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24351  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Tipping Point? on: August 09, 2011, 01:29:34 AM
The Nation's Pulse
American Tipping Point
By Jeffrey Lord on 8.2.11 @ 6:08AM

Hush puppies and the Tea Party.

The Republican run House of Representatives passed a debt limit plan last night 269-161. With Arizona Democrat Gabrielle Giffords returning from death's door to cast a yes vote. Good for her.

You always think of these things together, right?

No? Well, you should.

Hush puppies, for those coming in late, were once the casual shoe of choice in the late 1950s. By the 1990s they were pretty much vanished, disappeared to the fashion twilight zone along with tri-corner hats and powdered white wigs for men. They sold somewhere in the neighborhood of a pathetic 30,000 pairs a year, usually out of small family-run shoe stores in the small towns of off-the-beaten path America. The company that made them -- Wolverine -- was on the verge of giving up with the once iconic shoe from the Eisenhower-era that was, in 1950s beatnik lingo, "nowheresville" by the time of Bill and Hillary.

And then something peculiar happened. Something very much like what has been happening in the House of Representatives the last several days.

Out of the blue, hush puppies were becoming hip in the hippest clubs and bars of Clinton-era Manhattan. Impatient customers began scouting those small town shoe stores and scooping up the remaining supply. A prominent fashion designer was seen clad in them, another called Wolverine wanting to feature them in his spring collection. So did another. One L.A. fashionista mounted a 25-foot inflatable basset hound (the basset hound the Hush Puppy symbol) on the roof of his store, bought and gutted the building next door and turned it into a hush puppy boutique. One movie star of the day walked in personally to pick up a couple pairs of puppies. By 1995, sales had skyrocketed from the lonely 30,000 sales a year to almost half-a-million. The shoes were winning prizes as "best accessory" from fashion big wigs. And on and on it went.

If you've read author Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling classic of a few years back called The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, you will recognize this hush puppy story as Gladwell's. Along with other seemingly odd topics like Paul Revere's ride or the sudden drop in the crime rate of the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, Gladwell posited the idea that:

…the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or, for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.

When three characteristics combine -- "contagiousness, the fact that little causes can have big effects… (and) that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment" -- a "tipping point" occurs.

Hush puppy sales take off. Crime falls through the floor. A book sails on to best seller list. Or, as Gladwell also notes, a Boston silversmith's determination to spread the news of an impending British attack "mobilizes an entire region to arms" and an entire revolution is launched. And so on.

To which, this morning, it must be said after that 269-161 vote in the House last night: America has reached a new Tipping Point.

An epidemic of conservatism is sweeping America. And thanks to the Tea Party, yesterday disgracefully accused of terrorism by Vice President Biden (he the vice president in an administration terrified of calling real terrorists terrorists -- seriously!), the country will never be the same again.

Let's start with Gladwell's point of contagiousness, or, as he says in illustrating the point, the importance of understanding that epidemics are an "example of geometric progression."

Remembering that some 40 years separated the popularity peaks of the hush puppy, it should be noted that 78 years have separated the serious and seemingly permanent rise of Big Government from today. From Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to the presidency of Barack Obama is a long time. And Big Government -- the idea that, in the vernacular, "tax and spend" can just sail on endlessly -- seemed like an impregnable fortress of an idea.

But like the hush puppy epidemic, along the way Gladwell's "little causes" began to multiply.

Some seemed insignificant in the day, others of moderate or even large consequence. Here's a partial list:

• 1938: Ohio Senator Robert Taft gains political celebrity as a devout opponent of FDR's New Deal, winning his first Senate race in the anti-New Deal election year of 1938. The same year Democrats lose a record 72 seats in the U.S. House and 6 in the U.S. Senate. Taft loses three bids for the GOP presidential nomination -- in 1940, 1948 and, most spectacularly, to the moderate Republican General Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. But the idea germinates of the GOP as the natural home of political conservative opposition to Big Government.

• 1947: Regnery Publishing, a publisher of conservative books, is created in by Henry Regnery, the father of Alfred Regnery, now the publisher of The American Spectator.

• 1951: William F. Buckley Jr. becomes an unlikely bestselling author at the age of 25 with his first book, God and Man at Yale, published by Regnery. The book is highly controversial, the first serious allegation that a major American educational institution has abandoned its cultural founding principles for a far-left leaning liberal secularism.

• 1955: Buckley creates National Review magazine, the publication designed to promote the cause of conservatism in a culture where Big Government and its left-leaning accoutrements have become the cultural norm. Famously, Buckley declares his intention of "standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"

• 1961: Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, having delivered a speech at the 1960 Republican National Convention demanding "let's grow up conservatives," authors a bestselling book called The Conscience of a Conservative.

• 1964: Goldwater defeats liberal GOP Establishment choices, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton, for the GOP presidential nomination. Losing in a landslide to Lyndon Johnson, Goldwater's nomination victory continues the Taft transformation of the GOP from a party of "dime store New Deal" moderates to conservatives.

• 1966: Actor Ronald Reagan, whose nationally televised speech for Goldwater electrified the budding conservative movement, is elected Governor of California.

• 1967: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. founds The Alternative, a conservative magazine that evolves into The American Spectator. The magazine features conservative intellectual and political thought, spotlighting writers such as Tom Wolfe, Thomas Sowell and George F. Will among many. Also appearing in its pages: Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point.

• 1976: Former Governor Reagan challenges incumbent GOP President Gerald R. Ford for the Republican presidential nomination, specifically challenging as a conservative champion. Reagan loses in a tight battle.

• 1978: New York Congressman Jack Kemp gets the Republican National Committee to endorse classical economics -- "supply-side" or "growth" economics -- as the official position of the national party.

• 1980: Reagan wins the presidency in a landslide and the 8-year "Reagan Revolution" begins.

• 1988: Rush Limbaugh begins his nationally syndicated talk radio show, quickly establishing himself as the premiere talk radio conservative in the land.

• 1990: President George H.W. Bush breaks his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge and raises taxes. Conservatives abandon him and he loses re-election, winning only 37% of the vote.

• 1994: The GOP sweeps the congressional elections in a conservative tide, making it the House majority party for the first time since 1954. Newt Gingrich becomes Speaker of the House.

• 1995: Bill Kristol creates the Weekly Standard magazine, a magazine of "neoconservative" political and intellectual thought.

• 1996: Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and Roger Ailes launch Fox News. It becomes the most-watched cable news channel in America, dwarfing rivals CNN and MSNBC.

• 2001: Sean Hannity's radio show begins national syndication. He is already the co-host of Fox TV's popular Hannity and Colmes. Hannity becomes the number two talk radio star in America behind his friend Rush Limbaugh.

• 2002: Mark Levin, a former Reagan aide and head of the Landmark Legal Foundation, begins his first radio show, now syndicated nationally.

• 2009: The "Tea Party" movement begins, formed by activists concerned over the size of U.S. indebtedness and the national deficit.

• 2009: Levin writes Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto. The book sells over 1.2 million copies and becomes the informal bible of "Tea Party" activists, literally waved in the streets at mass rallies and saluted by Tea Party favorite Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

• 2009: Talk radio's Glenn Beck begins a television show on Fox that for a period becomes the hottest show in the five o'clock time-slot. The show lasts only two years, but in its heyday brings considerable attention to Beck and his particular brand of conservatism.

• 2009: Conservative activist film maker James O'Keefe's undercover videos of ACORN result in the congressional defunding of the controversial group after video shows members of the group aiding in prostitution and tax evasion schemes.

That's a fairly considerable if partial list of what Gladwell calls "little causes" -- some admittedly larger or smaller than others.

Yet the point remains: when you add everything on this list together, when you add the fact that one event has frequently spread its contagiousness or been pushed by, in Gladwell's vocabulary, "connectors" -- "people with a particular and rare set of social gifts" who have the ability to "spread" an idea like an epidemic, a Tipping Point is in the works. Henry Regnery, for example, published and made a star of Buckley, who befriended Reagan who inspired Limbaugh, who was befriended by Buckley and placed on the cover of National Review, with Limbaugh in turn aiding Hannity and Levin and Levin's book inspiring the Tea Party etc., etc.

What is evident in this explosive fight over the debt ceiling is what Gladwell calls the force of "geometric progression." The collective weight of it all from the election of Taft to Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin's latest radio shows and the appearance of the Tea Party marking an American "Tipping Point."

This is not the first time a "Tipping Point" has occurred in American history. The lead up to the tipping point that was the American Revolution was replete with incidents and powerful personalities stretching over a century and a half from the initial landing of the Pilgrims (literally sailing across the Atlantic to get out from under British control) to the first "Tea Party" in Boston to the rhetoric of Patrick Henry and the ride of Paul Revere. All these and more finally culminated in the "shot heard 'round the world" when Americans confronted the British militarily at Lexington and Concord. The world was never the same again, the once presumed eternal certainty of British colonial rule on its way to being shattered for good.

There are other "tipping points" -- one culminating in the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, another in the American civil rights movement, with more historical turning points beyond that. Each in their own way propelled by events large and small, championed by personalities famous and unknown.

But make no mistake.

Thanks to the Tea Party movement, Conservatism is on the verge of a major victory that dwarfs the technical and actual realities of whatever the details of the resulting deficit deal passed last night. Yes, there is a long, long way to go. But the idea that America doesn't, in fact, have to be governed for eternity as a debtor nation with a mammoth, out-of-control, ever-expanding government is winning the day. It is tipping the balance with increasing decisiveness against an idea that has become so much a part of conventional wisdom that even some conservatives, startlingly including, inexplicably, the Wall Street Journal, have displayed the wobblies at the thought of confronting the Leviathan. The WSJ's attacks yesterday against Jim DeMint, Michele Bachmann and Sean Hannity, saying "sooner or later the GOP had to give up the hostage" -- follows another editorial in which the paper railed against Tea Party members as "hobbits." The paper, sounding like cranky British Tories in 1775 Boston rather than the bold, forward-looking paper that championed the much-derided ideas of Ronald Reagan, wildly bought into the liberal notion that the Tea Party from Hobbitville is somehow holding the government hostage, instead of the other way around. In fact Big Government liberalism has spent decades holding and trying to hold the average American hostage to all manner of outrageous tax rates, taxes and regulations on everything from capital gains to sex (in Harry Reid's Nevada) to soda, SUVs and poker.

Let me see if I understand this without drink, drugs or rock and roll: the Wall Street Journal is saying that because Senator DeMint, Congresswoman Bachmann and Sean Hannity are not caving to President Obama -- they are insufficiently conservative?

My oh my oh my oh my.

The view from here in Hobbitville is that our WSJ friends and other conservatives who seem inexplicably to have wanted to fold out of what Rush Limbaugh bluntly labeled "fear" are betraying nothing as much as an odd editorial-version of a Big Government, tax-and-spend Stockholm syndrome. The psychological shift where the hostage identifies with the hostage-taker. Oh please don't hurt me and I'll compromise!!!!!!!!!

The Tea Party not only would have none of this, the Tea Party's role in all of this marks the definitive and latest American "Tipping Point" -- a point when the balance is discernibly shifting and the world changes. And as that long list of conservatives and the events associated with them indicates, there are a lot of people over eight decades who deserve some thanks.

America -- and the eternally Big Government, tax and spend ideas of the American Left -- will never be seen the same way again. Which is precisely why the Left is writhing and foaming as this goes to Internet print.

The Tea Party is the new Hush Puppy. They are, to use a Gladwell example, Paul Revere. The message has been delivered with maximum impact. The revolution is here.

A new American Tipping Point


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24352  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 09, 2011, 01:03:20 AM
Please address then the valuations of the dollar in gold, silver, commodities, and other currencies.
24353  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 08, 2011, 10:05:35 PM
Well then putting aside all the other points which you are not addressing, let us list the other facts concerning food prices un and underemployment, indebtedness per citizen and a whole clusterfcuk of other data.
24354  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Richard Young on: August 08, 2011, 10:02:54 PM
Obama and the UN: Grabbing Your Guns
August 3, 2011 by The Editors     

 Speaking about a gun control treaty being cooked up at the U.N. in 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The United States is prepared to work hard for a strong international standard in this area.” That was a major change from just a year before when the Bush administration gave the treaty a big thumbs-down. Now the gun grabbers are back at the U.N. putting the finishing touches on their treaty, with tacit support from the Obama administration.
At Human Events, John Velleco writes that the U.N. deal, known as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT),

“ … will, at the very least, require gun owner registration and microstamping of ammunition.  And it will define manufacturing so broadly that any gun owner who adds so much as a scope or changes a stock on a firearm would be required to obtain a manufacturing license.

It would also likely include a ban on many semi-automatic firearms (i.e., the Clinton gun ban) and demand the mandatory destruction of surplus ammo and confiscated firearms.”

Anyone believing such laws will have a positive effect should remember that, since the end of the Clinton Gun Ban in 2003, violent crime rates have fallen 9.8% and the murder rate has fallen 12.3%.

In response to a passage in the treaty that “recognizes” countries’ rights to govern their citizens’ ownership of firearms, Velleco observes, “Americans’ right to keep and bear arms exists whether or not it is ‘recognized’ by some U.N. committee.  The right enshrined in the Second Amendment predates our own Constitution, and does not need an international stamp of approval.”

Thankfully, support of two-thirds of the Senate is needed to ratify a treaty, and the proportion of current membership that is pro second amendment precludes this treaty from becoming law. That being said, shame on President Obama and Secretary Clinton for giving credence to a process that might deny Americans their constitutional rights.

24355  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer rips Baraq yet another one on: August 08, 2011, 09:32:32 PM
http://dailycaller.com/2011/08/08/krauthammer-blasts-obama-as-weak-plaintive-and-small/
24356  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 08, 2011, 09:25:36 PM
A bubble was created in the market by the Fed with its insane interest rate policies and the monetization of the debt and deficit.  This is not an accomplishment.  It is simply creating a bigger and more disastrous reality than the housing bubble.
24357  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pawlenty; Paul on: August 08, 2011, 09:21:39 PM
Saw Pawlenty interviewed by Chris Wallace yesterday.  A much better performance than I had seen previously.
===========

Ron Paul: The Outsider
The Texas libertarian may not win the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination, but his views have helped reshape the party


How influential is Ron Paul?
For more than three decades, Paul’s brand of uncompromising libertarianism left him on the fringes of the Republican Party. Only three of the 416 bills he has sponsored in Congress since 1997 even made it out of committee—and two of those were defeated. But events of the last three years—including the meltdown of the financial sector, massive government bailouts of private industry, and an exploding federal deficit—have turned his warnings on the dangers of debt and excessive spending into mainstream Republican thought. The Tea Party has embraced Paul’s belief that the best government is the least government, and that taxes are an intrusion on individual liberty. “Time has come around to where the people are agreeing with much of what I’ve been saying for 30 years,” Paul said in May, when he announced his third campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. “The time is right.”

Has the GOP embraced all his ideas?
No. Many of them are still anathema to the Republican establishment. A self-described “strict constitutionalist,” Paul believes the federal government should do almost nothing beyond punishing fraud and warding off foreign attacks; he has denounced U.S. “militarism” and argued that the U.S. should not meddle in the Middle East or the affairs of other nations. He’s voted against everything from humanitarian relief for Hurricane Katrina victims to granting a Congressional Gold Medal to Rosa Parks. (It wasn’t personal; he also opposed awards for Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II.) Given the chance, he’d shutter the Federal Reserve, the Internal Revenue Service, and “unconstitutional domestic bureaucracies” like the departments of Education, Energy, and Commerce. And although he’s a devout Christian, the 12-term congressman from Texas would legalize prostitution, heroin, and cocaine. “If people are only free to make good decisions,” Paul said, “they are not truly free.” He is not one to make concessions. “I don’t like the word ‘compromise,’” he said. “You give up half your beliefs.”

How did Paul come to his views?
He traces his sense of personal responsibility and self-reliance to his hard-working family in Pittsburgh. At age 5, Paul started working at his father’s small dairy, earning a penny every time he spotted a dirty bottle on the conveyor belt. He later delivered newspapers and mowed lawns, and helped pay his own college tuition. While studying medicine at Duke University, he discovered the work of Austrian economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, who championed unregulated markets and sound currency. When President Nixon abandoned the gold standard in 1971, Paul said, “I decided to speak out.” He predicted that a Federal Reserve delinked from gold would print too much money, resulting in a housing bubble, a devalued dollar, massive foreign borrowing, and recession. He still sees a return to the gold standard as the only way to put the U.S. back on a secure financial footing.

What kinds of people support Paul?
His unusual ideas have attracted an equally unusual band of supporters, ranging from pot-smoking college students to hard-core fiscal conservatives. What they have in common is fervent enthusiasm for his message of individual liberty. “When people come to believe in Ron Paul, there is a passion that burns within us,” said Elizabeth Day, 57, a 2012 Paul campaign volunteer. His fans back their love with money: Paul’s presidential campaign received $4.5 million in donations in the second quarter of 2011—more than all of his competitors except Mitt Romney. The Paulites also turn out en masse whenever there’s a GOP presidential straw poll.

Can Paul win the 2012 presidential nomination?
History suggests not. In 1988, when Paul ran as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, he won just 0.5 percent of the vote; in the 2008 GOP primaries, he took 5.6 percent. Today Paul is polling between 7 and 8 percent, far behind Republican front-runners Romney and Michele Bachmann. Ironically, the resonance of Paul’s anti-Washington message could be undermining his 2012 campaign. The GOP field is crowded with candidates who have adopted his argument for stripped-down government. Paul’s rivals, moreover, aren’t tied to libertarian policies that spook most Republicans, such as legalizing heroin and bringing all U.S. troops home. “The conservatives who might have gone with him in the past have enough other choices this time,” said Fran Wendelboe, a former Republican New Hampshire state representative.

So why is Paul running?
The message has always been more important than the office for Paul, who will retire from Congress next year. He sees every TV interview or Republican debate as a chance to persuade more Americans of the merits of libertarianism, and to wake them up to the “tyranny” of central government. As awareness of his stance grows, he believes, so does the chance that a like-minded candidate—perhaps his son Rand Paul, a Tea Party idol and Kentucky senator—might one day win the White House. “Politicians don’t amount to much,” said Paul, “but ideas do.”

Civil rights vs. the free market
The 1964 Civil Rights Act helped end racial segregation in the U.S. But if Paul had been in Congress at the time, he would have voted against this landmark piece of legislation. His problem with the law, he recently explained, was its “property rights element,” not the fact that it brought about greater racial equality. In Paul’s strict libertarian ideology, the federal government has no right to tell a private business what it can or cannot do on its own property. So any hairdresser who wants to bar black people from his or her salon should be free to do so. Paul says that this argument doesn’t make him a racist, and he contends that racist businesses would be punished by customers, and by the free market itself. Any business owner that did ban blacks, he said, “would be an idiot and out of business.”
24358  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Five Suggestions on: August 08, 2011, 09:17:57 PM
By ANDY KESSLER
Now that the debt-ceiling gyrations are over, the Obama administration is "pivoting" to its biggest problem—jobs. Unemployment ticked down to 9.1% in July, but the real unemployment rate, including discouraged workers, is still 16.1%. The stock market is not pleased. Why? Because the president's calls for "patent reform" and an "infrastructure bank" won't move the needle. It's time to go big or be sent home.

Can we agree that throwing money at the problem doesn't work? The 2009-10 stimulus package wasted more than $800 billion. The Federal Reserve's frantic quantitative easing, QE1 and QE2, printed money and bought mortgage paper on the street, helping banks and financial institutions recapitalize, but it hardly created jobs—not lasting ones anyway. Sadly, the economy grew at a subpar 1.3% rate in the second quarter instead of the typical 5% rocket out of a recession. What's missing is not capital, it's opportunity.

As Otter famously said in "Animal House," this situation "absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part." Well, at least a gesture that might appear stupid and futile but in reality kick-starts whole new industries and massive job growth. And all it will take is the stroke of a pen. Here are some instant job creators:

• Free spectrum. AT&T is trying to buy T-Mobile to get hold of valuable spectrum for wireless. But there's loads of spectrum lying around that is not being used. Try this: Tune into channel 37 on your TV. Static? Bingo. Put this spectrum in the hands of entrepreneurs and you'll create a million new jobs, not to mention new devices and apps not thought possible in our bandwidth-starved world—phones that work in elevators and subways, remote auto and medical diagnostics, real-time ads on smart phones and other devices ("Hey, your friends ate here last week!"), and that's just in the first six months.

But how? Either allow spectrum to be sold by current owners, typically broadcasters inefficiently using this spectrum, or implement a "use it or lose" it rule. The Federal Communications Commission can declare that if a swath of spectrum is not being used for a real application, then they will open it up to the public, the same way that Wi-Fi is open to all—anyone can use it as long as they don't interfere with others. (AT&T and Verizon will fight this, but so what?)

This is also true of government-owned spectrum. If an entrepreneur can prove far greater potential usage, it should revert to the public. Chips are available today that can be tuned to virtually any new spectrum. Apps can be written in weeks. Venture capitalists and Wall Street would gladly provide access to capital. So what are we waiting for? Start making those "Free the Spectrum!" T-shirts.

• Disease diagnostics. Have the Department of Health and Human Services declare that Medicare will pay for any diagnostic test or device that can be proven to save money over five years—for example, detecting a cancer at Stage I when it's cheaper to treat versus at Stage IV, when it is expensive and often fatal. Some will prove worthy, others won't. But it's a self-correcting process—if a test or device doesn't save money, then reimbursements stop. That will help focus entrepreneurs' efforts, and the resulting innovation will both save money and create private-sector jobs.

• End the mail monopoly. The U.S. Postal Service, which posted a net loss of $3.1 billion in the third quarter alone (there is only so much junk mail and Hallmark cards to deliver anymore), is finally starting to rationalize small post offices, recently putting 4,000 of them on a list for possible closing. Accelerate this task by ending the USPS monopoly on first- and third-class mail. Entrepreneurs will jump into action. Online bill payment will become ubiquitous. UPS and FedEx and a host of new companies will create more productive forms of delivery. The Postal Service won't end, it will just slowly fade away.

• Frack this. The revolution in natural-gas extraction, driven by hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" of America's huge shale deposits, has boosted shale gas to 25% of America's gas supplies from 1% in 2001. But environmentalists are pushing to close down this booming industry due to concerns over contamination of water supplies. Here's a solution: Declare all hydraulic fracturing legal with the caveat that drillers put up a bond equal to the potential cleanup cost of environmental damage. This will force large players to consolidate what is mostly a "wildcat" market. The big guys will be much more careful in their extraction techniques, knowing mistakes cause huge losses.

• Government platform. The hardest thing to do is interact with the government—the Department of Motor Vehicles being the most painful example. I have yet to see any government agency with an up-to-date user interface. But this is easy to change.

In the technology world, companies view themselves as platforms for others to build on, and they publish what they call application programming interfaces (APIs) so others can easily tap their ecosystem. All government agencies should be required to publish their own APIs by the end of the year. What will happen next is a sea of programmers will emerge to write iPhone apps and other code to integrate government functions into our everyday lives. And yes, this will eventually get rid of entire layers of inefficient government workers, but new companies nowhere near the Beltway will proliferate with virtual connections to the government.

• Rental society. Create a six-month foreclosure amnesty, i.e., initiate foreclosure proceedings on your underwater mortgage, and it doesn't show up on your permanent record. Foreclosure then becomes an individual's choice, not something mired in government red tape or stuck in a bank's back office. This would lead to millions of homes and condos hitting the market at fire-sale prices. This is exactly the price discovery that the finance sector both dreads and needs to move forward. Within weeks, we'd see the rise of Web-based rental agencies and real-estate auctions.

I understand the politics against all these opportunities and doubt any administration has the political will to enable so much change so quickly. But any one of these ideas, while a futile gesture on the surface, would sound like a starting gun for entrepreneurs and get them off to the races. They don't need money—they need somewhere to invest their sweat equity. And that's the only true job creator.

Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author most recently of "Eat People" (Portfolio, 2011).

24359  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: August 08, 2011, 05:16:51 PM
Speaking of realpolitik , , , it is, or can be, our only remaining reliable outpost in the entirety of the mid-east , , ,
24360  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / -634?!? on: August 08, 2011, 03:41:53 PM
WOW, that was really ugly today!!!
24361  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 08, 2011, 02:50:44 PM
The market dived precisely when Baraq passed McCain (a pretty hideous candidate in his own right btw) in September.  As a forward looking entity, the market was looking at the prospects for cap & trade, Obamacare and so much more.  As C&T has been capped and it became clear that the Reps/Tea Party were going to take the house and perhaps the Senate, things improved.

Furthermore if you measure the dollar value of that increase in the DOW you need to take into account that the dollar is worth far, far less in terms of gold, silver, a basket of commodities or any other reasonable facsimile of a constant value measuring stick.

Also, as has been noted here, many/most of the most profitable companies are profitable precisely because of their overseas profits-- which they don't repatriate because of our stupidly high corp tax rate (#2 in the developed world and some 50% higher than in Europe)

Also, the Dems demogogued Bush serious efforts at reforming SS and the Dems took Congress in 2006 and that is where spending originates.
24362  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 08, 2011, 02:43:38 PM
Maureen says:

Here are links to 3 local hotels Marc mentioned: Each of them located
close in proximity to the seminar meeting point as well beaches, shops,
restaurants and any after seminar night life you may wish to find Smiley

http://www.bestwestern-sunrise.com
http://www.qualityinn.com/hotel-hermosa_beach-california-CA041
http://www.hiexpress.com/hotels/us/en/hermosa-beach/laxhr/hoteldetail
24363  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury does not flinch on: August 08, 2011, 01:53:48 PM
Focus on the Economy To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 8/8/2011


Investors remain on edge and stocks are down about 2% around the world today. Combine last week’s sell-off, the intense debt ceiling debate, financial instability in Europe, the recent soft patch, and a downgrade by S&P and this fear is somewhat understandable. Short-sellers and pessimists are in their glory. And for the umpteenth time, Nouriel Roubini said that a double-dip recession is on its way.

We understand the uncertainty created by all this noise. What we don’t get is why it is so hard for economists to look at economic data. Yes, there was a “soft patch” – which we acknowledged at the time – but, no, it is not getting worse. In fact, economic data has been visibly improving.       
 
Job growth, which slowed in the soft-patch – has now begun to pick up. Private-sector jobs grew 154,000 in July, after just 80,000 in June and 99,000 in May (both of which were revised upward from even weaker readings). Average hourly earnings – cash earnings, excluding fringe benefits – rose 0.4% in July and are up 2.3% versus a year ago. Combined with a 2% increase in the number of hours worked in the past year, worker incomes are outpacing inflation.   
 
Meanwhile, high frequency data on the labor market show continued improvement. New claims for unemployment insurance fell back to 400,000 last week after peaking at 478,000 back in April.   
 
Much of the “soft patch” was due to the disasters in Japan and now that those problems are dissipating, the economic numbers have been getting better. Auto production schedules continue to show very solid growth for the third quarter. Auto sales increased 6% in July from the recent bottom in June and the replenishment of dealer inventories should lift sales further. A virtuous cycle is taking hold, with more production generating more sales, which should in turn generate even more production as dealers opt to hold more inventories.
 
Even housing appears to be at an upward inflection point. Pending home sales – contracts on existing homes – are up about 11% in the past two months, suggesting a rebound in existing home sales when that report arrives late next week.
 
Meanwhile, home building is showing signs of the turn. Multi-family construction, particularly apartment buildings, has been on an upward trend since late 2009 even as single-family building has languished. But single-family starts increased 9.4% in June, the largest gain for any month in two years. And, for the first time in five years, the total number of homes under construction in the US is increasing.
 
Looking ahead over the next few weeks, we think the data will affirm the rebound from the soft-patch story. Retail sales, reported this Friday, should increase by about 0.7%. Next week’s report on industrial production should show a gain of about 0.4% and the following week’s report on July durable goods new orders could be an outright boom because of orders for new planes from Boeing.
 
In other words, we have yet to see any real, data-centric, sign that the economy is falling back into recession. Nouriel is finding a receptive audience because fear levels are high, not because he has the data to back up his forecast. And even though fundamentals remain robust, the markets have moved lower based on fear. As a result, the market is once again presenting a buying opportunity. Stocks were cheap two weeks ago, and even cheaper today.
24364  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: August 08, 2011, 11:36:25 AM
I've heard several grey beards pontificating this incredibly stupid line.  Just how reassuring is it to say to lenders "We are going to print money and throw it out of helicopters"?  rolleyes
24365  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: August 08, 2011, 10:58:23 AM
Brief · August 8, 2011

The Foundation
"No country upon earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means and to depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to so plainly; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass." --George Washington

For the Record
"The Obama administration and congressional Democrats are betting their political futures on the hope that the American electorate is ignorant and forgetful, and hence the memo has gone out to functionaries hither and yon, from David Axelrod to John Kerry: This is to be called the 'tea-party downgrade.' That this is said with straight faces bespeaks either an unshakable contempt for the mind of the American voter or an as-yet unplumbed capacity for Democratic self-delusion. Let us revisit the facts. The original debt-ceiling deal put forward by the Democrats totaled $0.00 in debt reduction. This would have fallen approximately $4 trillion short of the $4 trillion in debt reduction the credit-rating agencies suggested would constitute a 'credible' step toward maintaining our AAA rating and avoiding a downgrade. ... The Democrats have suggested that Republicans' refusal to accede to tax hikes is the main reason Standard & Poor's felt it necessary to issue a downgrade, the first in American history, last Friday evening. In their assessment of Standard & Poor's reasoning, the Democrats are acutely at odds with Standard & Poor's. The credit-rating agency did not call for tax hikes in its assessment. ... But S&P, along with the other credit-rating agencies, has long taken a position on one aspect of our fiscal troubles: entitlement reform. ... As anybody who has looked at our long-term deficit projections knows, entitlement spending is the major driver of our future deficits. ... Tea-party leaders, far from being a barrier to entitlement reform, have demanded it. ... The deal that finally did pass would have contained significantly more in deficit-reduction, except for the fact that Democrats categorically refused to consider -- is this sounding familiar? -- entitlement reform, the most important issue. ... Democrats believe that they have discovered a cartoon villain in the Tea Party, and they are hoping that American voters are gullible enough to be distracted by the political theatrics. Come November 2012, Americans should keep in mind both the insult and the injury -- to the nation and its credit." --National Review

What does the downgrade mean?
Opinion in Brief
"It seems to me that, on any reasonable assessment, the gulf between the parties on fiscal policy is becoming more difficult to bridge, not less. Pessimism on that score seems entirely justified, so it's hard to argue with S&P['s credit rating downgrade] on at least that specific point. I do think the outlook for fundamental fiscal agreement before the 2012 election is bleak. After that, things could change dramatically for the better, or not. In any case, whether S&P is being fair or unfair to move at this juncture, the political standoff we're in is, sadly, necessary right now, despite its costs. Americans are in the midst of a great debate on the future of our society. Everyone seems to agree that the outcome of the next election will have a decisive impact on what kind of country we are -- or become. Will we retain our distinctively American characteristics, or move irrevocably toward the European model? ... Whether or not Barack Obama is reelected will be the single most important factor determining the direction we take. Nothing much will happen until that question is resolved, S&P notwithstanding. And for all the problems it causes, that is the way it has to be." --Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz

Political Futures
"[On Friday] it was announced that the unemployment rate is 9.1 percent. The unemployment rate has now been above 9 percent in 25 of the last 27 months. [On Thursday] stocks fell 512 points. Consumer confidence has fallen again as has consumer spending. Manufacturing has slowed to the slowest pace in more than two years. GDP growth is a sickly 1.3 percent. Meanwhile, the national debt has risen to $14.8 trillion. Federal spending has risen to $3.6 trillion -- $700 billion more than just three years ago -- and continues to rise, despite the fact tax receipts have fallen to $2.2 trillion -- $300 billion less than three years ago. [Obama] promised that if Congress passed the $812 billion stimulus bill in 2009, the unemployment rate would be approximately 5.5 percent by November 2012. That would require that between 800,000 and 1,000,000 jobs per month (depending on the labor participation rate) be created between now and election day. Given that over the last quarter we've been running between 750,000 to 950,000 jobs per month short of that goal, what are [his] plans to boost the employment rate? [Obama has] announced [he's] going on a Midwest bus tour beginning the week of August 15 to focus on job creation. How many jobs [will his bus tour] create? Isn't it reasonable for Americans to conclude that [his] jobs-creation program consists primarily of borrowing money, deficit spending, and giving speeches?" --National Review's Peter Kirsanow


Essential Liberty
"Greater freedom for tax payers would be seized from tax consumers, in an act of terrorism against the sacred machinery of redistribution. This mindset flows from the fundamental leftist misunderstanding of freedom. They view the essence of freedom as action. ... In reality, freedom is property. Every form of collectivism, from fascism to socialism, is an offense against property rights. The early philosophers of socialism railed bitterly against the private ownership of property. They hated the notion of a middle class with independence secured through ownership. The perilous financial situation of the United States government illustrates how closely private property rights are connected to all other forms of liberty. The less absolute your rights of ownership over your land, labor, and fortune become, the more easily the other rights can be dismissed at the convenience of the State. ... Now we are told that we have no choice but to allow the State to become larger, spending and borrowing more as it extends its control over our lives. Those who disagree are denounced as 'terrorists.' ... In a nation where the government fully respected private ownership, the notion of citizens becoming 'hostages' to federal budget cuts would be laughable, rather than insulting. Freedom is not something to be granted, rationed, allocated, or redistributed. It is not won or lost in an election. Freedom is something you own." --columnist John Hayward

The Gipper
"Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment." --Ronald Reagan

Government
"[T]he most fundamental reality is that the average wealth of the elderly is some multiple of the average wealth owned by people in the other age brackets. Why should the average taxpayer be subsidizing people who have much more wealth than they do? If we are concerned about those particular elderly people who are in fact poor -- as we are about other people who are genuinely poor, whatever their age might be -- then we can simply confine our help to those who are poor by some reasonable means test. It would cost a fraction of what it costs to subsidize everybody who reaches a certain age. But the political left hates means tests. If government programs were confined to people who were genuinely poor in some meaningful sense, that would shrink the welfare state to a fraction of its current size. ...
  • ld age is not some unforeseeable misfortune. It is not only foreseeable but inevitable for those who do not die young. It is one thing to keep people from suffering from unforeseeable things beyond their control. But it is something else to simply subsidize their necessities so that they can spend their money on other things and leave a larger estate to be passed on to their heirs. People who say they want a government program because 'I don't want to be a burden to my children' apparently think it is all right to be a burden to other people's children." --economist Thomas Sowell

 
 

Insight
"The power to determine the quantity of money ... is too important, too pervasive, to be exercised by a few people, however public-spirited, if there is any feasible alternative. There is no need for such arbitrary power. ... Any system which gives so much power and so much discretion to a few men, [so] that mistakes -- excusable or not -- can have such far reaching effects, is a bad system. It is a bad system to believers in freedom just because it gives a few men such power without any effective check by the body politic -- this is the key political argument against an independent central bank.'' --economist Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

24366  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on the Downgrade on: August 08, 2011, 01:01:31 AM
Whatever one thinks of the credit-rating agencies—and we aren't admirers—it serves no good purpose to shoot the fiscal messengers. Friday's downgrade by Standard & Poor's of U.S. long-term debt to AA+ from AAA will be the first of many such humiliations if Washington doesn't change its economic and fiscal policies.

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

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

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

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Getty Images
 .This is not news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how you become the Downgrade President.

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

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

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

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

24367  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ: Ecuador on: August 08, 2011, 12:50:59 AM
After last month's debt-ceiling debacle, a critical mass of President Obama's harshest critics have gone from calling him socialism's evil genius to tagging him as merely a clueless community organizer who is in over his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24368  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cog. Dissonance between policies on Honduras and Ecuador on: August 08, 2011, 12:50:15 AM
After last month's debt-ceiling debacle, a critical mass of President Obama's harshest critics have gone from calling him socialism's evil genius to tagging him as merely a clueless community organizer who is in over his head.

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

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

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

View Full Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24369  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: August 08, 2011, 12:46:03 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24370  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Senate pushes Baraq to grow a pair and sanction Iran's central bank on: August 08, 2011, 12:42:36 AM
ByJAY SOLOMON
WASHINGTON—More than 90 U.S. senators signed a letter to President Barack Obama pressing him to sanction Iran's central bank, with some threatening legislation to force the move, an outcome that would represent a stark escalation in tensions between the two countries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24371  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The DB Parable of the Cherry on: August 08, 2011, 12:24:46 AM
The three questions:

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

2) Were you any good at it?

3) Have you gotten better since then?
24372  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 07, 2011, 07:25:57 PM
Sure thing C-Mighty.  I will post here the evening after the first day.
24373  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Now that is ironic on: August 07, 2011, 04:16:08 PM
Economist who forecasts state finances filed for bankruptcy

David Berns



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"In a really weird way (bankruptcy has) given me a deep appreciation of what many small businesses have gone through considering the depth and breadth of this recession," said Restrepo, noting that his company has not missed any payments to local vendors and subcontractors. "Understanding the struggles of these small businesses has helped me understand what it's going to take for these small businesses to recover. It's really related to small business job growth. That's all folded into my forecasting."
24374  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NRA sues Obama over new regs on: August 07, 2011, 02:43:27 PM
http://video.foxnews.com/v/1095760427001/fierce-battle-over-gun-rights
24375  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo Working Examples on: August 07, 2011, 02:36:01 PM
Resurrecting this thread.  Its not that there have not been examples, I get plenty of positive reports from people.  Just today I got a report from an Army friend who had to deal with a soldier from a different country who was getty froggy during combatives training.   Our man dropped him.  ("I knew the material was good, but I didn't appreciate how much power is loaded into cutting the angle on the outside diamond.  I knocked him back six feet and he landed in a heap out cold.")
24376  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 07, 2011, 02:28:49 PM
We will rendezvous at the old park in Hermosa Beach at 4th & Ardmore at 09:30 and depart at 09:45 to the actual location (about a ten minute drive)
24377  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ungoverned spaces on: August 07, 2011, 02:24:34 PM
http://southernpulse.com/_webapp_3945793/Ungoverned_Spaces_Part_II,_Cities
24378  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Caatching up! on: August 07, 2011, 01:05:26 PM
Sorry-- been out of town for a few weeks!
===========


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


"The eyes of the world being thus on our Country, it is put the more on its good behavior, and under the greater obligation also, to do justice to the Tree of Liberty by an exhibition of the fine fruits we gather from it." --James Madison, letter to James Monroe, 1824
24379  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Webster 1787 on: August 07, 2011, 01:05:01 PM
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States." --Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, 1787


24380  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Washington to Madison, 1786 on: August 07, 2011, 01:02:14 PM

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


24381  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson, 1791 on: August 07, 2011, 12:58:17 PM


"It is the duty of parents to maintain their children decently, and according to their circumstances; to protect them according to the dictates of prudence; and to educate them according to the suggestions of a judicious and zealous regard for their usefulness, their respectability and happiness." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
24382  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jefferson to Madison, 1784 on: August 07, 2011, 12:56:07 PM


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


24383  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda: Blurring the lines on: August 07, 2011, 11:11:43 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Page 2 of 2)



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

Enlarge This Image
 
The New York Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the officers had not been issued weapons, and those who had guns had not been properly trained to use them. They were required to pay for their helmets and bulletproof vests out of their own pockets. And during an intense gun battle against one of Mexico’s most vicious cartels, they had to communicate with one another on their cellphones because they had not been issued police radios. “It’s sort of shocking,” said Eric Olson of the Woodrow Wilson Center. “Mexico is just now learning how to fight crime in the midst of a major crime wave. It’s like trying to saddle your horse while running the Kentucky Derby.”
24384  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Blurring the lines on: August 07, 2011, 11:11:05 AM
En mi opinion hay que tener en cuenta que el NYTimes es aliado a Presidente Obama; osea no esta' 100% digna de fe:



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Page 2 of 2)



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

Enlarge This Image
 
The New York Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




87700
24385  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / C clip rant and analysiss of the downgrade on: August 07, 2011, 10:45:00 AM

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




========

I just can't imagine why , , ,

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

If this move by S&P helps the US get more serious about cutting spending, then it will have been a very positive development.  If it influences the political environment by pushing the US to a more conservative set of fiscal values it will be even more positive than that.  There is a titanic battle of economic and political philosophy taking place in the US today.  S&P wants to be a player in this battle, but in the end it will have a relatively minor role.
 
24386  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: August 07, 2011, 12:29:14 AM
Back in LA.  Will need a few days to settle in and start working on backlog.
24387  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 05, 2011, 11:58:41 PM
Grateful for a good day with a good friend and to have met some of his family.
24388  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: August 05, 2011, 11:53:05 PM
Remember the Dog Brother Parable of the Cherry cheesy
24389  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: August 05, 2011, 11:16:50 PM
The logic is impeccable cheesy
24390  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Fragmentacion de los narcos on: August 05, 2011, 10:57:25 PM

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

87621
24391  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: August 05, 2011, 10:55:33 PM
I'm not really comfortable with that last line at all.

As I have previously posted, the alleged Medicare cuts are in payments to providers, not beneficiaries and as such are a scam for the reasons I discussed at the time, while the cuts to the military will be real and vast.  My prediction:  The Reps will fold again, agreeing to raise tax rates in order to defend the military and achieve the psuedo-cuts to Medicare.  I find little reason to assume that tax rate increases will actually increase revenues and may well serve to depress economic activity further, thus setting off a vicious spiral of higher govt costs (e.g. food stamps, welfare, unemployment, etc) and lower revenues due to declining economic activity.
24392  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fragmentation on: August 05, 2011, 10:47:32 PM
http://insightcrime.org/insight-latest-news/item/1359-mexico-upstart-gangs-eat-into-cartel-hegemony
24393  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: August 05, 2011, 09:15:51 PM
GM:  You would have been one hellacious law school professor when it came to devising questions for exams!
24394  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Tao of Sex on: August 05, 2011, 09:13:29 PM
Agreed 100%.  So, how to apply that to the question presented? i.e. What to do in the interregnum between puberty and marriage?  Celibacy?  Or?
24395  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A Blast from the Past on: August 05, 2011, 06:17:20 PM
The Days Before A Fight
February 13, 2009 By admin Leave a Comment
written by Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny

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

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

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

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

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

Woof!
Guro Crafty
24396  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Tao of Sex on: August 05, 2011, 05:49:50 PM
Some worthy targets for our sarcasm there, but lets return to the question presented in terms of our own culture, yes?
24397  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: August 05, 2011, 02:50:44 PM
Sounds like American civilational confidence to me grin, not brutal ruthlessness of the sort by Chinese in the article that you posted.   

Anyway, I'm tired of going round the mulberry bush on this one.  I think my point has been made and so move on.
24398  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 05, 2011, 02:48:27 PM
Gerrymandering has quite a bit to do with re-election rates. 

If we are going to continue this, lets take it to the election thread
24399  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NJ's Christie on: August 05, 2011, 02:44:23 PM
A hyperventilating tone here, but interesting nonetheless:

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

24400  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 05, 2011, 01:08:19 PM
What poll is that?  I've seen that Baraq has dropped from 48 to 40% in the last few months , , ,  I'd also be curious to cross check the data from other polls regarding the Tea Party
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