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24001  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on the Downgrade on: August 08, 2011, 01:01:31 AM
Whatever one thinks of the credit-rating agencies—and we aren't admirers—it serves no good purpose to shoot the fiscal messengers. Friday's downgrade by Standard & Poor's of U.S. long-term debt to AA+ from AAA will be the first of many such humiliations if Washington doesn't change its economic and fiscal policies.

Investors and markets—not any single company's rating—are the ultimate judge of a nation's creditworthiness. And after their performance in fanning the credit and mortgage-security mania of the last decade, S&P, Moody's and Fitch should hardly be seen as peerless oracles.

Their views are best understood as financial opinions, like newspaper editorials, and they're only considered more important because U.S. government agencies have required purchasers of securities to use their ratings. We've fought to break that protected oligopoly, even as liberals in the Senate led by Minnesota's Al Franken have tried to preserve it. Federal bank regulators have been on Mr. Franken's side in this fight, so they can blame themselves in part for S&P's continued prominence.

***
Yet is there anything that S&P said on Friday that everyone else doesn't already know? S&P essentially declared that on present trend the U.S. debt burden is unsustainable, and that the American political system seems unable to reverse that trend.

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Getty Images
 .This is not news.

In that context, the Obama Administration's attempt to discredit S&P only makes the U.S. look worse—like the Europeans who also want to blame the raters for noticing the obvious. Treasury officials and chief White House economic adviser Gene Sperling denounced S&P for relying on a Congressional Budget Office scenario that overestimated the U.S. discretionary spending baseline by $300 billion through 2015 and $2 trillion through 2021.

But even adjusting for that $2 trillion would only reduce U.S. publicly held debt to 85% or so of GDP—still dangerously high. And that assumes that recently agreed upon spending caps are sustained over a decade, something which rarely happens.

We think the larger problem with S&P, Moody's and Fitch is that they make no distinction over how a nation balances its books—whether through tax increases or spending reductions. Like the International Monetary Fund, the raters care only about balance.

This takes too little account of the need for faster economic growth, which is the only real path out of a debt crisis. Britain's government has earned rater approval for its fiscal consolidation, but its increases in VAT and income tax rates are hurting its tepid recovery. Letting the credit raters dictate tax increases is the road to an austerity trap.

The real reason for White House fury at S&P is that it realizes how symbolically damaging this downgrade is to President Obama's economic record. Democrats can rail all they want about the tea party, but Republicans have controlled the House for a mere seven months. The entire GOP emphasis in those seven months—backed by the tea party—has been on reversing the historic spending damage of Mr. Obama's first two years.

The Bush Presidency and previous GOP Congresses contributed to the current problem by not insisting on domestic cuts to finance the cost of war, and by adding the prescription drug benefit without reforming Medicare. But as recently as 2008 spending was still only 20.7%, and debt held by the public was only 40.3%, of GDP.

In the name of saving the economy from panic, the White House and the Pelosi Congress then blew out the American government balance sheet. They compounded the problem of excessive private debt by adding unsustainable public debt.

They boosted federal spending to 25% of GDP in 2009, 23.8% in 2010 (as TARP repayments provided a temporary reduction in overall spending), and back nearly to 25% this fiscal year. Meanwhile, debt to GDP climbed to 53.5% in 2009, 62.2% in 2010, and is estimated to hit 72% this year—and to keep rising. These are all figures from Mr. Obama's own budget office.

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...Rather than change direction this year, Mr. Obama's main political focus has been to preserve those spending levels by raising taxes. His initial budget in February for fiscal 2012 proposed higher spending. He then resisted the modest spending cuts that the GOP proposed for the rest of fiscal 2011.

He responded to Paul Ryan's proposal to reform Medicare and Medicaid by calling it un-American and unworthy of debate. In the most recent budget talks, he would only consider small entitlement reforms (cuts in payments to providers) if Republicans agreed to raise taxes. He has refused even to discuss ObamaCare or serious reforms in Medicare and Social Security. Meanwhile, federal payments to individuals continue to grow as a share of all spending, as the nearby chart shows.

This is how you become the Downgrade President.

***
Despite S&P's opinion, there is no chance that America will default on its debts. The real importance of the downgrade will depend on the political reaction it inspires.

If the response is denial and blaming the credit raters, then the U.S. will continue on its current road to more downgrades and eventually to Greece. What has already become a half-decade of lost growth will turn into a lost decade or more.

If the response is to escape the debt trap by the stealth route of inflation—a path now advocated by many of the same economists who promoted the failed spending stimulus of 2009—then the U.S. could spur a dollar crisis and jeopardize its reserve currency status.

The better answer—the only road back to fiscal sanity and AAA status—is to reverse the economic policies of the late Bush and Obama years. The financial crisis followed by the Keynesian and statist revival of the last four years have brought the U.S. to this downgrade and will lead to inevitable decline. The only solution is to return to the classical, pro-growth economic ideas that have revived America at other moments of crisis.

24002  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ: Ecuador on: August 08, 2011, 12:50:59 AM
After last month's debt-ceiling debacle, a critical mass of President Obama's harshest critics have gone from calling him socialism's evil genius to tagging him as merely a clueless community organizer who is in over his head.

Yet while the haggling over spending exposed many of the president's weaknesses, it seems a mistake to underestimate his collectivist instincts. It may be true that if he cannot accomplish what he wants by decree, he loses interest fast. But it also remains evident that his worldview is largely aligned with the eternal struggle for an all-powerful state.

Observe U.S. foreign policy in Latin America over the last two and a half years: In particular, consider how Honduras took a beating from the Obama administration over its decision to remove a law-breaking leftist president in 2009, while Ecuador is getting little pushback from Washington as it steps ever closer to dictatorship.

This contradiction became pronounced last month when Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, an ally of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, used his control of the judiciary to win a lawsuit against a columnist and three directors of the Ecuadoran daily El Universo. They will have to pay him a total of $42 million, and each has been sentenced to three years in jail.

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Reutuers
 
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa
.Mr. Obama's State Department is treating the Ecuadoran incident gingerly. It issued a brief statement on the importance of a free press and said that it "join the Inter American Press Association, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and others in expressing concern over the sentence in the El Universo case." There will be an appeal, and State said it "will closely follow the process." Yet with democracy in peril, that is downright timid—not to mention a little late—compared to the fury unleashed against Honduras two years ago.

In 2009, Honduras fought to save its democracy by removing then-President Manuel Zelaya, who had used street violence to try to extend his tenure in violation of his country's constitution. The Obama administration responded by pulling the travel visas of Honduras's Supreme Court judges, human rights ombudsman and members of Congress. It suspended most U.S. aid and supported the suspension of Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS), which resulted in the cutoff of aid from international financial institutions.

As with Mr. Zelaya, the administration has given Mr. Correa a wide berth, despite his antidemocratic practices. Since he took office in 2007, he has used both state power and mob violence to enforce his will whenever other branches of government do not cooperate with his agenda. And he has used his primitive definition of democracy—majority rules—to destroy his opponents, stifle dissent and consolidate power.

In a May referendum that Mr. Correa organized, he asked voters, among other things, to give him control of the judiciary and the power to bar owners of media companies from engaging in other businesses. The narrow approval he won portends the end of pluralism in his country.

The president of a democracy might at least pretend to respect the independence of the judicial branch, but Mr. Correa has never bothered with appearances. "Yes, we want to put our hands in the court," he said in January as he prepared the country for the referendum.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.His determination to silence his media critics has been more overt, as the El Universo case demonstrates. The column in question called the president "a dictator" and challenged his claim that he was a victim of "a coup" in September 2009 when he went to a police barracks during a strike. Yet what most agitated Mr. Correa—and what he sued for—was the suggestion that he could be held accountable for giving the order to fire on the hospital across the street from the barracks, as part of his "coup" charade.

In a democracy, opinions are part of free speech and the president's attorney never showed that the columnist had lied. Moreover, the government has classified most documents related to the incident, and a report from the military command that says that Mr. Correa gave the order to fire was not permitted as evidence in the case.

With his court victory, Mr. Correa has established that those who cross him should expect to be financially ruined. Radio and television stations also have been reminded that the government controls the renewal of their licenses.

When I called the OAS press office for a statement on the travesty in Ecuador, the person who came to the phone would only say that the OAS has "no comment." It is hardly surprising. The credibility of that institution has been destroyed because, in the absence of U.S. leadership, Mr. Chávez and company have taken it over. OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, a washed-up Chilean Socialist, bends to every whim of his chavista task masters.

This brings us back to the question of where Mr. Obama's sympathies lie. A good clue can be found by comparing the aggression launched against Tegucigalpa with the timidity of the policy toward Quito.

24003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cog. Dissonance between policies on Honduras and Ecuador on: August 08, 2011, 12:50:15 AM
After last month's debt-ceiling debacle, a critical mass of President Obama's harshest critics have gone from calling him socialism's evil genius to tagging him as merely a clueless community organizer who is in over his head.

Yet while the haggling over spending exposed many of the president's weaknesses, it seems a mistake to underestimate his collectivist instincts. It may be true that if he cannot accomplish what he wants by decree, he loses interest fast. But it also remains evident that his worldview is largely aligned with the eternal struggle for an all-powerful state.

Observe U.S. foreign policy in Latin America over the last two and a half years: In particular, consider how Honduras took a beating from the Obama administration over its decision to remove a law-breaking leftist president in 2009, while Ecuador is getting little pushback from Washington as it steps ever closer to dictatorship.

This contradiction became pronounced last month when Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, an ally of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, used his control of the judiciary to win a lawsuit against a columnist and three directors of the Ecuadoran daily El Universo. They will have to pay him a total of $42 million, and each has been sentenced to three years in jail.

View Full Image

Reutuers
 
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa
.Mr. Obama's State Department is treating the Ecuadoran incident gingerly. It issued a brief statement on the importance of a free press and said that it "join the Inter American Press Association, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and others in expressing concern over the sentence in the El Universo case." There will be an appeal, and State said it "will closely follow the process." Yet with democracy in peril, that is downright timid—not to mention a little late—compared to the fury unleashed against Honduras two years ago.

In 2009, Honduras fought to save its democracy by removing then-President Manuel Zelaya, who had used street violence to try to extend his tenure in violation of his country's constitution. The Obama administration responded by pulling the travel visas of Honduras's Supreme Court judges, human rights ombudsman and members of Congress. It suspended most U.S. aid and supported the suspension of Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS), which resulted in the cutoff of aid from international financial institutions.

As with Mr. Zelaya, the administration has given Mr. Correa a wide berth, despite his antidemocratic practices. Since he took office in 2007, he has used both state power and mob violence to enforce his will whenever other branches of government do not cooperate with his agenda. And he has used his primitive definition of democracy—majority rules—to destroy his opponents, stifle dissent and consolidate power.

In a May referendum that Mr. Correa organized, he asked voters, among other things, to give him control of the judiciary and the power to bar owners of media companies from engaging in other businesses. The narrow approval he won portends the end of pluralism in his country.

The president of a democracy might at least pretend to respect the independence of the judicial branch, but Mr. Correa has never bothered with appearances. "Yes, we want to put our hands in the court," he said in January as he prepared the country for the referendum.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.His determination to silence his media critics has been more overt, as the El Universo case demonstrates. The column in question called the president "a dictator" and challenged his claim that he was a victim of "a coup" in September 2009 when he went to a police barracks during a strike. Yet what most agitated Mr. Correa—and what he sued for—was the suggestion that he could be held accountable for giving the order to fire on the hospital across the street from the barracks, as part of his "coup" charade.

In a democracy, opinions are part of free speech and the president's attorney never showed that the columnist had lied. Moreover, the government has classified most documents related to the incident, and a report from the military command that says that Mr. Correa gave the order to fire was not permitted as evidence in the case.

With his court victory, Mr. Correa has established that those who cross him should expect to be financially ruined. Radio and television stations also have been reminded that the government controls the renewal of their licenses.

When I called the OAS press office for a statement on the travesty in Ecuador, the person who came to the phone would only say that the OAS has "no comment." It is hardly surprising. The credibility of that institution has been destroyed because, in the absence of U.S. leadership, Mr. Chávez and company have taken it over. OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, a washed-up Chilean Socialist, bends to every whim of his chavista task masters.

This brings us back to the question of where Mr. Obama's sympathies lie. A good clue can be found by comparing the aggression launched against Tegucigalpa with the timidity of the policy toward Quito.

24004  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: August 08, 2011, 12:46:03 AM


Combat helicopters are vulnerable to small-arms fire, especially at takeoff and landing, analysts say. Pictured, a U.S. Chinook CH-47 helicopter landed in Khost province in 2009.
.KABUL—U.S. Special Operations troops were closing in on a clandestine Taliban meeting thought to include a high-value commander in Afghanistan's rugged Tangi Valley when they ran into an insurgent patrol that pinned them down.

Before dawn on Saturday, members of the elite U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six packed into a twin-rotor Chinook transport helicopter and rushed to the rescue.

As their Chinook was about to land, Afghan and U.S. officials said, a lone insurgent shot it out of the sky with a rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, in the deadliest attack endured by the American military in a decade of war in Afghanistan. Thirty American troops, including 22 SEALs, died in the crash, as did a civilian interpreter and seven Afghan commandos.

The U.S. military didn't report any casualties among the original Special Operations team.

It was the worst tragedy in the history of the SEALs, and it delivered a jarring setback to the U.S.-led coalition, which has already started pulling troops out of Afghanistan in hopes of extricating itself from the conflict that has become America's longest foreign war.

American Special Operations Forces, a community that includes the Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Army Green Berets, have conducted thousands of night raids. Most such raids, American officials say, end without a shot being fired.

This time, said a local villager and Afghan officials, the operation quickly ran into trouble as a Special Operations strike team tried to sneak up on the Taliban gathering thought to include a high-value target.

Read More

Military Aims to Reduce Copter Vulnerability
.One local resident said Taliban fighters in groups of five to 10 fighters have been routinely patrolling every village in the area since the conventional U.S. forces pulled out.

Saturday's meeting, he said, included two midlevel Taliban commanders: Habib Rehman and Saif ur Rehman, both of whom had recently returned from Quetta, Pakistan, home of the Taliban leadership.

The Taliban patrol spotted the U.S. troops and identified them as Americans as the forces crossed a river near a cluster of three villages in the valley. Taliban fire kept the Americans pinned down and exposed, said an Afghan official briefed on the incident.

 Insurgents shot down a coalition forces helicopter in Afghanistan Saturday, killing 38. Video courtesy Reuters.
.As the operation unraveled, the U.S. team called for help.

In response, the U.S. command scrambled the Navy SEALs, backed up by Air Force tactical controllers and Afghan commandos as a quick reaction force. They rushed onto the Chinook and flew into the firefight, said a U.S. official, who added that the Chinook was approaching the landing zone when it was hit. Afghan officials said a Taliban insurgent who was hiding in the area fired the RPG that brought down the chopper.

All 38 people on board were killed. The Taliban said eight of their fighters also died in the fighting. The insurgent who fired the RPG, a local resident said, escaped unhurt.

"This is a real psychological blow," said Jeffrey Addicott, a former senior legal adviser to Army Special Forces who now directs the Center for Terrorism Law in San Antonio.

Some Afghan and Western officials said the attack could be an early warning about the risks of ceding ground as the U.S. and its allies prepare to end major combat operations in late 2014, transferring security duties to Afghan forces.

Until this spring, the U.S. military had a base in the middle of the inhospitable Tangi Valley, in the Wardak province some 60 miles southwest of Kabul. When the U.S. military pulled out, local officials said, the Taliban moved back in, with the fledgling Afghan security forces unable to stop them.

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."The government can't protect the people, they are under Taliban threats," said Mohammad Hazrat Janan, the provincial council chief in Wardak. "So the people have chosen Taliban for themselves and don't support or cooperate with government anymore."

Saturday's attack cast a pall over the U.S. military as its members came to terms with the devastating loss. A military official who worked in Afghanistan said the incident would be a significant propaganda victory for the Taliban. "The impact is huge. Being rattled is certainly justified," the official said.

The U.S. military and administration officials in Washington said Saturday's losses wouldn't impact the operational tempo of special-operations raids, nor would it have any strategic effect on the war.

"There is not going to be any scaling back," said a military official in Washington. "The fight goes on and we are going to keep pressing."

Although the investigation is still in its early stages, officials said they believe the Taliban success in bringing down the Chinook CH-47 was an aberration and not an indication that the U.S. will have to radically overhaul its tactics.

Casualty Count
Track the deaths of U.S. and allied forces' troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.


 .More photos and interactive graphics
."There is not a sense we have been sent back on our heels," said an administration official. "The feeling here is lucky shot, last lucky shot."

But Saturday's attack marked the second time an insurgent RPG has brought down a Chinook helicopter. Two service members were injured in the July 25 attack in eastern Afghanistan.

American forces sealed off the crash site Sunday as they went through the difficult process of recovering the wreckage and trying to determine the exact sequence of events.

One Afghan official said on Sunday that there was "no doubt" that the crash was caused by an RPG. But the U.S.-led military offered no official comment while the recovery operation was under way.

The downing of the helicopter underscores the urgency, and difficulty, of making low-flying helicopters less vulnerable to attack. While sophisticated defenses can fool heat-seeking missiles, there is little current technology that can defend against the lucky shot of a crude AK-47 or an RPG.

At shortly after 8 p.m. Friday, East Coast time, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon delivered the bad news of the attack to President Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama, who was at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., received updates over the weekend from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Adm. Michael Mullen, Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Mr. Donilon, officials said.

Most of the SEALs killed on Saturday were part of the secretive SEAL Team Six, officially known as Naval Special Warfare Development Group and numbering only some 300 operators. Along with the Army's Delta Force it is one of the United States' Special Mission Units, given the most dangerous and sensitive counterterrorism tasks. Members of the unit killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan three months ago, but none of those service members involved in that raid were killed Saturday.

Operationally assigned to the Fort Bragg-based Joint Special Operations Command, SEAL Team Six is based at Training Support Center Hampton Roads in Virginia Beach, Va.

In the aftermath of the attack, officials scaled back the planned change of command ceremony to be held on Monday at JSOC's Tampa headquarters. Adm. William McRaven, until recently the commander of the most elite group of Special Operations forces, including SEAL Team Six, will take over from another SEAL, Adm. Eric Olsen.

But officials said the speeches at the JSOC ceremony on Monday will reflect the command's commitment not to let the devastating attack result in any slowing of the tempo of operations against the Taliban.

Because they have been repeatedly and frequently deployed throughout the Afghanistan war, the commandos in the SEAL units know each other well, and the loss will be felt throughout the command.

"The special-ops community is very tight-knit," said Richard "Ozzie" Nelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Navy officer who served at JSOC. "They have very strong bonds that they have forged over 10 years in combat. And in a very small community when you have a loss of this magnitude, the impact is significant."

24005  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Senate pushes Baraq to grow a pair and sanction Iran's central bank on: August 08, 2011, 12:42:36 AM
ByJAY SOLOMON
WASHINGTON—More than 90 U.S. senators signed a letter to President Barack Obama pressing him to sanction Iran's central bank, with some threatening legislation to force the move, an outcome that would represent a stark escalation in tensions between the two countries.

Such a measure, if effectively implemented, could potentially freeze Iran out of the global financial system and make it nearly impossible for Tehran to clear billions of dollars in oil sales every month, said current and former U.S. officials.

Many American officials view the blacklisting of Bank Markazi as the "nuclear option" in Washington's financial war against Tehran. Some Iranian leaders have said they would view such a move by the Obama administration as an act of war.

The letter was co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) in a sign of the bipartisan support for tougher financial measures against Iran. The U.S. fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

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Read the senators' letter to Obama
."In our view, the United States should embark on a comprehensive strategy to pressure Iran's financial system by imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran," said the letter that was viewed by The Wall Street Journal and will be delivered to the White House on Tuesday. "If our allies are willing to join, we believe this step can be even more effective."

A senior U.S. official said the Obama administration is studying all measures to increase pressure on Iran, including potential moves against Bank Markazi.

"We are working really hard on the Iran challenge and have made unprecedented progress in mobilizing international pressure and sanctions," the official said.

Last year, Congress passed legislation barring from the U.S. financial system any foreign firm doing business with sanctioned Iranian banks, Iran's energy sector, or the businesses of Tehran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The law also has a provision allowing the White House to sanction Bank Markazi, a step that President Obama has so far decided not to take.

In an interview, Mr. Kirk said he would introduce a law by year's end to enforce sanctions on Bank Markazi if the White House doesn't move independently.

"The administration will face a choice of whether it wants to lead this effort or be forced to act," Mr. Kirk said.

Mr. Schumer said the White House needed to utilize current legislation.

"It's time for the administration to use the tools Congress has provided and choke off the money spigot," he said in a statement.

Both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations have discussed the merits of targeting Iran's central bank going back at least four years, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The U.S. and European governments believe Bank Markazi has facilitated trade for sanctioned Iranian banks and businesses by masking the names of the parties involved in international transactions.

U.S. officials also worry Iran's central bank has provided funds to organizations designated as terrorist groups by Washington, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

Iranian officials have said in recent interviews that they view all U.S. and United Nations sanctions as illegal and that their country is entitled to conduct international trade.

Current and former U.S. officials who have taken part in the sanctions debate said that targeting Bank Markazi presents significant hurdles.

In recent years, American allies in Europe and Asia have worried that any blacklisting of Iran's central bank will inhibit their ability to purchase Iranian oil and potentially lead to higher global energy prices. Iran is the third-largest oil exporter among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Nations including China, South Korea and India have experienced trouble purchasing Iranian oil.

New Delhi alone has been unable to pay Iran $5 billion for oil purchases, according to Indian officials.

U.S. officials have worried that unilateral Americans sanctions against Bank Markazi might not be respected by even some American allies. This could place Washington into the difficult position of either backing down or theoretically trying to ban important foreign companies and governments from using the U.S. financial system.

An American official involved in the discussions said any U.S. decision would require months of prior discussions with countries such as South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia in order to get their buy-in.

Congress and the Obama administration have tussled over the issue of Bank Markazi for a number of months. Senators placed holds on the confirmation of two key U.S. officials—Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Under Secretary of Treasury David Cohen—seeking assurances the White House would take steps to sanction the bank.

Mr. Kirk said in the interview these holds were eventually lifted because both Messrs. Burns and Cohen offered assurances the issue was being seriously studied. "They cited an August to September point of action," Mr. Kirk said, acknowledging there were no promises made.

Officials at the State Department and Treasury Department said they couldn't comment on private conversations held with members of Congress.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com

24006  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The DB Parable of the Cherry on: August 08, 2011, 12:24:46 AM
The three questions:

1) Do you remember the first time you had sex?

2) Were you any good at it?

3) Have you gotten better since then?
24007  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 07, 2011, 07:25:57 PM
Sure thing C-Mighty.  I will post here the evening after the first day.
24008  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Now that is ironic on: August 07, 2011, 04:16:08 PM
Economist who forecasts state finances filed for bankruptcy

David Berns



Economic Forum Chairman John Restrepo listens to gloomy forecasts for the Nevada economy during a January 2010 hearing at the Legislature.


The economist who helps predict how much money state government can expect to fund its budget has declared personal bankruptcy, telling the Sun he didn't foresee his own financial meltdown.

John M. Restrepo, chairman of the five-member State Economic Forum, filed for bankruptcy protection in November, citing $905,000 in debt and $360,000 in assets.

In the wake of his filing, Restrepo had to complete an Internet course on personal financial management offered by a nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency.

Restrepo's bankruptcy, triggered by the collapse of his Las Vegas consulting business, symbolizes the depth of the recession in Southern Nevada, which has hit blue-collar and white-collar workers alike and has also struck the state's government and corporate elite.

"I guess like all of us, who could have predicted the depth of this recession?" Restrepo said Friday. "We knew there was (an economic) correction coming. I saved some money for a recession but not for the depth of this depression in Southern Nevada and the impact it had on our clients and our company. I tried to do the best I can to continue to pay off all of the smaller local vendors I can."

Despite his personal bankruptcy, Restrepo's company, Restrepo Consulting Group LLC, remains in operation and continues to produce economic forecasts and market studies for state and local governments as well as developers and casino operators. He said demand for consultants declined with the recession as his two main clients during his 22 years in Southern Nevada -- government and the development industry -- no longer needed his services.

"Our revenues were dramatically impacted because those firms haven't used us anymore because nothing's being developed, and the budget cuts of state and local governments have cut back dramatically on the use of consultants," Restrepo said.

He reported average monthly income of $3,505.88, according to the November court filing. His spouse, Elvira Gaensslen, lists her occupation for the past three years as a real estate agent. She reported average monthly income of $4,468.95 for a combined monthly total of $7,974.83 for the couple. They reported average monthly expenses of $8,007.57.

The couple walked away from their 2,522-square-foot home on Via Delores Avenue in Las Vegas, which they purchased for $399,900 in 2007, according to the Clark County Assessor's office. The current value of the couple's interest in the house was listed at $225,000 against a secured claim of $379,500 held by Bank of America, according to the bankruptcy filing.

Restrepo listed debts of $36,972.52 for an American Express business credit card; $27,864.21 for a Chase Visa business credit card; $24,277.55 to Chicago Title Agency, NV Inc. for office rent; $7,163.52 to Office Equipment Finance Services for a copier lease; $121,427.76 on a business loan from SMS Financial; and $225,000 on a note held by his ex-wife and business partner, Nancy Schult, who owned 49 percent of Restrepo Consulting. He is in the process of buying out her share of the company and continues to make spousal support payments.

Restrepo first realized about a year ago that he might have to file for bankruptcy. He tapped into his personal savings and retirement funds to pay employees, depleting both as he hoped the economy would rebound before he was forced to lay off employees. At the height of the economy he had as many as eight employees. Now he has one half-time employee in addition to paying multiple freelance consultants.

Individuals and businesses can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, as Restrepo did, which provides a fresh financial start for individuals, although not all debt is wiped off the books. Debt for certain taxes, fraudulently incurred credit card debt, child support and alimony and most student loans must still be repaid. The bankruptcy law that took effect in October 2005 limits Chapter 7 as an option for many Americans: those deemed by a "means test" to have at least $100 a month left over after paying certain debts and expenses will have to file a 5-year repayment plan under the more restrictive Chapter 13.

Nevada led the nation in personal bankruptcy filings with 10.8 per 1,000 people during the 12 months ended March 31, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court figures. Georgia was second with 8.9 filings per every 1,000. Most business and nonbusiness bankruptcies in the 12 months ended March 31 were Chapter 7 liquidations, according to the court.

Terms of the bankruptcy resolution required Restrepo to undergo debt counseling, which he received from Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Southern Nevada, according to the court filing. In December, he received a certificate of debtor education for completing a Internet course on personal financial management offered by Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Nevada and Utah.

"In a really weird way (bankruptcy has) given me a deep appreciation of what many small businesses have gone through considering the depth and breadth of this recession," said Restrepo, noting that his company has not missed any payments to local vendors and subcontractors. "Understanding the struggles of these small businesses has helped me understand what it's going to take for these small businesses to recover. It's really related to small business job growth. That's all folded into my forecasting."
24009  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NRA sues Obama over new regs on: August 07, 2011, 02:43:27 PM
http://video.foxnews.com/v/1095760427001/fierce-battle-over-gun-rights
24010  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo Working Examples on: August 07, 2011, 02:36:01 PM
Resurrecting this thread.  Its not that there have not been examples, I get plenty of positive reports from people.  Just today I got a report from an Army friend who had to deal with a soldier from a different country who was getty froggy during combatives training.   Our man dropped him.  ("I knew the material was good, but I didn't appreciate how much power is loaded into cutting the angle on the outside diamond.  I knocked him back six feet and he landed in a heap out cold.")
24011  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 07, 2011, 02:28:49 PM
We will rendezvous at the old park in Hermosa Beach at 4th & Ardmore at 09:30 and depart at 09:45 to the actual location (about a ten minute drive)
24012  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ungoverned spaces on: August 07, 2011, 02:24:34 PM
http://southernpulse.com/_webapp_3945793/Ungoverned_Spaces_Part_II,_Cities
24013  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Caatching up! on: August 07, 2011, 01:05:26 PM
Sorry-- been out of town for a few weeks!
===========


"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust." --James Madison, Federalist No. 57, 1788


"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States." --Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, 1787


"No morn ever dawned more favorable than ours did; and no day was every more clouded than the present! Wisdom, and good examples are necessary at this time to rescue the political machine from the impending storm." --George Washington, letter to James Madison, 1786


"I suppose, indeed, that in public life, a man whose political principles have any decided character and who has energy enough to give them effect must always expect to encounter political hostility from those of adverse principles." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard M. Johnson, 1808


"A constitution founded on these principles introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal." --John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

"But with respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19 years." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, 1789


"It is the duty of parents to maintain their children decently, and according to their circumstances; to protect them according to the dictates of prudence; and to educate them according to the suggestions of a judicious and zealous regard for their usefulness, their respectability and happiness." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791


"The Constitution ... is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge Spencer Roane, 1819


"Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue." --John Witherspoon, The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men, 1776


"Would it not be better to simplify the system of taxation rather than to spread it over such a variety of subjects and pass through so many new hands." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, 1784


"The eyes of the world being thus on our Country, it is put the more on its good behavior, and under the greater obligation also, to do justice to the Tree of Liberty by an exhibition of the fine fruits we gather from it." --James Madison, letter to James Monroe, 1824
24014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Webster 1787 on: August 07, 2011, 01:05:01 PM
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States." --Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, 1787


24015  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Washington to Madison, 1786 on: August 07, 2011, 01:02:14 PM

"No morn ever dawned more favorable than ours did; and no day was every more clouded than the present! Wisdom, and good examples are necessary at this time to rescue the political machine from the impending storm." --George Washington, letter to James Madison, 1786


24016  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson, 1791 on: August 07, 2011, 12:58:17 PM


"It is the duty of parents to maintain their children decently, and according to their circumstances; to protect them according to the dictates of prudence; and to educate them according to the suggestions of a judicious and zealous regard for their usefulness, their respectability and happiness." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
24017  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jefferson to Madison, 1784 on: August 07, 2011, 12:56:07 PM


"Would it not be better to simplify the system of taxation rather than to spread it over such a variety of subjects and pass through so many new hands." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, 1784


24018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda: Blurring the lines on: August 07, 2011, 11:11:43 AM

WASHINGTON — The United States is expanding its role in Mexico’s bloody fight against drug trafficking organizations, sending new C.I.A. operatives and retired military personnel to the country and considering plans to deploy private security contractors in hopes of  turning around a multibillion-dollar effort that so far has shown few results.

The United States is assisting Mexican police forces in conducting wiretaps, running informants and interrogating suspects.
In recent weeks, small numbers of C.I.A. operatives and American civilian military employees have been posted at a Mexican military base, where, for the first time, security officials from both countries work side by side in collecting information about drug cartels and helping plan operations. Officials are also looking into embedding a team of American contractors inside a specially vetted Mexican counternarcotics police unit.

Officials on both sides of the border say the new efforts have been devised to get around Mexican laws that prohibit foreign military and police from operating on its soil, and to prevent advanced American surveillance technology from falling under the control of Mexican security agencies with long histories of corruption.

“A sea change has occurred over the past years in how effective Mexico and U.S. intelligence exchanges have become,” said Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States. “It is underpinned by the understanding that transnational organized crime can only be successfully confronted by working hand in hand, and that the outcome is as simple as it is compelling:  we will together succeed or together fail.”

The latest steps come three years after the United States began increasing its security assistance to Mexico with the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative and tens of millions of dollars from the Defense Department. They also come a year before elections in both countries, when President Obama may confront questions about the threat of violence spilling over the border, and President Felipe Calderón’s political party faces a Mexican electorate that is almost certainly going to ask why it should stick with a fight that has left nearly 45,000 people dead.

“The pressure is going to be especially strong in Mexico, where I expect there will be a lot more raids, a lot more arrests and a lot more parading drug traffickers in front of cameras,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a counternarcotics expert at the Brookings Institution. “But I would also expect a lot of questioning of Merida, and some people asking about the way the money is spent, or demanding that the government send it back to the gringos.”

Mexico has become ground zero in the American counternarcotics fight since its cartels have cornered the market and are responsible for more than 80 percent of the drugs that enter the United States. American counternarcotics assistance there has grown faster in recent years than to Afghanistan and Colombia. And in the last three years, officials said, exchanges of intelligence between the United States and Mexico have helped security forces there capture or kill some 30 mid- to high-level drug traffickers, compared with just two such arrests in the previous five years.

The United States has trained nearly 4,500 new federal police agents and assisted in conducting wiretaps, running informants and interrogating suspects. The Pentagon has provided sophisticated equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters, and in recent months it has begun flying unarmed surveillance drones over Mexican soil to track drug kingpins.

Still, it is hard to say much real progress has been made in crippling the brutal cartels or stemming the flow of drugs and guns across the border. Mexico’s justice system remains so weakened by corruption that even the most notorious criminals have not been successfully prosecuted.   

“The government has argued that the number of deaths in Mexico is proof positive that the strategy is working and that the cartels are being weakened,” said Nik Steinberg, a specialist on Mexico at Human Rights Watch. “But the data is indisputable — the violence is increasing, human rights abuses have skyrocketed and accountability both for officials who commit abuses and alleged criminals is at rock bottom.”

Mexican and American officials involved in the fight against organized crime do not see it that way. They say the efforts begun under President Obama are only a few years old, and that it is too soon for final judgments. Dan Restrepo, Mr. Obama’s senior Latin American adviser, refused to talk about operational changes in the security relationship, but said, “I think we are in a fundamentally different place than we were three years ago.”

===================



Page 2 of 2)



A senior Mexican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed. “This is the game-changer in degrading transnational organized crime,” he said, adding: “It can’t be a two-, three-, four-, five- or six-year policy. For this policy investment to work, it has to be sustained long-term.”

Enlarge This Image
 
The New York Times

 
Several Mexican and American security analysts compared the challenges of helping Mexico rebuild its security forces and civil institutions — crippled by more than seven decades under authoritarian rule — to similar tests in Afghanistan. They see the United States fighting alongside a partner it needs but does not completely trust.

Though the new United States ambassador to Mexico was plucked from an assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Obama administration bristles at such comparisons, saying Mexico’s growing economy and functioning, though fragile, institutions put it far ahead of Afghanistan. Instead, administration officials more frequently compare Mexico’s struggle to the one Colombia began some 15 years ago.

Among the most important lessons they have learned, they say, is that in almost any fight against organized crime, things tend to get worse before they get better.

When violence spiked last year around Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, Mr. Calderón’s government asked the United States for more access to sophisticated surveillance technology and expertise. After months of negotiations, the United States established an intelligence post on a northern Mexican military base, moving Washington beyond its traditional role of sharing information to being more directly involved in gathering it.

American officials declined to provide details about the work being done by the American team of fewer than two dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents, C.I.A. officials and retired military personnel members from the Pentagon’s Northern Command. For security reasons, they asked The New York Times not to disclose the location of the compound.

But the officials said the compound had been modeled after “fusion intelligence centers” that the United States operates in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor insurgent groups, and that the United States would strictly play a supporting role.

“The Mexicans are in charge," said one American military official. “It’s their show. We’re all about technical support.”

The two countries have worked in lock step on numerous high-profile operations, including the continuing investigation of the February murder of Jaime J. Zapata, an American Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.

Mexico’s federal police chief, Genaro García Luna, put a helicopter in the air within five minutes after receiving a call for help from Mr. Zapata’s partner, the authorities said. Then he invited American officials to the police intelligence center — an underground location known as “the bunker” — to work directly with Mexican security forces in tracking down the suspects.

Mexican officials hand-carried shell casings recovered from the scene of the shooting to Washington for forensics tests, allowed American officials to conduct their own autopsy of the agent’s body and shipped the agent’s bullet-battered car to the United States for inspection.

In another operation last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration and a Mexican counternarcotics police unit collaborated on an operation that led to the arrest of José Antonio Hernández Acosta, a suspected drug trafficker. The authorities believe he is responsible for hundreds of deaths in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, including the murders of two Americans employed at the United States Consulate there.

While D.E.A. field officers were not on the scene — the Mexicans still draw the line at that — the Americans helped develop tips and were in contact with the Mexican unit almost every minute of the five-hour manhunt, according to a senior American official in Mexico. The unit, of about 50 officers, is the focus of another potentially ground-breaking plan that has not yet won approval. Several former D.E.A. officials said the two countries were considering a proposal to embed a group of private security contractors — including retired D.E.A. agents and former Special Forces officers — inside the unit to conduct an on-the-job training academy that would offer guidance in conducting operations so that suspects can be successfully taken to court. Mexican prosecutors would also work with the unit, the Americans said.

But a former American law enforcement official familiar with the unit described it as one good apple in a barrel of bad ones. He said it was based on a compound with dozens of other nonvetted officers, who provided a window on the challenges that the Mexican police continue to face.

Some of the officers had not been issued weapons, and those who had guns had not been properly trained to use them. They were required to pay for their helmets and bulletproof vests out of their own pockets. And during an intense gun battle against one of Mexico’s most vicious cartels, they had to communicate with one another on their cellphones because they had not been issued police radios. “It’s sort of shocking,” said Eric Olson of the Woodrow Wilson Center. “Mexico is just now learning how to fight crime in the midst of a major crime wave. It’s like trying to saddle your horse while running the Kentucky Derby.”
24019  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Blurring the lines on: August 07, 2011, 11:11:05 AM
En mi opinion hay que tener en cuenta que el NYTimes es aliado a Presidente Obama; osea no esta' 100% digna de fe:



WASHINGTON — The United States is expanding its role in Mexico’s bloody fight against drug trafficking organizations, sending new C.I.A. operatives and retired military personnel to the country and considering plans to deploy private security contractors in hopes of  turning around a multibillion-dollar effort that so far has shown few results.

The United States is assisting Mexican police forces in conducting wiretaps, running informants and interrogating suspects.
In recent weeks, small numbers of C.I.A. operatives and American civilian military employees have been posted at a Mexican military base, where, for the first time, security officials from both countries work side by side in collecting information about drug cartels and helping plan operations. Officials are also looking into embedding a team of American contractors inside a specially vetted Mexican counternarcotics police unit.

Officials on both sides of the border say the new efforts have been devised to get around Mexican laws that prohibit foreign military and police from operating on its soil, and to prevent advanced American surveillance technology from falling under the control of Mexican security agencies with long histories of corruption.

“A sea change has occurred over the past years in how effective Mexico and U.S. intelligence exchanges have become,” said Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States. “It is underpinned by the understanding that transnational organized crime can only be successfully confronted by working hand in hand, and that the outcome is as simple as it is compelling:  we will together succeed or together fail.”

The latest steps come three years after the United States began increasing its security assistance to Mexico with the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative and tens of millions of dollars from the Defense Department. They also come a year before elections in both countries, when President Obama may confront questions about the threat of violence spilling over the border, and President Felipe Calderón’s political party faces a Mexican electorate that is almost certainly going to ask why it should stick with a fight that has left nearly 45,000 people dead.

“The pressure is going to be especially strong in Mexico, where I expect there will be a lot more raids, a lot more arrests and a lot more parading drug traffickers in front of cameras,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a counternarcotics expert at the Brookings Institution. “But I would also expect a lot of questioning of Merida, and some people asking about the way the money is spent, or demanding that the government send it back to the gringos.”

Mexico has become ground zero in the American counternarcotics fight since its cartels have cornered the market and are responsible for more than 80 percent of the drugs that enter the United States. American counternarcotics assistance there has grown faster in recent years than to Afghanistan and Colombia. And in the last three years, officials said, exchanges of intelligence between the United States and Mexico have helped security forces there capture or kill some 30 mid- to high-level drug traffickers, compared with just two such arrests in the previous five years.

The United States has trained nearly 4,500 new federal police agents and assisted in conducting wiretaps, running informants and interrogating suspects. The Pentagon has provided sophisticated equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters, and in recent months it has begun flying unarmed surveillance drones over Mexican soil to track drug kingpins.

Still, it is hard to say much real progress has been made in crippling the brutal cartels or stemming the flow of drugs and guns across the border. Mexico’s justice system remains so weakened by corruption that even the most notorious criminals have not been successfully prosecuted.   

“The government has argued that the number of deaths in Mexico is proof positive that the strategy is working and that the cartels are being weakened,” said Nik Steinberg, a specialist on Mexico at Human Rights Watch. “But the data is indisputable — the violence is increasing, human rights abuses have skyrocketed and accountability both for officials who commit abuses and alleged criminals is at rock bottom.”

Mexican and American officials involved in the fight against organized crime do not see it that way. They say the efforts begun under President Obama are only a few years old, and that it is too soon for final judgments. Dan Restrepo, Mr. Obama’s senior Latin American adviser, refused to talk about operational changes in the security relationship, but said, “I think we are in a fundamentally different place than we were three years ago.”

===================



Page 2 of 2)



A senior Mexican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed. “This is the game-changer in degrading transnational organized crime,” he said, adding: “It can’t be a two-, three-, four-, five- or six-year policy. For this policy investment to work, it has to be sustained long-term.”

Enlarge This Image
 
The New York Times

 
Several Mexican and American security analysts compared the challenges of helping Mexico rebuild its security forces and civil institutions — crippled by more than seven decades under authoritarian rule — to similar tests in Afghanistan. They see the United States fighting alongside a partner it needs but does not completely trust.

Though the new United States ambassador to Mexico was plucked from an assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Obama administration bristles at such comparisons, saying Mexico’s growing economy and functioning, though fragile, institutions put it far ahead of Afghanistan. Instead, administration officials more frequently compare Mexico’s struggle to the one Colombia began some 15 years ago.

Among the most important lessons they have learned, they say, is that in almost any fight against organized crime, things tend to get worse before they get better.

When violence spiked last year around Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, Mr. Calderón’s government asked the United States for more access to sophisticated surveillance technology and expertise. After months of negotiations, the United States established an intelligence post on a northern Mexican military base, moving Washington beyond its traditional role of sharing information to being more directly involved in gathering it.

American officials declined to provide details about the work being done by the American team of fewer than two dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents, C.I.A. officials and retired military personnel members from the Pentagon’s Northern Command. For security reasons, they asked The New York Times not to disclose the location of the compound.

But the officials said the compound had been modeled after “fusion intelligence centers” that the United States operates in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor insurgent groups, and that the United States would strictly play a supporting role.

“The Mexicans are in charge," said one American military official. “It’s their show. We’re all about technical support.”

The two countries have worked in lock step on numerous high-profile operations, including the continuing investigation of the February murder of Jaime J. Zapata, an American Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.

Mexico’s federal police chief, Genaro García Luna, put a helicopter in the air within five minutes after receiving a call for help from Mr. Zapata’s partner, the authorities said. Then he invited American officials to the police intelligence center — an underground location known as “the bunker” — to work directly with Mexican security forces in tracking down the suspects.

Mexican officials hand-carried shell casings recovered from the scene of the shooting to Washington for forensics tests, allowed American officials to conduct their own autopsy of the agent’s body and shipped the agent’s bullet-battered car to the United States for inspection.

In another operation last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration and a Mexican counternarcotics police unit collaborated on an operation that led to the arrest of José Antonio Hernández Acosta, a suspected drug trafficker. The authorities believe he is responsible for hundreds of deaths in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, including the murders of two Americans employed at the United States Consulate there.

While D.E.A. field officers were not on the scene — the Mexicans still draw the line at that — the Americans helped develop tips and were in contact with the Mexican unit almost every minute of the five-hour manhunt, according to a senior American official in Mexico. The unit, of about 50 officers, is the focus of another potentially ground-breaking plan that has not yet won approval. Several former D.E.A. officials said the two countries were considering a proposal to embed a group of private security contractors — including retired D.E.A. agents and former Special Forces officers — inside the unit to conduct an on-the-job training academy that would offer guidance in conducting operations so that suspects can be successfully taken to court. Mexican prosecutors would also work with the unit, the Americans said.

But a former American law enforcement official familiar with the unit described it as one good apple in a barrel of bad ones. He said it was based on a compound with dozens of other nonvetted officers, who provided a window on the challenges that the Mexican police continue to face.

Some of the officers had not been issued weapons, and those who had guns had not been properly trained to use them. They were required to pay for their helmets and bulletproof vests out of their own pockets. And during an intense gun battle against one of Mexico’s most vicious cartels, they had to communicate with one another on their cellphones because they had not been issued police radios. “It’s sort of shocking,” said Eric Olson of the Woodrow Wilson Center. “Mexico is just now learning how to fight crime in the midst of a major crime wave. It’s like trying to saddle your horse while running the Kentucky Derby.”




87700
24020  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / C clip rant and analysiss of the downgrade on: August 07, 2011, 10:45:00 AM

"But with respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19 years." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, 1789




========

I just can't imagine why , , ,

http://www.youtube.com/embed/VtVbUmcQSuk

=======================


US Debt: Moody’s AAA / S&P AA+
 
 
Moody’s reaffirmed its AAA-rating on US government debt last week, while Standard & Poor’s lowered it a notch to AA+.  The US now has a split rating from the largest agencies.  The bond market, even though it is not open right now, was well aware that a downgrade was possible, but will still lend 10-year money to the US government under 2.6%.  In fact, after the US was put on credit watch by S&P in mid-July, US yields fell, they did not rise.  

Ten-year interest rates, on Friday, were lower in the US than in Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, or Norway – all AAA-rated countries.  In other words, S&P is leading the markets here, not following, as it normally does.  For example, it did not lower its AAA rating on low-income, low credit score, no-doc, no-down-payment loans to homebuyers until the market crashed and became absolutely illiquid.

This downgrade of the US was based, not on an ability to pay bond-holders, but in consideration of the political turmoil the US has just gone through (over the debt deal) and the potential for more political turmoil in the months and years ahead.  None of this is new to the market and the US is still the world’s reserve currency, which means actual default is virtually impossible.

The Federal Reserve has said that the downgrade by S&P has absolutely no impact for risk-based capital ratios.  The Fed will still apply a 0% risk-weighted capital requirement on Treasury debt.  Some investors (funds, plans, or other investment vehicles) could be forced to alter their portfolios because of investment guidelines.  However, most investment committees knew this downgrade could happen and also have the flexibility to change these guidelines relatively easily.  In other words, forced selling (or buying) of Treasury, or other, types of debt will likely be benign.  S&P left the short-term debt rating at A-1+, its highest, which means money market funds will not be affected.  We do not look for any kind of major market disturbance.

The equity markets had a rough week and could still be jittery on Sunday night and Monday morning.  Short-sellers will likely try to take advantage of this event.  However, the S&P downgrade alters nothing about the economy or corporate profitability in the short, medium or even long- term.  We still hold to our comments from last week that the markets are over-reacting to fears about the economy, the debt deal, or European financial issues.  (Link)

In the end, while we agree with S&P’s sentiment about the direction of US spending patterns, we do not agree with the S&P downgrade.  We believe that S&P is entirely too pessimistic about the ability of the US to pay its debts and solve its problems.  History shows that this country has found a way to alter course before problems became a full-blown crisis.  In fact, the US economy was in much worse shape during the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Elections of the early 1980s changed the country’s course then, and a boom of unprecedented magnitude ensued.

If this move by S&P helps the US get more serious about cutting spending, then it will have been a very positive development.  If it influences the political environment by pushing the US to a more conservative set of fiscal values it will be even more positive than that.  There is a titanic battle of economic and political philosophy taking place in the US today.  S&P wants to be a player in this battle, but in the end it will have a relatively minor role.
 
24021  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: August 07, 2011, 12:29:14 AM
Back in LA.  Will need a few days to settle in and start working on backlog.
24022  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 05, 2011, 11:58:41 PM
Grateful for a good day with a good friend and to have met some of his family.
24023  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: August 05, 2011, 11:53:05 PM
Remember the Dog Brother Parable of the Cherry cheesy
24024  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: August 05, 2011, 11:16:50 PM
The logic is impeccable cheesy
24025  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Fragmentacion de los narcos on: August 05, 2011, 10:57:25 PM

http://insightcrime.org/insight-latest-news/item/1359-mexico-upstart-gangs-eat-into-cartel-hegemony

87621
24026  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: August 05, 2011, 10:55:33 PM
I'm not really comfortable with that last line at all.

As I have previously posted, the alleged Medicare cuts are in payments to providers, not beneficiaries and as such are a scam for the reasons I discussed at the time, while the cuts to the military will be real and vast.  My prediction:  The Reps will fold again, agreeing to raise tax rates in order to defend the military and achieve the psuedo-cuts to Medicare.  I find little reason to assume that tax rate increases will actually increase revenues and may well serve to depress economic activity further, thus setting off a vicious spiral of higher govt costs (e.g. food stamps, welfare, unemployment, etc) and lower revenues due to declining economic activity.
24027  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fragmentation on: August 05, 2011, 10:47:32 PM
http://insightcrime.org/insight-latest-news/item/1359-mexico-upstart-gangs-eat-into-cartel-hegemony
24028  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: August 05, 2011, 09:15:51 PM
GM:  You would have been one hellacious law school professor when it came to devising questions for exams!
24029  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Tao of Sex on: August 05, 2011, 09:13:29 PM
Agreed 100%.  So, how to apply that to the question presented? i.e. What to do in the interregnum between puberty and marriage?  Celibacy?  Or?
24030  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A Blast from the Past on: August 05, 2011, 06:17:20 PM
The Days Before A Fight
February 13, 2009 By admin Leave a Comment
written by Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny

The days before the fight are always a powerful crucible. I have a non-martial art teacher who when someone seeks to leave a situation that makes them uncomfortable says, “Whatever you do, keep on being here in this moment.” I may not have the quote exactly right, but I hope I have the gist of it.

Scientist Konrad Lorenz’s book “Behind the Mirror” addresses the evolutionary biology of consciousness. There is a passage in the book wherein he describes how a cat at play will seamlessly string together unrelated behaviors/movements from stalking prey, fighting a rival, bluffing a predator, courtship, killing prey etc. He then points out that the instant that the cat is stressed (e.g. the appearance of a rival) this ability disappears.

Many martial arts discuss how there are different mindsets/qualities with which one can defend/fight. Often the names are a bit poetic; Fire, Water, Wind, Rock, Earth, etc. but the point is made that the more realized the fighter is, the better his ability to fluidly shift between them. In the intense adrenal state of a fight, this can be a very good trick to actually do, yet as Lorenz’s point about the cat makes clear, the state of Play is the state where this happens best. (“What Is Play?” in evolutionary biological terms is an interesting question in its own right.) Thus, the best fight is where the fight is play. Thus in Dog Brothers Martial Arts we say

“Do not have a Way as you Play. Fight the Way you Play. Let your Fight be Play” (c)

The Learning that takes place in the adrenal state is some of the deepest and highest that there is. (The adrenal state of course can be triggered by many things, not only immediate physical danger; criticism by loved ones, humiliation, etc etc.) The greater the adrenal state, the profounder the Learning. The greater the state of Play, the better the result. The more that one can move in both directions simultaneously, the better. “The greater the dichotomy, the profounder the transformation. Higher consciousness through harder contact.” (c)

Woof!
Guro Crafty
24031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Tao of Sex on: August 05, 2011, 05:49:50 PM
Some worthy targets for our sarcasm there, but lets return to the question presented in terms of our own culture, yes?
24032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: August 05, 2011, 02:50:44 PM
Sounds like American civilational confidence to me grin, not brutal ruthlessness of the sort by Chinese in the article that you posted.   

Anyway, I'm tired of going round the mulberry bush on this one.  I think my point has been made and so move on.
24033  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 05, 2011, 02:48:27 PM
Gerrymandering has quite a bit to do with re-election rates. 

If we are going to continue this, lets take it to the election thread
24034  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NJ's Christie on: August 05, 2011, 02:44:23 PM
A hyperventilating tone here, but interesting nonetheless:

http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2011/08/chris-christie-backs-hamas-linked-judge-pick-blasts-crazies-after-appointing-muslim-judge-the-sharia.html

24035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 05, 2011, 01:08:19 PM
What poll is that?  I've seen that Baraq has dropped from 48 to 40% in the last few months , , ,  I'd also be curious to cross check the data from other polls regarding the Tea Party
24036  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: August 05, 2011, 12:50:39 PM
IMHO the matter of people getting kicked out of their insurance due e.g. to a job loss and while having what then becomes a pre-existing condition is a genuine problem. 

If we could REPLACE what we have now with a simple base plan that would then put this whole matter to rest, off the top of my head that would be a reasonable compromise.  The problem is that with progressives if you give an inch they come back looking for a mile see e.g. "Don't ask, don't tell" or "civil unions".
24037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Tao of Sex on: August 05, 2011, 12:45:31 PM
"he thought it was important to marry kids quickly, by 18 or 19. He thought it was a failing of western culture that people think you have to build your fortune before you are married - that you should build it together."

That is not a stupid thought-- though it presents questions about choosing unwisely and either having to live with it or divorce (which I gather can be rather easy for the man to do in Islam) or in the case of Islam, marry an additional wife or three.


24038  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Tao of Sex on: August 05, 2011, 11:55:32 AM
Although I think the preceding piece makes a fair and profound point, it also misses another point, equally fair and profound:

The human animal hits puberty at an increasingly early age.  I lack the knowledge to say precisely what the average age is, but for the purpose of this conversation lets start by saying 14.   So, if someone waits to marry until after college and establishing a career, they can easily be looking at 10 years or considerably more before marrying and having children.   Is it realistic, is it healthy to go for over ten years without sex?
24039  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Bull or Bullish-2 on: August 05, 2011, 11:47:54 AM
Data Watch



Non-farm payrolls increased 117,000 in July and revisions to May/June added 56,000
To view this article, Click Here

Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
 Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist

Date: 8/5/2011






Non-farm payrolls increased 117,000 in July and revisions to May/June added 56,000,
generating a net gain of 173,000, more than doubling the consensus expected gain of
85,000.

Private sector payrolls increased 154,000 in July. Revisions to May/June added
49,000, bringing the net gain to 203,000.  July gains were led by professional &
business services (+34,000), health care (+31,000), retail (+26,000) and
manufacturing (+24,000). Government payrolls declined 37,000.

The unemployment rate declined to 9.1% in July (9.092% unrounded) from 9.2% in June
(9.182% unrounded).

Average weekly earnings – cash earnings, excluding benefits – increased
0.4% in July and are up 2.6% versus a year ago.

Implications:  Private-sector payrolls rebounded sharply in today’s report,
rising 203,000 including upward revisions to May and June. Part of the rebound is
due to the auto sector, with jobs at automakers and autos/parts sellers increasing
17,000 in July. Hiring was solid elsewhere in the manufacturing sector, and at
retailers, and private health companies. In the past year private payrolls have
increased 150,000 per month. We think this trend will accelerate in the second half
as the economy recovers from Japan-related disruptions. Another strong part of
today’s report was that average hourly wages increased 0.4% in July and are up
at a 3.5% annual rate in the past three months. Some short-sellers may focus on the
fact that payrolls declined 1.23 million when not seasonally-adjusted. But
that’s a highly misleading number. The drop is almost all due to state/local
public school teachers, which fell 1.26 million. Not seasonally-adjusted
private-sector payrolls fell only 4,000, which for July is stronger than in nine of
the past eleven years. The only legitimately negative part of today’s report
was that household employment, an alternative measure of jobs, declined 38,000 and
is up only 63,000 per month in the past year. Usually this measure of jobs leads
payrolls in recoveries. It may be lagging this time as smaller firms are more likely
to remain credit constrained than their larger counterparts. In other recent news,
new claims for unemployment benefits dipped 1,000 last week to 400,000. The
four-week moving average fell to 408,000 versus 440,000 in May. Continuing claims
for regular state benefits increased 10,000 to 3.73 million.
24040  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Tao of Sex on: August 05, 2011, 05:18:33 AM
I kick this thread off with an essay that expresses values that I most certainly did not live as a single man and as a single man I would have laughed at it, but the older I get , , ,
====================

Body language
The body has a language of its own, and the sexual revolution is founded upon a lie.


Recently in Public Discourse, I challenged readers to defend the sexual revolution on the grounds that it has conduced to the common good. No one took up that challenge. It would be, I suppose, rather like asking someone to defend the forced collectivization of farms in the Ukraine, while speaking to ten thousand people in Kiev. It is not going to happen.

Still, I might have given the impression that the sexual revolution is to be rejected on utilitarian grounds. Since I believe that utilitarianism is a serpent that consumes itself—that it is a disutility to believe in it—I’d like now to base my opposition on something far more fundamental than, say, the harm of wrecked families and bursting prisons. The sexual revolution is a house built upon sand. It is founded upon a lie.

Let us consider the one form of sexual behavior that almost nobody defended before the sexual revolution, and that almost nobody opposes now: fornication. A few pastors may take the sin seriously, but mostly we all shrug and say, “Everyone’s going to do it, so there’s no sense making a fuss over it.” And yet what we are talking about is deeply destructive, because it is fundamentally mendacious. When we lie, we harm not only those we deceive. We harm ourselves. If we continue in this deception, we become hardened liars, in the end perhaps deceiving no one but ourselves. The thief knows he is stealing. The liar ceases to know that he is lying, and is trapped in the emptiness of unmeaning. The thief crucified at the side of Jesus knew he was a thief, and repented. The liars walking freely below no longer recognized their lies, and did not repent.

How is fornication a lie? The body has a language of its own. Although in one culture to nod means “no” while in another it means “yes,” the meanings we express with our bodies are not entirely arbitrary—indeed, are in some ways not arbitrary at all. The smile, the laugh, the embrace, the bow, the kiss, are universal. When Judas approached Jesus, that he kissed Him made his treachery all the more despicable; it was a betrayal, sealed with a sign of intimate friendship. When the boys in Huckleberry Finn prick their fingers to mingle blood with blood, we know they are engaging in a boyish but also solemn ritual of kinship. If a certain boy—say, Tom Sawyer’s sissified brother Sid—were to engage in it while withholding his allegiance, thinking, “This is an interesting thing to do for now, and we’ll see where it leads,” he would be making a mockery of the rite. He would be lying.

I know someone who at age nineteen was deeply lonely. He had always been awkward around girls, and unsure of his body. During his first year away at college, he fell in love with a beautiful young woman. She had been raised without any religious faith, and without any sexual scruples. He lost his virginity then. He knew, in the back of his mind, that he and she could not possibly raise any child that might be conceived; and he was too intelligent to believe that contraception could be entirely reliable. He also knew, again in the back of his mind, that he wanted to marry her, but that she probably would not want to marry him. He knew that his parents would not approve of what he was doing. Yet it felt good, and for a time he was not lonely, or at least he did not feel his loneliness so keenly.

What the naked body “says” when man and woman expose themselves to one another, not as patients to a doctor but as lovers, can be paraphrased thus: “This is all of me. I am entirely yours. I am giving you what is most intimately mine. You are seeing me, and touching me, as no one else now can. I love you.” Then the act of intercourse itself, the marital act—what does it say? What must it say, whether we will or no?

This is the act that spans the generations. The man gives of himself, something of his inmost being, the very blood that courses in his veins, from his father and mother and their parents before them. The woman receives that gift, taking it into herself, to be united with her own blood, from her father and mother and their parents in turn. It is nonsense to pretend otherwise. Indeed, the man and the woman who are fornicating while taking contraceptive steps know quite well that they are doing what brought themselves into being, because otherwise they would not strap on the barrier or swallow the pill. They are attempting to reduce an act that is transtemporal to something pleasurable for the moment.

And yet, somehow, they cannot even persuade themselves. I recall, at one of those useless meetings that my alma mater held for freshmen, we were supposed to discuss the morality of sex. There wasn’t much discussion, and there wasn’t much morality. The students concluded that as long as the sex wasn’t “mechanical,” that is, as long as it involved some real feeling, it was all right. Then one granny-glassed bearded freshman spoke up. “I don’t see anything wrong with mechanical sex,” he said. “It can be fun for both parties.” People looked at him with disapproval, but no one had anything to say, and the meeting ended.

Well, machines do not have sexual intercourse. Even the cool, abstracted actions the young man recommended could not be engaged in coolly and abstractedly. One must feign passion, even if one does not feel it. One must pretend to be making love, not like. One must appear at least to be giving all. One must be nude, even if not naked—unclothed, even while burying one’s intentions and feelings under a mountain of blankets, along with the meaning of the act, which is not simply dependent upon intentions and feelings in any case.

It will not do to say, “As long as people are honest with one another, fornication is all right.” The point is that they cannot be honest with one another in that situation. The supposed honesty of detachment, or deferral, or temporizing, or mutual hedonism, only embroils them in a deeper lie. The body in the act of generation says, whether we like it or not, “I am reaching out to the future, to a time when there will be no turning back.” The body, naked to behold in love, says, “There is nothing of mine that I do not offer as yours. We complete one another, man and woman.” Such affirmations transcend the division between the private and the public. They are therefore only made in honesty by people who are married—who have acknowledged publicly that they belong forever to one another and to the children they may conceive by the marital act.

No one but a sadist could say, “I feel no love for you, but am using your body as a convenient receptacle, for the sake of the pleasure. Afterwards I dearly hope you will not trouble me with your continued presence.” Is that too strong? What about this? “I like you very much, and yet I have no intention of spending the rest of my life with you, or even the rest of this year.” Or this? “Let’s pretend we are married, but let’s not actually get married, because I might change my mind about you.” Or this? “I am bored, and you are here.” Or this? “You are very good looking, and we will get married, maybe, someday, not too soon, and if we do conceive a child, we’ll deal with it then, I don’t know how.” Or this? “I don’t love you, but maybe if we do this a few times I can fool myself into thinking so.” Or this? “I want to love you, but I know you are too selfish to love me in return, or I’m not worthy of your attention, so I’ll do what you like, and hope.” Or this? “I am drunk, so nothing of what I do or say means anything.”

We do not say these things aloud, because to be candid in this way is to admit deception. It is to admit not that we think highly of sexual intercourse, but that we think little of it. It becomes trivial to us, though we dare not say so. What happens, then, to people who make a practice of lying to the people they are lying intimately with? We do not feel pity for those we deceive. We feel contempt. Our hearts are hardened. We look upon the frequent results of the fornicative lie—a passionate attachment to ourselves on the part of the deceived, or children—as affronts to our freedom. We resent them. After years of deceiving and being deceived, we conclude that people are not to be trusted; we become not prudent but circumspect, not wise but cynical, not strong but callous.

“If you’re not with the one you love,” they sang at Woodstock, cheering the evil of fornication, “love the one you’re with.” A lie on both ends, that, and cold to the core.

Anthony Esolen is Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Ironies of Faith. He has translated Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata and Dante’s The Divine Comedy. This article was first published in Public Discourse and is reproduced with permission.

Copyright 2011 the Witherspoon Institute. All rights reserved.
24041  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: August 05, 2011, 04:34:13 AM
10-4.
24042  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education/Parenting on: August 05, 2011, 04:33:12 AM
Forward  smiley
24043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pakistan's conundrum with the Taliban negotiations on: August 05, 2011, 04:31:52 AM


---------------------------
August 5, 2011


PAKISTAN'S CONUNDRUM WITH THE TALIBAN NEGOTIATIONS

On Wednesday, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman
said a political settlement in Afghanistan was not possible without assistance from
Pakistan. Separately, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Javid Ludin said Kabul wanted
Islamabad to bring the senior leadership of the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating
table. Both statements were made in Islamabad on the sidelines of a meeting of the
three countries.

These remarks represent the first time that either Washington or Kabul has openly
and directly sought Pakistani help in the efforts to negotiate with the Afghan
jihadist movement. Thus far, the Americans and Afghans have only demanded that the
Pakistanis crack down on Afghan Taliban operating in their territory. Pakistan has
long awaited the time when the U.S. government would engage in this policy shift.

"Any American search for Pakistani involvement in the Afghan reconciliation efforts
cannot be separated from this wider atmosphere of tensions."

 
From Islamabad's point of view, it made no sense for the Americans to keep pressing
Pakistan to use force against the Taliban when the Americans themselves would
eventually have to seek a political settlement. The Pakistanis have questioned why
they should have to fight the Afghan Taliban and lose their leverage over the
Islamist insurgents, especially while Islamabad fights its own Taliban rebels.
Therefore, Pakistan is likely pleased that the Americans have finally sought its
involvement in efforts to talk to the Afghan Taliban.
 
Islamabad, however, cannot be completely confident that things are moving in its
preferred direction. The United States seeks Pakistani assistance in the
reconciliation efforts toward the Taliban at a time when the American-Pakistani
relationship is mired in unprecedented tensions. The U.S. drive toward unilateral
military and intelligence capabilities in Pakistan has fostered mutual mistrust and
animosity.
 
Any American search for Pakistani involvement in the Afghan reconciliation efforts
cannot be separated from this wider atmosphere of tensions. While Washington may
have decided to involve Islamabad in the Afghan political settlement process, there
remains a disagreement over the definition of who among the Taliban is capable of
reconciliation. Though Kabul has asked Pakistan to encourage top Taliban leaders
toward the bargaining table, it is unlikely that the likes of Taliban chief Mullah
Mohammad Omar or the most prominent regional Taliban commander, Sirajuddin Haqqani
(both have enjoyed complex relations with al Qaeda), will be acceptable to
Washington as negotiating partners.
 
Also, the degree of influence Pakistan holds over senior Afghan Taliban leaders is
questionable. Over the past decade, the fragmentation and metamorphosis of the
Taliban phenomenon on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border have led to a waning
of Pakistani influence over the Pashtun jihadist landscape. The insurgency inside
Pakistan has weakened Islamabad's position; it remains to be seen to what degree
Islamabad can deliver vis-à-vis the Afghan Taliban.
 
This waning could explain why the Pakistanis have openly said that they do not seek
a Taliban comeback in Afghanistan and Islamabad. Islamabad has been trying to
diversify its sphere of influence in its western neighbor, working to improve its
relationship with the regime of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. With relations with
Kabul still uncertain and Pashtun influence perhaps softening, Pakistan may find it
difficult to nudge the Taliban toward a power-sharing deal with the Karzai regime.

The United States appears to have finally moved toward involving Pakistan in its
talks with the Taliban. However, it will be awhile before the appropriate conditions
(in which substantive talks could take place) can be created.
24044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: August 05, 2011, 04:30:46 AM
So, you are advocating brutal ruthlessness within the US?
24045  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article on: August 05, 2011, 04:20:38 AM
 cool
24046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: August 04, 2011, 08:07:15 PM


"Still remaining is that somehow you continuously give the impression to people of above average IQ, above average education, above average reading skills, and greatly overlapping POVs that you are advocating that we do things in the US the Chinese way or some analog thereof.  Why is that?"
24047  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury does not flinch on: August 04, 2011, 07:02:34 PM
Research Reports
           
           
            Dow Down 500, But Fundamentals Still Strong To view this article, Click
Here
           

            Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist

            Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist

            Date: 8/4/2011
             
            Major stock market indices are down 4-5% today as investors move into
panic mode.  There is no single piece of news driving the sell-off;
rather the market seems to be gathering downward momentum on its own.
Selling is creating more selling.
             
            Like 1987, the sell-off does not appear to be driven by fundamental
factors.  In fact, the fundamentals suggest the market is undervalued
and getting more so as it drops.  Many investors assume (or wonder) if
the sell-off is indicating deep economic problems.  However, there is no
evidence that this is true.
             
            The Federal Reserve is still running a very accommodative monetary
policy.  Money supply data shows no contraction – M1 is up 13.8%
and M2 is up 8.3% at an annual rate over the past thirteen weeks.  The
Fed is holding the funds rate near zero, while nominal GDP is rising
near a 4% annual rate recently and “core” inflation is at
3%.  In other words, interest rates are very low in comparison.
             
            If you are worried about a cut in government spending –
don’t be.  Federal spending in 2011 is still rising and according
to the OMB and CBO it will rise each and every year over the next 10
years.  If you are worried about the size of government and think the
budget deal was terrible – you shouldn’t.  Supertanker
America is turning and government spending as a share of GDP is
scheduled to fall by about 2% of GDP over the next 10 years.
             
            Corporate earnings are rising rapidly.  According to Bob Carey, First
Trust’s Chief Investment Officer, with about 80 companies left to
report, S&P 500 earnings are up 20% over last year and the S&P
500 P-E ratio (on forward earnings) is roughly 12.  The market is cheap.
             
            Economic data are not tanking.   Initial claims are at 400,000 (down
from 478,000 at the end of April).  Car and truck sales were up 6.9% in
July (over June) and chain-store retail sales were up 4.6% in July (from
last year) versus 2.8% year-over-year growth in July 2010.  Taken
together, retail sales appear to have increased by about 0.7% in July
even though gasoline prices fell.
             
            Yes, the ISM manufacturing index was just 50.9 in July, but that is the
24th consecutive month above 50 and is consistent with 2% or more real
GDP growth.  Finally, the ADP employment report showed 114,000 new
private sector jobs in July, which was the 18th consecutive monthly
gain.  In other words, there is absolutely no evidence of a recession at
this point.
             
            This leaves us at perhaps the best explanation for the decline: European
debt problems, specifically Italy.  It is clear that hot money is moving
as investors worry about money market funds and bank solvency.  The euro
is falling, European bond yields are rising, US Treasury yields are
plummeting and gold is up.  Italy says that it does not face imminent
default, but the market acts as if it may.
             
            European countries have spent themselves into a corner, but correcting
this mistake will be good for long-term growth, not bad.  While some
financial institutions may take losses, government debt itself is water
under the bridge.  It’s a sunk cost.  As a result, it has little
effect on the economy unless losses create financial contagion.  With
mark-to-market accounting now fixed to allow cash flow to be used to
value assets, the odds of contagion are minimized and the cost of
immunizing America from contagion would be small when compared to 2008.
             
            In the end, the sell-off looks as if it is more of a technical
correction in the market, not a fundamental change in direction.  This
does not mean that it will end soon.  Corrections run their course and
then end.  We wish we could trade each and every move in the market, but
we can’t and we don’t know anyone who can.  We are
investors, and the market is more undervalued right now than it was when
it opened for trading this morning.
             
24048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, et al, cf Yemen) on: August 04, 2011, 06:46:05 PM
 cry cry cry


With the world in such good and stable shape I guess we can cut the US military $500b rolleyes
24049  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: August 04, 2011, 06:43:44 PM
"I take that as a badge of honor."

It is.  cheesy

Now please deal the the question presented without asking questions.  grin
24050  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: August 04, 2011, 06:41:38 PM
As if that weren't enough, I saw a WSJ editorial today which explained that the purported Medicare cuts that will be paired with the $500B cuts of the US military in the event that the SuperCommittee does not come up with something passed by Congress and signed by Baraq will be in purported payments to PROVIDERS, NOT BENEFITS.  i.e. the law of supply and demand will be repealed and the health care system will be commanded to offer the same level of service for less money.  This is regularly done, AND UNDONE already.  (Perhaps our docs here can help flesh this out?) Bottom line:

a) BO gets past the 2012 election
b) the Bush tax rates will expire (as best as I can tell) but this will not be called a tax increase
c) Medicare will not be cut
d) the Reps will have to allow additional tax increases or allow the military to be decimated

We are so fuct  cry angry
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