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24151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: October 20, 2011, 10:44:31 AM
Fotos of what definitely appears to be the anus's body on FOX.   Looks like a confirmed kill to me.
24152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: October 20, 2011, 10:42:22 AM

Tom is a serious, well-informed advocate of the Austrian school.  We are fortunate to have him drop in.

24153  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Effect of weapon selection on jury outcomes on: October 20, 2011, 08:37:48 AM

Effect of weapon selection on jury outcomes

24154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Paul agrees with our GM! on: October 20, 2011, 08:14:12 AM

To know what is wrong with the Federal Reserve, one must first understand the nature of money. Money is like any other good in our economy that emerges from the market to satisfy the needs and wants of consumers. Its particular usefulness is that it helps facilitate indirect exchange, making it easier for us to buy and sell goods because there is a common way of measuring their value. Money is not a government phenomenon, and it need not and should not be managed by government. When central banks like the Fed manage money they are engaging in price fixing, which leads not to prosperity but to disaster.

The Federal Reserve has caused every single boom and bust that has occurred in this country since the bank's creation in 1913. It pumps new money into the financial system to lower interest rates and spur the economy. Adding new money increases the supply of money, making the price of money over time—the interest rate—lower than the market would make it. These lower interest rates affect the allocation of resources, causing capital to be malinvested throughout the economy. So certain projects and ventures that appear profitable when funded at artificially low interest rates are not in fact the best use of those resources.

Eventually, the economic boom created by the Fed's actions is found to be unsustainable, and the bust ensues as this malinvested capital manifests itself in a surplus of capital goods, inventory overhangs, etc. Until these misdirected resources are put to a more productive use—the uses the free market actually desires—the economy stagnates.

Enlarge Image

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke
.The great contribution of the Austrian school of economics to economic theory was in its description of this business cycle: the process of booms and busts, and their origins in monetary intervention by the government in cooperation with the banking system. Yet policy makers at the Federal Reserve still fail to understand the causes of our most recent financial crisis. So they find themselves unable to come up with an adequate solution.

In many respects the governors of the Federal Reserve System and the members of the Federal Open Market Committee are like all other high-ranking powerful officials. Because they make decisions that profoundly affect the workings of the economy and because they have hundreds of bright economists working for them doing research and collecting data, they buy into the pretense of knowledge—the illusion that because they have all these resources at their fingertips they therefore have the ability to guide the economy as they see fit.

Nothing could be further from the truth. No attitude could be more destructive. What the Austrian economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek victoriously asserted in the socialist calculation debate of the 1920s and 1930s—the notion that the marketplace, where people freely decide what they need and want to pay for, is the only effective way to allocate resources—may be obvious to many ordinary Americans. But it has not influenced government leaders today, who do not seem to see the importance of prices to the functioning of a market economy.

The manner of thinking of the Federal Reserve now is no different than that of the former Soviet Union, which employed hundreds of thousands of people to perform research and provide calculations in an attempt to mimic the price system of the West's (relatively) free markets. Despite the obvious lesson to be drawn from the Soviet collapse, the U.S. still has not fully absorbed it.

The Fed fails to grasp that an interest rate is a price—the price of time—and that attempting to manipulate that price is as destructive as any other government price control. It fails to see that the price of housing was artificially inflated through the Fed's monetary pumping during the early 2000s, and that the only way to restore soundness to the housing sector is to allow prices to return to sustainable market levels. Instead, the Fed's actions have had one aim—to keep prices elevated at bubble levels—thus ensuring that bad debt remains on the books and failing firms remain in business, albatrosses around the market's neck.

The Fed's quantitative easing programs increased the national debt by trillions of dollars. The debt is now so large that if the central bank begins to move away from its zero interest-rate policy, the rise in interest rates will result in the U.S. government having to pay hundreds of billions of dollars in additional interest on the national debt each year. Thus there is significant political pressure being placed on the Fed to keep interest rates low. The Fed has painted itself so far into a corner now that even if it wanted to raise interest rates, as a practical matter it might not be able to do so. But it will do something, we know, because the pressure to "just do something" often outweighs all other considerations.

What exactly the Fed will do is anyone's guess, and it is no surprise that markets continue to founder as anticipation mounts. If the Fed would stop intervening and distorting the market, and would allow the functioning of a truly free market that deals with profit and loss, our economy could recover. The continued existence of an organization that can create trillions of dollars out of thin air to purchase financial assets and prop up a fundamentally insolvent banking system is a black mark on an economy that professes to be free.

Mr. Paul, a congressman from Texas, is seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

24155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More on the flaws of democracy-- Madison, Federalist 10, 1787 on: October 20, 2011, 07:51:49 AM
"[D]emocracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." --James Madison, Federalist No. 10, 1787
24156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: October 20, 2011, 07:41:29 AM
"If we didn't try so hard to stave off corrections maybe the expectation of continued falling prices wouldn't set in for so long and so deeply.  How does someone buy a house today if they know the price will be lower tomorrow?  They don't.  Consistently falling prices are a bad thing.  Back to you."

I'm not sure if it is your intention but as best as I can tell, you make a telling argument against the theory of fighting deflation.   If I understand correctly you are saying the feared dynamic of postponing purchases is actually lengthened by slowing the process down with "anti-deflationary" efforts-- is this your point?

Simultaneously the flood of money creates inflationary bubbles anew in other sectors e.g. food and other commodities.

So, as best as I can tell my doubts about fighting deflation are sound.

24157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 20, 2011, 07:33:17 AM
Quite a bit of thread drift here! cheesy
24158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: Reality on: October 20, 2011, 07:29:45 AM

Last week, protests broke out again in Europe, from Rome to London. The monthlong Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York have spread. The current unrest follows this summer's riots in London and flash mob incidents in U.S. cities. In 2009 and 2010, Tea Parties turned out hundreds of thousands in protests against the Obama administration's policies and eventually gave him the largest midterm rebuke since 1938.

All of these protests, of course, are vastly different -- or are they really?

Ostensibly, the Wall Street protests rail against a small elite who makes a lot of money lending, investing and speculating -- although the protestors don't seem to worry much about the mega-salaries of actors, professional athletes or sympathetic multimillionaires like Al Gore, George Soros or John Kerry. American flash mobbers and London hoods thought it was OK to take things that were not theirs, since they have less than others. The Tea Partiers were simply tired of paying more taxes for big-government programs that they thought only made things worse.

In the current left and right anger -- somewhat analogous to the upheavals of 1848 or the 1930s -- the common denominator is frustration that Western upward mobility of some 60 years seems to be coming to an end. In response, millions want someone or something to be held accountable -- whether Wall Street insiders, or wasteful and corrupt governments, or the affluent who have more than others.

Unfortunately, political leaders -- unwilling to risk their careers by irking the people -- have offered few explanations for the root causes of all the various unrest. Instead, they assure us that Social Security is solvent, or that pensions and wages can remain sacrosanct, or that billionaires and millionaires are alone culpable. Sometimes they exploit race and class divisions in lieu of explaining 21st-century realities.

So here goes an explanation for the multifaceted unrest. For the last six decades, constant technological breakthroughs and growing government subsidies have given a billion and a half Westerners lifestyles undreamed of over the last 2,500 years. In 1930, no one imagined that a few pills could cure life-threatening strep throat. In 1960, no one planned on retiring at 55. In 1980, no one dreamed that millions could have instant access to civilization's collective knowledge in a few seconds through a free Google search.

Yet, the better life got in the West for ever more people, the more apprehensive they became, as their appetites for even more grew even faster. Remember, none of these worldwide protests are over the denial of food, shelter, clean water or basic medicine.

None of these protestors discuss the effects of 2 billion Chinese, Indian, Korean and Japanese workers entering and mastering the globalized capitalist system, and making things more cheaply and sometimes better than their Western counterparts.

None of these protestors ever stop to ponder the costs -- and ultimately the effect on their own lifestyles -- of skyrocketing energy costs. Since 1970 there has been a historic, multitrillion-dollar transfer of capital from the West to the Middle East, South America, Africa and Russia through the importation of high-cost oil and gas.

None seem to grasp the significance that, meanwhile, hundreds of millions of Westerners are living longer and better, retiring earlier, and demanding ever more expensive government pensions and health care.

Something had to give.

And now it has. Federal and state budgets are near bankrupt. Countries like Greece and Italy face insolvency. The U.S. government resorts to printing money to service or expand entitlements. Near-zero interest rates, declining home prices, and huge losses in mutual funds and retirement accounts have crippled the middle classes.

Bigger government, marvelous new inventions and creative new investment strategies are not going to restore the once-taken-for-granted good life. Until "green" means competitive renewable energy rather than a con for crony capitalists, we are going to have to create and save capital by producing more of our own gas and oil, and relying more on nuclear power and coal.

Westerners will have to work a bit longer and more efficiently, with a bit less redistributive government support. And they must confess that venture capitalists, hedge funds and big deficit-spending governments are no substitute for producing themselves the real stuff of life that millions now take for granted -- whether gas, food, cars or consumer goods.

Otherwise, a smaller, older and whinier West will just keep blaming others as their good life slips away. So it's past time to stop borrowing to import energy and most of the things we use but have given up producing -- and get back to competing in the real world.
24159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dick Morris on Perry on: October 20, 2011, 06:27:55 AM

Published on on October 19, 2011

Printer-Friendly Version
The most effective move in electoral politics is to rebut an opponent's charges and show how they are misrepresentations and falsehoods.  Media guru Tony Schwartz once said "everyone likes a fighter, but nobody likes a dirty fighter."  Negatives have their place in every campaign.  But when one of them is an obvious stretch and reach, twisting facts beyond recognition to mislead voters, it can backfire massively, all the more so if it concerns a candidate's personal life.  When a negative blows up in the face of the candidate who threw it, voters learn instantly about his character.  They don't have to rummage through musty, dusty old voting records to see what he is about, they saw his below-the-belt hit with their own eyes and draw the appropriate conclusions about what manner of man he is.
That's how it was in the recent CNN debate from Nevada when Rick Perry accused Mitt Romney of hiring illegal immigrants at his Massachusetts home.  Posturing and preening, Perry denounced Romney's "hypocrisy" in attacking his immigration record while hiring illegals himself.  You could have heard the gasps around the country as Perry laid out his negative.
Everyone understood that it was the illegal immigration issue which had laid Perry low, deflating his post-announcement boom, dropping him from first place to fourth or fifth in most polls.  Now, in a stroke, Perry was seeking to embarrass the candidate who had the greatest hand in pushing him down - Romney - by painting him with the illegal immigration brush.
Unruffled, Romney, at first, laughed off the charge saying "I have never hired an illegal immigrant in my life," and went on to talk about the underlying issue of of illegal aliens, repeating his charges that Perry's instate tuition scholarships for their children was a "magnet" to attract them.  OK, but everybody watching the debate wanted more about what Romney really did.  We all wondered if there was any truth to Perry's charge and were not satisfied with Romney's laughing disclaimer.
Then Perry, sensing weakness, honed in on the charge pushing it again.  This time, Romney delivered a crushing rebuttal.  The illegal immigrants had been gardeners hired by the landscaping company he used to mow his lawn.  When he found out they were hiring illegals, he ordered them to replace them with legal workers "I'm running for public office, I can't be hiring illegal immigrants," he says he explained.  Then, when the company was found to be continuing to hire illegals, Romney fired the company and hired one more in compliance with the law.  Case closed.
But Perry wasn't finished.  He hammered Romney again with the charge, even though we now all accepted Mitt's version of what had happened.  Rather than rebut or correct any errors in Romney's portrayal of the events, he just repeated the charge as if Romney had not answered it.  To make matters worse, he tried to out-shout Romney, horning in on his time.  Verbally, it was the same kind of move Al Gore made in the debates of 2000 when he menacingly moved over to Bush's lectern to horn in on his space.  Or Rick Lazio tried that same year when he walked over to Hillary's podium in their Senate race to hand her a letter.  A debate no no.
The result is that Perry now is being seen as a bully, a smear artist, a con man, and a dirty fighter.  Nixon at his worst.  He has amplified and compounded the damage he suffered over the illegal immigration issue with this McCarthyite personal attack.
In a larger sense, Perry is like the concert performer who can't get it together to do well in a studio.  On stage, surrounded by an adoring public and an energized audience, he beams.  He gets his energy from his surroundings.  But in a studio or a debate room, amid only competitors and journalists, he can't get any mojo.  He doesn't get energy from confrontation and can't make his points stick.
If you can't debate, you can't win the election against Obama and you shouldn't be nominated. Now, after four tries, Perry still can't win a debate.  It's time to move on.
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24160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: October 19, 2011, 08:03:16 PM
The usual suspects here are curious about my dalliance with economic heresy.  As they begin to question me, I seek to pin down the definition of "deflation".  As such my question is not really a question-- it is a request that they define what the word "deflation" will mean in this conversation.  If it results only after a bubble bursts, that is one thing-- and arguably it is but a return to the mean. OTOH, if there are other situations that constitute a deflation, then I am asking them to describe and define them. 

What I am not doing is asking for random guesses.  cheesy
24161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Man faked into fatherhood fights getting fuct on: October 19, 2011, 07:48:08 PM
Despite the Legislature’s clear directive that child support agencies not pursue mistaken child support actions, the County is asking that we do so.  We will not sully our hands by participating in an unjust, and factually unfounded, result.  We say no to the County, and we reverse.”–County of Los Angeles v. Navarro, (2004)
In a stunning victory, duped dad Pedro Soto and his attorney Richard A. Lowe, Esq. have prevailed against the Orange County Department of Child Support Services in a paternity fraud case emblematic of the numerous outrageous injustices faced by men and fathers in family court. In this case, Soto has paid over $75,000 in child support for a child DNA tests have established is not his, and who has been living with both of his biological parents for many years.
Pedro Soto got into this painful situation simply because he did the right thing--in 1998, when his then-girlfriend Maricela Guerrero told Soto that he was the biological father of her infant son Aaron, Soto signed a paternity declaration and began paying child support. His reward for stepping up and doing what he thought was right has been 13 years of deception, pain, and financial exploitation, all of which have harmed him, his wife, and his children.
Action Alert--Your Participation Needed!

Fathers and Families condemns the despicable conduct of OCDCSS in fighting to preserve a paternity judgment it knows to be false. We want to add your name to our letter to OCDCSS (copied to California DCSS)–to read the letter and add your name, please click here.
Also, victories cost money. As you’ll read below, F & F’s efforts to preserve the crucial Navarro decision led directly to the Soto victory, and opened the door to many others. Please give to support our vital work by going to
The Soto Case: Background

Talented Los Angeles family law attorney Richard A. Lowe, Esq., who represented Soto, and Pepperdine law student Sarah dela Cruz McKendricks, who helped Lowe.
In 1998, Soto, deceived by his then-girlfriend Maricela Guerrero into believing that her newborn son Aaron was Soto’s, stepped up and did what he thought was right by signing a paternity declaration.
Talented Los Angeles family law attorney Richard A. Lowe, Esq., with the valuable assistance of Pepperdine law student Sarah dela Cruz McKendricks, represented Soto. He explains:
Petitioner made his child support payments and had regular visitations with Aaron without the slightest suspicion that he may not be Aaron’s biological father…Petitioner’s visitations with Aaron continued on a regular basis with Aaron spending alternate weekends with Petitioner and his family in their home…[in] 2008 Aaron [said]….he had a “real” dad, Francisco Serrano, and knew that Petitioner was only his “step” dad…[DNA labs] concluded that Pedro Soto is not the biological father of Aaron Soto…[and that] Francisco Serrano was Aaron’s father.
Since Aaron is living with and being supported by his biological father, Francisco Serrano, it is clear that Petitioner’s child support payments is really pocket money for Maricela Guerrero and not the “child support” that the courts have ordered…by lying about the real father of Aaron, Ms. Guerrero...can fleece her innocent former boyfriend and have the County aid her in enforcing this unfair scheme…
As Petitioner states in his Declaration, Aaron will always be welcomed in his home, however, he does not wish to continue the falsehood that he is Aaron’s biological father.  Clearly it is in the best interest of the child that his biological…father be established.
Soto’s Attempt to Get Equitable Relief
In Soto’s motion to set aside his paternity judgment, Lowe wrote:
Soto’s Attorney Richard A. Lowe Thanks Fathers and Families:
“You helped preserve the Navarro decision, and that was all we had to hang our hats on in this case.”
[T]he Department concedes that Francisco Serrano, not Petitioner [Pedro Soto], is the real father of Aaron Soto, but insists that due to the passage of time the injustice of Petitioner paying child support for a child that is living with, and being supported by his real father, should be extended at least another five years until Aaron reaches eighteen and finishes high school.  The sheer injustice of the situation does not seem to bother the Department one bit.
Lowe conceded that the law is against Soto but argued "[T]his court still possesses the authority to right this wrong under its equitable powers." Read the documents in the Soto case here.
The 2004 Navarro Case
Lowe cited County of Los Angeles v. Navarro (2004) as case law in urging the Court to exercise its equitable powers to right a clear injustice in a paternity case.  In Navarro, the trial court denied a motion to vacate a judgment entered against Manuel Navarro establishing him as the father of two boys and ordering him to pay child support for them. Navarro had been erroneously “defaulted into fatherhood” of children he did not know.
The County opposed the motion, arguing that relief should not be granted because the statute of limitation had run.
Support Fathers and Families’ Paternity Fraud Bills:
F & F’s SB 375 & SB 377 will end outrageous injustices such as those experienced by Soto and tens of thousands of others–to learn more, click here.
The trial court denied the motion. Navarro’s resolute and gifted attorney, Linda Ferrer, Esq., appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed the denial and granted Navarro’s request that the judgment against him be set aside. The Navarro Court explained:
A profound mistake occurred here when appellant was charged with being the boys’ father…Instead of remedying its mistake, the County retreats behind the procedural redoubt offered by the passage of time since it took appellant’s default.

It is this State’s policy that when a mistake occurs in a child support action the County must correct it, not exploit it…Thousands of individuals each year are mistakenly identified as being liable for child support actions.  As a result of that action, the ability to earn a living is severely impaired, assets are seized, and family relationships are often destroyed.  It is the moral, legal, and ethical obligation of all enforcement agencies to take prompt action to recognize those cases…and correct any injustice to that person.

Despite the Legislature’s clear directive that child support agencies not pursue mistaken child support actions, the County is asking that we do so.  We will not sully our hands by participating in an unjust, and factually unfounded, result.  We say no to the County, and we reverse.

The Long, Hard Struggle to Defend Victims of Paternity Fraud
Senator Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles), a longtime family court reform advocate, was the sponsor of the Child Support Enforcement Fairness Act of 2000, and the Navarro court cited this law as the basis for its decision.
Fathers and Families’ legislative representative Michael Robinson has successfully worked for many years to bring equity and fairness to child support and paternity fraud cases, and many of Robinson’s actions directly impacted the Soto case.
After Navarro, the Los Angeles County Department of Child Support Services asked the California Supreme Court to depublish the case, which would prevent other paternity fraud victims from using Navarro to liberate themselves. Robinson sought and submitted amicus letters against depublication from numerous California legislators and prominent attorneys, including: former Assemblywoman Nicole M. Parra; former Assemblyman Raymond Haynes; former Senator Dick Ackerman; former Senator Roy Ashburn; Senator Rod Wright; prominent family law appellate specialist Jeff Doeringer; Roger Dale Juntunen, J.D., M.B.A.; and others, as well as the Los Angeles County Public Defenders Office and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. To read their amicus letters, click here (large file: 37 MB).
Navarro’s attorney, Linda Ferrer, praised Robinson’s “extraordinary” work in this letter.
Continuing the Fight: F & F’s SB 375 & SB 377
Fathers and Families’ SB 375 & SB 377 will end outrageous injustices such as those experienced by Soto and tens of thousands of men who have been unable to get out of fraudulent paternity judgments. These bills will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee early next year. To learn more, click here. Also, see our column Bill would give ‘duped dads’ some fairness under the law (Los Angeles Daily News, 6/2/11).
If you are a victim of paternity fraud, whether in California or in another state, we want to know your story–please click here.
24162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: October 19, 2011, 07:42:36 PM
Forgive me DF, but are you guessing or have you thought about this aspect of economic theory?
24163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 19, 2011, 07:40:27 PM
Well, the date shows this was written 13 years before the Declaration of Independence.  I take it as a early statement of the American Creed why we are a republic and not a democracy.
24164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: October 19, 2011, 07:33:24 PM
What would be the cause of "systemic deflation" be if it weren't the bursting of a bubble?
24165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Biden on: October 19, 2011, 07:25:34 PM
This is rather pathetic from a security perspective.  If they could steal the entire truck unhindered, then they could just as easily have planted explosives in the President's lecterns.
Do you really want to count on a dog sweep (highly probable) as your only layer of security between the President and an item he might be standing right next to?  I see this as no better than leaving a protectee's vehicle unsecured at night.
Obama’s speech equipment stolen in Virginia: report
By David Nakamura
Washington Post October 19, 2011
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Opportunistic thieves, opposition party operatives or just fans of President Obama really eager to know what he has to say?
A Henrico, Va., television station, WWBT-NBC12, is reporting that a truck carrying $200,000 worth of equipment — including several lecterns with the presidential seal, teleprompters and portable audio equipment — for Obama’s appearance in Chesterfield on Wednesday was stolen outside a Marriott hotel.
24166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 19, 2011, 06:52:10 PM
"I am liberal, at least compared to the average forum participant, and I think that defending the borders is of paramount importance." 

That may be, but given how hard-core right most of us are that could be a true statement of someone who is center or even right of center. cheesy

As I previously bantered with you in a sidebar, I consider you a Democrat back from when mainstream Democrats were patriotic, reasonable, and rational people i.e. NOT a liberal  evil cheesy
24167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: October 19, 2011, 06:44:29 PM
Lets define our terms here.  Question:  Is the bursting of a bubble a deflation?
24168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Housing Starts are up on: October 19, 2011, 11:48:33 AM
BTW, and unrelated to what follows, foreclosures in CA are way up.

Data Watch
Housing starts surged 15.0% in September to 658,000 units at an annual rate To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 10/19/2011
Housing starts surged 15.0% in September to 658,000 units at an annual rate, coming in well above the consensus expected pace of 590,000.  Starts are up 10.2% versus a year ago.
The gain in September was mostly due to multi-family starts, which are extremely volatile from month to month and which were up 51.3%. Single-family starts rose 1.7%. Multi-family starts are up 55.3% from a year ago while single-family starts are down 4.9%.
Starts rose in all regions of the country with the West seeing the biggest gains up 18.1%.
New building permits fell 5.0% in September to a 594,000 annual rate, coming in below the consensus expected pace of 610,000. Compared to a year ago, permits for multi-unit homes are up 11.3% while permits for single-family units are up 3.5%.
Implications:  Home building soared 15% in September, bouncing back after the unusually harsh weather we saw in August, coming in at the highest level since April 2010.  However, most of the increase was due to a 51.3% spike in multi-family units, which are volatile from month to month. The general trend in multi-family units should continue to go higher given the movement away from owner-occupancy and toward rental occupancy. To help show this, 5 or more unit completions were up 43.4% in September. Another positive from today’s report was that although single-family homes under construction hit a new record low, total homes under construction increased for the second time in three months. This is only the second time homes under construction have increased since 2006! What this shows is that the bottoming process is happening and home building should trend higher over the next couple of years. After a large rise in building permits last month, permits fell 5% in September, but remain up 5.7% from a year ago.   Based on population growth and “scrappage” rates, home building must increase substantially over the next several years to avoid eventually running into shortages.
24169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 19, 2011, 11:43:43 AM

Chronicle • October 19, 2011
The Foundation
"[A] wise and frugal government ... shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government." --Thomas Jefferson
Editorial Exegesis
"A majority of Americans disapprove of what President Obama has done in office. He promised hope and change but delivered disappointment and stagnation. The unemployment rate is stuck at 9.1 percent. The poverty rate is at 15.1 percent, tied for the worst performance since the Census started tracking numbers in 1959. White House policies of class warfare and redistribution are impoverishing America, and the public is starting to feel worked over. ... During the recession, the average duration of unemployment increased from 16.6 weeks in December 2007 to a shade over 24 weeks by June 2009. That figure is now 40.5 weeks, the longest it has been in more than six decades. The longer a person is unemployed, the harder it is for him to find a job, as job skills erode and potential employers question whether it might be more prudent to hire someone else without big gaps in their work history. Mr. Obama's solution involves having the federal government declare the long-term unemployed a legally protected class. His American Jobs Act would subject businesses to frivolous lawsuits if they decide against hiring someone who has been jobless for an extended time. Doing so would serve as one more disincentive for companies to hire or hold interviews for open positions, making it even harder for the jobless to find work. ... Ultimately, Americans will not find their pocketbooks thickening so long as Uncle Sam strangles entrepreneurs with regulatory red tape. Companies need to have certainty that they will be able to keep the proceeds of their investments in the future before they will start hiring again and pay their employees more." --The Washington Times
Will the job market improve any time soon?
"Whenever the substance of the Occupy Wall Street movement troubles Democratic politicians their response is to hide behind platitudes about free speech. 'It's about their right to express themselves!' Well, no it's not. Free speech is important, but it's really not the issue. It certainly wasn't even much of a concern when it was the Tea Party expressing itself -- which it managed to do without inviting mass arrests. Back then, leading Democrats considered dissent racist or un-American. Now they celebrate free speech so they can hide from dealing with the issues at hand honestly. Democratic politicians think that this gives them cover. It doesn't. It just shows that they're afraid to disagree with the protesters either because they agree with them or because they know the protests are popular among their own supporters. Either way, it's proof that the much ballyhooed wall between mainstream radicalism and mainstream liberalism is more like a speed bump." --columnist Jonah Goldberg
"The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced in a fundraising letter that it is seeking 100,000 signatures on a petition declaring 'I stand with the Occupy Wall Street protests.' And David Plouffe, the president's senior campaign advisor, sounded upbeat for the first time in a while. 'We intend to make it one of the central elements of the campaign next year,' he told the Washington Post. 'One of the main elements of the contrast will be that the president passed Wall Street reform and our opponent and the other party want to repeal it.' ... OWS is America's version of the Greek throngs in the streets -- screaming for more bailouts and subsidies when the well has run dry. It's a depressing image of self-delusion and national suicide. But far from the '99 percent,' OWS represents only a sliver of the electorate -- and the president's embrace of them only confirms his marginality in American politics." --columnist Mona Charen
"Obama entered office unorganized and unstructured. Nothing in his background suggested that he knew anything about management, organization, or leadership. Nor did anyone see the need for bringing in talent with these skills. As a result, the Hollywood mannequin was almost immediately exposed as nothing but flair, hype, and hot air. The public had bought a product that did not perform. Marketing can do many things, but it cannot sell a product that people have tried and rejected. ... Obama's reelection problem can be expressed in one simple sentence: 'Now, too many people know him.'" --columnist Monty Pelerin
"Beware of those who would use violence, too often it is violence they want and neither truth nor freedom." --American author Louis Lamour (1908-1988)
"People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid." --Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
The Demo-gogues
They are not the same: "In some ways, [Occupy Wall Street protests are] not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren't looking out for them." --Barack Obama
Echo chamber ... from a Republican: "I think that if you look at the Occupy Wall Street folks and the Tea Party folks, they come from the same perspective. They just have different solutions. What they're saying is, 'government is not working for me anymore.'" --New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Dumb Republicans: "Maybe [Republicans] just couldn't understand the whole [American Jobs Act] thing all at once. So we're going to break it up into bite-size pieces so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation." --Barack Obama
Shameless and crass: "The other thing I've hear from my friends who oppose this -- this whole jobs bill -- [is] that this is just temporary. Well let me tell you, it's not temporary when that 911 call comes in and a woman's being raped, if a cop shows up in time to prevent the rape. It's not temporary to that woman. It's not temporary to the guy whose store is being held up and there's a gun pointed at his head, if a cop shows up and he's not killed. ... I wish these guys who thought it was temporary, I wish they had some notion of what it was like to be on the other side of a gun, or [to have] a 200-pound man standing over you, telling you to submit." --Joe Biden
Bailouts galore: "On several occasions now, we've seen, quite frankly, the Congress is in rebellion, determined, as Abraham Lincoln said, to wreck or ruin at all costs. I believe, quite frankly, in the direct hiring of 15 million unemployed Americans at $40,000 a head, some more than $40,000, some less than $40,000 -- that's a $600 billion stimulus. It could be a five-year program. For another $104 billion, we bailout all of the states. ... For another $100 billion, we bailout all of the cities." --Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL)
Questioning patriotism: "[Republicans] are not patriots, people who love this country want to see jobs created. ... They're not concerned about the economic well being of the country as a whole." --Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA)
Questioning every other motive: "Republicans think if the economy improves it might help President Obama. So they root for the economy to fail, and oppose every effort to improve it." --Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
Are you rooting for Obama to fail, or the economy to fail?

Non Compos Mentis: "The other thing [the Occupy Wall Street movement] needs, and I don't want this to come out the wrong way -- not needs, but what will happen -- if we think back to the late 60s, what is the most stirring image of all the rebellion that happened? What do we remember? Kent State. Now, I'm not saying someone has to get killed. ... I'm not saying a death. I'm just saying we are a visual society." --MSNBC's Donny Deutsch
An albatross for Obama: "Well, [the Occupy Wall Street protest] certainly is going to dovetail nicely into a big message that the president's selling, which is that the wealthy should pay more. He's also sort of picked up that banner of going after Wall Street and the banks, talking about unfairness that a lot of protesters that are complaining about. Unfairness in the economy and the tax code, in the ways of Wall Street with bank fees. ... I think the president's in a mode right now where he'd like to get out in front of this parade and really harness some of this energy." --NBC's David Gregory
Good question: "I want to ask you about the thinking within the White House. Yesterday at a press conference one of my colleagues asked the president to respond to something Mitt Romney said. The president said, 'I didn't realize you were a spokesman for Mitt Romney.' Is the president feeling under siege from events right now?" --CNBC's John Harwood to Obama's Chief of Staff Bill Daley
Bizarre: "Herman Cain is pandering to white Republicans out there who don't like black folks." --MSNBC's Ed Schultz
Newspulper Headlines:
Two Presidents in One!: "Obama Won't Negotiate With Republicans on Jobs" --USA Today website ++ "Obama Says He Is Prepared to Work With Republicans on Jobs" --Bloomberg
Questions Nobody Is Asking: "Would You Get a Tattoo for a Discounted Sandwich?" --Globe and Mail website (Toronto)
He's Lost Middle America: "Obama Loses Hulk Hogan's Support"
Too Bad Ted Kennedy Drove an Oldsmobile: "Chinese Keep Saab Afloat" --Deutsche-Welle website
We Blame George W. Bush: "Anita Perry Blames Obama for Son Quitting His Job" --Yahoo! News
Bottom Story of the Day: "Al Gore Backs Occupy Wall Street Protests"
(Thanks to The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto)
Village Idiots
Class warfare: "Here's the Republicans' problem. Everybody knows they're not for the middle class. They're mad at the president because the economy is in bad shape even though they don't blame him, they're still mad because they have to be mad at somebody. The president positioned himself now as a champion in the middle class, a champion of ordinary working Americans. That really is 99 percent." --former DNC chairman Howard Dean
Wrong analysis: "Whereas much of the Tea Party's programmatic ire seems directed at the very idea of government -- and instead trumpets the virtue of self-reliance and the inexorable righteousness of the free market -- Occupy Wall Street more sharply decries the collusion of corporate and political elites in Washington. ... To the outside observer, that may seem foolishly utopian -- and impracticable on a larger scale -- but it's a sign of the deep political commitment of many of the protesters gathering under Occupy Wall Street's banner. They want to fix government, not escape from it." --TIME magazine's Ishaan Tharoor
Resumé embellishment: "He said he was going to end the war in Iraq. In a few months, we will have all our troops home from Iraq. He said he was going to up the ante and go after al-Qa'ida in a serious way in Afghanistan. Osama bin laden is gone. The leadership of al-Qa'ida is on the run. So when you say he wasn't prepared, maybe you should go ask Osama bin Laden if he thought he was prepared." --Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod

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Short Cuts
"After years of being exposed to the American media in all its forms, I've concluded that conservatives resent being lied to nearly as much as liberals hate being told the truth." --columnist Burt Prelutsky
"Maybe the smartest thing the protesters, and perhaps of lot of other Americans, could do would be to pressure businesses to stop making a college degree the ultimate criterion for getting a job. If one considers where the so-called 'best and brightest' among us have taken this country in the last few years, one could make a compelling argument that a college degree is the most over-rated product on the planet." --columnist Arnold Ahlert
"Occupy Wall Street protesters entered their third week of New York park sit-ins this week following a march down Broadway. Interviews with the protesters make two things very crystal-clear. They don't know what they want and they want it now." --comedian Argus Hamilton
"Warren Buffett's company reportedly owes the IRS a billion dollars in back taxes. When he said he wasn't paying enough taxes, he wasn't kidding." --comedian Jay Leno
Publisher's Note: For anyone attending Game 1 of the World Series tonight in St. Louis -- given that Michelle Obama and Jill Biden will be there -- here's an idea for a sign: "Forget the first pitch, throw out Obama!"
24170  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: My Silat in Indonesia Adventures on: October 19, 2011, 10:29:03 AM
Great post; looking forward to hearing more of your adventures.

Take care of that strep!
24171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Adams on Lust for Power 1763 on: October 19, 2011, 10:25:36 AM
"[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few." --John Adams, An Essay on Man's Lust for Power, 1763
24172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Adams on Man's Lust for Power 1763 on: October 19, 2011, 10:24:49 AM
"[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few." --John Adams, An Essay on Man's Lust for Power, 1763
24173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Death by regulation on: October 19, 2011, 10:21:37 AM
Death by Bureaucracy
by Newt Gingrich
Earlier this month, a panel appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services made a recommendation so detached from the good of individual patients it could only have come from government bureaucrats. They recommended eliminating screening for the most common cancer among males nationwide.
The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) is composed of 16 government-selected experts whose recommendations often influence the reimbursement policies of Medicare and private insurers. The range of members’ backgrounds is narrow considering the group is charged with advising the federal government and other healthcare providers on specific medical procedures: almost all are academics or administrators rather than practicing physicians. The panel includes experts in pediatrics and newborn care, in mental health and geriatrics, but not a single urologist who actually takes care of prostate cancer patients.
Despite lacking any specialist who deals with the issue, the panel issued a recommendation this month to stop using the only available test to screen for prostate cancer. PSA tests, which measure levels in the blood of a marker known to be elevated in men with prostate cancer, are the sole method of screening other than digital examination by a doctor, which cannot detect the most common form and usually identifies those cancers it can much later, when they are less curable.
Without the PSA testing, many men will have no way to know they have the disease until it has developed into a much more dangerous problem. In some cases, it will be a too late by the time they discover it.
What is the basis for the panel’s recommendation to discontinue screening that can save lives?
It has nothing to do with the merits of the test. Instead, these government-appointed experts advised against screening because they disagree with what some doctors and patients choose to do with the information once they have it.
Prostate cancer is a complicated issue, and elevated PSA is not always a sign that a man should enter treatment. In some cases, men can live with benevolent cancers and remain healthy for years. In many other cases, it is simply unclear even from biopsies whether the cancers are benevolent or lethal, as both kinds register on test results.

Understandably, many men faced with this information want to do everything possible to make sure they do not have a lethal cancer, and many doctors, as well, recommend curative therapy even when they are not certain the cancer is lethal. There are definitely patients, especially older men, who undergo treatment for prostate cancer they could have lived with if it had gone undetected.
If prostate cancer is over-treated, the sensible response for the USPSTF would have been to call on the National Institute of Health and the National Cancer Institute to help develop a better and more accurate test, and to advise doctors and patients to consider more conservative approaches when the test suggests the presence of prostate cancer.
Instead, the task force’s answer is simply to deny doctors and patients the chance to consider early treatment by recommending they not screen for prostate cancer in the first place.

That is not a reasoned response to the problem. It is a bureaucratic response to the problem, and people will almost certainly die because of it.
This points to the difference between the bureaucratic approach to healthcare, which leads to rationing, and an approach to empower individuals and their doctors to make the best decisions for them.
Bureaucrats cannot comprehend the complicated details of all the individuals for whom they try to make decisions and so they issue one-size-fits-all pronouncements for large classes of people. In this case, when the bureaucratic approach identifies a class that is being over-treated, it calls for the elimination of screening to warn of the disease. That way fewer people will have the information they need in order to be faced with choices involving some options the bureaucrats consider undesirable. Physicians can’t over-treat a prostate cancer they have not detected.
Of course, it is ridiculous to have a handful of government bureaucrats with no expertise in the matter issuing recommendations that influence federal, state, and private health systems in crafting policies. Doctors and patients are in the best position to determine whether individuals should be screened for prostate cancer and to judge the best course of action afterward.
No one should want the government interfering in these very personal medical decisions. Lethal bureaucracy is a disease we can’t afford—and one that is entirely preventable with the right policies.
Your Friend,
24174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / San Antonio bomb scare on: October 19, 2011, 10:18:48 AM
24175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: October 19, 2011, 09:30:49 AM
A VERY lively night in last night's debate.

Analysis? Comments?

A few random observations from me to kick things off:

A) These debates are a very good thing.  ALL the candidates are getting better and better.

B) It wasn't until the commentary at the end of the debate had begun that I realized that Huntsman wasn't there  evil

C) Rick Santorum:  Caught my attention for his articulateness on the War with Islamic Fascism back when he lost his Senate seat in PA.  Indeed, I think I posted here on this forum his final speech in the Senate.  When he first entered the race I rolled my eyes though.   That said, he has been a worthy contributor to the conversation of the debates.

D) I love Herman Cain, but was very disappointed last night with his response to the question on negotiating with terrorists (he could see himself releasing Guantanamo prisoners for a hostage's return  angry ).   Other than that though, he continues to impress.  999 was under some serious pressure last night, but he stayed calm and focused, even with direct personal pressure by Romney.  Romney's attack was unsound, though for many he may have gotten away with it.  Several candidates made a point of showing respect for Herman though and what he has brought to the conversation.

E) Perry had some moments where he did decently, but definitely got spanked and put in his place in the alpha male battle between Romney and him when Perry kept interrupting Romney astutely put the spotlight on it.  Boo/hiss to moderator Anderson Cooper for allowing Perry's interruptions to get out of hand-- but maybe that served
AC's purposes.   VERY weak, and VERY poor judgment for Perry to try dinging Mitt with the "his gardener hired illegals" thing- Mitt swatted it away and left Perry looking small and petty.

F) Good night for Newt.  His comment towards the end about seven three hour debates head to head (a la Lincoln-Douglas) may have been a bit heady for the masses, but it certainly did underline for me that IMHO Newt would be very, very formidable in such a format against Baraq.  I confess I gave anaother $25 to Newt this morning to encourage him to stay in the race. I like the way he changes the conversation in the debates when he speaks.

G) Bachman had a moment where she was really connecting with the women in the audinece when talking about foreclosures, even though when the dust cleared she promised no goodies (and good for her!).  Still, she hasn't a prayer.

H) Romney keeps getting stronger and stronger.   He is becoming a much better candidate due to the experience of these debates.

I)  I like that one more often hears ""What X just siad is a good point" or similar positive things.  I think Newt's reminders tabout how any of them are better than Baraq has helped steer things in a better direction and away from the Pawlenty-Bachman dynamic that stained the both of them.
24176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 19, 2011, 09:29:48 AM
I have been posting in English on the Spanish language forum thread for Mexico without posting here as well for a while so those interested in this subject may wish to take a look there too, e.g. the report by two US generals.

While the deportations are a good thing (I saw yesterday that ONE THOUSAND of the 400,000 had some sort of homicide conviction?!?) that is not the only metric:  As noted there, the narco cartels are establishing quasi-military presence in the counties on the US side of the border so that they have safe havens when pressed by the Mexican military.  Corruption is further spreading its tentacles into Border Patrol and local authorities.   
24177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 19, 2011, 09:24:07 AM
I'm shocked, absolutely shocked.

BTW I was quite disappointed last night in Cain's response to a question on the question presented here.
24178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Solway: The Weakness of the West on: October 19, 2011, 12:22:55 AM
TTT because I think it worthy of consideration , , , and commentary.
24179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 19, 2011, 12:20:27 AM
The Russian approach has quite a few problems of its own.  It is not clear to me that theirs is a road we wish to travel.  I think it would more than suffice here were we to simply patrol the border properly, and deport those who don't belong here AND improve the efficiency, rationality, and coherence of legal admission to the country.
24180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: October 18, 2011, 06:04:10 PM
I have come to doubt the "deflation is bad" hypothesis.
24181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sea Route in Russian Arctic on: October 18, 2011, 05:58:12 PM
24182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MA looks to fix prices for Romney Care on: October 18, 2011, 05:51:54 PM
24183  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / This is worse than the Kitty Genovese case on: October 18, 2011, 04:19:21 PM

Very disturbing:!
24184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt new clip on: October 18, 2011, 03:47:56 PM
24185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A surprisingly wooly-headed analysis from Stratfor on: October 18, 2011, 03:28:17 PM
I have a high regard for Stratfor, but I've seen better from Newspeak than this one:

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Related Links
•   Gilad Shalit Returns to Israel
•   Israeli-Arab Crisis Approaching
•   From the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush: Rethinking the Region
Israel and Hamas began operationalizing the deal that was struck last week, according to which an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, would be released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. The process is still under way but it is a significant one, considering that this is the first substantive negotiated settlement between Hamas and Israel and there are implications that that stem from it.
The release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners has set a precedent, a precedent by which Hamas and Israel have demonstrated that they can negotiate and reach a settlement. What this means is, or at least paves the way for, is that future negotiations can take place between the Palestinian Islamist movement and the Jewish state. This allows Hamas to be able to demonstrate that it is a pragmatic player that can engage in substantive negotiations and behave as a rational international political actor. That said, Hamas does run into problems because it needs to balance this newly emerging perception of a rational political actor with that of a resistance movement, one that does not recognize Israel, rejects the right of Israel to exist and continues on the path of armed struggle against the Jewish state.
Hamas isn’t the only political actor that will have implications from this deal. Its rival Fatah is now in a more difficult position because Hamas, from the point of view of the Palestinian people, seemingly has demonstrated that its approach to negotiations, coupled with armed resistance, is one that can actually pay off. So Fatah is under pressure to demonstrate that it is not negotiating from a position of relative weakness and its approach to negotiations and to dealing with the Palestinian issue through international channels is actually the right way to move forward.
And certainly Israel has its own challenges moving forward after the Gilad Shalit deal. On one hand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has demonstrated that it can take a pragmatic approach to the Palestinian issue and therefore it can relieve some of the international pressure that it has been under in recent months. But at the same time having positioned itself as a centrist force the Netanyahu government, headed by the Likud Party, is now having to deal with potential backlash for more right-wing forces, both nationalist and religious, who are not entirely pleased with the notion that one Israeli soldier can be secured in exchange for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners who have committed acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens.
On the international front the Netanyahu government has definitely made some gains, but at the same time it could run into some complications when it comes to Egypt, because Egypt is the one that brokered the final settlement. And Israel is very concerned that Egypt’s military rulers do not run into any problems when it comes to popular sentiment, especially as it applies to the Palestinian issue. And therefore Cairo’s military rulers can be expected to use that Israeli dependency on them to their advantage on the domestic political front, which may not necessarily jibe with Israeli interests.
The Israeli-Hamas deal is an extraordinary event that comes at an extraordinary time, when there is no shortage of issues raging in the region. But one thing is clear — that it has set a precedent that can unfold in many ways, and we will just have to wait and see whether this leads to further negotiations or more conflict or a mix of both.
24186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Texas students made to recite Mexican pledge of allegiance on: October 18, 2011, 01:11:56 PM
24187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The cognitive dissonance of Harold Koh on: October 18, 2011, 12:41:33 PM

We forget it now, but there was a day, not so very long ago, when members of our most prestigious law schools and law firms feared that the government's war on terror posed a graver threat to America than did al Qaeda.

Those were the dark days before Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office. Whether the issue was the detention of terrorists, the interrogation of terrorists, or the idea that we were even at war with terrorists, one man—John Yoo, formerly of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel—was held singularly culpable. No one expressed these concerns more vehemently than a former professor of Mr. Yoo's, Harold Koh, then dean of the Yale Law School.

What exercised Mr. Koh wasn't merely that Mr. Yoo's office had sanctioned waterboarding; it was the theory of executive authority behind his war advice. This theory Mr. Koh opposed with vigor, deporting himself in the manner of an Old Testament prophet.

Before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2005, Mr. Koh spelled out where he believed Mr. Yoo's logic was taking us. Mr. Yoo, he said, "grossly over-reads the inherent power of the president under the commander-in-chief power in Article II of the Constitution." He went on to say that "if the president has the sole constitutional authority to sanction torture, and Congress has no power to interfere, it is unclear why the president should not also have unfettered authority to license genocide or other violations of fundamental human rights."

Mr. Koh added that "If a client asks a lawyer how to break the law and escape liability, the lawyer's ethical duty is to say no."

That was then. This is now.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
The former Yale Law dean who hounded the Bush administration over its interrogation policies is now in the business of justifying drone strikes.
.Now Mr. Koh is a legal adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Now the same Mr. Koh who assailed Mr. Yoo for his broad view of presidential authority has offered up his own justifications for an expansive executive power. These include the argument that we're not really engaged in hostilities when we fire at Libya because the Libyans aren't firing back.

Folks are noticing. An op-ed this summer in the New York Times says it is as if Mr. Koh "has torn off his team jersey, mid-game, and put on the other's side's." A headline at the Volokh Conspiracy blog put it this way: "Is Harold Koh the Left's John Yoo?"

This is unfair . . . to Mr. Yoo. Whether or not one agrees with him, Mr. Yoo has been consistent in his views—before he served, while he served, and after he served. In sharp contrast, the old Harold Koh would have eviscerated the Harold Koh who now offers ludicrous redefinitions of "war" and "hostilities" so he can get the policy conclusion he wants.

Of course Mr. Koh has plenty of company in the U.S. Department of Rank Opportunism. There's Vice President Joe Biden, who once declared he would have Mr. Bush impeached if he attacked Iran without congressional approval. There's Attorney General Eric Holder, who attacked detention without trial at Guantanamo but defends it at Bagram. Nor do we hear much from the Yale Law clinic that, during Dean Koh's tenure, harassed Mr. Yoo with a lawsuit that is still making its way through the federal courts.

While we're at it, how about the great moral question? During President Bush's administration, three known terrorists were waterboarded, provoking much breast-beating. Today President Obama's drone strikes kill many untargeted people; even with the best of precautions, these must include at least some innocent people.

Surely killing people is worse than waterboarding them. That's especially true if they are guilty of no more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even for the guilty, where are our suddenly silent ethicists on the uncomfortable question: Are we going for the kill precisely to avoid the legal thicket that Mr. Koh helped create with regard to detention and interrogation?

For trying to define what was and what was not permitted under relevant domestic and international laws, Mr. Yoo's writings were labeled the "torture memos." In a March 2010 speech to the American Society of International Law, Mr. Koh did the same with the drone strikes. Should this be remembered as the "execution speech"?

As it happens, drone strikes and other Obama war decisions can be legally and morally justified. The problem, however, is that they are hard to justify based on the principles Mr. Koh so loudly advanced before he joined the Obama administration. The legal contortions Mr. Koh introduces in his defenses today as much as admit that.

It is eminently possible that a war might look one way from Yale and another way from Foggy Bottom. A public servant facing that reality has two honorable choices. If he found himself embracing authority he had once denounced others for defending, he would apologize to them. If he still believed his original positions, he would resign.

An honest man might at least acknowledge the contradiction.

24188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Most spending ever on: October 18, 2011, 12:35:12 PM

Maybe it's a sign of the tumultuous times, but the federal government recently wrapped up its biggest spending year, and its second biggest annual budget deficit, and almost nobody noticed. Is it rude to mention this?

 .The Congressional Budget Office recently finished tallying the revenue and spending figures for fiscal 2011, which ended September 30, and no wonder no one in Washington is crowing. The political class might have its political pretense blown. This is said to be a new age of fiscal austerity, yet the government had its best year ever, spending a cool $3.6 trillion. That beat the $3.52 trillion posted in 2009, when the feds famously began their attempt to spend America back to prosperity.

What happened to all of those horrifying spending cuts? Good question. CBO says that overall outlays rose 4.2% from 2010 (1.8% adjusted for timing shifts), when spending fell slightly from 2009. Defense spending rose only 1.2% on a calendar-adjusted basis, and Medicaid only 0.9%, but Medicare spending rose 3.9% and interest payments by 16.7%.

The bigger point: Government austerity is a myth.

In somewhat better news, federal receipts grew by 6.5% in fiscal 2011, including a 21.6% gain in individual income tax revenues. The overall revenue gain would have been even larger without the cost of the temporary payroll tax cut, which contributed to a 5.3% decline in social insurance revenues but didn't reduce the jobless rate.

Enlarge Image

Close...The nearby table shows the budget trend over the last five years, and it underscores the dramatic negative turn since the Obama Presidency began. The budget deficit increased slightly in fiscal 2011 from a year earlier, to $1.298 trillion. That was down slightly as a share of GDP to 8.6%, but as CBO deadpans, this was still "greater than in any other year since 1945."

Mull over that one. The Obama years have racked up the three largest deficits, both in absolute amounts and as a share of GDP, since Hitler still terrorized Europe. Some increase in deficits was inevitable given the recession, but to have deficits of nearly $1.3 trillion two years into a purported economic recovery simply hasn't happened in modern U.S. history. Yet President Obama fiercely resisted even the token spending cuts for fiscal 2011 pressed by House Republicans earlier this year.

The table also shows how close the federal budget was to balance as recently as fiscal 2007, with a deficit as low as $161 billion, or 1.2% of GDP. Those are the numbers to point to the next time someone says that the Bush tax rates are the main cause of our current fiscal woes.

Under those same tax rates in 2007, the government raised $2.57 trillion in revenue but it spent only $2.73 trillion. Four years later, the government raised $265 billion less thanks to the tepid recovery, but it spent nearly $900 billion more thanks to the never-ending Washington stimulus.

The lesson for Congress's super committee contemplating fiscal reform is that faster economic growth and spending restraint are the keys to reducing deficits. Higher taxes will hurt growth and feed a Washington spending appetite that is as voracious as ever, despite the claims of political sacrifice.

24189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Haqqaani factor on: October 18, 2011, 12:27:30 PM

The Haqqani Factor in a Post-Withdrawal Settlement
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Oct. 12 that the United States would be willing to include the  Haqqani network in a peace deal defining Afghanistan’s political arrangement following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. Clinton made the statement in an interview with Reuters, marking the first explicit official acknowledgement that the United States is open to the Haqqanis’ becoming party to an eventual settlement.

The Haqqani network is one of the most powerful militant factions in the country (and one the United States had previously described as “irreconcilable,”) and cannot be ignored in any deal if the agreement is to last. The announcement by Clinton, therefore, acknowledges what STRATFOR already believed to be a reality. However, the timing of the announcement is important, as it comes amid an intensified coalition offensive against the militant group. The United States and its allies are attempting to erode the Haqqani network’s eventual negotiating position in peace talks by taking out some of the organization’s significant leaders. Though this has increased violence in the short term, it may limit the militant group’s ability to extract concessions from the coalition and the Afghan government during negotiations.

In early July, as he was preparing to leave his post as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus announced the war effort would be moving farther east, and on July 31, then-U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen emphasized the need to crack down on the Haqqani network by preventing the flow of militants from Pakistan through Khost province and into Kabul. The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) appears to have since moved to do both.

In the last several weeks, U.S. and allied forces have captured or killed a number of Haqqani operatives that Washington claims were high-ranking members of the organization. Haji Mali Khan, one of the highest ranking members of the group and the uncle of Haqqani network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, was captured Sept. 27 in Jani Khel, Paktia province, along with his bodyguard and deputy. One week after his capture, a militant known only by the name Dilawar, who served as a principal subordinate to Khan, was killed in an airstrike in Musa Khel, Khost province. On Oct. 13, NATO claimed to have killed four militants, including Jan Baz Zadran aka Jalil Khan, a logistical and financial coordinator as well as a top aide to Sirajuddin Haqqani, in an unmanned aerial vehicle strike outside Miran Shah. And on Oct. 14, a strike on a car near Miran Shah resulted in the deaths of four militants connected to the Haqqani network — including one Egyptian who allegedly played a key role in financing the group.

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The aggressive campaign against Haqqani leadership coincides with the Oct. 16 shift of hundreds of U.S. troops, helicopters and heavy arms to the area in eastern Khost province, bordering Pakistan’s North Waziristan province, where the Haqqani network is based and where Petraeus earlier suggested the war effort would increase its focus. U.S. and Afghan troops have enforced a curfew in the border area and cut off some cross-border movement, according to reports, but NATO otherwise has not made clear the aims of this deployment or its expected duration. It may however be connected to the recent increase in pressure on the Haqqani network.

Clinton’s statement on the willingness to include the Haqqanis in a peace settlement must be viewed in the context of these recent claimed gains by NATO against the Haqqani network. Senior Pakistani military officers as recently as Aug. 18 said they could bring the Haqqanis to the negotiating table, though Sirajuddin Haqqani said Sept. 17 that his group would only participate if the Taliban also agreed to talks. Discussions between the United States and the Taliban are well known to be taking place, so Clinton’s comments could indicate that the U.S. government no longer views the Haqqani network as irreconcilable.

Given the Haqqani network’s influence, the group’s eventual involvement is necessary to reach a practicable power-sharing agreement. The offensive against the group is intended to grind away at its capabilities and reduce the threat it can pose — and thus its leverage in negotiations if and when the Haqqani network begins participating.

The United States is currently trying to address its interest to include in peace negotiations a group it recognizes will play a role in post-withdrawal Afghanistan, while avoiding the appearance of easing up on an entity it holds responsible for several attacks on U.S. and coalition forces. If the killed and captured Haqqani militants were as operationally significant as purported, the tactic may have the intended effect of not only giving the United States an edge in negotiations, but creating a possible leadership vacuum in the Haqqani network — a goal that ISAF forces have pursued from the start.

24190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: From the Med. to the Hindu Kush on: October 18, 2011, 12:12:50 PM
From the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush: Rethinking the Region
October 17, 2011


By George Friedman
The territory between the Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush has been the main arena for the U.S. intervention that followed the 9/11 attacks. Obviously, the United States had been engaged in this area in previous years, but 9/11 redefined it as the prime region in which it confronted jihadists. That struggle has had many phases, and it appears to have entered a new one over the past few weeks.
Some parts of this shift were expected. STRATFOR had anticipated tensions between Iran and its neighboring countries to rise as the U.S. withdrew from Iraq and Iran became more assertive. And we expected U.S.-Pakistani relations to reach a crisis before viable negotiations with the Afghan Taliban were made possible.

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However, other events frankly surprised us. We had expected Hamas to respond to events in Egypt and to  the Palestine National Authority’s search for legitimacy through pursuit of U.N. recognition by trying to create a massive crisis with Israel, reasoning that the creation of such a crisis would strengthen anti-government forces in Egypt, increasing the chances for creating a new regime that would end the blockade of Gaza and suspend the peace treaty with Israel. We also thought that intense rocket fire into Israel would force Fatah to support an intifada or be marginalized by Hamas. Here we were clearly wrong; Hamas moved instead to reach a deal for the exchange of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, which has reduced Israeli-Hamas tensions.
Our error was rooted in our failure to understand how the increased Iranian-Arab tensions would limit Hamas’ room to maneuver. We also missed the fact that given the weakness of the opposition forces in Egypt — something we had written about extensively — Hamas would not see an opportunity to reshape Egyptian policies. The main forces in the region, particularly the failure of the Arab Spring in Egypt and the intensification of Iran’s rise, obviated our logic on Hamas. Shalit’s release, in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, marks a new stage in Israeli-Hamas relations. Let’s consider how this is related to Iran and Pakistan.
The Iranian Game
The Iranians tested their strength in Bahrain, where Shiites rose up against their Sunni rulers with at least some degree of Iranian support. Saudi Arabia, linked by a causeway to Bahrain, perceived this as a test of its resolve, intervening with military force to  suppress the demonstrators and block the Iranians. To Iran, Bahrain was simply a probe; the Saudi response did not represent a major reversal in Iranian fortunes.
The main game for Iran is in Iraq, where the  U.S. withdrawal is reaching its final phase. Some troops may be left in Iraqi Kurdistan, but they will not be sufficient to shape events in Iraq. The Iranians will not be in control of Iraq, but they have sufficient allies, both in the government and in outside groups, that they will be able to block policies they oppose, either through the Iraqi political system or through disruption. They will not govern, but no one will be able to govern in direct opposition to them.
In Iraq, Iran sees an opportunity to extend its influence westward. Syria is allied with Iran, and it in turn jointly supports Hezbollah in Lebanon. The prospect of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq opened the door to a sphere of Iranian influence running along the southern Turkish border and along the northern border of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi View
The origins of the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad are murky. It emerged during the general instability of the Arab Spring, but it took a different course. The al Assad regime did not collapse, al Assad was not replaced with another supporter of the regime, as happened in Egypt, and the opposition failed to simply disintegrate. In our view the opposition was never as powerful as the Western media portrayed it, nor was the al Assad regime as weak. It has held on far longer than others expected and shows no inclination of capitulating. For one thing, the existence of bodies such as The International Criminal Court leave al Assad nowhere to go if he stepped down, making a negotiated exit difficult. For another, al Assad does not see himself as needing to step down.
Two governments have emerged as particularly hostile to al Assad: the Saudi government and the Turkish government. The Turks attempted to negotiate a solution in Syria and were rebuffed by Assad. It is not clear the extent to which these governments see Syria simply as an isolated problem along their border or as part of a generalized Iranian threat. But it is clear that the Saudis are extremely sensitive to the Iranian threat and see the fall of the al Assad regime as essential for limiting the Iranians.
In this context, the last thing that the Saudis want to see is conflict with Israel. A war in Gaza would have given the al Assad regime an opportunity to engage with Israel, at least through Hezbollah, and portray opponents to the regime as undermining the struggle against the Israelis. This would have allowed al Assad to solicit Iranian help against Israel and, not incidentally, to help sustain his regime.
It was not clear that Saudi support for Syrian Sunnis would be enough to force the al Assad regime to collapse, but it is clear that a war with Israel would have made it much more difficult to bring it down. Whether Hamas was inclined toward another round of fighting with Israel is unclear. What is clear is that the Saudis, seeing themselves as caught in a struggle with Iran, were not going to hand the Iranians an excuse to get more involved than they were. They reined in any appetite Hamas may have had for war.
Hamas and Egypt
Hamas also saw its hopes in Egypt dissolving. From its point of view, instability in Egypt opened the door for regime change. For an extended period of time, it seemed possible that the first phase of unrest would be followed either by elections that Islamists might win or another wave of unrest that would actually topple the regime. It became clear months ago that the opposition to the Egyptian regime was too divided to replace it. But it was last week that the  power of the regime became manifest.
The Oct. 9 Coptic demonstration that turned violent and resulted in sectarian clashes with Muslims gave the government the opportunity to demonstrate its resolve and capabilities without directly engaging Islamist groups. The regime acted brutally and efficiently to crush the demonstrations and, just as important, did so with some Islamist elements that took to the streets beating Copts. The streets belonged to the military and to the Islamist mobs, fighting on the same side.
One of the things Hamas had to swallow was the fact that it was the Egyptian government that was instrumental in negotiating the prisoner exchange. Normally, Islamists would have opposed even the process of negotiation, let alone its success. But given what had happened a week before, the Islamists were content not to make an issue of the Egyptian government’s deal-making. Nor would the Saudis underwrite Egyptian unrest as they would Syrian unrest. Egypt, the largest Arab country and one that has never been on good terms with Iran, was one place where the Saudis did not want to see chaos, especially with an increasingly powerful Iran and unrest in Syria stalled.
Washington Sides with Riyadh
In the midst of all this, the United States announced the arrest of a man who allegedly was attempting, on behalf of Iran, to hire a Mexican to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. There was serious discussion of the significance of this alleged plot, and based on the evidence released, it was not particularly impressive.
Nevertheless — and this is the important part — the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama decided that this was an intolerable event that required more aggressive measures against Iran. The Saudis have been asking the United States for some public action against Iran both to relieve the pressure on Riyadh and to make it clear that the United States was committed to confronting Iran alongside the Saudis. There may well be more evidence in the alleged assassination plot that makes it more serious than it appeared, but what is clear is that the United States intended to use the plot to increase pressure on Iran — psychologically at least — beyond the fairly desultory approach it had been taking. The administration even threw the nuclear question back on the table, a subject on which everyone had been lackadaisical for a while.
The Saudi nightmare has been that the United States would choose to reach an understanding with Iran as a way to create a stable order in the region and guarantee the flow of oil. We have discussed this possibility in the past, pointing out that the American interest in protecting Saudi Arabia is not absolute and that the United States might choose to deal with the Iranians, neither regime being particularly attractive to the United States and history never being a guide to what Washington might do next.
The Saudis were obviously delighted with the U.S. rhetorical response to the alleged assassination plot. It not only assuaged the Saudis’ feeling of isolation but also seemed to close the door on side deals. At the same time, the United States likely was concerned with the possibility of Saudi Arabia trying to arrange its own deal with Iran before Washington made a move. With this action, the United States joined itself at the hip with the Saudis in an anti-Iranian coalition.
The Israelis had nothing to complain about either. They do not want the Syrian regime to fall, preferring the al Assad regime they know to an unknown Sunni — and potentially Islamist — regime. Saudi support for the Syrian opposition bothers the Israelis, but it’s unlikely to work. A Turkish military intervention bothers them more. But, in the end, Iran is what worries them the most, and any sign that the Obama administration is reacting negatively to the Iranians, whatever the motives (and even if there is no clear motive), makes them happy. They want a deal on Shalit, but even if the price was high, this was not the time to get the United States focused on them rather than the Iranians. The Israelis might be prepared to go further in negotiations with Hamas if the United States focuses on Iran. And Hamas will go further with Israel if the Saudis tell them to, which is a price they will happily pay for a focus on Iran.
The U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan
For the United States, there is another dimension to the Iran focus: Pakistan. The Pakistani view of the United States, as expressed by many prominent Pakistanis, is that the United States has lost the war against the Afghan Taliban. That means that any negotiations that take place will simply be about how the United States, in their words, will “retreat,” rather than about Pakistani guarantees for support against jihadists coupled with a U.S. withdrawal process. If the Pakistanis are right, and the United States has been defeated, then obviously, their negotiating position is correct.
For there to be any progress in talks with the  Taliban and Pakistan, the United States must demonstrate that it has not been defeated. To be more precise, it must demonstrate that while it might not satisfy its conditions for victory (defined as the creation of a democratic Afghanistan), the United States is prepared to indefinitely conduct operations against jihadists, including unmanned aerial vehicle and special operations strikes in Pakistan, and that it might move into an even closer relationship with India if Pakistan resists. There can be no withdrawal unless the Pakistanis understand that there has been no overwhelming domestic political pressure on the U.S. government to withdraw. The paradox here is critical: So long as Pakistan believes the United States must withdraw, it will not provide the support needed to allow it to withdraw. In addition, withdrawal does not mean operations against jihadists nor strategic realignment with India. The United States needs to demonstrate just what risks Pakistan faces when it assumes that the U.S. failure to achieve all its goals means it has been defeated.
The Obama administration’s reaction to the alleged Iranian assassination plot is therefore a vital psychological move against Pakistan. The Pakistani narrative is that the United States is simply incapable of asserting its power in the region. The U.S. answer is that it is not only capable of asserting substantial power in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also that it is not averse to confronting Iran over an attempted assassination in the United States. How serious the plot was, who authorized it in Iran, and so on is not important. If Obama has overreacted it is an overreaction that will cause talk in Islamabad. Obviously this will have to go beyond symbolic gestures but if it does, it changes the dynamic in the region, albeit at the risk of an entanglement with Iran.
Re-evaluating the Region
There are many moving parts. We do not know exactly how far the Obama administration is prepared to take the Iran issue or whether it will evaporate. We do not know if the Assad regime will survive or what Turkey and Saudi Arabia will do about it. We do not know whether, in the end, the Egyptian regime will survive. We do not know whether the Pakistanis will understand the message being sent them.
What we do know is this: The crisis over Iran that we expected by the end of the year is here. It affects calculations from Cairo to Islamabad. It changes other equations, including the Hamas-Israeli dynamic. It is a crisis everyone expected but no one quite knows how to play. The United States does not have a roadmap, and neither do the Iranians. But this is a historic opportunity for Iran and a fundamental challenge to the Saudis. The United States has put some chips on the table, but not any big ones. But the fact that Obama did use rhetoric more intense than he usually does is significant in itself.
All of this does not give us a final answer on the dynamics of the region and their interconnections, but it does give us a platform to begin re-evaluating the regional process.
24191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ, Wesbury, and Gates on Inflation on: October 18, 2011, 12:11:41 PM
U.S. wholesale prices rose sharply last month on the back of higher costs for gasoline, food and household detergents, pointing to continued inflation pressures in the production pipeline.

The index of producer prices, which measures how much manufacturers and wholesalers pay for goods and materials, rose by 0.8% in September from August, the Labor Department said Tuesday. It was the biggest monthly gain since April and came after wholesale prices were flat in August and rose by 0.2% in July.

Underlying prices, which strip out volatile food and energy components and are considered a more reliable predictor of future inflation, rose by a more moderate 0.2%.

The figured point to strengthening pipeline inflation, which could limit the Federal Reserve's leeway in providing more stimulus to a weak economy. Fed officials, who worry the recovery could falter due to politicians' inability to agree on growth-boosting measures, need to calibrate their monetary stimulus so that it boosts the economy and jobs without spurring too much inflation.

After a spike in the first half of the year, most Fed officials still expect the price of oil and other commodities to moderate amid slower growth in the U.S. and China, and a potential recession in Europe, which leads to less demand and lower costs for raw materials.

But there's little evidence that is happening. U.S. oil futures turned higher Tuesday, rising above $87 a barrel, despite a Chinese government report showing slightly slower growth there in the most recent quarter. And there was no indication from the U.S. government report that inflation pressures are softening.

Wholesale prices rose by 6.9% compared to September 2010. Underlying pipeline prices, meanwhile, increased by an annual 2.5%, the biggest gain since June 2009.

The breakdown of the monthly changes showed a sharp rise in energy prices -- up 2.3% in September from August -- following declines the previous three months. Last month's increase was led by gasoline prices, which rose by 4.2%.

Food prices rose by 0.6% last month, the fourth monthly increase in a row.

Light motor truck prices accounted for one-third of the rise in underlying wholesale prices. They rose by 0.6% in September from August, following a 0.1% gain the previous month. Higher prices for household detergents also contributed to last month's increase.

The continued inflation pressures mean the Fed's criteria for launching a new round of bond purchases to boost the economy "will not be satisfied anytime soon," Gary Bigg, economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said in a note.

In a rare bit of positive news for the economy, a separate report showed U.S. home builders' sentiment rose to the highest level in 17 months during October as low mortgage rates and favorable home prices spurred a pickup in expectations for sales. Confidence in the market for new, single-family homes increased by four points to 18 this month – the largest monthly gain since the home buyer tax credit boosted the market in April 2010.

The Producer Price Index (PPI) soared 0.8% in September, coming in well above the consensus expected increase of 0.2%.  Producer prices are up 6.9% versus a year ago.
The increase in PPI in September was mostly due to a 2.3% rise in energy prices. Food prices increased 0.6%. The “core” PPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.2%.
Consumer goods prices climbed 1.0% in September and are up 8.8% versus last year.  Capital equipment prices were up 0.2% in September and are up 1.7% in the past year.
Core intermediate goods prices rose 0.2% in September and are up 7.5% versus a year ago.  Core crude prices increased 1.0% in September and are up 20.8% in the past twelve months.
Implications:  After no change in producer prices in August, inflation came back with a vengeance in September, rising 0.8%. This spike in prices easily beat the consensus expected gain of 0.2%. Higher energy prices led the way, accounting for most of the rise in overall producer prices. This more than reversed the slippage in energy prices in the prior two months. Meanwhile, food prices continue to escalate, rising 0.6% in September and up at a 9.2% annual rate in the past three months. The “core” PPI, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.2%. This measure is up 2.5% from a year ago and is up at a 3% annual rate in the past three months.  Moreover, some of the large gains in core prices further back in the production pipeline will feed through to prices for finished goods. Core prices for intermediate goods rose 0.2% in September and are up 7.5% in the past year; core crude prices increased 1.0% in September and are up 20.8% versus a year ago. These figures should be enough to show the Federal Reserve that there is no room for a third round of quantitative easing.  In other news this morning, chain store sales continue to look good, up 4.6% versus a year ago according to Redbook Research and 3.6% according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.  We have yet to see any sign of recession.

Gates betting on inflation funds:
24192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 18, 2011, 11:54:05 AM
"The construction applied ... to those parts of the Constitution of the United States which delegate Congress a power ... ought not to be construed as themselves to give unlimited powers, nor a part to be so taken as to destroy the whole residue of that instrument." --Thomas Jefferson, Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798
24193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 18, 2011, 11:21:46 AM
That is my take on it too.
24194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Traders warn on: October 18, 2011, 11:17:19 AM

Amid the wild swings of the past few weeks, cracks are appearing deep in the workings of the stock market that some professional investors say are making the market treacherous to trade.

Hedge-fund traders and mutual-fund managers say it has become increasingly tough to trade an individual stock without causing a big swing in its price. That's led many large investors to step back from the market instead of risking being stung by the trading difficulties.

Mind the Gap
The spread, or percentage difference between the price investors are willing to buy and sell a stock, grows as markets become more volatile.

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Close..The big moves in stock indexes have caught attention. Just on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 247.49 points, or 2.13%, to 11397.00. But market participants say trading conditions are much worse when they drill down to individual stocks, highlighting skittishness of investors of all stripes.

Even among some of Wall Street's most actively traded stocks, such as Apple Inc. or Netflix Inc., traders say it has been more challenging than usual to buy or sell.

The problem is a lack of liquidity—a term that refers to the ease of getting a trade done at an acceptable price.

Markets depend on there being many offers to buy and sell a particular stock, across a range of prices. But as investors have gotten nervous, many of those offers have dried up. That is causing wider-than-normal gaps between prices showing where stocks can be bought and where they can be sold—the difference between the "bid" price and the "ask" price.

Many big investors, such as hedge funds and mutual funds, which at times can act as shock absorbers for trading because they tend to trade large chunks of stocks, have been on the sidelines. Some hedge funds, for example, say they're not trading as much until they know how much money their clients will withdraw at the end of October, a deadline some clients have to inform funds of intentions to redeem money at year-end.

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CloseBloomberg News
Traders at the New York Stock Exchange.
.Wall Street firms and banks, meanwhile, have significantly less appetite for taking on the risk of holding whatever it is that clients are buying or selling.

Some analysts and investors say poor liquidity and market turbulence, which has seen the Dow rise or fall by 1% or more in 14 of the past 19 trading days, will continue as long as government officials squabble on both sides of the pond, banks and others look to reduce trading risk and the global economy stays on a shaky footing.

In some ways, investors would be expected to leave the market in uncertain times, but traders say the exodus of late is striking and underscores the nervousness of market participants, and the lack of willingness of many to step in to trade.

"Liquidity will continue to be a big problem," says Patrick McMahon, co-founder of hedge fund MKP Capital. Mr. McMahon says he has noted the sharp decline in liquidity, or market depth, in recent months. And, with global banks reducing their risk exposure, they are less likely to step in and take either side of trades, Mr. McMahon says.

He says fewer investors are willing to buy or sell stocks, creating an effective vacuum.

"That's why you get 5% moves in a matter of minutes," he says. "When there are sellers, there are few buyers, creating an air pocket down."

And it's not just stock markets. Liquidity has also been sucked out of credit markets, too, traders say, from corporate bonds to mortgage-backed securities. Global banks have been reducing their exposure to riskier bonds and are less likely to step in and take either side of bond trades, Mr. McMahon says. In some cases this is spilling into the stock market, as debt investors scramble to trade there.

"Any reasonable sized selling is driving individual bond prices down quite a bit," says Jeffrey Kronthal, co-founder of hedge fund KLS Diversified in New York, who says bid-offer spreads in areas such as some residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities have more than doubled in the past month or so. "Really, no dealers are putting up capital. A lot of stuff just doesn't trade."

In the stock market, one well-known manager of a large hedge fund said he recently tried to buy $250 million of shares of Tempur-Pedic International Inc., a mattress maker with a nearly $4 billion market value. The manager, who declined to speak on the record, says he gave up after his initial order of $20 million of shares pushed prices of the stock up too far.

"You try to get something done at one level, and if you take your eye off the screen, it can move to the next level," says David Schiff, deputy head of equity trading at JPMorgan Asset Management. "There's not a lot of depth at any price point."'

To some degree there's a chicken and egg phenomenon at work. As poor liquidity begets more volatility, big investors and brokerage firms become even more wary of being active in the market. And individual investors, many of whom are out of market already, are less likely to return. Volumes, while erratic, have largely been lower in recent weeks. Some 3.7 billion shares changed hands in New York Stock Exchange composite trading on Monday, compared with this year's average of 4.4 billion.

Some traders say this kind of dynamic is what should be expected for such highly uncertain times.

"Yeah, of course it's harder to trade," the head of one mutual fund trading desk says. "You can't do things you used to be able to do four months ago, but it's a different market."

The best way to judge liquidity, some traders say, is by looking at the bid-ask spreads.

For the stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500 stock-index, spreads have been at their widest since late 2009, when markets were finally calming down from the worst of the financial crisis. The median spread on S&P 500 stocks on some days topped 0.05% of their share price on multiple days, up from an average of just over 0.03% for the first seven months of 2011, according to Credit Suisse's AES electronic trading group.

The lack of liquidity can also be seen in the spreads among actively traded stocks. On Apple, for example, the average spread has on many days been double what it was back in June, according to data compiled by T3 Trading Group. On shares of Amazon, the spread has gone from 0.03% of the share price to a spread of over 0.05% in recent weeks. The spread on Netflix shares widened to over 0.07% in September and early October from 0.05% in late June and July.

One surprising element of the fall-off in liquidity is that one key set of players actually appears to be more active in recent months: so-called high-frequency traders. These hedge funds use computer models to trade at a rapid pace. In recent years they have replaced brokerage firms as the go-betweens when investors trade stocks.

But with so many other players stepping back from the market, the liquidity that high frequency traders are providing isn't creating much of a cushion, traders say. In fact, some say they may be making matters worse.

Conditions have improved a bit over the past two weeks, says Scott Redler, chief strategic officer at T3 Trading, but overall, trading in stock such as these have "felt thinner and it's hard to get good executions. As soon as you get filled, it feels like the prices are against you."

24195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Comparison on: October 17, 2011, 10:01:12 PM
One was a failed law enforcement operation. The other was a possible criminal conspiracy. (Related: Ed Driscoll asks, How would the story play in the MSM if Bush were still in power?)

There seem to be two avenues of document extraction in the ongoing Gunwalker scandal, in addition to witness testimony. One is the subpoena process being used by House and Senate committees investigating the plot. The other is selective leaking to favored media sources, which appears to be a preferred tactic of the White House. The former is official process, the latter an attempt to short-circuit the process.
Both approaches have been used in a pair of articles released via the Associated Press (via National Public Radio) and ABC News about an early Operation Gunrunner interdiction effort known as Operation Wide Receiver.
The Associated Press article presents an interesting variation of reality:
A second Bush administration gun-trafficking investigation has surfaced using the same controversial tactic for which congressional Republicans have been criticizing the Obama administration.

The tactic, called “gun walking,” is already under investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general and by congressional Republicans, who have criticized the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama for letting it happen in an operation called “Fast and Furious.” …
The 2007 probe operated out of the same ATF office that more recently ran the flawed Operation Fast and Furious. Both probes resulted in weapons disappearing across the border into Mexico, according to the emails. The 2007 probe was relatively small — involving over 200 weapons, just a dozen of which ended up in Mexico as a result of gun-walking. Fast and Furious involved over 2,000 weapons, some 1,400 of which have not been recovered and an unknown number of which wound up in Mexico.

The Associated Press article goes on to paint the picture of a serially incompetent ATF office that began acting in a dangerous manner in 2007 and which continued until ATF whistleblowers came forward after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down in December of 2010, in a variation of the “Bush did it” meme that has long been a reflexive defense mechanism of the Obama White House.

But the ABC News article paints a very different picture, using newly obtained emails between ATF supervisors running Operation Wide Receiver:
“ATF agents observed this vehicle [carrying guns] commit to the border and reach the Mexican side until it could no longer be seen,” Carroll wrote in a Sept. 28, 2007 email. “We, the ATF … did not get a response from the Mexican side until 20 minutes later, who then informed us that they did not see the vehicle cross. For the first time we are working hand in hand with the GOM [Government of Mexico] and providing them with what they want and this is what we get!”

The following day, ATF Acting Director for Field Operation William Hoover was demanding information on the strategy.
“Have we discussed the strategy with the U.S. Attorney’s Office re letting the guns walk? Do we have this approval in writing? Have we discussed and thought thru the consequences of same?” Hoover wrote to Newell and Carroll. “Are we tracking south of the border? Same re U.S. Attorney’s Office. Did we find out why they missed the hand-off of the vehicle? What are the expected outcomes?

“I do not want any firearms to go south until further notice,” Hoover wrote on Oct 5. “I expect a full briefing paper on my desk Tuesday morning from SAC Newell with every question answered.”
On Oct. 6, 2007, Newell wrote in an email, “I’m so frustrated with this whole mess I’m shutting the case down and any further attempts to do something similar. We’re done trying to pursue new and innovative initiatives – it’s not worth the hassle.”

The AP claim that the Bush-era Wide Receiver and Obama-era Fast and Furious were “using the same controversial tactic” is deceptive, verging upon being a fabrication. The differences between the botched Bush-era interdiction effort that was Wide Receiver and the blatant gun-running of Obama’s Fast and Furious are something that we’ve discussed previously, but the ABC News article provides even more details that highlight just how different the operations were.

Wide Receiver was a botched, small-scale, law enforcement gun-smuggling interdiction effort that involved local Phoenix-based ATF agents working in conjunction with Mexican law enforcement. When guns were lost — roughly 200 — irate supervisors immediately shut down the program.
Wide Receiver could hardly be any more different than Fast and Furious.
Fast and Furious used elements of at least four cabinet-level departments: Justice, State, Homeland Security, and Treasury. U.S. attorneys, the directors of the FBI and DEA, the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, and senior DOJ officials were briefed. High-level State Department approval was critical, in order to avoid breaking arms export control laws. Even the White House National Security Counsil (NSC) had direct communications about the operation.

Unlike Wide Receiver, Operation Fast and Furious excluded Mexican government officials. Instead of working in conjunction with Mexican law enforcement in order to prevent gun smuggling, the operation was designed to ensure that more than 2,000 guns would be successfully smuggled into Mexico by the drug cartels to be used in violent crimes.
The same supervisors that were appalled at the failures of Wide Receiver seemed to be giddy at the “success” of Fast and Furious when the weapons they sent over the border were found at murder scenes, or taken from the bodies and stash houses of narco-terrorists.

Operation Wide Receiver was a failed law enforcement operation that was shut down immediately when it went wrong. Operation Fast and Furious was a possible criminal conspiracy to ensure that one of the most powerful and violent criminal cartels in the world was armed not with inexpensive fully-automatic military weapons that can be had on the black market very cheaply, but with sporting semi-automatics that were American-imported or manufactured firearms costing 100%-400% more. The obvious, and only logical, explanation for such a plot was to ensure that as many American weapons as possible were showing up at Mexican crime scenes.
Perhaps one day the mainstream media will finally ask who ordered Operation Fast and Furious, who approved the plot, and why.

Until then, Congress is right to push for oversight and the presidential appointment of a special counsel to investigate the criminal conspiracy and the coverup.

Bob Owens
24196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libyan PAD missiles heading for Gaza on: October 17, 2011, 07:20:04 PM
24197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 17, 2011, 07:10:41 PM
That includes some variables which had not occurred to me and seems quite sound.
24198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Steyn, Malkin, North on: October 17, 2011, 07:05:58 PM
The Foundation
"Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition." --Thomas Jefferson
Opinion in Brief
"American Autumn" or Red October
"Take, for example, the complaints of the young Americans currently 'occupying' Wall Street. Many protesters have told sympathetic reporters that 'it's our Arab Spring.' Put aside the differences between brutal totalitarian dictatorships and a republic of biennial elections, and simply consider it in economic terms: At the 'Occupy' demonstrations, not-so-young college students are demanding that their tuition debt be forgiven. In Egypt, half the population lives in poverty; the country imports more wheat than any other nation on the planet, and the funds to do that will dry up in a couple months' time. They're worrying about starvation, not how to fund half a decade of Whatever Studies at Complacency U. One sympathizes. When college tuition is $50,000 a year, you can't 'work your way through college' -- because, after all, an 18-year-old who can earn 50-grand a year wouldn't need to go to college, would he? Nevertheless, his situation is not the same as some guy halfway up the Nile living on $2 a day: One is a crisis of the economy, the other is a crisis of decadence. And, generally, the former are far easier to solve. My colleague Rich Lowry correctly notes that many of the beleaguered families testifying on the 'We are the 99%' websites have real problems. However, the 'Occupy' movement has no real solutions, except more government, more spending, more regulation, more bureaucracy, more unsustainable lethargic pseudo-university with no return on investment, more more more of what got us into this hole. ... One of their demands is for a trillion dollars in 'environmental restoration.' Hey, why not? It's only a trillion. Beneath the allegedly young idealism are very cobwebbed assumptions about societal permanence. The agitators for 'American Autumn' think that such demands are reasonable for no other reason than that they happen to have been born in America, and expectations that no other society in human history has ever expected are just part of their birthright. But a society can live on the accumulated capital of a glorious inheritance only for so long." --columnist Mark Steyn

For the Record
"When fiscally conservative tea party activists held protests over the past two years, they filed for all the required permits and paid for their own power. Occupy Boston, by contrast, neither sought nor obtained any proper permits at any level, according to the Boston Globe. Instead, city and park officials have been cowed into providing them gratis electricity and camp space lest there be 'conflict.' Many of these occupiers are primarily occupied as paid rent-a-mobsters for unions, left-wing think tanks and the radical Working Families Party. While one collective hand soaks the taxpayers, the other hand is busy soliciting free stuff. Occupy Los Angeles activists took to Skype on their laptops to solicit donations of iPhones and iPads. Occupy Wall Street members on Twitter organized an ongoing '#needsoftheoccupiers' drive for everything from batteries and tarps to 'gently used' coats and sweaters, wool socks, sleeping bags and energy bars. Occupy Austin organizers publicized their wish list, including a free barbecue grill, portable toilets, extension cords, a Bobcat forestry cutter for clearing brush and network cameras for a livestream. These are not principled advocates of fiscal responsibility. They are professional freeloaders." --columnist Michelle Malkin

Faith & Family
"While the potentates of the press were paying homage to pot-smoking protesters demanding 'economic justice,' supporters of religious freedom were being massacred in Egypt. On Sunday, Oct. 9, more than 1,000 Coptic Christians held a vigil at the state television building in Cairo to pray for protection against radical Islamists burning their churches, homes, schools and businesses. According to Amnesty International, violent Islamist attacks against Egypt's Christian community -- which predates Islam by more than six centuries -- have increased exponentially since Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February. The peaceful gathering was attacked by armed Muslim militants and Egyptian army units. In the ensuing melee, at least 20 Copts were killed, and more than 75 were wounded. Eyewitnesses recorded victims being beaten, stabbed, shot, crushed by military vehicles and dragged through the streets of Cairo. Dr. Walid Phares of Fox News, one of the first to report the incident, rightly says, 'International news agencies, including AP, were late in reporting the real casualties.' So, too, was the White House in noting that the atrocity even happened. Apparently, Christians being brutalized in Egypt doesn't fit the O-Team's 'Arab spring' campaign theme song." --columnist Oliver North
24199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / REE alternatives on: October 17, 2011, 03:03:54 PM
24200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: October 17, 2011, 03:01:30 PM
Me too!  Though if he proves right I want some credit for continuing to post him!  cheesy
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