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23951  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: September 27, 2011, 11:40:30 AM
"Apparently the deceased in the Ramos case had a conviction for hitting his grandfather with a fire poker , , ,"
"So?  That was 17 years ago.  The Officers had no idea of that at the time they were busy beating Thomas to death aka the "deceased"."

I get that, but it seems entirely possible to me that someone who at any point in his life was capable of hitting his grandfather with a fire poker may have , , , certain vibrations detectable on an animal level.

"I hope he's in general lockup (he's not at great cost to the county).  Why give him special treatment?"

Because he is a policeman and policemen in prison are subject to unique dangers.  I gotta say this comment of yours strikes me as remarkably petty.
"And oh yeah, our tax dollars are paying big bucks for his high profile attorney.  More money..."

Because of what they do for us, police regularly are in hellacious situations.  They serve to know that should the excrement hit the legal fan for them that their families will not face financial destruction if they fight the charges.

23952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 27, 2011, 11:29:54 AM
Good analysis by Sowell (no surprise there) but deeply concerning is Perry's ability to defend himself and mount an attack.

IMHO a border fence the whole length of the border is not only a stupidity, it also would be an ecological disaster with the disruptions it would cause to animal movements.  Perry's "boots on the ground" is the way to go for most of the border.
23953  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: September 27, 2011, 09:57:24 AM
Apparently the deceased in the Ramos case had a conviction for hitting his grandfather with a fire poker , , ,
23954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: September 27, 2011, 09:09:27 AM
Therefor if people smoke marijuana instead of drinking alchohol, there would be less car crashes, yes?  grin
23955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: September 27, 2011, 09:07:51 AM
Interesting. I have not seen any discussion of respective population growth , , ,
23956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 27, 2011, 09:06:21 AM
GM:  Yes Obama is president and so in a very broad sense anything he says or does affects the election, but that does not mean anything he says or does belongs on this thread.  rolleyes  C'mon now!
23957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH tries catching up with Stratfor on: September 27, 2011, 05:56:03 AM
With several remarkable asides thrown in and several years behind the curve,Pravda on the Hudson tries catching up with Stratfor:
ISTANBUL — Not so long ago, the foreign policy of Turkey revolved around a single issue: the divided island of Cyprus. These days, its prime minister may be the most popular figure in the Middle East, its foreign minister envisions a new order there and its officials have managed to do what the Obama administration has so far failed to: position themselves firmly on the side of change in the Arab revolts and revolutions.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, front left, prayed with Libyan and Turkish leaders in Tripoli on Sept. 16.
No one is ready to declare a Pax Turkana in the Middle East, and indeed, its foreign policy is strewn this year with missteps, crises and gains that feel largely rhetorical. It even lacks enough diplomats. But in an Arab world where the United States seems in retreat, Europe ineffectual and powers like Israel and Iran unsettled and unsure, officials of an assertive, occasionally brash Turkey have offered a vision for what may emerge from turmoil across two continents that has upended decades of assumptions.

Not unexpectedly, the vision’s center is Turkey.

“Turkey is the only country that has a sense of where things are going, and it has the wind blowing on its sails,” said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Istanbul Bilgi University.

The country’s foreign policy seized the attention of many in the Middle East and beyond after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tour this month of three Arab countries that have witnessed revolutions: Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Even Mr. Erdogan’s critics were impressed with the symbolism of the trip.

Though many criticize his streak of authoritarianism at home, the public abroad seemed taken by a prime minister who portrayed himself as the proudly Muslim leader of a democratic and prosperous country that has come out forcefully on the side of revolution and in defense of Palestinian rights.

One Turkish newspaper, supportive of Mr. Erdogan, called the visits the beginning “of a new era in our region.” An Egyptian columnist praised what he called Mr. Erdogan’s “leadership qualities.” And days later, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke boldly of an axis between Egypt and Turkey, two of the region’s most populous and militarily powerful countries, that would underpin a new order in the region, one in which Israel would stay on the margins until it made peace with its neighbors.

“What’s happening in the Middle East is a big opportunity, a golden opportunity,” a senior Turkish official said in Ankara, the capital. He called Turkey “the new kid on the block.”

The trip marked a pivot after what many had viewed as a series of setbacks for a country that, like most of the world, utterly failed to predict the revolts in the region.

After long treating the Arab world with a measure of disdain — Israel and Turkey were strategic allies in the 1990s — Turkey had spent years cultivating ties with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya and President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. More than 25,000 Turks worked in Libya, and Syria was seen as the gateway to Turkey’s ambitions to economically integrate part of the Middle East.

Even after the uprisings erupted, Turkey opposed NATO’s intervention in Libya. Until last month, it held out hope that Mr. Assad, despite evidence to the contrary, could oversee a transition in Syria.

Though Mr. Erdogan came out early in demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down in Egypt — at the very time American officials were trying to devise ways for him to serve out his term — that stance came with little cost. Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Erdogan were not fond of each other, and Egyptian officials resented Turkey’s growing profile.

“The old policy collapsed, and a new policy is required now toward the Middle East,” said Ersin Kalaycioglu, a professor of political science at Sabanci University in Istanbul.

In an interview, Mr. Davutoglu, viewed by many as the architect of Turkey’s engagement with the region, laid out that new policy. In addition to a proposed alliance with Egypt, he said Turkey would position itself on the side of the revolts, especially in neighboring Syria, which represents Turkey’s biggest challenge. He insisted that Turkey could help integrate the region by virtue of its economy, with its near tripling of exports since Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party took power in 2002.


(Page 2 of 2)

The outline suggested an early version of the European Union for the Middle East — economic integration and political coordination — and Mr. Davutoglu said such an arrangement would eventually require at least a degree of military cooperation.

“There should be regional ownership,” he said. “Not Turkish, not Arab, not Iranian, but a regional ownership.”
The vision is admittedly ambitious, and Mr. Davutoglu’s earlier prescription of “zero problems” with neighbors has run up against the hard realities of the region. Turkey faces a growing crisis over rights to gas in the sea off Cyprus, still divided between Greek and Turkish regions and still a foreign policy mess for Turkey. Relations with Israel collapsed after Israeli troops killed nine people on board a Turkish flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza last year.

Iran, Turkey’s neighbor to the east and competitor in the region, is bitter over a Turkish decision to accede to American pressure and host a radar station as part of a NATO missile defense system. Syrian and Turkish leaders no longer talk with one another.

But the sense of rising Turkish power and influence is so pronounced in the country these days that it sometimes borders on jingoism. It has touched on the country’s deep current of nationalism, and perhaps a hint of romanticism, harbored by the more religious, for Turkey’s return to an Arab world it ruled for more than four centuries.

“We’re not out there to recreate the Ottoman Empire, but we are out there to make the most of the influence we have in a region that is embracing our leadership,” said Suat Kiniklioglu, deputy chairman of external affairs for Mr. Erdogan’s party.

Even those who bristle at what they see as Mr. Erdogan’s arrogance acknowledge that he represents a phenomenon, at home and abroad. He brought his populism to the Arab world, where he displayed an intuitive sense of the resonance that the Palestinian issue still commands, in contrast to American officials who have misunderstood it, failed to appreciate it or tried to wish it away. In speeches, he catered to the West and his domestic critics by embracing a secular state, even as he prayed in suit and tie in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

For a region long stirred with anger at seemingly impotent leaders, submissive to American and Israeli demands, Mr. Erdogan came across as independent and forceful.

Cengiz Candar, a Turkish columnist with a résumé in the Arab world dating from the early 1970s, called it Mr. Erdogan’s “animal-like political intuitions.”

He added: “And these intuitions tell him, apart from the emotions, that you’re on the right track. As along as you take these steps, Turkey is consolidating its stature as a regional power more and more and you will be an actor on the international stage.”

There remains a debate in Turkey over the long-term aims of the engagement. No one doubts that officials with his party — deeply pious, with roots in political Islam — sympathize with Islamist movements seeking to enter mainstream Arab politics, namely the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and, more so, the Nahda Party in Tunisia. Mr. Candar calls them “kinsmen.” “They speak a common dialect,” he said.

But relations remain good with the United States, even if American officials accuse Mr. Erdogan of overconfidence. Some Turkish officials worry that the crisis with Israel will end up hurting the relationship with Washington; others believe that Turkey is bent on supplanting Israel as the junior partner of the United States in the Middle East.

The bigger challenges seem to be within Turkey. Although Turkey has opened new embassies across Africa and Latin America, its diplomatic staff remains small, and the Foreign Ministry is trying to hire 100 new employees per year. Mr. Kiniklioglu, the party official, estimated that no more than 20 people were devising foreign policy.

The exuberance of Turkish officials runs the risk of backlash, too. The Arab world’s long-held suspicion toward Turkey has faded, helped by the soft power of popular Turkish television serials and Mr. Erdogan’s appeal. Yet senior officials acknowledge the potential for an Arab backlash in a region long allergic to any hint of foreign intervention. Somewhat reflexively, Egyptian Islamists, piqued last week by Mr. Erdogan’s comments about a secular state, warned him against interfering in their affairs.

And across the spectrum in Turkey, still wrestling with its own Kurdish insurgency in the southeast, critics and admirers acknowledge that the vision of a Turkish-led region, prosperous and stable, remains mostly a fleeting promise amid all the turmoil. “The image is good,” said Mr. Kalaycioglu, the professor. “Whether it’s bearing any fruit is anyone’s guess. Nothing so far seems to be happening beyond that image.”

23958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran at a crossroads on: September 27, 2011, 05:27:10 AM

Geopolitical Journey: Iran at a Crossroads
September 27, 2011

STRATFORBy Kamran Bokhari

Geopolitically, a trip to Iran could not come at a better time. Iran is an emerging power seeking to exploit the vacuum created by the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq, which is scheduled to conclude in a little more than three months. Tehran also plays a major role along its eastern border, where Washington is seeking a political settlement with the Taliban to facilitate a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Islamic republic simultaneously is trying to steer popular unrest in the Arab world in its favor. That unrest in turn has significant implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue in which Iran has successfully inserted itself over the years. The question of the U.S.-Iranian relationship also looms — does accommodation or confrontation lie ahead? At the same time, the Iranian state — a unique hybrid of Shiite theocracy and Western republicanism — is experiencing intense domestic power struggles.

This is the geopolitical context in which I arrived at Imam Khomeini International airport late Sept. 16. Along with several hundred foreign guests, I had been invited to attend a Sept. 17-18 event dubbed the “Islamic Awakening” conference, organized by the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Given the state of Iranian-Western ties and my position as a senior analyst with a leading U.S.-based private intelligence company, the invitation came as surprise.

With some justification, Tehran views foreign visitors as potential spies working to undermine Iranian national security. The case of the  American hikers jailed in Iran (two of whom were released the day of my return to Canada) provided a sobering example of tourism devolving into accusations of espionage.

Fortunately for me, STRATFOR had not been placed on the list of some 60 Western organizations (mostly American and British think tanks and civil society groups) banned as seditious in early 2010 following the failed Green Movement uprising. Still, the Iranian regime is well aware of our views on Iranian geopolitics.

In addition to my concerns about how Iranian authorities would view me, I also worried about how attending a state-sponsored event designed to further Iranian geopolitical interests where many speakers heavily criticized the United States and Israel would look in the West. In the end, I set my trepidations aside and opted for the trip.

Geopolitical Observations in Tehran

STRATFOR CEO and founder George Friedman has written of geopolitical journeys, of how people from diverse national backgrounds visiting other countries see places in very different ways. In my case, my Pakistani heritage, American upbringing, Muslim religious identity and Canadian nationality allowed me to navigate a milieu of both locals and some 700 delegates of various Arab and Muslim backgrounds. But the key was in the way STRATFOR trains its analysts to avoid the pitfall that many succumb to — the blurring of what is really happening with what we may want to see happen.

The foreigner arriving in Iran immediately notices that despite 30 years of increasingly severe sanctions, the infrastructure and systems in the Islamic republic appear fairly solid. As a developing country and an international pariah, one would expect infrastructure along the lines of North Korea or Cuba. But Iran’s construction, transportation and communications infrastructure shares more in common with apartheid-era South Africa, and was largely developed indigenously.

Also notable was the absence of any visible evidence of a police state. Considering the state’s enormous security establishment and the recent unrest surrounding the Green Movement, I expected to see droves of elite security forces. I especially expected this in the northern districts of the capital, where the more Westernized segment of society lives and where I spent a good bit of time walking and sitting in cafes.

Granted, I didn’t stay for long and was only able to see a few areas of the city to be able to tell, but the only public display of opposition to the regime was “Death to Khamenei” graffiti scribbled in small letters on a few phone booths on Vali-e-Asr Avenue in the Saadabad area. I saw no sign of Basij or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel patrolling the streets, only the kind of police presence one will find in many countries.

This normal security arrangement gave support to STRATFOR’s view from the very beginning that the unrest in 2009 was not something the regime couldn’t contain. As we wrote then and I was able to see firsthand last week, Iran has enough people who — contrary to conventional wisdom — support the regime, or at the very least do not seek its downfall even if they disagree with its policies.

I saw another sign of support for the Islamic republic a day after the conference ended, when the organizers arranged a tour of the mausoleum of the republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. We visited the large complex off a main highway on the southern end of town on a weekday; even so, numerous people had come to the shrine to pay their respects — several with tears in their eyes as they prayed at the tomb.

Obviously, the intensity of religious feelings varies in Iran, but a significant stratum of the public remains deeply religious and still believes in the national narrative of the revolutionary republic. This fact does not get enough attention in the Western media and discourse, clouding foreigners’ understanding of Iran and leading to misperceptions of an autocratic clergy clinging to power only by virtue of a massive security apparatus.

In the same vein, I had expected to see stricter enforcement of religious attire on women in public after the suppression of the Green Movement. Instead, I saw a light-handed approach on the issue. Women obeyed the requirement to cover everything but their hands and faces in a variety of ways. Some women wore the traditional black chador. Others wore long shirts and pants and scarves covering their heads. Still others were dressed in Western attire save a scarf over their head, which was covering very little of their hair.

The dress code has become a political issue in Iran, especially in recent months in the context of the struggle between conservative factions. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has encountered growing opposition from both pragmatic and ultraconservative forces, has come under criticism from clerics and others for alleged moral laxity when it comes to female dress codes. Even so, the supreme leader has not moved to challenge Ahmadinejad on this point.

Ahmadinejad and the Clerical-Political Divide

In sharp contrast with his first term, Ahmadinejad — the most ambitious and assertive president since the founding of the Islamic republic in 1979 — has been trying to position himself as the pragmatist in his second term while his opponents come out looking like hard-liners. In recent months his statements have become less religiously informed, though they have retained their nationalist and radical anti-Western tone.

For example, his speech at the conclusion of the second day of the conference on the theme of the event, Islamic Awakening, was articulated in non-religious language. This stood in sharp contrast to almost every other speaker. Ahmadinejad spoke of recent Arab unrest in terms of a struggle for freedom, justice and emancipation for oppressed peoples, while his criticism of the United States and Israel was couched in terms of how the two countries’ policies were detrimental to global peace as opposed to the raw ideological vitriol that we have seen in the not too distant past.

But while Iran’s intra-elite political struggles complicate domestic and foreign policymaking, they are not about to bring down the Islamic republic — at least not anytime soon. In the longer term, the issue at the heart of all disputes — that of shared governance by clerics and politicians — does pose a significant challenge to the regime. This tension has existed throughout the nearly 32-year history of the Islamic republic, and it will continue to be an issue into the foreseeable future as Iran focuses heavily on the foreign policy front.

Iran’s Regional Ambitions

In fact, the conference was all about Iran’s foreign policy ambitions to assume intellectual and geopolitical leadership of the unrest in the Arab world. Iran is well aware that it is in competition with Turkey over leadership for the Middle East and that Ankara is in a far better position than Iran economically, diplomatically and religiously as a Sunni power. Nevertheless, Iran is trying to position itself as the champion of the Arab masses who have risen up in opposition to autocratic regimes. The Iranian view is that Turkey cannot lead the region while remaining aligned with Washington and that Saudi Arabia’s lack of enthusiasm for the uprisings works in Tehran’s favor.

The sheer number of Iranian officials who are bilingual (fluent in Persian and Arabic) highlights the efforts of Tehran to overcome the ethno-linguistic geopolitical constraints it faces as a Persian country trying to operate in a region where most Muslim countries are Arab. While its radical anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli position has allowed it to circumvent the ethnic factor and attract support in the Arab and Muslim worlds, its Shiite sectarian character has allowed its opponents in Riyadh and elsewhere to restrict Iranian regional influence. In fact, Saudi Arabia remains a major bulwark against Iranian attempts expand its influence across the Persian Gulf and into Arabian Peninsula, as has been clear by the success that the Saudis have had in containing the largely Shiite uprising in Bahrain against the country’s Sunni monarchy.

Even so, Iran has developed some close relations across the sectarian divide, something obvious from the foreign participants invited to the conference. Thus in addition to the many Shiite leaders from Lebanon and Iraq and other parts of the Islamic world, the guest list included deputy Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook; Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) chief Ramadan Abdullah Shallah; a number of Egyptian religious, political, intellectual and business notables; the chief adviser to Sudanese President Omar al Bashir as well as the leader of the country’s main opposition party, Sadiq al-Mahdi; a number of Sunni Islamist leaders from Pakistan and Afghanistan, including former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani whom I had the opportunity of speaking with only two days before he was assassinated in Kabul; and the head of Malaysia’s main Islamist group, PAS, which runs governments in a few states — just to name a few.

Tehran has had much less success in breaching the ideological chasm, something evidenced by the dearth of secular political actors at the conference. Its very name, Islamic Awakening, was hardly welcoming to secularists. It also did not accurately reflect the nature of the popular agitation in the Arab countries, which is not being led by forces that seek revival of religion. The Middle East could be described as experiencing a political awakening, but not a religious awakening given that Islamist forces are latecomers to the cause.

A number of my hosts asked me what I thought of the conference, prompting me to address this conceptual discrepancy. I told them that the name Islamic Awakening only made sense if one was referring the Islamic world, but that even this interpretation was flawed as the current unrest has been limited to Arab countries.

While speaker after speaker pressed for unity among Muslim countries and groups in the cause of revival and the need to support the Arab masses in their struggle against autocracy, one unmistakable tension was clear. This had to do with Syria, the only state in the Arab world allied with Iran. A number of speakers and members of the audience tried to criticize the Syrian regime’s efforts to crush popular dissent, but the discomfort this caused was plain. Syria has proven embarrassing for Iran and even groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and PIJ, which are having a hard time reconciling their support for the Arab unrest on one hand and supporting the Syrian regime against its dissidents on the other.

The Road Ahead

Attending this conference allowed me to meet and observe many top Iranian civil and military officials and the heads of Arab and other Muslim non-state actors with varying degree of relationships with Tehran. Analyzing them from a distance one tends to dismiss their ideology and statements as rhetoric and propaganda. Some of what they say is rhetoric, but beneath the rhetoric are also convictions.

We in the West often expect Iran to succumb to international pressure, seek rehabilitation in the international community and one day become friendly with the West. We often talk of a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement, but at a strategic level, the Iranian leadership has other plans.

While Iran would like normalized relations with Washington and the West, it is much more interested in maintaining its independence in foreign policy matters, not unlike China’s experience since establishing relations with the United States. As one Iranian official told me at the conference, when Iran re-establishes ties with the United States, it doesn’t want to behave like Saudi Arabia or to mimic Turkey under the Justice and Development Party.

Whether or not Iran will achieve its goals and to what extent remains unclear. The combination of geography, demography and resources means Iran will remain at the center of an intense geopolitical struggle, and I hope for further opportunities to observe these developments firsthand.

23959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / S. Adams on voting on: September 27, 2011, 05:19:49 AM
"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual -- or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country." --Samuel Adams, in the Boston Gazette, 1781
23960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 27, 2011, 05:18:15 AM
Part of my response to JDN's let Israel get pushed into the sea post in the name of US security was to point out that there are a number cases where the US goes it alone, but this is not the place for extended conversation regarding those cases. 

More to the point, indeed THE point were the various examples I gave of why friendship is GOOD for the interests of the US.
23961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 27, 2011, 05:14:23 AM
GM:  Do posts on Chinese railroads really belong in this thread?  C'mon , , ,
23962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Putin's return to Presidency, NATO, & East Europe on: September 27, 2011, 05:09:09 AM
Putin's Candidacy Draws Varied Reactions

Two days following the announcement that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will seek a return to the presidency in March 2012, the decision is already bearing consequences — the first of which is a split inside the Kremlin. Putin’s nomination as the candidate for the ruling United Russia party has actually been welcomed by many within the Kremlin. After all, it is no secret that Putin continued to act as Russia’s top decision maker, even after stepping back from the presidency to the premiership.

“Tough choices between rival factions in the Kremlin will have to be made, and Putin will have to favor one faction over the others.”
But the decision to shift Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to the premiership has caused many of Putin’s loyalists to rebel. Medvedev is seen as weak and too willing to accommodate pro-Western policies. His role as president was accepted as long as Putin served as a buffer in the premiership. But many inside the Kremlin’s ministries are unhappy with Medvedev directly overseeing them. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has already resigned, and STRATFOR sources in Moscow say that other ministers and staff are considering doing the same.

While the announcement was expected to cause some controversy, Putin cannot afford a divided Kremlin as elections for the presidency and parliament approach. Tough choices between rival factions in the Kremlin will have to be made, and Putin will have to favor one faction over the others.

Meanwhile, international reaction to Putin’s announced return has been varied. Powerful states such as the United States and Germany have an established near-term relationship with Russia, and said they will work with whoever is in charge. Smaller countries, like the Baltic states and many Central European countries, have a different view on Putin’s possible return to the presidency. They see it as a sign that Russia is about to return to a more assertive foreign policy.

These states are not entirely incorrect. As STRATFOR discussed in the lead-up to the ruling tandem’s decision, Putin, while not fond of the idea of returning to the presidency, feels his return may be necessary in light of the foreign policy challenges that lie ahead.

Putin will focus much of his attention on how to manage the further fracturing of NATO and the European Union. NATO is divided on a number of issues, but disagreements over the alliance’s strategic focus are especially splintering the alliance. NATO members France, Italy and Germany want to hold a close relationship with Moscow. This runs against the interests of other members — mainly the Central European countries — that want to make countering Russia a top priority for NATO. These Central European states think Moscow will use Putin’s return, and the more aggressive stance they think Russia will assume under his leadership, to further divide alliance members.

While NATO’s fracturing has arguably been in the works for decades, the tipping point for Putin’s return was most likely the impending crises in the European Union. Putin, as president, will try to assure the Russian people that he is strong enough to prevent the European crises from rippling through Russia. But the crises in Europe are not limited to the financial realm. A fundamental rift has opened up between the various identities united under the banners of the European Union and the eurozone, and the rift seems likely to worsen in the foreseeable future. As with the NATO fracturing, Russia is primed to take advantage of such fissures in order to continue to divide Europe to its own advantage.

Putin’s presence is also intended to show Europe that whatever chaos lies ahead, Russia will remain a beacon of stability and strength — one that Europe could rely on should they choose to. And for those European states who choose not to, life could be made much more difficult.

23963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: September 26, 2011, 11:56:59 PM
Naturally the Pravdas are all over this , , ,
23964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 26, 2011, 11:55:43 PM
I'm gonna have to read those citations about just what the truth is with the bunker busters but it's late , , ,
23965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 26, 2011, 10:53:56 PM
I could be misremembering, but IIRC we backed Greece over Turkey in Cyprus and good relations with Turkey sure would be helpful.  Our backing of the British in the Falklands is universally unpopular in Latin America.  What would the implications be for the geo-strategic calculus of South East Asia if we were seen as abandoning Taiwan?  No need to answer really, my larger point is that Israel is not the only place where the US pursues policies not popular with many countries.

As for the larger point, in my unhumble opinion, our friendship with Israel is most definitely to the good of the US.  A few simple examples:  As has been pointed out to you here previously, Saddam Hussein would be a nuclear power now but for Osirak, and Syria would be well on its way to becoming one but for Israel.  Also, peruse this forum for reports of Saudi Arabia green lighting Israel to take out Iran's nuke program only to be stopped by Baraq.
23966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 26, 2011, 10:43:45 PM
I saw some poll numbers on the Brett Baier Report tonight showing that Bachman has fallen below Huntsman (or was it the FL straw poll?)  OUCH!!!  cheesy
23967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: September 26, 2011, 10:42:00 PM
Maybe it was next to the missing billing records from Hillary's law firm that appeared in her quarters at the WH after the statute of limitations expired , , , or maybe it travelled with the WH silverware when the Clintons left the WH.

But I digress , , , BTW is there an guestimated market value to that moon rock?
23968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 26, 2011, 10:38:56 PM
Does this logic also apply to Taiwan, Cyprus, and the Falklands?
23969  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bones Jones blows off SS on: September 26, 2011, 10:33:05 PM
23970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Obamacare and just who are the uninsured on: September 26, 2011, 08:02:06 PM

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its latest estimates on poverty, income and health-insurance coverage. Strikingly, the official poverty rate is the highest it's been in 50 years.

As one might expect, the number of Americans without health insurance also rose—to 49.9 million, an increase of 919,000 since 2009.

But that large number hides more than it reveals. And diving into it shows that the uninsured rate won't fall unless the economy starts humming again. Unfortunately, ObamaCare's billions of dollars in new taxes and regulations won't allow that to happen.

Let's take a closer look at the 49.9 million uninsured. The Census reports that 9.5 million of them, about 19%, have household incomes over $75,000. In other words, a fifth of the uninsured make at least 50% more than the median American. They can afford to purchase a plan but have chosen not to.

Another 8.8 million uninsured make between $50,000 and $75,000. Paying for coverage might be more of a stretch for these folks, but they still have incomes higher than the majority of Americans.

For these two subsets of the uninsured population, an insurance plan might not be worth the money, particularly if they're young and healthy. And with ObamaCare set to drive up the cost of a basic individual insurance plan by 10% to 13%, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the number of voluntarily uninsured is certain to grow.

Another 9.7 million of the uninsured are noncitizens, both legal and illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants will not be able to participate in ObamaCare's exchanges, so they'll continue to seek care in expensive emergency rooms and community hospitals, thereby adding to the cost of care for everyone else. Add these three groups up, and more than half of the people the Census Bureau counts as uninsured could be considered questionably so.

The uninsured truly in need of help are those with household incomes below $25,000. They represent roughly a third of the uninsured, or 16.1 million.

Now, 16 million uninsured is nothing to sneeze at. But they represent only 5% of the American population. Finding coverage for them doesn't require remaking one-sixth of the U.S. economy, as ObamaCare does. Many of these 16 million people are already eligible for public insurance, chiefly Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. They just haven't signed up.

The Census figures also show that the number of people with private insurance dropped by 300,000 last year. About 1.5 million people lost their employer-sponsored insurance, most likely because of the economic downturn. But that loss in coverage was partially offset by the fact that over a million people bought coverage for themselves or their families on the private market.

What are we to make of all these numbers? For starters, increasing the employment rate offers the fastest way to reduce the number of uninsured.

The Census pegs the uninsured rate at 16.3%. Not-so-coincidentally, the percentage of the population that is unemployed, has temporarily given up searching for a job, or is working part-time but would like full-time employment is 16.2%.

In America's employer-dominated insurance system, those two figures are closely linked. Without job growth, the percentage of Americans without insurance will stagnate or increase.

The president and his team have cited the Census figures as proof of the need for ObamaCare. But any coverage gains delivered by the law will undoubtedly be undermined by the law's $800 billion in tax increases, which will further slow economic growth and prevent employers from hiring, and thus from furnishing the previously unemployed with coverage.

Because of ObamaCare's mandates and regulations, many employers are also set to drop the coverage they offer and let their employees buy insurance in the exchanges. In June, a study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimated that about a third of employers will do so. In a report last year published by his American Action Forum, former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimated that 35 million of the 160 million people who currently have employer-based coverage will lose it.

The Census Bureau's latest report confirms that insurance coverage can be hard to come by. But there's more to the Census figures than meets the eye. Until the American economy resumes growing, the uninsured rate will stay right where it is.

Ms. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. Her latest book is "The Truth About Obamacare" (Regnery 2010).

23971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ agrees with Tricky Dog on: September 26, 2011, 07:58:59 PM

Einstein wrong? Impossible!

That was the reaction of physicists around the world last week when they heard that experiments in Switzerland indicate that Einstein's theory of relativity might be wrong. Since 1905, when Einstein declared that nothing in the universe could travel faster than light, the theory has been the bedrock of modern physics. Indeed, most of our high-tech wizardry depends on it.

Of course, crackpots have been denouncing Einstein's theory of relativity for years. Like many physicists, I have boxes full of self-published monographs that were mailed to me from people who claim that Einstein was wrong. In the 1930s the Nazi Party criticized Einstein's theory, publishing a book called "100 Authorities Denounce Relativity." Einstein later quipped that you don't need 100 famous intellectuals to disprove his theory. All you need is one simple fact.

Well, that simple fact may be in the form of the latest experiments at the largest particle accelerators in the world, based at CERN, outside Geneva. Physicists fired a beam of neutrinos (exotic, ghost-like particles that can penetrate even the densest of materials) from Switzerland to Italy, over a distance of 454 miles. Much to their amazement, after analyzing 15,000 neutrinos, they found that they traveled faster than the speed of light—one 60-billionth of a second faster, to be precise. In a billionth of a second, a beam of light travels about one foot. So a difference of 60 feet was quite astonishing.

Cracking the light barrier violated the core of Einstein's theory. According to relativity, as you approach the speed of light, time slows down, you get heavier, and you also get flatter (all of which have been measured in the lab). But if you go faster than light, then the impossible happens. Time goes backward. You are lighter than nothing, and you have negative width. Since this is ridiculous, you cannot go faster than light, said Einstein.

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A part of the OPERA detector experiment to measure neutrinos.
.The CERN announcement was electrifying. Some physicists burst out with glee, because it meant that the door was opening to new physics (and more Nobel Prizes). New, daring theories would need to be proposed to explain this result. Others broke out in a cold sweat, realizing that the entire foundation of modern physics might have to be revised. Every textbook would have to be rewritten, every experiment recalibrated.

Cosmology, the very way we think of space, would be forever altered. The distance to the stars and galaxies and the age of the universe (13.7 billion years) would be thrown in doubt. Even the expanding universe theory, the Big Bang theory, and black holes would have to be re-examined.

Moreover, everything we think we understand about nuclear physics would need to be reassessed. Every school kid knows Einstein's famous equation E=MC2, where a small amount of mass M can create a vast amount of energy E, because the speed of light C squared is such a huge number. But if C is off, it means that all nuclear physics has to be recalibrated. Nuclear weapons, nuclear medicine and radioactive dating would be affected because all nuclear reactions are based on Einstein's relation between matter and energy.

Related Video
 Michio Kaku, theoretical physics professor at City College of New York, discusses the implications of a recent experiment that undercuts Einstein's theory of relativity.
..If all this wasn't bad enough, it would also mean that the fundamental principles of physics are incorrect. Modern physics is based on two theories, relativity and the quantum theory, so half of modern physics would have to be replaced by a new theory. My own field, string theory, is no exception. Personally, I would have to revise all my theories because relativity is built into string theory from the very beginning.

How will this astonishing result play out? As Carl Sagan once said, remarkable claims require remarkable proof. Laboratories around the world, like Fermilab outside Chicago, will redo the CERN experiments and try to falsify or verify their results.

My gut reaction, however, is that this is a false alarm. Over the decades, there have been numerous challenges to relativity, all of them proven wrong. In the 1960s, for example, physicists were measuring the tiny effect of gravity upon a light beam. In one study, physicists found that the speed of light seemed to oscillate with the time of day. Amazingly, the speed of light rose during the day, and fell at night. Later, it was found that, since the apparatus was outdoors, the sensors were affected by the temperature of daylight.

Reputations may rise and fall. But in the end, this is a victory for science. No theory is carved in stone. Science is merciless when it comes to testing all theories over and over, at any time, in any place. Unlike religion or politics, science is ultimately decided by experiments, done repeatedly in every form. There are no sacred cows. In science, 100 authorities count for nothing. Experiment counts for everything.

Mr. Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at City College of New York, is the author of "Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100" (Doubleday, 2011).

23972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of bankers? Fannie does! on: September 26, 2011, 07:54:43 PM

State Attorneys General were shocked—shocked!—to discover sloppy foreclosure practices last year in the wake of the housing boom and bust, and they have used that revelation to try to squeeze billions of dollars out of the nation's largest banks. Here's a bigger scandal: Fannie Mae knew about the problem years ago.

In a report issued Friday to little media notice, the Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) found that "in 2005, Fannie Mae hired an outside law firm to investigate a variety of allegations referred by one of its investors regarding purported foreclosure processing abuses and other matters." The next year the law firm reported back that some practices, such as filing false paperwork, were "unlawful" and should stop, and it noted that Fannie was implementing a computer system to improve oversight of its foreclosure processing attorney network.

So far, so good—except for what didn't happen next. The IG says that neither Fannie nor its regulator FHFA acted on the 2006 report, and the computer system also didn't materialize. FHFA "examination officials" only learned of the report's existence in March after reading an article in this newspaper.

The IG's report again highlights the loose rules that Fannie and Freddie Mac operated under during the housing boom. Fannie "placed a higher priority on meeting specific earnings goals than it did on ensuring proper accounting, risk management, internal controls, and complete and accurate financial reporting," the IG report recalls from a prior review.

In a letter responding to the IG, FHFA Associate Director Elizabeth Scholz mused: "An effective operational risk program would not have prevented servicing personnel and licensed attorneys from engaging in improper, unethical or fraudulent practices." Maybe not, but since we're talking hypotheticals, wouldn't better oversight of foreclosure practices have helped mitigate the problem?

So far no one has uncovered evidence that banks kicked nondelinquent borrowers out of their homes, despite robo-signing and other sloppy paperwork. Surely the practices of Fannie and Freddie deserve equal scrutiny.

23973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bunker busters? on: September 26, 2011, 07:51:35 PM
Thank you Kostas.

I caught a fragment of a report on FOX that we are now providing bunker busters to the Israelis?!?  Can anyone confirm or deny?

23974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now, how did that get here? on: September 26, 2011, 07:49:15 PM
Wasn't there something in the last few days about a space rock/meteor/moon rock or some such thing of great value that turned up in the Clintons' possession?
23975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: EPA shorting out the electric supply on: September 26, 2011, 07:47:43 PM
The Environmental Protection Agency claims that the critics of its campaign to remake U.S. electricity are partisans, but it turns out that they include other regulators and even some in the Obama Administration. In particular, a trove of documents uncovered by Congressional investigators reveals that these internal critics think the EPA is undermining the security and reliability of the U.S. electric power supply.

With its unprecedented wave of rules, the EPA is abusing traditional air-quality laws to force a large share of the coal-fired fleet to shut down. Amid these sacrifices on the anticarbon altar, Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski and several House committees have been asking, well, what happens after as much as 8% of U.S. generating capacity is taken off the grid?

A special focus of their inquiry has been the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which since 2005 has been charged with ensuring that the (compact florescent) lights stay on. That 8% figure comes from FERC itself in a confidential 2010 assessment of the EPA's regulatory bender—or about 81 gigawatts that FERC's Office of Electric Reliability estimated is "very likely" or "likely" to enter involuntary retirement over the next several years. FERC disclosed the estimate in August in response to Senator Murkowski's questions, along with a slew of memos and emails.

FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, a Democrat, has since disavowed the study as nothing more than back-of-the-envelope scribblings that are now "irrelevant," as he told a recent House hearing. OK, but then could FERC come up with a relevant number? Since he made the study public, Mr. Wellinghoff has disowned responsibility for scrutinizing the EPA rules and now says that FERC will only protect electric reliability ex post facto once the rules are permanent, somehow.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
.This abdication is all the more striking because the documents show that EPA's blandishments about reliability can't be trusted. In its initial 2010 analysis—a rigorous document—FERC notes in a "next steps" section that the reliability office and industry must "assess the reliability and adequacy impacts of retirement of at risk units." In part, this was because the office believed the EPA analyses to be deficient. One undated memo specifies multiple weaknesses in EPA reliability modelling.

However much power is lost, whether 81 gigawatts or something else, the electric grid is highly local. Even subtracting a small plant could have much larger effects for regions, such as blackouts. The older and less efficient coal plants that are slated for closure are often the crucial nodes that connect the hubs and spokes of the grid. If these "sensitive" interconnections are taken out, as the memo puts it, the power system becomes less stable, harder to manage and may not be able to meet peak-load demand or withstand unexpected disturbances.

When large swaths of Arizona, New Mexico and parts of southern California including San Diego went dark this month, preliminary reports blamed it on a Homer Simpson who flipped the wrong switch. But the incident shows that even minor mistakes or degraded systems can ramify throughout the grid. The EPA scanted these technical, regional issues when writing the rules, even though another "summary of interagency working comments" within the Administration explicitly told the EPA that reliability needed "more discussion."

And according to the FERC minutes of a 2010 meeting between its reliability office and the EPA, EPA staffers waved off those concerns. "The EPA concluded the discussion by stating that it felt the Clean Air Transport Rule and Mercury MACT rule"—two of the most destructive new regulations—"were the highest priority given that these regulations were more finalized." In other words, the agency's green political goals are more important than the real-world outcomes, never mind the danger.

For our part, we've opposed this "highest priority" because the rules are written in a way that maximizes the economic costs, with terrible effects on growth, hiring, investment and consumer prices. And well, well: More than a few people in the Administration seem to agree.

The interagency memo explains that the EPA used its "discretion" to structure one rule so that it is more "stringent" than it needs to be. The agency could achieve the same environmental benefits with "substantial" cost-savings, which "would be far more preferable to the proposed approach," says the memo. It sensibly adds that, "The current economic climate dictates a balancing of economic and environmental interests."

Under pressure from Democrats and the EPA to disavow his own agency's analysis, Mr. Wellinghoff now says that FERC favors only a "safety valve" that would give it the authority to overrule the EPA on a case-by-case basis if its regulations might lead to blackouts. But even this is a tacit admission of EPA's overkill. You don't need a safety valve if there isn't a threat to safety.

The best option would be for the EPA to write less destructive rules that don't jeopardize reliability in the first place. Failing that, we should at least know the risks before it is too late. In a letter to Mr. Wellingoff last week, Mrs. Murkowski simply asks that FERC undertake some kind of study of the EPA's agenda in line with its statutory obligations and the warnings of its own experts. If FERC won't do it, someone else should.

23976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 26, 2011, 07:43:39 PM
As Mitt Romney would say "Nice try"  cheesy  A comment about the POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES of a statement calling for the abolition of the EPA does not "open the door" to a line of testimony about the sundry stupidities of the EPA.
23977  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB in the media on: September 26, 2011, 07:40:20 PM
Hey, the article goes on to give a link to our site  grin
23978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 26, 2011, 07:33:58 PM
Woof of ye of little thread discipline  cheesy

In a certain sense almost anything can be said to be related to the election, but that would fit much better in Bureaucracy or some other such thread.

Thread Nazi
23979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 26, 2011, 03:16:27 PM
"Even though he's known as the "pizza" candidate for his years as head of Godfather's Pizza, his background is much broader than that. After he graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in mathematics and a minor in chemistry in 1968, Cain landed a job as a ballistics analyst for the Department of the Navy, where he was responsible for the calculations that ensured battleship rockets hit their targets.

""It's not an easy thing to do," he said.

"Cain later completed a master's degree in computer science and entered the business world where he led several companies--most recently Godfather's--and chaired the National Restaurant Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. His résumé--from mathematician and rocket scientist to restaurateur and now politician"

That is a far more interesting resume than most people realize, but if he ever gets any traction that "abolish the EPA" thing will kill it on the spot.
23980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UAV strikes against al Shabaab on: September 26, 2011, 03:07:46 PM
Dispatch: UAV Strikes Against al Shabaab
September 26, 2011 | 1751 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Analyst Mark Schroeder discusses the latest strategy to neutralize the transnational elements of al Shabaab by conducting unmanned aerial vehicle strikes against suspected terrorist training camps.

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

Related Links
9/11 and the Successful War
The United States is engaged in a multitrack approach in Somalia. One aspect of this engagement is a relentless effort to isolate and neutralize the internationalist terrorist element of the Somali jihadist group al Shabaab.

The United States conducted unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes, otherwise known as drones or commonly known as Predators, in Somalia during Sept. 24 and this is the second weekend in a row that U.S. forces have carried out drone strikes in southern Somalia. What are being targeted are likely the training camps of the transnationalist jihadist faction of al Shabaab, and these training camps are found in the environs of Kismayo, that southern city in Somalia. And found in these training camps are leaders of this faction of al Shabaab, led by a couple of people, one Godane Abu Zubayr and another individual known commonly as al-Afghani.

What is also interesting to note is that there are not strikes going on against other factions of the Somali jihadist network, such as those led by Mukhtar Robow in the Bay and Bakool regions of Somalia or the other known group called Hizbul Islam, led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys in the greater Mogadishu area. These two factions are not being targeted. So clearly there are efforts to neutralize the most threatening terrorist elements of al Shabaab, but on the other hand to more reach out to or accommodate nationalist factions.

The Somali government, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) seated in Mogadishu, is benefiting from a robust African Union peacekeeping force. Currently, the African Union has deployed 9,000 peacekeepers to Mogadishu, and this force is to be expanded by an additional 3,000 peacekeepers during the fourth quarter of this year. Now with these 12,000 peacekeepers that are to be deployed in Mogadishu, it really will consolidate the TFG’s footprint in the Somali capital.

The environs of Kismayo, that city in southern Somalia where the U.S. drone (UAV) strikes are taking place, this is the rear-guard area of the transnationalist camp of al Shabaab. Godane, al-Afghani, this is the area that these radicalist terrorists have retreated to following their withdraw from Mogadishu. And persistent airstrikes from drone (UAV) platforms are to eliminate these transnationalist leaders and to remove Somalia from the broader battlefield that al Qaeda can take advantage of for their campaign.

23981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on Cain on: September 26, 2011, 03:06:30 PM

Cain (Joe Burbank/AP)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Not everyone needs to go to Disney World to have fun in central Florida.

After one of Herman Cain's strongest showings yet at a Republican presidential debate Thursday, and two days with conservative activists in the state, he won the "Presidency 5" straw poll in Orlando over the weekend, beating front-runner Texas Gov. Rick Perry by more than 20 points.

While straw polls are not scientific and their results can be poor indicators of whether a candidate will  win a party's nomination--the latest actual Florida poll put Cain near the bottom--they can help spark some momentum, especially for lower-tier candidates. For Cain, a 65-year-old businessman, mathematician, author and radio host from Atlanta, Georgia, his straw poll win could well be the high-water mark of his campaign. And by his own admission, the path that brought him this far wasn't an easy one. The morning before the straw poll, I met Cain for coffee in a hotel near the convention center that hosted the debate and straw poll. As we discussed the early phase of the Republican primaries, he told me that before coming to Florida, he had nearly called it quits on two occasions.

"The thing that I've learned about myself in this campaign--because I've never had this happen to me before on a single challenge--is that I've gone to the brink, ready to pull the plug, but came back, twice," Cain said. "I've only had two days where I personally felt, should I pull the plug? For different reasons. That's how frustrating a campaign can be."

When I pressed for details, he said he'd prefer to keep them to himself.

"I can't tell you what those two days are," he said.  "But think about the number of days we've been on this campaign. Two ain't that bad."

Cain is certainly no stranger to adversity, having recently overcome Stage IV colon and liver cancer.

Even though he's known as the "pizza" candidate for his years as head of Godfather's Pizza, his background is much broader than that. After he graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in mathematics and a minor in chemistry in 1968, Cain landed a job as a ballistics analyst for the Department of the Navy, where he was responsible for the calculations that ensured battleship rockets hit their targets.

"It's not an easy thing to do," he said.

Cain later completed a master's degree in computer science and entered the business world where he led several companies--most recently Godfather's--and chaired the National Restaurant Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. His résumé--from mathematician and rocket scientist to restaurateur and now politician--isn't exactly a typical one for a presidential candidate. But Cain said that while his presidential run may look unlikely from the outside, it's actually part of his larger career trajectory of seeking out new ways to test himself.

"I'm bored if I don't have a challenge," he said.

Cain said the run for the White House is his toughest challenge yet--and it's been anything but boring. Despite the frustrations of running a national campaign, you can tell he's enjoying it. But it doesn't take much to get him riled up.

After a few caffeine-heavy refills at our corner table, I asked him about President Obama's new effort to raise taxes on the wealthy, and Cain just about blew a blood vessel--especially when I mentioned the part where Obama says it's about "math" not "class warfare."

"Can I be blunt? That's a lie," Cain said, before the sound of his voice began to rise noticeably higher. "You're not supposed to call the president a liar. Well if you're not supposed to call the president a liar, he shouldn't tell a lie. If it's not class warfare, it's highway robbery. He wants us to believe it's not class warfare, oh okay, it's not class warfare. Pick my pockets, because that's what he's doing!"

Cain paused, took a breath and looked at me.

"I'm not mad at you, I just get passionate about this stuff," he said. "I have to tell people because I get so worked up . . . . I'm listening to all this bullshit that he's talking about, 'fairness' and 'balanced approach' to get this economy going."

As anyone who watched the past couple of debates knows by now, Cain has his own plan that he says would steer the country out of its economic downturn. He calls it the "9-9-9 Plan," and it would replace the current tax code with three flat, nine-percent federal taxes on income, consumption and business.

"With 9-9-9 guess what? How many loopholes?" he said, tapping his fingers on the table like a drumroll. "None. Everybody gets treated the same. What a novel idea."

As the straw poll and his recent fundraising numbers suggest, Cain's message is resonating with the conservative movement's influential base of tea-party activists; for these supporters his status as a non-career politician with an extensive background in the private sector is nearly as strong a draw as his ideas and policy proposals.  But despite his recent surge in support, few expect Cain's momentum to carry him on  to victory at the Republican National Convention in 2012.

Cain insisted that the prognostications of a few pundits won't stop him from pressing on as far as his donors will carry him. At the same time, though, he said that this campaign will be his last foray into politics.

"I'm not planning to run for another public office," he said. But regardless, it's been "a hell of a challenge."
23982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Smart Meters on: September 26, 2011, 08:05:13 AM
A bit paranoid, but some interesting points
23983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sea Lift on: September 26, 2011, 12:05:54 AM
23984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 25, 2011, 11:47:23 AM
The Iranians have, or will soon have missiles that can reach a goodly portion of Europe, hence the importance of ABM in east Europe and/or Turkey.   The Iranians are working on acquiring nukes.  The Paks HAVE something like 100 nukes AND a history of rogue nuke activities.  The Norks are testing nukes and have a history of rogue nuke actiivities.  As I mentioned in my previous post, bad actors have been testing the capability to launch missiles from tanker vessels.

Connect the dots.
23985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: September 25, 2011, 08:19:14 AM
Utlimately liberal fascism (a.k.a. progressivism) is a violent philosophy because it seeks to expand government and government is force.

True progress is the opposite of this.  It is to expand human interactions being handled through voluntary interactions.
23986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Dowd on: September 25, 2011, 08:12:21 AM
Of course there's f'g in the Army-- I know that  cheesy  

I might add that there have been a lot of accusations of rape, both reported and unreported, about which the coverage and non-coverage appears to be quite agenda driven.  There also are cases where women get pregnant to get out of war zone missions and then abort upon getting reassigned.  On one ship in the Gulf War over 20% of the women got pregnant.  Working from memory in Kosovo in the 90s some 5% of the women got pregnant, with a lot of them getting abortions upon return to the US.   I am sorry I cannot offer citations, I can only offer my track record as a poster.

Anyway, what I was trying to communicate in my previous post is that there hasn't been is the question presented within the same unit, within the same barracks, within the same showers, within the same unit going out on patrol.

Ending DADT was a politically imposed thing in an area which should have been left to our armed forces to determine for themselves.

Moving along, here's this from Pravda on the Hudson's Maureen Dowd.   I can picture our community organizer in chief making the same points about exactly what it was that Romney did in the private sector.:
IN a flash, Rick Perry has gone from Republican front-runner to cycling domestique, riding in front of the pack and taking all the wind — or in this case, hot air — to allow the team leader to pedal in the slipstream.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Go to Columnist Page »
Times Topics: Rick Perry | Mitt Romney
Related in Opinion
Gail Collins: Perry’s Bad Night (September 24, 2011)
.Editorial: State of the Republican Field (September 24, 2011) Readers’ Comments
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In the debate on Thursday night in Florida, as Perry grew more Pinteresque, lapsing into long, paralyzed pauses, Mitt Romney grew less statuesque, breaking his marble mold and showing a new sarcastic streak.

Romney unveiled his own version of Reagan’s “There you go again,” repeatedly blowing off Perry with a smile and a “Nice try.”

Slapping Perry for backtracking from his suggestion in his book “Fed Up!” that Social Security should be left up to states, Romney snidely noted, “There’s a Rick Perry out there that’s saying” that, “so you’d better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that.”

Romney, a champion flip-flopper, has painted Perry as a floppier flipper.

In the high school version of the 2008 Republican primary contest, Romney was regarded by John McCain and other contenders as the loathed hall monitor, prissy and hypocritical. It’s not that he has gotten so much more popular or less plastic, although he has improved his performance. It’s just that his rivals keep getting more implausible.

The only reason Perry got in the race in the first place was that Republicans yearned for an alternative to Romney. (This weekend, they were drunk-texting Chris Christie.) But for now, Perry is proving to be Romney’s best asset.

Asked the 3 a.m. question by a moderator, Bret Baier of Fox News, what would a President Perry do if he got a call saying Pakistan had lost control of its nuclear weapons to the Taliban, the Texas governor offered a Palinesque meditation on “the Pakistani country.”

“Well, obviously, before you ever get to that point, you have to build a relationship in that region,” he said. “And that’s one of the things that this administration has not done. Just yesterday we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with — and that’s the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country — so to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States.” But can he see the Taj Mahal from his house?

Romney used his new sarcasm on President Obama, too, claiming the Democrat takes his inspiration from the “socialist democrats” in Europe. “Guess what?” Romney said. “Europe isn’t working in Europe. It’s not going to work here.”

He also poked the president on jobs: “I happen to believe that to create jobs it helps to have had a job, and I have.”

Those are strong words from a candidate whose liability is that he made a living eliminating jobs.

In any other economy, working at Bain would be a bane to Romney’s presidential craving because it’s hard to trust a flip-flopper who’s a company flipper. Romney himself has used the phrase “creative destruction” to describe what his former private equity firm, Bain Capital, excelled at: buying companies, restructuring and downsizing, and selling them for a profit.

As Howard Anderson of M.I.T. told The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty: “Private equity is a little like sex. When it’s good, it’s very, very good. When it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.”

But in this economy, a predatory business plan from a man worth $200 million may not sound so bad. Especially now that the former community organizer is being limned as a president who was too naïve and hesitant in handling the cascading crises of his first two years.

In “Pretty Woman,” Richard Gere played a financial shark who downsized companies; he wore expensive suits, went to polo matches and drove an expensive sports car. (No dog or hooker tied to the roof.) Romney, by contrast, is trying to downplay his downsizing fortune and his upgrading of his snazzy La Jolla beach house.

He makes sure everyone knows about his Carl’s Jr. jalapeño chicken sandwiches and his Jet Blue middle seats. And he pushes the regular-guy image in tweets: “Great deep-dish at @ginoseast”; “Just got a Trim at Tommy’s in Atlanta”; “Thanks @subwayfreshbuzz for breakfast. Better than the usual campaign diet of morning donuts”; “Thanks to the great @SouthwestAir crew for an easy flight.” On Friday, his adviser Ron Kaufman tweeted a picture of the candidate in an airport terminal with his laptop on his lap, presumably tweeting more encomia to fast-food emporia.

Just as George Bush the elder, a Yalie, used to mock Michael Dukakis as part of the “Harvard boutique,” Willard Mitt Romney, a Harvard alum, in a speech in Florida on Thursday, mocked Obama as an elitist who hung out in the “Harvard faculty lounge.”

For now, Romney is effectively using Perry as a whipping boy on issues that matter to conservatives, like illegal immigration. And when Perry attacks Romney as “Obama lite,” he could be doing Mitt a favor by reminding independents and Democrats that the Stormin’ Mormon is a pseudo-conservative whom they can abide.

Authenticity can be overrated, especially in a rabid conservative.
23987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 24, 2011, 04:11:25 PM
Because that is not what would happen!  

See e.g. my post earlier today in the Nuclear War thread-- and this is a point which has been raised in this forum previously (including test missile launches from tanker ships in the Caspian Sea IIRC).

Scenario:  Crappy missile with crude nuke device put on some Panamanian or Libyan tanker ship.  Maybe throw in some three card monte shuffling of cargoes between in and some other ships to make it difficult to use satellite intel after the fact to figure out who the F did it-- then launch an blast that EMP's over the continental US.

Who would we blame?  

BTW, the Chinese have put A LOT of thought into how to bring down our electronic-cyber capabilities, seeing them as the our Achilles Heel of our military dominance.  If we were hit with an EMP our capabilities might be so dramatically downgraded that the subsequent cranial rectal interface might tempt the Chinese to act-- e.g. go after Taiwan.

Indeed, someone might even tip off the Chinese that such an attack was imminent.
23988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 24, 2011, 04:02:43 PM
We interrupt this vignette for a reality check.   One of the points about DADT was that NO ONE "had to lie about who he was".  cheesy 

Personally it makes perfect sense to me to acknowledge that healthy young humans have strong sexual drives.  As I understand it the logic is that given that most people (95-98% IMHO) are heterosexual, having sexually homogenous units keeps sexual shenanigans and the attendant disruptions to military discipline out of play.  This makes perfect sense to me.

OTOH if the environment is a "target rich environment" of the orifice of choice, then by golly fcuking within the unit is going to happen.  We don't even allow this in the corporate world (not that I agree, but that is a separate matter), but, speaking only as a humble civilian, it makes sense to me that this has a high potential for poor morale and poor discipline with attendant consequences for unit cohesion and performance.

23989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: September 24, 2011, 03:04:49 PM
She should try out for that TV show "The L word".
23990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: September 24, 2011, 02:59:27 PM
As well articulated by Jude Wanniski in his "The Way the World Works", leaders are those who best discern the zeitgeist (am I using this word properly) of what "the people" want, as inchoate as it may be; (successful entrepeneurs too.)

State more simply, politicians are for sale to the biggest number of voters.

The IQ around here is such that I don't need to spell out the demographics of the American population and the trends over time built into it.

If Reps lose the latino vote (of which a very large percentage is Mexican American) over time the Republican Party will become nationally what it already is in the northeast-- a sure loser.  Look at what happened to the Republican Party in California after Gov. Pete Wilson and the Reps succeeded in passing the , , , what was it , , , the no bi-lingual education initiative , , , or was it no welfare for illegals?  Anyway, it passed, the Fed courts threw it out and the Latino vote decided the Reps were anti-Latino.  Time went on, the demographic trends asserted themselves, and now the Reps near extinction in California.

The majority of us around here may desire a hard line on illegals, but I'm not sure we yet have a good practical strategy.
23991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 24, 2011, 01:44:04 PM
All this makes quite clear the well-targeted relevance of YA's most recent post.

The interface of the military and the domestic political issues presents EXTREMELY challenging problems.

The American people are understandably weary of a ten years of a seemingly pointless and endless war and understandably dubious of the political process that has led us along the way. 

Anyone here think Bush led well on this?   

Anyone here want to deny that a reasonable argument can be made that Bush took his eye off the ball in Afpakia?  Michael Yon was writing 3-4 years ago that we were losing and about to lose badly. 

Anyone here think Baraq has led well on this?

The point being the American people are understandably rather cynical on the competence of our leadership-- so suggesting we should go to war with Pakistan just when people saw the "Unsurge" winding things down is a tough sell.

And there is the little detail of what that war would look like and what it would lastingly accomplish-- not to mention the apparent looming bankruptcy of the USA.
23992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Ridley: From Phoenicia to the Cloud on: September 24, 2011, 11:09:57 AM
Matt Ridley is an author whom I follow.  I have read his "The Red Queen" (the evolutionary reasons sex exists and the implications thereof) and "Nature via Nuture (also quite brilliant and which has triggered a shift in how I think about these things.)

The crowd-sourced, wikinomic cloud is the new, new thing that all management consultants are now telling their clients to embrace. Yet the cloud is not a new thing at all. It has been the source of human invention all along. Human technological advancement depends not on individual intelligence but on collective idea sharing, and it has done so for tens of thousands of years. Human progress waxes and wanes according to how much people connect and exchange.

When the Mediterranean was socially networked by the trading ships of Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs or Venetians, culture and prosperity advanced. When the network collapsed because of pirates at the end of the second millennium B.C., or in the Dark Ages, or in the 16th century under the Barbary and Ottoman corsairs, culture and prosperity stagnated. When Ming China, or Shogun Japan, or Nehru's India, or Albania or North Korea turned inward and cut themselves off from the world, the consequence was relative, even absolute decline.

Knowledge is dispersed and shared. Friedrich Hayek was the first to point out, in his famous 1945 essay "The Uses of Knowledge in Society," that central planning cannot work because it is trying to substitute an individual all-knowing intelligence for a distributed and fragmented system of localized but connected knowledge.

So dispersed is knowledge, that, as Leonard Reed famously observed in his 1958 essay "I, Pencil," nobody on the planet knows how to make a pencil. The knowledge is dispersed among many thousands of graphite miners, lumberjacks, assembly line workers, ferrule designers, salesmen and so on. This is true of everything that I use in my everyday life, from my laptop to my shirt to my city. Nobody knows how to make it or to run it. Only the cloud knows.

One of the things I have tried to do in my book "The Rational Optimist" is to take this insight as far back into the past as I can—to try to understand when it first began to be true. When did human beings start to use collective rather than individual intelligence?

In doing so, I find that the entire field of anthropology and archaeology needs Hayek badly. Their debates about what made human beings successful, and what caused the explosive take-off of human culture in the past 100,000 years, simply never include the insight of dispersed knowledge. They are still looking for a miracle gene, or change in brain organization, that explains, like a deus ex machina, the human revolution. They are still looking inside human heads rather than between them.

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 ."I think there was a biological change—a genetic mutation of some kind that promoted the fully modern ability to create and innovate," wrote the anthropologist Richard Klein in a 2003 speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "The sudden expansion of the brain 200,000 years ago was a dramatic spontaneous mutation in the brain . . . a change in a single gene would have been enough," the neuroscientist Colin Blakemore told the Guardian in 2010.

There was no sudden change in brain size 200,000 years ago. We Africans—all human beings are descended chiefly from people who lived exclusively in Africa until about 65,000 years ago—had slightly smaller brains than Neanderthals, yet once outside Africa we rapidly displaced them (bar acquiring 2.5% of our genes from them along the way).

And the reason we won the war against the Neanderthals, if war it was, is staring us in the face, though it remains almost completely unrecognized among anthropologists: We exchanged. At one site in the Caucasus there are Neanderthal and modern remains within a few miles of each other, both from around 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthal tools are all made from local materials. The moderns' tools are made from chert and jasper, some of which originated many miles away. That means trade.

Evidence from recent Australian artifacts shows that long-distance movement of objects is a telltale sign of trade, not migration. We Africans have been doing this since at least 120,000 years ago. That's the date of beads made from marine shells found a hundred miles inland in Algeria. Trade is 10 times as old as agriculture.

At first it was a peculiarity of us Africans. It gave us the edge over Neanderthals in their own continent and their own climate, because good ideas can spread through trade. New weapons, new foods, new crafts, new ornaments, new tools. Suddenly you are no longer relying on the inventiveness of your own tribe or the capacity of your own territory. You are drawing upon ideas that occurred to anybody anywhere anytime within your trading network.

In the same way, today, American consumers do not have to rely only on their own citizens to discover new consumer goods or new medicines or new music: The Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians are also able to supply them.

That is what trade does. It creates a collective innovating brain as big as the trade network itself. When you cut people off from exchange networks, their innovation rate collapses. Tasmanians, isolated by rising sea levels about 10,000 years ago, not only failed to share in the advances that came after that time—the boomerang, for example—but actually went backwards in terms of technical virtuosity. The anthropologist Joe Henrich of the University of British Columbia argues that in a small island population, good ideas died faster than they could be replaced. Tierra del Fuego's natives, on a similarly inhospitable and small land, but connected by trading canoes across the much narrower Magellan strait, suffered no such technological regress. They had access to a collective brain the size of South America.

Which is of course why the Internet is such an exciting development. For the first time humanity has not just some big collective brains, but one truly vast one in which almost everybody can share and in which distance is no obstacle.

The political implications are obvious: that human collaboration is necessary for society to work; that the individual is not—and has not been for 120,000 years—able to support his lifestyle; that trade enables us to work for each other not just for ourselves; that there is nothing so antisocial (or impoverishing) as the pursuit of self-sufficiency; and that authoritarian, top-down rule is not the source of order or progress.

Hayek understood all this. And it's time most archaeologists and anthropologists, as well as some politicians and political scientists, did as well.

Mr. Ridley writes the Journal's weekly Mind & Matter column. He is the author of "The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves" (Harper, 2010). This op-ed is adapted from his Hayek Prize lecture, given under the auspices of the Manhattan Institute, to be delivered on Sept. 26.

23993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Act of War? on: September 24, 2011, 11:02:18 AM
Ummm , , , correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it the departing McMullen, now free to speak plainly, and other elements of the military who are leading the way on this, not Baraq? 

Anyway, as our YA has been leading the way around here, Pakistan's true nature is becoming clearer to the American people.
America's most impossible foreign relationship just got worse. The U.S. on Thursday publicly accused Pakistan's intelligence service of aiding the terrorist Haqqani network in northern Pakistan. This remarkable public accusation came after last week's attack by the Haqqani clan on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Pakistan's tolerance for the Haqqani family and its pro-Taliban terrorist army in northern Pakistan is the sort of behavior that makes the Pakistanis, as a top Obama security official once put it to us, "the most difficult people in the world to deal with." No one has worked harder to make the relationship work than soon-to-depart Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Admiral Mullen said, "The government of Pakistan and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI [the Inter-Services Intelligence agency]" have decided "to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy."

Admiral Mullen added that the Haqqani network "with ISI support" had carried out the truck bombing on September 10 in Kabul that wounded 77 NATO troops and killed five Afghans. Lest anyone miss the message, Admiral Mullen said bluntly that the Haqqani network "acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency."

These statements walk right to the edge of accusing Pakistan, a nominal ally, of committing acts of war against the United States. To be sure, the U.S. didn't say the ISI had actually planned the Haqqani raids but that the spy agency was abetting the operations of the group, whose goal is to kill U.S. troops on the way to overthrowing the Afghan government.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said as well, "We've made clear that we are going to do everything we have to do defend our forces."

In short, earth to Pakistan: Clear out this threat in your northern provinces, or the U.S. will do it alone, either with drone attacks or cross-border raids.

The Haqqanis, along with the Quetta Shura of Mullah Omar in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, pose the most significant threat to the success of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Both groups provide crucial support to the Afghan Taliban operations against American and NATO forces. The Afghan government this week said the Quetta Shura was behind the suicide-bomber assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul.

In Islamabad yesterday, Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, tried to play the indispensable-ally card, suggesting that the U.S. "cannot afford to alienate Pakistan."

No doubt it would be in the long-term strategic interests of both countries to remain allies. But there is a larger reality. The U.S. cannot be seen before the world, or more especially by the American people, turning a blind eye to Pakistan's complicity in the murder of U.S. citizens serving in Afghanistan.

The U.S. now has a range of options available, from designating the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization (as a prelude to hitting its finances); withholding $1 billion in military aid to Pakistan in the absence of antiterrorist cooperation; or hitting the Haqqanis ourselves. Pakistan's leadership, among its myriad delusions, believes its status as a nuclear power somehow frees it to reduce its relationship with the U.S. to the same crude and cynical status as its relations with the homicidal Haqqanis.

That's false, and the Obama Administration deserves credit for publicly putting Pakistan's impossible-to-tolerate behavior on the table.

23994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ misses the point on: September 24, 2011, 10:58:10 AM
While the data herein is of interest, IMO the article misses the larger point about the issue's relation with the moves to create not only 10-20 million new overwhelmingly Democratic voters out of the illegals here, but the literally tens of millions more out of the family members that they would get to bring in.  It also misses the point about what happens when, God willing, someday our economy improves.  Furthermore while some of the anti-illegal folks are xenophobic, lots of us would LOVE to see easier entry for desirable folks with more rational procedures.

To listen to the recent Republican Presidential debates, you'd think illegal immigration was the biggest threat to the U.S. economy—not to mention to the rule of law, our social fabric and national security. We hate to spoil the political reverie, but the real immigration story these days is how many fewer illegal migrants are trying to get into the land of the free.

That's the news from the Department of Homeland Security, which reports that border apprehensions have dropped to their lowest level in nearly 40 years. For fiscal 2010, arrests were 463,000, down from 724,000 in 2008—a one-third decline in two years.

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Close..In the first 11 months of fiscal 2011, through August, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports that apprehensions were 316,458, well below last year's level. As the nearby chart shows, as recently as 2006 more than one million illegals were arrested entering the country each year.

Some of the decline in illegal crossings is no doubt due to both the reality of, and the deterrence effect from, increased security at the Rio Grande Valley and other border areas. The number of agents has roughly doubled over the past decade, and the Border Patrol has improved its surveillance.

But surely the biggest factor is the poor U.S. economy. Immigrants of all types come to the U.S. primarily for jobs and opportunity. In the booming 1980s and 1990s, when the economy created more than 35 million net new jobs, border crossings were often three times higher than they are today. As growth has slowed and job openings are fewer, the attraction of the U.S. has dimmed.

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..This may be cause for celebration in some places, but not in these columns. The fact that foreign workers, like overseas investment funds, aren't as attracted to the U.S. as they once were is another sign of economic malaise. According to the Census Bureau's historical data, the only time in U.S. history when more people left America than arrived was during the height of the Great Depression. This is not a period to emulate. We'd gladly take faster growth with more illegal immigration over slower growth and fewer illegals.

Despite these falling apprehension numbers, Republicans and their talk show minders are still shouting that the border isn't "secure." But by their definition the border will never be secure. This line has become the all-seasons excuse to block any immigration reform that would allow more legal avenues into the U.S. This campaign is already doing great harm to U.S. agriculture, as farmers are unable to find enough workers of any kind to harvest their crops. Yet Republicans are putting onerous restrictions on recruiting legal workers for those jobs. (See our editorial, "Republican Overregulation," Sept. 13.)

The declining border apprehensions show that economic opportunity, not a life on the dole, is the main motivation for immigrants who enter the U.S. with or without a visa. If there were more legal avenues, fewer migrants would have an incentive to enter illegally.

Immigrants bring vitality and skills to the U.S. economy, whether in the tech centers of Silicon Valley or the farmlands of the Midwest and Yuma Valley. We need more of both these days
23995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: September 24, 2011, 10:51:13 AM
Not worth my time to double to double check, but I thought I heard him say he was gay.  Anyway, I'm with you on the rest of it.
23996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Too bad Perry hasn't been able to explain this coherently on: September 24, 2011, 10:49:31 AM


To highlight the problems facing Social Security, Texas Gov. and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry is pointing to three Texas counties that decades ago opted out of Social Security by creating personal retirement accounts. Now, 30 years on, county workers in those three jurisdictions retire with more money and have better death and disability supplemental benefits. And those three counties—unlike almost all others in the United States—face no long-term unfunded pension liabilities.

Since 1981 and 1982, workers in Galveston, Matagorda and Brazoria Counties have seen their retirement savings grow every year, even during the Great Recession. The so-called Alternate Plan of these three counties doesn't follow the traditional defined-benefit or defined-contribution model. Employee and employer contributions are actively managed by a financial planner—in this case, First Financial Benefits, Inc., of Houston, which originated the plan in 1980 and has managed it since its adoption. I call it a "banking model."

As with Social Security, employees contribute 6.2% of their income, with the county matching the contribution (or, as in Galveston, providing a slightly larger share). Once the county makes its contribution, its financial obligation is done—that's why there are no long-term unfunded liabilities.

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Presidential candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney spar Thursday night.
.The contributions are pooled, like bank deposits, and top-rated financial institutions bid on the money. Those institutions guarantee an interest rate that won't go below a base level and goes higher when the market does well. Over the last decade, the accounts have earned between 3.75% and 5.75% every year, with the average around 5%. The 1990s often saw even higher interest rates, of 6.5%-7%. When the market goes up, employees make more—and when the market goes down, employees still make something.

But not all money goes into employees' retirement accounts. When financial planner Rick Gornto devised the Alternate Plan in 1980, he wanted it to be a complete substitute for Social Security. And Social Security isn't just a retirement fund: It's also social insurance that provides a death benefit ($255), survivors' insurance, and a disability benefit.

Part of the employer contribution in the Alternate Plan goes toward a term life insurance policy that pays four times the employee's salary tax-free, up to a maximum of $215,000. That's nearly 850 times Social Security's death benefit.

If a worker participating in Social Security dies before retirement, he loses his contribution (though part of that money might go to surviving children or a spouse who didn't work). But a worker in the Alternate Plan owns his account, so the entire account belongs to his estate. There is also a disability benefit that pays immediately upon injury, rather than waiting six months plus other restrictions, as under Social Security.

Those who retire under the Texas counties' Alternate Plan do much better than those on Social Security. According to First Financial's calculations, based on 40 years of contributions:

• A lower-middle income worker making about $26,000 at retirement would get about $1,007 a month under Social Security, but $1,826 under the Alternate Plan.

• A middle-income worker making $51,200 would get about $1,540 monthly from Social Security, but $3,600 from the banking model.

• And a high-income worker who maxed out on his Social Security contribution every year would receive about $2,500 a month from Social Security versus $5,000 to $6,000 a month from the Alternate Plan.

The Alternate Plan has demonstrated over 30 years that personal retirement accounts work, with many retirees making more than twice what they would under Social Security. As Galveston County Judge Mark Henry says, "The plan works great. Anyone who spends a few minutes understanding the plan becomes a huge proponent." Judge Henry says that out of 1,350 county employees, only five have chosen not to participate.

The Alternate Plan could be adopted today by the six million public employees in the U.S.—roughly 25% of the total—who are part of state and local government retirement plans that are outside of Social Security (and are facing serious unfunded liability problems). Unfortunately this option is available only to those six million public employees, since in 1983 Congress barred all others from leaving Social Security.

If Congress overrides this provision, however, the Alternate Plan could be a model for reforming Social Security nationally. After all, it provides all the social-insurance benefits of Social Security while avoiding the unfunded liabilities that are crippling the program and the economy.

If the presidential candidates, including President Obama, stop bickering about who wants to "save" or "destroy" Social Security and begin debating reform constructively, examining the Alternate Plan would be a good place to start.

Mr. Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas.

23997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Chicago Econ on trial on: September 24, 2011, 10:46:32 AM

Let's face it, the "Chicago School" of economics—the one with all the Nobel Prizes, the one associated with Milton Friedman, the one known for its trust of markets and skepticism about government—has taken a drubbing in certain quarters since the subprime crisis.

Sure, the critique depends on misinterpreting what the word "efficient" means, as in the "efficient markets hypothesis." Never mind. The Chicago school ought to be roaring back today on another of its great contributions, "rational expectations," which does so much to illuminate why government policy is failing to stimulate the economy back to life.

Robert E. Lucas Jr., 74, didn't invent the idea or coin the term, but he did more than anyone to explore its ramifications for our model of the economy. Rational expectations is the idea that people look ahead and use their smarts to try to anticipate conditions in the future.

Duh, you say? When Mr. Lucas finally won the Nobel Prize in 1995, it was the economics profession that said duh. By then, nobody figured more prominently on the short list for the profession's ultimate honor. As Harvard economist Greg Mankiw later put it in the New York Times, "In academic circles, the most influential macroeconomist of the last quarter of the 20th century was Robert Lucas, of the University of Chicago."

Mr. Lucas is visiting NYU for a few days in early September to teach a mini-course, so I dash over to pick his brain. He obligingly tilts his computer screen toward me. Two things are on his mind and they're connected. One is the failure of the European and Japanese economies, after their brisk growth in the early postwar years, to catch up with the U.S. in per capita gross domestic product. The GDP gap, which once seemed destined to close, mysteriously stopped narrowing after about 1970.

The other issue on his mind is our own stumbling recovery from the 2008 recession.

For the best explanation of what happened in Europe and Japan, he points to research by fellow Nobelist Ed Prescott. In Europe, governments typically commandeer 50% of GDP. The burden to pay for all this largess falls on workers in the form of high marginal tax rates, and in particular on married women who might otherwise think of going to work as second earners in their households. "The welfare state is so expensive, it just breaks the link between work effort and what you get out of it, your living standard," says Mr. Lucas. "And it's really hurting them."

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 .Turning to the U.S., he says, "A healthy economy that falls into recession has higher than average growth for a while and gets back to the old trend line. We haven't done that. I have plenty of suspicions but little evidence. I think people are concerned about high tax rates, about trying to stick business corporations with the failure of ObamaCare, which is going to emerge, the fact that it's not going to add up. But none of this has happened yet. You can't look at evidence. The taxes haven't really been raised yet."

By now, the Krugmanites are having aneurysms. Our stunted recovery, they insist, is due to government's failure to borrow and spend enough to soak up idle capacity as households and businesses "deleverage." In a Keynesian world, when government gooses demand with a burst of deficit spending, the stick figures are supposed to get busy. Businesses are supposed to hire more and invest more. Consumers are supposed to consume more.

But what if the stick figures don't respond as the model prescribes? What if businesses react to what they see as a temporary and artificial burst in demand by working their existing workers and equipment harder—or by raising prices? What if businesses and consumers respond to a public-sector borrowing binge by becoming fearful about the financial stability of government itself? What if they run out and join the tea party—the tea party being a real-world manifestation of consumers and employers not behaving in the presence of stimulus the way the Keynesian model says they should?

Mr. Lucas and colleagues in the early 1960s were not trying to undermine the conventional prescriptions when they began to think about how the public might respond—possibly in inconvenient ways—to signals about government intentions. As he recalls it, they were just trying to make the models work. "You have somebody making a decision between the present and the future. You get a college degree and it's going to pay off in higher earnings later. You make an investment and it's going to pay off later. Ok, you can't do that without this guy taking a position on what kind of future he's going to be living in."

'If you're going to write down a mathematical model, you have to address that issue. Where are you supposed to get these expectations? If you just make them up, then you can get any result you want."

The solution, which seems obvious, is to assume that people use the information at hand to judge how tomorrow might be similar or different from today. But let's be precise, not falling into the gap between "word processor people" and "spreadsheet people," as Mr. Lucas puts it. Nothing is assumed: Data are interrogated to see how changes in tax rates and other variables actually influence decisions to work, save and invest.

Mr. Lucas is quick to credit the late John Muth, who would later become a colleague for a while at Carnegie Mellon, with inventing "rational expectations." He also cites Milton Friedman, with whom Mr. Lucas took a first-year graduate course.

"He was just an incredibly inspiring teacher. He really was a life-changing experience." Friedman, he recalls, was a skeptic of the Phillips curve—the Keynesian idea that when businesses see prices rising, they assume demand for their products is rising and hire more workers—even if the real reason for higher prices is inflation.

"Milton brought this [Phillips curve] up in class and said it's gotta be wrong. But he wasn't clear on why he thought it was wrong." In his paper for Friedman's class, Mr. Lucas remembers reaching for a very rudimentary notion of expectations to try to explain why the curve could not operate as predicted.

Growing up in the Seattle area, Mr. Lucas recalls a road trip he took as a youngster that terminated in Chicago, a city with two baseball teams! Chicago, in his mind, became "the big city," a gateway to a wider world. That, and a scholarship, is how he would end up spending most of his career at the University of Chicago.

We are sitting in an inauspicious guest office at NYU. A late summer sprinkle dampens the city. Mr. Lucas describes his parents as intelligent, reading people, neither of whom finished college—he suspects the Great Depression had something to do with it. "They got into left-wing politics in the '30s, not really to do anything about it, but to talk about. That was our background—me and my siblings—relative to our neighbors and relatives, who were all Republicans." In a community not noted for its diversity, his parents were especially committed to civil rights, his mother giving talks on the subject.

I ask about a report that he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, supposedly only the second time he had voted for a Democrat for president. "Yeah, I did. My parents are dead for a long time, but my sister says, 'You have to vote for Obama, for what it would have meant for Mom and Dad.' I felt that too. It's a huge thing. This [history of racism] has been the worst blot on this country. All of a sudden this charming, intelligent guy just blows it away. It was great."

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..A complementary consideration was John McCain's inability to say anything cogent about the financial crisis then engulfing the nation. "He didn't have a clue about the economy. I just assumed the guy [Obama] could do it. I thought he was going to be more Clinton-like in his economics and politics. I was caught by surprise by how far left the guy is and how much he's hung onto it and, I would say, at considerable cost to his own standing."

Refreshing, even bracing, is Mr. Lucas's skepticism about the "deleveraging" story as the sum of all our economic woes. "If people start building a lot of high-rises in Chicago or any place and nobody is buying the units, obviously you're going to shut down the construction industry for a while. If you've overbuilt something, that's not the problem, that's the solution in a way. It's too bad but it's not a make-or-break issue, the housing bubble."

Instead, the shock came because complex mortgage-related securities minted by Wall Street and "certified as safe" by rating agencies had become "part of the effective liquidity supply of the system," he says. "All of a sudden, a whole bunch of this stuff turns out to be crap. It is the financial aspect that was instrumental in the meltdown of '08. I don't think housing alone, if it weren't for these tranches and the role they played in the liquidity system," would have been a debilitating blow to the economy.

Mr. Lucas believes Ben Bernanke acted properly to prop up the system. He doesn't even find fault with Mr. Obama's first stimulus plan. "If you think Bernanke did a great job tossing out a trillion dollars, why is it a bad idea for the executive to toss out a trillion dollars? It's not an inappropriate thing in a recession to push money out there and trying to keep spending from falling too much, and we did that."

But that was then. In the U.S. at least, the liquidity problems that manifested themselves in 2008 have long since been addressed. To repeat the exercise now with temporary tax and spending gimmicks is to produce the opposite of the desired effect in consumers and business owners, who by now are back to taking a longer view. Says

Mr. Lucas: "The president keeps focusing on transitory things. He grudgingly says, 'OK, we'll keep the Bush tax cuts on for a couple years.' That's just the wrong thing to say. What I care about is what's the tax rate going to be when my project begins to bear fruit?"

Mr. Lucas pulls up a bit when I ask him what specific advice he'd give President Obama (this is before Mr. Obama's two back-to-back speeches, one promising temporary tax cuts and the other permanent tax hikes, which mysteriously fail to levitate the economy). Unlike many of his colleagues, Mr. Lucas has not spent stints in Washington advising politicians, or on Wall Street cashing in on his Nobel laureate reputation. "No, that doesn't interest me at all," he says. "Now I've taken a salary cut. I don't go to faculty meetings. I don't teach undergraduates. I just write papers. It's great. I feel lucky about this."

Still, an answer comes. Mr. Lucas launches into a brisk dissertation on the work of colleagues—Martin Feldstein, Michael Boskin, others—whom he credits with disabusing him and fellow economists of a youthful assumption that taxes have little effect on the overall amount of capital in society. A lesson for Mr. Obama might be: If you want to stimulate growth in investment, productivity and income, cut taxes on capital.

Alas, don't look for this idea to feature in the next Obama speech on the economy, due any minute now.

Mr. Jenkins writes the Journal's Business World column.

23998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Big Brother is tracking you with "stingrays" on: September 24, 2011, 08:48:28 AM

For more than a year, federal authorities pursued a man they called simply "the Hacker." Only after using a little known cellphone-tracking device—a stingray—were they able to zero in on a California home and make the arrest.

A Harris StingRay II, one of several devices dubbed 'stingrays.'

Stingrays are designed to locate a mobile phone even when it's not being used to make a call. The Federal Bureau of Investigation considers the devices to be so critical that it has a policy of deleting the data gathered in their use, mainly to keep suspects in the dark about their capabilities, an FBI official told The Wall Street Journal in response to inquiries.

A stingray's role in nabbing the alleged "Hacker"—Daniel David Rigmaiden—is shaping up as a possible test of the legal standards for using these devices in investigations. The FBI says it obtains appropriate court approval to use the device.

Stingrays are one of several new technologies used by law enforcement to track people's locations, often without a search warrant. These techniques are driving a constitutional debate about whether the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but which was written before the digital age, is keeping pace with the times.

On Nov. 8, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether or not police need a warrant before secretly installing a GPS device on a suspect's car and tracking him for an extended period. In both the Senate and House, new bills would require a warrant before tracking a cellphone's location.

Key Documents in 'Stingray' Case
Digits: How 'Stingray' Devices Work
Digits: How Technology Is Testing the Fourth Amendment
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.And on Thursday in U.S. District Court of Arizona, Judge David G. Campbell is set to hear a request by Mr. Rigmaiden, who is facing fraud charges, to have information about the government's secret techniques disclosed to him so he can use it in his defense. Mr. Rigmaiden maintains his innocence and says that using stingrays to locate devices in homes without a valid warrant "disregards the United States Constitution" and is illegal.

His argument has caught the judge's attention. In a February hearing, according to a transcript, Judge Campbell asked the prosecutor, "Were there warrants obtained in connection with the use of this device?"

The prosecutor, Frederick A. Battista, said the government obtained a "court order that satisfied [the] language" in the federal law on warrants. The judge then asked how an order or warrant could have been obtained without telling the judge what technology was being used. Mr. Battista said: "It was a standard practice, your honor."

Judge Campbell responded that it "can be litigated whether those orders were appropriate."

On Thursday the government will argue it should be able to withhold details about the tool used to locate Mr. Rigmaiden, according to documents filed by the prosecution. In a statement to the Journal, Sherry Sabol, Chief of the Science & Technology Office for the FBI's Office of General Counsel, says that information about stingrays and related technology is "considered Law Enforcement Sensitive, since its public release could harm law enforcement efforts by compromising future use of the equipment."

Enlarge Image

Close.The prosecutor, Mr. Battista, told the judge that the government worries that disclosure would make the gear "subject to being defeated or avoided or detected."

A stingray works by mimicking a cellphone tower, getting a phone to connect to it and measuring signals from the phone. It lets the stingray operator "ping," or send a signal to, a phone and locate it as long as it is powered on, according to documents reviewed by the Journal. The device has various uses, including helping police locate suspects and aiding search-and-rescue teams in finding people lost in remote areas or buried in rubble after an accident.

The government says "stingray" is a generic term. In Mr. Rigmaiden's case it remains unclear which device or devices were actually used.

The best known stingray maker is Florida-based defense contractor Harris Corp. A spokesman for Harris declined to comment.

Harris holds trademarks registered between 2002 and 2008 on several devices, including the StingRay, StingRay II, AmberJack, KingFish, TriggerFish and LoggerHead. Similar devices are available from other manufacturers. According to a Harris document, its devices are sold only to law-enforcement and government agencies.

Some of the gadgets look surprisingly old-fashioned, with a smattering of switches and lights scattered across a panel roughly the size of a shoebox, according to photos of a Harris-made StingRay reviewed by the Journal. The devices can be carried by hand or mounted in cars, allowing investigators to move around quickly.

A rare public reference to this type of technology appeared this summer in the television crime drama "The Closer." In the episode, law-enforcement officers use a gadget they called a "catfish" to track cellphones without a court order.

The U.S. armed forces also use stingrays or similar devices, according to public contract notices. Local law enforcement in Minnesota, Arizona, Miami and Durham, N.C., also either possess the devices or have considered buying them, according to interviews and published requests for funding.

The sheriff's department in Maricopa County, Ariz., uses the equipment "about on a monthly basis," says Sgt. Jesse Spurgin. "This is for location only. We can't listen in on conversations," he says.

Sgt. Spurgin says officers often obtain court orders, but not necessarily search warrants, when using the device. To obtain a search warrant from a court, officers as a rule need to show "probable cause," which is generally defined as a reasonable belief, based on factual evidence, that a crime was committed. Lesser standards apply to other court orders.

A spokeswoman with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in Minnesota says officers don't need to seek search warrants in that state to use a mobile tracking device because it "does not intercept communication, so no wiretap laws would apply."

FBI and Department of Justice officials have also said that investigators don't need search warrants. Associate Deputy Attorney General James A. Baker and FBI General Counsel Valerie E. Caproni both said at a panel at the Brookings Institution in May that devices like these fall into a category of tools called "pen registers," which require a lesser order than a warrant. Pen registers gather signals from phones, such as phone numbers dialed, but don't receive the content of the communications.

To get a pen-register order, investigators don't have to show probable cause. The Supreme Court has ruled that use of a pen register doesn't require a search warrant because it doesn't involve interception of conversations.

But with cellphones, data sent includes location information, making the situation more complicated because some judges have found that location information is more intrusive than details about phone numbers dialed. Some courts have required a slightly higher standard for location information, but not a warrant, while others have held that a search warrant is necessary.

The prosecution in the Rigmaiden case says in court documents that the "decisions are made on a case-by-case basis" by magistrate and district judges. Court records in other cases indicate that decisions are mixed, and cases are only now moving through appellate courts.

The FBI advises agents to work with federal prosecutors locally to meet the requirements of their particular district or judge, the FBI's Ms. Sabol says. She also says it is FBI policy to obtain a search warrant if the FBI believes the technology "may provide information on an individual while that person is in a location where he or she would have a reasonable expectation of privacy."

Experts say lawmakers and the courts haven't yet settled under what circumstances locating a person or device constitutes a search requiring a warrant. Tracking people when they are home is particularly sensitive because the Fourth Amendment specifies that people have a right to be secure against unreasonable searches in their "houses."

"The law is uncertain," says Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University Law School and former computer-crime attorney at the Department of Justice. Mr. Kerr, who has argued that warrants should be required for some, but not all, types of location data, says that the legality "should depend on the technology."

In the case of Mr. Rigmaiden, the government alleges that as early as 2005, he began filing fraudulent tax returns online. Overall, investigators say, Mr. Rigmaiden electronically filed more than 1,900 fraudulent tax returns as part of a $4 million plot.

Federal investigators say they pursued Mr. Rigmaiden "through a virtual labyrinth of twists and turns." Eventually, they say they linked Mr. Rigmaiden to use of a mobile-broadband card, a device that lets a computer connect to the Internet through a cellphone network.

Investigators obtained court orders to track the broadband card. Both orders remain sealed, but portions of them have been quoted by the defense and the prosecution.

These two documents are central to the clash in the Arizona courtroom. One authorizes a "pen register" and clearly isn't a search warrant. The other document is more complex. The prosecution says it is a type of search warrant and that a finding of probable cause was made.

But the defense argues that it can't be a proper search warrant, because among other things it allowed investigators to delete all the tracking data collected, rather than reporting back to the judge.

Legal experts who spoke with the Journal say it is difficult to evaluate the order, since it remains sealed. In general, for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, the finding of probable cause is most important in determining whether a search is reasonable because that requirement is specified in the Constitution itself, rather than in legal statutes, says Mr. Kerr.

But it is "odd" for a search warrant to allow deletion of evidence before a case goes to trial, says Paul Ohm, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School and a former computer-crime attorney at the Department of Justice. The law governing search warrants specifies how the warrants are to be executed and generally requires information to be returned to the judge.

Even if the court finds the government's actions acceptable under the Fourth Amendment, deleting the data is "still something we might not want the FBI doing," Mr. Ohm says.

The government says the data from the use of the stingray has been deleted and isn't available to the defendant. In a statement, the FBI told the Journal that "our policy since the 1990s has been to purge or 'expunge' all information obtained during a location operation" when using stingray-type gear.

As a general matter, Ms. Sabol says, court orders related to stingray technology "will include a directive to expunge information at the end of the location operation."

Ms. Sabol says the FBI follows this policy because its intent isn't to use the data as evidence in court, but rather to simply find the "general location of their subject" in order to start collecting other information that can be used to justify a physical search of the premises.

In the Rigmaiden example, investigators used the stingray to narrow down the location of the broadband card. Then they went to the apartment complex's office and learned that one resident had used a false ID and a fake tax return on the renter's application, according to court documents.

Based on that evidence, they obtained a search warrant for the apartment. They found the broadband card connected to a computer.

Mr. Rigmaiden, who doesn't confirm or deny ownership of the broadband card, is arguing he should be given information about the device and about other aspects of the mission that located him.

In the February hearing, Judge Campbell said he might need to weigh the government's claim of privilege against the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights, and asked the prosecution, "How can we litigate in this case whether this technology that was used in this case violates the Fourth Amendment without knowing precisely what it can do?"

Write to Jennifer Valentino-DeVries at

23999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Why gold/silver going down on: September 24, 2011, 08:38:23 AM

The wave of selling that has washed over financial markets in recent weeks swamped precious metals on Friday, sending gold and silver prices plummeting and raising the stakes for key weekend meetings of global finance officials.

 Gold and silver prices have seen sharp declines lately, but Barron's economics editor Gene Epstein says the long-term value of the commodities still shines.
.In the past week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 6.4%, its worst week since October 2008. Currencies, too, have had a wild ride. The dollar this month has soared against its rivals. The euro has tumbled 6% in September, while emerging currencies like Brazil's real have been punished.

Gold futures dropped 5.8% Friday, the biggest one-day loss in five years, as investors rushed to cash out of some of their most profitable investments in the hopes of making up for losses elsewhere. The decline capped gold's worst week since 1983. Silver was even harder hit, plunging 18% for its largest single-day decline since 1987.

 Precious metals posted deep losses as investors continued to leave the market in favor of cash. Comex silver for September delivery dropped $6.4870, the worst dollar-decline since 1980. Liam Denning has details on The News Hub.
.The week highlighted a growing sense of despondency among investors concerned that policy makers have neither the will nor power to juice their economies.

The broad market declines have added pressure on finance ministers and central bankers as they gather for the International Monetary Fund's annual meeting in Washington this weekend.

"We are in a red zone," said World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy, one of many officials attending the meeting. "We are at risk of repeating what happened in 2008"—when market upheaval shook the global economy—"occurring again for different reasons but through the same channel, the financial system."

Friday's exodus from gold and silver underscores the unpredictable and volatile nature of financial markets in recent weeks.

 .Investors have grown increasingly skeptical of policy makers' ability to revive the global economy, and of their willingness to bring about a resolution to the European debt crisis.

The broader rout has left many investors with unexpected losses, driving some to part with some of their better performing investments, among them gold and silver.

The declines are a turnabout for gold, in particular, which has recently found strong demand in good times and bad. It has enjoyed a special status as a safe haven from financial crisis and political turmoil, as well as a hedge against inflation.

Gold has risen six-fold in the past decade, including a 15% gain this year. In August, it reached a nominal record of $1,888.70 per troy ounce, rising on a trajectory that many had speculated could not last.

Gold settled at $1,637.50 an ounce, down 9.6% for the week. Silver, which had risen 28% this year by the end of April, settled at $30.05 per ounce, falling into negative territory for the year.

 Fears of a possible Greek default and the U.S economy dipping back into recession pushed the blue-chip index to its worst weekly decline in nearly three years. Brendan Conway has details on The News Hub.
.Some hedge funds were selling to raise cash to meet margin calls from lenders. Other investors were using proceeds of silver and gold sales to replenish other parts of their portfolios, which had fallen in value in recent sessions, said George Gero, precious metals strategist at RBC Global Futures.

In addition, it appeared that European banks were selling gold, possibly in order to raise cash and shore up their balance sheets, Mr. Gero said. This selling was then magnified by so-called momentum traders whose strategy is to piggyback on moves up or down in price.

Silver faces the added woe of being widely used in industry, and therefore vulnerable to fears that weak economies will consume less. Moreover, the Shanghai Gold Exchange said Friday that it will expand the upper and lower trading limits for its silver contract.

Exchange-traded funds that invest in, and track, the metals also have helped investors move quickly in and out of gold and silver.

"It feels like there's tremendous macro headwinds for the metals," said David Lutz, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus.

The recent downdraft for precious metals came after the Federal Reserve this week acknowledged the economy is in worse shape than it thought, a sign that inflation will be of no concern for some time. As well, economic data out of China and Europe indicated that the global economy continues to lose steam.

"What's exacerbating the situation right now is that the global economy is in bad shape," said Andreas Utermann, global chief investment officer for money manager RCM, a subsidiary of Allianz Global Investors.

On Friday, members of the Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations met to see what measures they could devise to boost confidence in financial markets. But there was little expectation that they would produce anything concrete.

 .The euro fell from nearly $1.38 to end the week at $1.35, and German, French and British stocks all fell too. Stocks in Hong Kong and Seoul fell, too, and the Shanghai Composite suffered its fourth straight week of declines. The Korean won tumbled 9.3% against the dollar, forcing the central bank to intervene.

In the U.S., the Dow's declines this week take the blue-chip index down 18% from its late-April highs. On Friday, the Dow rose 37.65 points, to 10771.48.

The fact that gold is falling along with other assets complicates life for those who bought gold because they thought it would rise or fall independently.

"There is nowhere really to hide at the moment," said Fredrik Nerbrand, global head of asset allocation at HSBC.

24000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scary piece on EMP on: September 24, 2011, 08:30:50 AM,_the_emp_threat/page/full/

In Part I of this series, "Iran at our Doorstep," published in the August issue of A Line of Sight, I documented Iran's continued quest to develop a nuclear weapon. Additionally, I explained the Iran-Venezuela-Russia alliance currently constructing a military missile base on the extreme northern coast of Venezuela well within reach of many heavily populated U.S. cities. The publicly stated purpose of building the base is to provide the capability for Venezuela to launch missiles at "Iran's enemies."

Subsequently on September 4 we published contributing editor Major General Paul Vallely's article summarizing the release by the United Nation's IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) of a "restricted report" regarding Iran's continued nuclear activity. Consistent with the documentation shared on these pages last month, the U.N. nuclear agency said it is "increasingly concerned" by a stream of "extensive and comprehensive" intelligence coming from "many member states" suggesting that Iran continues to work secretly on developing a nuclear payload for a missile and other components of a nuclear weapons program.

General Vallely now serves as Chairman of Stand Up America, a private organization that includes numerous former military and intelligence community experts and analysts. In his September 4 article, Vallely wrote, "SUA believes strongly that Iran now possesses low yield nuclear war heads that can be mounted on the Shehab missile and deployed on the oceans in container ships with the Russian provided Club K missile launch system." The General went on to explain that Iran's objective is to "launch EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) weapons on U.S. Coastal cities and freeze our national grid systems."

A June, 2011 RAND report agreed with Vallely's analysis. According to RAND senior defense policy analyst Gregory S. Jones, Tehran's nuclear program has progressed to the point that "it will take around two months for the Iranian regime to produce the 20kg of uranium enriched to 90 percent required for the production of a nuclear warhead."

The window may have slammed shut on the opportunity to prevent Iran from going nuclear.

Americans are increasingly concerned about the vulnerability to a cyber-attack. On a personal level, that could involve the hacking into one's personal financial or other identity information. A cyber-attack could also escalate to a much larger scale of a corporate or large network cyber-theft, and certainly a cyber-attack that penetrated our various government, military or national security agencies could be catastrophic.

But, an EMP attack would be even far more destructive and life threatening. For those unfamiliar, one of America's most experience terrorism experts, RP Eddy, offers this layman's definition: "An EMP is a result of a nuclear explosion, or of another weapon, that releases a wave of electrons that will fry every electronic gizmo or tool that civilization needs to survive." Among his lengthy and distinguished credentials, Eddy served the Clinton Administration on the National Security Council as the Director of Counterterroism, and following the 9/11 attacks founded the Center of Tactical Counterterrorism in New York.

This isn't just theoretical or "Hollywood" fantasy. A quick search will yield a large library full of information and warnings about EMPs dating back over many decades. The U.S. found out about EMPs somewhat by accident during the World War II era when some of our own planes were affected by our own nuclear weapons tests. Although no nation has deployed an EMP, it is commonly accepted that many developed nations have such weapons. Since the technology required is considerably less sophisticated than advanced nuclear weaponry, experts believe that nations with developing nuclear capabilities and terrorist organizations may find EMPs far too appealing.

In a 2009 interview with Fox News, Eddy explained that part of the appeal to perceived lesser powers is that an EMP is far easier to build than a traditional nuclear weapon in part because it doesn't have to be as accurate nor as long range. And there are far too many bargain priced aged missiles lying around that can be picked on the cheap and nukes galore, too. Most estimates put the Russian stockpile alone of old and new nukes at more than 10,000. Eddy also referenced the ability to launch an EMP from a "floating barge" – the same Club K Russian weapons technology that looks like a common semi-truck trailer highlighted by Vallely in his September 4 article, and now being marketed to the world.

The above graphic is from 1997 congressional testimony, and it has been repeatedly referenced since that time to demonstrate that a single explosion sufficiently high in the atmosphere could paralyze the entire North American continent. As Eddy explains, an EMP attack would "fry" everything electric, and the "power grid would be out for months." Not only would our cell phones and computers not work, neither would hospital systems, air traffic control, food production and refrigeration, manufacturing, distribution of goods and services, financial transactions and records….you get the picture.

Frank Gaffney is a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and was in charge of Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy at the Pentagon under President Reagan. Currently, Gaffney is President of the Center for Security Policy. His warning of the potential devastation from an EMP attack is terrifying. "Within a year of that attack, nine out of 10 Americans would be dead, because we can't support a population of the present size in urban centers and the like without electricity," he says. "And that is exactly what I believe the Iranians are working towards."

Senator Jon Kyl, previously the Chairman and now Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary's Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, is deeply concerned about the vulnerability to an EMP attack. He says that it "is one of only a few ways that the United States could be defeated by its enemies – terrorist or otherwise. And it is probably the easiest."

"A terrorist organization might have trouble putting a nuclear warhead on target with a Scud, but it would be much easier to simply launch and detonate in the atmosphere," Kyl wrote in the Washington Post. "No need for risk and difficulty of trying to smuggle a nuclear weapon over the border or hit a particular city. Just launch a cheap missile from a freighter in international waters – al Qaida is believed to own about 80 such vessels – and make sure to get it a few miles in the air."

In addition to the 9/11 Commission charged with review and making recommendations following the 9/11 attacks, the government established The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. The Commission released their first report in 2004, about the same time as the 9/11 Commission, and a subsequent report in 2008. Unfortunately, only a few politicians like Sen. Kyl even paid attention. In fact, there have been at least six national commissions as well as the government commissions to issue reports on the threat of EMP. But, virtually all of the warnings and recommendations of the experts have been ignored. "Congress has merely deliberated it, but has not taken substantive action," according to the Heritage Foundation. "The Administration and federal agencies remain mostly ambivalent."

One of the most damning indictments of the 9/11 Commission's findings was a "failure of imagination." America couldn't imagine that we were vulnerable to a terrorist attack inside our border on the scale of 9/11. Have we allowed our imaginations to fall asleep again?

As threatening as an EMP attack is, there is also a great deal that can be done. The EMP Commission says the "appropriate national-level approach should balance prevention, protection, and recovery." Both comprehensive reports by the Commission contain specific recommendations to accomplish that balanced strategic approach. Unfortunately, we have done virtually nothing while the capabilities of our adversaries continue to advance.

James Carafano, the National Defense and Homeland Security expert at the Heritage Foundation offers this straightforward agenda:

1. Fund comprehensive missile defense

2. Develop a National Recovery Plan and a plan to respond to severe space emergencies.

3. Require more research on the EMP Threat.

Carafano also voices a frustration that echoes across the pages of the EMP Commission's 2008 report. "Simply recognizing the EMP threat would go a long way toward better preparing America for the unthinkable."

It has been ten years since the 9/11 attacks, and America has not suffered another significant attack on the homeland during the decade. Our national bravado and the passage of time cause us to not dwell on the unknown nor take seriously "death to America" pledges by tyrants like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If as the experts warn, a single EMP attack could put America "back to the 19th century," do we not need to be vigilant?

In addition to a complacency developed from extended relative peace, by ignoring our increasing national security vulnerabilities and the capabilities of our enemies, America presented a target that was exploited by our enemies on 9/11. We have done much in the last ten years to prevent terrorists from flying planes into buildings, again, but are we ignoring an even bigger threat?

Iran either already has or is rapidly developing weapons technologies capable of great damage to America and our allies. In addition, the regime is expanding influence globally, particularly in South and Central America that further threatens our national security and global balance of power. In the coming weeks, we will expose more of the extended threatening web that the Iranians are weaving, and why it can neither be ignored nor tolerated.
Bob Beauprez
Bob Beauprez is a former Member of Congress and is currently the editor-in-chief of A Line of Sight, an online policy resource. Prior to serving in Congress, Mr. Beauprez was a dairy farmer and community banker. He and his wife Claudia reside in Lafayette, Colorado. You may contact him at:
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