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24001  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Night Owl's idea on: September 03, 2011, 04:37:56 PM

Woof All:

Night Owl has commented to me that with the large number of fighters now at the Gatherings the day can get rather long and the audience really starts thinning out.  Given the increase of knife play during the stickfights (either hidden knives being brought into play, or full on stick & knife fights) his idea is that knife will not be lost, but that the tempo of things will be picked up.

Putting this up for discussion.

Crafty Dog
24002  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Marriage and Family on: September 03, 2011, 03:16:26 PM
Woof Oh Snarky One cheesy

I voted for him when he ran for President back in the 1980s and I would suspect that it would have been possible for an Ohioan to have voted for him in a Presidential Primary.

24003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 03, 2011, 01:57:36 PM
PC:  You surprise me man  shocked shocked shocked

GM, JDN:  While I'm willing to not place much importance on screw-ups on the campaign trail (it is a humanly exhausting experience) I do find credibility in the notion that affirmative action in conjunction with progressive "teamwork" explains more than a little of Baraq's resume and I think it a fair point to note just how much of it we don't really know.   More to the point, apart from my profound differences on the merits of the issues, I'm not seeing that much proof of intelligence in his performance as President, unless one subscribes, as I confess I am sometimes tempted to do, to the idea of him as some sort of agent of malevolent forces.

Concerning Columbia, I am no longer particularly proud of that.  On the whole I find the institution riddled with offensive levels of anti-Americanism.
24004  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The New Race for the Arctic: on: September 03, 2011, 01:47:00 PM
BTW, see the post that opens this thread.
24005  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survivalist issues on: September 03, 2011, 12:45:15 PM
Not sure I follow here.  Aren't these people as disconnected from the matrix as can be?
24006  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / LA County's war on those living off the grid in Antelope Valley on: September 03, 2011, 11:10:39 AM
24007  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Good point. on: September 03, 2011, 11:09:58 AM
Once stated, the point is an obvious one, but I must confess one of which I had not thought.  Thank you.
24008  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: September 02, 2011, 09:46:45 PM
Good point.  Would you please post that on the Survival thread on the SCH forum too please?
24009  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Citizen-Police interactions and bestiality on: September 02, 2011, 09:44:09 PM
24010  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 02, 2011, 09:28:44 PM
Grateful for a cagey BB showing me tonight a slick move from a control position that I use a lot in DLO.
24011  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 02, 2011, 09:25:55 PM
And in the debates Baraq would whip out his ass-kissing letters to Baraq, , ,
24012  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China (and South China Sea-- Vietnam, Philippines, etc) on: September 02, 2011, 03:17:51 PM
This is but one step towards making the South China Sea their lake, setting up the day they back us off from supporting Taiwan, restricting the movements of our Navy and much more.
24013  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ likes Huntsman's economic plan on: September 02, 2011, 03:14:35 PM

Republican Presidential candidate and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is lagging in the polls, but the economic agenda he rolled out this week may start getting him more attention. And deservedly so.

The heart of the plan lowers all tax rates on individuals and businesses. Mr. Huntsman would create three personal income tax rates—8%, 14% and 23%—and pay for this in a "revenue-neutral" way by eliminating "all deductions and credits." This tracks with the proposals of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson commission and others for a flatter, more efficient tax system.

That means economically inefficient tax carve outs for mortgage interest, municipal bonds, child credits and green energy subsidies would at last be closed. The double tax on capital gains and dividends would be expunged as would the Alternative Minimum Tax. The corporate tax rate falls to 25% from 35%, and American businesses would be taxed on a territorial system to encourage firms to return capital parked in overseas operations.

Mr. Huntsman would repeal two of President Obama's most economically debilitating creations, ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. Mr. Huntsman has it right when he says, "Dodd-Frank perpetuates 'too big to fail' by codifying a regime that incentivizes firms to become too big to fail." He'd also repeal a Bush-era regulatory mistake, the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules, which have added millions of dollars of costs to businesses with little positive effect.

Mr. Huntsman says he'd also bring to heel the hyper-regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and the National Labor Relations Board, all of which are suppressing job-creation. The Huntsman energy policy promises to block impediments to producing oil in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska (see editorial above), while encouraging the safe deployment of fracking for natural gas in the states. Mr. Huntsman dabbled with green energy subsidies as Governor when those were the political fashion, but perhaps he's learned watching the failures of the last two years.

Mr. Huntsman's proposal is as impressive as any to date in the GOP Presidential field, and certainly better than what we've seen from the front-runners. Perhaps Mr. Huntsman should be asked to give the Republican response to the President's jobs speech next week. The two views of what makes an economy grow could not be more different.

24014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Hezbollah prepares for Assad's fall on: September 02, 2011, 01:18:12 PM

Continuing unrest in Syria is driving Hezbollah to prepare for a worst-case scenario in which it loses a key patron in Damascus and is left to fend for itself against a host of Lebanese factions that share an interest in undermining Hezbollah’s — and by extension, Iran’s — influence in the Levant.

Related Links
Making Sense of the Syrian Crisis

The inability of Syria’s al Assad regime to contain unrest across the country is naturally of great concern to Hezbollah and its patrons in Iran. The geopolitical reality of this region dictates that any consolidated regime in Syria will also be the preeminent power in Lebanon. Should Syria’s majority Sunni community succeed in splitting the Alawite-Baathist regime, it is highly unlikely that a re-emerging Sunni elite would be friendly to Iranian and Hezbollah interests. On the contrary, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and others would have an opportunity to severely undercut Iran’s foothold in the Levant and dial back Hezbollah’s political and military influence in Lebanon.

This is not to say that the al Assad regime has reached the brink of collapse, or even that Syria’s Sunnis have the tools, backing and unity they need to fill a power vacuum in Damascus without first undergoing a protracted struggle with Syria’s minority factions (including Alawites, mainstream Shia, Ismailis, Christians and Druze who would much rather see Damascus in the hands of a minority government than under Sunni control). But the more vulnerable the al Assad government appears, the more likely Lebanon is to bear the brunt of the sectarian spillover from this conflict.

The Basics of Levantine Conflict
Whereas Syria’s current conflict can be described broadly as a struggle between the country’s majority Sunni population and a group of minorities, the sectarian landscape in Lebanon is far more complex. On one side of the political divide, there is the Shiite group Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran and allied politically with select Shiite, Christian and Druze forces. Collectively, this group is known as the March 8 coalition. On the other side is the Sunni-majority March 14 coalition, which is backed by the West and the key Sunni states in the region (most notably Saudi Arabia) and is also allied with select Christian and Druze forces. Hezbollah forcibly collapsed the Lebanese government in January, and since June the Iran- and Syria-backed Hezbollah-led coalition has maintained a high degree of influence in the Lebanese Cabinet led by Prime Minister Nijab Miqati (a Sunni who is known to have deep business links with the al Assad regime).

(click here to enlarge image)
However, Lebanese politics is anything but static. The Saudi-backed Lebanese Sunni community sees an opportunity to tilt the power balance now that Hezbollah’s Syrian patrons are absorbed with a domestic crisis. In the middle of the broader Shiite-Sunni divide in Lebanon, the country’s Maronite Christian and minority Druze factions can be expected to shift between these two poles as they try to assess which direction the political winds are blowing.

Lebanon cannot escape either the volatility of sectarian politics or the shadow of its Syrian neighbor. So long as the government in Syria is secure enough to devote attention beyond its borders, Lebanon will be saturated with Syrian influence in everything from its banking sector to its militant factions to the highest echelons of the government. This also means that whenever Lebanon reverts to its arguably more natural state of factional infighting, Syria is the best positioned to intervene and restore order, relying on Lebanese fissures to consolidate its own authority in the country.

The picture changes dramatically, however, if Syria becomes embroiled in its own sectarian struggle and is thus unable to play a dominant role in Lebanon. In that case, Lebanon’s factions would be left to defend their interests on their own, and this is exactly the scenario that Hezbollah appears to be preparing for.

Hezbollah Prepares for the Worst
Because of what is at stake for Iran should the al Assad regime collapse, Hezbollah has been instructed by its patrons in Tehran to do what it can to assist the Syrian regime. STRATFOR has received indications that Hezbollah has deployed hundreds of fighters in the past several months to assist Syrian security forces — who are also being aided by Iran’s growing Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) presence in the country — in cracking down on anti-government protesters. As signs of Hezbollah’s assistance to an increasingly repressive Syrian regime grew more visible in the region, Hezbollah suffered considerable damage to its political image.

A STRATFOR source close to the organization claims that a split is emerging within Hezbollah over the group’s Syria dilemma. Older Hezbollah members apparently want Hezbollah to take a more prominent political role in Lebanon so the group can operate more autonomously and thus try to insulate itself from its external patrons, while the younger members are adamantly calling on the leadership to stand by Syrian President Bashar al Assad. The source added that many Hezbollah youth, who are heavily influenced by Iran’s IRGC, believe the Syrian president will survive because they also believe Iran will not abandon him. Many within the older Hezbollah generation, however, appear to be more skeptical of al Assad’s long-term chances for political survival.

While waiting for the situation in Syria to crystallize, the Hezbollah leadership has chosen to make a short-term tactical change in its operations. The group’s greatest concern at this point is that Lebanon’s Sunni, Maronite Christian and Druze communities, with Saudi and possibly Western and Turkish backing, could work together in trying to confront Hezbollah militarily should they feel confident that Syria and its proxies will be too distracted to intervene decisively. Weapons flows in Lebanon are already abundant, but as the situation in Syria has worsened, there have been increasing signs of Lebanese Sunnis, Maronite Christians and Druze bolstering their arsenals in preparation for a possible military confrontation. Hezbollah appears to be most closely watching the actions of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, as Hezbollah believes his Christian militia is most likely to lead an armed conflict in Lebanon against Hezbollah.

It is impossible to tell at this point which side would be more interested in provoking such a confrontation. Just as forces looking to weaken Hezbollah could attempt to trigger a conflict, Syria is also interested in instigating sectarian clashes in Lebanon to distract from its domestic crisis (the urgency for Syria to do so will increase the more Syria feels that NATO countries will have more resources to expend as the military campaign in Libya winds down). Toward this end, Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamluk recently summoned Jamil al-Sayyid, former Lebanese director of public security (and a Shiite) to Damascus, and instructed him to revive his intelligence apparatus and prepare himself for action against Syria’s adversaries in Lebanon. According to a source, al-Sayyid has been given the task of targeting leaders in the anti-Syrian March 14 coalition and instigating Sunni-Shiite armed conflict. The source claims Mamluk issued similar instructions to Mustafa Hamdan (a Sunni), another former officer who was jailed with al-Sayyid. Hamdan currently commands the al Murabitun movement, which has a small presence in Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon, and allegedly has orders to challenge Saad al-Hariri’s Future Movement in Sunni areas.

The rising threat of armed civil conflict in Lebanon has led Hezbollah to turn its focus inward. According to a source close to Hezbollah, the group has shifted the bulk of its operations from the South Litani conflict area with Israel northward to the Shiite-concentrated Bekaa Valley, where Hezbollah is busy developing an extensive communications network in the northern and central parts of the area. Hezbollah appears to be setting up its defense line in the Upper Matn and Kisirwan mountain peaks to protect the central and northern Bekaa against a ground attack from the Christian heartland to the west. Hezbollah is hoping to complete much of this construction by the end of October.

Hezbollah and its Lebanese pro-Syrian allies are also attempting to build up their defense in the predominantly Sunni Akkar area in northern Lebanon, where Sunni-Shiite tensions are on the rise following a deadly shootout at a Ramadan iftar dinner Aug. 17. The dinner, organized by the pro-Syrian head of the Muslim Clerics Association in Akkar Sheikh Abduslam al Harrash, was interrupted when unknown assailants opened fire and killed an attending member of the Alawite Islamic Council. Lebanese army forces then killed Sunni lawmaker Khalid al Daher’s driver. Al Daher responded by condemning the Lebanese military and accusing soldiers of operating as armed gangsters under the influence of Syria and Hezbollah. It is highly possible that the episode in al Ayyat was part of a Syrian covert strategy to instigate sectarian conflict.

The growing stress on the Syrian regime is, for a number of reasons, raising the threat of civil war in Lebanon. The range of political, religious, ideological and business interests that intersect in Lebanon make for an explosive mix when an exogenous factor — like the weakening of the Syrian regime — is introduced. Outside stakeholders like Iran will be doing everything they can to  sustain a foothold in the region while Saudi Arabia and Turkey will be looking for a strategic opportunity to bring the Levant back under Sunni authority. Caught in this broader struggle are the Lebanese themselves, whose preparations for a worst-case scenario are ironically driving the country closer to a crisis.

Read more: How a Syrian Crisis Will Affect Lebanon | STRATFOR
24015  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China seeks leverage over Philippines on: September 02, 2011, 01:14:57 PM

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III is leading a delegation of businessmen on a state visit to China from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3. Manila appeared to have toned down its criticisms of Beijing ahead of the visit, hoping to secure more Chinese investment in the country. But China has warned the Philippines that its cooperation in the current context has a cost, namely a bigger hand in the Philippine mining sector and more restraint from Manila in the South China Sea.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III began his first-ever state visit to China on Aug. 30, a long-delayed trip that will conclude Sept. 3. Relations between the countries have been tense since March because of their ongoing dispute over the South China Sea, and have been compounded by the fact that the visit comes a week after the one-year anniversary of the hostage crisis in Manila that killed eight people, mostly tourists from Hong Kong, not to mention that Aquino openly refused to apologize a week before his visit for the botched rescue by Philippine security forces during that incident.

However, prior to the visit, Manila appeared to tone down its public criticism of China’s assertiveness and incursions into the disputed sea, instead relying on conciliatory rhetoric in a bid to garner Chinese investment. The Philippines traditionally has played China and the United States off one another, reaping the benefits of economic cooperation with Beijing while protecting itself with security guarantees from Washington. Beijing recognizes this — and that the recent accommodative rhetoric from Manila is hollow — and will try to use Aquino’s request for investment to extract concessions and restrain the Philippines’ behavior in the South China Sea.

Manila’s Need for Investment

With the Philippine economy signaling slower growth, Aquino is in a tough spot. More than a year into his presidency, he is far from fulfilling a number of campaign promises and is facing a declining popularity rating. As a result, the Philippines is increasingly in need of external investment, and Aquino is looking to Beijing to provide it.

China has become the Philippines’ third-largest trade partner. But Chinese investment in the Philippines was only around $100 million in 2010, a tiny portion of the $59 billion of total overseas investment in the country that year and even lower than China’s investment there five years ago. In other words, there is a great deal of room for Chinese investment to grow in the investment-strapped country.

A delegation of 300 businessmen is accompanying Aquino on the five-day trip to China. According to reports, Aquino wants to double bilateral trade (from about $28 billion to $60 billion) with China by 2016. Meanwhile, he is seeking up to $7 billion worth of deals from China, promising that the investment-hungry country is “open for business.” In particular, Aquino is campaigning for Chinese investment in the automobile industry; shipbuilding, railway and agriculture projects; and his government’s public-private partnership program, the centerpiece of the Aquino administration’s push to restructure the economy and generate employment opportunities.

The Philippine Balancing Act

China’s rapid economic growth and expanding influence in the region, in conjunction with reduced investment and aid from Japan, has drawn more and more Southeast Asian countries into China’s economic sphere. Beijing has leveraged this economic influence to gain political influence and to help address diplomatic disputes.

However, unlike other countries in the region, the Philippines enjoys a security alliance with the United States, which provides Manila with alternative options to counterbalance China’s growing influence and maximize its own interests. In fact, Manila has proved capable of balancing the two powers, gaining U.S. defense guarantees while reaping the benefits of economic cooperation with China. However, with the U.S. re-engagement policy, competing interests in the South China Sea and other regional matters, Manila needs to walk a more careful line to balance the two powers and continue to secure the respective benefits of cooperation with each.

China’s Demands

Beijing has responded coldly to Manila’s latest overtures. The Global Times, a state-run Chinese newspaper, clearly suggested in a recent editorial that Beijing would not easily fulfill Manila’s request for investment, especially following the latest tension over the South China Sea during which Beijing saw the Philippines as using U.S. backing to its advantage. The editorial went on to say Beijing would not put its own interests at risk and encourage Manila’s game between China and the United States by granting easy access to investment. It also said China should use its economic leverage over the Philippines to address bilateral disputes and shape Manila’s behavior. Simply put, China has warned the Philippines that its cooperation in the current context will come with a price, namely a bigger hand in the Philippine mining sector and more influence in the South China Sea.

Beijing has long been interested in engaging the  Philippines’ rich resource and energy sectors. In fact, shortly before Aquino’s visit, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao called on Manila to liberalize its economic policies in order to facilitate Chinese investments, particularly in mining. But resistance within the Philippines has hampered China’s efforts.

China’s interest in the Philippine mining sector stems from its need to meet its growing energy and resource demand over the long term, but for the Philippines, mining is a politically controversial issue. The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 essentially allows 100 percent foreign ownership for large-scale mining and limited equity for smaller operations. Attempts to open mining to foreign investors has been impeded, however, by opponents ranging from Catholic bishops, indigenous groups, environmentalists and the leftist political group known as the New People’s Army. Aquino has been under pressure to revoke the government’s mining policy, so acceding to China’s demand for more access to the Philippine mining sector will be difficult for him to do.

Meanwhile, Beijing may also pressure Manila to exercise more restraint in the South China Sea, emphasizing China’s preferred approach of bilateral dialogue and joint exploration projects. Still, the latest disagreement over potential joint exploration efforts shows that both sides are unlikely to abandon their positions. The Philippines will not make concessions on its territorial integrity, and thus it continues military purchases and calls for more assistance from Washington despite its moderated rhetoric. Indeed, just before Aquino’s visit, Manila made a show of its recently acquired patrol ship from the United States, the refurbished 115-meter (377-foot) BRP Gregorio del Pilar, and indicated that more purchases would be made.

Despite reduced tensions during the Philippine president’s visit, Beijing’s and Manila’s competing interests in the South China Sea continue to inhibit closer relations. Beijing expects concessions from Manila, particularly in the South China Sea, in return for investment. However, China also understands not to push the pro-U.S. administration in Manila too far, which would likely bring more attention from Washington to the disputed South China Sea region.

Read more: China Seeks Increased Leverage over the Philippines | STRATFOR
24016  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 21 minutes w George Gilder on: September 02, 2011, 01:11:27 PM
24017  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 02, 2011, 01:10:10 PM
Agreed, but I continue to post them because:

a) he is a good economist with a very good track record
b) we here tend strongly to the bear camp and we need to hear the bull case
c) contraryianism is often a good way to bet-- "buy when the streets are running red" etc.

24018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Water shortages, Kadaffy not done yet? on: September 02, 2011, 01:07:57 PM

Water shortages began in the Libyan capital the day after rebel forces entered the city. The shortages have been attributed to a cutoff in supplies from the Great Man-Made River (GMR) in an area near one of the last strongholds of Moammar Gadhafi’s power. Technicians have not been able to visit the infrastructure to make repairs due to the security situation in the area. Thus, it seems the water supply from the GMR will not begin flowing to Tripoli again until the rebels have cleared out the remaining Gadhafi loyalists.

Because of a supply cutoff, water shortages began in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, the day after rebel forces entered the city Aug. 21. So far, there have not been signs of any unrest in the affected areas of Tripoli as a direct result; most people seem willing to tolerate the inconvenience of water shortages as long as the situation is not life threatening.

Humanitarian aid and a decrease in water use are helping to keep the situation from becoming hazardous, but the National Transitional Council (NTC) still has two concerns about the water shortage: first, that it will not be able to restore the flow of water to Tripoli quickly, and second, that even if water is restored soon it will not be able to prevent supply cuts from becoming a perpetual problem. The NTC is already facing several challenges as it tries to establish its political authority in Tripoli, and it does not want to add another problem to its list.

Multiple explanations have been offered for the water shortages, which are affecting more than 3 million people in Libya’s western coastal region. The cause appears to be a cutoff of the flows from the western system of the Great Man-Made River (GMR), a huge subsurface water pumping and transport system that taps aquifers deep in the Sahara and transports the water to Libya’s coast. Approximately three-fourths of Tripoli’s municipal water resources come from the GMR, with the rest coming from seawater desalinization plants, local wells and sewage treatment plants. The system has changed the face of modern Libya; since the first phase of the GMR’s construction in 1991, Libya’s population has increased by almost 50 percent, from around 4.5 million to approximately 6.5 million. Without this source of water, the population would be pressured to return to earlier levels.

The GMR is a vital piece of infrastructure for any administration trying to govern Tripoli and has many vulnerable points along its nearly 600-kilometer (370-mile) path. The GMR has an eastern system and a western system that draw water from different well fields. In the western system, water originates in 580 wells, only around 30 of which currently are online, according to reports. NTC officials and the European Commission’s humanitarian organization ECHO claim that pro-Gadhafi forces have sabotaged the system, creating the water cutoff. There are also reports of empty storage tanks and pipeline damage on the GMR between 40 and 100 kilometers from Tripoli, and the International Committee of the Red Cross has reported that the primary regional reservoir at Gharyan (the easternmost point of the Nafusa Mountains, connected to the GMR western system) has dried up.

An Aug. 30 Reuters report citing a report prepared by ECHO claimed the water cutoff had occurred in the coastal city of Sirte, Gadhafi’s hometown and a remaining stronghold for his forces. An interconnector between the GMR’s eastern and western systems runs through the city; if Gadhafi loyalists had cut off the water flow via the GMR to Tripoli, it would only increase the impetus for NTC forces to seize the city, which is situated between the NTC’s zones of control in western and eastern Libya.

However, ECHO claims that its report was misquoted and denies that activity in Sirte has anything to do with the shortages in Tripoli, insisting instead that the disruption in flow is from an area known as the Jebel Hassouna. This area is deep in the Sahara, south of Tripoli, and close to another Gadhafi stronghold: Sabha.

Securing Water Amid ‘Uncertain’ Conditions
NTC forces firmly control the territory ranging from the Nafusa Mountains northward to Tripoli but have yet to extend a strong presence into the desert regions to the south (as evidenced by the ability of several members of Gadhafi’s family to safely reach the Algerian border Aug. 29). ECHO, however, says rebel forces have been in control of the wellheads and flow stations in the Jebel Hassouna area since Aug. 24. This is unconfirmed, but even if it is true, forces loyal to Gadhafi are still a threat near Sabha. That no technical teams have been able to travel to the area to bring the wells back online — which ECHO admits is because of the “uncertain” security situation — indicates how vulnerable Tripoli’s GMR water supplies are. Linear infrastructure like this is difficult for even coherent governments to defend. Gadhafi loyalists currently retain immense freedom of action and possess both the capability and incentive to attack targets affiliated with the GMR. This will not change so long as the NTC lacks the ability to drive them out.

(click here to enlarge image)
The military situation in both the northern population centers and the desert areas to the south therefore directly affects the water shortages in the capital. As of Aug. 31, four key Gadhafi strongholds remain in Libya. Tarhouna, Bani Walid and Sirte are all to the east of Tripoli along the coastal region. Sabha is hundreds of kilometers south, in the heart of the Sahara, and connects to Sirte via a single paved road. NTC forces still do not control the area in between, and control of such an open space is never easy to maintain.

There are two main routes for NTC forces to get to Sabha: From the Nafusa Mountains or through Sirte. If ECHO’s claims about rebel forces controlling the wellfields at Jebel Hassouna are true, they likely reached the area from the mountains. NATO planes, meanwhile, have bombed Sirte continuously for the past week while the NTC keeps negotiating with the city’s remaining holdouts until a recently imposed Sept. 3 deadline passes. Meanwhile, the NTC allegedly is considering launching a military assault on Sabha in response to the reports that Gadhafi-ordered sabotage is causing the water shortages. An NTC official said the only reason for a delay in the attack is a concern over the potential to seriously damage the GMR infrastructure in the process. In reality, there is every indication that the NTC continues to lack the logistical capability to reach Sabha from its current zones of control, so an attack on Sabha is highly unlikely while Sirte remains beyond NTC forces’ grasp.

The Humanitarian Situation in Tripoli
Meanwhile, the water shortages have not yet created a crisis in Tripoli. Area residents have ramped up withdrawals from local wells, which can supply roughly one-quarter of Libya’s municipal water needs. Much of this water is being trucked in and distributed from surrounding areas, though the potability of this water is questionable, as heavy use over decades has made many wells brackish and the water suitable only for washing. In addition, freshwater wells in such close proximity to the sea are more prone to this phenomenon, which could create problems for Libya — the majority of its population resides in the coastal regions.

International organizations are scrambling to mitigate a looming humanitarian crisis, with groups such as the European Union, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) sending water rations and mobilizing experts to assess and repair the damage. Supplementing Tripoli’s water supply is the most pressing issue. UNICEF and the World Food Program have so far delivered 213,000 liters (56,300 gallons) of water and are in the process of procuring a total of 5 million liters. The World Food Program reported on Aug. 30 that a vessel was en route from Malta to Tripoli carrying 500,000 liters of water. Greece and Turkey are also being tapped for emergency deliveries of potable water. But these deliveries, while significant, provide only a fraction of a single day’s drinking water consumption for Tripoli.

Distributing water supplies large enough to begin alleviating the shortages poses a significant logistical hurdle for the NTC. Simply loading water onto a major oil tanker would not work; Tripoli’s port is limited in the size of ships it can receive, and those tankers are too large. So far, the limited amounts of water arriving have been moved in more modular containment — such as water bottles — and distributed by truck and by hand.

The residents of Tripoli have exhibited resilience in the face of the shortages, however. Part of the solution has been a mass tactical shift in the allocation of potable water. The GMR allowed pre-war daily water use to average more than 200 liters per capita. The amount of water needed per capita for survival is much lower — humanitarian agencies have been placing the figure at 3-4 liters (assuming low activity levels) — meaning that even a massive decrease in the flow of water to Tripoli does not automatically create the danger of large numbers of deaths, so long as the situation does not deteriorate further.

None of this is to say that the situation in Tripoli is sustainable should it last for too long — at least in the eyes of the NTC. There will be a limit to the amount of goodwill the people of Tripoli hold toward the NTC, whose fight against Gadhafi has led to the current situation. At a certain point, continued water shortages in Tripoli will create rising anger toward the rebel council, and toward NATO as well, as people will begin to point fingers at those who led them into their current plight. Governing is often harder than rebellion, and the logistical challenges of bringing order to Tripoli while continuing to fight Gadhafi’s remaining forces have the potential to become a major burden. The NTC will thus seek to ensure that the GMR is brought back online as soon as possible. Experts estimate repair time to be anywhere from three days to more than a week, but this assumes technicians can reach the area without coming under attack, which will depend on the NTC’s ability to minimize the strength of the last vestiges of Gadhafi’s forces.

Read more: Libya: Water Cutoffs to Tripoli Tied to Security Situation | STRATFOR
24019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Exxon and the Russians on: September 02, 2011, 01:01:19 PM
Few companies wring more earnings from a dollar of investment than Exxon Mobil, so we assume CEO Rex Tillerson knows the risks he's taking by getting into business with Vladimir Putin to explore for oil in the Russian Arctic. Exxon's official partner may be Rusneft, the Russian oil company, but in Moscow the de facto chairman of every board is Mr. Putin. If he turns against you, your investment may vanish faster than you can say Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

That well-known political risk makes it all the more disconcerting to see a U.S. oil company committing to invest billions of dollars in Russia's Arctic Sea, while much of America's own Arctic territories remain off-limits for political reasons. Exxon has long experience drilling in Alaska, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is less risky or costly than drilling in the Arctic Sea will be. But Democrats in Washington have barred that and elsewhere in Alaska from energy exploration.

The Obama Administration is using regulations to thwart development in the American far north. The primary gambit is to sit on lease permits. Conoco spent five years to get at one of its leases in the National Petroleum Preserve, only to be denied by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps denied an Exxon permit on the North Slope. Shell this year threw in the towel in the Beaufort Sea after a five-year fight for a permit with the EPA. No wonder Exxon Mobil decided to do business with the Russians. What's the alternative?

24020  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Hezbollah en Cuba on: September 02, 2011, 12:49:24 PM
24021  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah sets up shop in Cuba on: September 02, 2011, 12:48:42 PM
24022  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury and Beck (!) on August non-farm payrolls on: September 02, 2011, 12:30:34 PM
First Wesbury

Non-farm payrolls were unchanged in August To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/2/2011

Non-farm payrolls were unchanged in August but down 58,000 including revisions to June/July. The consensus expected a gain of 68,000.

Private sector payrolls increased 17,000 in August.  Revisions to June/July subtracted 3,000, bringing the net gain to 14,000.  August gains were led by health care (+29,700) and professional & business services (+28,000). The biggest decline was in telecommunications (-47,300), due to the Verizon strike.

The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1% in August (9.094% unrounded) from 9.1% in July (9.092% unrounded).
Average weekly earnings – cash earnings, excluding benefits – fell 0.4% in August but are up 1.9% versus a year ago.
Implications:  The employment report for August was ugly but does not indicate a recession. Private-sector payrolls increased only 14,000 including revisions to June and July and wages fell. Average hourly earnings declined 0.1% and the length of the workweek dipped by 0.1 to 34.2 hours. Controlling for a Verizon strike, now over, that temporarily sidelined 46,000 workers, private payrolls would have been up 60,000 including revisions.   We think August’s weakness was largely due to financial turmoil in Europe and large swings in the stock market.  This has brought much uncertainty to the hiring arena.  In the past year private sector payrolls have still increased 142,000 per month, and this trend will accelerate in the second half of the year as the economy continues to recover, and businesses realize a “double dip” is not going to happen.  The biggest positive news in today’s report was that civilian employment, an alternative measure of jobs that includes start ups, increased 331,000 in August. In other recent news, despite Hurricane Irene, same-store chain store sales were up 4.6% in August compared to a year ago, no different than in July and much better than if the US were entering  recession. Also, autos and light trucks were sold at a 12.1 million annual rate in August, as the consensus expected, down 0.8% from July but up 5% versus a year ago.
Now Beck:
24023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: September 02, 2011, 12:24:56 PM
We, even JDN!  grin, are agreed  cool
24024  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Investors- please say no to int'l standards on: September 02, 2011, 12:22:47 PM
Emily ChasanSenior Editor.When SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said in June that investors aren’t clamoring for International Financial Reporting Standards, she may have been understating things… a bit. Now, some of the biggest U.S. investor groups are letting the SEC know in no uncertain terms that it should postpone its decision on IFRS and even stop the convergence process between U.S. GAAP and IFRS.

In comment letters to the SEC this week, some big investors and analyst groups had some scathing words about IFRS, claiming, among other things, that the International Accounting Standards Board isn’t independent enough from political interference to set accounting rules for the United States.

Capital Research and Management Co, which manages over $1 trillion, wrote that U.S. GAAP was “clearer, more effective and more advanced” than IFRS in providing the information it needs to make investments. CRMC Chairman Paul Haaga wrote in the letter:

While we support the idea of a consistent set of high quality accounting standards for companies worldwide, unfortunately we do not believe IASB has been effective in achieving this objective. Moreover, IASB’s ability to achieve this objective has been gravely diminished by political influence.

CRMC, which is the investment advisor to the American Funds mutual funds, said it doesn’t expect to benefit from the more comparable reporting IFRS is supposed to provide because the standard is applied so inconsistently around the world, and urged the SEC to retain U.S. GAAP. It also said the convergence process between U.S. accounting rule makers isn’t working and should be stopped.

Investors, analysts, and others, who use financial statement, are the purported beneficiaries of a switch to IFRS, as a single set of accounting rules should make it easier to compare publicly-traded companies around the world. Many CFOs are on record saying they would bear the cost of an IFRS switch if they think investors would benefit.

But even the CFA Institute, which represents over 100,000 portfolio managers, investment analysts and advisors throughout the world expressed doubts, saying it would be “premature” for the SEC to inject IFRS into the U.S. financial system. The CFA Institute said its continued support for IFRS is not unconditional, and that the International Accounting Standards Board needs to ensure its independence and more consistent application of its rules before U.S. companies are required to use them.

After abandoning an earlier plan that would have had U.S. companies using IFRS as soon as 2014, the SEC has said it would make a decision this year about whether companies in the U.S. should move toward the international standard, which is used in more than 100 other countries around the globe.

24025  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: This could be awkward , , , on: September 02, 2011, 10:56:40 AM

Note that the piece is written by Pravda on the Hudson, so caveat lector.  That said, ironies abound , , ,
TRIPOLI, Libya — Abdel Hakim Belhaj had a wry smile about the oddity of his situation.

Yes, he said, he was detained by Malaysian officials in 2004 on arrival at the Kuala Lumpur airport, where he was subjected to extraordinary rendition on behalf of the United States, and sent to Thailand. His pregnant wife, traveling with him, was taken away, and his child would be 6 before he saw him.
In Bangkok, Mr. Belhaj said, he was tortured for a few days by two people he said were C.I.A. agents, and then, worse, they repatriated him to Libya, where he was thrown into solitary confinement for six years, three of them without a shower, one without a glimpse of the sun.

Now this man is in charge of the military committee responsible for keeping order in Tripoli, and, he says, is a grateful ally of the United States and NATO.

And while Mr. Belhaj concedes that he was the emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was deemed by the United States to be a terrorist group allied with Al Qaeda, he says he has no Islamic agenda. He says he will disband the fighters under his command, merging them into the formal military or police, once the Libyan revolution is over.

He says there are no hard feelings over his past treatment by the United States.

“Definitely it was very hard, very difficult,” he said. “Now we are in Libya, and we want to look forward to a peaceful future. I do not want revenge.”

As the United States and other Western powers embrace and help finance the new government taking shape in Libya, they could face a particularly awkward relationship with Islamists like Mr. Belhaj. Once considered enemies in the war on terror, they suddenly have been thrust into positions of authority — with American and NATO blessing.

In Washington, the Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on Mr. Belhaj or his new role. A State Department official said the Obama administration was aware of Islamist backgrounds among the rebel fighters in Libya and had expressed concern to the Transitional National Council, the new rebel government, and that it had received assurances.

“The last few months, we’ve had the T.N.C. saying all the right things, and making the right moves,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the matter’s delicacy.

Mr. Belhaj, 45, a short and serious man with a close-cropped beard, burst onto the scene in the mountains west of Tripoli only in the last few weeks before the fall of the capital, as the leader of a brigade of rebel fighters.

“He wasn’t even in the military council in the western mountains,” said Othman Ben Sassi, a member of the Transitional National Council from Zuwarah in the west. “He was nothing, nothing. He arrived at the last moment, organized some people but was not responsible for the military council in the mountains.”

Then came the push on Tripoli, which fell with unexpected speed, and Mr. Belhaj and his fighters focused on the fortified Bab al-Aziziya compound of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, where they distinguished themselves as relatively disciplined fighters.

A veteran of the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, Mr. Belhaj has what most rebel fighters have lacked — actual military experience. Yet he has still not adopted a military rank (unlike many rebels who quickly became self-appointed colonels and generals), which he said should go only to members of the army.

Dressed in new military fatigues, with a pistol strapped backward to his belt, Mr. Belhaj was interviewed at his offices in the Mitiga Military Airbase in Tripoli, the site of what had been the United States Air Force’s Wheelus Air Base until 1970.

Last weekend, Mr. Belhaj was voted commander of the Tripoli Military Council, a grouping of several brigades of rebels involved in taking the capital, by the other brigades, a move that aroused some criticism among liberal members of the council.

However, his appointment was strongly supported by Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of the council, who said that as Colonel Qaddafi’s former minister of justice he got to know Mr. Belhaj well during negotiations leading to his release from prison in 2010. Mr. Belhaj and other Islamist radicals made a historic compromise with the Qaddafi government, one that was brokered by Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the Qaddafi son seen then as a moderating influence.


Page 2 of 2)

The Islamists agreed to disband the Islamic Fighting Group, replacing it with the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change, and renounced violent struggle. “We kept that promise,” Mr. Belhaj said. “The revolution started peacefully, but the regime’s crackdown forced it to become violent.”


Mr. Belhaj conceded that Islamists had no role in creating the revolution against Colonel Qaddafi’s rule; it was instead a popular uprising. “The February 17th revolution is the Libyan people’s revolution and no one can claim it, neither secularists nor Islamists,” he said. “The Libyan people have different views, and all those views have to be involved and respected.”
Forty-two years of Qaddafi rule in Libya had, he said, taught him an important lesson: “No one can make Libya suffer any more under any one ideology or any one regime.” His pledge to disband fighters under his command once Libya has a new government was repeated to NATO officials at a meeting in Qatar this week.

Some council members said privately that allowing Mr. Belhaj to become chairman of the military council in Tripoli was done partly to take advantage of his military expertise, but also to make sure the rebels’ political leaders had him under their direct control.

Many also say that Mr. Belhaj’s history as an Islamist is understandable because until this year, Islamist groups were the only ones able to struggle against Colonel Qaddafi’s particularly repressive rule.

After Mr. Belhaj and a small group of Libyan comrades returned from the jihad against the Soviets, they formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and had a secret base in the Green Mountain area of eastern Libya, until it was discovered and bombed, and many of its followers rounded up.

Mr. Belhaj escaped Libya in the late 1990s and, like many antigovernment exiles, was forced to move frequently as Libya used its oil resources as a way to pressure host countries.

“We focused on Libya and Libya only,” he said. “Our goal was to help our people. We didn’t participate in or support any action outside of Libya. We never had any link with Al Qaeda, and that could never be. We had a different agenda; global fighting was not our goal.”

He said that America’s reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks led to his group’s classification as terrorist.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the rapprochement between Libya and Western countries led to the apprehension of several anti-Qaddafi activists, who were returned to Libya by the United States.

While Mr. Belhaj insisted that he was not interested in revenge, it is not a period of his life that he has altogether forgotten. “If one day there is a legal way, I would like to see my torturers brought to court,” he said.
24026  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: September 02, 2011, 10:38:42 AM
I am.
24027  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Essential Question on: September 01, 2011, 10:54:53 PM

Alexander's Essay – September 1, 2011

The Essential Question in Any Political Debate

The most important inquiry conservatives must posit in every policy debate: "What does our Constitution authorize and mandate?"

"The Constitution which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all." --George Washington

The most vital debate of the 2012 political cycle, indeed the essential question in any political debate, is one that you will not hear much about unless you are represented by one of the authentic conservatives who have carried the banner of the Reagan Revolution into the 21st century, or you are represented by one of those much-maligned Tea Party "radicals."

One unifying characteristic of the old guard and the new breed of senators and representatives is that they insist upon establishing the Essential Liberty and Rule of Law precedents as prerequisites for any political policy debate.

Our Constitution, as written and ratified, stipulates in its preface that it is "ordained and established" by the People in order to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." To that end, it established a representative republic, not a popular democracy, which is to say it affirmed the primacy of Rule of Law over rule of men.

Our Founders understood that the Rule of Law enshrined in our Constitution was the fundamental guarantee to protecting and sustaining Liberty for their, and our, posterity. Consequently, they prescribed that all elected officials be bound by Sacred Oath to "support and defend" our Constitution.

For presidents, Article II, Section 1, specifies: "Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: 'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'"

Likewise Article VI, Clause 3 specifies: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution."

However, in the current political era, the vast majority of those elected to national office have abandoned their oaths in deference to political expediency and constituency. For this they should be duly prosecuted, one and all, for breach of oath and trust.

Are oaths binding? Post your opinion
Democrats deign to trace their party lineage to the father of classical libertarianism, Thomas Jefferson, yet they utterly reject questions about constitutional authority. So archaic do they believe such queries to be that when asked, they insist, in the words of Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, "Nobody questions that."

But if Liberty is to be sustained by ballots rather than bullets, every conservative candidate must base his or her campaign platform upon restoration of our authentic Constitution and wholly reject the so-called "living constitution upon which Democrats have constructed their socialist empire.

For much of our nation's history, election cycles have been filled with rancorous political debates. Like today, many of those debates were focused on personalities and motivated by power seekers. The consequence has been an incremental erosion of constitutional authority, particularly by the Judicial Branch, which has amended our Constitution by judicial diktat rather than by the legitimate method prescribed in Article V.

James Madison wrote, "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." However, the "gradual and silent" erosion has been punctuated with periodic landslides. Today, tyranny is hovering on the immediate horizon.

In the decades following our nation's founding, many of the great debates were centered on Liberty. The notions of containing the power of the central government and promoting individual freedom were fervently tested. But four major events in the years after 1850 altered the political debate and, tragically, increased the power of the central government far beyond its constitutional limits.

The first of those events was the War Between the States which cost 600,000 American lives and annulled the authority of our Constitution's mandate for Federalism. Unfortunately, today's "Republicans" tie their lineage to Abraham Lincoln, the man who engineered that frontal assault on states' rights.  (Sorry, not buying this one at all.  Slavery is not a right.  Period.)

The second major insult to Liberty came during the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt and his "useful idiots" used the fear generated by economic crisis to implement his "New Deal," an explosive expansion of central government power that came at enormous offense to the authority of our Constitution.

The third colossal affront to our Constitution occurred under another Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, who implemented his "Great Society" programs in response to fears about social and economic inequality.

The fourth and final nail in the coffin of American Liberty is being hammered in by Barack Hussein Obama and his Leftist cadres. They are determined to replace our republican government with European-style Democratic Socialism, and they have made significant strides toward that terrible goal.

The only way to re-establish the primacy of Rule of Law over rule of men and reinstate limits upon our government and its controllers is to restore the authority of our Constitution. Only then will we ensure that Liberty prevails over tyranny.

Does constitutional authority matter? Post your comments
That authority was, and remains, clearly defined by our Founders who, though they might have differed modestly on the question of constitutional interpretation, universally agreed with George Washington: "The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all."

Washington also wrote, "Should, hereafter, those incited by the lust of power and prompted by the supineness or venality of their constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to show, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction and sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other."

What did other Founders write about Rule of Law and the authority of our Constitution?

James Madison: "I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that is not the guide in expounding it, there may be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers. ... If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions."

Thomas Jefferson: "Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction. ... To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. ... The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. ... The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch. ... On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed. ... [C]onfidence is every where the parent of despotism; free government is founded in jealousy and not in confidence; it is jealousy & not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power ... in questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution."

Alexander Hamilton: "[T]here is not a syllable in the [Constitution] which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution, or which gives them any greater latitude in this respect than may be claimed by the courts of every State. ... The Judiciary ... has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society, and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither force nor will. ... If it be asked, 'What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic?' The answer would be, an inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws -- the first growing out of the last. ... A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government. ... [T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments."

John Adams: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. ... The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People. ... [T]hey may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. ... A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."

Article VI of our Constitution proclaims: "This Constitution ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land."

The definitive reflection on constitutional authority comes from Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, a Madison appointee, in his "Commentaries on the Constitution" (1833): "The constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language, and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes for which those powers were conferred. By a reasonable interpretation, we mean, that in case the words are susceptible of two different senses, the one strict, the other more enlarged, that should be adopted which is most consonant with the apparent objects and intent of the Constitution. ... Temporary delusions, prejudices, excitements, and objects have irresistible influence in mere questions of policy. And the policy of one age may ill suit the wishes or the policy of another. The constitution is not subject to such fluctuations. It is to have a fixed, uniform, permanent construction. It should be, so far at least as human infirmity will allow, not dependent upon the passions or parties of particular times, but the same yesterday, to-day, and forever."

The last best hope for the restoration of our Constitution's original intent is upon us. Accordingly, a revival of its prescribed limits on the central government rests on the shoulders of those wise enough to educate themselves to the principles of Essential Liberty and bold enough to make constitutional authority the centerpiece of any political debate.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a citizen asked Benjamin Franklin what form of government the Founders had created. He responded, "A republic, if you can keep it." The question for American Patriots today: "Can we keep it?"

Well, can we? Tell me what you think
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post
24028  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Early Obama letter confirms inability to write. on: September 01, 2011, 08:08:40 PM
August 29, 2011
Early Obama Letter Confirms Inability to Write
By Jack Cashill
On November 16, 1990, Barack Obama, then president of the Harvard Law Review, published a letter in the Harvard Law Record, an independent Harvard Law School newspaper, championing affirmative action.

Although a paragraph from this letter was excerpted in David Remnick's biography of Obama, The Bridge, I had not seen the letter in its entirety before this week.  Not surprisingly, it confirms everything I know about Barack Obama, the writer and thinker.

Obama was prompted to write by an earlier letter from a Mr. Jim Chen that criticized Harvard Law Review's affirmative action policies.  Specifically, Chen had argued that affirmative action stigmatized its presumed beneficiaries.

The response is classic Obama: patronizing, dishonest, syntactically muddled, and grammatically challenged.  In the very first sentence Obama leads with his signature failing, one on full display in his earlier published work: his inability to make subject and predicate agree.

"Since the merits of the Law Review's selection policy has been the subject of commentary for the last three issues," wrote Obama, "I'd like to take the time to clarify exactly how our selection process works."

If Obama were as smart as a fifth-grader, he would know, of course, that "merits ... have."  Were there such a thing as a literary Darwin Award, Obama could have won it on this on one sentence alone.  He had vindicated Chen in his first ten words.

Although the letter is fewer than a thousand words long, Obama repeats the subject-predicate error at least two more times.  In one sentence, he seemingly cannot make up his mind as to which verb option is correct so he tries both: "Approximately half of this first batch is chosen ... the other half are selected ... "

Another distinctive Obama flaw is to allow a string of words to float in space.  Please note the unanchored phrase in italics at the end of this sentence:

"No editors on the Review will ever know whether any given editor was selected on the basis of grades, writing competition, or affirmative action, and no editors who were selected with affirmative action in mind."  Huh?

The next lengthy sentence highlights a few superficial style flaws and a much deeper flaw in Obama's political philosophy.

I would therefore agree with the suggestion that in the future, our concern in this area is most appropriately directed at any employer who would even insinuate that someone with Mr. Chen's extraordinary record of academic success might be somehow unqualified for work in a corporate law firm, or that such success might be somehow undeserved.

Obama would finish his acclaimed memoir, Dreams from My Father, about four years later.  Prior to Dreams, and for the nine years following, everything Obama wrote was, like the above sentence, an uninspired assemblage of words with a nearly random application of commas and tenses.

Unaided, Obama tends to the awkward, passive, and verbose.  The phrase "our concern in this area is most appropriately directed at any employer" would more profitably read, "we should focus on the employer." "Concern" is simply the wrong word.

Scarier than Obama's style, however, is his thinking.  A neophyte race-hustler after his three years in Chicago, Obama is keen to browbeat those who would "even insinuate" that affirmative action rewards the undeserving, results in inappropriate job placements, or stigmatizes its presumed beneficiaries.

In the case of Michelle Obama, affirmative action did all three.  The partners at Sidley Austin learned this the hard way.  In 1988, they hired her out of Harvard Law under the impression that the degree meant something.  It did not.  By 1991, Michelle was working in the public sector as an assistant to the mayor.  By 1993, she had given up her law license.

Had the partners investigated Michelle's background, they would have foreseen the disaster to come.  Sympathetic biographer Liza Mundy writes, "Michelle frequently deplores the modern reliance on test scores, describing herself as a person who did not test well."

She did not write well, either.  Mundy charitably describes her senior thesis at Princeton as "dense and turgid."  The less charitable Christopher Hitchens observes, "To describe [the thesis] as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be 'read' at all, in the strict sense of the verb.  This is because it wasn't written in any known language."

Michelle had to have been as anxious at Harvard Law as Bart Simpson was at Genius School.  Almost assuredly, the gap between her writing and that of her highly talented colleagues marked her as an affirmative action admission, and the profs finessed her through.

In a similar vein, Barack Obama was named an editor of the Harvard Law Review.  Although his description of the Law Review's selection process defies easy comprehension, apparently, after the best candidates are chosen, there remains "a pool of qualified candidates whose grades or writing competition scores do not significantly differ."  These sound like the kids at Lake Woebegone, all above average.  Out of this pool, Obama continues, "the Selection Committee may take race or physical handicap into account."

To his credit, Obama concedes that he "may have benefited from the Law Review's affirmative action policy."  This did not strike him as unusual as he "undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career."

On the basis of his being elected president of Law Review -- a popularity contest -- Obama was awarded a six-figure contract to write a book.  To this point, he had not shown a hint of promise as a writer, but Simon & Schuster, like Sidley Austin, took the Harvard credential seriously.  It should not have.  For three years Obama floundered as badly as Michelle had at Sidley Austin.  Simon & Schuster finally pulled the contract.

Then Obama found his muse -- right in the neighborhood, as it turns out!  And promptly, without further ado, the awkward, passive, ungrammatical Obama, a man who had not written one inspired sentence in his whole life, published what Time Magazine called "the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician."

To question the nature of that production, I have learned, is to risk the abuse promised to Mr. Chen's theoretical employer.  After all, who would challenge Obama's obvious talent -- or that of any affirmative action beneficiary -- but those blinded by what Obama calls "deep-rooted ignorance and bias"?

What else could it be?

24029  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stealth Boat on: September 01, 2011, 04:53:57 PM
24030  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GB's must reads of the day on: September 01, 2011, 04:48:20 PM
24031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gibson guitar case: If only he had used Madagascar labor??? on: September 01, 2011, 04:45:47 PM
second post of afternoon:

Feds raid Gibson Guitar:

Caveat: I've only read what is at this page and not yet listened to the clips.
24032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maxine Waters: Tax them out of existence! on: September 01, 2011, 04:40:16 PM
24033  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 01, 2011, 12:55:45 PM

In Brandon Lee's movie ("In the Line of Fire"?) one bad guy says to another bad guy "Don't ask for what you can't take." 

24034  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 01, 2011, 11:24:51 AM
Thanks for that JDN, I heard on one of the FOX shows that Huntsman had the misfortune to announce his plan on a day when something else sucked the oxygen from the room , , , and given his polling number of 1% he doesn't get much oxygen to begin with.  cheesy

As I read the plan my reaction is "Not bad!" thought I didn't really care for the Simpson-Bowles Commission stuff.   

That said Huntsman simply is not the man to lead the charge against Bankruptcy Baraq.
24035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Productivity in Q2; August ISM on: September 01, 2011, 11:16:39 AM
Second post of the day

Nonfarm productivity (output per hour) declined at a 0.7% annual rate in Q2 To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/1/2011

Nonfarm productivity (output per hour) declined at a 0.7% annual rate in the second quarter, revised down from last month’s estimate of -0.3%. Nonfarm productivity is up 0.7% versus last year.

Real (inflation-adjusted) compensation per hour in the nonfarm sector declined at a 1.4% annual rate in Q2 and is down 0.7% versus last year. Unit labor costs rose at a 3.3% rate in Q2 and are up 1.9% versus a year ago.
In the manufacturing sector, the Q2 growth rate for productivity (-1.5%) was lower than among nonfarm businesses as a whole. The faster pace of decline in productivity was mostly due to faster growth in the number of hours worked. Real compensation per hour was down in the manufacturing sector (-0.9%), but, due to a decline in productivity and higher nominal earnings per hour, unit labor costs rose at a 4.6% annual rate.
Implications:  Productivity was revised down slightly for the second quarter, consistent with last week’s downward revisions for real GDP growth. Less output and the same number of hours worked means less output per hour.   Productivity is up only 0.7% in the past year, but was up 4.4% in the year ending in mid-2010. This is typical of economic recoveries, where productivity surges at the very beginning of the recovery and then temporarily slows down as hours worked increase more sharply. The growth rate of productivity over the past two years has been 2.6% annualized, slightly faster than the average 2.3% pace in the past 10 years and the past 20 years. In other news this morning, new claims for initial unemployment benefits declined 12,000 last week to 409,000.  Continuing claims for regular state benefits declined 18,000 to 3.74 million.  However, continuing claims in the prior week were revised up by 112,000.  This is the same week when the Labor Department did its monthly payroll survey.  As a result, we are revising down our forecast for private sector payroll growth in August to 105,000.  This is still quite respectable given a Verizon strike that temporarily took 46,000 workers off payrolls.  In other recent news, the ADP national employment report, a measure of private sector payrolls, increased 91,000 in August.


The ISM manufacturing index declined slightly to 50.6 in August from 50.9 in July, coming in well above the consensus expected 48.5. (Levels higher than 50 signal expansion; levels below 50 signal contraction.)

The major measures of activity were mixed in August. The supplier deliveries index rose to 50.6 from 50.4 and the new orders index increased to 49.6 from 49.2.  The production index fell to 48.6 from 52.3 and the employment index fell to 51.8 from 53.5.
The prices paid index declined to 55.5 in August from 59.0 in July.
Implications: Despite a small decline, the ISM manufacturing index easily beat consensus expectations for August and came in above 50, signaling continued growth. The report severely undermines the view held by some that we are in a double-dip recession. Regional surveys of manufacturing, such as the Philadelphia Fed index and Empire State index, have been beaten down lately by (misleading) headlines about a potential default on US Treasury securities, financial turmoil in Europe, and large swings in the stock market. As a result, expectations were for a soft ISM report. That would have been understandable given how these surveys sometimes reflect sentiment rather than actual levels of business activity. And yet the ISM held relatively firm. The manufacturing index has now shown growth for 25 consecutive months, and correlates with 2.8% real growth according to officials at the ISM. In other news this morning, construction declined 1.3% in July.  However, including huge upward revisions to prior months, construction was up 2.2%.  The upward revisions were due to both home building and commercial construction.  The decline in July was led by fewer home improvements and less construction of public schools. In other recent news, the Case-Shiller index, a measure of home prices in the 20 largest metro areas around the country, declined 0.1% in June (seasonally-adjusted) and is down 4.5% versus a year ago.
24036  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: September 01, 2011, 10:24:07 AM
The other possibility is of a breakdown in order that is triggered precisely by the breakdown of these things (worst case scenario due to EMP as a result of nuke detonation, or perhaps mere terrorism taking out a system or Chinese hacking or , , ,)

What happens if the internet itself goes off-line?
24037  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: September 01, 2011, 09:59:19 AM
Being of a prior generation, this point about cell phones and social media is one that for me is easy to forget , , , During the Rodney King riots here in LA in the early 90s this was not a factor, but the next time the excrement hits the fan this will be a new variable the significance of which I cannot predict.
24038  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / En busca de seguridad economica on: September 01, 2011, 09:52:48 AM
The Venezuelan government has announced four key policy moves designed to enhance the country’s economic security. The first is the transfer of $6.3 billion in currency reserves to banks in Russia, China and Brazil. In the second move, Venezuela announced that it would transfer $11 billion worth of gold, mostly held abroad in Swiss banks, back home to the Venezuelan Central Bank. Third, was the nationalization of Venezuela’s gold sector, and fourth, was the creation of joint ventures between Venezuelan state firm PDVSA [Petroleos de Venezuela] and state mining firms.

The Venezuelan Central Bank lists its currency reserves at $6.5 billion and its gold reserves at $18 billion. A whopping 60 percent of Venezuela’s reserves are thus distributed in gold, while the rest are distributed in bonds and cash. Many in the investor world have written off these moves as irrational moves by Chavez’s economic team that will only enhance investors’ skittishness in Venezuela. In our view, the moves make good political sense for the Chavez regime but are also extremely revealing of the government’s growing vulnerabilities.

We pointed out at the beginning of the year that the rising level of economic decay, runaway corruption and growing political uncertainty in Venezuela would make the Venezuelan regime more reliant on its allies, particularly China and Russia. But both Russia and China have become increasingly skittish over the rising level of political uncertainty in Venezuela. Both of these countries have deep insight into the state of PDVSA’s financial disarray, and they both can see very clearly that there is no clear successor to Chavez who would be able to manage the regime as tightly as he has. For that reason, every time Venezuelan delegations go to Beijing and Moscow asking for larger installments on these loans, the Chinese and the Russians are coming back asking for greater collateral. And this likely explains Venezuela’s decision to transfer its currency reserves to Russian and Chinese banks. This allows Venezuela to draw larger amounts from these loans, but it also gives Russia and China the option, theoretically, to block Venezuelan reserves down the line should they feel the need to insulate themselves against a potential Venezuelan default.

Now, Chavez has had a lot of reasons for trying to insulate his country’s reserves. More recently, Chavez has likely been unnerved by the West’s freezing of assets of his close friend and ally, Moammar Gadhafi. There is also a very active sanctions lobby in Washington D.C. that has been spending a lot of time highlighting the links between PDVSA and IRGC-linked companies in Iran that is putting Venezuela on the sanctions radar. Another likely reason behind this move has to do with pending arbitration disputes on Venezuela’s nationalization decrees. Venezuela has a number of lawsuits now exceeding up to $30 billion with Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil, among other major firms.

Now, the Venezuelan move to transfer the majority of its gold assets back home and nationalize the gold sector likely have a lot to do with PDVSA’s increasing cash flow problems. In trying to address this problem of improving PDVSA’s efficiency as well as the efficiency of key mining companies, the Venezuelan government has announced a policy to create joint ventures between PDVSA and mining firms in the country. Theoretically, this type of consolidation could lead to greater efficiency, but if you look at the history of PDVSA’s nationalizations, the company’s expanded portfolio has led to greater inefficiency and not less.

Given the rising political uncertainties of the day especially given that Chavez is his sick with cancer, the Chavez government cannot afford to see its social development projects held back by PDVSA’s cash flow problems. Those projects are crucial to the regime’s political support and with elections slated for 2012 and the potential for those elections to be moved up sooner depending on Chavez’s health, you can see why the government is so eager to have reserves at home, and that is the gold assets back home, so it can draw on its reserves more easily and thus have the cash flow to support these politically crucial development projects. And the Chavez government made the nationalization move at a time when gold prices are at an all-time high. Nationalizing the gold industry allows Venezuela to add more gold to its existing reserves while reducing its exposure to the dollar while relying on local resources. In other words, Venezuela can sell oil abroad in dollars and then transfer its currency reserves to gold, which will now be much more accessible at home. Venezuela can then issue bonds at much lower rates, offering its gold as collateral, thus getting the cash it needs to support these politically crucial social development programs.

24039  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Venezuela's search for economic security on: September 01, 2011, 09:51:53 AM
The Venezuelan government has announced four key policy moves designed to enhance the country’s economic security. The first is the transfer of $6.3 billion in currency reserves to banks in Russia, China and Brazil. In the second move, Venezuela announced that it would transfer $11 billion worth of gold, mostly held abroad in Swiss banks, back home to the Venezuelan Central Bank. Third, was the nationalization of Venezuela’s gold sector, and fourth, was the creation of joint ventures between Venezuelan state firm PDVSA [Petroleos de Venezuela] and state mining firms.

The Venezuelan Central Bank lists its currency reserves at $6.5 billion and its gold reserves at $18 billion. A whopping 60 percent of Venezuela’s reserves are thus distributed in gold, while the rest are distributed in bonds and cash. Many in the investor world have written off these moves as irrational moves by Chavez’s economic team that will only enhance investors’ skittishness in Venezuela. In our view, the moves make good political sense for the Chavez regime but are also extremely revealing of the government’s growing vulnerabilities.

We pointed out at the beginning of the year that the rising level of economic decay, runaway corruption and growing political uncertainty in Venezuela would make the Venezuelan regime more reliant on its allies, particularly China and Russia. But both Russia and China have become increasingly skittish over the rising level of political uncertainty in Venezuela. Both of these countries have deep insight into the state of PDVSA’s financial disarray, and they both can see very clearly that there is no clear successor to Chavez who would be able to manage the regime as tightly as he has. For that reason, every time Venezuelan delegations go to Beijing and Moscow asking for larger installments on these loans, the Chinese and the Russians are coming back asking for greater collateral. And this likely explains Venezuela’s decision to transfer its currency reserves to Russian and Chinese banks. This allows Venezuela to draw larger amounts from these loans, but it also gives Russia and China the option, theoretically, to block Venezuelan reserves down the line should they feel the need to insulate themselves against a potential Venezuelan default.

Now, Chavez has had a lot of reasons for trying to insulate his country’s reserves. More recently, Chavez has likely been unnerved by the West’s freezing of assets of his close friend and ally, Moammar Gadhafi. There is also a very active sanctions lobby in Washington D.C. that has been spending a lot of time highlighting the links between PDVSA and IRGC-linked companies in Iran that is putting Venezuela on the sanctions radar. Another likely reason behind this move has to do with pending arbitration disputes on Venezuela’s nationalization decrees. Venezuela has a number of lawsuits now exceeding up to $30 billion with Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil, among other major firms.

Now, the Venezuelan move to transfer the majority of its gold assets back home and nationalize the gold sector likely have a lot to do with PDVSA’s increasing cash flow problems. In trying to address this problem of improving PDVSA’s efficiency as well as the efficiency of key mining companies, the Venezuelan government has announced a policy to create joint ventures between PDVSA and mining firms in the country. Theoretically, this type of consolidation could lead to greater efficiency, but if you look at the history of PDVSA’s nationalizations, the company’s expanded portfolio has led to greater inefficiency and not less.

Given the rising political uncertainties of the day especially given that Chavez is his sick with cancer, the Chavez government cannot afford to see its social development projects held back by PDVSA’s cash flow problems. Those projects are crucial to the regime’s political support and with elections slated for 2012 and the potential for those elections to be moved up sooner depending on Chavez’s health, you can see why the government is so eager to have reserves at home, and that is the gold assets back home, so it can draw on its reserves more easily and thus have the cash flow to support these politically crucial development projects. And the Chavez government made the nationalization move at a time when gold prices are at an all-time high. Nationalizing the gold industry allows Venezuela to add more gold to its existing reserves while reducing its exposure to the dollar while relying on local resources. In other words, Venezuela can sell oil abroad in dollars and then transfer its currency reserves to gold, which will now be much more accessible at home. Venezuela can then issue bonds at much lower rates, offering its gold as collateral, thus getting the cash it needs to support these politically crucial social development programs.

24040  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Baraq and American exceptionalism on: September 01, 2011, 08:43:30 AM
If I've heard it once, I've heard it a hundred times: President Obama is destroying the country. Some say this destructiveness is intended; most say it is inadvertent, an outgrowth of inexperience, ideological wrong-headedness and an oddly undefined character. Indeed, on the matter of Mr. Obama's character, today's left now sounds like the right of three years ago. They have begun to see through the man and are surprised at how little is there.

Yet there is something more than inexperience or lack of character that defines this presidency: Mr. Obama came of age in a bubble of post-'60s liberalism that conditioned him to be an adversary of American exceptionalism. In this liberalism America's exceptional status in the world follows from a bargain with the devil—an indulgence in militarism, racism, sexism, corporate greed, and environmental disregard as the means to a broad economic, military, and even cultural supremacy in the world. And therefore America's greatness is as much the fruit of evil as of a devotion to freedom.

Mr. Obama did not explicitly run on an anti-exceptionalism platform. Yet once he was elected it became clear that his idea of how and where to apply presidential power was shaped precisely by this brand of liberalism. There was his devotion to big government, his passion for redistribution, and his scolding and scapegoating of Wall Street—as if his mandate was somehow to overcome, or at least subdue, American capitalism itself.

Anti-exceptionalism has clearly shaped his "leading from behind" profile abroad—an offer of self-effacement to offset the presumed American evil of swaggering cowboyism. Once in office his "hope and change" campaign slogan came to look like the "hope" of overcoming American exceptionalism and "change" away from it.

So, in Mr. Obama, America gained a president with ambivalence, if not some antipathy, toward the singular greatness of the nation he had been elected to lead.

View Full Image

Chad Crowe
 .But then again, the American people did elect him. Clearly Americans were looking for a new kind of exceptionalism in him (a black president would show America to have achieved near perfect social mobility). But were they also looking for—in Mr. Obama—an assault on America's bedrock exceptionalism of military, economic and cultural pre-eminence?

American exceptionalism is, among other things, the result of a difficult rigor: the use of individual initiative as the engine of development within a society that strives to ensure individual freedom through the rule of law. Over time a society like this will become great. This is how—despite all our flagrant shortcomings and self-betrayals—America evolved into an exceptional nation.

Yet today America is fighting in a number of Muslim countries, and that number is as likely to rise as to fall. Our exceptionalism saddles us with overwhelming burdens. The entire world comes to our door when there is real trouble, and every day we spill blood and treasure in foreign lands—even as anti-Americanism plays around the world like a hit record.

At home the values that made us exceptional have been smeared with derision. Individual initiative and individual responsibility—the very engines of our exceptionalism—now carry a stigma of hypocrisy. For centuries America made sure that no amount of initiative would lift minorities and women. So in liberal quarters today—where historical shames are made to define the present—these values are seen as little more than the cynical remnants of a bygone era. Talk of "merit" or "a competition of excellence" in the admissions office of any Ivy League university today, and then stand by for the howls of incredulous laughter.

Our national exceptionalism both burdens and defames us, yet it remains our fate. We make others anxious, envious, resentful, admiring and sometimes hate-driven. There's a reason al Qaeda operatives targeted the U.S. on 9/11 and not, say, Buenos Aires. They wanted to enrich their act of evil with the gravitas of American exceptionalism. They wanted to steal our thunder.

So we Americans cannot help but feel some ambivalence toward our singularity in the world—with its draining entanglements abroad, the selfless demands it makes on both our military and our taxpayers, and all the false charges of imperial hubris it incurs. Therefore it is not surprising that America developed a liberalism—a political left—that took issue with our exceptionalism. It is a left that has no more fervent mission than to recast our greatness as the product of racism, imperialism and unbridled capitalism.

But this leaves the left mired in an absurdity: It seeks to trade the burdens of greatness for the relief of mediocrity. When greatness fades, when a nation contracts to a middling place in the world, then the world in fact no longer knocks on its door. (Think of England or France after empire.) To civilize America, to redeem the nation from its supposed avarice and hubris, the American left effectively makes a virtue of decline—as if we can redeem America only by making her indistinguishable from lesser nations.

Since the '60s we have enfeebled our public education system even as our wealth has expanded. Moral and cultural relativism now obscure individual responsibility. We are uninspired in the wars we fight, calculating our withdrawal even before we begin—and then we fight with a self-conscious, almost bureaucratic minimalism that makes the wars interminable.

America seems to be facing a pivotal moment: Do we move ahead by advancing or by receding—by reaffirming the values that made us exceptional or by letting go of those values, so that a creeping mediocrity begins to spare us the burdens of greatness?

As a president, Barack Obama has been a force for mediocrity. He has banked more on the hopeless interventions of government than on the exceptionalism of the people. His greatest weakness as a president is a limp confidence in his countrymen. He is afraid to ask difficult things of them.

Like me, he is black, and it was the government that in part saved us from the ignorances of the people. So the concept of the exceptionalism—the genius for freedom—of the American people may still be a stretch for him. But in fact he was elected to make that stretch. It should be held against him that he has failed to do so.

Mr. Steele is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Among his books is "White Guilt" (Harper/Collins, 2007).

24041  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: September 01, 2011, 08:38:39 AM
If you think BP was bad in the Gulf of Mexico, just wait until it is regulated by the Russians in the Arctic , , ,

Exxon Mobil Corp.'s blockbuster $2.2 billion deal to drill for oil in the frigid waters north of Russia with OAO Rosneft is the latest sign of the energy industry's white-hot interest in exploring above the Arctic Circle.

The region encompasses about 12 million square miles—just 6% of the earth's land mass. But it is estimated to contain the oil and natural-gas equivalent of 412 billion barrels of oil, about 22% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.

View Full Image
.More recently, thinning ice has made it easier to work in some parts of the Arctic. And the persistently high price of oil, along with political constraints elsewhere, has encouraged Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Cairn Energy PLC to invest billions of dollars on previously unexplored areas.

The challenges, however, are daunting. The extreme weather and ice flows during colder months could wreak havoc on oil-industry platforms. Cleaning up an oil spill would be a huge effort. The seas there don't support the microbes that can break down oil droplets. Existing air strips, ports and villages in the Arctic couldn't accommodate the type of massive response that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

The Arctic is largely untouched by industrial development and, due to its year-round cold, would be least resilient to an oil spill, notes the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum of nations bordering the region.

 Exxon Mobil and OAO Rosneft, the state-controlled Russian oil giant, reached a sweeping strategic alliance Tuesday that will give the U.S. titan access to potentially huge oil fields in the Arctic Ocean. Russell Gold has details on The News Hub.
.Despite such environmental objections, arctic exploration is poised to move ahead quickly. Exxon and Rosneft, for instance, hope to begin preliminary exploration work next year.

A Rosneft official said on Wednesday that the two companies hope to drill their first exploratory well by 2015 and, if everything goes well, could begin production in the region by early next decade.

Rosneft estimated the areas it hopes to explore over the next few years have estimated recoverable reserves of 4.9 billion tons of oil, or about 36 billion barrels.

Exxon, Rosneft Drilling to Begin in 2015
Exxon in Arctic Deal; U.S. Access for Russia
Exxon's Arctic Deal Is Black Eye for BP
Heard on the Street: Russia's Need Is Exxon's Opportunity
Heard on the Street: BP Counts Cost Of Russian Missteps
.Shell has received conditional U.S. approval for up to 10 wells over the next couple of years in shallow waters off Alaska, although the Anglo-Dutch company still needs additional permits.

Off the western coast of Greenland, operating on both sides of the Arctic Circle, Scotland's Cairn Energy has drilled three wells and plans another four this year.

The two parts of the Arctic that are thought to contain giant deposits of oil and gas are north of Alaska and Canada's Northwest Territories as well as the waters north of Russia, stretching from its boundary with Finland and continuing east for more than 1,000 miles.

"All around the coast of Russia, geologists salivate over what they see from the little exploration that we have and salivate over the opportunity to drill," says Peter Robertson, a retired Chevron vice chairman and independent oil advisor to consulting firm Deloitte LLP. "There is the potential for very large finds. It's a great opportunity."

Marilyn Heiman, director of the U.S. Arctic Program at the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, cautions that the energy industry is moving faster to start drilling than most countries are moving to craft appropriate regulations for the region.

"The Arctic is one of the most dangerous places to drill in the world and we need to have standards in place to prevent oil spills," said Ms. Heiman.

 WSJ's Liam Denning breaks down the $3.2 billion deal struck between Exxon Mobil and Russia's OAO Rosneft to explore for oil in the Arctic's Kara Sea.
.Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said the risks are manageable and the company plans to have oil-recovery vessels staged and ready to respond to any accidents.

"We could respond to any incident within an hour," she said. In addition, the wells that Shell plans to drill are not considered complex by oil industry standards, she said. "Pressures encountered in the Gulf of Mexico are five times greater than what we would encounter in offshore Alaska wells," she said.

There are other challenges for arctic hopefuls. For instance, designing permanent platforms to manage producing wells will require steel that can withstand years of extreme cold without turning brittle.

Border nations are laying the groundwork for more activity. Recently, countries have been clarifying often ill-defined maritime borders above the Arctic Circle, in preparation for expected oil and gas development. Norway and Russia ended decades of negotiation last year and agreed on their border.

Lawson Brigham, a professor of geography and Arctic policy at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, said several countries that border the Arctic, including Norway and Russia, have economies whose future growth is dependent on developing its oil and gas resources. "The key to the Arctic," Mr. Brigham said, "is that there is a lot in the Arctic that can be sold."

24042  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PIMCO's Gross: "I was wrong" on: September 01, 2011, 08:30:05 AM
I had the pleasure of speaking with Pimco's Bill Gross, one of America’s most famed investors, on CNBC’s Kudlow Report. Mr. Gross has generated big buzz over his admission that betting against U.S. debt was a mistake.


And most important, at the top, PIMCO's Bill Gross, one of America's most
famous and successful investors. He's generating big buzz today with his
superimportant and much talked about interview in The Wall Street Journal and
elsewhere. Mr. Gross says he has, quote, "lost sleep," end quote, over a bad
bet on Treasury rates. He acknowledged that selling all his funds, Treasury
holdings last February was a, quote, "mistake." And he went on to say, and I
quote, "We try to be very intellectually honest and honest with the public,"
end quote.

All right, for my part, I just want to say to my old friend Bill Gross that I
have nothing but admiration for his taking ownership and admitting a mistake.
We all make them. And by the way, he's setting a very good example for the
rest of us. That's just my take.

Anyway, it is always a real pleasure, especially tonight, to welcome back to
the show a special Kudlow exclusive, Bill Gross. He's founder and co-chief
investment officer of PIMCO.

All right, Bill. You admit to a big Treasury bond miss. Rates this year went
way down, not up. Can you tell us, please, why the interviews right now and
what message are you sending?

Mr. BILL GROSS: Well, I, you know, I think at PIMCO we always try and be
open with the press and the public. I mean, isn't that what voters want from
their politicians? Mohamed El-Erian, our CEO, write several op-eds a week. I
tweet daily and publish a monthly investment outlook, which came out this
morning, by the way. So we try to give an honest answer to an honest

And by the way, in terms of the interview with the Journal and with the FT,
what I said was that--something that I think all bond and--bond managers would
say if they were honest. They would say, `Wish I'd own more Treasuries.' To
say otherwise would be to say something like you'd wished you bet on the Miami
Heat instead of the Dallas Mavericks. I mean, it's obvious who won, right?

KUDLOW: Obviously wrong. All right, well, anyway, you're very outspoken and
I respect you for it.

Listen, you were here--I looked back--June 8th we spoke. So what's that?
Three months ago. At that point, Bill, you repeated the call to get out of
bonds. Now the bonds rally more or less from 3 percent to 2 percent, today
they're at 2.20. What went wrong? How do you assess what went wrong with
your bond call?

Mr. GROSS: Well, first of all, I didn't say get out of bonds. I said get
out of Treasuries and move...

KUDLOW: Treasuries.

Mr. GROSS: ...and move into Canadian bonds and to Australian bonds and other
alternatives. What went wrong in terms of the Treasury call from 3 percent
down to close to 2 percent? Well, the economy slowed down dramatically. We
had a freeze-up, so to speak, in terms of Washington with the politicians and
policy options. It was recognized that fiscal stimulation, you know,
certainly wasn't going to be something undertaken for the next six to 12
months, if at all. It was recognized that the Fed was running out of policy
options and so the economy was slowing down and was--seemed to be slowing
almost permanently in terms of a 0 to 2 percent growth category.

KUDLOW: Have you basically lost confidence in the economy? You mention, I
think, in the FT article, Bill, you call it, quote, "a new normal minus." Have
you lost all confidence in our capacity to grow the economy?

Mr. GROSS: Well, no. You know, but the problem I have with the free market
capitalism, Larry, which is your philosophy, is not with the concept. In
fact, you know, PIMCO is an epitome of its historical thrust. We're very
successful and because of free market capitalism. But the problem I have is
with its apparent exhaustion in the face of three equally dynamic economic
influences. Let me mention them briefly.

First of all globalization has weakened American and developed economies by
syphoning off investment and, more importantly, jobs to emerging nations at
1/10th the wage cost. Take China, for example, Free market capitalism, in
other words, is working for China, it's working for Brazil, but it's not
working for America or Euroland.

Secondly and just briefly, free market capitalism depends on a balanced market
between labor and capital. And clearly we're reaching a point where
impoverished Main Street cannot afford to buy the goods that capitalism so
magnificently produces. So I think there's an exhaustion here in terms of
free market capitalism that has worked so well for 20 to 30 to 40, 50 years,
but now is reaching structural impediments that prevent, you know, strong
growth that we're used to.

KUDLOW: I want to come back to that towards the back end, Bill, but I just
want to narrow down for a moment. I want to drill down. According to the
reports, you are buying Treasuries. You're accumulating Treasuries. You have
a net positive exposure for the first time. Let me ask you, what if the
bond--the Treasury market has discounted a recession that doesn't happen? Are
you chasing the market? Is there a risk that the rate hikes that you foresaw
this year might still come to pass if the economy surprises on the upside?

Mr. GROSS: Well, that's possible. We read in the Fed minutes today of the
last meeting that the--that the two-year 0 percent or 25 basis point Fed funds
level is conditional, and we know that there are hawks, that there are doves,
and that should the economy recover to a 2 to 3 to 4 percent rate, that, you
know, perhaps inflation looms larger in terms of a threat. So anything is
possible. What I would say at the moment, though, is since the economy is
really moving closer to the zero level, since inflation probably will come
down gradually, you know, the Fed is at 0 percent for the next two years and
perhaps even longer than that, and that determines significantly the level of
Treasury rates in five-year space, 10-year space and even 30-year space.

KUDLOW: But, you know, it's interesting. We had Byron Wein on, a
distinguished investment guru on his own part. He predicted the S&P would
rally to 1400. OK? It's just over 1200 today, as you know, If that sort of
thing happened with better corporate profits, even consumer sentiment, which
tanked today but people are still buying washing machines and cars, retail
sales are holding up. If you had a big rally in stocks, the risk trade is
back on. That'll come out of Treasury bonds, and those could--that could
drive those bond rates back to 3 percent. You're buying bonds now. Are you
worried that there's a potential for whiplash?

Mr. GROSS: Well, I'm suggesting that the probability--that the high
probability is for interest rates to stay low for a long time. I mean, Byron
Wein basically is a a mean reversion cyclical type of--type of analyst. What
we're suggesting is that there are structural impediments to the US economy to
develop market economies that will prevent growth in the 3 to 4 percent

Let me ask you, in terms of consumerism, in terms of the US consumer, if
unemployment stays at 9 percent plus and if wage gains--if real wage gains are
nonexistent, then were is the spending power coming from? It has to come from
the consumer as opposed to businesses. Businesses are waiting on the
consumer. The consumer is waiting on business. We have what we call a
liquidity trap. So what we're suggesting is not a reversion to the mean, not
a cyclical upthrust, but basically a structural impediment that produces
growth in the 0 to 2 percent category for a long time. Not just in the US,
but in Euroland, as well.

KUDLOW: All right. So let me--have you had any trouble with your fund--I
guess the Total Return Fund, because of the bond miss this year, rates went
down instead of up? Have people withdrawn from the fund? What are your
customers saying right now?

Mr. GROSS: We have a $245 billion customer base. You know, that customer
base is growing. We just got a billion dollar contribution from a large
corporation this week. There's been no lack of confidence. You know, to
suggest that a six to seven month timeframe for the PIMCO Total Return Fund,
which has produced results for the last 20, 30 or 35 years, is, you know, a
stretch of the imagination. We continue to produce fine results for our

KUDLOW: Oh, that's what everybody says. That's--everybody I talked to today
on this story said exactly what you said. Your record down through the years
has been superb.

Let me ask you this, are you still buying some corporate bonds and are you
still buying foreign bonds? You talked to me about that when you last

Mr. GROSS: Well, corporate bonds of the highest quality, yes. And that
would be A and AA-types of corporates, not high-yield bonds because they don't
do well, you know, if we near the recessionary level of 0 percent. In terms
of foreign bonds, let me just cite the comparison: a five-year Treasury in
the United States at 1 percent, actually little bit less; in Canada 1.7
percent; in Euroland 2.1 percent; in Mexico 5.4 percent; in Brazil 11 percent.
And these are countries, by the way, Larry, which have what we call clean or
dirty shirts. Mexico has half the debt of the United States. Brazil has half
the debt of the United States and has treasury reserves as opposed to
deficits. And so these are countries with higher yields and better balance

KUDLOW: All right, last one. I'm going to come back to where you were on the
breakdown of free market capitalism, which is fair enough. I would
acknowledge that America's economy has been on the decline now for about 10
years. But I ask you, Bill, everybody is so profitable. Businesses are so
profitable, so much cash. Banks have more liquidity than they know what to do
with. Is it possible there's a buyer's strike, that there's a capital strike,
that the spending and taxing and regulatory threats out of Washington are
really the problem, not the free market capitalist system?

Mr. GROSS: Well, I'd have to say that that doesn't help. I mean, let's come
together on that point that regulation and too much of it--that taxation in
terms of the necessary reforms that probably lie ahead, you know, don't help
either in terms of the current economic environment. What I would say in
terms of corporate tax reform is, yes, let's reform taxes, let's reform
corporate taxes and let's reform individual taxes. But at the same token,
let's not lower them, because corporate taxes are 10 percent of total federal
revenues. They're at an all-time low, Larry. And to suggest that
corporations are the poor baby in this particular story, I think, is an

KUDLOW: All right. I'm going to leave that for the next discussion we have.
We have much more to discuss on corporate tax reform. But, Bill Gross, thank
you for your honesty. Thank you for your forthrightness.

Mr. GROSS: Thank you, Larry.

KUDLOW: And thanks for coming on tonight. I appreciate it.

24043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on: September 01, 2011, 08:22:24 AM

What should we not expect during next summer's presidential campaign, given what was put off-limits in 2008 and later?

There is much talk about what some are perceiving as the fringe religiosity of possible Republican primary candidates such as Michele Bachman and Rick Perry. But the media established the precedent four years ago that no candidate can be held responsible for his church. Barack Obama's pastor of more than 20 years, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was an unapologetic racist and anti-Semite, and a raving conspiracy theorist whose parishioners gave him standing ovations for his hate-filled "G-d damn America" rants.

Prior education and college preparation should not be 2012 issues either. Recent articles have referred to a leaked Texas A&M undergraduate transcript of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, showing some dismal grades and thus apparent proof that Perry was not much of a past student -- or current thinker. But in this regard, Obama has never released either his Occidental or Columbia transcripts. In response, the media in 2008 shrugged and chose not to pursue the matter the way it had with the C-grade records of George W. Bush, Al Gore and John Kerry. Apparently Obama has established another wise precedent that long-ago college transcripts, like churchgoing, are irrelevant.

Civility is off the table, too. Candidate Obama once called sitting president Bush "unpatriotic" for borrowing $4 trillion in eight years -- a sum he matched in less than three. He advised Latinos to "punish our enemies" and mocked opponents for wanting to put "alligators and moats" on the border. Obama's advisors reportedly promised to "Kill Romney." So civility is out the window, and 2012 will once again be a typically American no-holds-barred slugfest of anything goes from both sides.

Public campaign financing won't come up either. Both sides will raise obscene amounts of money. You see, in 2008, Obama set another election precedent: He was the first president in the history of public campaign financing laws to shun federal money and oversight in the general election, largely because he wanted -- and got -- a record level of private cash, much of it from Wall Street.

The old bogeyman George W. Bush won't matter much either by 2012. Since 2008, Obama has blamed Bush for chronic high unemployment, record annual deficits, massive national debt, the erratic stock market, credit downgrading, a continuing housing slump and near nonexistent growth. But even the president's supporters confess that Obama finally now "owns" the economy, especially given the newly elected president's boast in early 2009 that if he didn't fix things in three years, he would not deserve re-election.

In the 2008 campaign, Obama derided the war on terror as either ineffective or unconstitutional. That issue in 2012 will be ancient history, too, since President Obama has simply embraced all the major Bush-Cheney antiterrorism protocols and wars, and expanded many of them, from renditions to Predator drone targeted assassinations to a third war in Libya. Obama's campaign commercials will highlight the commander in chief who ordered the successful hit on bin Laden, not the civil libertarian who closed Guantanamo Bay as promised.

A supposedly do-nothing Congress that thwarted Obama -- like an earlier Republican one that had blocked "Give 'em Hell" Harry Truman -- won't come up much either. Remember, Obama had large majorities in both the House and Senate until January 2011. That's how he rammed through everything from Obamacare to trillion-dollar subsidies along strictly partisan majority votes. The "do-nothing" Congress of Obama's first two years that failed to pass alien amnesty and cap-and-trade legislation and failed to grow the economy was controlled by his fellow Democrats. Even now, the loud but largely still impotent Republicans only control one-half of one-third of the U.S. government.

So if we know what won't be campaign issues, what exactly will be?

The economy. If the current bleak picture stays the same or gets worse, Obama will be forced to argue, as did incumbent Herbert Hoover in 1932, that after four years his borrow/print/spend remedies still have not kicked in. And so he will claim that he needs eight years, not four, for Keynesian economics to finally work. Good luck with that silly argument.

But should things improve somewhat over the next year, then Obama will insist that his spending tonic is at last working, and he deserves another term to further nurse the recovering economy.

It is that simple: Almost every campaign issue other than the economy either will be off the table or irrelevant -- thanks largely to the past protocols of Barack Obama himself.
24044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / $486,364 per job now vaporized on: September 01, 2011, 07:49:41 AM
If I have my numbers right, the 1100 now vaporized jobs were created at a cost of $486,364 each (i.e. $535,000,000) this "public-private partnership" (a.k.a. economic fascism)  rolleyes angry cry


Published: August 31, 2011
WASHINGTON —  A Silicon Valley maker of solar power arrays that was started with high hopes and $527 million in loans from the federal government said on Wednesday that it would cease operations. The failure of the company — and the loss to taxpayers — is likely to renew the debate in Washington about the wisdom of clean energy subsidies and loan guarantees.

Employees work on equipment used to produce innovative cylindrical solar cell modules at the Solyndra plant in Fremont, Calif.

 President Obama praised the company, Solyndra, for its advanced technology during a visit last year. But in a statement on Wednesday, Solyndra said its business had run into trouble because of difficult global business conditions, including slowing  demand for solar panels, and stiff competition.

The Energy Department, which approved the funding, said China’s subsidies to its solar industry were threatening the ability of Solyndra and other American manufacturers to compete. The price of a solar array, measured by cost per watt of capacity, has fallen 42 percent since December 2010, the agency said.

Two other American solar companies, Evergreen Solar and SpectraWatt, also sought bankruptcy protection in August, and both said competition from Chinese companies had contributed to their financial problems.

In the case of Solyndra, some experts said that regardless of the competition, the company’s unique designs, which were expensive to manufacture, were to blame for its failure.

Solyndra was promised loans of up to $535 million under a guarantee program authorized by Congress as part of the 2009 stimulus package. The Energy Department has made more than 40 promises of guarantees, of which Solyndra was the first. It has committed $18 billion in guarantees and expects to allocate several billion dollars more by the time the program finishes at the end of September.

The government calculates premiums for the guarantees, essentially a loan fee based on the risk of default, but it picks up the cost of the premiums for the companies in the subsidy program. By that yardstick, it has spent $2.4 billion in credit subsidies for the program.

Solyndra’s troubles have been growing for some time. Republican budget-cutters in Congress have viewed it as a model of poor government investment.

“In an apparent rush to push stimulus dollars out the door, the Obama administration wasted $535 million in taxpayer funds in guaranteeing a loan to a firm that has proven to be unviable in the global market,” said Representative Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican who is chairman of an investigative subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

He said the Energy Department might have authorized the guarantee because an Oklahoma oil man who was a donor to the Obama campaign, George Kaiser, was an investor in the project. In a joint statement, Mr. Stearns and Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the chairman of the committee, said, “We smelled a rat from the onset.”

But the Energy Department dismissed that assertion, saying that Solyndra applied for federal help during the Bush administration and that Obama-era officials merely finished the process the Republicans had begun.

The department says government subsidies are essential to keep the United States competitive in renewable energy, and not all companies will succeed.

“The project that we supported succeeded,” insisted Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the Department of Energy.

“The facility was producing the product it said it would produce, and consumers were buying the product,” he said. “The company struggled because the market has changed dramatically.”

Although the government typically guarantees loans made to a company by a commercial bank, that was not the case for Solyndra. Solyndra borrowed the money from the Federal Financing Bank, part of the Treasury Department, so in effect, the government was lending the money to the company directly. The Energy Department gave Solyndra a conditional guarantee for $535 million, in multiple stages, contingent on reaching a variety of milestones, and to date, it had received $527 million.


Mr. LaVera held out the hope that in a bankruptcy reorganization, Solyndra or some other company would run the factory profitably and that not all the taxpayer investment would be lost. In addition to the government, private investors put about $1 billion into the company. More than 1,000 employees were laid off.

Although the Obama administration is under pressure from energy companies to extend the guarantee program, it is a likely target for Congressional budget-cutters.
“Solyndra is a black eye for the program,” said Matthew A. Feinstein, an analyst at Lux Research. “And that means bad things for the solar industry in the United States.”

Solyndra, which once had plans to sell stock to the public, was a darling of policy makers. When it broke ground in Fremont, Calif., Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was then governor, and Steven Chu, the federal secretary of energy, wielded ceremonial gold-colored shovels.

Solyndra’s problem, according to outsiders, was that the product looked better when it was conceived than when it hit the market. Solyndra’s design avoids the use of silicon, a commodity that was selling at very high prices in 2009 when the loan guarantee was approved but that has crashed since then.

The design also sought to cut costs with an innovative cylindrical design that reduced the labor required for installation. As the sun moves across the sky, the light hits a different facet of the cylinder. But the capital costs for manufacturing were high.

Barry Cinnamon, the chief executive of Westinghouse Solar, a competitor, said Solyndra and Evergreen Solar had tried new designs that turned out not to be as good as standard flat panels.

“In both cases, they made a bad bet,” he said.

Evergreen, based in Massachusetts, received tens of millions of dollars in state loans and grants in exchange for opening a factory there. In January, it announced that it was closing that factory and moving manufacturing to China. But a few weeks ago, it concluded that even the move offshore was not enough to save the company.

SpectraWatt, a small solar company near Poughkeepsie, N.Y., ceased operations earlier this year and declared bankruptcy on Aug. 19. The company, which was created as a spinoff from Intel, the computer chip maker, cited poor market conditions created by China’s subsidies to its manufacturers.

Ken Zweibel, director of the Solar Institute at the George Washington University, said solar companies in China and Germany were receiving big subsidies from their governments and were pressuring American companies.

“There’s definitely a crisis in traditional technology,” he said. But Solyndra, he said, was “a wild-card technology,” and both Solyndra and Evergreen products had “questionable attributes.”
Note that POTH failed to mention the connection with a donor , , ,  rolleyes


Another day, another stimulus burnout. On Wednesday, solar panel maker and White House favorite Solyndra announced plans to suspend business and file for bankruptcy. Its demise is a reminder of the perils of politically directed investment.

This wasn't supposed to be the storyline. In March 2009, Solyndra was the first company to get an Energy Department loan guarantee, worth $535 million. Vice President Joe Biden spoke via closed circuit TV at the groundbreaking of the company's Fremont, California plant, and President Obama touted the thousands of jobs the stimulus money would create. Such investments were all the better, Mr. Obama said at a visit to the plant last spring, because "The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra." You know, "green jobs."

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 .Lots of venture capital companies bought into the hype, investing in green technology to piggyback their own capital on federal favoritism. Solyndra's relationship with the White House came under special scrutiny because of Solyndra backer and Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser's history as an Obama fundraiser. In a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu in February, the House Energy and Commerce Committee raised concerns about the loan, noting that the company had suffered "financial setbacks," and asking for information about "whether Solyndra was the right candidate" for the loan guarantee.

The Department of Energy marched on anyway, and yesterday it said it has "always recognized that not every one of the innovative companies supported by our loans and loan guarantees would succeed." Well, sure, businesses fail, but most failures don't saddle taxpayers with as much as $535 million in potential losses.

Solyndra's story is more evidence that trendy, politically directed investments don't make for efficient allocation of capital. Beyond the immediate losses, they mean the money wasn't available for market-directed investment with a better chance to succeed. This is how you get a 1% recovery.

24045  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Generation Limbo on: September 01, 2011, 07:38:39 AM
WHEN Stephanie Kelly, a 2009 graduate of the University of Florida, looked for a job in her chosen field, advertising, she found few prospects and even fewer takers. So now she has two jobs: as a part-time “senior secretary” at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville and a freelance gig writing for, a “secret Santa” Web site.

But is Ms. Kelly stressed out about the lack of a career path she spent four years preparing for? Not at all. Instead, she has come to appreciate her life. “I can cook and write at my own pace,” she said. “I kind of like that about my life.”
Likewise, Amy Klein, who graduated from Harvard in 2007 with a degree in English literature, couldn’t find a job in publishing. At one point, she had applied for an editorial-assistant job at Gourmet magazine. Less than two weeks later, Condé Nast shut down that 68- year-old magazine. “So much for that job application,” said Ms. Klein, now 26.

One night she bumped into a friend, who asked her to join a punk rock band, Titus Andronicus, as a guitarist. Once, that might have been considered professional suicide. But weighed against a dreary day job, music suddenly held considerable appeal. So last spring, she sublet her room in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn and toured the country in an old Chevy minivan.

“I’m fulfilling my artistic goals,” Ms. Klein said.

Meet the members of what might be called Generation Limbo: highly educated 20-somethings, whose careers are stuck in neutral, coping with dead-end jobs and listless prospects.

And so they wait: for the economy to turn, for good jobs to materialize, for their lucky break. Some do so bitterly, frustrated that their well-mapped careers have gone astray. Others do so anxiously, wondering how they are going to pay their rent, their school loans, their living expenses — sometimes resorting to once-unthinkable government handouts.

“We did everything we were supposed to,” said Stephanie Morales, 23, who graduated from Dartmouth College in 2009 with hopes of working in the arts. Instead she ended up waiting tables at a Chart House restaurant in Weehawken, N.J., earning $2.17 an hour plus tips, to pay off her student loans. “What was the point of working so hard for 22 years if there was nothing out there?” said Ms. Morales, who is now a paralegal and plans on attending law school.

Some of Ms. Morales’s classmates have found themselves on welfare. “You don’t expect someone who just spent four years in Ivy League schools to be on food stamps,” said Ms. Morales, who estimates that a half-dozen of her friends are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A few are even helping younger graduates figure out how to apply. “We are passing on these traditions on how to work in the adult world as working poor,” Ms. Morales said.

But then there are people like Ms. Kelly and Ms. Klein, who are more laissez-faire. With the job market still bleak, their motto might as well be: “No career? No prospects? No worries!” (Well, at least for the time being.)

After all, much of the situation is out of their control, as victims of bad timing. Ms. Klein contrasted her Harvard classmates with the ones of her older sister, Lauren, who graduated from Harvard seven years earlier. Those graduates, she said, were career-obsessed and, helped along by a strong economy, aggressively pursued high-powered jobs right after graduation. (Lauren is a professor at Georgia Tech University.)

By comparison, Ms. Kelly said her classmates seemed resigned to waiting for the economic tides to turn. “Plenty of people work in bookstores and work in low-end administrative jobs, even though they have a Harvard degree,” she said. “They are thinking more in terms of creating their own kinds of life that interests them, rather than following a conventional idea of success and job security.”

The numbers are not encouraging. About 14 percent of those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2010 are looking for full-time jobs, either because they are unemployed or have only part-time jobs, according to a survey of 571 recent college graduates released in May by the Heldrich Center at Rutgers.

And then there is the slice of graduates effectively underemployed, using a college degree for positions that don’t require one or barely scraping by, working in call centers, bars or art-supply stores.


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“They are a postponed generation,” said Cliff Zukin, an author of the Heldrich Center study. He noted that recent graduates seemed to be living with parents longer and taking longer to become financially secure. The journey on the life path, for many, is essentially stalled.

The Heldrich survey also found that the portion of graduates who described their first job as a “career” fell from 30 percent, if they graduated before the 2008 economic downturn (in 2006 and 2007), to 22 percent, if they graduated after the downturn (in 2009 and 2010).
In an ominous sign, those figures didn’t change much for second jobs, Dr. Zukin added, suggesting that recent graduates were stumbling from field to field. Indeed, Till Marco von Wachter, an economics professor at Columbia University who has studied the impact of recessions on young workers, said the effect on earnings took about a decade to fade.

MEANWHILE, modest jobs mean modest lives. Benjamin Shore, 23, graduated from the University of Maryland last year with a business degree and planned to go into consulting. Instead, he moved back into his parents’ house in Cherry Hill, N.J., and spent his days browsing for jobs online.

But when his parents started charging him $500 a month for rent, he moved into a windowless room in a Baltimore row house and took a $12-an-hour job at a Baltimore call center, making calls for a university, encouraging prospects to go back to school. “There’s no point in being diplomatic: it is horrible,” Mr. Shore said.

“I have a college education that I feel like I am wasting by being there,” he added. “I am supposed to do something interesting, something with my brain.” For a while, Mr. Shore ran, an online drug retailer that he started, but it went nowhere. To stretch his pay check, he made beans and rice at home and drove slowly to save gas. Eventually he quit, got work as a dock hand and is now thinking of becoming a doctor.

Perhaps not surprisingly, volunteering has become a popular outlet for a generation that seeks meaning in its work. Sarah Weinstein, 25, a 2008 graduate of Boston University, manages a bar in Austin because she couldn’t find an advertising job. In her spare time, she volunteers, doing media relations for Austin Pets Alive, an animal rescue shelter.

“It’d be nice to make more money,” Ms. Weinstein said, but “I prefer it this way so that I have the extra time to spend volunteering and pursuing other things.” Volunteering, however, goes only so far. After three years without an advertising job, she is now applying to graduate school to freshen up her résumé.

Meanwhile, people forced out of the rat race are re-evaluating their values and looking elsewhere for satisfaction. “They have to revise their ideas of what they are looking for,” said Kenneth Jedding, author of “Higher Education: On Life, Landing a Job, and Everything Else They Didn’t Teach You in College.”

For Geo Wyeth, 27, who graduated from Yale in 2007, that means adopting a do-it-yourself approach to his career. After college, he worked at an Apple Store in New York as a salesclerk and trainer, while furthering his music career in an experimental rock band. He has observed, he said, a shift among his peers away from the corporate track and toward a more artistic mentality.

“You have to make opportunities happen for yourself, and I think a lot of my classmates weren’t thinking in that way,” he said. “It’s the equivalent of setting up your own lemonade stand.”
24046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: AQ unlikely to pull off another 911 on: September 01, 2011, 07:30:35 AM
Why Al Qaeda is Unlikely to Execute Another 9/11
September 1, 2011

Related Special Topic Page
The Devolution of Al Qaeda
The Devolution of Jihadism: From Al Qaeda to Wider Movement
By Scott Stewart

It is Sept. 1, and that means we are once again approaching the anniversary of al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the United States. In the 10 years that have passed since the attacks, a lot has happened and much has changed in the world, but many people can still vividly recall the sense of fear, uncertainty and helplessness they felt on that September morning. Millions of people watched United Airlines flight 175 smash into the south tower of the World Trade Center on live television. A short while later they heard that another plane had struck the Pentagon. Then they watched in horror as the World Trade Center’s twin towers buckled and collapsed to the ground.

It was, by any measure, a stunning, cataclysmic scene, a kind of terrorist theater that transformed millions of television viewers into vicarious victims. Excerpts of the just-released memoir of then-Vice President Dick Cheney demonstrate that it was not just ordinary people who were affected by the attacks; America’s leaders where shocked and shaken, too. And judging from the statements of foreign citizens and leaders in the wake of 9/11, those who proclaimed, “We are all Americans,” it was also apparent that the toll on vicarious victims did not stop at the U.S. border.

One result of this vicarious victimization and the fear and helplessness it produced was that many people became fixated on the next attack and began anxiously “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” This spawned an entire industry of fear as dire warnings were propagated by the Internet of the impending “American Hiroshima” that was certain to result when al Qaeda detonated all the nuclear devices it had hidden in major U.S. cities. Chain emails were widely circulated and recirculated quoting a dubious Israeli “security expert” who promised simultaneous catastrophic terrorist attacks against a number of American cities — attacks that never materialized outside of Hollywood productions.

Fast forward a decade and we are now commemorating 9/11’s 10th anniversary, which seems more significant somehow because it is a round number. Perhaps of more meaningful significance is that this anniversary closely follows the  death of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011. Indeed, the buzz regarding this coincidence has caused many of our clients and readers to ask for our assessment of the terrorist threat inside the United States on this 10th anniversary of 9/11.

While we believe that today holds some degree of symbolism for many, the threat of an attack on Sept. 11, 2011, is no higher than it was on Aug. 11 or than it will be on Sept. 12, and below we explain why.

The State of Al Qaeda and the Jihad

All threats have two basic components: intent and capability. Al Qaeda’s leaders have threatened to conduct an attack more terrible than 9/11 for nearly a decade now, and the threats continue. Here’s what Ayman al Zawahiri, now al Qaeda’s No. 1, said to his followers on Aug. 15, 2011, in a message released on the internet via as-Sahab media:

“Seek to attack America that has killed the Imam of the Mujahideen and threw his corpse in the sea and then imprisoned his women and children. Seek to attack her so history can say that a criminal state had spread corruption on earth and Allah sent her his servants who made her a lesson for others and left her as a memory.”

The stated intent of al Qaeda and  the rest of the jihadist movement is, and has been, to strike the United States as hard and as often as possible. It logically follows, then, that al Qaeda would strike the United States on Sept. 11 — or any other day — if possible. With intent thus established, now we need to focus on capability.

One of the primary considerations regarding al Qaeda’s capability to strike the United States is the state of the jihadist movement itself. The efforts of the U.S. government and its allies against the core al Qaeda group, which is based in Pakistan, have left it badly damaged and have greatly curtailed its operational ability, especially its ability to conduct transnational attacks. In January we forecast that we believed the al Qaeda core was going to be marginalized on the physical battlefield in 2011 and that it would also struggle to remain relevant on the ideological battlefield. Indeed, it has been our assessment for several years now that al Qaeda does not pose a strategic threat to the United States.

Since we published our 2011 forecast, bin Laden has been killed as well as senior al Qaeda leader Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who reportedly died in a strike by a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle Aug. 22 in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region. We continue to believe that the al Qaeda core group is off balance and concerned for its security — especially in light of the intelligence gathered in the raid on bin Laden’s hideout. The core group simply does not enjoy the operational freedom it did prior to September 2001. We also believe the group no longer has the same operational capability in terms of international travel and the ability to transfer money that it had prior to 9/11.

Some people believe there is a greater chance of an attack on this year’s 9/11 anniversary because of the killing of bin Laden, while others note that al Zawahiri may feel pressure to conduct an attack in order to prove his credibility as al Qaeda’s new leader.

Our belief, as noted above, is that al Qaeda has been doing its utmost to attack the United States and has not pulled any punches. Because of this, we do not believe it possesses the ability to increase this effort beyond where it was prior to bin Laden’s death. As to the pressure on al Zawahiri, we noted in December 2007 that the al Qaeda core had been under considerable pressure to prove itself relevant for several years and that, despite this pressure, had yet to deliver. Because of this, we do not believe that the pressure to conduct a successful attack is any heavier on al Zawahiri today than it was prior to bin Laden’s death.

Finally, we believe that if al Qaeda possessed the capability to conduct a spectacular attack it would launch the attack as soon as it was operationally ready, rather than wait for some specific date. The risk of discovery is simply too great.

There are also some who still believe that al Qaeda maintains a network of “sleeper operatives” inside the United States that can be called upon to conduct a spectacular terrorist attack. We do not believe this for two reasons. First, because the pressure on the core al Qaeda leadership to conduct an attack in the United States has been so high for several years there is no reason that it would not have activated any sleepers by now. It would certainly not be in the group’s best interest to keep any such operatives idle for a decade, especially since U.S. intelligence has made such headway in rolling up the organization. Al Qaeda has been faced with a use-it-or-lose-it scenario.

Second, while there is a long history of al Qaeda and other jihadist groups employing covert operatives and inspiring jihadist grassroots operatives or lone wolves like Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, there is no history of al Qaeda employing true sleeper operatives, that is, operatives who burrow undetected into a society and then remain dormant until called upon to act. Because of this, we remain extremely skeptical that al Qaeda has ever had a sleeper network in the United States. If it had, it would have used it by now.

Would the al Qaeda core leadership like to conduct a spectacular terror attack on the 9/11 anniversary? Absolutely. Does it have the capability? It is unlikely.

A Grassroots Focus

As we noted in our annual jihadist forecast, we believe the greatest threat to the United States and the rest of the West in 2011 emanates from grassroots jihadists and regional franchises. However, the civil war in Yemen and developments in Somalia have preoccupied the attention of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al Shabaab — the two regional jihadist franchises that have shown the intent and capability to conduct transnational attacks — leaving them very little opportunity to do so. Therefore, we believe the greatest threat of an attack on the 9/11 anniversary will come from the grass roots.

The bad news is that grassroots operatives can be hard to identify, especially if they operate alone; the good news is that they tend to be far less capable than well-trained, more “professional” terrorist operatives. And this means they are more likely to make critical mistakes that will allow their attacks to be detected and thwarted.

As the past few years has demonstrated, there are almost certainly grassroots jihadists operating in small cells or as lone wolves who are presently planning attacks. In fact, we know that since at least 1990 there has not been a time when some group of grassroots jihadists somewhere in the United States has not been planning some kind of attack.

Is it possible, then, that such individuals could be inspired to try to conduct an attack on the 9/11 anniversary if they can coordinate their attack cycle in order to be ready on that date. However, given the increased law enforcement vigilance that will be in place at hard targets on that day and the capabilities of most grassroots operatives, we can anticipate that such an attempt would be conducted against a soft target rather than some more difficult target such as the 9/11 Memorial or the White House. We also believe that any such attack would likely continue the trend we have seen away from bombing attacks toward more simple (and effective) armed assaults.

It must be remembered that simple terrorist attacks are relatively easy to conduct, especially if the assailant is not concerned about escaping after the attack. As jihadist groups such as AQAP have noted in their online propaganda, a determined person can conduct attacks using a variety of simple weapons, from a pickup truck to a knife, axe or gun. Jihadist ideologues have repeatedly praised Nidal Hassan and have pointed out that jihadists operating with modest expectations and acting within the scope of their training and capability can do far more damage than operatives who try to conduct big, ambitious attacks that they lack the basic skills to complete.

And while the authorities in the United States and elsewhere have been quite successful in foiling attacks over the past couple of years, there are a large number of vulnerable targets in the open societies of the West, and Western governments simply do not have the resources to protect everything. Indeed, as long as the ideology of jihadism survives, its adherents will pose a threat.

All this means that some terrorist attacks will invariably succeed, but in the current context, it is our assessment that a simple attack in the United States or some other Western country is far more likely than a complex and spectacular 9/11-style operation. In their primary areas of operation, jihadists have the capability to do more than they do transnationally.

Indeed, despite the concept of a “war on terrorism,” the phenomenon of terrorism can never be completely eliminated, and terrorist attacks can and will be conducted by a wide variety of actors (recently illustrated by the July 22 attacks in Norway). However, as we’ve previously noted, if the public will recognize that terrorist attacks are part of the human condition like cancer or hurricanes, it can take steps to deny the practitioners of terrorism the ability to terrorize.

24047  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Webster 1789 on: September 01, 2011, 07:24:30 AM
"In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate -- look to his character..." --Noah Webster, Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education, 1789

24048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Third Iron Dome deployed on: September 01, 2011, 07:20:55 AM
Israel: Third Iron Dome Deployed Outside Ashdod
August 31, 2011 2123 GMT
The Israeli air force deployed a third Iron Dome battery outside Ashdod on Aug. 31, The Jerusalem Post reported. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli air force for deploying the rocket defense system sooner than he expected. Earlier in 2011, the United States provided $205 million for Israel to purchase four Iron Dome batteries, each consisting of three launchers with 20 Tamir interceptors. Each battery is capable of protecting about 150 square kilometers.
24049  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 01, 2011, 07:20:08 AM
Looks like His Glibness is backing off from trying to speak during the Rep. candidates debate  cheesy
24050  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Filming the Police on: August 31, 2011, 10:51:25 PM
Glik v. Cunniffe (1st Cir.)

Originally Posted by from the decision:
To be sure, the right to film is not without limitations. It may be subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. We have no occasion to explore those limitations here, however. On the facts alleged in the complaint, Glik’s exercise of his First Amendment rights fell well within the bounds of the Constitution’s protections. Glik filmed the defendant police officers in the Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States and the apotheosis of a public forum. In such traditional public spaces, the rights of the state to limit the exercise of First Amendment activity are “sharply circumscribed.” Moreover, ... the complaint indicates that Glik “filmed [the officers] from a comfortable remove” and “neither spoke to nor molested them in any way” (except in directly responding to the officers when they addressed him). Such peaceful recording of an arrest in a public space that does not interfere with the police officers’ performance of their duties is not reasonably subject to limitation.

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