. Issa’s ties to the industry are well established: in each of his first five years in Congress, he reported accepting free trips to Las Vegas from the Consumer Electronics Association for its annual convention. Such corporate-sponsored trips were allowed at the time, but Congressional rules have tightened since.
The inquiries did not produce sufficient evidence of ethics problems to move forward, the former official said.
Standards for determining a financial conflict are murky. House members are generally restricted from using their positions “for personal gain” or on matters in which they have a direct financial interest. But a 2009 ethics committee ruling added to the ambiguity, finding there is no prohibition on the mere “appearance” of a conflict.
There are also restrictions on taking salaries from certain businesses. While Mr. Issa’s wife draws a salary at their property management company, Mr. Issa — the firm’s president — does not.
A Balancing Act
Lawmakers must also avoid outside work that can pose a “time conflict,” and “detract from a member’s full time and attention to his official duties,” the guidelines say. By all accounts, these rules were designed to promote the notion of a full-time legislature.
Mr. Issa’s outside interests certainly appear to have kept him busy. Associates describe him as actively involved in business decisions, particularly in his auto electronics firm. His office did not discuss how he balances the time demands of Congress and his outside businesses. His management company, Greene Properties, which he runs with his wife from the office down the hall from his Congressional office in Vista, has acquired more than two dozen properties in the last five years, valued at up to a total of $80 million.
Page 3 of 4)
In nearby Carlsbad, a new office complex he owns advertises for prospective tenants. A few miles away, a Hooters restaurant rents space in another building he owns. Nearby, his medical complex bustles with doctors and patients and has few vacancies.
 “Issa’s a smart businessman,” said Dean Tilton, a local real estate broker. “We haven’t seen real estate prices this low in 20 years, and he’s taking advantage of that.”
The hard-hit San Diego area has also benefited from federal money Mr. Issa brought through earmarks, which allow lawmakers to award money for their own pet projects. Indeed, more than two dozen of Mr. Issa’s properties are within five miles of projects he has personally earmarked for road work, sanitation and other improvements, an analysis by The Times shows.
His medical complex, for instance, sits directly along West Vista Way, a busy corridor scheduled for widening with $815,000 in funds Mr. Issa earmarked. The congressman bought the complex in 2008, soon after securing the first of two earmarks for the two-mile project and unsuccessfully seeking millions more. The assessor’s office now values the complex at $16 million, a 60 percent appreciation.
Mr. Issa owns a number of commercial properties near the planned $171 million expansion of State Route 76. The project, intended to ease traffic for tens of thousands of commuters, was helped by $245,000 in his earmarks.
A regional transportation official said the earmarks supplemented state financing to move the projects along.
Local leaders say they are just grateful for the money, regardless of any suggestions locally in San Diego that Mr. Issa stands to benefit.
“I don’t really blame the guy,” said John Aguilera, a Vista city councilman. “As a politician, that’s his job to bring a slice of the pie back home, and as a businessman, he’s going to invest in the areas that he champions.”
Some ethics experts wonder, however, whether Mr. Issa’s business interests invite problems.
“The idea is you’re supposed to be a full-time congressman,” said Robert M. Stern, who runs the nonprofit Center for Governmental Studies in California. “There may not be a direct conflict of interest, but it creates an appearance that he is trying to influence a policy on issues where he has an investment.”
In 2009, as earmarks became a damaging symbol of Congressional abuse, Mr. Issa joined other lawmakers in pledging to discontinue them. And in recent weeks, he has attacked “the culture of government overspending” in pushing for deep cuts in the national debt.
Mr. Issa’s dual roles reach beyond earmarks.
At a House hearing in 2008 on a much-debated proposal to merge the satellite radio companies Sirius and XM, despite objections on competitive grounds, Mr. Issa praised the “viable combined market” the deal would create as he questioned Sirius’s chief executive and talked of opportunities for expansion.
What Mr. Issa did not mention was that his electronics firm was then in a lucrative partnership with Sirius to distribute its audio products.
While Mr. Issa sold off his controlling interest in DEI soon after he was elected, he remains a board member with a half-million shares in the firm held by his family trust. His management firm also receives $2 million a year for leasing DEI its Vista plant.
DEI’s partnership with Sirius, which continued after the merger, caused friction with competitors. In a lawsuit settled out of court, U.S. Electronics accused Sirius and DEI of freezing it out of the market through anticompetitive practices that relied on “a web of deception, threats and lies” aimed at “the enrichment of certain of its officers and directors.”
When a watchdog group, the Center for Public Integrity, asked Mr. Issa about his role in the merger, his office said the congressman’s participation in the House hearing posed no conflict because his founding of DEI was “public knowledge.” But after advice from House ethics lawyers, Mr. Issa avoided any votes on the issue afterward.
Page 4 of 4)
With its brand-name audio and electronics products, DEI caught the eye of an equity company, Charlesbank Capital, which bought the company in June for $305 million, or $4.45 a share — nearly three times the presale price. The premium promises a payday of at least $2 million for Mr. Issa’s foundation, which has already earned more than $10 million from sales of DEI stock. (Mr. Issa is now a defendant in a lawsuit brought by DEI shareholders; the suit claims the deal was structured to give him and other directors a “windfall not shared by other stockholders.”)
Ties to Merrill Lynch
The lines between Mr. Issa’s many interests have also become entangled in his frequent criticism of regulators and his frequent defense of Wall Street. At a series of hearings in 2009, Mr. Issa accused Treasury officials of a “cover-up” of their role in Bank of America’s $50 billion purchase of Merrill Lynch months earlier. Most pointedly, he accused Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, of bullying Bank of America “behind closed doors” into buying Merrill Lynch at bargain rates and then lying about it.
“I for one,” Mr. Issa told the Fed chairman, “am looking at Main Street America, the stockholders who in some cases got less than they would have gotten through other means. This includes Chrysler, General Motors and, of course, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.”
Mr. Issa did not mention his own extensive links to Merrill Lynch.
In a television interview days later, however, he said: “I bank at Merrill Lynch. I’m very well aware that every broker there, all the people who were stockholders, were furious that they were in fact being fire-saled to them.”
And Mr. Issa is no ordinary Merrill customer.
His transactions there have totaled more than a billion dollars in the last decade, records show. In the aftermath of the firm’s acquisition in September 2008, in fact, he bought and sold at least $206 million in Merrill Lynch mutual funds in the next 15 days, records show.
His ties to the bank deepened last year, records show, as Merrill Lynch gave him two “personal notes” for lines of credit worth at least $75 million.
Likewise, Mr. Issa has aggressively defended Goldman Sachs, another Wall Street giant.
When the Securities and Exchange Commission brought a major lawsuit charging Goldman with fraud last year, Mr. Issa fired back by opening an investigation. The timing of the lawsuit, he said, smacked of a “partisan political agenda” meant to help President Obama and bolster a bill overhauling financial regulations.
His charge drew nationwide attention, putting regulators on the defensive, but the S.E.C. inspector general later found “no evidence” of political meddling.
Mr. Issa came to Goldman’s defense again last month in a letter to regulators complaining about restrictions on financial firms. Broker dealers “such as Goldman Sachs” faced “a substantial reduction in leverage” because of excessive capital requirements, he wrote.
As with Merrill Lynch, Mr. Issa is keenly interested in Goldman’s performance.
A few weeks before opening his inquiry into the Goldman lawsuit, in fact, he bought another large batch of shares in one of the firm’s high-yield mutual funds, records show. By the end of the year, his stake in Goldman’s fund was worth as much as $25 million.
23929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Some initial thoughts on Perry; Newt on: August 14, 2011, 09:14:30 AM
a) He should have announced before the Iowa debate, when the other candidates were pretty much off the radar screen-- now they are bigger and realer in the public perception

b) cronyism?  Uh oh , , ,

Concerning Newt:  I thought he did very well in the debate and showed flashes of why I hoped so strongly that he would run in 2008.  I want him and those who watch his donation numbers to get the message that I want to hear more of that.  The reasoning is not dissimilar to my support for Bachman; ultimately I am not yet persuaded that she is ready to be President (e.g. the utter lack of executive experience, my unfamiliarity with her thoughts and depth on foreign affairs) but I am glad to see her represent well a hardcore Tea Party message, including traditional values, and to get support for it.  

I have had hopes that Perry would be the one, because he too speaks a good Tea Party game AND has plenty of executive credibility, but now the spotlight is on him and we will learn much more about him.
23930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Revenge and Revolt on: August 14, 2011, 09:09:15 AM
Saddled with infighting and undermined by the occasionally ruthless and undisciplined behavior of its fighters, the six-month-old rebel uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is showing signs of sliding from a struggle to overthrow an autocrat into a murkier contest between factions and tribes.

In a tribal dispute, rebels set fire to a home in Yafran, Libya, last month after they seized the town from pro-Qaddafi loyalists.

The increase in discord and factionalism is undermining the effort to overthrow Colonel Qaddafi, and it comes immediately after recognition of the rebel government by the Western powers, including the United States, potentially giving the rebels access to billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets, and the chance to purchase more modern weaponry.

The infighting could also erode support for the rebels among members of the NATO alliance, which faces a September deadline for renewing its air campaign amid growing unease about the war’s costs and direction. That air support has been a factor in every significant rebel military goal, including fighting on Saturday in which rebel forces were challenging pro-Qaddafi forces in or near three critical towns: Brega, an oil port in the east, Zawiya, on the outskirts of Tripoli, and Gharyan, an important gateway to southern Libya. There were also clashes a few miles from the main border crossing into neighboring Tunisia, residents told Reuters.

While the rebels have sought to maintain a clean image and to portray themselves as fighting to establish a secular democracy, several recent acts of revenge have cast their ranks in a less favorable light. They have also raised the possibility that any rebel victory over Colonel Qaddafi could disintegrate into the sort of tribal tensions that have plagued Libya for centuries.

In recent weeks, rebel fighters in Libya’s western mountains and around the coastal city of Misurata have lashed out at civilians because their tribes supported Colonel Qaddafi, looting mountain villages and emptying a civilian neighborhood. In the rebels’ provisional capital, Benghazi, renegade fighters assassinated their top military commander, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, apparently in revenge for his previous role as Colonel Qaddafi’s security chief.

In response, the chief of General Younes’s powerful tribe threatened to retaliate against those responsible, setting off a crisis in the rebels’ governing council, whose members were dismissed en masse last week.

The rebels’ Western backers have become alarmed at the growing rift between supporters of a group of rebels who have coalesced into a relatively unified army and the others who effectively remain a civilian band of militia fighters.

In the short term, the retaliation can serve to fortify Colonel Qaddafi’s power by reinforcing the fear that a rebel victory would bring reprisals against the many who participated in the colonel’s political machine and enjoyed his patronage. More broadly, the moral clarity of six months ago, when Colonel Qaddafi’s forces were bearing down on Benghazi and he was threatening to wipe out anyone who dared oppose him there, has been muddied.

In an interview, Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said that concerns about the rebels might be overblown. He acknowledged that there were some “disturbing reports” from Benghazi and the rebel front lines but credited the rebels’ governing Transitional National Council with swift steps to address the concerns. He noted that the rebel leadership — itself a heterodox mix of recent defectors and their former longtime foes — had ordered an end to abuses against loyalist tribes in the mountains, and he characterized the shake-up of the council as a move to establish a level of transparency and accountability without precedent in Libya.

After some initial gunfire by fighters from the family of General Younes, the council appeared to have persuaded his tribe, the Obeidi, to put their faith in an investigation by the rebel authorities, Mr. Feltman said. “They were able to avert a real cycle of violence,” he said. “I would give them a passing grade, given where they are starting from.” He added, “They have made commitments to us that you would never get out of Qaddafi.”

Still, questions remain about the rebel leadership’s control over its fighters. “I think that is a question they are asking themselves,” Mr. Feltman said, noting recent moves by the council to rein in various freewheeling rebel militias, which often are formed along town, neighborhood or tribal lines.

But an Obama administration official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject, acknowledged some doubts. “I think the jury is out on how unified the command will be,” the official said.

Just two weeks before the mysterious assassination of General Younes raised those questions, the United States formally recognized the rebels’ Transitional National Council as Libya’s legitimate government, potentially allowing it to tap about $3.5 billion in liquid assets and, over the long term, the rest of the $30 billion of the Qaddafi government’s frozen investments.

United States officials say that rebel leaders have pledged to allocate the money in a way that is “transparent” and “inclusive,” and that the United States is encouraging its use for health care, electricity and other services in rebel-held territory. But some funds could also be used to buy weapons for the poorly trained and equipped rebel forces.

Libya before the revolt was in many ways a social tinderbox. The country, a former Italian colony long dominated by rural Bedouin tribes, had little experience of national unity before Colonel Qaddafi came to power 42 years ago. Many Libyans relied on tribal connections more than civil law for justice and security.

Colonel Qaddafi’s centralized state and oil economy deepened many divisions, rewarding or punishing both individuals and tribes primarily on the basis of their loyalty to the government.

The uprising initially broke out across the country, even driving the police from the streets of the capital, Tripoli. But Colonel Qaddafi and one of his sons, Seif al-Islam, immediately vowed to stamp out the “rats” they held responsible, predicting from the first nights that the rebellion would become “a civil war.” Then militias commanded by two other Qaddafi sons, Muatassim and Khamis, re-established control of the capital by firing live ammunition into unarmed crowds, as the International Criminal Court attested, the first steps toward fulfilling the Qaddafis’ prophecy of a civil war pitting east against west.

Many supporters of the rebels now speak of exacting their own revenge against Colonel Qaddafi’s clan.

Outside Tripoli, the Qaddafi stronghold, about 500 civilian refugees from the rebel advance have gathered in a makeshift camp that formerly housed Chinese construction workers. “If you love Qaddafi in Yafran, they will kill you,” said Abdel Kareem Omar, 25, a dental student from a village of the Mashaashia tribe near that rebel city in the western mountains.

“The rebels stole our furniture, our food, our animals and burned our homes,” he said, vowing that he, too, would take up arms. “To protect my people,” he said.

In a recent conversation with two journalists, one man in the western mountains said his neighbors often spoke of capturing Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi alive, so they could chop off his fingers. And low-level rebel leaders talk openly of forbidding Colonel Qaddafi’s supporters from returning to their homes in rebel-held ground.

Bands of rebel fighters hunted people suspected of being Qaddafi loyalists around Benghazi for months before the killing of General Younes. And on the front lines, rebels in the coastal city of Misurata have vowed to take revenge on the black-skinned Libyans from Tawergha, accusing them of committing atrocities and driving them out of their neighborhood.

In the mountains in western Libya, local men have ransacked and burned homes in at least five villages or cities where residents had supported Colonel Qaddafi or his troops. Many of the victims were members of the pro-Qaddafi Mashaashia tribe, which the rebels openly loathe.

The fear holding together the pro-Qaddafi side is palpable. Asked in an unguarded moment about his plans, Musa Ibrahim, a member of Colonel Qaddafi’s tribe and a spokesman for his government, blurted out, “If I am alive, you mean?”

The rebel leadership in Benghazi continues to insist that it can reconcile the differences among Libyan factions and tribes. The governing council calls itself “transitional,” and it has pledged to form a new broadly representative unity government based in Tripoli if Colonel Qaddafi leaves power.

Part of the challenge facing the rebels is the pervasive reach of the Qaddafi political machine.

“In a dictatorship that lasts 42 years, it is almost inevitable that almost everyone to some extent needed to participate in the ‘revolution’ — how else could you raise a family, have a job, etc.?” Diederik Vandewalle, a Libya expert at Dartmouth College wrote in an e-mail. “That in a sense is the real tragedy of the way the Qaddafi system implicated everyone. And so it leaves virtually everyone open to retribution.”

Members of the tribes close to Colonel Qaddafi — like his own tribe, the Qaddafa, or the larger Maghraha, and small tribes associated with them — may face the greatest danger from “tribal revenge,” George Joffe, a Libya expert at the University of Cambridge, wrote in another e-mail. “And, of course, the longer this struggle continues, the more likely and bitter that will become.”

23931  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 14, 2011, 12:45:01 AM
More fun and games today.  Amongst the material taught:  The Kalimba Game, the Brondo Buzzsaw, and the integration of the two into a larger whole, intro to the Salty Game, and then it was time for Damian to continue with his anti-carjacking material.  Pepper spray and a Shocknife livened up the scenarios.  Toki's car escaped with no apparent damage. (In his scenario Toki made and awesome move from front seat to back and out the far passenger door.)
23932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: August 14, 2011, 12:26:25 AM

I found the reason article very interesting.

a) I thought it very pertinent to note the very low crime/murder rates in the late 1800s when gun ownership was quite high and the increase the more the gun laws became more restrictive.  I would add the decrease in crime/murder rates in the US as gun ownership (and right to concealed carry) increases.

b) Concerning the Martin case mentioned in the article, when I first read about the case I was very indignant.  As I learned more I learned it was not a 100% black and white case.  While my sympathies remain overwhemlmingly with Martin and I remain appalled at some of the actions of the authorities, if I remember correctly there was something about a booby trap and something about shooting one of the bad guys after he had already exited the house.
23933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: August 13, 2011, 09:10:56 PM
Question presented:  Who would be the most effective in debate with Baraq?

My answer:  Newt.   I just gave him $25.
23934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel vs. Iran on: August 13, 2011, 08:56:39 PM
August 12, 2011: Israel is apparently involved in a Cyber War with Iran, one that receives little official publicity. Not even all the damage is publicized, as a lot of the damage is undetected (often for a long time) by the victim. While Iran has made the most noise about this Cyber War, Israel is doing the most destruction. Israel wants to keep it that way, and keep it quiet. Partly, this is to keep the Iranians confused, but also to keep Israeli government lawyers happy. A lot of the tactics and weapons used in Cyber War are of uncertain legality. The traditional Laws of War have not caught up with Cyber War.

This process has been going on for some time, and some aspects of it do surface in the media. For example, three months ago, Israel established the National Cybernetic Taskforce, with orders to devise and implement defensive measures to protect the economy and government from Internet based attacks. The taskforce consists of about 80 people and is run by a retired general. Apparently, existing Internet security efforts, and military Cyber War organizations have discovered a growing number of vulnerabilities in the national Internet infrastructure. The only solution to this growing vulnerability is a large scale effort to monitor the national network infrastructure for vulnerabilities, and fix them as quickly as possible. You will never catch all the vulnerabilities, but in Cyber War, as in the more conventional kind, victory is not always a matter of who is better, but who is worse (more vulnerable to attack.)

Meanwhile, Israel makes no secret of what it thinks about its Cyber War capabilities. Over the last year, Israel has revealed that its cryptography operation (Unit 8200) has added computer hacking to its skill set. Last year, the head of Israeli Military Intelligence said that he believed Israel had become the leading practitioner of Cyber War. This came in the wake of suspicions that Israel had created the Stuxnet worm, which got into Iran's nuclear fuel enrichment equipment, and destroyed a lot of it. Earlier this year, Iran complained that another worm, called Star, was causing them trouble. Usually, intelligence organizations keep quiet about their capabilities, but in this case, the Israelis apparently felt it was more useful to scare the Iranians, with the threat of more stuff like Stuxnet. But the Iranians have turned around and tried to attack Israel, and are apparently determined to keep at it for as long as it takes.

This struggle between Israel and Iran is nothing new. Seven years ago, Israel announced that Unit 8200 had cracked an Iranian communications code, an operation that allowed Israel to read messages concerning Iranian efforts to keep its nuclear weapons program going (with Pakistani help), despite Iranian promises to UN weapons inspectors that the program was being shut down.

It's long been known that Unit 8200 of the Israeli army specialized in cracking codes for the government. This was known because so many men who had served in Unit 8200 went on to start companies specializing in cryptography (coding information so that no unauthorized personnel can know what the data is.) But it is unusual for a code-cracking organization to admit to deciphering someone's code. Perhaps the Iranians stopped using the code in question, or perhaps the Israelis just wanted to scare the Iranians. Israel is very concerned about Iran getting nuclear weapons, mainly because the Islamic conservatives that control Iran have as one of their primary goals the destruction of Israel. In response to these Iranian threats, Israel has said that it will do whatever it takes to stop Iran from getting nukes. This apparently includes doing the unthinkable (for a code cracking outfit); admitting that you had successfully taken apart an opponent's secret code.

Israel is trying to convince Iran that a long-time superiority in code-breaking was now accompanied by similarly exceptional hacking skills. Whether it's true or not, it's got to have rattled the Iranians. The failure of their counterattacks can only have added to their unease.
23935  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: August 13, 2011, 03:19:46 PM
Glad to see Point Dog contributing to the conversation.
23936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / British Muslim father of son murdered in riots speaks on: August 13, 2011, 12:12:51 AM
23937  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 13, 2011, 12:08:38 AM
Yes.  09:45 will be fine.

Great presentation today by Damian on anti-carjacking.  Tomorrow we go to FOF (pepper spray, shocknives, airsoft and other implements of fun & games) for the anti-carjacking segment.  C-Mighty's car may never be the same smiley
23938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: August 12, 2011, 11:20:01 AM
And here is how to know for sure, state by state:
23939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Short sales being banned in Europe, US to follow? on: August 12, 2011, 08:06:15 AM
I am not a big fan of short sales, which seem to greatly exaggerate volatility, especially in conjunction with the program trading which has become such a dominating % of market transactions.  Also, I do not understand the basis for the claim to increased liquidity.

Four European Nations to Curtail Short-Selling
Published: August 11, 2011
A European market regulator announced Thursday night that short-selling of stocks in several countries would be temporarily banned in an effort to stop the tailspin in the markets.

The move may put pressure on United States market regulators to ban short sales as well. American bank stocks have been volatile all week as global investors expressed concerns that problems in Europe might cross the ocean.

The European Securities and Markets Authority, a body that coordinates the European Union’s market policies, said in a statement that short sales — negative bets on stocks — would be curtailed in France, Belgium, Italy and Spain effective Friday. There is already a temporary short-sale ban in Greece and Turkey.

“Today some authorities have decided to impose or extend existing short-selling bans in their respective countries,” the authority said. “They have done so either to restrict the benefits that can be achieved from spreading false rumors or to achieve a regulatory level playing field, given the close interlinkage between some E.U. markets.”

In France, that country’s market watchdog banned short-selling or increasing short-selling positions, effective immediately, for 15 days on 11 financial institutions. They are: the April Group, Axa, BNP Paribas, CIC, CNP Assurances, Crédit Agricole, Euler Hermès, Natixis, Paris Ré, Scor and Société Générale.

Italy and Spain imposed similiar 15-day bans covering financial shares, while Belgium's was for an indefinite period, according to statements by their market regulators.

The emergency measures are raising comparisons to the financial crisis of 2008, when the United States and many other governments banned short sales on many financial stocks.

European financial regulators have been discussing a Continent-wide ban over the last few days amid fears from governments like France that the short sales were driving a panic. Financial regulators held two conference calls on Thursday to complete the declaration, according to a government official with knowledge of the talks. Britain and Germany are among the countries that did not join the ban.

In short sales, a trader sells borrowed shares in hopes that they will decline in value before he has to buy them back to close out his loan. The difference in price is his profit, or loss.

Critics say short-selling encourages speculation and pushes stock prices down, sometimes feeding on itself in a panicked market. Advocates say it provides important information about investor views on companies, and also maintains liquidity.

Financial historians warned that the bans in 2008 did not work and that such measures were often driven more by political concerns — the need to display some form of decisive action — than by proved market theories.

“The short-sale ban really smacks of desperation,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard. “That’s their plan for solving the euro debt crisis? I mean, this isn’t going to buy them much time.”

The crisis in Europe, Mr. Rogoff said, goes far beyond falling stock prices and has more to do with the state of banks there, including banks in Italy and France. He said the sovereign debt problems were an extension of the stress on the system created by the banking crisis.

The increasing number of European governments that are banning short-selling puts United States regulators in a tricky position. Investors with negative views on bank stocks who are forced to close their negative bets in Europe might shift them to American banks.

On Thursday, stocks in the United States continued their seesaw ride, surging 4 percent, buoyed by hopeful data on initial jobless claims. The cost of insurance on several United States banks like Bank of America and Citigroup has gone up this week, according to Markit, a financial data company, indicating that investors are growing more negative on these companies.

The short-selling announcement in Europe stirred some immediate criticism.

“It is a crisis of confidence, and when you do something like this, it shows a lack of confidence, which is exactly the opposite of what you want to say to the markets,” said Robert Sloan, managing partner of S3 Partners, a firm that helps hedge funds manage relationships with their brokers.

Back in 2008, European and United States officials coordinated temporary bans on shorting financial stocks.

Hedge funds, in particular, were hurt by the ban back then because it interfered with trading strategies that paired negative bets with positive ones.

It is impossible to know whether the panic of 2008 would have been worse without the ban, which protected companies like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, but general studies of short-selling have found that bans on that activity can lead to more volatility in the market and lower trading volume, according to Andrew W. Lo, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Mr. Lo said that banning short-selling also removed important information about what investors thought about the financial health of companies, and suggested that the bans served mainly political purposes.

“It’s a bit like suggesting we take heart patients in the emergency room off of the heart monitor because you don’t want to make doctors and nurses anxious about the patient,” he said.

Some investors have been anticipating for months that a short-selling ban might occur and were pre-emptively getting out of their short positions, said Mr. Sloan of S3 Partners. He also said that if there were more short-sellers in the market now, the markets might be falling less than they are. That is because as markets fall, short-sellers often close their positions to cash in profits, and to do so they have to purchase shares to cash out. The markets could use these sorts of buyers now, Mr. Sloan said.

Even with the European countries’ bans on short sales of some stocks, investors who have negative opinions on companies may still find ways to bet against them in the derivatives market, if those sorts of trades remain allowed.

23940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syria on: August 12, 2011, 07:55:07 AM

Analyst Reva Bhalla examines the shift in the U.S. stance toward Syria, Turkish concerns and implications of Syrian instability for Israel.

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

Related Links
In Syria, Confusion Surrounds Former Defense Minister’s Alleged Death
Syria Becomes the New Arena for Turkey and Iran
Syria as a Battleground for Saudi Arabia and Iran
U.S. President Barack Obama is widely expected to make a statement calling for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step down. The apparent shift in the U.S. position suggests that the United States has identified alternatives to the al Assads worth backing, thereby raising the potential for a military coup. However the number of unknowns in this crisis is deeply unsettling for Syria’s neighbors.

Obama calling for al Assad to go does not necessarily mean that the United States is about to engage in another military operation in the region and pull another Libya. That’s simply not likely at this moment. Instead, the United States is looking to regional heavyweights like Turkey to manage the situation in Syria. However managing the situation in Syria is not as easy as simply throwing support behind the opposition and bracing for the fall of the regime. It’s much more complicated than that.

There is still a key element sustaining the al Assad regime as the Alawite minority in Syria realizes what is at stake should they begin to fracture and create a vacuum in Damascus for the Sunni majority to fill. There are some indications that Alawite unity is under great stress and that the armed forces that are primarily commanded by Alawite officers are under extreme stress as this military campaign wears on. There have also been some serious signs of dissent among the senior military command and these are certainly all factors that need to be monitored closely in assessing the durability of this regime. At the same time, this is not going to be a quick and easy fall. This is going to be a bloody and arduous fight for the al Assad regime and it’s not one that Turkey is quite prepared for, even if in the long term it’s in Turkey’s interest to place Syria in the hands of the Sunni majority and eventually under Ankara’s influence.

Another country not quite prepared for this transition is Israel. The Israeli political leadership is under a great deal of pressure right now. Internally, large demonstrations have taken place in Israel over everything from high taxes, lack of access to public services and high levels of government corruption. Externally, Israel is bracing itself for a U.N. vote on Palestinian recognition that has the potential to unleash intifada-like violence on its borders. At the same time, Israel is watching very nervously as the military regime in Egypt tries to manage its political transition, and now most importantly and most urgently, Israel is watching the Syrian regime struggle and try to sustain itself. The Syrian regime may be hostile to Israel, but at least it was predictable. All of these pressures combined are leading the Israeli populace at large to question the legitimacy of the Israeli political leadership.

In Syria you can see very easily why a mostly Sunni conscript force does not really feel the need to risk their lives for the regime. There is a lack of unity and nationalism there that stems from the fractured demographics of the country, the nature of the regime itself among other things. In a state as tiny and as vulnerable as Israel, however, where military conscription is universal and where you have a traditionally strong military culture, the stakes are much, much higher if a serious chasm develops between the state and its people.

23941  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bernard Hopkins advises Rashad Evans on: August 12, 2011, 07:34:53 AM
23942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iraq's divided Shia complicate Iran's plans on: August 12, 2011, 06:55:03 AM
Thursday, August 11, 2011   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Iraq's Divided Shia Complicate Iran's Regional Plans

An AFP report on Wednesday quoted radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr criticizing Iran, his principal benefactor. Al-Sadr claimed that he had asked Tehran to hand over a renegade leader of his movement, Abu Deraa (who was thrown out of the al-Sadrite movement some three years ago and has been living in the Islamic Republic ever since), but Iranian authorities refused to do so. “The one who must be eliminated is not being eliminated, and the one who needs shelter is not sheltered,” remarked al-Sadr.

“Intra-Shia rifts in Iraq represent the biggest challenge to Tehran’s efforts to consolidate influence in Baghdad. The divisions among Shia place serious arrestors in the path of the Persian Islamist state and its ambitions of becoming a regional player”
These remarks are rather extraordinary, considering the close ties that al-Sadr has enjoyed with Iran, a nation where he has spent most of the past three years. Al-Sadr, with his Iraqi nationalist credentials and his independent streak, has never been fully under Iranian control. These latest remarks, however, suggest a shift is under way in this patron-client relationship.

From Iran’s point of view, a wide range of Iraqi Shiite political and militant entities are needed to maintain influence in its western neighbor. Al-Sadr has always known that his group is one of many Shiite assets that the Iranians have in his country. However, it appears that Iran’s support for entities that have splintered from his movement is now beginning to threaten al-Sadr’s political plans, and he is speaking out.

This apparent souring of relations comes at a time when Iran is focused on the prospect of filling the geopolitical vacuum that will exist once the U.S. military withdraws from Iraq by the end of the year. Intra-Shia rifts in Iraq represent the biggest challenge to Tehran’s efforts to consolidate influence in Baghdad. The divisions among Shia place serious arresters in the path of the Persian Islamist state and its ambitions of becoming a regional player. This dissent is comforting for both the region’s Sunni Arab countries and the United States as they look for ways in which to stem the rising Iranian tide.

Only a few months ago, Saudi Arabia prevented Iran from exploiting popular unrest in Bahrain, despite the protests being led largely by Bahrain’s majority Shia and being targeted to undermine the stability of the Sunni monarchy. As in Iraq, Bahraini intra-Shia differences worked counter to Iran’s strategic impetus. But divisions among Shiite communities are endemic across the region, a part of the historical evolution of the minority Islamic sect.

The fragmented nature of Shia communities has its roots in the structure of Shia religious leadership. The clergy hold a very strong role in Shia Islam. Shia are obligated to follow a cleric known as marjaa taqleed. Clearly, every community has multiple clerics who in turn become rival centers of power.

Despite the preeminent position enjoyed by the clerics, Shiite politics have no shortage of non-clerical rival political forces. Between the clerics who concern themselves with religious matters and the non-clerics who focus on political matters, there exists the clerics who double as politicians. Add competing ideological trends to this mix, and the result is the highly fragmented Iraqi Shia landscape.

In spite of this factionalized state of affairs, the Iranians have been successful in pulling together a single Shiite coalition that currently dominates the Iraqi state. This alliance, however, remains extremely tenuous. The Iranians will have to continuously spend a great deal of resources to hold this coalition together, which in turn means that they will likely struggle to dominate Iraq for the foreseeable future.

23943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paine, 1776 on: August 12, 2011, 06:52:41 AM
"Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to 'bind me in all cases whatsoever' to his absolute will, am I to suffer it?" --Thomas Paine, The American Crises, No. 1, 1776
23944  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: August 12, 2011, 12:15:11 AM

Rioting for Fun and Profit
Paul A. Rahe · 9 hours ago

The riots in Britain are instructive. There is, according to The Wall Street Journal, one neighborhood where the rioters backed off. In the North London neighborhood of Dalton, we are told,

Hundreds of Turkish and Kurdish men, many armed with broken billiard cues, poured onto the streets to protect their businesses and homes from the kind of mayhem that was laying waste to other parts of London.

"They created a barrier and chased the kids back," said Burcu Bay, who works as a waitress at Tugra, a Turkish sweet shop and cafe on Dalston's main thoroughfare. "It was like being in a war."

What happened in Dalston, an area defined by its large Turkish and Kurdish immigrant community, was a rare instance of locals uniting to defy the wave of violence that has swept London in recent nights, leaving a trail of burned-out buildings, looted shops and broken glass. In other areas, rioters encountered little resistance, as terrified locals took cover and stretched police were.

The clashes in Dalston, a ramshackle neighborhood of pawn shops, Turkish social clubs and kebab joints, began when a gang of about 50 youths approached the area from the east, setting fire to a bus and smashing in the windows of a chain restaurant, a bank and an electrical goods shop.

Dozens of local men came out on the street to block their progress. Over the course of the evening, they pushed back the heavily outnumbered troublemakers in three separate surges, driving them away from a cluster of Turkish-owned shops and businesses. Women and elderly men sought refuge in local cafés to watch the clashes from a safe distance.

In some instances, skirmishes turned violent. "The police wanted to arrest one of my friends because he punched some of the guys," said a waiter at the Somine restaurant. "We didn't let them."

A key driver behind the locals' response was the strong sense of communal identity among Turkish and Kurdish residents of Dalston, who saw the rioters as a kind of alien invasion. "These people weren't local," said the waiter. "We've been here for ten years and would have known them if they were from the area."

The article – written by Guy Chazan and Jeanne Whalen with help from Peter Evans – is a nice piece of reporting. It tells you everything that you need to know – right down to the crucial fact that the police wanted to arrest one man for punching a thug intent on stealing his property. What is happening right now in London and in cities to the north could best be described as a self-inflicted wound.

Do you remember the riots a year or two ago in Paris and in other French cities and the burning of cars along the Champs Ėlysées? What you may not remember is something else that was reported in passing at the time – that, for some years prior to these riots, one hundred cars a night were being torched in the cities of France. I passed through Paris not long after these events, and a French professor I know told me that this latter piece of news came as a real shock to her. The truth is that the police had, in effect, abandoned the Muslim neighborhoods and that impecunious, hard-working Muslims living in these neighborhoods, men and women who had scrimped and saved to buy jalopies, had been losing them to the thugs for some time. None of this was reported until the disorders spread from the slums in the suburbs to the wealthy districts of Paris.

Something of the same sort can be said about Britain as well. There are two dimensions to the British story. First – although what we call the right to bear arms had its origins as an English right, guaranteed in the 1688/89 Declaration of Rights and Bill of Rights – that right was  gradually abrogated in the course of the twentieth century. Second – although the right to self-defense, the right to defend one’s person and property when the authorities cannot in a timely and effective fashion provide protection – is a natural right and had always, until recently, been recognized as such in Britain – that right, too, was abrogated in the course of the last century. There is a very fine book on the subject by my friend Joyce Lee Malcolm, author of To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right. Entitled Guns and Violence: The English Experience, it was published by Harvard University Press seven years ago. Her two books ought to be force-fed to every member of Parliament.

For some time now – and this was already true, alas, in the Thatcher years – the political class (Labour, Tory, and Liberal) has been united behind the principle that these matters must be left to the police – that, if one’s life or limbs are in danger, one can of course use force to defend one’s person but that one cannot rightfully lift a finger to defend one’s property and that, if the attack extends to one’s person, the force that one deploys in its defense must be strictly proportionate to the threat. If, for example, your home was burglarized over and over again and you secured a gun, a knife, or a baseball bat and killed or harmed an intruder, you would go to prison for a long stay.

I am not making this up. I was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford between 1971 and 1974. I was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge in the spring of 1999, and I was a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford in 2005/6. In the quarter-century that passed between my first stint in the UK and my second, Britain changed. I remember a man living in a rural area being sent to prison for what amounted to life for killing someone who had repeatedly broken into his home.

I remember other things as well. When I was at Cambridge University, my wife and I went into London one evening to go to the opera. Our return on the train was decidedly uncomfortable. Our car – and the other cars nearby – came to be filled with young women and men (mostly the latter) who were drunk and disorderly. There was no one on the train to prevent them from making our trip a real misery. Had we said a word, I have no doubt that the crowd would have turned on us. It reminds me a bit of what it was like in New York City in the summer of 1969. The hooligans were in command.

In fact, it was worse than that. One evening, a group of thugs took the train into Cambridge from a nearby town, walked to Clare Hall, hurled bricks through the windows, broke into the apartments, stole computers, then marched to the train station and journeyed home. No one was ever caught.

I am told that fewer than ten percent of burglaries are solved and that, of those who are convicted, fewer than ten percent do time. In effect, there is no law and there is no order in Britain. You cannot bear arms. You are denied the means of self-defense. It is illegal to use force to defend your property. If you use “disproportionate force” in defending your person, you can and will be jailed. It is demanded that you leave all such matters to the police, and law enforcement is ineffectual. Not surprisingly, even before the riots that Britain is suffering right now, theft and violent crime were considerably greater there than in the United States.

In Britain, they have a lot to learn – or relearn – and it is an open question whether these recent events will give rise to a bout of a rethinking or not. I rather doubt that David Cameron has the backbone, and one cannot look to the Liberals or to Labour. Those associated with the last-mentioned party, which is out of power right now, will whine and whine about “social justice.” In the United Kingdom, as in the United States, a left-liberal is someone who pities the criminal, not the victim.

In the US, we are generally better off. For one thing, we incarcerate criminals. There has been much hand-wringing about this in recent years, as our own left-liberals fulminate against the incarceration rate. But there is one truth that cannot be gainsaid: a criminal who is locked up is not on the streets committing crimes. Lock them up and the crime rate will go down (as it has in the US).

We are better off in other ways as well. The right to bear arms is not only given lip service here. In recent years, it has been reasserted by the Supreme Court. Moreover, in many states, one has a right to defend one’s property. In those states, if someone breaks into my home, I can kill him with impunity. And, finally, thanks in part to the example of Rudy Giuliani in New York, we have policing methods aimed at concentrating attention on high-crime areas and on harassing criminals that really work.

The appearance of flash mobs in Philadelphia and Chicago is, however, a warning. I would like to know more than I do about the incarceration rate in Pennsylvania and Illinois, about the policing methods used, and about the laws pertinent to the right of a shopkeeper to gun down thieves.

In times like these, it is useful to remember the immortal words of John Adams: “We talk of liberty and property, but, if we cut up the law of self-defence, we cut up the foundation of both. . . . If a robber meets me in the street, and commands me to surrender my purse, I have a right to kill him without asking questions.” 

23945  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A member of the Unorganized Militia steps in on: August 11, 2011, 10:54:25 PM
23946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: August 11, 2011, 10:44:17 PM
A VERY valid point, but one distinct from the investment POV.
23947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: August 11, 2011, 10:43:11 PM
Initial snap impressions:

IMHO Fox made a mistake in letting the audience make noise.

*Santorum:  Had some good moments, but his numbers will not noticeably improve.   Time to go.
*Cain:  Much improved, but ditto
*Ron Paul:  Had several good moments, but some awkward ones.  His numbers will do well, but ultimately he will not be the candidate.  His distinct and confident approach to foreign affairs, loudly cheered by an audience full of his supporters, presents a contrast with the indistinct positions of the other candidates.  This is a point I have mentioned previously-- traditional Rep coherence on foreign affairs, traditionally a strong issue for them, is not to be found at present.
*Newt Gringrich:  A good night for Newt and his numbers should move up.  I like Chris Wallace, but he definitely is a Washington insider type (very funny watching him interview Glenn Beck at the height of GB's ratings-- clearly he just id not get it) and it chuckled me (and I suspect many people) to see him bitch slap CW-- who responded with self-importance.
*Bachman:  Held her own, numbers should remain solid, but over IMHO some chinks remain in her armor.
*Pawlenty:  His mission to go after Bachman I do not think served him well and a lot of his statements seemed canned.  I think his numbers will compel him to withdraw.  A decent man, but IMHO he just is not going to get traction.
*Romney: Remains the leader.
*Huntsman: remains a Bushie pipe dream.  He remains a non-entity.

23948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: August 11, 2011, 10:28:01 PM
JDN:  Search on the SCH forum for an interesting and controversial article by Charles Murray on that very question.
23949  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: August 11, 2011, 10:25:51 PM
Good luck and prosperity to both of us  smiley
23950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: August 11, 2011, 05:39:08 PM
CounterPOV:  Popped bubbles don't bounce.
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