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24051  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: May Retail Sales on: June 14, 2011, 11:50:46 AM
Retail sales declined 0.2% in May To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 6/14/2011

Retail sales declined 0.2% in May (-0.6% including downward revisions to March/April). The consensus had expected a drop of 0.5%. Retail sales are up 7.7% versus a year ago.

Sales excluding autos were up 0.3% in May (0.2% including revisions to March/April). The consensus expected a gain of 0.2%. Retail sales ex-autos are up 8.2% in the past year.
The drop in retail sales for May was led by autos, which fell 2.9%. The largest move outside the auto sector was an upswing in non-store retailers (mail order and internet).   
Sales excluding autos, building materials, and gas increased 0.2% in May and were up 0.4% including revisions for March/April. These sales are up 6.1% versus last year. This calculation is important for estimating GDP.
Implications:  Despite dire headlines and political rhetoric, the US is nowhere near a double-dip recession. While overall retail sales dipped 0.2% in May, this reflects what we already knew, which is that supply-chain disruptions due to Japan’s disasters have temporarily reduced auto sales. Excluding autos, sales came in very close to consensus expectations. In the past year, total retail sales are up 7.7% and sales excluding autos are up 8.2%. Once the supply-chain issues are resolved, within the next month or so, auto sales will pick up again. The details of the report show strength. “Core” sales (which exclude autos, building materials, and gas) were up a solid 0.4% including upward revisions to prior months.  Even if these sales are unchanged for the rest of the second quarter they will still be up at a 5% annual rate in Q2. Factoring-in services as well as inflation, real consumer spending will probably be up at a 2% to 2.5% annual rate in Q2. Consumer spending continues to rise for two key reasons. First, earnings are growing due to more jobs, more wages per hour, and more hours per worker. Second, consumers’ financial obligations (debt service plus other recurring payments like rent, car leases, homeowners’ insurance, and property taxes) are now the smallest share of disposable income since 1995. Add on top of that a recovery in the auto sector as Japan heals, and the future looks bright for retail sales.
24052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat security report on: June 14, 2011, 11:47:39 AM

Money-Laundering Targets

Another significant facet of Monterrey’s strategic value to the cartels made the news May 25 when four casinos were robbed. Heavily armed gunmen reportedly emptied out the cashier cages at Casino Hollywood, Casino Royale, Casino Red and Casino Miravalle Palace, all in the same general area between Monterrey proper and the westside city of San Pedro Garza Garcia.

Los Zetas are currently fighting with the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels for Monterrey. The Zetas hold the city, but the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels want to take it because it sits astride intersecting smuggling corridors for drug and human trafficking. But that is only part of the story. The greater Monterrey area has about three dozen casinos, most of the more than 40 casinos in northeast Mexico. To an extent that no other business sector can be, large casino operations are essential to laundering the billions of dollars generated by Mexico’s cartels. Clearly, the tit-for-tat operations in which Gulf and Zetas elements target each other’s vital support networks appear to have been elevated to a higher level with bigger stakes.

Mexican media have indicated that “millions” were taken in the heists, but no source has quantified how much money was taken or whether the currency was in pesos or U.S. dollars. Furthermore, the reports have offered confusing or conflicting information about the order in which the heists occurred, so much so that a sequence may not be easily determined. In this situation, however, such tactical details are less important than the larger implications of the apparently well-coordinated heists.

Last January, the Casino Royale was the scene of an apparent effort to eliminate two high-profile members of the Juarez cartel who were gambling in the casino. Gunmen entered the establishment and started firing hundreds of rounds, but the reported targets got away — and later were apprehended by authorities. Almost as an afterthought, one online report mentioned in its last sentence that “in the confusion” the casino’s cashier cage was robbed and all of the casino’s security-camera tapes disappeared. STRATFOR has found no direct link in the media between the January shooting-robbery and the May robbery at Casino Royale. But we find the events more than coincidental. In all likelihood, the first heist in January was a test run for the coordinated multi-casino robberies conducted May 25.

Certainly, U.S. interdiction efforts have put a financial strain on all of the Mexican cartels, making casino robberies a tempting proposition, but the successful theft of millions of dollars or pesos may only have been a bonus on top of the larger reward of hitting a rival cartel at a vulnerable spot: its money-laundering operations.

Two years ago, Monterrey was something of a neutral zone where all top cartel families made use of the affluent stability and superior schools and medical care. In late January 2010, however, Los Zetas started consolidating their hold on the city after declaring open war on their former parent organization, the Gulf cartel. Last summer, after taking losses on the border at Reynosa and Matamoros, Los Zetas retreated to Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey. In Monterrey, the Zetas forces were entrenched for about two weeks when Hurricane Alex roared into the Rio Grande Valley and catastrophic flooding demolished huge sections of the city’s transportation arteries — effectively pulling up the drawbridge behind the Zetas.

Despite the heavy Zetas presence, Monterrey’s longer history as relatively neutral ground means that the casinos robbed May 25 were likely laundering funds for any number of drug trafficking organizations. The Zetas’ control of the Monterrey metropolitan area does not equate to exclusive use of its black market infrastructure, and dozens of large casinos have far more strategic worth as money-laundering operations than they do as extortion targets.

On the Quiet Coahuila Front

With the exception of Torreon and Saltillo, Coahuila state has been fairly quiet in Mexico’s cartel wars. The state is sparsely populated, lacks high-volume interstate highway arteries and remains largely undisputed Los Zetas territory. But several recent events along with an increasing Mexican military presence could point to a coming change in Coahuila’s security conditions.

According to official government news releases and confirmed by STRATFOR sources in the region, there has been a gradual increase in the deployment of military assets to Coahuila and in military activities in 2011. Mexican marines seized just over a ton of cocaine at a ranch northwest of Monclova on May 24. Then on June 1, Mexican army personnel found 38 narcofosas, or hidden graves, in the village of Guerrero, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Piedras Negras. It is not yet clear how many victims were disposed of at the Guerrero site — the meter-deep pits contained thousands of bits of charred human bones, metal buckles, buttons, and other personal items, and three 55-gallon drums also were found in which human bodies had been cremated. Also on June 1, the Mexican military uncovered a large cache of firearms and munitions on a farm in Nadadores, including 161 weapons and 92,039 rounds of ammunition of various calibers.

By no means are these recent events in Coahuila unique for Mexico, but the increase in military personnel and operations in the sparsely populated state is notable. As that military presence grows, STRATFOR expects significant clashes between Los Zetas and Mexican troops over the next few months. In Mexico, cartels have demonstrated that they will absorb a low level of losses as “the cost of doing business.” However, losses can reach a point where they are no longer acceptable to an organization, and violent countermeasures tend to result. In the quieter areas of Coahuila, particularly in the western and northern parts of the state where the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have not bothered to contest Zetas control, Los Zetas may soon respond to the Mexican government’s inroads with direct and violent action against the military.

(click here to view interactive map)

May 31

Unidentified people asphyxiated a man and abandoned his body in a vacant lot near the Francisco Madero avenue in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The victim was tortured and beaten before being killed.
Soldiers arrested four men in Acapulco, Guerrero state, for transporting a dismembered body in the trunk of a car. A fifth suspect managed to escape. The men had been stopped at a military roadblock but attempted to flee and crashed into another car.

June 1

Unidentified gunmen in the Dale neighborhood of Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, shot and killed Fernando Oropeza, the former deputy director of a low-risk prison. Oropeza had resigned from his post after a clandestine bar was discovered at the prison.
Two people were killed and one was injured in a firefight between suspected members of drug trafficking gangs in the Region 233 neighborhood of Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The incident reportedly began when six members of a criminal gang arrived at a food vendor’s stall and opened fire on several members of a rival group identified only as “LGD.”
Relatives of journalist Noel Lopez identified his body among those found in a mass grave in Chinameca, Veracruz state. Lopez had last been seen headed to Soteapan on March 8.

June 2

Unidentified gunmen in the Jardines de Oriente neighborhood of Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, opened fire on a municipal police vehicle, killing a police officer.
Federal police officers arrested Candido Ramos Perez, the suspected head for Cartel Pacifico Sur of the Cuernavaca “plaza” in Morelos state, during vehicle inspections on the Cuernavaca-Mexico City highway near the southern boundary of the Federal District. A suspected cartel lookout riding in Ramos Perez’s vehicle also was arrested.

June 3

Military authorities announced the seizure of 161 firearms and 92,039 rounds of ammunition reportedly belonging to Los Zetas in the municipality of Nadadores, Coahuila state.
Security guards at the Sinaloa state government palace in Culiacan discovered a severed head and hands on the building’s exterior stairs. A preliminary report stated that the victim could be a state police officer.
The Mexican prosecutor general’s office announced the seizure of two large containers holding 80 barrels of monomethylamine, a precursor used to manufacture chemical drugs, at container-ship facilities in Manzanillo, Colima state. Another 80 barrels were seized from a separate ship, bringing the total amount of precursors seized to 34,848 kilograms.

June 4

Soldiers arrested Jorge Hank Rhon, a former mayor of Tijuana, Baja California state, during a raid in response to a citizen complaint. Approximately 50 firearms were seized from Rhon’s house.
Federal police announced the arrest of Victor Manuel Perez Izquierdo, the head of Los Zetas in Quintana Roo state, during an operation in Cancun. Ten other members of Los Zetas were arrested along with Perez Izquierdo. Authorities said the operation resulted from the arrests of 10 Zetas in Cancun on May 28.

June 5

Military authorities announced the seizure of four armored vehicles and 23 tractor-trailers during raids on vehicle workshops in Reynosa and Camargo, Tamaulipas state.
Unidentified gunmen shot and killed the municipal police commander of Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, in the San Angel neighborhood as he headed to his house.
Police in the Mitras Norte neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, discovered the bodies of two men hanging from a pedestrian bridge. Signs bearing undisclosed messages to members of a criminal group were found near the bodies.
Unidentified people abandoned a taxi with a dismembered body outside a police station in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state. A message found in the vehicle included a threat to the mayor of Guadalupe, warning that she would be next.

Read more: Mexico Security Memo: Casino Attacks in Monterrey | STRATFOR
24053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: May PPI on: June 14, 2011, 11:05:10 AM
Data Watch

The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.2% in May To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 6/14/2011

The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.2% in May, higher than the consensus expected rise of 0.1%. Producer prices are up 7.3% versus a year ago.

The May gain in the PPI was led by energy, which increased 1.5%. Food prices fell 1.4%. The “core” PPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.2%, matching consensus expectations.

Consumer goods prices rose 0.2% in May and are up 9.4% versus last year. Capital equipment prices were up 0.2% in May and are up 1.3% in the past year.

Core intermediate goods prices increased 0.9% in May and are up 6.3% versus a year ago. Core crude prices fell 0.9% in May but are up 19.0% in the past twelve months.

Implications:  Producer prices continued to move higher in May, outpacing consensus expectations, and are up 7.3% in the past year. Most of the gain in May was due to energy, but core prices (which exclude food and energy) are up at a 3.5% annual rate in the past six months. Further up the production pipeline, core intermediate prices increased 0.9% in May and are up 6.3% versus a year ago. Core crude prices, despite slipping in May, are up 19% in the past year. So while the Federal Reserve can still claim core inflation is low for consumers, core producer prices are accelerating.  Based on these inflation signals and the current state of the economy, the Fed’s monetary policy is way too loose. With oil prices so volatile, producer prices are going to be volatile as well. However, we anticipate that the underlying trend in producer price inflation will remain too high. In other recent inflation news, trade prices continue to escalate.  Import prices increased 0.2% in May and are up 12.5% versus a year ago.  Excluding oil, import prices increased 0.4% in May and are up 4.5% in the past year.  Export prices rose 0.2% in May and are up 9% versus a year ago.  Excluding farm products, export prices are up 7% in the past year. Like back in the early 2000s the Fed has been too loose for too long.

24054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Friedman ruminations on: June 14, 2011, 11:01:50 AM
Turkey's Elections and Strained U.S. Relations
June 14, 2011

By George Friedman

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won Parliamentary elections June 12, which means it will remain in power for a third term. The popular vote, divided among a number of parties, made the AKP the most popular party by far, although nearly half of the electorate voted for other parties, mainly the opposition and largely secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP). More important, the AKP failed to win a super-majority, which would have given it the power to unilaterally alter Turkey’s constitution. This was one of the major issues in the election, with the AKP hoping for the super-majority and others trying to block it. The failure of the AKP to achieve the super-majority leaves the status quo largely intact. While the AKP remains the most powerful party in Turkey, able to form governments without coalition partners, it cannot rewrite the constitution without accommodating its rivals.

One way to look at this is that Turkey continues to operate within a stable framework, one that has been in place for almost a decade. The AKP is the ruling party. The opposition is fragmented along ideological lines, which gives the not overwhelmingly popular AKP disproportionate power. The party can set policy within the constitution but not beyond the constitution. In this sense, the Turkish political system has produced a long-standing reality. Few other countries can point to such continuity of leadership. Obviously, since Turkey is a democracy, the rhetoric is usually heated and accusations often fly, ranging from imminent military coups to attempts to impose a religious dictatorship. There may be generals thinking of coups and there may be members of AKP thinking of religious dictatorship, but the political process has worked effectively to make such things hard to imagine. In Turkey, as in every democracy, the rhetoric and the reality must be carefully distinguished.

Turkey’s Shifting Policy

That said, the AKP has clearly taken Turkey in new directions in both domestic and foreign policy. In domestic policy, the direction is obvious. While the CHP has tried to vigorously contain religion within the private sphere, the AKP has sought to recognize Turkey’s Islamic culture and has sought a degree of integration with the political structure.

This has had two results. Domestically, while the AKP has had the strength to create a new political sensibility, it has not had the strength to create new institutions based on Islamic principles (assuming this is one of its desired goals). Nevertheless, the secularists, deriving their legitimacy from the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, have viewed his legacy and their secular rights — one of which is the right of women not to have to wear headscarves — as being under attack. Hence, the tenor of public discourse has been volatile. Indeed, there is a constant sense of crisis in Turkey, as the worst fears of the secularists collide with the ambitions of the AKP. Again, we regard these ambitions as modest, not because we know what AKP leaders intend in their heart, but simply because they lack the power to go further regardless of intentions.

The rise of the AKP and its domestic agenda has more than just domestic consequences. Since 2001, the United States has been fighting radical Islamists, and the fear of radical Islamism goes beyond the United States to Europe and other countries. In many ways, Turkey is both the most prosperous and most militarily powerful of any Muslim country. The idea that the AKP agenda is radically Islamist and that Turkey is moving toward radical Islamism generates anxieties and hostilities in the international system.

While the thought of a radical Islamist Turkey is frightening, and many take an odd pleasure in saying that Turkey has been “lost” to radical Islamism and should be ostracized, the reality is more complex. First, it is hard to ostracize a country that has the largest army in Europe as well as an economy that grew at 8.9 percent last year and that occupies some of the most strategic real estate in the world. If the worst case from the West’s point of view were true, ostracizing Turkey would be tough, making war on it even tougher, and coping with the consequences of an Islamist Turkey tougher still. If it is true that Turkey has been taken over by radical Islamists — something I personally do not believe — it would be a geopolitical catastrophe of the first order for the United States and its allies in the region. And since invading Turkey is not an option, the only choice would be accommodation. It is interesting to note that those who are most vociferous in writing Turkey off are also most opposed to accommodation. It is not clear what they propose, since their claim is both extreme and generated, for the most part, for rhetorical and not geopolitical reasons. The fear is real, and the threat may be there as well, but the solutions are not obvious.

Turkey’s Geopolitical Position

So I think it is useful to consider Turkey in a broader geopolitical context. It sits astride one of the most important waterways in the world, the Bosporus, connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. That alone made Ataturk’s desire for an inward Turkey not playing great power games difficult to attain. Given that it is part of the Caucasus, shares a border with Iran, borders the Arab world and is part of Europe, Turkey inevitably becomes part of other countries’ plans. For example, in World War II both powers wanted Turkey in the war on their side, particularly the Germans, who wanted Turkish pressure on the Baku oil fields.

After World War II, the Cold War drove Turkey toward the United States. Pressure in the Caucasus and the Soviet appetite for controlling the Bosporus, a historic goal of the Russians, gave Turkey common cause with the United States. The Americans did not want the Soviets to have free access to the Mediterranean, and the Turks did not want to lose the Bosporus or be dominated by the Soviets.

From the American point of view, a close U.S.-Turkish relationship came to be considered normal. But the end of the Cold War redefined many relationships, and in many cases, neither party was aware of the redefinition for quite some time. The foundation of the U.S.-Turkish alliance rested on the existence of a common enemy, the Soviets. Absent that enemy, the foundation disappeared, but in the 1990s there were no overriding pressures for either side to reconsider its position. Thus, the alliance remained intact simply because it was easier to maintain it than rethink it.

This was no longer the case after 2001, when the United States faced a new enemy, radical Islamism. At this point, the Turks were faced with a fundamental issue: the extent to which they would participate in the American war and the extent to which they would pull away. After 2001, the alliance stopped being without a cost.

The break point came in early 2003 with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which came after the AKP election victory in late 2002. The United States wanted to send a division into northern Iraq from southern Turkey, and the Turks blocked the move. This represented a critical break in two ways. First, it was the first time since World War II that the Turks had distanced themselves from an American crisis — and in this case, it was one in their very neighborhood. Second, it was a decision made by a government suspected by the United States of having sympathies for Islamists. The Turks did not break with the United States, eventually allowing U.S. air operations to continue from Turkey and participating in assistance programs in Afghanistan.

But for the United States, the decision on Iraq became a defining moment, when the United States realized that it could not take Turkish support for granted. The Turks, on the other hand, decided that the United States was taking actions that were not in their best interests. The relationship was not broken, but it did become strained.

Turkey was experiencing a similar estrangement from Europe. Since medieval times, Turkey has regarded itself as a European country, and in the contemporary era, it has sought membership in the European Union, a policy maintained by the AKP. At first, the European argument against Turkish membership focused on Turkey’s underdeveloped condition. However, for the last decade, Turkey has experienced dramatic economic growth, including after the global financial crisis in 2008. Indeed, its economic growth has outstripped that of most European countries. The argument of underdevelopment no longer holds.

Still, the European Union continues to block Turkish membership. The reason is simple: immigration. There was massive Turkish immigration to Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. Germany and France have significant social strains resulting from Muslim immigration, and allowing Turkey into the European Union would essentially open the borders. Now, a strong argument could be made that  EU membership would be disastrous for Turkey economically, but for Turkey it is not the membership that matters nearly as much as the rejection. The European rejection of Turkey over the immigration issue alienates Turkey from the Europeans, making it harder for the AKP to counter allegations that it is “turning its back on the West.”

Thus, the Turks, not wanting to participate in the Iraq war, created a split with the United States, and the European rejection of Turkish membership in the European Union has generated a split with Europe. From a Turkish point of view, the American invasion of Iraq was ill conceived and the European position ultimately racist. In this sense, they were being pushed away from the West.

Turkey and the Islamic World

But two other forces were at work. First, the Islamic world changed its shape. From being overwhelmingly secular in political outlook, not incidentally influenced by Ataturk, the Islamic world began to move in a more religious direction until the main tendency was no longer secular but Islamic to varying degrees. It was inevitable that Turkey would experience the strains and pressures of the rest of the Muslim world. The question was not whether Turkey would shift but to what degree.

The other force was geopolitical. The two major wars in the Muslim world being fought by the United States were not proceeding satisfactorily, and while the main goal had been reached — there were no further attacks on the United States — the effort to maintain or create non-Islamic regimes in the region was not succeeding. Now the United States is withdrawing from the region, leaving behind instability and an increasingly powerful and self-confident Turkey.

In the end, the economic and military strength of Turkey had to transform it into a major regional force. By default, with the American withdrawal, Turkey has become the major power in the region on several counts. For one, the fact that Turkey had an AKP government and was taking a leadership position in the region made the United States very uncomfortable. For another, and this is the remarkable part, Turkey moved moderately on the domestic front when compared to the rest of the region, and its growing influence was rooted in American failure rather than Turkish design. When a Turkish aid flotilla sailed to Gaza and was intercepted by the Israelis in 2010, the Turkish view was that it was the minimum step Turkey could take as a leading Muslim state. The Israeli view was that Turkey was simply supporting radical Islamists.

This is not a matter of misunderstanding. The foundation of Turkey’s relationship with Israel, for example, had more to do with hostility toward pro-Soviet Arab governments than anything else. Those governments are gone and the secular foundation of Turkey has shifted. The same is true with the United States and Europe. None of them wants Turkey to shift, but given the end of the Cold War and the rise of Islamist forces, such a shift is inevitable, and what has occurred thus far seems relatively mild considering where the shift has gone in other countries. But more important, the foundation of alliances has disappeared and neither side can find a new, firm footing. As exemplified by Britain and the United States in the late 19th century, rising powers make older powers uneasy. They can cooperate economically and avoid military confrontation, but they are never comfortable with each other. The emerging power suspects that the greater power is trying to strangle it. The greater power suspects that the emerging power is trying to change the order of things. In fact, both of these assumptions are usually true.

By no means has Turkey emerged as a mature power. Its handling of events in Syria and other countries — consisting mostly of rhetoric — shows that it is has yet to assume a position to influence, let alone manage, events on its periphery. But it is still early in the game. We are now at a point where the old foundation has weakened and a new one is proving difficult to construct. The election results indicate that the process is still under way without becoming more radical and without slowing down. The powers that had strong relationships with Turkey no longer have them and wonder why. Turkey does not understand why it is feared and why the most ominous assumptions are being made, domestically and in other countries, about its government’s motives. None of this should be a surprise. History is like that.

24055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh , , , on: June 14, 2011, 10:51:48 AM
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." --John Adams, Address to the Military , 1798

24056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams: US of 2011 is fuct on: June 14, 2011, 10:50:09 AM
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." --John Adams, Address to the Military , 1798

24057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 14, 2011, 10:45:17 AM

If I understand correctly your point in posting that about the DoD budget (and noted that we are burning up missile inventory) it is to imply that Congress cannot order on what money is to be spent or not because in Libya we see the DoD showing discretionary actions.  Is that correct?
24058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 13, 2011, 08:19:17 PM
When I was about 16 as part of an audience of about 250 I once heard NC speak against the War in Vietnam at the Ethical Culture Society on Central Park West in Manhattan against the War in Vietnam.  I thought he was very bright, and shared his anger about the War and since them have kept an eye on him from time to time over the years.  My thinking about many things since I was 16 has changed a lot.  NC's thinking?  Not so much cheesy  Indeed I wonder how he can be so specious on so many points yet be taken seriously by obviously bright and educated people such as our AB.

I think GM's article gets him about right; that point about horizontal fame is dead on. 

I have not had a chance yet to go through all the clips that AB posted, and while I indeed find a few of them interesting and reflection provoking in a mournful "the tragedy of it all" kind of way, I find more of them deceptive in what is left out.  What is the barrier that the Israelis are defending for example?  I note how much trust there is in the ultimate decency of the Isreali soldiers.  I don't think any of those croweds trying to force their way through checkpoint (across Israeli border?) would be doing the same against those Hamas fellows who gunned down the prone hog tied Fatah people!  I find others to be such wild Orwellian Big Lie bullexcrement that I scarcely know where to begin.  In additional but smaller import I saw one famous picture of a man huddling with a boy who was shot; alleged to a great hue and cry to have been shot by the Israeli soldiers-- of course once the howling press mob had moved on there was no coverage of the careful analysis which showed that it was a propaganda fraud.  I saw assertion od data whose provencance was  completely unknown. 
24059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kudos for our friend Scott Grannis on: June 13, 2011, 02:35:51 PM
Soft Patch Already Fading To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 6/13/2011

For the record, in our professional lives, we don’t really care that much about Republicans or Democrats. Our constituency is the investor. But everything is politicized. Conservatives get mad at us because we are optimistic about the economy – they want to say Obama is hurting it. Liberals get mad because we think investors are better served by a much smaller government – they want a bigger one.

We are in “no-man’s-land,” taking fire from both sides. Some argue the end of stimulus is certain death for the economy. Others argue government growth is causing the next great depression. Anyone in the middle (like us), that says, “yes, the economy would be more robust (and unemployment lower) if we had less government, but, the US economy is still growing anyway” is a target for politicized anger.
And now that a “Soft Patch” in economic data and some softness in stock prices have developed, the political rhetoric has ramped up. We think it’s all temporary, but that suits almost no one in the political sphere. Investors who let politics interfere with their economic or investing thought-process are making a grave mistake. We think the pessimism is overdone and this is a great buying opportunity.
Take a deep breath and start looking for signs of economic life. Start looking at Calafia Beach Pundit, a blog written by a fabulous economist, Scott Grannis. Scott has been optimistic for the past two years and recently highlighted commercial and industrial lending, what he calls “a good measure of bank lending to small and medium-sized businesses.” These loans expanded for the seventh straight month in May and are up 12.2% at an annual rate in the past three months.
How about tax receipts? Up 19.2% in May compared to a year ago, despite a cut in payroll tax rates. Net individual income tax payments were up 55% versus May 2010 – a burst due to a sharp rise in “non-withheld” payments (final settlement for taxes owed for 2010). But, according to the Congressional Budget Office, withheld receipts – for income and payroll taxes combined – were still up 10% versus a year ago.
Meanwhile, exports hit a record high in April, up 18.8% versus year-ago levels. And aggregate hours worked (total employment times the length of the workweek) are up 3.5% at an annual rate during the three months ending in May. Commercial construction expanded for the third straight month in April. And this week, we’ll get a key report on May retail sales. Weak auto sales will drag the top-line number down, but chain store sales were up in May and we expect ex-auto retail sales to be up about 8% above May 2010 levels.
None of this fits the dour, and politically-hyped, forecasts of economic Armageddon so prevalent these days. The soft patch is nothing more than a temporary and superficial blow to the economy. If it was anything more than Japan’s disasters and the tornado season, the good numbers we’ve been seeing lately – on lending, tax revenue, trade, hours-worked, ex-auto sales, and commercial building – wouldn’t be happening.

24060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: June 13, 2011, 11:05:14 AM
As much as I like reading and listening to Bolton, he completely lacks in political experience-- including experience in persuading folks of his hard lines views without falling into the warmonger traps of the Pravdas.
24061  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: June 13, 2011, 11:03:06 AM
Brief · June 13, 2011

The Foundation
"Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression." --James Madison


Congress doesn't have many experts on the issues, but they did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night."In the course of any given year, Congress votes on taxes, medical care, military spending, foreign aid, agriculture, labor, international trade, airlines, housing, insurance, courts, natural resources, and much more. There are professionals who have spent their entire adult lives specializing in just one of these fields. The idea that Congress can be competent in all these areas simultaneously is staggering. Yet, far from pulling back -- as banks or other private enterprises must, if they don't want to be ruined financially by operating beyond the range of their competence -- Congress is constantly expanding further into more fields. Having spent years ruining the housing markets with their interference, leading to a housing meltdown that has taken the whole economy down with it, politicians have now moved on into micro-managing automobile companies and medical care. They are not going to stop unless they get stopped. And that is not going to happen until the voters recognize the fact that political rhetoric is no substitute for competence." --economist Thomas Sowell

"History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly, it is not a sufficient condition." --American economist and author Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

U.S. Army Birthday and Flag Day 2011
Tomorrow is the 236th birthday of the United States Army, born of the desire to defend liberty and spread its flame. As the U.S. Army now leads the way in the Long War, let us not forget to pray for these brave Patriots standing in harm's way and their families awaiting their safe return.

Tomorrow is also Flag Day. Our flag is a beacon of liberty, a symbol of hope for all people who "hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed -- that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...." On this Flag Day, we American Patriots display and pay homage to our national flag.

To purchase the highest quality American-made U.S. flags available, please visit The Patriot Shop.


The Gipper
"As we think back over the history of our nation's flag, we remember that the story of its early years was often one of hardship and trials, sometimes a fight for simple survival. ... As the American Republic grew and prospered and new stars were added to the flag, the ideal of freedom grew and prospered. From the rolling hills of Kentucky to the shores of California to the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon, our pioneers carried our flag before them, a symbol of the indomitable spirit of a free people. And let us never forget that in honoring our flag, we honor the American men and women who have courageously fought and died for it over the last 200 years, patriots who set an ideal above any consideration of self. Our flag flies free today because of their sacrifice. ... These anniversaries remind us that the great American experiment in freedom and democracy has really just begun. They remind us of the terrible hardships our forefathers willingly endured for their beliefs. And they challenge us to match that greatness of spirit in our own time, and I know we will. We are, after all, the land of the free and the home of the brave." --Ronald Reagan

Re: The Left
"No nation or culture in history has done more to advance the well-being of mankind than the United States and Western civilization. However to the Marxist mindset of the radical left, only they, utilizing the vehicle of a massive central government, could control mankind's nature and create a fair society. It is the ideal philosophy for those who, so enamored with themselves, can wallow in their self-importance and rule with a heavy hand the same masses they claim to protect. Under no circumstances, therefore, can these revolutionaries defend or profess admiration for their country; instead they must not only transform the United States into a villain, but destroy any vestiges of its accomplishments in order to permanently retain control over the populace and exact revenge for the alleged transgressions of the West. Barack Obama has spent his entire life, from birth to the present, marinated in this mindset. He is thus incapable of change or being receptive to any other viewpoint, as that would be an admission of failure." --columnist Steve McCann

"For several years, the British media have been full of horror stories about failures in the National Health Service (NHS). ... The Telegraph now reports that the 'terminally ill' will be asked by their doctors how they would like to die and to write it down so the NHS will know. Will government then assist them to stop the care meter from running? Death panels, anyone? ... And then there is the disappearance of Britain's once proud work ethic, thanks to the expansion of the welfare state under the Labour Party. The Daily Mail reports that between 1997 and 2010, under Labour, 'the number of households in which no one has ever had a job almost doubled from 184,000 to 352,000.' ... A dysfunctional British immigration system has allowed 256,000 asylum-seekers over the past 20 years to be granted 'amnesty,' according to the Daily Mail. ... Add to these concerns the huge number of Muslim immigrants who display no desire to be assimilated into British life, the high abortion rate among the British, and the increasing secularization of culture and you have predictors of where America may be headed if it does not turn back on these attitudes and behavior patterns." --columnist Cal Thomas


Opinion in Brief
"They call it BCS, Bill Clinton Syndrome, and it has broken out anew in New York City and Washington, D.C., where it was first discovered. ... BCS strikes powerful figures, usually male, who experience lewd compulsions of an overpowering nature, generally in the presence of technology, often the telephone, occasionally a smart phone or even a computer, and usually when they are alone or behind closed doors with a woman of inferior rank. The first victim of the syndrome was, of course, President Bill Clinton, but it has struck a growing number of powerful individuals, most recently Congressman Chris Lee, International Monetary Fund chieftain Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and now Congressman Anthony Weiner... He apparently suffered at least the underpants version of BCS. He served as the moral scold to Republicans in Congress. ... What will become of these wretches I do not know, but for Weiner there is hope. The press has reported that his recent marriage to the Hillary Clinton aide was 'officiated' over by none other than Bill Clinton. I advise that Bill counsel Weiner and Hillary counsel the wife. Then let all four retire from public life. Along with them they can take any other public official suspected of suffering BCS. This nonsense has gone too far." --columnist R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.

Political Futures
"If next year the American people pull the plug on the Obama presidency, mark down the past week as the beginning of the end.... Barack Obama's worst week was about more than bad data. The two great legislative monuments to the first Obama term, the remaking of the health-care industry and the Dodd-Frank financial reform, look like they've got serious structural cracks. A McKinsey report estimates that a third of employers will abandon their health-insurance plans come 2014. On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the failure (or inability) of Dodd-Frank's regulatory arm to write new rules for the $583 trillion derivatives market has the financial sector in a panic over its legal exposure. ... We are heading toward an election fought over the economy. That's good because ultimately this means the subject is growth. The one consensus that exists across the political spectrum is that strong economic growth eases many problems -- from the entitlement burden to the tragedy of high youth unemployment. The battle will be fought over economic growth and how we get it -- Obama's way or something close to the opposite of Obama's way. ... Barack Obama will have better weeks than this. On the available evidence, however, the trend lines for politics and the economy are becoming clearer every day." --columnist Daniel Henninger

"It's been 67 years since the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation. In those 67 years, at every level of government, black Americans have been overwhelmingly staunch supporters of the Democrat party. What black Americans have gotten in return is an education system in which black children lag consistently behind their white counterparts, by an average of almost four years. Yet for 67 years, Democrats have promised black Americans that they're going to make things better for their communities, as long as they keep hitching their wagons to the Democrat party star. After two-thirds of a century, one might be inclined to think that more than a few black Americans might be inclined to ask the question, 'what have you done for me lately,' as in how come our children keep getting the short end of the educational stick after more than three generations of party loyalty? Yet in order to ask that question, one must know history and have learned to think for oneself. Knowledge of history and an ability to think independently require a decent education. Democrats around the nation are making sure that doesn't happen. In short, union campaign funds are more important than the education of black children, and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to explain how a status quo that ought be considered criminal could survive every challenge that's been thrown at it." --columnist Arnold Ahlert

Reader Comments
"Alexander, you are always willing to tread on the Left's 'sacred ground' where too many other conservatives dare not go. Thanks for your clarity on the homosexual issue, distinguishing between what constitutes personal choice versus their public policy agenda." --Semper Fi

"The left is so filled with hate and so quick to spin that they seldom look at the facts. Truth has little to do with their agenda and honest debate is not in their vocabulary. Alexander has taken a lightning rod issue and presented it in a fair, objective and honest context. His essay on this contentious topic was not only correct in every detail but it was a brave and heroic statement to make. Certainly doing so will subject him to viscous attacks from liberals, particularly the small but vitriolic homosexual crowd. Good work Alexander. Stand firm and remain steadfast." --Bill

Typical criticism of Alexander's column:

"Clearly you have never studied the topic of gays. You are apparently more interested in satisfying the cries of right wing evangelicals than in seeking the truth. The Defense of Marriage Act was pushed through Congress by Jerry Falwell/Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family)/the Mormon Church and the US Council of Catholic Bishops. ... Eventually, the Defense of Marriage Act will be declared unconstitutional, which it clearly is. ... It is time for the U.S. to catch up with the rest of the world on gay marriage. Public opinion in the U.S. supports gay marriage. ... Who are you to tell me what I can and can't do in the privacy of my bedroom?"

Editor's reply: First, the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law September 21, 1996, by Bill Clinton, who said: "I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or reconsidered." The legislation passed by overwhelming majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, 85-14 in the Senate and a vote of 342-67 in the House. The record reflects something quite more than a "Jerry Falwell/Dr. James Dobson, Mormon Church, US Council of Catholic Bishops" agenda and "satisfying the cries of right wing evangelicals" rather than seeking the truth.

Second, for the record, there is no constitutional basis to assert that gender identity is a civil right. You can push for an amendment if you want, or take the liberal route and amend it by judicial diktat, but this assertion has no basis under Rule of Law.

Third, my guide and test for Truth in this and all matters, starting with Liberty, is not predicated on public opinion polls or the actions of other nations.

Last, as I wrote, I support your liberty to practice your individual beliefs and behaviors right up unto the point at which you propose to impose your redefinition of nature upon others. The homosexual political agenda is something quite apart from the practice of your personal choices and behavior. I will continue to "out" the Left's agenda for what it is, including the errant argument that all of society should support the homosexual pathos, which offends "the laws of nature and nature's God."

24062  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 13, 2011, 10:46:14 AM
And, to top it off, Glenn Beck is a Mormon!
24063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: June 13, 2011, 10:44:47 AM
Thank you for this.
24064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: June 13, 2011, 10:41:06 AM
Thank you for the transcript Doug.

IMH one of the things we need to look for in a candidate is the ability to stay calm, affable, unflappable, and centered when tornados of calumny are aimed at him/her while expressing in pithy distilled simplicity the reasons for what he/she is saying.

In his demeanor I saw the potential for this in Cain durng this interview.  The point is not the polling numbers right now.  The point is the man has the courage to stand by his convictions and IMHO to bring many people over to his side and earn the respect of nearly all in so doing    In contrast, I think Romney's make-up is to whither under hateful race and class warfare of the progressives and their running dogs in the Pravdas  grin

This is a man who has the courage to be a black Tea Partier.  This is a man who has the courage to take on the liberal fascists to their faces, with a smile:

Gigot: What makes you think that the American public is ready to hear a candidate, support a candidate, who supports what, let's face it, is a very radical change? Because you throw it the entire tax system. When other Republican candidates at the federal level, like Jim DeMint in South Carolina--

Cain: Right.

Gigot: --or certain Congress--congressional candidates have supported it, the Democrats have gone after it and said, "They want to raise the price of everything you buy--your home, your car--by 23%," and it's hurt them. How would you counter that argument?

Cain: The difference is, I can defend all of the lies, all of the misperceptions and all of the distortions about the FAIR Tax, and I'm willing to take that battle on. That's the reason why. Because what has happened--it does get demagogued. But then when you explain to the American people that it not only eliminates the withholding tax for both FICA as well as the payroll tax, but that it also eliminates the IRS and the costs that we have there, it--we will only need to spend 10% of what we spend on the IRS--you know, those people that abuse us and harass us?

, , ,

Gigot: And you think you can sell this to the Republican primary electorate when Mike Huckabee couldn't do it successfully in 2008. He ran on the FAIR Tax.

Cain: Yes, he did.

Gigot: And he didn't win the nomination.

Cain: Here's the difference.

Gigot: Why is it going to be different?

Cain: Here's the difference. First of all, this is Herman Cain.

Reagan had a calm center.  Maybe Herman Cain does too.
24065  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hamas vs. Fatah on: June 13, 2011, 08:59:43 AM
My point of course being that when folks are asking Israel to negotiate with Hamas, give land up up front, etc. this is with whom they are being asked to negotiate.  In addition to the killings/executions/murders seen here, there were many others that were accomplished to the Fatah folks simply being thrown from the roofs of tall buildings.
24066  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: June 13, 2011, 07:47:30 AM
Night Owl has been hard at work on a clip of the 2011 DB Tribal Gathering of the Pack.  I have just seen the ruff edit and given my blessings.  The final version should be ready , , , soon, which as those of you who have been around a while know can be a somewhat elusive concept smiley
24067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Erdogan's re-election on: June 13, 2011, 07:17:30 AM
Turkey put on a democratic clinic yesterday for the rest of the Muslim world with another free and spirited national election. In their wisdom, the Turks chose to reward Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for their recent run of good economic fortune, while putting a check on his largest political ambitions.

His ruling Justice and Development Party, whose roots are in Turkey's Islamist movement, won half the vote and 325 seats in parliament, according to preliminary results. Mr. Erdogan will be only the second man in the history of the Turkish republic to claim the premiership for a third term. But his party, known by the acronym AKP, fell shy of the 330 votes needed to send changes to Turkey's constitution to a referendum—and far short of Mr. Erdogan's dream of a "super majority" of 367 to get them adopted by parliament alone.

Mr. Erdogan wants a French-style republic with a strong presidency and himself as the president. But his often divisive rhetoric and his attacks on the media and opponents had stoked fears of creeping authoritarianism. In his victory speech last night, Mr. Erdogan claimed to get the message. "We'll go to the opposition and we'll seek consultation and consensus," he said. "We will bring democracy to an advanced level, widening rights and freedoms. The responsibility has risen, and so has our humility."

Turkey needs a legitimate overhaul of its political system to become a true liberal democracy. Its judiciary and military are still too much powers in themselves, and minority rights and checks and balances are missing in a flawed structure that dates to modern Turkey's founding in 1923. But any reform needs to be implemented with a national consensus, with clear checks on the power of any one man, party or institution.

The AKP's capable stewardship of Turkey's economy explains its run of electoral success. Exports have quadrupled in a decade and per capita income has nearly tripled. Turkey shows the merits of free market policies, including open trade and sound fiscal management. The AKP has also alleviated many concerns about creeping Islamization, which wasn't an issue in this campaign. If Mr. Erdogan stays true to his word last night and smooths his intolerant edges, Turkey could become a true model for liberty in the Middle East.
24068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bryce: The Shale Revolution on: June 13, 2011, 07:15:31 AM

I have no opinion over the validity of the expressed concerns over contamination of the water table.  We certainly would not want the equivalent of a BP Gulf blow out!

The U.S. is on the verge of an industrial renaissance if—and it's a big if—policy makers don't foul it up by restricting the ability of drillers to use the technology that's making a renaissance possible: hydraulic fracturing.

The shale drilling boom now underway in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and other states is already creating jobs, slashing natural-gas prices, and spurring billions of dollars of investment in new production capacity for critical commodities like steel and petrochemicals. Better yet, it's spurring a huge increase in domestic oil production, which has been falling steadily since the 1970s.

Despite the myriad benefits of the low-cost hydrocarbons that are now being produced thanks to hydraulic fracturing, the media, environmental groups and politicians are hyping the possible dangers of the process, which uses high-pressure pumps to force water, sand and chemicals into shale formations. Doing so fractures the formation and allows the extraction of natural gas or petroleum.

Although hydraulic fracturing has been used more than one million times in the U.S. over the past 60 years, environmental activists are hoping to ban the process or have it regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Opponents claim the process can harm groundwater even though drinking-water aquifers are separated by as much as two miles of impermeable rock from the shales that are being targeted by the fracturing process.

New York currently has a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. On May 31, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued several federal agencies, claiming they had not done a proper environmental assessment on the possible effects of drilling in the New York City watershed. On June 6, the New York Assembly passed a bill that will ban all forms of hydraulic fracturing in the state until mid-2012. And the EPA has launched "a comprehensive research study" on the possible "adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on water quality and public health" nationwide.

View Full Image

David Klein
 .Despite the opposition, some of America's biggest industrial companies are evangelizing about the merits of natural gas. Among the most fervent advocates are John Surma, the CEO of U.S. Steel, and Dan DiMicco, the CEO of Nucor. Mr. Surma told me in an interview that the shale revolution is "the first bit of good news in U.S. manufacturing in two decades." Mr. DiMicco went further, telling me that "we could change the entire manufacturing base in the U.S. if we just embrace what's happening in natural gas."

In March, Nucor, America's biggest steel producer, broke ground on a new $750 million direct-reduced-iron (DRI) plant in Louisiana. The plant's key commodity is low-cost natural gas, which will be superheated and then mixed with iron ore pellets and scrap in a furnace. The DRI process allows companies to produce about the same amount of steel with about a quarter of the capital they'd need to build a conventional integrated steel plant. And they can produce that steel with lower carbon-dioxide emissions because they are replacing metallurgical coal with methane.

Nucor may ultimately invest $3 billion in Louisiana on plants that could create as many as 1,000 permanent, high-paying jobs. Meanwhile, U.S. Steel may soon build a DRI plant of its own.

Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, U.S. drillers are producing lots of ethane and propane, which are key feedstocks for the petrochemical sector. Last October, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company announced plans to build a new plant in Baytown, Texas that will provide components for the production of polyethylene, a plastic resin used to make milk jugs and beverage containers. A few months later, the company said it was examining the feasibility of building a major petrochemical plant on the Gulf Coast.

In April, Dow Chemical announced plant expansions at several facilities in Louisiana and Texas, including construction of a new ethylene plant on the Gulf Coast that will begin operating in 2017 and a new propylene production facility that will begin operating by 2015. Dow's reason for the expansions: "competitively priced ethane and propane feedstocks." And last week Shell announced that it is developing plans to build a large ethylene plant in the Appalachian region. Ethylene and propylene are building blocks for a wide variety of consumer products including plastics, fibers and lubricants.

The drilling industry itself is creating jobs. Over the past 12 months, some 48,000 people were hired in Pennsylvania by companies working in the Marcellus Shale, a massive deposit that underlies several Eastern states, including Pennsylvania and New York.

While the Pennsylvania economy is getting a much-needed lift from drilling, opposition in New York may mean that the state loses out on jobs and investment. A new study by Tim Considine, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming, estimates that drilling in the Marcellus Shale could add as many as 15,000 new jobs to the New York economy by 2015. The study, conducted for the Manhattan Institute (a think tank where I am a senior fellow), estimated that shale drilling in New York could add some $1.7 billion to the state's economy by 2015 and increase the state's tax revenue by more than $200 million.

Regardless of what happens in New York, hydraulic fracturing is unlocking huge quantities of oil from shale. In March, domestic crude production was 5.63 million barrels per day, the highest level since 2003. Amazingly, production is rising despite the Obama administration's de facto moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And shale oil production will likely continue rising from deposits like the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, where state officials are predicting output will hit 700,000 barrels per day by 2018, double the state's current production.

A vibrant industrial base requires cheap, abundant and reliable sources of energy. The shale revolution now underway is the best news for North American energy since the discovery of the East Texas Field in 1930. We can't afford to let fear of a proven technology stop the much-needed resurgence of American industry.

Mr. Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His fourth book, "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future" (PublicAffairs), was recently published in paperback.

24069  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: June 13, 2011, 07:09:35 AM
I'm back. Good times!
24070  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: June 13, 2011, 06:56:57 AM
Well, nice to see Bolton get it right in his customarily pithy manner, and what a disingenous lying sack of excrement the Hamas guy is.
24071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cain and the FAIR Tax; Bachman-Cain; Noonan on Romney on: June 13, 2011, 06:48:08 AM
Herman Cain was interviewd this weekend on the WSJ Editorial Report (or something like that) on FOX.

A VERY strong interview.  The man owns the topic on a level I have not before seen.  Previously I liked Cain because I agreed with most of what he says (winced on his non-position on Afghanistan and his lack of knowledge of the "right of return" wrt Israel though) but this is the first time I got a sense of the level he can operate at.  

As I have mentioned previously, Michelle Bachman continues to draw my attention (see my post the other day of the WSJ piece on her, plus a just read an extensive piece in yesterday's National Post while in Toronto ).  

I continue to toy with the idea that a Bachman-Cain ticket would be a very good one.  Due to his beginner level on foreign affairs ultimately IMHO he will not and should not get the presidential nominatiaon, but his executive experience complements an area where Bachman is very weak, while her intellgient and informed hostility to the federael tax code due tax attorney background means that together the two of them could be a powerful team for radical tax reform of the best sort-- and in a way that can appeal across party lines.

Though IMHO Peggy Noonan no longer hits at the level she used to, she remains a writer I follow.  Herewith her thoughts on Romney:

Of course he should resign—or, better, and as a statement, the House should remove him. I speak as a conservative who wishes to conserve. If I were speaking as a Republican I'd say, "By all means keep him, let him taint all your efforts."

But sometimes all of Washington has to put up its hand up like a traffic cop and say no. It has to say: That doesn't go here, it's not acceptable, it's not among the normal human transgressions of back stairs, love affairs and the congressman on the take. This is decadence. It is pornography. We can't let the world, and the young, know it's "politically survivable." Because that will hurt us, not him, and define us, not him. So: enough.

In other news, Mitt Romney had his first good week. It was startling. He stepped out from the blur. The other candidates now call him "the front runner." By most standards he was the front runner months ago, but nobody talked about him. He didn't live in the Republican imagination. It was "Will Mitch run?" and "You like Pawlenty?" Only seven minutes into the conversation would you get, "How will Romney do?" He was so '08, that disastrous year.

But this week he got three big boosts. He had a reasonable announcement speech followed by a lot of national interviews. Then the Washington Post poll: Mr. Romney leads President Obama. On top of that, the two most visible Republicans the past 10 days were Sarah Palin, on her magical mystery tour, and him. They got all the coverage, and for a moment it seemed like a two-person race. Meaning a lot of Republicans got to think, "Hmm, Palin or Romney—a trip to Crazytown or the man of sober mien." That did not hurt him.

VThe financial reporting period ends June 30. Mr. Romney's focused like a laser on getting the kind of numbers that will demoralize rivals and impress the media. Money leads to money. At a Manhattan fund raiser this week, an organizer said they raised about $200,000, not bad for an hour at the end of a long day of fund raising. The roughly 70 attendees were mostly men in suits. There was no vibration of "I'd walk on burning coals for this guy." More an air of "This is a sound choice." On the other hand, no one was distractedly checking his BlackBerry in the back of the room, as I saw once at a Giuliani event in 2008. He was talking, they were scrolling. That's what we call "a sign."

Mr. Romney's emergence means a new phase in the primary contest begins. So some quick observations on the front runner. We'll begin with shallowness and try to work our way up.

All candidates for president are network or local. Romney is a network anchorman—sleek, put together, the right hair, a look of dignity. He's like Brian Williams. Some candidates are local anchormen—they're working hard, they're pros, but they lack the patina, the national sense. Reagan, Clinton, Obama—they were network. This has to do not only with persona, but with a perceived broadness of issues and competencies. It's not decisive, and it can change—Harry Truman was local, and became network. But it probably helps Mr. Romney that he's network.

His seamless happiness can be grating. People like to root for the little guy, and he's never been the little guy. His family has never in his lifetime known financial ill fortune, and his personal wealth is of the self-made kind, the most grating because it means you can't even patronize him. He has in him that way of people who are chipper about each day in large part because each day has been very nice to them. This makes some people want to punch him in the nose. I said once he's like an account executive on "Mad Men," stepping from the shower and asking George the valet to bring him the blue shirt with the white collar. But this year he looks slightly older, maybe wiser, maybe a little more frayed than in 2008. Which is good. Since 2008 everyone else is more frayed, too.

In '08, Romney's brand was at odds with his stand. He looked and had the feel of a well-born Eastern moderate Republican. But he positioned and portrayed himself as grass-roots tea party. It was jarring, didn't seem to fit, and contributed to the impression that he was an attractive lump of poll-tested packaging. He's trying to get around this in two ways. First, he's attempting to focus on economic issues, on which he has personal and professional credibility. Second, he's trying to demonstrate authenticity by sticking to some stands unpopular with the base—global warming, health care.

The common wisdom has been that health care is the huge weak spot in his candidacy. Maybe, but maybe not. The base hates ObamaCare, as we know, and Mr. Romney devised a similar plan as governor of Massachusetts. But he can talk earnestly about it on the hustings until voters' eyes glaze over and they plead to change the subject, which he will. And there are a lot of other subjects. If he gets through the primaries, his position on health care will become a plus: The Democrats this year will try to paint the Republican candidate as radical on health spending. It would be harder to do that to Mr. Romney.

Has enough time passed since his famous flip-flops on issues like abortion to make them old news? Four years ago it colored his candidacy. We'll find out if people decide it's yesterday's story, and give him a second look.

The real problem for Romney is: Does he mean it? Is he serious when he takes a stand? Has he thought it through or merely adopted it? And there is of course religion. In a silly and baiting interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, Mr. Romney swatted away an insistence that he delve into Mormonism and, by implication, defend it. It was like seeing some Brit in 1960 trying to make John F. Kennedy explain and defend Catholicism. It's not something we do in America. Because we still have a little class.

When Mr. Romney's father, George, ran for the GOP nomination in 1968, his religion was not an issue. Forty years later, when his son first ran, it was. Has America grown more illiberal? Maybe not. In 1968, evangelical Christians voted in Democratic primaries, because they tended to be Democrats. By 1980, all that was changing: evangelicals went Republican with Reagan and never came back.

Catholics do not tend to take a harsh view of Mormonism, nor do mainstream Protestants. It is evangelical Christians who are most inclined not to approve. In a general election this would not make much difference: Evangelicals will not vote for Obama. But in the GOP primaries it could still hurt Mr. Romney. No one knows, because no one knows what kind of year this is. Maybe evangelicals will have seen enough of him not to mind; maybe the Obama presidency convinced them it's not so important.

My own read is standard Catholic. Mormons have been, on balance, a deeply constructive force in American life, and it is absurd and ignorant not to support a political figure only because you do not prefer or identify with the theology of his church.

Really, grow up. Enough.

24072  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FAIR Tax and Herman Cain on: June 13, 2011, 06:39:11 AM
Herman Cain was interviewd this weekend on the WSJ Editorial Report (or something like that) on FOX.

A VERY strong interview.  The man owns the topic on a level I have not before seen.
24073  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson gets testy with the press 1805 on: June 13, 2011, 06:16:44 AM

"During the course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been levelled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare. These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted, inasmuch as they tend to lessen its usefulness and to sap its safety." --Thomas Jefferson, Second Inaugural Address, 1805

24074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Redistricting begins on: June 12, 2011, 06:50:08 AM

SAN FRANCISCO—California's embrace of an independent commission to redraw legislative districts got its first big test Friday as a newly released map of proposed boundaries drew criticism from Republicans and a prominent Latino group.

Many Republicans complained that the proposed new districts would make their party even less competitive in a state already dominated by Democrats. Nineteen of California's 58 congressional districts are held by Republicans while Democrats hold both Senate seats, almost all elected statewide offices and near-full control of the Legislature.

Under the proposed new lines unveiled by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, legislative districts would have a more compact shape, with few dividing cities or taking snakelike paths to connect similar voting blocs.

Some currently Republican state and congressional districts would be redrawn to include parts of ones now held by Democrats—potentially setting up an election between incumbents that could make it tougher for the GOP member to be re-elected, said Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the California Republican Party.

"You can make the argument that this has improved the chances of the Democrats statewide, which I don't think is what the voters had in mind," Mr. Beccaro said, referring to ballot initiatives in 2008 and 2010 that took the job of redrawing political boundaries in California out of the hands of the Legislature. California and Arizona are the only states where congressional districts are determined by independent panels. The California commission also is redrawing state legislative districts.

The chairman of the California Democratic Party, John Burton, said he couldn't comment on the map until he had the opportunity to study it further.

Another potential sore point among some voters will be that many districts in heavily Latino areas are being redrawn, said Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The biggest changes to congressional districts are occurring in areas including eastern Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County, he said, where the Hispanic population has grown rapidly over the past 10 years.

But Latino activists point out that despite their population gains, they are getting no new congressional districts. That is due in part to the fact that California—for the first time since statehood—received no added district under the 2010 census because its population didn't grow enough.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund had requested the number of districts representing mostly Latino areas grow from seven to 11, but it has stayed at seven. "We have extremely serious concerns about that," said Steven Ochoa, a spokesman for the Los Angeles-based advocacy group.

But commission members said they prepared the map with no biases, using only federally mandated criteria such as making sure districts were of equal population. They also said they depended on extensive input from residents at 23 public hearings.

"Our job is to come up with a legal plan and base it all on public testimony," said Cynthia Dai, a commissioner from San Francisco. The maps released Friday will be subject to more hearings before they are finalized Aug. 15.

If California's new redistricting system succeeds, it likely would be followed by other states, Mr. Cain said. He added a likely byproduct from the new California maps, if they hold up, would be heightened competition in congressional races that are now mostly shoo-ins for incumbents. He estimated as many as a third of the districts would be competitive in 2012.
24075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cognitive Dissonance in Rep strategy? on: June 12, 2011, 06:47:51 AM
I can't access the whole piece from where I am, but this sentence posits the apparent cognitive dissonance rather pithiy:

Tim Pawlenty's call for an economic-growth plan built on tax cuts has raised concerns among Republicans in Congress who worry the presidential candidate's message could muddy their immediate quest to slash spending and curb the deficit.
24076  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The game of "Go" on: June 12, 2011, 06:44:39 AM

A 2,000-year-old board game holds the key to understanding how the Chinese really think—and U.S. officials had better learn to play if they want to win the real competition.

That's the pitch that David Lai, a professor at the Army War College, has been making in recent months to senior military officials in the U.S. and overseas. Learning the ancient board game of wei qi, known in the U.S. as Go, can teach non-Chinese how to see the geostrategic "board" the same way that Chinese leaders do, he says.

Wei qi, the game of "surrounding," has long been popular in the East -- known as Go in Japan and Baduk in Korea. Now, U.S. military officials are looking at the game in an attempt to understand how the Chinese really think. WSJ's Christina Tsuei gets a lesson on the game from 35-year GO veteran Jean-Claude Chetrit.

The game, already well known in the days of Confucius and still wildly popular in Asia, is starkly different from chess, the classic Western game of strategy. The object of Go is to place stones on the open board, balancing the need to expand with the need to build protected clusters.

Go features multiple battles over a wide front, rather than a single decisive encounter. It emphasizes long-term planning over quick tactical advantage, and games can take hours. In Chinese, its name, wei qi (roughly pronounced "way-chee"), means the "encirclement game."

"Go is the perfect reflection of Chinese strategic thinking and their operational art," says Mr. Lai, who grew up watching his father—who was jobless during the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution—constantly play the game. A self-described midlevel Go player, Mr. Lai came to the U.S. about 30 years ago.

Mr. Lai's best-known work about the nexus between Go and Chinese geopolitical strategy is a 2004 paper called "Learning From the Stones," a reference to the 361 black and white stone pieces that eventually fill the 19-by-19 Go board. He described China's long-term and indirect approach to acquiring influence. He also zeroed in on concrete geopolitical challenges such as Taiwan, which he described, in terms of Go, as a single isolated stone next to a huge mass of opposing pieces.

As Chinese leaders see it, he suggested, Taiwan was a vulnerable piece that the U.S. should want to trade away for a better position elsewhere on the board. The U.S., by contrast, sees Taiwan not as a bargaining chip but as a democratic ally that it has supported diplomatically and militarily for more than 60 years.

Mr. Lai's paper caught the attention not only of his then-bosses at the Air Force's Air University in Alabama but of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who quickly became a convert to his way of thinking.

Throughout his new book, "On China," Mr. Kissinger uses wei qi to explain how Chinese leaders such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping managed crises during the Korean War, disputes over Taiwan, the Vietnam War, conflicts throughout Southeast Asia and with the Soviet Union, and the normalization of relations with the U.S.

In the first days of the Korean conflict, for example, President Harry Truman sent U.S. troops to South Korea and the U.S. Navy to the Taiwan strait. He had, "in Chinese eyes," Mr. Kissinger writes, "placed two stones on the wei qi board, both of which menaced China with the dreaded encirclement." Thus, despite being war-weary and impoverished, China felt the need to confront the U.S. directly.

The game can also be used to interpret recent Chinese behavior. Consider China's participation in antipiracy efforts in the Indian Ocean—the first time that China has undertaken blue-water naval operations in support of an international coalition. The West tends to see such cooperation as responsible behavior on China's part.

But a strategy paper published last December by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party offers a different view: that antipiracy operations can help China to subtly gain a foothold in a vital region. "China can make use of this situation to expand its military presence in Africa," the paper said.

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Getty Images/Flickr RF
Wei qi (roughly pronounced 'way-chee') means the 'encirclement game.'

One of Mr. Lai's first fans was Air Force Gen. Steve Lorenz, formerly the head of Air University, where Mr. Lai then taught. Gen. Lorenz heard one of his lectures in late 2005 and summoned him for a full briefing about the insights that Go could offer.

"It really intrigued me," recalls Gen. Lorenz, now retired. "He made a whole generation of airmen think about the world in a different way."

In recent months, Mr. Lai has briefed officers at Pacific Command, the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, the Center for Army Analysis and the Australian Defence College.

U.S. defense officials regularly receive strategy briefings from outside experts, and the U.S. military regularly taps ancient classics such as Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" and Xenophon's "The March of the Ten Thousand" to help educate modern officers.

One officer at the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, where Mr. Lai gave a presentation at a commander's conference in March to about three dozen officers, said "the game analogy really sparked fascination" and was useful for Air Force officers who might have to consider China a potential adversary one day. He conceded, though, that the briefing's heavy academic content left "plenty of heads hurting."

"You've got to think like the other guy thinks," said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Lai's theories are not universally embraced by China experts. For starters, some say, comparing national strategic thought to popular sports and games is an over-simplification—and at any rate, the Chinese version of chess has lots of adherents in China, too.

Furthermore, despite the ancient roots of Chinese military thinkers such as Sun Tzu, it's far from clear that Chinese leaders over the millennia, especially Communist Chinese leaders, have followed a single, broad strategy at all, let alone the one sketched by the board game.

"Go is a very useful device for analyzing Chinese strategy, but let's not overdo it," says James Holmes, an expert on Chinese strategy and professor at the Naval War College.

Though he agrees that Go helps to describe the strategic showdown between China and the U.S. in East Asia, he says that "we have to be extremely cautious about drawing a straight line from theory to the actions of real people in the real world."

He notes that China's "amateurish" diplomatic blunders in recent years, including bullying neighbors and trying to push other navies out of international waters, represent a departure from the patient, subtle tenets of Go.

Write to Keith Johnson at
24077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Schutz and Volcker on: June 12, 2011, 06:41:35 AM

"The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."

That is the opening sentence of a report issued last week by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Both of us have signed on to this report. Why?

(Drug use in the U.S. is no lower than in countries with different approaches.)

We believe that drug addiction is harmful to individuals, impairs health and has adverse societal effects. So we want an effective program to deal with this problem.

The question is: What is the best way to go about it? For 40 years now, our nation's approach has been to criminalize the entire process of producing, transporting, selling and using drugs, with the exception of tobacco and alcohol. Our judgment, shared by other members of the commission, is that this approach has not worked, just as our national experiment with the prohibition of alcohol failed. Drugs are still readily available, and crime rates remain high. But drug use in the U.S. is no lower than, and sometimes surpasses, drug use in countries with very different approaches to the problem.

At the same time, the costs of the drug war have become astronomical. Inmates arrested for consuming drugs and for possessing small quantities of them now crowd our prisons, where too often they learn how to become real criminals. The dollar costs are huge, but they pale in comparison to the lives being lost in our neighborhoods and throughout the world. The number of drug-related casualties in Mexico is on the same order as the number of U.S. lives lost in the Vietnam and Korean wars.

Throughout our hemisphere, governance and economic development have suffered because of drugs. It is no accident that the initiative for this global commission came from former presidents of Latin American nations. These countries, sometimes with American support, have made strong efforts to reduce drug supplies. But they have increasingly concluded that drug policies in the U.S. are making it more difficult for their people to enjoy security and prosperity.

The problem starts with the demand for drugs. As Milton Friedman put it forcibly over 20 years ago in the pages of this paper: "It is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials."

We do not support the simple legalization of all drugs. What we do advocate is an open and honest debate on the subject. We want to find our way to a less costly and more effective method of discouraging drug use, cutting down the power of organized crime, providing better treatment and minimizing negative societal effects.

Other countries that have tried different approaches include Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal and Australia. What can we learn from these varied experiences, some more successful than others? What can we learn from our own experience in reducing sharply the smoking of cigarettes or in the handling of alcohol after the end of Prohibition?

Simple legalization is by no means the only or safest approach. One possibility is to decriminalize the individual use of drugs while maintaining laws against supplying them, thus allowing law-enforcement efforts to focus on the drug peddlers. Some of the money that is saved can be spent on treatment centers, which drug users are more likely to seek out if doing so does not expose them to the risk of arrest.

The situation that confronts us today is dangerous. After 40 years of concentrating on one approach that has been unsuccessful, we should be willing to take a look at other ways of working to solve this pressing problem. As the global commission concludes: "Break the taboo on debate and reform. The time for action is now."

—Mr. Shultz, former U.S. secretary of state under President Reagan, is a distinguished fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Mr. Volcker, former chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, is professor emeritus of international economic policy at Princeton University.

24078  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gates's speech on NATO on: June 12, 2011, 06:32:05 AM
BRUSSELS—Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued a blunt critique of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Friday, arguing the Libya operations demonstrated America's allies suffered from serious gaps in military capabilities because of their failure to spend enough on their own defense.

One of the NATO's most ardent defenders and pointed critics, the outgoing U.S. defense chief scathingly accused Europe of behaving increasingly like a free rider, as budget cuts eat deeper into military spending.

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America's European allies, Mr. Gates said, are "apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets."

Although the Libya mission has met its initial military objectives of grounding the Libyan air force and eroding Col. Moammar Gadhafi's ability to mount attacks on his own citizens, the operations have exposed weaknesses in the alliance, Mr. Gates said. While all members of the 28-nation alliance approved the Libya mission, fewer than half are participating, and even a smaller fraction are conducting air-to-ground strike missions.

"Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can't. The military capabilities simply aren't there," he said.

Journal Community

On the day of his speech, Norway—one of just seven NATO nations contributing ground-strike aircraft to the Libya campaign—announced it would pull out of the operation on Aug. 1 and, in the meantime, reduce the number of its strike fighters to four from six.

Norway's Defense Minister Grete Faremo said she expected understanding from allies, because the country's small air force couldn't maintain a large fighter-jet contribution over an extended period.

Norway, along with Denmark, has been praised by U.S. officials for pulling more than its weight over Libya. The two countries have provided 12% of allied strike aircraft yet have struck about one-third of the targets, Mr. Gates said.

In a private meeting with NATO defense ministers Wednesday, Mr. Gates identified Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands as countries that should contribute more to the Libya mission, and urged Germany and Poland, which have so far not contributed, to join the fight.


Full Text: Gates's speech on NATO
Dozens Die in Fresh Gadhafi Offensive
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has expressed his own fears about other allies falling further behind the U.S. and being dependent on American technology. But he was confident allies would provide what was necessary to fulfill the Libya mission, she said.

A spokeswoman for Germany's foreign service said the country makes a considerable contribution to NATO and to NATO-led operations. She said the "large German engagement" in Afghanistan and elsewhere was explicitly praised by President Barack Obama when he met Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington on June 7.

Officials from the U.K., which has the second-largest defense budget in NATO, said they didn't believe Mr. Gates's comments were directed at them. Nonetheless, U.S. officials have expressed disappointment at a 7.5% cut to defense spending in coming years.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox has echoed some of Mr. Gates's views, saying other countries are relying too much on a few countries, particularly the U.K. and France, in Libya.

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Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert delivered a speech in Brussels Friday.

French and British officials have spoken of a three-tier alliance—with the U.S. far ahead of the second tier of Britain and France, and the rest way behind them.

Mr. Gates said he had long worried NATO was developing into a tiered alliance, divided between countries willing to bear the burden of military operations and those who "enjoy the benefits" but won't share the costs. "This is no longer a hypothetical worry," he said. "We are there today. And it is unacceptable."

Mr. Gates blasted the alliance for failing to develop intelligence and reconnaissance assets, forcing NATO to rely on American capabilities to develop targeting lists. "The most advanced fighter aircraft are little use if allies do not have the means to identify, process and strike targets as part of an integrated campaign," Mr. Gates said.

In addition, he said, even in a campaign against a "poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country" allies began running short on munitions after just 11 weeks, forcing the U.S. to step in and help.

NATO officials said ammunition shortages hadn't affected the campaign.

Mr. Gates said the alliance had outperformed his expectations in Afghanistan. But even in the face of increased operations there, NATO defense budgets have fallen, forcing allies to put off critical modernization programs. In the 10 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. defense spending doubled. European defense spending, Mr. Gates said, fell by 15%. NATO members are supposed to spend 2% of their GDP on defense, but only five of the 28 allies meet that target.

In a question-and-answer session after the speech, Mr. Gates said historical attachments U.S. leaders have had to NATO are "aging out."

"Decisions and choices are going to be made more on what is in the best interest of the United States going forward," he said.
24079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Salafists going after Coptic Christians on: June 12, 2011, 06:28:10 AM
I cannot access the complete article from where I am


QENA, Egypt—Five weeks after the fall of the Egyptian regime, Ayman Anwar Mitri's apartment was torched. When he showed up to investigate, he was bundled inside by bearded Islamists.

Mr. Mitri is a member of the Christian Coptic minority that accounts for one-tenth of the country's 83 million people. The Islamists accused him of having rented the apartment—by then unoccupied—to loose Muslim women.

Inside the burnt apartment, they beat him with the charred remains of his furniture. Then, one of them produced a box cutter and performed what he considered an appropriate punishment under Islam: He amputated Mr. Mitri's right ...
24080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: IMF hacked on: June 12, 2011, 06:25:23 AM
Or we could withdraw from the IMF , , ,

WASHINGTON—The International Monetary Fund is investigating a recent cyber attack that hit its network, the latest in a series of high-profile hacking incidents against major corporations and institutions.
The fund declined to disclose the nature of the attack, whether its systems were infiltrated or whether any confidential information had been compromised. The extent of any infiltration remains unclear.
"We had an incident," said IMF spokesman David Hawley. "We're investigating it and the fund is completely functional." He said IMF staff received a "routine notification" about the incident by email Wednesday asking them to contact their tech department "if they saw anything suspicious."
The threat against the institution is the latest in a recent series as it responds to economic turmoil in several European nations. Earlier this month, the IMF said it had taken precautions after a group called Anonymous indicated its hackers would target the IMF web site in response to the strict austerity measures in its rescue package for Greece.
The IMF has faced repeated cyber attacks in recent years. It routinely collects sensitive information about the financial conditions of its 187 member nations. Some data in its computer systems could conceivably be used to influence or trade currencies, bonds and other financial instruments in markets around the world.
The latest infiltration was sophisticated in that it involved significant reconnaissance prior to the attack, and code written specifically to penetrate the IMF, said Tom Kellermann, a former cybersecurity specialist at the World Bank who has been tracking the incident.
"This isn't malware you've seen before," he said, making it that much more difficult to detect. The concern, Mr. Kellermann said, is that hackers designed their attack to gain market-moving insider information.
The attackers appeared to have broad access to IMF systems, which would give them visibility into IMF plans, particularly as it relates to bailing out the economies of countries on shaky financial footing, Mr. Kellermann said.
The IMF spokesman wouldn't comment on any specific details of the incident, which was first reported Saturday by the New York Times.
The attack on the IMF led the World Bank this week to cut a network link between the two institutions, even though the tie is not used for confidential financial information or other sensitive data. The IMF and World Bank, whose headquarters are next door to each other in Washington, work closely together on economic concerns of their member nations around the world.
A World Bank official said Saturday the network link with the IMF "involved nonpublic, nonsensitive information and it was cut out of an abundance of caution."
The network link between the two institutions has been severed before due to attacks against the fund.
Cyber threats against the fund have increased in recent years, particularly after the global financial crisis. The IMF has been heavily involved with European governments in bailing out Greece, Ireland and Portugal as the nations struggle with sovereign-debt crises.
It's not clear whether the number of cyber attacks is increasing, but it is certainly the case that institutions have recently grown more comfortable about disclosing them. So widespread is the threat that the fear of embarrassment appears to have shrunk, security experts say.
Google Inc. recently said users of its Gmail email service had been hacked by unknown people in China. Lockheed Martin Corp. has acknowledged a breach that it linked to an attack on EMC Corp.'s RSA unit, a security company that makes the numerical tokens used by millions of corporate employees to access their network.

Read more:
24081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Or we could abolish the DOE , , , on: June 12, 2011, 06:22:35 AM

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is threatening to use the power of his position to alter key elements of No Child Left Behind if Congress doesn't renew and upgrade the education law before the next school year begins.

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Associated Press
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, right, takes questions from first graders as Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., listens during a visit to Dayton's Bluff Achievement Plus Elementary School in May.

Mr. Duncan is promising to waive specific requirements of the law in exchange for states agreeing to adopt other efforts he has championed, such as linking teacher evaluations to student achievement, expanding charter schools and overhauling the lowest-performing schools. Effectively, he's warning Congress that if it doesn't overhaul the nine-year-old law, he'll bypass lawmakers to get his way.

"Principals, superintendents and children cannot wait forever for the legislative process to work itself out," Mr. Duncan said in a conference call with reporters. "As it exists now, No Child Left Behind is creating a slow-motion train wreck for children, parents and teachers."

No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush's signature domestic achievement, has been up for renewal since 2007. Congress has so far extended it on a year-by-year basis.

The law requires states to test students in math and reading and punishes schools that fall short of score objectives set by the states. The law has been widely criticized for labeling too many schools as failures, narrowing the school curriculum and prodding states to water down standardized tests.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Duncan have aggressively pushed Congress to overhaul the law and, until recently, it was expected to be one of the few bipartisan achievements this year. But Republicans have begun to push back, especially tea-party Republicans who want to reduce the federal government's role in K-12 schools.

Mr. Duncan's pledge to use the waiver process didn't sit well with two Congressmen working to renew the law.

"Given the bipartisan commitment in Congress to fixing No Child Left Behind, it seems premature at this point to take steps outside the legislative process that would address NCLB's problems in a temporary and piecemeal way," Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate education committee, said in a statement.

Rep. John Kline, Republican chairman of the House education committee, has said he feels no urgency to move a bill, despite Mr. Duncan's pressure. "He'd like to get this done before they go back to school in September. We're not going to do that," he said in a May interview with the Wall Street Journal. He said he hopes to have the matter settled in 2011, partly because it's more difficult to pass ambitious legislation during a presidential election year.

Mr. Kline is particularly hostile to Race to the Top, Mr. Obama's pet program that provides competitive funding for states that embrace the education changes he favors. The president has repeatedly cited this as a key to his administration's success in education and a blueprint in reauthorizing No Child Left Behind.

Jennifer Allen, Mr. Kline's spokeswoman, said the Congressman didn't know details of Mr. Duncan's recent waiver promise, but said, "Chairman Kline remains concerned about any initiative–including waivers–that would allow the secretary to pick winners and losers in the nation's education system."

Mr. Kline said his committee would pass legislation in small pieces so that members, particularly newly elected ones, can understand it.

The law as it stands gives the education secretary broad authority to waive certain provisions. Mr. Duncan wouldn't offer specifics on which provisions are under consideration, but said he's opposed to one that currently punishes schools for not reaching high, specified goals, even as they make dramatic improvement. He also said he might offer states flexibility on how they can spend federal education money.

Mr. Duncan said individual states could apply for waivers and he might approve them in exchange for agreements to embrace other education changes. States that already have adopted reforms favored by the administration also would be considered.

"There is zero intent here to abandon accountability," Mr. Duncan said. "In fact, ideally, this flexibility would be in exchange for courage and reform."
24082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 12, 2011, 06:10:27 AM
Can we not simply take the statement to mean that she will make a 100% effort?  Contrast Newt's cruise ship vacation, , ,   

Anyway, I liked this piece about Michelle.  I hope for a strong performance from her tomorrow night.
24083  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: June 11, 2011, 08:54:39 PM

Lets steer this back to a more over-the-dinner-table tone please.
24084  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Straight Blast on: June 11, 2011, 08:53:23 PM
Crane Wings:

That is a very interesting question.  May I ask that you start a thread dedicated to it?

Crafty Dog

PS:  The quote of which you are thinking is "The fastest progress comes from working the weakest link."
24085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Michelle Bachman on: June 11, 2011, 06:45:58 PM
If I'm in, I'll be all in," says Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, artfully dodging my question of whether she's running for president. Given that she just hired campaign strategist Ed Rollins, whose past clients include Ross Perot and Mike Huckabee, rumors abound. "We're getting close," she says, "and if I do run, like all my races, I will work like a maniac."

That's pretty much how she does everything, and it helps explain how the relatively junior congresswoman has become a tea party superstar—and uniquely adept at driving liberals bonkers.

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Terry Shoffner
 After spending a good part of two days with her in Washington as she scurries from one appointment to another, I have no doubt that Ms. Bachmann will announce her presidential bid soon. And it would be a mistake to count her out: She's defied the prognosticators in nearly every race she's run since thrashing an 18-year incumbent in the Minnesota Senate by 20 points in 2000. Says Iowa Congressman Steve King, "No one has electrified Iowa crowds like Michelle has."

Ms. Bachmann is best known for her conservative activism on issues like abortion, but what I want to talk about today is economics. When I ask who she reads on the subject, she responds that she admires the late Milton Friedman as well as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. "I'm also an Art Laffer fiend—we're very close," she adds. "And [Ludwig] von Mises. I love von Mises," getting excited and rattling off some of his classics like "Human Action" and "Bureaucracy." "When I go on vacation and I lay on the beach, I bring von Mises."

As we rush from her first-floor digs in the Cannon House Office Building to the House floor so she can vote, I ask for her explanation of the 2008 financial meltdown. "There were a lot of bad actors involved, but it started with the Community Reinvestment Act under Jimmy Carter and then the enhanced amendments that Bill Clinton made to force, in effect, banks to make loans to people who lacked creditworthiness. If you want to come down to a bottom line of 'How did we get in the mess?' I think it was a reduction in standards."

She continues: "Nobody wanted to say, 'No.' The implicit and then the explicit guarantees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were sopping up the losses. Being on the Financial Services Committee, I can assure you, all roads lead to Freddie and Fannie."

Ms. Bachmann voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) "both times," she boasts, and she has no regrets since Congress "just gave the Treasury a $700 billion blank check." She complains that no one bothered to ask about the constitutionality of these extraordinary interventions into the financial markets. "During a recent hearing I asked Secretary [Timothy] Geithner three times where the constitution authorized the Treasury's actions, and his response was, 'Well, Congress passed the law.'"

Insufficient focus on constitutional limits to federal power is a Bachmann pet peeve. "It's like when you come up to a stop sign and you're driving. Some people have it in their mind that the stop sign is optional. The Constitution is government's stop sign. It says, you—the three branches of government—can go so far and no farther. With TARP, the government blew through the Constitutional stop sign and decided 'Whatever it takes, that's what we're going to do.'"

Does this mean she would have favored allowing the banks to fail? "I would have. People think when you have a, quote, 'bank failure,' that that is the end of the bank. And it isn't necessarily. A normal way that the American free market system has worked is that we have a process of unwinding. It's called bankruptcy. It doesn't mean, necessarily, that the industry is eclipsed or that it's gone. Often times, the phoenix rises out of the ashes."

She also bristles at the idea, pushed of late by the White House, that the auto bailouts were a big success for workers and taxpayers. "We'll probably be out $15 billion. What was galling to so many investors was that Chrysler's secured creditors were supposed to receive 100% payout of the first money. We essentially watched over 100 years of bankruptcy law thrown out the window and President Obama eviscerated the private property interests of the secured creditors. He called them 'greedy' for enforcing their own legal rights."

So what would she have done? "For one, I believe my policies prior to '08 would have been much different from [President Bush's]. I wouldn't have spent so much money," she says, pointing in particular at the Department of Education and the Medicare prescription drug bill. "I would have advocated for greater reductions in the corporate tax rate and reductions in the capital gains rate—even more so than what the president did." Mr. Bush cut the capital gains rate to 15% from 20% in 2003.

She's also no fan of the Federal Reserve's decade-long policy of flooding the U.S. economy with cheap money. "I love a lowered interest rate like anyone else. But clearly the Fed has had competing goals and objectives. One is the soundness of money and then the other is jobs. The two different objectives are hard to reconcile. What has gotten us into deep trouble and has people so perturbed is the debasing of the currency."

That's why, if she were president, she wouldn't renominate Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman: "I think that it's very important to demonstrate to the American people that the Federal Reserve will have a new sheriff" to keep the dollar strong and stable.

As for foreign policy, she joined 86 other House Republicans last week in voting for the resolution sponsored by antiwar Democrat Dennis Kucinich to stop U.S. military action in Libya within 15 days. Is she a Midwestern isolationist? "I was opposed to the U.S. involvement in Libya from the very start," she says. "President Obama has never made a compelling national security case on Libya."

Even more striking, she says the 1973 War Powers Resolution, requiring congressional approval for military action after 60 days, is "the law of the land" and must be obeyed. That's a notable difference from every recent president of either party, including Ronald Reagan.

Ms. Bachmann attributes many of her views, especially on economics, to her middle-class upbringing in 1960s Iowa and Minnesota. She talks with almost religious fervor about the virtues of living frugally, working hard and long hours, and avoiding debt. When she was growing up, she recalls admiringly, Iowa dairy farmers worked from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Her political opponents on the left portray her as a "she-devil," in her words, a caricature at odds with her life accomplishments. She's a mother of five, and she and her husband helped raise 23 teenage foster children in their home, as many as four at a time. They succeeded in getting all 23 through high school and later founded a charter school.

She got started in politics after seeing the failures in public schooling. "The kids were coloring posters in 11th grade algebra class," she says. "I decided to do my duty, go to the Republican convention. I had on jeans, a sweatshirt with a hole in it, white moccasins, and I showed up in this auditorium and everyone said, 'Why are we nominating this guy [Gary] Laidig every four years?'"

"I thought, 'I'm nobody from nowhere but maybe if I challenge the guy, he'll shape up a little bit.' So I gave a five-minute speech on freedom, economic liberty and all the rest. And no one could believe it, but I won a supermajority on the first ballot and he was out on his keister."

She ran for Congress in 2006, the worst year for Republicans in two decades. "Nancy Pelosi and all her horses spent $9.6 million to defeat me in that race"—almost three times what Ms. Bachmann had raised. She won 50% to 42%. In 2010, the Democrats and their union allies raised more than $10 million to try to defeat her. "My adversaries have certainly been highly motivated," she says.

But her adversaries—or, at least, rivals—aren't limited to the left. There's Sarah Palin, with whom journalists are convinced she has frosty relations, and fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty, now running for president. About Ms. Palin the congresswoman shrugs, "People want to see a mud-wrestling fight. They won't get it from me because I like Sarah Palin and I respect her." As for whether Mr. Pawlenty was a good governor, "I really don't want to comment."

Ever ready to cite stories from American history, Ms. Bachmann notes with a grin that the last House member to be elected president was James Garfield in 1880. If she were to take her shot, she'd run on an economic package reminiscent of Jack Kemp, the late congressman who championed supply-side economics and was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. "In my perfect world," she explains, "we'd take the 35% corporate tax rate down to nine so that we're the most competitive in the industrialized world. Zero out capital gains. Zero out the alternative minimum tax. Zero out the death tax."

The 3.8 million-word U.S. tax code may be irreparable, she says, a view she's held since working as a tax attorney at the IRS 20 years ago. "I love the FAIR tax. If we were starting over from scratch, I would favor a national sales tax." But she's not a sponsor of the FAIR tax bill because she fears that enacting it won't end the income tax, and "we would end up with a dual tax, a national sales tax and an income tax."

Her main goal is to get tax rates down with a broad-based income tax that everyone pays and that "gets rid of all the deductions." A system in which 47% of Americans don't pay any tax is ruinous for a democracy, she says, "because there is no tie to the government benefits that people demand. I think everyone should have to pay something."

On the stump she emphasizes an "America-centered energy policy" based on "drilling and mining for our rich resources here." And she believes that repealing ObamaCare is a precondition to restoring a prosperous economy. "You cannot have a pro-growth economy and advise, simultaneously, socialized medicine."

Her big challenge is whether the country is ready to support deep spending cuts. On this issue, she carries a sharper blade than everyone except Ron Paul. She voted for the Paul Ryan budget—but "with an asterisk." Why? "The asterisk is that we've got a huge messaging problem [on Medicare]. It needs to be called the 55-and-Under Plan. I can't tell you the number of 78-year-old women who think we're going to pull the rug out from under them."

Ms. Bachmann also voted for the Republican Study Committee budget that cuts deeper and faster than even Mr. Ryan would. "We do have an obligation with Social Security and Medicare, and we have to recognize that" for those who are already retired, she says. But after that, it's Katy bar the door: "Everything else is expendable to bring spending down," and she'd ax "whole departments" including the Department of Education.

"I think people realize the crisis we face isn't in 25 years or even 10 years off. It is right now. And people want it solved now—especially Republican primary voters."

Mr. Moore is a member of The Journal's editorial board.

24086  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: June 11, 2011, 05:38:33 PM
Is any of this really addressed to the original question
24087  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Yip! on: June 11, 2011, 05:33:40 PM
Yip from a secret location.   cheesy  Back on Monday.
24088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: June 11, 2011, 05:23:29 PM
Umm , , , GM , , , the Harlequinn paraody was/is a joke rolleyes
24089  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: June 11, 2011, 05:08:13 PM
Yip from , , , a secret location.   cheesy  I am on the road for an oof-the-radar-screen seminar.  Will be back on Monday.
24090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: June 11, 2011, 05:07:26 PM
From an internet friend who is deep into Austrian economics:

A good article, as most of "Pater Tenbrarum's" articles are -- and solidly
grounded in a good understanding of Austrian School economics, too.

In my mind we truly have an unprecedented situation in the world. Almost
every government, everywhere, is facilitating a rapid debt buildup -- mostly
unproductive debt created by issuing new money unbacked by any commodity or
even any productive activity. Whenever markets swoon and threaten to stop
some of the nonsense, these governments act to prevent any correction from
being completed. They give yet more newly created money to the entities that
have already wasted hundreds of billions of dollars of real resources -- and
then count the ensuing spending as "economic activity." It's not; it's
un-economic activity. This is not a process that can continue forever.

Given where we are now, it's pretty clear that governments around the world
will continue this craziness until some circumstance forcibly prevents them
from doing so. By definition, I would think, such a crisis will be bigger
and more difficult to endure than any previous crisis.

I will post yesterday's Doug Noland commentary immediately below. I wish he
wrote the English language better than he does, but Noland still does
understand some things about credit expansions that elude most other
analysts. He writes the weekly Credit Bubble

Here is one of my key take-away paragraphs from Noland's column:

"At some inevitable - if not predictable - point the markets will care
tremendously whether a Credit system is sound or not.  Regrettably, the
current era’s ... unique capacity for sustaining non-productive debt booms
poses major problems.  In short, the booms last too long and activist
policymaking ensures they end up afflicting the heart of Credit systems.
These protracted Bubbles are resolved through problematic crises of
confidence, debt revulsion and economic restructuring."


The King Of Non-Productive Debt:

There is important confirmation of the “bear” thesis to discuss.  But, as
usual, let’s first set the backdrop:

The world is in the midst of history’s greatest Credit Bubble.  A
dysfunctional global financial system essentially operates without
mechanisms to regulate the quantity and quality of debt issuance.  In
response to severe banking system impairment and fiscal problems in the
early-nineties, the Greenspan Fed helped nurture a Credit system shift to
nontraditional marketable debt.  The bank loan was largely replaced by
mortgage-backed securities (MBS), asset-backed securities (ABS), GSE debt
instruments, derivatives and a multitude of sophisticated “Wall Street”
Credit instruments.  The Credit expansion grew exponentially, while becoming
increasingly detached from production and economic wealth-creation (the
boom, in fact, exacerbated deindustrialization).

The Fed implemented momentous changes in monetary management to bolster the
new “marketable debt” Credit system structure, including “pegging”
short-term interest rates; serial interventions to assure “liquid and
continuous markets;” and adopting an “asymmetrical” policy framework that
disregarded asset inflation/Bubbles, while guaranteeing the marketplace an
aggressive policy response to any risk of market illiquidity or
financial/economic instability.  Massive expansion of marketable debt
coupled with a highly-accommodative policy backdrop incited incredible
growth in speculation and leveraging.  Over time, trends in U.S. Credit,
policy and speculative excess took root around the world.

Global markets suffered a devastating crisis of confidence in 2008.  The
failure of Lehman Brothers, in particular, set off a panic throughout global
markets for private-sector debt, especially Credit intermediated through
sophisticated Wall Street structures.  Unprecedented government intervention
reversed the downward spiral in Credit and economic output.  Especially in
the U.S., Trillions of private debt instruments were put under the umbrella
of government backing.  Meanwhile, Trillions more were acquired by the Fed,
ECB and global central bankers in the greatest market intervention and debt
monetization in history.  Policy making – fiscal and monetary, at home and
abroad – unleashed the “Global Government Finance Bubble”.

Currency market distortions have been instrumental in sowing financial
fragility and economic instability.  Chiefly because of the dollar’s special
“reserve currency” status, U.S. Credit system excesses have been
accommodated for way too long.  Global central banks have been willing to
accumulate Trillions of our I.O.U.s, providing a critical liquidity backstop
for the marketplace.  Highly liquid and orderly currency markets have been
instrumental in ensuring a liquid Credit market, which has provided our
fiscal and monetary policymakers extraordinary flexibility to inflate our
Credit, our asset markets and our economy.  Meanwhile, massive U.S. Current
Account Deficits and other financial flows have inundated the world,
creating liquidity excess and unfettered domestic Credit expansion
throughout the world.  Global imbalances, having mounted for decades, went
“parabolic” over the past few years.

I would argue strongly that the euro currency regime owes much of its great
success to the structurally weak U.S. dollar.  For all the flaws and
potential pitfalls of a common European currency, the euro has from day one
looked awfully appealing standing side-by-side with the dollar.  And the
buoyant euro created powerful market distortions that promoted Credit excess
throughout the region, especially in Europe’s periphery (Greece and the
so-called “PIIGS” would never have enjoyed the capacity to push borrowing to
such extremes had they been issuing debt denominated in their own
currencies).  The weak dollar and strong euro – along with the perception
that the Eurozone and ECB would never tolerate a default by one of its
sovereigns – were instrumental in promoting profligate borrowing, lending,
spending and speculating.

I have recently turned more focused on differentiating between “productive”
and “non-productive” debt.  This is an important analytical distinction –
although, by nature, a challenging gray area for Macro Credit Analysis.  At
the time of its creation, there might actually be little difference from a
systemic perspective whether a new financial claim is created in the process
of financing real investment or an asset purchase or, instead, to fund a
government stimulus program.  In each case, new purchasing power is released
into the system.  The key is that the new Credit stimulates economic
“output” through increased spending, incomes and/or asset inflation.
Especially during the halcyon Credit boom days, the markets will pay scant
attention to the assets underpinning the new debt instruments (particularly
when policymakers are actively intervening and distorting markets!).

However, don’t be fooled and don’t become too complacent.  At some
inevitable - if not predictable - point the markets will care tremendously
whether a Credit system is sound or not.  Regrettably, the current era’s
(unrestrained global finance, structurally-unsound dollar, “activist”
policymaking, rampant global speculation, etc.) unique capacity for
sustaining non-productive debt booms poses major problems.  In short, the
booms last too long and activist policymaking ensures they end up afflicting
the heart of Credit systems.  These protracted Bubbles are resolved through
problematic crises of confidence, debt revulsion and economic

First of all, booms create a fragile mountain of debt not supported by
underlying wealth-creating capacity.  Second, Credit Bubbles inflate various
price levels throughout the economy, creating systemic dependencies
requiring ongoing debt and speculative excess.  And, third, the boom in
non-productive debt will tend to foster consumption and malinvestment at the
expense of sound investment in productive capacity.   When the boom
eventually falters, market revulsion to unsound debt, the  economy’s
addiction to uninterrupted Credit expansion, and the lack of capacity for
real wealth creation within the (“Bubble”) real economy ensure a very severe
crisis and prolonged adjustment period.  These dynamics become critically
important as soon as a government (finally) loses its capacity to perpetuate
the Bubble (i.e. Greece, Portugal, Ireland, etc.)

As a crisis unfolds, the markets eventually must come to grips with a very
harsh reality:  There will be denial and it will take some time to really
sink in - but the markets will come to recognize that too little of the
existing debt is backed by real wealth.  Non-productive Credit booms are,
after all, essentially “Ponzi Finance” schemes.  Worse yet, only huge
additional injections of debt/purchasing power will hold economic collapse
at bay.  Fundamentally, non-productive Credit booms foment deleterious
effects upon the economic structure – that only compound over time.  As we
have witnessed with Greece and Ireland, “bailout” costs can quickly
skyrocket to meaningful percentages of GDP - and will keep growing.

And once stunned by the downside of “Ponzi Finance,” markets will be keen to
mitigate risk exposure to the next episode.   This is the essence of
“contagion effects.”  Especially in interlocking global markets dominated by
leveraged speculation and trend-following trading strategies, de-risking and
de-leveraging in one market tend to quickly translate to risk aversion and
faltering liquidity throughout the marketplace.  Markets perceived as
liquidity abundant can almost overnight be transformed to
liquidity-challenged.  This dynamic went to devastating extremes during the
2008 crisis – only to begin mount a resurgence with last year’s Greek debt
crisis and contagion.

It has been my thesis that last year’s aggressive market interventions –
QE2, the European fiscal and monetary “bailouts,” and massive global central
bank monetization – incited a highly speculative Bubble environment
vulnerable to negative liquidity surprises.  And now we’re down to the final
few weeks of QE2.  The European bailout strategy is unwinding, with little
possibility of near-term stabilization.  Meanwhile, the US economy has
downshifted in spite of massive fiscal and monetary stimulus.  Risk and
uncertainty abound; de-risking and de-leveraging are making a comeback.

Bloomberg went with the headline, “Fed’s Maiden Lane Sales Trigger Bank
Stampede to Dump Risk.”  At The Wall Street Journal, it was “As ‘Junk’ Bonds
Fall, Some Blame the Fed.”  Both articles noted the deterioration in pricing
for a broadening list of Credit market instruments, including junk bonds,
subprime mortgage securities, and various Credit derivatives.  And while the
Fed’s liquidation of an old AIG portfolio is surely a drag on some prices, I
believe the rapidly changing liquidity backdrop is more indicative of global
de-risking dynamics.  This is providing important confirmation of the bear

There are fascinating dynamics at work throughout our Credit market.
Arguably, the U.S. is the King of Non-Productive Debt.  In the wake of a
historic expansion of non-productive household debt comes a Bubble in
government (Treasury and related) Credit.  The assets underpinning too much
of the U.S. debt mountain are of suspect quality, although this hasn’t
mattered recently.  And in true Bubble fashion, the marketplace has
increasingly gravitated to Treasury debt as the “Greek” crisis escalates and
contagion effects gather momentum.  The corporate debt market has enjoyed
extreme bullish sentiment – along with waves of investment and speculative
inflows.  While the corporate balance sheet appears sound, I would counter
that corporate earnings and cash flows have been artificially inflated by
unsustainable federal deficits.  In particular, the bubbling junk bond
market would appear vulnerable to the deteriorating liquidity backdrop.

Elsewhere, there is the murky world of subprime derivatives and such.  This
bastion of speculative excess certainly enjoyed the fruits of policy-induced
reflation.  But not only has housing performed dismally, there are now the
market issues of de-risking and liquidity uncertainties.  Today from the
WSJ:  “Since April, prices of many subprime mortgage securities have
declined between 15% and 20%... The decline in subprime mortgage bonds
accelerated in the last two weeks…”  From Bloomberg this morning:  “Declines
in credit-default swaps indexes used to protect against losses on subprime
housing debt and commercial mortgages accelerated this month, reaching
almost 20% in the past five weeks..”  Also from Bloomberg:  “Default swaps
on the six largest U.S. banks have gained an average of 19.4 bps to 137.2
bps since May 31…”

In conclusion, support seemed abundant this week for the thesis which holds
that the U.S. Credit system and economy are much more vulnerable to
contagion effects than is commonly appreciated.  Treasury and dollar rallies
appear constructive for system liquidity.  In reality, it is likely that
both markets are heavily impacted by speculative trading (speculators, in
various forms, have used Treasury and dollar short positions to finance
higher-returning holdings).  Strength in the Treasury market and the dollar
are indicative of – and place additional pressure on – the unwind of
leveraged trades.  And it is when the speculator community finds itself back
on its heels and backing away from risk that liquidity becomes a critical
market issue.
24091  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: June 10, 2011, 01:36:07 PM
Woof All:

On August 12-14, 2011 (Friday-Sunday) we will be holding the "Dog Brothers
Martial Arts Training Camp" here in Hermosa Beach (Seven miles south of the
Los Angeles LAX Airport).  Hermosa Beach is a very agreeable place to be,
especially in August; as always, there will be plenty of socializing in the

With this year's camp being five weeks before the Sept 18th, 2011 "Dog
Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack", the timing is perfect for the focus of
this year's camp, which will be , , , drum roll please , , , Real Contact
Stick Fighting (RCSFg).  This camp is ideal for relative beginners looking
to raise their learning curve as well as for intermediate and experienced
fighters looking to put themselves to the test at Dog Brothers Gatherings.
For those fighting at the Gathering, this camp will help bring your game up
to a new level.  For those who don't fight, training alongside and with
those who do will help you functionalize your skills more than you may think

While leaving ourselves free to go with the flow, the planned progression

1) Conceptual Overview:

   a)  Our Theory of Seven Ranges and how it helps us to apply our skills
technically in the adrenal state.  See my article of several years ago
posted in the "Ranges observed in the fights" thread at  (Also see the "Snake
Range" article from ten years ago at the end of this newsletter);
   b) The Triangle from the Third Dimension:  Getting to the inner ranges
(medio, corto, clinch, and ground) scientifically, whether it be by
combinations, "attacking blocks", or "occupying strikes";
   c) St. Foom:  The art and science of maintaining the outer ranges and
preventing the close;
   d) How RCSFg lays the foundation for "Kali Tudo"-- really applying
weaponry motions empty handed and in street situations (our "Die Less Often"
material) so that we have "Consistency across categories";
   e) Footwork:  Applied triangles and bilateralism;

2) Basic Krabi Krabong for DBMA:  KK is the Thai military weaponry system
from which the combat ring sport of Muay Thai descends.

3) Dos Triques and Advanced Double Stick fighting:  "Triques" is our
neologism for the initials of our subsystem that blends "Kali" and "Krabi
Krabong"-- KKK!  For obvious reasons we want to avoid this!!!  Thus, the bad
pun of Triques for "the three Ks". Dos Triques is the double stick aspect of
"Triques" and is where we install the triangular footwork matrix that
applies in all areas of DBMA.

4) Los Triques:  Although traditional Filipino Martial Art theology posits
that kicking in a weapons fight is a really bad idea, our experience has
been that the KK approach to using of kicks and knees has a lot of merit. We
teach the integration of kicks with stick with triangular footwork in the
single stick portion of Triques.

5) The Science of Closing to Media/Corto/Clinch:  In my opinion, one of the
fortes of DBMA is our ability to get to the inner ranges technically and
scientifically so that we arrive in a dominant manner in good balance with
our eyes open.  This is where we
see Attacking Blocks, Closing Combinations, and Occupying Strikes.

6) The Salty Structure and The Bolo Game:  Named after the legendary Salty
Dog, the Salty Game is the science of fighting from the off lead (weapon in
rear hand)  The Bolo Game works very well from the Salty Structure.

7) Snaggletooth Variations

Cool The Trident: Integrating the various games into the footwork matrix.

9) Applied Staff fighting

10) Applied Stick & Knife

11) Stick Clinch

12) Stick grappling

I am in a mood to really lay it down with this material and there is a very
good chance that the material from this camp will become a DBMA DVD
"Advanced Stick Fighting".

So, how much for this veritable cornucopia of stickfighting sagacity?  As
always, we respect that value of your time and money with fair prices:  The
cost is $100 per day, or $250 for all three days.  10% discount for DBMA
Association members, 15% discount for Law Enforcement, and 25% for US (and
NATO allies e.g. Canada) military.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty

PS:  For additional discussion of the Camp, please see

The following article is quite old, but perhaps it remains relevant wink

Snake Range,
by Guro Crafty  (Copyright 2001 Dog Brothers Inc.)

  As Juan Matus has pointed out, seeing what is not there as well as what is
powerful--in life as well as in stickfighting. I often see doubt or the “BS
alert” expression in people’s faces when they hear that Snake Range, the
first range of DBMA, is defined as “before contact is made”. To most people,
if no hitting is going on, then nothing of importance is going on. Yet the
idea of Snake Range is that what is done in the absence of hitting in order
to define the moment of impact (and its continuation) is one of the most
important parts of fighting.

  So what are the elements of the Snake in DBMA?

First there is “the skill of moving your stick to protect your hand, hide
your intent, create your opening, and mask your initiation.”

Second, there is the analysis of your opponent’s psychological type.

Third, and closely related, there is the analysis of his structure which we
call “The Theory of Chambers”.

Fourth, there is a specific theory of footwork.

Fifth, there is using this range to AVOID contact, which includes both ST.
FOOM (an acronym for “stay the fornicate off of me”) and the specific
footwork theory for avoiding engagement. And sixth, there is the theory of
the skirmish (multiple versus one, and many versus many where numbers may or
may not be equal)

The first element we will leave for another day. For now we will note that
Top Dog’s distinctive circling of the stick we call “the clock” and that a
fighter seasoned in the Attacking Block Drills will be able to use a Upward
8 in a similar manner.

Lets turn to psychological types and games that one should recognize in
Snake Range. Here, in no particular order, are some examples:

  a) "Mongo" (after the Alex Karras character in Mel Brooks's "Blazing
Saddles") Mongo looks to smash anything and every thing that comes at him or
is in front of him.

  b) The Stalker: he lumbers after you, often with step and slide footwork.

  c) The Evader: evades and looks to counter hit.

  d) The Blocking Counter Hitter: he presses forward and looks to counter
hit after blocking your strike.

  e) The Posturer: he doesn’t really want to fight. Typically Posturers
strut and posture just out of reach in the hopes you will overextend
yourself due to impatience.

  f) The Salesman: uses the stick deceptively hoping to trick you into
exposing yourself.

  g) Three Card Monte: a variation of the salesman done with double stick.
It mixes the chambers of each stick (e.g. holds one high and one low) and
tries to hit you with the one at which you’re not looking.

  h) The Speed Merchant: not much power, but he scores and moves.

  i) The Troglodyte: doesn’t care much if you hit him, he’s going to hit

  j) The Linebacker: comes after you like a linebacker blitzing a
quarterback. He wants to crash and take it to the ground.

There’s more of course and these types can be combined. For example, a Mongo
can be a Troglodyte Stalker.

The Theory of Chambers is the analysis of the physical structure of the man
in front of you. From where does he throw? Some examples:

  a) From above the forehand shoulder is “the Caveman”.

  b) Does he finish this swing with his elbow in centerline? Then he is
“elbow fulcrum”.

  c) A “backhander” prefers to throw from the backhand side.

  d) A “slapper” has bad form and tends to swing horizontally.

  e) “Off-lead” is with the weapon in the rear hand.

  f) Low Chamber is a low forehand position. This sometimes is in an

  g) Siniwali Caveman is with the caveman strike in the rear, and the front
stick is a jabbing/shielding position (a.k.a. “paw and pow”).

  h) Double Caveman is with each stick above its respective shoulder.

  i) False lead is left shoulder and right foot forward, right stick in
right hand or vice versa.

  These are but some examples. For each of these structures you want to know
what are the strengths and weaknesses and have solutions.

  In addition to the snakey stick, there is also “the snaky foot”, which of
course is an oxymoron because snakes don’t have feet?but never mind that.
There is a specific theory of footwork for this distance which we will leave
for another day.

  And in the street you may not want to engage and may want to keep the
jackal(s) away. ST. FOOM is moving your feet and swinging your stick so as
to create a bubble around yourself into which no one wants to step.

  And the Skirmish is all the skills you need for multiple situations. This
is more tactics and strategy than particular technique. Technical competence
is already assumed, thus it is usually covered later in the training. If you
can’t fight one, you may not be ready to think about fighting more than one.

  All of these are elements of Snake Range in Dog Brothers Martial Arts.

  Guro Crafty

24092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The congnitive dissonance of the left on: June 10, 2011, 12:32:22 PM
And then there were the various responses to Bill stuffing Monica with a cigar and getting blown in the Oval Office , , , and forcing himself on Paula Jones and the insults tow which she was subjected (ugly, trailer park and the like) and what was her name, the woman who came to him to plead for her husband's job only to get groped or something like that?

Well maybe we can say that Mrs. Weiner is rather attractive and Hillary could give a man frostbite?  cheesy

Meanwhile, the country heads off a fg cliff. 
24093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 10, 2011, 12:26:11 PM
There most certainly WAS the C'l issue as to whether he was eligible to be President!   Given how few tracks he left in his life, and the considerable sums he spent covering up those that were, it is completely understandable and rational that heightened suspicion would result from his failure to show the long form.

As for Pravda on the Beach (POTB a.k.a. the Left Angeles Times) holding back the video, the responsibility and shame for that fall squarely on POTB.
24094  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: June 10, 2011, 12:10:52 PM
Harlequin novel, version 2011


He grasped me firmly, but gently, just above my elbow and guided me into a room, his room. Then he quietly shut the  door and we were alone. He approached me soundlessly, from behind, and spoke in  a low, reassuring voice close to my ear.


"Just  relax."


Without warning, he reached down and I felt his strong,  calloused hands start at my ankles, gently probing, and moving upward along my  calves, slowly but steadily. My breath caught in my throat.


I knew I should  be afraid, but somehow I didn't care. His touch was so experienced, so sure.  When his hands moved up onto my thighs, I gave a slight shudder, and partly  closed my eyes. My pulse was pounding. I felt his knowing fingers caress my  abdomen, my ribcage. And then, as he cupped my firm, full breasts in his hands,  I inhaled sharply.


Probing, searching, knowing what he wanted, he brought his  hands to my shoulders, slid them down my tingling spine and into my panties..  Although I knew nothing about this man, I felt oddly trusting and expectant.  This is a man, I thought. A man used to taking charge. A man not used to taking  ‘No for an answer. A man who would tell me what he wanted. A man who would look into my soul and say . . . .


"Okay ma'am, you can board your flight now."



24095  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 10, 2011, 12:02:17 PM
I believe my point is supported, i.e. that the House of Reps, where spending originates, can specify to what purpose the spending is to be put and to specify that spending can not be put to other purposes.

Was this not the root of Iran-contragate?  That the Ollie North and other Reagan folks were looking to raise money that they could not get from Congress?
24096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on the judiciary 1821 on: June 10, 2011, 11:59:21 AM
"The great object of my fear is the federal judiciary. That body, like gravity, ever acting, with noiseless foot, and unalarming advance, gaining ground step by step, and holding what it gains, is ingulfing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge Spencer Roane, 1821
24097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 21 battalions of narco gunmen in two cities on: June 10, 2011, 10:52:32 AM
From a retired USMS friend:

At least 14,000 "armed criminals" are in the northern Mexican cities of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua, working for the drug cartels that are fighting for control of smuggling routes into the United States, Chihuahua state Attorney General Carlos Manuel Salas said.


RF: Based upon approx. 650 soldiers per rifle battalion (the number back in my day), that's like 21 battalions of narco gunmen in those two cities...
24098  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Vehicle flight a violent felony on: June 10, 2011, 10:48:34 AM

Sent to me by a retired USMS friend:

The Supreme Court decided yesterday that fleeing the police in a vehicle could be considered a violent felony.
Back in 1990 I was involved in a car chase event.  Afterwards, among other things, I argued that the act of fleeing law enforcement in a car (indeed the predicate act of escape from custody as well which was the situation in this case), was in and of itself an act of desperation with a high risk of a dangerous outcome and a disregard for others.  The head of U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) personnel told me, and I quote almost verbatim, that 'until the guy actually hit somebody with the car he was not a danger to the public.'  I thought he was a moron then, and I am glad to see the Supreme Court essentially agrees.
Of particular interest back then was the number of mindless know it all drones who, although ostensibly operational personnel, had never been in any dangerous/complicated situation in their entire careers and who simply agreed in lockstep with this idiot who was head of USMS personnel.  For all practical purposes they were nothing more than, as most of them are right now, administrative employees who had been given a gun and a badge and who themselves would flee for their lives at the merest hint of danger like the cowards they are.  Most of them are an utter embarrassment to law enforcement in general, and the warrior ethos in particular.
24099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 09, 2011, 09:27:32 PM
Isn't spending targeted?  e.g. $X for the XYZ plane, $Y for Iraq, $Z for toilet seats, etc?
24100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sun activity on: June 09, 2011, 09:26:23 PM

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