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23951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Where oh where has my little biscuit gone? on: October 23, 2010, 12:32:47 AM

OMFG shocked shocked shocked

Contrast this:

After Ronald Reagan said his good-byes to Bonnie Nofziger and hung up the phone, he leaned back and chatted with his aides who had gathered around him. He talked about his favorite room in the White House residence, the Yellow Room, and mentioned the note he had left in the desk drawer for George Bush on a notepad with the printed heading, DON'T LET THE TURKEYS GET YOU DOWN. Someone suggested that the president carve his initials in the Oval Office desk. A chuckle went around the group, and they all felt the bittersweetness of the moment.

Ken Duberstein stepped forward and briefed the president on the schedule for his last day in office--where he was to stand during the inauguration ceremony, when he would board the helicopter that would take him to Andrews Air Force Base for his final flight on Air Force One, when he would give his speech to the well-wishers at Los Angeles International Airport. As Duberstein finished his briefing, the president reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a plain white, plastic-coated card, like an unmarked credit card.

"Well, I guess I won't be needing this anymore," he said, holding the card out in General Powell's direction. "Whom do I give it to?"
It was the nuclear authentication code card that Ronald Reagan had carried throughout his presidency. That thin plastic wafer, when inserted into a black leather briefcase carried by a military aide, had the power to unleash Armageddon upon the world.
"Just hold on to it, sir," said Jim Kuhn. "You're still the commander in chief. You can turn it in after Mr. Bush is sworn in as president."

Ronald Reagan nodded and placed the card back in his pocket. Then Colin Powell stepped forward and gave the president the most succinct national security breefing of Ronald Reagan's entire presidency. "The world is quiet today, Mr. President," said Powell.
23952  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 22, 2010, 05:06:36 PM
And, given the crew who is bringing me along, the seats promise to be rather good wink  Keep on eye for me on your TV screen grin
23953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 22, 2010, 05:03:34 PM
To quote myself:

"That said, we must consider the possibility that China is starting one with us whether we like it or not.  In case such is the case, then we need a clear-headed assessment of who "wins" (i.e. loses less)."

In other words, I am not advocating Smoot Hawley, I am asking what to do if China starts it up.

23954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sowell: Gold on: October 22, 2010, 05:00:33 PM
Wednesday, September 29, 2010  02:53 AM
By Thomas Sowell

Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and  Peace
One of the many slick tricks of the Obama  administration was to insert a
provision in the massive Obamacare legislation  regulating people who sell
gold. This had nothing to do with medical care but  everything to do with
sneaking in an extension of the government's power over  gold, in a bill too big
for most people to read. 
Gold long has been a source of frustration for politicians who want to
extend  their power over the economy. First of all, the gold standard cramped
their  style because there is only so much money you can print when every
dollar bill  can be turned in to the government, to be exchanged for the
equivalent amount of  gold.
When the amount of money the government can print is limited by how much
gold  the government has, politicians cannot pay off a massive national debt
by just  printing more money and repaying the owners of government bonds with
dollars  that are cheaper than the dollars with which the bonds were
bought. In other  words, politicians cannot cheat people as easily.
That was just one of the ways that the gold standard cramped politicians' 
style - and just one of the reasons they got rid of it. One of Franklin D. 
Roosevelt's first acts as president was to take the United States off the
gold  standard in 1933. But, even with the gold standard gone, the ability of
private  individuals to buy gold reduces the ability of the government to
steal the value  of their money by printing more money.
Inflation is a quiet but effective way for the government to transfer 
resources from the people to itself, without raising taxes. A hundred-dollar 
bill bought less in 1998 than a $20 bill bought in the 1960s. This means that 
anyone who kept his money in a safe over those years would have lost 80
percent  of its value, because no safe can keep your money safe from
politicians who  control the printing presses.
That is why some people buy gold when they lose confidence in the 
government's managing of its money. Usually that is when inflation is either  under
way or looming on the horizon. When many people start transferring their 
wealth from dollars into gold, that restricts the ability of politicians to 
steal from them through inflation.
Even though there is currently very little inflation, purchases of gold
have  nevertheless skyrocketed. Ordinarily, most gold is bought for producing
jewelry  or for various industrial purposes, more so than as an investment.
But, at times  within the past two years, most gold has been bought by
What that suggests is that increasing numbers of people don't trust this 
administration's economic policies, especially the huge and growing deficits,
 which add up to a record-breaking national debt.
When a national debt reaches an unsustainable amount, there is always a 
temptation to pay it off with inflated dollars. There is the same temptation 
when the Social Security system starts paying out more money to baby boom 
retirees than it is taking in from current workers.
Whether gold is a good investment for individuals, and whether the gold 
standard is the right system for a country, are much more complicated
questions  than can be answered here. But what is clear is that the Obama
administration  sees people's freedom to buy and sell gold as something that can limit
what the  government can do.
Sneaking a provision on gold purchases and sales into massive legislation 
that is supposedly about medical care is just one of the many cynical tricks
 used to circumvent the public's right to know how they are being governed.
The  Constitution begins, "We the people" but, to the left, both the people
and the  Constitution are just things to circumvent in order to carry out
its agenda.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, 
Revolution and Peace in Stanford, Calif.

23955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: October 22, 2010, 03:05:06 PM
Glenn has been on a good rampage about the connection between George Soros giving nearly $2m to NPR and the firing of Juan Williams.

I do wish he would get off the kick in favor of bad food though rolleyes
23956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 22, 2010, 03:03:24 PM
I think a rather productive firestorm has been ignited by JW's firing by NPR.
23957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 22, 2010, 02:51:24 PM
"we need them to ignore how they are throwing money away continuing to fund our irresponsible spending habits"

GM, I am going to nit pick a bit on this one.  NO we do NOT need to fund our irresponsible spending habits.  Rather we need to spend responsibly.  We can get along quite nicely without the plastic knicknacks and poison laced products (including children's toys! angry) and we can get along quite nicely without further increasing their leverage over us.
23958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's foreign money can of worms on: October 22, 2010, 02:20:55 PM
Return to the Article


October 19, 2010

Obama's foreign money can of worms

Thomas Lifson

The Democrats, including President Obama, have embarked on a disastrous
campaign impugning the US Chamber of Commerce as a source of nefarious
foreign money corrupting our campaigns. Not only has the accusation
failed to resonate, it has opened a door that Democrats would prefer
remain closed. And because Washington Post writer Marc A. Thiessen has
taken up the question, it will be impossible to contain the very valid
questions raised: of the largest labor unions in America, the Service Employees
International Union (SEIU), ... is spending lavishly to elect Democrats.
The SEIU claims 100,000 members in Canada
. According to SEIU's 2008 constitution
<> , dues
include $7.65 per month per member that must be sent to the SEIU
International in the United States. This means that the SEIU takes in
nearly $9.2 million per year from foreign nationals -- almost 10 times
the amount the Chamber receives from its affiliates abroad.


Is any foreign money being used to fund the SEIU's anti-Republican
campaign efforts? According to the Wall Street Journal, "The Service
Employees International Union, one of the nation's fastest-growing labor
unions, acknowledges that it can't be certain that foreign nationals
haven't contributed
88.html>  to its $44 million political budget to support pro-labor
Democrats." The SEIU is not the only union that takes in money from
foreign members. According to the Canadian Department of Human Resources
and Skills Development
membership/index2009.shtml> , the United Steel, Paper and Forestry,
Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers has
280,000 Canadian members; the United Food and Commercial Workers has
more than 245,000; the Teamsters has more than 108,000; the Laborers'
International Union of North America has more than 68,000; and the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has more than 57,000.
How much do these foreign union members send to the United States? If
the constitutions of their unions are anything like SEIU's, it could be
tens of millions of dollars. Is any of that money being used to help
elect Democrats this November?


Unions have another source of foreign cash: dues from illegal
immigrants. In an April 2007 speech, uncovered by the conservative Web
site RedState, SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina boasts how
his union's rolls are loaded with illegal immigrants
<> .
Medina declares proudly: "SEIU is the largest union of immigrant workers
in the country, and a number of them are undocumented."


Hat tip: Ed Lasky





<>  | SPORTS
<>  |
<>  | ARTS
<>  |
<>  | CARS
<>  | REAL


Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 29, 2008; A02

Sen. Barack Obama
<> 's
presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable
prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on
how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a
contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.

Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign
has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent
potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its
accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its
books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.

The Obama organization said its extensive review has ensured that the
campaign has refunded any improper contributions, and noted that Federal
Election Commission rules do not require front-end screening of

(READ MORE: Murkowski embraces outsider status with write-in campaign)

In recent weeks, questionable contributions have created headaches for
Obama's accounting team as it has tried to explain why campaign finance
filings have included itemized donations from individuals using fake
names, such as Es Esh or Doodad Pro. Those revelations prompted
conservative bloggers to further test Obama's finance vetting by giving
money using the kind of prepaid cards that can be bought at a drugstore
and cannot be traced to a donor.

23959  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Yee hah! on: October 22, 2010, 02:02:58 PM
Looks like I get to go to tomorrow night's UFC for free!
23960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 22, 2010, 02:01:20 PM
Sorry, having LOTS of internet connection problems.  Right now I am on the neighbor's connection.  In that Cindy is out of town and she is the geek in our family, it is hard to predict when all of this will get straightened out.
23961  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: October 22, 2010, 01:55:37 PM
We are having internet connection problems again-- AND Cindy is out of town visiting my mom  shocked
23962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 20, 2010, 01:47:59 PM
Perhaps I read too much into what you say, but I am not seeing a point at which you would draw a line.
23963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The on: October 20, 2010, 01:45:20 PM
Paris, Berlin, Moscow and the Emerging Concert of Europe

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is hosting Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday and Tuesday at the French Atlantic resort of Deauville. The summit is being described by Western media as an opportunity for Russia to improve its relations with NATO, with Paris and Berlin lending a hand toward the reconciliation between Moscow and the West.

In a way, the press on the summit is correct: The summit is ultimately about the West’s relationship with Russia. Unfortunately for the United States, Central Europeans, the United Kingdom and a large part of Europe’s firmly pro-U.S. countries such as the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark, it’s about the West as defined by Paris and Berlin — which is to say … Paris and Berlin.

“For both France and Germany, but particularly Germany, Russia is not a current security threat but rather a potential energy and economic partner.”
The topics of the meeting will be wide ranging, concentrating on security and Moscow’s relationship with NATO and the European Union. Specifically, the Russian president will bring up the Russian proposal for a new European Security Treaty. While Moscow claims that the proposal is not intended to replace NATO, the United States and its European allies — particularly Central Europeans worried about Russia’s intentions — see it as attempting to do exactly that.

Both Sarkozy and Merkel have indicated that they will listen to what Medvedev has to say on the proposed treaty. Just the fact that Berlin and Paris are willing to listen to Moscow’s proposal is worrisome to the rest of Europe. In fact, the timing of the summit is particularly jarring. The NATO heads of state summit — at which the alliance will approve a new Strategic Concept — is to be held in exactly one month, and yet Paris and Berlin have no problems so openly coordinating European security with Moscow. It is akin to spending a weekend on the sea with a mistress ahead of one’s 25-year marriage anniversary.

Paris and Berlin are both feeling like their marriage with NATO is getting stale. For both France and Germany, but particularly Germany, Russia is not a current security threat but rather a potential energy and economic partner. And neither Berlin nor Paris wants to be part of any future “American adventurism” outside of the European theater of operations, since both see efforts in Afghanistan as largely an enormous expenditure of resources for dubious benefits. The divergent interests of the various NATO member states have France and Germany looking to bring matters of European security back to the European theater, and that means talking to Russia.

France has an additional motive in wanting to make sure that as Germany and Russia get close, France is the one organizing the meeting and therefore keeping an eye on the developing Berlin-Moscow relationship (as evidenced by the fact that Sarkozy is the one hosting the other two leaders). In this context, we can consider Sarkozy’s idea to set up a European Security Council, which according to German newspaper Der Spiegel he would propose at the Deauville summit. Paris is trying to compensate for the strong Berlin-Moscow relationship by going out of its way to create structures that would involve Paris in the future European security architecture. France wants to be able to control the discussion and the makeup at these forums and introduce outside players if it feels that it needs to balance Moscow and Berlin.

While no public or official proposals or agreements may be seen out of the Deauville meeting, Russia is more interested in striking a very real understanding with France and Germany. The lack of public announcements should not detract from the fact that Medvedev is meeting with Sarkozy and Merkel to get a sense of their willingness to offer Russia clear security concessions. Russia wants a commitment and an understanding from France and Germany that they are willing to allow Russia its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union and that they intend to coordinate with Russia on any future security matters that affect Moscow. Moscow does not want to be blindsided in the future as it was with the West’s decision to back Kosovo’s independence or to be completely left outside of European security matters as it was during the 1990s and doesn’t want to cross a red line with Paris or Berlin as it resurges. Tuesday’s meeting is most likely about creating guidelines on what Russia is allowed to do and what is going too far. Russia is currently at a delicate place in its resurgence during which it may cross into territory that could be construed as being beyond its direct sphere — specifically Moldova — so it needs to know where France and Germany stand now.

The entire episode is beginning to look very much like the Concert of Europe congress system of diplomacy. Between 1815 and 1914, Europeans resolved most geopolitical disagreements by holding a “Congress” at which concessions were made and general geopolitical horse-trading was conducted among the European powers. And if a particularly problematic country refused to make concessions — or was the very subject of the meeting — it could be denied access to the Congress in question.

Whether the Deauville summit results in concrete proposals or not, the significance is not in statements that follow but in the fact that Berlin and Paris no longer see anything wrong in spending a few days by the sea with Russia, especially as the rest of their supposed European allies wait for their input at the NATO summit. This tells us that Europe may have already entered a new Concert era, whether or not post-WWII institutions such as NATO still exist.

23964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 20, 2010, 12:06:46 PM
Trade wars are very bad things and tend to have consequences far beyond those originally envisioned.

That said, we must consider the possibility that China is starting one with us whether we like it or not.  In case such is the case, then we need a clear-headed assessment of who "wins" (i.e. loses less).

GM, you've been a serious observer of China for some time now.  Why do you say they win a trade war with us?
23965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 20, 2010, 12:02:48 PM
I continue to worry.

I saw yesterday that Murkowski has pulled to a statistical dead heat with Miller in Alaska.  Engle can lose NE (and Reid IMHO is just the man to cheat to help make that happen).  I read that O'Donnel in the debate bobbled the whole issue of teaching creationism in science class and came off looking like an ingnoramus on the first amendment and separation of church and state.   Paladino is looking quite the ass in NY.

If the promised tsunami doesn't happen this will all get played as an intramural squabble between the whacko tea partiers and the Rinos.

23966  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 20, 2010, 11:16:33 AM
Grateful to be home with my family!!!
23967  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: October 20, 2010, 11:15:37 AM
I'm back from a fine time in Bloomington.

I have a feeling of being able to settle in for a while after several months of seminars, government work, the DB Gathering, another matter that took great amounts of time at a fairly heavy emotional cost, etc etc.

I am really looking forward to getting my groove on!

PS:  Folks, now that starting today my wife will be visiting my mother for a week and so during that time all will be glorious chaos here cheesy
23968  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Marc Denny Seminar Bloomington Illinois October 16th and 17th 2010 on: October 20, 2010, 11:12:48 AM
Woof Terry et al:

As always a fine time.  Thank you for your gracious hospitality and the pleasure of working with the fine group of people you attract.  Thanks to all who travelled so far to come (Long distance price to Dog Howie who came from Philadelphia).

Your group is moving forward nicely and I look forward to the next time.

To walk as a warrior for all our days,
Guro Crafty
23969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man returns to Iraq 8(?) on: October 19, 2010, 07:44:07 AM
As I opened the exterior door of the Villa this morning at about 0655, I heard a huge boom.  Second loudest boom I have heard in all thiem time I have been over here combined.
At about 0720 while in the NEC DFAC, I heard another big boom.
Both sounded like truck bombs would.
So, it has been on like Donkeykong in Baghdad this morning.
Which is ironic because just last night as I was surfing the web to see what bad things have been going on in Iraq today, I thought to myself "man it's been very quiet.  We are due for something." 
Then I thought to myself "I wonder if the Iraqis think like that and warn their security folks the equivalent of we're due for something!"
23970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Excrement happens on: October 19, 2010, 07:43:06 AM
In the beginning was the plan.

And then came the Assumptions.

And the Assumptions were without form.
And the Plan was without substance.

And darkness was upon the face of the Workers.

And they spoke among themselves, saying,
"It is a crock of shit, and it stinketh."
And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said,
"It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odor thereof."
And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying,
"It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong,
such that none may abide by it."
And the Managers went unto their Directors, saying,
"It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength."
And the Directors spoke amongst themselves, saying one to another,
"It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong."
And the Directors then went unto the Vice-Presidents, saying unto them,
"It promotes growth, and it is very powerful."
And the Vice-Presidents went unto the President, saying unto him,
"This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor
of the company, with powerful effects."
And the President Looked upon the Plan, and saw that it was good.
And the Plan became Policy.

This is how Shit Happens
23971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 19, 2010, 07:39:43 AM
I return late tonight from Bloomington IL.
23972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 19, 2010, 07:39:08 AM
Woof All:

I find myself worrying about how cocky some of the reporting by our usual sources is getting; if Angle loses in NE, if O'Donnell loses in DE, the Reps do not take the Senate and the Tea Party will be blamed by the RINOs and the chattering classes.
23973  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV on: October 18, 2010, 06:29:18 PM
As far as I know the show is in HD.

I am in Bloomington IL at the moment and will return Tuesday night and will look to answer your other questions later this week.
23974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Surprisingly candid comment from Merkel on: October 18, 2010, 08:26:46 AM
by Audrey Kauffmann Audrey Kauffmann – Sun Oct 17, 11:50 am ET
BERLIN (AFP) – Germany's attempt to create a multi-cultural society has failed completely, Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the weekend, calling on the country's immigrants to learn German and adopt Christian values.

Merkel weighed in for the first time in a blistering debate sparked by a central bank board member saying the country was being made "more stupid" by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants.

"Multikulti", the concept that "we are now living side by side and are happy about it," does not work, Merkel told a meeting of younger members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam near Berlin.

"This approach has failed, totally," she said, adding that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany's culture and values.

"We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don't accept them don't have a place here," said the chancellor.

"Subsidising immigrants" isn't sufficient, Germany has the right to "make demands" on them, she added, such as mastering the language of Goethe and abandoning practices such as forced marriages.

Merkel spoke a week after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which they pledged to do more to improve the often poor integration record of Germany's 2.5-million-strong Turkish community.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, in a weekend interview, also urged the Turkish community living in Germany to master the language of their adopted country.

"When one doesn't speak the language of the country in which one lives that doesn't serve anyone, neither the person concerned, the country, nor the society," the Turkish president told the Suedeutsche Zeitung.

"That is why I tell them at every opportunity that they should learn German, and speak it fluently and without an accent. That should start at nurseries."

German President Christian Wulff was due for a five-day visit to Turkey and talks with the country's leaders on Monday.

The immigration debate has at times threatened to split Merkel's conservative party, and she made noises to both wings of the debate.

While saying that the government needed to encourage the training of Muslim clerics in Germany, Merkel said "Islam is part of Germany", echoeing the recent comments of Wulff, a liberal voice in the party.

Horst Seehofer, the leader of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, CSU, who represents the right-wing, recently said Germany did not "need more immigrants from different cultures like the Turks and Arabs" who are "more difficult" to integrate.

While warning against "immigration that weighs down on our social system", Merkel said Germany needed specialists from overseas to keep the pace of its economic development.

According to the head of the German chamber of commerce and industry, Hans Heinrich Driftmann, Germany is in urgent need of about 400,000 engineers and qualified workers, whose lack is knocking about one percent off the country's growth rate.

The integration of Muslims has been a hot button issue since August when a member of Germany's central bank sparked outrage by saying the country was being made "more stupid" by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants with headscarves.

The banker, Thilo Sarrazin, has since resigned but his book on the subject -- "Germany Does Itself In" -- has flown off the shelves, and polls showed considerable sympathy for some of his views.

A recent study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation think tank showed around one-third of Germans feel the country is being "over-run by foreigners" and the same percentage feel foreigners should be sent home when jobs are scarce.

Nearly 60 percent of the 2,411 people polled thought the around four million Muslims in Germany should have their religious practices "significantly curbed."

Far-right attitudes are found not only at the extremes of German society, but "to a worrying degree at the centre of society," the think tank said in its report.

"Hardly eight weeks have passed since publication of Sarrazin's theory of decline, and the longer the debate continues to a lower level it falls," the weekly Der Spiegel commented Sunday.

23975  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA getting some love on the UnderGround (UG) on: October 18, 2010, 07:57:38 AM
The signal to noise ratio there remains as I remember it.
23976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 18, 2010, 07:33:13 AM
What has Condi Rice said about Clinton and Bamster?

BTW, she did not impress me as SoS.
23977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / OMG-- Krugman? on: October 18, 2010, 07:31:58 AM
Rare and Foolish
Published: October 17, 2010
comments (17)
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CloseLinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink Last month a Chinese trawler operating in Japanese-controlled waters collided with two vessels of Japan’s Coast Guard. Japan detained the trawler’s captain; China responded by cutting off Japan’s access to crucial raw materials.

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Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Paul Krugman

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And there was nowhere else to turn: China accounts for 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths, minerals that play an essential role in many high-technology products, including military equipment. Sure enough, Japan soon let the captain go.

I don’t know about you, but I find this story deeply disturbing, both for what it says about China and what it says about us. On one side, the affair highlights the fecklessness of U.S. policy makers, who did nothing while an unreliable regime acquired a stranglehold on key materials. On the other side, the incident shows a Chinese government that is dangerously trigger-happy, willing to wage economic warfare on the slightest provocation.

Some background: The rare earths are elements whose unique properties play a crucial role in applications ranging from hybrid motors to fiber optics. Until the mid-1980s the United States dominated production, but then China moved in.

“There is oil in the Middle East; there is rare earth in China,” declared Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s economic transformation, in 1992. Indeed, China has about a third of the world’s rare earth deposits. This relative abundance, combined with low extraction and processing costs — reflecting both low wages and weak environmental standards — allowed China’s producers to undercut the U.S. industry.

You really have to wonder why nobody raised an alarm while this was happening, if only on national security grounds. But policy makers simply stood by as the U.S. rare earth industry shut down. In at least one case, in 2003 — a time when, if you believed the Bush administration, considerations of national security governed every aspect of U.S. policy — the Chinese literally packed up all the equipment in a U.S. production facility and shipped it to China.

The result was a monopoly position exceeding the wildest dreams of Middle Eastern oil-fueled tyrants. And even before the trawler incident, China showed itself willing to exploit that monopoly to the fullest. The United Steelworkers recently filed a complaint against Chinese trade practices, stepping in where U.S. businesses fear to tread because they fear Chinese retaliation. The union put China’s imposition of export restrictions and taxes on rare earths — restrictions that give Chinese production in a number of industries an important competitive advantage — at the top of the list.

Then came the trawler event. Chinese restrictions on rare earth exports were already in violation of agreements China made before joining the World Trade Organization. But the embargo on rare earth exports to Japan was an even more blatant violation of international trade law.

Oh, and Chinese officials have not improved matters by insulting our intelligence, claiming that there was no official embargo. All of China’s rare earth exporters, they say — some of them foreign-owned — simultaneously decided to halt shipments because of their personal feelings toward Japan. Right.

So what are the lessons of the rare earth fracas?

First, and most obviously, the world needs to develop non-Chinese sources of these materials. There are extensive rare earth deposits in the United States and elsewhere. However, developing these deposits and the facilities to process the raw materials will take both time and financial support. So will a prominent alternative: “urban mining,” a k a recycling of rare earths and other materials from used electronic devices.

Second, China’s response to the trawler incident is, I’m sorry to say, further evidence that the world’s newest economic superpower isn’t prepared to assume the responsibilities that go with that status.

Major economic powers, realizing that they have an important stake in the international system, are normally very hesitant about resorting to economic warfare, even in the face of severe provocation — witness the way U.S. policy makers have agonized and temporized over what to do about China’s grossly protectionist exchange-rate policy. China, however, showed no hesitation at all about using its trade muscle to get its way in a political dispute, in clear — if denied — violation of international trade law.

Couple the rare earth story with China’s behavior on other fronts — the state subsidies that help firms gain key contracts, the pressure on foreign companies to move production to China and, above all, that exchange-rate policy — and what you have is a portrait of a rogue economic superpower, unwilling to play by the rules. And the question is what the rest of us are going to do about it.
23978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Guns don't kill, doctors kill on: October 17, 2010, 07:41:39 AM
Source unknown:


(A)  The number of physicians in the U.S. is about 700,000.

(B)  Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year are 120,000.

(C)  Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171.

Statistics courtesy of   U.S. Department of Health  and  Human Services.


Now think about this:


(A)  The number of gun owners in the   U.S. is about 80,000,000.
(Yes, that's 80 million)

(B)  The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups, is about  1,500.

(C)  The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is  .00001875.

Statistics courtesy of FBI

So,  statistically, doctors are over 9,100 times more dangerous than gun owners.

Remember, 'Guns don't kill people, doctors do.'


FACT:  NOT EVERYONE HAS A GUN, BUT almost everyone has at least one doctor.
This means you are over 900 times more likely to be killed by a doctor as a gun


Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors before this gets completely out of hand!!!!!


Out of concern for the public at large, I withheld the statistics on Lawyers for fear the shock would cause people to panic and seek medical attention!
23979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gold on: October 17, 2010, 07:34:32 AM

Losing confidence

Looking at the dollar in the old-fashioned way

Jul 22nd 2010

WHEN the Bretton Woods system was cracking in the early 1970s the price of a troy
ounce of gold, in dollar terms, was raised in two steps from $35 to $42.22. This
was, in effect, a devaluation of the dollar.

The authorities then still thought it worth expressing the shift in terms of
bullion, rather than against another currency like the Japanese yen or French franc.
In the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt had a specific policy of devaluing the dollar
against gold, pushing the price from $20.67 to $35 in the belief this would push
commodity prices (and thus farm incomes) higher and reduce the burden of debt

Nowadays the price of gold is set by the market rather than by official diktat. When
explaining shifts in the bullion market people tend to think in terms of supply and
demand. Perhaps, however, they should view gold-price movements in terms of
investors’ confidence in the dollar, and in paper money in general.

After gold was set loose in 1973 its price rose at a rapid rate for the rest of the
decade, peaking at $850 an ounce in 1980. In other words the dollar had lost around
90% of its value since the demise of Bretton Woods. The 1970s was a period when
economic policy in the developed world seemed to be in disarray, with inflation and
unemployment high, and confidence in central bankers low.

The appointment of Paul Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1979 appeared
to be a turning-point. He broke the inflationary spiral in the early 1980s, albeit
at the cost of a double-dip recession. From 1982 onwards developed economies seemed
to enter the “great moderation”: inflation was low or falling, and recessions were
rare and mild. The authorities developed the knack of delivering stability with
paper money, thanks to independent central banks committed to a low inflation
target. Gold fell from $850 to $253 by 1999. With confidence in economic policy
restored, the dollar was revalued by 236% over almost two decades.

By the late 1990s, however, belief in the eternal wisdom of central bankers was
nearing its peak: “Maestro”, Bob Woodward’s portrait of Alan Greenspan, came out in
2000. The dotcom and housing bubbles led to a reappraisal of Mr Greenspan’s career.
Many commentators now feel he paid too little attention to credit growth and asset
prices. As Charles Dumas of Lombard Street Research tartly remarks, Mr Greenspan
displayed “asymmetric ignorance”. He claimed not to know when asset prices were in a
bubble but he did always claim to know when falling asset prices were likely to
cause havoc. Investors were given a one-way bet.

The credit crunch also laid bare a conflict in central banking that goes back to the
days of the gold standard. As well as safeguarding the value of the currency,
central banks act as lenders of last resort. When push comes to shove the latter
duty seems to outweigh the former, and the bankers turn on the monetary taps. The
result has been a loss of confidence in the dollar. Gold’s rise since 1999 in effect
means a near-80% devaluation of the dollar over the past decade (see chart).

What is striking about the history of the past 40 years is that these three swings
in the value of the dollar (ranging from a rise of 236% to a fall of 90%) are huge
by previous standards. But they have not been noticed because the dollar is now
compared with other paper currencies—like the euro and yuan—where shifts have been
nothing like as extreme.

This raises a further puzzle. One reason why countries tried so hard to maintain the
gold standard and the Bretton Woods system was to reassure creditors that they would
be repaid in sound money. Since 1971 most countries have had the right to repay
creditors in money they could print at will. The likes of America and Britain are
now perceived as “lucky” because they, unlike Greece, can devalue their currencies
and default in real terms.

That prospect did alarm creditors in the 1980s when the real yields on government
debt shot up. But it does not seem to now. America and Britain are paying only
3-3.5% to borrow for ten years. That may be because deflation seems the more
immediate threat. It may be because bond markets are now dominated by other central
banks, which are more interested in managing exchange rates than in raising returns.
But it is not stable to combine low yields, high deficits and governments that are
happy to see their currencies depreciate. Something has to give.

23980  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB 9/10 Gg of Pack clip on: October 15, 2010, 11:55:49 PM
Night Owl directed the shooting of the Gg and edited this clip.   As always, we are quite proud to have him as part of the Tribe.
23981  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV on: October 15, 2010, 11:53:08 PM
That is the piece that Original Productions put together with footage from the same day; this clip is what led to the Nat Geo documentary.  The PPV in question here is a different project.
23982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spencer on Geller's critics on: October 15, 2010, 11:48:53 PM
23983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: October 15, 2010, 08:07:09 AM
R Rings, truly I get what you are saying, but if your theories were true then they would be true across the board.  So, to put a specific name to one of the many examples that contradict the conclusions of your theories:  What do you make of the case of Switzerland?  There is a very high standard of living, all the food that one could want-- including the best fg chocolate in the world!- and fatness is quite rare.

23984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson to J. Adams 1813: Natural Aristocracy on: October 15, 2010, 08:00:16 AM
"The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most – for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?" --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, 1813
23985  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB 9/10 Gg of Pack clip on: October 14, 2010, 03:24:46 PM
23986  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DB 9/10 Gg of Pack clip on: October 14, 2010, 10:57:46 AM
23987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Job opening in Mexico on: October 14, 2010, 08:36:54 AM
23988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin, 1730; respect for religion on: October 14, 2010, 07:51:37 AM
"That wise Men have in all Ages thought Government necessary for the Good of Mankind; and, that wise Governments have always thought Religion necessary for the well ordering and well-being of Society, and accordingly have been ever careful to encourage and protect the Ministers of it, paying them the highest publick Honours, that their Doctrines might thereby meet with the greater Respect among the common People." --Benjamin Franklin, On that Odd Letter of the Drum, 1730

23989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Syria, Lebanon, and Iran- an alliance in flux on: October 14, 2010, 07:49:39 AM
Syria, Hezbollah and Iran: An Alliance in Flux
October 14, 2010

By Reva Bhalla

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Beirut on Oct. 13 for his first official visit to Lebanon since becoming president in 2005. He is reportedly returning to the country after a stint there in the 1980s as a young Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer tasked with training Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. A great deal of controversy is surrounding his return. Rumors are spreading of Sunni militants attempting to mar the visit by provoking Iran’s allies in Hezbollah into a fight (already the car of a pro-Hezbollah imam who has been defending Ahmadinejad has been blown up), while elaborate security preparations are being made for Ahmadinejad to visit Lebanon’s heavily militarized border with Israel.

Rather than getting caught up in the drama surrounding the Iranian president’s visit, we want to take the opportunity provided by all the media coverage to probe into a deeper topic, one that has been occupying the minds of Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah officials for some time. This topic is the durability of the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria alliance, which STRATFOR believes has been under great stress in recent months. More precisely, the question is: What are Syria’s current intentions toward Hezbollah?

The Origins of the Alliance

To address this topic, we need to review the origins of the trilateral pact, starting with the formation of an alliance in 1979 between secular Alawite-Baathist Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ideologically speaking, the Syrian Alawite elite represent an offshoot of Shiite Islam that the Sunnis consider apostate. They found some commonality with the Shiite clerical elite in Tehran, but there were also broader strategic motivations in play. At the time, Syria was on a quest to establish the country’s regional prowess, and it knew that the first steps toward this end had to be taken in Lebanon. From the Syrian point of view, Lebanon is not just a natural extension of Syria; it is the heartland of the Greater Syria province that existed during Ottoman times. Since the days of Phoenicia, what is modern-day Lebanon has been a vibrant trading hub, connecting routes from the east and south to the Mediterranean basin. For Syria to feel like it has any real worth in the region, it must dominate Lebanon.

A civil war that had broken out in Lebanon in 1975 (and lasted through 1990) afforded Syria such an opportunity. The main obstruction to Syria’s agenda at the time, besides Israel, was the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasser Arafat, whose vision for a unified Palestine and whose operations in Lebanon ran counter to Syria’s bid for regional hegemony. The PLO, in fact, was one of the main reasons Syria intervened militarily in Lebanon in 1975 on behalf of its Maronite Christian allies. At the same time, Syria was looking for an ally to undermine the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, with whom the Syrian Baathists had a deep-seated rivalry. An alliance with Iran would grant Syria some much-needed individuality in a region dominated by the Arab powers Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Coming off the success of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and going into what would become a long and bloody war with Iraq, Iran was also looking for a venue to counter the Baathist regime in Baghdad. In addition, Iran was looking to undermine the Pan-Arab vision, establish a presence in the Levant and promote its own Islamic vision of government. In opposition to Israel, Hussein and Arafat, Iran and Syria thus uncovered the roots of an alliance, albeit one that was shifting uneasily between Syrian secularity and Iranian religiosity.

The adoption of Hezbollah by the two unlikely allies in 1982 was what helped bridge that gap. Hezbollah, an offshoot of Amal, the main Shiite political movement at the time, served multiple purposes for Damascus and Tehran. Syria found in Hezbollah a useful militant proxy to contain obstructions to Syrian influence in Lebanon and to compensate for its own military weakness in comparison to Israel. In the broader Syrian strategic vision, Hezbollah would develop into a bargaining chip for a future settlement with Israel once Syria could ensure that Lebanon was firmly within Syria’s grasp and was therefore unable to entertain a peace deal with Israel on its own.

The Iranians saw in Hezbollah the potential to export its Islamic Revolution into the Arab world, a strong binder for its still new and shaky alliance with Syria and a useful deterrent in dealing with adversaries like Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia. So, Iran and Syria set out to divide their responsibilities in managing this militant proxy. Iran was primarily in charge of bankrolling, training and enforcing the group’s ideological loyalty to Tehran with IRGC assistance. Syria was in charge of creating the conditions for Iran to nurture Hezbollah, mainly by permitting IRGC officers to set up training camps in the Bekaa Valley and by securing a line of supply for weapons to reach the group via Syria.

But the triumvirate did not get off to a very smooth start. In fact, Hezbollah and Syria clashed a number of times in the early 1980s, when Syria felt the group, under Iranian direction, went too far in provoking external intervention (and thus risked drawing Syria into conflict). If Hezbollah was to operate on Syrian territory (as Syria viewed it) in Lebanon, Syria wanted Hezbollah operating on its terms. It was not until 1987, when Syrian troops in Lebanon shot 23 Hezbollah members, that Hezbollah fully realized the importance of maintaining an entente with Syria. In the meantime, Hezbollah, caught between occasionally conflicting Syrian and Iranian agendas, saw that the path to the group’s survival lay in becoming a more autonomous political — as opposed to purely militant — actor in the Lebanese political arena.

A Syrian Setback

The Iran-Hezbollah-Syria alliance operated relatively smoothly through the 1990s as Hezbollah gradually built up its political arm and as Syria kept close watch on the group through its roughly 14,000 troops and thousands of intelligence agents who had remained in Lebanon since the end of the civil war. In 2000, with Iranian and Syrian help, Hezbollah succeeded in forcing Israel to withdraw from Lebanon’s southern Security Zone, an event that greatly boosted Hezbollah’s credentials as a Lebanese nationalist actor.

But fresh challenges to the pact came with the turn of the century. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, in particular, was a defining moment for both Iran and Syria. The two allies felt enormously uncomfortable with having the world’s most powerful military on their borders, but they were also presented with an immediate opportunity to unseat their mutual archrival, Saddam Hussein. Iran and Syria also had different endgames in mind for a post-Hussein Iraq. Iran used its political, militant and intelligence links to consolidate influence in Iraq through the country’s Shiite majority. In contrast, Syria provided refuge to Iraq’s Sunni Baathists with the aim of extending its sphere of influence in the region through a secularist former-Baathist presence in Baghdad. The Syrians also planned to use those Sunni links later to bargain with the United States for a seat at the negotiating table, thereby affirming Syrian influence in the region.

But before Syria could gain much traction in its plans for Iraq, its agenda in Lebanon suffered a serious setback. On Feb. 14, 2005, a massive car bomb in Beirut killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, a powerful and vocal opponent of Syrian authority in Lebanon. The bombing is strongly believed to have been orchestrated by elements within the Syrian regime and executed by members of Hezbollah. While a major opponent of the Syrian regime was thereby eliminated, Syria did not anticipate that the death of al-Hariri would spark a revolution in Lebanon (which attracted the support of countries like France and the United States) and end up driving Syrian troops out of Lebanon. The vacuum that Syria left in Lebanon was rapidly filled by Iran (via Hezbollah), which had a pressing need to fortify Hezbollah as a proxy force as war tensions steadily built up in the region over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Though Syria knew it would only be a matter of time before it would return to Lebanon, it also had a strategic interest in demonstrating to the Israelis and the Americans the costs of Syria’s absence from Lebanon. The regime wanted to show that without a firm Syrian check on Hezbollah, disastrous events like the 2006 summer confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel could occur.

The Syrian Comeback

It has now been more than five and a half years since the al-Hariri assassination, and there is little question that Syria, once again, has reclaimed its hegemonic position in Lebanon. The Syrian intelligence apparatus pervades the country, and Lebanese politicians who dared to speak out against the Syrian regime are now asking for forgiveness. In perhaps the most glaring demonstration of the political tide shifting back toward Damascus, Saad al-Hariri, the son of the slain al-Hariri and Lebanon’s reluctant prime minister, announced in early June that Lebanon had “made a mistake” in making a “political accusation” against Syria for his father’s murder. The message was clear: Syria was back.

That message did not necessarily sit well with Hezbollah and Iran. Syria wants to keep Hezbollah in check, returning to the 1990s model when Syrian military and intelligence could still tightly control the group’s movements and supplies. Iran and Hezbollah have also watched as Syria has used its comeback in Lebanon to diversify its foreign policy portfolio over the past year. Saudi Arabia and Turkey, for example, have been cozying up to Damascus and have quietly bargained with the al Assad regime to place checks on Hezbollah as a way to undermine Iran’s key proxy in the Levant. As long as these regional powers recognize Syria’s authority in Lebanon, Syria is willing to use those relationships to exonerate itself from the al-Hariri assassination tribunal, rake much-needed investment into the Syrian economy and, most important, re-establish itself as a regional power. Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s decision to visit Beirut alongside Saudi King Abdullah was a deliberate signal to Hezbollah and Iran that Syria had options and was not afraid to display them.

This does not mean Syria is ready and willing to sell out its Hezbollah and Iranian allies. On the contrary, Syria derives leverage from maintaining these relationships and acting as the bridge between the Shiite revivalists and the Sunni powers. Syria has illustrated as much in its current mediation efforts among the various Iraqi factions that are torn between Iran on one side and the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the other. But if we go back to reviewing the core reasons Syria agreed to an alliance with Iran and Hezbollah in the first place, it is easy to see why Hezbollah and Iran still have a lot of reason to be worried.

Syria’s priority in the early 1980s was to achieve suzerainty in Lebanon (done), eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in Iraq (done) and remove any key obstacles in Lebanon that could challenge Syria’s authority. In the 1970s, that obstacle was the PLO. Today, that obstacle is Hezbollah and its Iranian backers, who are competing for influence in Lebanon and no longer have a good read on Syrian intentions. Hezbollah relies heavily on Syria for its logistical support and knows that its communication systems, for example, are vulnerable to Syrian intelligence. Hezbollah has also grown nervous at the signs of Syria steadily ramping up support for competing militant groups — including the Amal Movement, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, al-Ahbash, the Nasserites, the Baath Party and the Mirada of Suleiman Franjiyye — to counter Hezbollah’s prowess.

Meanwhile, Iran is seeing one of the key prongs in its deterrent strategy — Hezbollah — grow increasingly vulnerable at a time when Iran is pressed to demonstrate to the United States and Israel that the costs of an attack on its nuclear installation are not worth incurring. The Iranian competition with Syria does not end in Lebanon, either. In Iraq, Syria is far more interested in establishing a secularist government with a former Baathist presence than it is in seeing Baghdad develop into a Shiite satellite for the Iranians.

For now, Syria is adroitly playing both sides of the geopolitical divide in the region, taking care to blend its reassurances toward the alliance and its primary negotiating partners in Saudi Arabia with threats of the destabilization that could erupt should Syria’s demands go ignored. Syria, for example, has made clear that in return for recognition of its authority in Lebanon it will prevent Hezbollah from laying siege on Beirut, whether they are ordered to do so by Tehran as part of an Iranian negotiating ploy with the Americans or whether they act on their own in retaliation against the al-Hariri tribunal proceedings. At the same time, Syrian officials will shuttle regularly between Lebanon and Iran to reaffirm their standing in the triumvirate. Behind this thick veneer of unity, however, a great deal of apprehension and distrust is building among the allies.

The core fear residing in Hezbollah and Iran has to do with Syrian intentions moving forward. In particular, Hezbollah would like to know if, in Syria’s eyes, the group is rapidly devolving from strategic patron to bargaining chip with every ounce of confidence that Syria gains in Lebanon. The answer to that question, however, lies not in Syria but in Israel and the United States. Israeli, U.S. and Saudi policymakers have grown weary of Syria’s mercantilist negotiating style in which Syrian officials will extract as much as possible from their negotiating partners while delivering very little in return.

At the same time, Syria cannot afford to take any big steps toward militant proxies like Hezbollah unless it receives firm assurances from Israel in backchannel peace talks that continue to stagnate. But Syria is also sensing an opportunity at its door: The United States is desperate to complete its exit strategy from Iraq and, like Israel, is looking for useful levers to undermine Iranian clout in the region. One such lever is Syria, which is why the mere idea of Israel and Syria talking peace right now should give Iran and Hezbollah ample food for thought.

23990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: October 14, 2010, 12:42:06 AM
You mean the war against man made disasters?
23991  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 11/6: Phil Rapagna beginner gun course in Los Angeles on: October 14, 2010, 12:36:16 AM
Yes, a good example of the level he is qualified to teach at; and an indicator why a beginner will bet a foundation oriented to higher levels as time goes by.
23992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 14, 2010, 12:34:22 AM
I will keep an eye out for him.  I'm not seeing enough preparation there yet for the Presidency, but there are intriguing hints of potential.  An ability to communicate effectively, seasoned by years of talk radio and the ability to converse with regular folks, are valuable attributes.
23993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Buffet on: October 14, 2010, 12:28:25 AM

I thought that pretty awesome.  It is a point which I have sought to make from time to time, but lacking the education I have not been that effective.  This seems strong to me and I will be playing it forward.


The businessman and philanthropist shares his views on the economy at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry conference. The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry held its first annual socioeconomic conference at the Avenue Convention Center near Ben-Gurion Airport yesterday.

In a special interview for the purpose of the conference, international businessman and leading philanthropist Warren Buffett shared with the participants his views on the global economy and the role governments play in maintaining prosperous economies.

Speaking about his decision to invest in Israel, Buffett said that what drew him to Israel was its brainpower.

“If you’re going to the Middle East to look for oil, you can skip Israel. If you’re looking for brains, look no further.

Israel has shown that it has a disproportionate amount of brains and energy,” Buffett said.
23994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 13, 2010, 09:25:57 PM
AH?  No wonder her husband went gay-- or maybe she went liberal to spite him for having spurned her for  , , , ? , , ,
23995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: October 13, 2010, 09:08:01 PM
That is wickedly funny.
23996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / George Washington 1776 on: October 13, 2010, 08:31:58 AM
"To form a new Government, requires infinite care, and unbounded attention; for if the foundation is badly laid the superstructure must be bad." --George Washington, letter to John Augustine Washington, 1776
23997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / To serve and protect on: October 13, 2010, 07:35:23 AM
Note the dates in question
23998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Four Governors on: October 13, 2010, 07:24:30 AM
Editor's Note: After years of cost increases that exceeded population growth and inflation, the budgets of many American states plunged into crisis during the economic downturn. We asked four governors to tell us how they are coping and how they plan to save money in the future.

• Ed Rendell: Try Smart Shopping

• Arnold Schwarzenegger: Pension Reform Is Key

• Deval Patrick: Invest During Bad Times

• Bob McDonnell: Ever-Higher Budgets Can't Be the Norm

Try Smart Shopping
By Ed Rendell

Pennsylvania now spends $2 billion less to run state government than it did eight years ago. This didn't happen by accident; it's a direct result of the smart management measures we put into place.

Pennsylvania had more than 2,000 contracts for buying office supplies when I took office in January 2003. Some agencies paid full retail price. We immediately began applying good business practices to every aspect of state purchasing. We saved $14 million a year by putting office supplies out to bid and selecting the lowest-priced single supplier. Applying that same model to computer purchases saved taxpayers another $19 million a year. We allow local governments and school districts to piggyback on these contracts. These are just two examples of the procurement redesign that is saving taxpayers nearly $30 million a year.

Today, the skyrocketing cost of providing health care is squeezing taxpayers. Here, we've applied more cutting-edge strategies. To give our state workers greater responsibility for their own care, I imposed the first-ever employee contribution toward premiums. We also require employees to fully engage in a wellness program or face 50% higher monthly premiums.

Our wellness plan specifically focuses on reducing the costs of treating chronic illness, and it actively pushes employees to stay healthy. This approach enables us to keep the state's cost increases to less than 7% a year, well below that of most other states in the recent past. This is a true "win-win" for our employees and our taxpayers.

To save even more money without cutting services to taxpayers, we've asked the state legislature to place all 500 of our school districts into one combined health-insurance plan. Districts would enjoy new leverage in the insurance marketplace, leading to improved benefits and cost reductions of up to 30%.

Each of our cost-saving measures has faced some opposition from legislative leaders of both parties. Fortunately, taxpayers stood with us—they understand that common sense, innovation and political will are what it takes to make government work for them.

Mr. Rendell, a Democrat, is the governor of Pennsylvania.

Pension Reform Is Key
By Arnold Schwarzenegger

For years now, I have been trying to get lawmakers to reform public employee pensions in order to benefit private-sector job growth. The problem is stark: Over the last decade in California, spending on state employees' compensation rose nearly three times faster than state revenues. This has squeezed resources for programs, such as higher education and job training, that benefit private-sector workers.

This year, for the first time ever, our state was forced to spend more on retirement costs ($6.5 billion) than on higher education. This prevented us from, among other things, investing in more transportation and other infrastructure projects that are needed to accommodate the world's fastest-growing and most innovative companies.

Last week we finally got some good news: The state legislature agreed to pass my pension reforms as part of a hard-fought budget deal. These reforms cut spending in significant ways:

• Current employees will now be required to contribute more toward their pensions, saving nearly $800 million this year alone.

• For new employees, we will create a two-tier system that rolls pension levels back to pre-1999 levels. This will reduce pension costs by $100 billion over time.

• We ended the ugly practice of pension "spiking," where employees manipulated their compensation in their final year at work in order to boost their lifetime retirement benefits.

• We brought transparency to the system by exposing the deceptive pension fund accounting practices that were hiding hundreds of billions in pension debt from the taxpayers.

These reforms are creating a pension system that is fair to both state workers and to the private-sector workers who pay their salaries and benefits. It will free up more money for investing in critical programs like higher education and infrastructure, and help reduce tax burdens on the private sector.

It saddens me to see Democrats and some Republicans who seem intent on raising business taxes and reducing infrastructure investment in order to protect spending on public-employee compensation and retirement benefits. We believe that, on the contrary, private-sector job growth will be enhanced if public-sector retirement benefits are brought under control. All it takes is some lawmakers who are willing to stand up to the special interests and do what's right.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is the governor of California.

Invest During Bad Times
By Deval Patrick

Even before we began to feel the effects of the global economic collapse, we chose investments and reforms that we believed would build a stronger, better Commonwealth for a generation. We stuck with that strategy through the recession—and it's working.

Massachusetts increased its investment in education—because education is our calling card around the world—and sustained it because second graders don't get to sit out the second grade until the recession is over. We invested in innovation industries (like biotech, IT, clean and alternative energy, and related manufacturing) because our highly educated work force is uniquely suited to such enterprises. And we invested in health care, because we see health as a public good, and because we believe that people should have health security, especially in tough times.

We paid for these investments with government reforms and deep cuts in other spending. We cut $4.3 billion from a variety of programs and agencies, reduced employee head count by 3,000, negotiated wage and benefit concessions from state employee unions, and increased state employee health-care contributions. We also capped pensions and ended loopholes that some employees used to boost their retirement benefits, such as by claiming an entire year of service for working one day in a calendar year.

At the same time, we consolidated more than 20 transportation, business development and other state agencies. Civilian flaggers instead of police details were assigned to construction projects. We cut the business tax rate to 8.75% from 9.5%. We closed tax loopholes that favored multinationals over small businesses, which make up 85% of the businesses in our state. We increased our sales tax to 6.25% from 5%, but food and most clothing remain untaxed. A large rainy day fund and federal stimulus funds have also helped. Through this blended approach, we delivered four responsible, balanced budgets—on time—leading all the independent rating agencies to reaffirm our strong bond rating.

We're getting results. Massachusetts's rate of job growth is the highest in the nation, having added nearly 65,000 jobs so far since December. The state economy is growing at 6.4%, twice the annual rate. CNBC rates us the fifth best place in the U.S. for business.

Mr. Patrick, a Democrat, is the governor of Massachusetts.

Ever-Higher Budgets Can't Be the Norm
By Bob McDonnell

When I took office in January, we faced two massive budget shortfalls. The first was $1.8 billion in the fiscal year 2010 budget. To get this under control we cut spending and provided a financial reward for state workers to generate savings and not spend their entire agency budgets by the end of the fiscal year. Six months later we announced a $403 million surplus.

The second shortfall was $4.2 billion in the current biennial budget. Again, we cut a wide variety of programs (including in education and health), reducing state spending to 2006 levels. As a result we closed that shortfall without a tax increase—indeed we threatened a veto if the legislature passed the previous governor's proposed $2 billion tax increase. The legislature rejected the tax unanimously.

Virginia's state budget grew by 73.4% from 2000 to 2009, much faster than the rate of growth in population plus inflation. This is unsustainable and unacceptable, and the budget cannot be seriously restrained without addressing its two primary drivers: personnel and programs.

As a result, we supported a significant overhaul of Virginia's pension system. All state employees hired after July 1 of this year will now, for the first time in a generation, contribute to their own pensions. With pension-system reform, we will save an estimated $3 billion over the next 10 years. Actuaries estimate that in the long run, our reforms will reduce the total cost of Virginia's pension system by 10%.

Our second major reform was an immediate, statewide hiring freeze. We obtained enhanced authority from the legislature for the governor to order a freeze that covers all noncritical areas of state government, not just a select few agencies. This strict freeze, together with reductions in full-time positions, will save over $20 million a year.

Looking forward, we've also created a commission on government reform that is evaluating over a thousand ideas to save tax dollars, by doing everything from cutting and consolidating boards and agencies to creating a one-stop shop where businesses can access every license, permit and registration they need to operate. For too long, state governments have operated on the assumption that ever-higher budgets are the norm. We intend to redo the way government operates.

Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, is the governor of Virginia.
23999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: FDR's purge on: October 13, 2010, 07:18:31 AM
In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt trounced Republican Alf Landon by 24 percentage points in the popular vote and won the biggest electoral landslide in American history. Equally impressive were the lopsided congressional victories that year: a 76-16 majority over the feeble Republicans in the Senate, a 334-88 majority in the House.

With such a mandate, Roosevelt set out to expand the New Deal and to give himself the power to make it work. He pushed bills to establish a minimum wage and streamline his control over the executive branch. To fend off a Supreme Court that had struck down key aspects of the New Deal, he tried adding another six justices to the court. Yet the popular president soon found that all his political capital wasn't worth much in Congress.

"Just nine months after Roosevelt's landslide election, opposition in his own party had grown assertive, militant, and confident—and the New Deal had come to a standstill," writes Susan Dunn in "Roosevelt's Purge." Ms. Dunn, a professor at Williams College, delves into a fascinating and overlooked aspect of the FDR presidency: Roosevelt's brazen effort to assert control over his own party in the summer of 1938.

Ms. Dunn has written an engaging story of bare - knuck led political treachery that pits a president at the peak of his popularity against entrenched congressional leaders who didn't like where he was taking the country and their party. FDR tried to use the power of the White House, and his personality, to run his opponents out of the Democratic Party. He failed miserably.

When Roosevelt's second-term agenda hit a brick wall of Democratic opposition, he first tried a charm offensive. In June 1937, he invited every Democrat in the House and Senate to be his guest for a weekend getaway at the Jefferson Islands Club on the Chesapeake Bay. (Well, not quite every Democrat—the six women in Congress were not on the list.) The president treated them to a weekend of skeet shooting, fishing, poker and skinny dipping. The New York Times reported he had done himself "a world of good," easing tension with congressional Democrats.

View Full Image
.Roosevelt's Purge
By Susan Dunn
(Belknap/Harvard, 361 pages, $27.95)
.Not really. When the skinny dipping and skeet shooting were over, his agenda was still stalled. Four weeks later, 70 senators again voted to block his court-packing bill. One of the few to support the president was Sen. Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, the only woman in the Senate and the only Democratic senator not invited to the president's weekend retreat.

It was time to play hardball. As Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau put it: "There has got to be a fight and there has got to be a purge." Roosevelt made a decision. He would drive the conservatives out of the party, beginning with those who faced competitive primaries in 1938. He had reason to believe that he could call the shots. He had won the South in 1936 by the kind of margins that would make a Soviet leader blush: 87% of the vote in Georgia, 96% in Mississippi, 98.6% in South Carolina.

One of FDR's first targets was Georgia Sen. Walter George. The senator had opposed parts of FDR's agenda but eagerly sought his support in his Democratic primary, even writing him a letter apologizing for his political transgressions. "I have never meant to be offensive to you," he wrote, adding that he had never "at any time felt anything but deep affection for you."

With much fanfare, FDR traveled to Barnesville, Ga., in August 1938 to dedicate a rural electrification project. Before a large crowd of enthusiastic FDR supporters and with George sitting a few feet behind him, Roosevelt went for the kill against "my old friend, the senior senator from this state."

"On most public questions," Roosevelt said of George, "he and I don't speak the same language." After lambasting the senator for standing in the way of progress, he told the crowd that if he could vote in the upcoming primary, he would "most assuredly" cast his ballot for George's opponent, Lawrence Camp. To reinforce FDR's popularity in Georgia, Ms. Dunn writes, "federal money rained down on Georgia, including $53 million in WPA funds for building projects in Georgia that promised to create thirty-five thousand jobs."

FDR did the same in state after state, endorsing liberal primary challengers against incumbent Democratic senators. The conservatives fought back hard. "Their attempt to pack the Court failed," one opponent said of Roosevelt and his team, "and their attempt to pack the Senate will fail." In Maryland, Sen. Millard Tydings turned FDR's support for his primary opponent into a central campaign issue, condemning the president's "invasion" of Maryland and declaring: "The Maryland free state shall remain free."

Tydings was perhaps the most anti-New Deal Democrat in Congress and the one Roosevelt wanted defeated above all others. He instructed Harold Ickes to "take Tydings' hide off and rub salt in it." But it was FDR who would be rubbed in salt. Tydings trounced his FDR-backed opponent in a 20-point landslide. A bitter Roosevelt refused to congratulate him.

And it wasn't just Tydings. All of the Democratic senators targeted by FDR coasted to victory in their Democratic primaries. The voters may have liked their president, but they didn't want him picking their senator. In the general election, Roosevelt didn't fare any better. Republicans picked up eight Senate seats and nearly doubled their numbers in the House.

For FDR, it may have been a blessing in disguise. As the focus of his presidency quickly changed to containing Nazi Germany, Roosevelt's closest allies would be the very conservatives he opposed in 1938. He would never again attempt to intervene in a party primary. He had learned a lesson that needs re-learning from time to time: Political purges are more effectively done by the voters, not by the power brokers in Washington.

Mr. Karl is senior political correspondent for ABC News.
24000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hope he is right! on: October 13, 2010, 06:49:36 AM
Dick Morris:

With the Internet, we have all become fixated on that day's polling, following the most minute changes in the swing districts on But we are overstating the importance of polling in determining the outcome of the coming elections. (Odd thought coming from me!)

The fact is that while Republicans lead in 53 House seats now held by Democrats and are within five points in 20 more, the margins are very thin. In only 14 Democratic seats is the Republican leading by 10 points or more. In all the other districts, it is turnout that will determine the victor.

Going into the election, it would seem that the GOP has a big advantage in turning out voters. Not only is its secret weapon -- the tea parties -- outworking and out-hustling the Democrats, but polls show that Republicans are twice as enthusiastic about voting as are Democrats.

All indications from the field suggest a big GOP turnout, while Democrats tend to stay at home.

In Ohio's First Congressional District, where Democratic Rep. Steve Driehaus is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican Steve Chabot, the ratio of early ballots requested by Democrats and by Republicans is, so far, about even. In 2008, it was a three-to-one Democratic edge at this time of year.

So, in analyzing polls to determine whether Republican challengers will defeat Democratic incumbents, three variables are coming into play but are not yet showing up in the polls, all of which work to the Republicans' advantage:

-- The undecided vote usually goes against the incumbent.

-- Republicans are a lot more motivated to vote than Democrats are.

-- While normally late deciders tend to be Democrats, the levels of unemployment and discontent among undecided voters would indicate that they are likely to break Republican.

So what should the Republicans do with this information? Obviously, they need to work harder to bring out the vote. But they also need to adjust their sights higher and aim for more seats. To confine themselves to the races in which they hold slight leads or are within five points would be to leave on the table dozens of Democratic incumbents who could be defeated in this landslide year.

The danger here is not overconfidence but underconfidence, and that Democratic incumbents who could be defeated will skate to victories. Despite a massive victory in the offing for Republicans, there could be great gnashing of teeth when they see how narrowly some of the icons of the Democratic Party are re-elected.
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