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24451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove: Dem can't filibuster on: February 10, 2011, 12:40:16 PM
By KARL ROVE
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin likes to taunt his Republican colleagues, arguing that ObamaCare can't be repealed because 60 votes are required to end debate in the Senate on any measure.

Though Republicans will likely win control of the Senate in 2012, Mr. Durbin is right that they probably won't get to 60 senators. That would require the GOP to win back more than half the Democratic seats up next year. Rep. Jim Moran (D., Va.) recently called GOP promises of repeal "a political scam on their base. . . . It can't happen."

Not so fast. Keith Hennessey, a former White House colleague of mine, says Democrats are wrong. He argues that Republicans can repeal health-care reform with a simple Senate majority.

Director of the National Economic Council under President George W. Bush, Mr. Hennessey now teaches at Stanford Business School and is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Last week on his website, KeithHennessey.com, he made the case that congressional Republicans could use the reconciliation process to kill ObamaCare with 51 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House of Representatives.

The Budget Act of 1974 established the reconciliation process. The House and Senate Budget Committees can direct other committees to make changes in mandatory spending (like ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies) and the tax code (such as ObamaCare's levies on insurance policies, hospitals and drug companies) to make spending and revenue conform with the goals set by the annual budget resolution.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
President Obama signing the health care bill last March.
.For example, under reconciliation the Senate Budget Committee could instruct the Senate Finance Committee to reduce mandatory spending on insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion. These two items make up more than 90% of spending in ObamaCare. All the changes from all the committees are then bundled into one measure and voted upon. Because reconciliation is protected by the rules of the budget process, it doesn't take 60 votes to bring it up and it requires only a simple majority to pass.

Will this 51-vote strategy work? One long-time GOP budget whiz, embarrassed he hadn't thought of this, told me it would. Another Republican veteran of the budget wars agreed, though she had some concerns that certain elements of ObamaCare, such as some insurance provisions, might be beyond the reach of reconciliation. For example, would reconciliation allow Republicans to kill the requirement that younger, healthier workers pay higher premiums than they rightly should to keep premiums for older workers lower?

Mr. Hennessey believes that these are "strategically unimportant" items. He says the goal should be to repeal ObamaCare's big-cost drivers, and reconciliation provides the tool to do it.

Using reconciliation would require that Republicans pick up at least four seats in 2012, when 23 senators who caucus with the Democrats are up for re-election, many in red states. Already, vulnerable Democratic senators like Jon Tester of Montana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are talking about how to get rid of some of ObamaCare's most objectionable parts, like the individual mandate. They'll only get more skittish as the election approaches. Democrats cannot complain if the GOP uses reconciliation after Democrats used it to pass ObamaCare through the Senate.

Congressional Republicans are getting crucial help in this battle from allies outside Washington. Republican governors know that ObamaCare's mandatory expansion of Medicaid rolls will collapse state budgets. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called ObamaCare "unaffordable, unsustainable and unworkable," and many have criticized the law for shifting billions of dollars onto the states. GOP governors are in charge of at least 10 key battleground states and can continue to drill home this message in states such as Ohio and Florida that are vital to Mr. Obama's re-election.

Even Democratic governors in swing states are critical of ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion. "There is no hidden pool of money" to pay for expanding Medicaid, lamented Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue said she opposes health-care reform "that shifts costs to the states." States are "not going to be in a position to pick up the tab" of expanding Medicaid, warned Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Democrats harp on the 60-vote threshold and ignore the reconciliation option because they want Americans to accept the inevitability of ObamaCare. But its roots are clearly in shallow soil.

Of course, a 51-vote Senate strategy would also require a Republican president who would sign a reconciliation bill. All of which means that ObamaCare will be a central issue in the 2012 election. The president may not want to "re-litigate" ObamaCare, but Republicans—and a majority of Americans—do.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

24452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The next repeal target on: February 10, 2011, 12:38:28 PM


No one should expect much real health-care progress for the next two years, but at least President Obama is now making concessions to the political mood, however minor. The White House is suddenly trying to pacify the critics it used to claim were partisans, or industry shills, or arguing in bad faith.

The latest penitent is Kathleen Sebelius, who has finally admitted that there are severe fiscal problems with a new entitlement for long-term care that was included in ObamaCare. Speaking Tuesday at the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Health and Human Services Secretary defended the new government insurance program, known by the acronym Class. But she also said that "The law, while the structure in the statute wasn't perfect, provided ample flexibility to make sure that Class is successful. . . . We at HHS are committed to using that authority to making sure that both the program meets people's needs while remaining fiscally sound."

In other words, Ms. Sebelius plans to use her administrative powers to rewrite the Class program so it doesn't follow Congressional orders and bankrupt itself by design. She even made a promise that her rewrite will be so complete that "no taxpayer dollars will be used to pay for Class benefits," period.

 
That would certainly be a first in entitlement history, which is why President Obama's own deficit commission recommended the "reform or repeal" of Class. It said the program will "require large general revenue transfers or else collapse under its own weight," while Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad has called Class "a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of."

The main reason Democratic liberals insisted on passing Class is because it will crowd out private insurance for long-term care like home health aides or nursing homes. But they also used it to rig the bill's budget math to make it appear to reduce the deficit.

The program will start collecting premiums up front in 2012 but won't pay out any cash benefits until five years later. The $70 billion or so accumulated during that lead time will finance other parts of ObamaCare, and then the Class program is scheduled to go broke sometime between 2020 and 2025 in part because the money can't be spent twice.

Ms. Sebelius promised to resolve problems that "threaten the financial stability long term of the plan," like eliminating "loopholes that could allow people to skip premium payments and then re-enroll in the program without paying any penalty." (Speaking of small favors.) She also noted that "as currently written," premiums are required to be flat but benefits are indexed to inflation.

One question is why Ms. Sebelius didn't speak about these defects before the bill passed. The answer, we'd guess, is that she and Mr. Obama like the Class program as written but now fear that House Republicans and even Senate Democrats could vote to repeal it wholesale unless the Administration pledges to reform it.

The reality is that as long as entitlements are on the books, they always expand. Ms. Sebelius may change the program now, but a future Congress will quietly restore the same ills. Republicans should fight to repeal Class in its entirety, and then let Mr. Obama defend a program that even his chief health deputy now admits is a disaster waiting to happen.

24453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Priceless on: February 10, 2011, 12:35:41 PM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQRMvg5TAl8&feature=player_embedded
24454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Laffer on: February 10, 2011, 12:23:15 PM
By ARTHUR B. LAFFER
For 16 years prior to Ronald Reagan's presidency, the U.S. economy was in a tailspin—a result of bipartisan ignorance that resulted in tax increases, dollar devaluations, wage and price controls, minimum-wage hikes, misguided spending, pandering to unions, protectionist measures and other policy mistakes.

In the late 1970s and early '80s, 10-year bond yields and inflation both were in the low double digits. The "misery index"—the sum of consumer price inflation plus the unemployment rate—peaked at well over 20%. The real value of the S&P 500 stock price index had declined at an average annual rate of 6% from early 1966 to August 1982.

For anyone old enough today, memories of the Arab oil embargo and price shocks—followed by price controls and rationing and long lines at gas stations—are traumatic. The U.S. share of world output was on a steady course downward.

Then Reagan entered center stage. His first tax bill was enacted in August 1981. It included a sweeping cut in marginal income tax rates, reducing the top rate to 50% from 70% and the lowest rate to 11% from 14%. The House vote was 238 to 195, with 48 Democrats on the winning side and only one Republican with the losers. The Senate vote was 89 to 11, with 37 Democrats voting aye and only one Republican voting nay. Reaganomics had officially begun.

President Reagan was not alone in changing America's domestic economic agenda. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, first appointed by Jimmy Carter, deserves enormous credit for bringing inflation down to 3.2% in 1983 from 13.5% in 1981 with a tight-money policy. There were other heroes of the tax-cutting movement, such as Wisconsin Republican Rep. Bill Steiger and Wyoming Republican Sen. Clifford Hansen, the two main sponsors of an important capital gains tax cut in 1978.

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Associated Press
 
Ronald Reagan after signing his first tax cut, Aug. 14, 1981.
.What the Reagan Revolution did was to move America toward lower, flatter tax rates, sound money, freer trade and less regulation. The key to Reaganomics was to change people's behavior with respect to working, investing and producing. To do this, personal income tax rates not only decreased significantly, but they were also indexed for inflation in 1985. The highest tax rate on "unearned" (i.e., non-wage) income dropped to 28% from 70%. The corporate tax rate also fell to 34% from 46%. And tax brackets were pushed out, so that taxpayers wouldn't cross the threshold until their incomes were far higher.

Changing tax rates changed behavior, and changed behavior affected tax revenues. Reagan understood that lowering tax rates led to static revenue losses. But he also understood that lowering tax rates also increased taxable income, whether by increasing output or by causing less use of tax shelters and less tax cheating.

Moreover, Reagan knew from personal experience in making movies that once he was in the highest tax bracket, he'd stop making movies for the rest of the year. In other words, a lower tax rate could increase revenues. And so it was with his tax cuts. The highest 1% of income earners paid more in taxes as a share of GDP in 1988 at lower tax rates than they had in 1980 at higher tax rates. To Reagan, what's been called the "Laffer Curve" (a concept that originated centuries ago and which I had been using without the name in my classes at the University of Chicago) was pure common sense.

There was also, in Reagan's first year, his response to an illegal strike by federal air traffic controllers. The president fired and replaced them with military personnel until permanent replacements could be found. Given union power in the economy, this was a dramatic act—especially considering the well-known fact that the air traffic controllers union, Patco, had backed Reagan in the 1980 presidential election.

On the regulatory front, the number of pages in the Federal Register dropped to less than 48,000 in 1986 from over 80,000 in 1980. With no increase in the minimum wage over his full eight years in office, the negative impact of this price floor on employment was lessened.

And, of course, there was the decontrol of oil markets. Price controls at gas stations were lifted in January 1981, as were well-head price controls for domestic oil producers. Domestic output increased and prices fell. President Carter's excess profits tax on oil companies was repealed in 1988.

The results of the Reagan era? From December 1982 to June 1990, Reaganomics created over 21 million jobs—more jobs than have been added since. Union membership and man-hours lost due to strikes tumbled. The stock market went through the roof. From July 1982 through August 2000, the S&P 500 stock price index grew at an average annual real rate of over 12%. The unfunded liabilities of the Social Security system declined as a share of GDP, and the "misery index" fell to under 10%.

Even Reagan's first Democratic successor, Bill Clinton, followed in his footsteps. The negotiations for what would become the North American Free Trade Agreement began in Reagan's second term, but it was President Clinton who pushed the agreement through Congress in 1993 over the objections of the unions and many in his own party.


President Clinton also signed into law the biggest capital gains tax cut in our nation's history in 1997. It effectively eliminated any capital gains tax on owner-occupied homes. Mr. Clinton reduced government spending as a share of GDP by 3.5 percentage points, more than the next four best presidents combined. Where Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton slipped up was on personal income tax rates—allowing the highest personal income tax rate to eventually rise to 39.6% from 28%.

The true lesson to be learned from the Reagan presidency is that good economics isn't Republican or Democrat, right-wing or left-wing, liberal or conservative. It's simply good economics. President Barack Obama should take heed and not limit his vision while seeking a workable solution to America's tragically high unemployment rate.

Mr. Laffer is the chairman of Laffer Associates and co-author of "Return to Prosperity: How America Can Regain Its Economic Superpower Status" (Threshold, 2010).

24455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: February 10, 2011, 12:04:36 PM
"The Republicans are on a role (sic)"

Given the inability to come up with even half of the minimun promised cuts of $100B would seem to indicate that the inadvertent use of the homonym yields a more accurate description  cheesy tongue rolleyes
24456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: How they did it on: February 10, 2011, 10:53:31 AM
CAIRO—The Egyptian opposition's takeover of the area around the parliament this week began with a trick.

First, they called for a march on the state television building a few blocks north of their encampment in Tahrir Square. Then, while the army deployed to that sensitive communications hub, they moved into the lightly defended area around the parliament to the south.

The feint gave a taste of how a dozen young activists managed to outwit Egypt's feared security forces to launch a historic uprising now in its 17th day—and hint at how the organizers hope to keep pressure on a regime that has dug in its heels.

On Jan. 25, the first day of protests, the organizers had a trick up their sleeves in the impoverished slum of Bulaq al-Dakrour, on Cairo's western edge.

There amid the maze of muddy, narrow alleyways, a seemingly spontaneous protest caught security forces on their heels and swelled in size before those forces could react to crush it.

Regional Upheaval
View Interactive
.A succession of rallies and demonstrations, in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria have been inspired directly by the popular outpouring of anger that toppled Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. See how these uprisings have progressed.

Clashes in Cairo
View Interactive
.Since late January, antigovernment demonstrators have swarmed the streets of Cairo, calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down and at times clashing with the president's supporters. See where the action took place.
.That protest was anything but spontaneous. How the organizers pulled it off, when so many past efforts had failed, has had people scratching their heads ever since.

After his release from detention on Sunday, Google Inc. executive Wael Ghonim recounted his meeting with Egyptian's newly appointed interior minister. "No one understood how you did it," Mr. Ghonim said the minister told him. He said his interrogators concluded there had to have been outside forces involved.

The plotters, who now form the leadership core of the Revolutionary Youth Movement, which has stepped to the fore as representatives of protestors in Tahrir Square, have shared their secret in recent days for the first time.

Their accounts reveal a core of savvy plotters who have managed to stay a step ahead of the security forces with decoy marches and smart politicking that has sustained popular support for their protests.

In early January, when they decided they would try to replicate the accomplishments of the protesters in Tunisia who ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, their immediate concern was how to outfox the Ministry of Interior, whose legions of riot police had managed to contain and quash protests for years. The police were expert at preventing demonstrations from growing or moving through the streets, and at keeping ordinary Egyptians away.

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."We had to find a way to prevent security from making their cordon and stopping us," said Basem Kamel, a 41-year-old architect who is a member of Mohamed ElBaradei's youth wing and was one of the dozen or so plotters.

They met daily for two weeks in the cramped living room of the mother of Ziad al-Alimi, a leading organizer for the opposition group formed by Mr. ElBaradei and one of the chief plotters.

Mr. Alimi's mother, a former activist herself who served six months in prison for her role leading protests during the bread riots in 1977, lives in the middle-class neighborhood of Agouza on the west bank of the Nile.

The group of plotters included representatives from six youth movements connected to opposition political parties, groups advocating labor rights and the Muslim Brotherhood.

They chose 20 protest sites, usually connected to mosques, in densely populated working-class neighborhoods around Cairo, hoping that a large number of scattered protests would strain security forces, draw larger numbers, and increase the likelihood that some would be able to break out and link up in the city's central Tahrir Square.

The group publicly called for protests at those sites for Jan. 25, a national holiday celebrating the country's widely reviled police force. They announced the sites of the demonstrations on the Internet and called for protests to begin at each one after prayers at about 2 p.m. But that wasn't all.

"The twenty-first site, no one knew about," Mr. Kamel said.

To be sure, they weren't the only ones calling for protests that day. Other influential activist groups rallied their resources to the cause. The Facebook page for Khaled Said, the young man beaten to death for no apparent reason by police in Alexandria, had emerged months earlier as an online gathering place for activists in Egypt.

There was an Arabic page and an English page, and each had its own administrators. Mr. Ghonim, the Google executive, has now been identified as one of the administrators, but the pages' other administrators remain anonymous.

An administrator for the English language page, known only by his online moniker El-Shaheed, or The Martyr, recounted the administrators' role in the protests in an interview with The Wall Street Journal via Gmail Chat.

El-Shaheed said he was chatting online with the site's Arabic-language administrator on Jan. 14, just as news broke of Tunisian President Ben Ali's flight from the country. Mr. Kamel and his cohorts, who had already begun plotting their protest, now had another powerful recruiting force.

"I was talking with Arabic admin and we were watching Tunisia and the moment we heard Ben Ali ran away, he said, we have to do something," said El-Shaheed.

The Arabic administrator posted on the Arabic page an open question to readers: "What do you think we should give as a gift to the brutal Egyptian police on their day?"

"The answer came from everyone: Tunisia Tunisia Smiley," wrote El-Shaheed.

For the final three days before the protest, Mr. Kamel and his fellow plotters slept away from home, fearing police would come to arrest them in the middle of the night and disrupt their plan. They stopped using their own cell phones and in favor of those owned by family members or friends that were less likely to be monitored.

They sent small teams to do reconnaissance on the secret 21st site in Bulaq al-Dakrour. That site was the Hayiss Sweet Shop, whose storefront and tiled sidewalk plaza meant to accommodate outdoor tables in warmer months would make an easy-to-find rallying point in an otherwise tangled neighborhood no different from countless others around the city.

The plotters knew that the demonstrations' success would depend on the participation of ordinary Egyptians in working-class districts such as Bulaq al-Dakrour, where the Internet and Facebook aren't as widely used. They distributed flyers around the city in the days leading up to the demonstration, concentrating efforts on Bulaq al-Dakrour.

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."It gave people the idea that a revolution would start on January 25," Mr. Kamel said.

The organizers sent small teams of plotters to walk the protest route repeatedly in the days leading up to the protest, at a slow pace and at a fast pace, to get their timing down for sychronizing when the separate protests would link up.

On Jan. 25, security forces predictably deployed by the thousands at the sites of each announced demonstration. Meanwhile, four field commanders chosen from the organizers' committee began ordering their men to the secret gathering point at the sweet shop.

The organizers divided themselves into cells of 10—with only one person per cell aware of the secret destination.

In these small groups, the protesters advanced toward the Hayiss Sweet Shop, massing into a crowd of 300 demonstrators free from police control. The lack of security prompted neighborhood residents to stream by the hundreds out of the neighborhood's cramped alleyways, swelling the crowd into the thousands, according to employees at the Hayiss Sweet Shop who watched the scene unfold.

At 1:15 p.m., they began marching toward downtown Cairo. By the time police realized what was under way and redeployed a small contingent to block their path, the protesters' numbers had grown so quickly that they easily overpowered the police.

The other marches organized at mosques around the city failed to reach Tahrir Square, their efforts foiled by riot-police cordons. The Bulaq al-Dakrour marchers, the only group to reach their objective, occupied Tahrir Square for several hours until after midnight, when police attacked demonstrators with tear gas and rubber bullets.

It was the first time Egyptians had seen such a demonstration in their streets, and it provided an explosive tipping point credited with emboldening tens of thousands of people to come out to protest the following Friday.

That day, they seized Tahrir Square again, and they haven't given it up since.

24457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Going Gingrich on: February 10, 2011, 10:49:48 AM


http://townhall.com/columnists/howardrich/2011/02/10/going_gingrich/page/2
24458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fooled again: Charlie & Lucy on: February 10, 2011, 10:47:42 AM
http://townhall.com/columnists/hughhewitt/2011/02/10/gop_defaults_on_pledge_to_america/page/full/
24459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 10, 2011, 10:40:45 AM
I was responding to your comment about investing in oil futures , , ,
24460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kudlow: It was the weather on: February 10, 2011, 10:39:37 AM
The January employment report was a complete snow job. Abominable winter blizzards across the country caused 886,000 workers to report "not at work due to bad weather," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is 600,000 more than the normal 300,000 not at work for the average January of the past decade.

So the bad weather has distorted the numbers. The actual 36,000 increase in non-farm payrolls and the 50,000 gain in private payrolls really don't have a snowball's chance at being accurate. The 1 million people in January who wanted a job but didn't look for one because of "other" reasons hints again at the bad-weather distortion. So does the 4.9 million jump in the part-time workforce.

As for the 9 percent unemployment rate, it's not likely to last as more people are recorded re-entering the labor force in the months ahead. The household employment survey (on which the unemployment rate is based) increased 117,000 in January, following a near 300,000 gain in December.

On the plus side (if anything can be believed in these numbers), average hourly earnings increased by 0.4 percent -- a much bigger gain than in recent months. Over the past year, wages are rising 1.9 percent.

But here's a key point: Manufacturing jobs in January rose by nearly 50,000. That's consistent with the blowout ISM manufacturing report for January published a few days ago. Manufacturing has been the biggest surprise in the recovery. Additionally, the ISM non-manufacturing services report was also gangbusters for January.

These reports are more accurate and more significant than the jobs calculation. And if you piece them together with record-breaking profits, which are the mother's milk for stocks, business and the whole economy, it's hard not to conclude that the pace of recovery is actually picking up steam -- despite the lackluster jobs performance.

The downside of the upside is mounting inflation pressure. Both ISM reports registered very strong prices paid. Those outsized price increases are picking up the huge commodity-price increases that Ben Bernanke continues to ignore.

Bond-market rates have moved up to 3.64 percent for the 10-year Treasury and 4.73 percent for the 30-year. Those rising yields are signaling inflationary growth. Along with soaring commodity prices, the abnormally steep Treasury yield curve is signaling the Fed to stop creating new dollars with its QE2 pump-priming.

Right now, stronger economic growth, higher profits and rising inflation continue to help the stock market, which actually increased after Friday's weird jobs report. But the risk here is that reported inflation for the CPI may rise faster than anyone thinks. And that could take a bite out of stocks and the recovery.
24461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Each and every one of us on: February 10, 2011, 10:39:01 AM
If I have my zeros correct $1.5T divided by 320M Americans is about $4,700 for each one of us.
24462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 10, 2011, 10:28:30 AM
I was thinking more along the line of investing in Swiss Banks, where the House of Saud will be preparing for its departure.
24463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: A Modern Sisyphus on: February 10, 2011, 10:25:34 AM
California Gov. Jerry Brown must rapidly close a $25 billion budgetary shortfall. But right now it seems almost a hopeless task since the state's disastrous budget is a symptom, not the cause, of California's much larger nightmare.

Take unemployment. It currently runs 12.6 percent in California, the nation's second-highest rate. Take livability. A recent Forbes magazine survey listing the most miserable 20 cities in the nation ranked four California municipalities among the index's five worst places to live.

Take education. California public schools test near rock bottom in national math and science scores. Take the business climate. A recent survey conducted among CEOs ranked California dead last for jobs and business growth.

Take taxes. California has the highest gasoline tax in the nation, and its combined sales and local/state income tax rates are among the nation's steepest. California incarcerates the highest number of prisoners in the nation. It costs nearly $50,000 per year to house each one, near the highest per-capita cost in the country.

I could go on, but you get the picture that the newly inaugurated Brown has problems well beyond even a massive budget shortfall..

Perhaps the state's problems are not of its own making, but arise from a deficit of natural riches? Hardly. California has the most fertile soil and most conducive farming climate in the country. Tourists flock to see the beauty of Yosemite, Death Valley and a 1,000-mile coastline. San Diego and San Francisco Bay are among the most naturally endowed harbors in the world. The state is rich in gas, oil, minerals and timber. It has the largest population in the nation at 37 million residents.

OK, but maybe prior generations failed to develop such natural bounty? Again, no. At one time California educators ensured that their tripartite system of higher education was the envy of the world. The Golden Gate and Oakland Bay bridges, along with the Los Angeles freeway system and the complex network of state dams and canals, were once considered engineering marvels far ahead of their time. Visionaries made Napa Valley the world's premier wine-producing center. California's farmers found a way to produce 400 crops and half the nation's fruits, nuts and vegetables, and created the richest food region in the nation. Silicon Valley and Hollywood are still the global leaders in computer innovation and entertainment, respectively.

Perhaps California did not invest in its public workers, skimped on entitlements, and turned away newcomers? Not really. Its teachers and public servants in many comparative surveys remain the highest compensated and best pensioned in the nation. Its welfare system is still the most generous in the nation. Seventy percent of its budget continues to go for education and social services. A state that accounts for 12 percent of the nation's population generously provides for 30 percent of the national welfare load. More than a quarter of the nation's illegal aliens are welcomed into California.

So in truth, the state's problems involve a larger "California philosophy" that is relatively new in its history, one that now curbs production but not consumption, and worries more about passing laws than how to pay for them.

California uses more gasoline than any other state and has the most voracious appetite for electricity. But Californians also enact the most obstacles to producing their own sources of oil, natural gas and nuclear power. State referenda and the legislature have made it the hardest state in the nation to raise taxes and the easiest to pass costly new laws.

The state's mineral and timber industries are nearly moribund. At a time of skyrocketing food prices, more than a quarter-million acres of some of the wealthiest agricultural land in California's Central Valley lie idle due to court-driven irrigation cutoffs -- costing thousands of jobs and robbing the state of millions of dollars in revenue.

Home prices stay prohibitive along the upscale coastal corridor from San Francisco to San Diego, even as millions of acres of open spaces there remain off limits for new housing construction. Most refined Californians who regulate how the state's natural resources are used live on the coast far away from -- and do not always understand -- those earthier people who struggle to develop them.

California does not ask its millions of foreign immigrants to come with legal status, speak English or arrive with high school diplomas, but then is confused when its entitlement and legal costs skyrocket. Billions of dollars in remittances are sent from California to Mexico -- but without the state being curious whether some of the remitters are on some sort of state-funded public assistance.

Somehow, Jerry Brown must not only change the way Californians act, but also the strange way they now seem to think -- convincing the present generation to produce far more private wealth while consuming far fewer public funds. Otherwise, the revenue-strapped and reform-minded governor is little more than a modern Sisyphus -- endlessly pushing his enormous rock uphill, never quite reaching the top.
24464  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / La Mentira de 90% on: February 10, 2011, 10:18:12 AM
By Scott Stewart

For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.

In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.

Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.


By the Numbers

As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).

According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

The remaining 22,800 firearms seized by Mexican authorities in 2008 were not traced for a variety of reasons. In addition to factors such as bureaucratic barriers and negligence, many of the weapons seized by Mexican authorities either do not bear serial numbers or have had their serial numbers altered or obliterated. It is also important to understand that the Mexican authorities simply don’t bother to submit some classes of weapons to the ATF for tracing. Such weapons include firearms they identify as coming from their own military or police forces, or guns that they can trace back themselves as being sold through the Mexican Defense Department’s Arms and Ammunition Marketing Division (UCAM). Likewise, they do not ask ATF to trace military ordnance from third countries like the South Korean fragmentation grenades commonly used in cartel attacks.

Of course, some or even many of the 22,800 firearms the Mexicans did not submit to ATF for tracing may have originated in the United States. But according to the figures presented by the GAO, there is no evidence to support the assertion that 90 percent of the guns used by the Mexican cartels come from the United States — especially when not even 50 percent of those that were submitted for tracing were ultimately found to be of U.S. origin.

This point leads us to consider the types of weapons being used by the Mexican cartels and where they come from.


Types and Sources of Guns

To gain an understanding of the dynamics of the gun flow inside Mexico, it helps if one divides the guns seized by Mexican authorities from criminals into three broad categories — which, incidentally, just happen to represent three different sources.


Type 1: Guns Legally Available in Mexico

The first category of weapons encountered in Mexico is weapons available legally for sale in Mexico through UCAM. These include handguns smaller than a .357 magnum such as .380, .38 Super and .38 Special.

A large portion of this first type of guns used by criminals is purchased in Mexico, or stolen from their legitimate owners. While UCAM does have very strict regulations for civilians to purchase guns, criminals will use straw purchasers to obtain firearms from UCAM or obtain them from corrupt officials. It is not uncommon to see .38 Super pistols seized from cartel figures (a caliber that is not popular in the United States), and many of these pistols are of Mexican origin. Likewise, cartel hit men in Mexico commonly use .380 pistols equipped with sound suppressors in their assassinations. In many cases, these pistols are purchased in Mexico, the suppressors are locally manufactured and the guns are adapted to receive the suppressors by Mexican gunsmiths.

It must be noted, though, that because of the cost and hassle of purchasing guns in Mexico, many of the guns in this category are purchased in the United States and smuggled into the country. There are a lot of cheap guns available on the U.S. market, and they can be sold at a premium in Mexico. Indeed, guns in this category, such as .380 pistols and .22-caliber rifles and pistols, are among the guns most commonly traced back to the United States. Still, the numbers do not indicate that 90 percent of guns in this category come from the United States.

Additionally, most of the explosives the cartels have been using in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Mexico over the past year have used commercially available Tovex, so we consider these explosives to fall in this first category. Mexican IEDs are another area where the rhetoric has been interesting to analyze, but we will explore this topic another time.


Type 2: Guns Legally Available in the U.S. but Not in Mexico

Many popular handgun calibers, such as 9 mm, .45 and .40, are reserved for the military and police and are not available for sale to civilians in Mexico. These guns, which are legally sold and very popular in the United States, comprise our second category, which also includes .50-caliber rifles, semiautomatic versions of assault rifles like the AK-47 and M16 and the FN Five-Seven pistol.

When we consider this second type of guns, a large number of them encountered in Mexico are likely purchased in the United States. Indeed, the GAO report notes that many of the guns most commonly traced back to the United States fall into this category. There are also many .45-caliber and 9 mm semiautomatic pistols and .357 revolvers obtained from deserters from the Mexican military and police, purchased from corrupt Mexican authorities or even brought in from South America (guns made by manufacturers such as Taurus and Bersa). This category also includes semiautomatic variants of assault rifles and main battle rifles, which are often converted by Mexican gunsmiths to be capable of fully automatic fire.

One can buy these types of weapons on the international arms market, but one pays a premium for such guns and it is cheaper and easier to simply buy them in the United States or South America and smuggle them into Mexico. In fact, there is an entire cottage industry that has developed to smuggle such weapons, and not all the customers are cartel hit men. There are many Mexican citizens who own guns in calibers such as .45, 9 mm, .40 and .44 magnum for self-defense — even though such guns are illegal in Mexico.


Type 3: Guns Not Available for Civilian Purchase in Mexico or the U.S.

The third category of weapons encountered in Mexico is military grade ordnance not generally available for sale in the United States or Mexico. This category includes hand grenades, 40 mm grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic assault rifles and main battle rifles and light machine guns.

This third type of weapon is fairly difficult and very expensive to obtain in the United States (especially in the large numbers in which the cartels are employing them). They are also dangerous to obtain in the United States due to heavy law-enforcement scrutiny. Therefore, most of the military ordnance used by the Mexican cartels comes from other sources, such as the international arms market (increasingly from China via the same networks that furnish precursor chemicals for narcotics manufacturing), or from corrupt elements in the Mexican military or even deserters who take their weapons with them. Besides, items such as South Korean fragmentation grenades and RPG-7s, often used by the cartels, simply are not in the U.S. arsenal. This means that very few of the weapons in this category come from the United States.

In recent years the cartels (especially their enforcer groups such as Los Zetas, Gente Nueva and La Linea) have been increasingly using military weaponry instead of sporting arms. A close examination of the arms seized from the enforcer groups and their training camps clearly demonstrates this trend toward military ordnance, including many weapons not readily available in the United States. Some of these seizures have included M60 machine guns and hundreds of 40 mm grenades obtained from the military arsenals of countries like Guatemala.

But Guatemala is not the only source of such weapons. Latin America is awash in weapons that were shipped there over the past several decades to supply the various insurgencies and counterinsurgencies in the region. When these military-grade weapons are combined with the rampant corruption in the region, they quickly find their way into the black arms market. The Mexican cartels have supply-chain contacts that help move narcotics to Mexico from South America and they are able to use this same network to obtain guns from the black market in South and Central America and then smuggle them into Mexico. While there are many weapons in this category that were manufactured in the United States, the overwhelming majority of the U.S.-manufactured weapons of this third type encountered in Mexico — like LAW rockets and M60 machine guns — come into Mexico from third countries and not directly from the United States.

There are also some cases of overlap between classes of weapons. For example, the FN Five-Seven pistol is available for commercial purchase in the United States, but the 5.7x28 armor-piercing ammunition for the pistol favored by the cartels is not — it is a restricted item. However, some of the special operations forces units in the Mexican military are issued the Five-Seven as well as the FN P90 personal defense weapon, which also shoots the 5.7x28 round, and the cartels are obtaining some of these weapons and the armor-piercing ammunition from them and not from the United States. Conversely, we see bulk 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm ammunition bought in the United States and smuggled into Mexico, where it is used in fully-automatic AK-47s and M16s purchased elsewhere. As noted above, China has become an increasingly common source for military weapons like grenades and fully automatic assault rifles in recent years.

To really understand Mexico’s gun problem, however, it is necessary to recognize that the same economic law of supply and demand that fuels drug smuggling into the United States also fuels gun smuggling into Mexico. Black-market guns in Mexico can fetch up to 300 percent of their normal purchase price — a profit margin rivaling the narcotics the cartels sell. Even if it were somehow possible to hermetically seal the U.S.-Mexico border and shut off all the guns coming from the United States, the cartels would still be able to obtain weapons elsewhere — just as narcotics would continue to flow into the United States from other places. The United States does provide cheap and easy access to certain types of weapons and ammunition, but as demonstrated by groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, weapons can be easily obtained from other sources via the black arms market — albeit at a higher price.

There has clearly been a long and well-documented history of arms smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border, but it is important to recognize that, while the United States is a significant source of certain classes of weapons and ammunition, it is by no means the source of 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican cartels, as is commonly asserted.

24465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 10, 2011, 10:17:37 AM
Wonder what the House of Saud is going to do now , , ,
24466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The 90% Myth on: February 10, 2011, 10:15:42 AM
By Scott Stewart

For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.

In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.

Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.


By the Numbers

As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).

According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

The remaining 22,800 firearms seized by Mexican authorities in 2008 were not traced for a variety of reasons. In addition to factors such as bureaucratic barriers and negligence, many of the weapons seized by Mexican authorities either do not bear serial numbers or have had their serial numbers altered or obliterated. It is also important to understand that the Mexican authorities simply don’t bother to submit some classes of weapons to the ATF for tracing. Such weapons include firearms they identify as coming from their own military or police forces, or guns that they can trace back themselves as being sold through the Mexican Defense Department’s Arms and Ammunition Marketing Division (UCAM). Likewise, they do not ask ATF to trace military ordnance from third countries like the South Korean fragmentation grenades commonly used in cartel attacks.

Of course, some or even many of the 22,800 firearms the Mexicans did not submit to ATF for tracing may have originated in the United States. But according to the figures presented by the GAO, there is no evidence to support the assertion that 90 percent of the guns used by the Mexican cartels come from the United States — especially when not even 50 percent of those that were submitted for tracing were ultimately found to be of U.S. origin.

This point leads us to consider the types of weapons being used by the Mexican cartels and where they come from.


Types and Sources of Guns

To gain an understanding of the dynamics of the gun flow inside Mexico, it helps if one divides the guns seized by Mexican authorities from criminals into three broad categories — which, incidentally, just happen to represent three different sources.


Type 1: Guns Legally Available in Mexico

The first category of weapons encountered in Mexico is weapons available legally for sale in Mexico through UCAM. These include handguns smaller than a .357 magnum such as .380, .38 Super and .38 Special.

A large portion of this first type of guns used by criminals is purchased in Mexico, or stolen from their legitimate owners. While UCAM does have very strict regulations for civilians to purchase guns, criminals will use straw purchasers to obtain firearms from UCAM or obtain them from corrupt officials. It is not uncommon to see .38 Super pistols seized from cartel figures (a caliber that is not popular in the United States), and many of these pistols are of Mexican origin. Likewise, cartel hit men in Mexico commonly use .380 pistols equipped with sound suppressors in their assassinations. In many cases, these pistols are purchased in Mexico, the suppressors are locally manufactured and the guns are adapted to receive the suppressors by Mexican gunsmiths.

It must be noted, though, that because of the cost and hassle of purchasing guns in Mexico, many of the guns in this category are purchased in the United States and smuggled into the country. There are a lot of cheap guns available on the U.S. market, and they can be sold at a premium in Mexico. Indeed, guns in this category, such as .380 pistols and .22-caliber rifles and pistols, are among the guns most commonly traced back to the United States. Still, the numbers do not indicate that 90 percent of guns in this category come from the United States.

Additionally, most of the explosives the cartels have been using in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Mexico over the past year have used commercially available Tovex, so we consider these explosives to fall in this first category. Mexican IEDs are another area where the rhetoric has been interesting to analyze, but we will explore this topic another time.


Type 2: Guns Legally Available in the U.S. but Not in Mexico

Many popular handgun calibers, such as 9 mm, .45 and .40, are reserved for the military and police and are not available for sale to civilians in Mexico. These guns, which are legally sold and very popular in the United States, comprise our second category, which also includes .50-caliber rifles, semiautomatic versions of assault rifles like the AK-47 and M16 and the FN Five-Seven pistol.

When we consider this second type of guns, a large number of them encountered in Mexico are likely purchased in the United States. Indeed, the GAO report notes that many of the guns most commonly traced back to the United States fall into this category. There are also many .45-caliber and 9 mm semiautomatic pistols and .357 revolvers obtained from deserters from the Mexican military and police, purchased from corrupt Mexican authorities or even brought in from South America (guns made by manufacturers such as Taurus and Bersa). This category also includes semiautomatic variants of assault rifles and main battle rifles, which are often converted by Mexican gunsmiths to be capable of fully automatic fire.

One can buy these types of weapons on the international arms market, but one pays a premium for such guns and it is cheaper and easier to simply buy them in the United States or South America and smuggle them into Mexico. In fact, there is an entire cottage industry that has developed to smuggle such weapons, and not all the customers are cartel hit men. There are many Mexican citizens who own guns in calibers such as .45, 9 mm, .40 and .44 magnum for self-defense — even though such guns are illegal in Mexico.


Type 3: Guns Not Available for Civilian Purchase in Mexico or the U.S.

The third category of weapons encountered in Mexico is military grade ordnance not generally available for sale in the United States or Mexico. This category includes hand grenades, 40 mm grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic assault rifles and main battle rifles and light machine guns.

This third type of weapon is fairly difficult and very expensive to obtain in the United States (especially in the large numbers in which the cartels are employing them). They are also dangerous to obtain in the United States due to heavy law-enforcement scrutiny. Therefore, most of the military ordnance used by the Mexican cartels comes from other sources, such as the international arms market (increasingly from China via the same networks that furnish precursor chemicals for narcotics manufacturing), or from corrupt elements in the Mexican military or even deserters who take their weapons with them. Besides, items such as South Korean fragmentation grenades and RPG-7s, often used by the cartels, simply are not in the U.S. arsenal. This means that very few of the weapons in this category come from the United States.

In recent years the cartels (especially their enforcer groups such as Los Zetas, Gente Nueva and La Linea) have been increasingly using military weaponry instead of sporting arms. A close examination of the arms seized from the enforcer groups and their training camps clearly demonstrates this trend toward military ordnance, including many weapons not readily available in the United States. Some of these seizures have included M60 machine guns and hundreds of 40 mm grenades obtained from the military arsenals of countries like Guatemala.

But Guatemala is not the only source of such weapons. Latin America is awash in weapons that were shipped there over the past several decades to supply the various insurgencies and counterinsurgencies in the region. When these military-grade weapons are combined with the rampant corruption in the region, they quickly find their way into the black arms market. The Mexican cartels have supply-chain contacts that help move narcotics to Mexico from South America and they are able to use this same network to obtain guns from the black market in South and Central America and then smuggle them into Mexico. While there are many weapons in this category that were manufactured in the United States, the overwhelming majority of the U.S.-manufactured weapons of this third type encountered in Mexico — like LAW rockets and M60 machine guns — come into Mexico from third countries and not directly from the United States.

There are also some cases of overlap between classes of weapons. For example, the FN Five-Seven pistol is available for commercial purchase in the United States, but the 5.7x28 armor-piercing ammunition for the pistol favored by the cartels is not — it is a restricted item. However, some of the special operations forces units in the Mexican military are issued the Five-Seven as well as the FN P90 personal defense weapon, which also shoots the 5.7x28 round, and the cartels are obtaining some of these weapons and the armor-piercing ammunition from them and not from the United States. Conversely, we see bulk 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm ammunition bought in the United States and smuggled into Mexico, where it is used in fully-automatic AK-47s and M16s purchased elsewhere. As noted above, China has become an increasingly common source for military weapons like grenades and fully automatic assault rifles in recent years.

To really understand Mexico’s gun problem, however, it is necessary to recognize that the same economic law of supply and demand that fuels drug smuggling into the United States also fuels gun smuggling into Mexico. Black-market guns in Mexico can fetch up to 300 percent of their normal purchase price — a profit margin rivaling the narcotics the cartels sell. Even if it were somehow possible to hermetically seal the U.S.-Mexico border and shut off all the guns coming from the United States, the cartels would still be able to obtain weapons elsewhere — just as narcotics would continue to flow into the United States from other places. The United States does provide cheap and easy access to certain types of weapons and ammunition, but as demonstrated by groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, weapons can be easily obtained from other sources via the black arms market — albeit at a higher price.

There has clearly been a long and well-documented history of arms smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border, but it is important to recognize that, while the United States is a significant source of certain classes of weapons and ammunition, it is by no means the source of 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican cartels, as is commonly asserted.

24467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The 90% Myth on: February 10, 2011, 10:14:55 AM
By Scott Stewart

For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.

In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.

Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.


By the Numbers

As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).

According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

The remaining 22,800 firearms seized by Mexican authorities in 2008 were not traced for a variety of reasons. In addition to factors such as bureaucratic barriers and negligence, many of the weapons seized by Mexican authorities either do not bear serial numbers or have had their serial numbers altered or obliterated. It is also important to understand that the Mexican authorities simply don’t bother to submit some classes of weapons to the ATF for tracing. Such weapons include firearms they identify as coming from their own military or police forces, or guns that they can trace back themselves as being sold through the Mexican Defense Department’s Arms and Ammunition Marketing Division (UCAM). Likewise, they do not ask ATF to trace military ordnance from third countries like the South Korean fragmentation grenades commonly used in cartel attacks.

Of course, some or even many of the 22,800 firearms the Mexicans did not submit to ATF for tracing may have originated in the United States. But according to the figures presented by the GAO, there is no evidence to support the assertion that 90 percent of the guns used by the Mexican cartels come from the United States — especially when not even 50 percent of those that were submitted for tracing were ultimately found to be of U.S. origin.

This point leads us to consider the types of weapons being used by the Mexican cartels and where they come from.


Types and Sources of Guns

To gain an understanding of the dynamics of the gun flow inside Mexico, it helps if one divides the guns seized by Mexican authorities from criminals into three broad categories — which, incidentally, just happen to represent three different sources.


Type 1: Guns Legally Available in Mexico

The first category of weapons encountered in Mexico is weapons available legally for sale in Mexico through UCAM. These include handguns smaller than a .357 magnum such as .380, .38 Super and .38 Special.

A large portion of this first type of guns used by criminals is purchased in Mexico, or stolen from their legitimate owners. While UCAM does have very strict regulations for civilians to purchase guns, criminals will use straw purchasers to obtain firearms from UCAM or obtain them from corrupt officials. It is not uncommon to see .38 Super pistols seized from cartel figures (a caliber that is not popular in the United States), and many of these pistols are of Mexican origin. Likewise, cartel hit men in Mexico commonly use .380 pistols equipped with sound suppressors in their assassinations. In many cases, these pistols are purchased in Mexico, the suppressors are locally manufactured and the guns are adapted to receive the suppressors by Mexican gunsmiths.

It must be noted, though, that because of the cost and hassle of purchasing guns in Mexico, many of the guns in this category are purchased in the United States and smuggled into the country. There are a lot of cheap guns available on the U.S. market, and they can be sold at a premium in Mexico. Indeed, guns in this category, such as .380 pistols and .22-caliber rifles and pistols, are among the guns most commonly traced back to the United States. Still, the numbers do not indicate that 90 percent of guns in this category come from the United States.

Additionally, most of the explosives the cartels have been using in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Mexico over the past year have used commercially available Tovex, so we consider these explosives to fall in this first category. Mexican IEDs are another area where the rhetoric has been interesting to analyze, but we will explore this topic another time.


Type 2: Guns Legally Available in the U.S. but Not in Mexico

Many popular handgun calibers, such as 9 mm, .45 and .40, are reserved for the military and police and are not available for sale to civilians in Mexico. These guns, which are legally sold and very popular in the United States, comprise our second category, which also includes .50-caliber rifles, semiautomatic versions of assault rifles like the AK-47 and M16 and the FN Five-Seven pistol.

When we consider this second type of guns, a large number of them encountered in Mexico are likely purchased in the United States. Indeed, the GAO report notes that many of the guns most commonly traced back to the United States fall into this category. There are also many .45-caliber and 9 mm semiautomatic pistols and .357 revolvers obtained from deserters from the Mexican military and police, purchased from corrupt Mexican authorities or even brought in from South America (guns made by manufacturers such as Taurus and Bersa). This category also includes semiautomatic variants of assault rifles and main battle rifles, which are often converted by Mexican gunsmiths to be capable of fully automatic fire.

One can buy these types of weapons on the international arms market, but one pays a premium for such guns and it is cheaper and easier to simply buy them in the United States or South America and smuggle them into Mexico. In fact, there is an entire cottage industry that has developed to smuggle such weapons, and not all the customers are cartel hit men. There are many Mexican citizens who own guns in calibers such as .45, 9 mm, .40 and .44 magnum for self-defense — even though such guns are illegal in Mexico.


Type 3: Guns Not Available for Civilian Purchase in Mexico or the U.S.

The third category of weapons encountered in Mexico is military grade ordnance not generally available for sale in the United States or Mexico. This category includes hand grenades, 40 mm grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic assault rifles and main battle rifles and light machine guns.

This third type of weapon is fairly difficult and very expensive to obtain in the United States (especially in the large numbers in which the cartels are employing them). They are also dangerous to obtain in the United States due to heavy law-enforcement scrutiny. Therefore, most of the military ordnance used by the Mexican cartels comes from other sources, such as the international arms market (increasingly from China via the same networks that furnish precursor chemicals for narcotics manufacturing), or from corrupt elements in the Mexican military or even deserters who take their weapons with them. Besides, items such as South Korean fragmentation grenades and RPG-7s, often used by the cartels, simply are not in the U.S. arsenal. This means that very few of the weapons in this category come from the United States.

In recent years the cartels (especially their enforcer groups such as Los Zetas, Gente Nueva and La Linea) have been increasingly using military weaponry instead of sporting arms. A close examination of the arms seized from the enforcer groups and their training camps clearly demonstrates this trend toward military ordnance, including many weapons not readily available in the United States. Some of these seizures have included M60 machine guns and hundreds of 40 mm grenades obtained from the military arsenals of countries like Guatemala.

But Guatemala is not the only source of such weapons. Latin America is awash in weapons that were shipped there over the past several decades to supply the various insurgencies and counterinsurgencies in the region. When these military-grade weapons are combined with the rampant corruption in the region, they quickly find their way into the black arms market. The Mexican cartels have supply-chain contacts that help move narcotics to Mexico from South America and they are able to use this same network to obtain guns from the black market in South and Central America and then smuggle them into Mexico. While there are many weapons in this category that were manufactured in the United States, the overwhelming majority of the U.S.-manufactured weapons of this third type encountered in Mexico — like LAW rockets and M60 machine guns — come into Mexico from third countries and not directly from the United States.

There are also some cases of overlap between classes of weapons. For example, the FN Five-Seven pistol is available for commercial purchase in the United States, but the 5.7x28 armor-piercing ammunition for the pistol favored by the cartels is not — it is a restricted item. However, some of the special operations forces units in the Mexican military are issued the Five-Seven as well as the FN P90 personal defense weapon, which also shoots the 5.7x28 round, and the cartels are obtaining some of these weapons and the armor-piercing ammunition from them and not from the United States. Conversely, we see bulk 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm ammunition bought in the United States and smuggled into Mexico, where it is used in fully-automatic AK-47s and M16s purchased elsewhere. As noted above, China has become an increasingly common source for military weapons like grenades and fully automatic assault rifles in recent years.

To really understand Mexico’s gun problem, however, it is necessary to recognize that the same economic law of supply and demand that fuels drug smuggling into the United States also fuels gun smuggling into Mexico. Black-market guns in Mexico can fetch up to 300 percent of their normal purchase price — a profit margin rivaling the narcotics the cartels sell. Even if it were somehow possible to hermetically seal the U.S.-Mexico border and shut off all the guns coming from the United States, the cartels would still be able to obtain weapons elsewhere — just as narcotics would continue to flow into the United States from other places. The United States does provide cheap and easy access to certain types of weapons and ammunition, but as demonstrated by groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, weapons can be easily obtained from other sources via the black arms market — albeit at a higher price.

There has clearly been a long and well-documented history of arms smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border, but it is important to recognize that, while the United States is a significant source of certain classes of weapons and ammunition, it is by no means the source of 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican cartels, as is commonly asserted.

24468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: February 09, 2011, 09:32:59 PM
Good example!  Agreed 100% on cost-benefit analysis and the fact that it usually is absent.  I would add that "our side" sometimes (often?) ignores external diseconomies, especially with regard to our environment.
24469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 09, 2011, 09:22:55 PM
GM:

Although quite relevant to Egypt, may I ask you to post pieces about the nature of the MB on the "Islam the Religion" so that they don't get lost to future reference? 

Thank you,
Marc
24470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: February 09, 2011, 09:12:35 PM
I don't know enough to have an opinion on the merits here of the law/regs on phosphates, but conceptually I have no problem with external diseconomies being the subject of legislation.  In a free market all costs should be born by buyers and sellers.
24471  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: February 09, 2011, 09:09:11 PM
Dinger:

Welcome aboard here.

Please extend my warm greetings to your teacher.

The Open Gathering is in September.  If there is not a thread for it already, there will be.  It will be held the Sunday in September closest to the equinox.

Crafty Dog
24472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Science vs. God on: February 09, 2011, 09:06:18 PM
God is a dsylexic's dog.
24473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: February 09, 2011, 09:04:19 PM
Well Mr. Smartypants, you usually say when you don't post the whole article smiley
24474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Science vs. God on: February 09, 2011, 04:09:57 PM
Party pooper!
24475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: February 09, 2011, 03:56:47 PM
And what were the consequences of that phosphorus for the environment?
24476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Science vs. God on: February 09, 2011, 03:33:15 PM
Subject: God vs. Science


‘Let me explain the problem science has with religion.'


The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.


'You're a Christian, aren't you, son?'


'Yes sir,' the student says.


'So you believe in God?'
 

'Absolutely.'


'Is God good?'


'Sure! God's good.'


'Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?'


'Yes'


'Are you good or evil?'


'The Bible says I'm evil.'


The professor grins knowingly. 'Aha! The Bible! He considers for a moment. 'Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?'


'Yes sir, I would.'


'So you're good...!'


'I wouldn't say that.'


'But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't.'


The student does not answer, so the professor continues. 'He doesn't, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Can you answer that one?'


The student remains silent. 'No, you can't, can you?' the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax. 'Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?'


'Er... yes,' the student says.


'Is Satan good?'


The student doesn't hesitate on this one. 'No.'


'Then where does Satan come from?'


The student falters. 'From God'


'That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?'


'Yes, sir..'


'Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything, correct?'


'Yes'


'So who created evil?' The professor continued, 'If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.'


Again, the student has no answer. 'Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?'


The student squirms on his feet. 'Yes.'


'So who created them?'


The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. 'Who created them?' There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. 'Tell me,' he continues onto another student. 'Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?'


The student's voice betrays him and cracks. 'Yes, professor, I do.'


The old man stops pacing. 'Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?'


'No sir. I've never seen Him.'


'Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?'


'No, sir, I have not...'


'Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?'


'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't.'


'Yet you still believe in him?'


'Yes'


'According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist... What do you say to that, son?'


'Nothing,' the student replies.. 'I only have my faith.'


'Yes, faith,' the professor repeats. 'And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.'


The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His own. 'Professor, is there such thing as heat? '


'Yes.'


'And is there such a thing as cold?'


'Yes, son, there's cold too.'


'No sir, there isn't.'


The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. 'You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit down to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.'


Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.


'What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?'


'Yes,' the professor replies without hesitation.. 'What is night if it isn't darkness?'


'You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?'


The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. 'So what point are you making, young man?'


'Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.'


The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. 'Flawed? Can you explain how?'


'You are working on the premise of duality,' the student explains.. 'You argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought.' 'It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.' 'Now tell me, professor.. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?'


'If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.'


'Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?'


The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.


'Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?'


The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided. 'To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.' The student looks around the room. 'Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain?' The class breaks out into laughter. 'Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.' 'So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?'


Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. 'I Guess you'll have to take them on faith.'


'Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,' the student continues. 'Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?' Now uncertain, the professor responds, 'Of course, there is. We see it Everyday. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in The multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.'


To this the student replied, 'Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.'


The professor sat down.
 





If you read it all the way through and had a smile on your face when you finished, mail to your friends and family with the title 'God vs. Science'
 

PS: the student was Albert Einstein.    Albert Einstein wrote a book titled God vs. Science in 1921.
24477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: February 09, 2011, 10:38:00 AM
Hi Tim:

My point was not that CFL light bulbs are a game changer either way, merely an example of good intentions with bad results.
24478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Gingrich on: February 09, 2011, 08:26:49 AM
I strongly favored Newt for 2008 and, although I have felt a bit let down by him in the last few years, he remains someone I consider seriously.  Here is some of his current thinking.

================
Reagan's Lessons for the Crisis in Egypt
by Newt Gingrich

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Over 10,000 conservatives attended last year's CPAC, worried about the left-wing overreach of the Obama administration and determined to do what it takes to defeat the Left at the polls in November.

This historic attendance at CPAC in 2010 was followed by a historic election, in which we saw the largest one party pickup in the House of Representatives since 1948. It was an enormous victory for the power of conservative principles.

Of course, after such a historic victory, there is the question, "Now what?"

Remarkably, attendance for this year's CPAC will be even larger than last year's record attendance. Almost 12,000 people have registered. It is clear that the momentum against President Obama and the left is building as people realize the 2012 elections will be a decisive moment for the country.

Many conservatives, however, also recognize that the next two years should not only be spent preparing to win at the polls. We must also develop broad support for a governing agenda that can be implemented by a new conservative President and conservative Congress.


 
 

In other words, CPAC this year will be important not just in outlining why we must reject the left wing governance of the Obama administration and Reid Senate, but also in articulating what a center right coalition would replace it with.

With this challenge of replacement in mind, I will focus my speech tomorrow at CPAC on one such area that badly needs replacement if we are to keep America safe and create robust economic growth with millions of new jobs: American energy policy.

I will be driving four main themes during my speech:

It is in our national security interest to produce more American energy. We must reduce the world's dependence on oil from dangerous and unstable countries, especially in the Middle East.


In contrast to this urgent national security need, the Obama administration's policy has been almost the exact opposite of what is required.  In effect, they have been waging war against the American energy industry.


A comprehensive energy strategy that maximized all forms of American energy development would not only make the US and our allies dramatically safer, it would make us much better off economically.


Part of this strategy would be to replace the Environmental Protection Agency with an Environmental Solutions Agency ] that achieves better environmental outcomes through an emphasis on the transformative power of new technology and a collaborative approach with industry and state and local governments (as opposed to the bureaucratic, regulatory model of the current EPA that does more to kill jobs and halt American energy development than it does to protect the environment). 
You can watch my speech live  at 12:30 ET tomorrow by signing up at the CPAC website.

Ronald Reagan: 100 Years Old, But Still a Timeless Message
This year's CPAC conference is well-timed on the heels of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday.

Callista and I were fortunate enough to participate in Reagan Centennial events in Illinois and at the Reagan Library last weekend, including a visit to Ronald Reagan's birthplace in Tampico, IL. You can see pictures of our visit at my Facebook page.

It was Ronald Reagan who delivered one of the most memorable CPAC speeches in 1975, calling for the Republican Party to raise a "banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors".

This advice is as true today as it has been at any time before. Boldness would be an especially effective contrast to the timidity and confusion that has characterized the Obama administration's response to the protests in Egypt.

There is, however, another speech delivered by Ronald Reagan at CPAC that may resonate even more today.

Titled, America's Purpose in the World the speech argues that American leadership requires us to understand and express forcefully what makes America great and similarly to understand and speak clearly about how starkly our enemies stand in opposition to those values:

"The themes of a sound foreign policy should be no mystery, nor the result of endless agonizing reappraisals. They are rooted in our past -- in our very beginning as a nation...Our principles were revolutionary...Our example inspired others, imperfectly at times, but it inspired them nevertheless...To this day, America is still the abiding alternative to tyranny. That is our purpose in the world -- nothing more and nothing less."

"To carry out that purpose, our fundamental aim in foreign policy must be to ensure our own survival and to protect those others who share our values. Under no circumstances should we have any illusions about the intentions of those who are enemies of freedom."

"...If we are to continue to be that example -- if we are to preserve our own freedom -- we must understand those who would dominate us and deal with them with determination."

The Lessons of Ronald Reagan for Egypt, #1:
Know Our Values and Protect Those Who Share Our Values
It is hard to read Reagan's message from his 1978 CPAC speech and not think immediately about today.

Reagan was referring to the failure of the United States under Jimmy Carter to stand up for human rights against Soviet totalitarianism. But the same principles apply today to our struggle with radical Islamism and, in particular, to the unfolding crisis in Egypt.

First, it must be the policy of the United States to defend consistently and resolutely the standards for the universal rights of man outlined in the Declaration of Independence and codified into law in the Constitution.

This principle has much deeper and more complicated ramifications than a shallow support for democratic elections. Instead, we should be on the side of genuine freedom for the people of the world.

The fact that the two U.S. backed democratic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq are refusing to protect the religious liberty of Christians and other minority religions (or worse, are complicit in their persecution) is evidence of a total lack of clarity regarding the purpose of US foreign policy. ( See here and here for examples.)

With regards to the situation in Egypt, the principles Reagan outlined in this speech tell us that, of course, we should be on the side of the Egyptian people and we should be prepared to help them move toward a democracy.

These principles also tell us, though, that the people of Egypt will be no better off if the Mubarak dictatorship is replaced by a Radical Islamist dictatorship that implements an even worse form of oppression. A replay of what happened in Gaza in 2006 when Hamas was able to strong-arm a victory in their elections would be a disaster.

This means that the United States must be willing to stand by the military and other stable institutions within Egypt as they oversee a transition period that allows for genuinely free and fair elections, with new political parties and leaders in an environment that protects freedoms of speech, the press and free assembly.

Moving toward elections too soon will create an enormous opening for the radical Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which despite its official ban in Egypt is still the largest and most organized opposition group to the government. Under no circumstances should the United States be willing to support a government in Egypt that lifts this ban against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ronald Reagan would also have understood that despite troublesome aspects of his rule, Hosni Mubarak has been a U.S. ally who has kept the peace with Israel. Compared to Obama, Reagan would have been much more discreet about pressuring Mubarak to leave office, recognizing that publicly abandoning him would send the wrong signal to other world leaders about how the U.S. treats its allies.

The Lessons of Ronald Reagan for Egypt, #2:
Understand Our Enemies and Speak the Truth About Them
There has been a lot of left-wing "sophisticated" analysis arguing that the United States should treat the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate democratic voice in the Middle East.

This is nonsense.

The Brotherhood's insignia is two crossed swords under the Koran. Its founding slogan is " Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, Jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." Its Palestinian branch is Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

It is evidence of the elite's profound confusion that they cannot bring themselves to say the obvious: the Muslim Brotherhood is our enemy, and the enemy of free people everywhere. They are the self professed enemy of Western notions of freedom and liberty. Their goal is an Islamic state. By any rational standard they are the personification of the West's struggle against radical Islamism.

Yet, Barack Obama actually invited the Muslim Brotherhood to his speech in Cairo in 2009 and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated organizations in the United States are routinely looked to by our government and the mainstream press as voices of moderation.

Ronald Reagan would have recognized the elite's total unwillingness to speak honestly about the nature of our enemies; he spent much of his career combating their similar inability to speak the truth about the totalitarian goals and aims of the Soviet Union.

Reagan would have been prepared to have an honest conversation about the ideological connection that unites our enemies and motivates them. He would have been prepared to say quite bluntly that we are in a long war against radical Islamism, a belief system adhered to by a minority of Muslims but nonetheless a powerful and organized ideology within Islamic thought that is totally incompatible with the modern world.

Reagan would also have consistently found ways to reach out to all Muslims who genuinely recognize the same universal rights of man laid out at our nation's founding and who stand up for our Constitutional principles and the importance of religious freedom for all.

Furthermore, Reagan would have vigorously rebuked those who jump on any honest discussion about radical Islamism as an attack against all Muslims. After all, they're the ones conflating radical Islamists with all Muslims, not those trying to speak honestly about our enemies. In fact, knowing Reagan's humor, he probably would have found a way to make a joke about their confusion.

The Lessons of Ronald Reagan for Egypt, #3:
Focus on the Goal, Our Rendezvous with Destiny
Many on the Left may find it odd that I cite Ronald Reagan as guidance on how to handle our challenges with radical Islamism in the Middle East.

After all, they will say, Reagan helped arm the Afghans. He backed Saddam Hussein against the Iranian government, etc.

Reagan had, however, one foreign policy goal: defeat the Soviet Union. Every decision he made was measured against the yardstick of whether it fit within his strategy to defeat the Soviets.

The result was that eleven years after he was elected President, the Soviet Union disappeared.

Today, our foreign policy goal is equally simple, but no less daunting than defeating the Soviet Union: isolate, discredit, and defeat those who promote the radical Islamist ideology that motivates those who seek to destroy Western civilization.

We must be similarly focused on this goal if we have any chance to succeed. Every aspect of our foreign policy must be in service of a strategy to achieve victory.

This is our generation's rendezvous with destiny. And ultimately, Ronald Reagan's most instructive message for meeting our challenge would probably be, "I did my generation's job. Now it's your turn."

Your Friend,
 
Newt

24479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Endgame? on: February 09, 2011, 07:55:55 AM


JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) greets Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in September 2010Related Special Topic Page
The Egypt Unrest: Full Coverage
A suite at a luxury hospital clinic in southwestern Germany is being prepared for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, German news website Spiegel Online reported Feb. 7. The report, dovetailing similar rumors reported by The New York Times on Feb. 5, went into more detail, alleging that talks were under way among Egyptian, U.S. and German officials for Mubarak to find exile in the Max-Grundig-Klinik Buehlerhoehe in the southwestern German town of Buhl near Baden-Baden.

The rumors have not been confirmed, but they fit an endgame scenario to the Egypt crisis that STRATFOR has long been considering. The Egyptian military may see Mubarak as an enormous liability, but it is also trying to construct a legitimate and orderly political transition. Mubarak is 82 years old, in poor health and suffering from cancer. His sickness serves as an ideal alibi to frame his exit from the political scene without the military appearing as though it had to resort to extraordinary measures to remove him or bend to the opposition’s demands. STRATFOR had earlier heard rumors of Mubarak staying at his resort home in Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula. Meanwhile, negotiations are under way over how to handle the billions of dollars worth of assets that Mubarak’s family is attempting to retain. Such negotiations take a great deal of time and energy, which may explain the repeated calls for patience by the regime elite, as well as by U.S. officials.

The subject of Mubarak’s future exile may well have been discussed at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 5, where both U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated that the transition in Egypt would take time and, as Clinton said, “there are certain things that have to be done in order to prepare.” Merkel said, “There will be a change in Egypt, but clearly, the change has to be shaped in a way that it is a peaceful, a sensible way forward.” Members of Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union, as well coalition partner Free Democratic Party, have also issued similar statements calling for an orderly transition for Mubarak.

The peaceful and sensible way forward for Mubarak may well be in Germany, where Mubarak reportedly travels for annual medical visits and where he had gallbladder surgery in 2010 at Heidelberg University Hospital, roughly 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the rumored exile clinic. STRATFOR cannot help but be reminded of similar arrangements made for the embattled Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who at age 60 and suffering from an enlarged spleen and lymphatic cancer jumped from country to country, including the United States, in exile to seek medical treatment before ending up in Egypt, where he is buried today. This time, the United States appears more interested in avoiding the political complications of receiving an unpopular leader in exile while including a third party, perhaps the Germans, to help manage the transition.

The opposition’s reaction to these rumors must thus be watched closely. An implicit understanding could be in the making, in which Mubarak may remain president in exile, but as a mere figurehead until elections can be held — planned for September — or a less complicated scenario in which he hands power to his vice president, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, while on “medical leave.” The Egyptian military, along with U.S. officials, likely hopes this will be enough to take the steam out of the street demonstrations and move Egypt beyond the current crisis. Whether that expectation holds true remains to be seen, but the political expediency of the current crisis could have an impact on the speed in which Mubarak’s health reportedly deteriorates in the coming days.



Read more: A Sign of the Endgame in Egypt? | STRATFOR
24480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MB-2 on: February 09, 2011, 07:53:33 AM
MB beyond Egypt

Shortly after its rise in Egypt, the MB spread to other parts of the Arab world. The Syrian branch founded in the late 1930s to early 1940s grew much more radical than its parent, wholeheartedly adopting armed struggle — which sparked a major crackdown in 1982 by Syrian President Hafez al Assad’s regime that killed tens of thousands. In sharp contrast, the MB in Jordan in the early 1940s very early on established an accommodationist attitude with the Hashemite monarchy and became a legal entity and founded a political party.

Until the Israeli capture of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, the Palestinian and Jordanian branches constituted more or less a singular entity. The Gaza-based branch was affiliated with the Egyptian MB, which Israel used to weaken the Palestine Liberation Organization. Those elements went on to form Hamas in 1987, which has pursued its activities on a dual track — political pragmatism in intra-Palestinian affairs and armed struggle against Israel. Hamas also emerged in the West Bank though not on the same scale as in Gaza.

Similarly, in the Arabian Peninsula states, Iraq and North Africa, there are legal opposition parties that do not call themselves MB but are ideological descendants of the MB. The parent MB, by contrast, was never legalized and has never formed a political party per se. While the MB in Egypt is the parent body and there is a lot of coordination among the various chapters in different countries, each branch is an independent entity, which has also allowed for a variety of groups to evolve differently in keeping with the circumstances in the various countries.

Despite dabbling in militancy, Egypt’s MB always remained a pragmatic organization. Egypt’s true militant Islamists in fact represent a rejection of the MB’s pragmatism. Decades before al Qaeda came on the scene with its transnational jihadism, Egypt was struggling with as many as five different jihadist groups — born out of a rejection of the MB approach — fighting Cairo. Two of them became very prominent: Tandheem al-Jihad, which was behind Sadat’s assassination, and Gamaa al-Islamiyah, which led a violent insurgency in the 1990s responsible for the killings of foreign tourists. The jihadist movement within the country ultimately was contained, with both Tandheem al-Jihad and Gamaa al-Islamiyah renouncing violence — though smaller elements from both groups joined up with the al Qaeda-led transnational jihadist movement.

Global perceptions of the MB and of political Islamists have not distinguished between pragmatist and militant Islamists, especially after the 9/11 attack and rising fears over Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s successes. Instead, the MB often has been lumped in with the most radical of the radicals in Western eyes. Very little attention has been paid to the majority of Islamists who are not jihadists and instead are political forces. In fact, even Hamas and Hezbollah are more political groups than simply militants.

There is a growing lobby within the United States and Europe, among academics and members of think tanks, that has sought to draw the distinction between pragmatists and radicals. For more than a decade, this lobby has pushed for seeking out moderates in the MB and other Islamist forces in the Arab and Muslim world to better manage radicalism and the changes that will come from aging regimes crumbling.


Assessment

Because Egypt has never had free and fair elections, the MB’s popularity and its commitment to democracy both remain untested. In Egypt’s 2005 election, which was less rigged than any previous Egyptian vote, given the Bush administration’s push for greater democratization in the Middle East, MB members running as independents managed to increase their share of the legislature fivefold. It won 88 seats, making it the biggest opposition bloc in parliament.

But the MB is internally divided. It faces a generational struggle, with an old guard trying to prevent its ideals from being diluted while a younger generation (the 35-55 age bracket) looks to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) as a role model.

The MB also lacks a monopoly over religious discourse in Egypt. A great many religious conservatives do not support the MB. Egypt also has a significant apolitical Salafist trend. Most of the very large class of theologians centered around Al-Azhar University has not come out in support of the MB or any other Islamist group. There are also Islamist forces both more pragmatic and more militant than the MB. For example, Hizb al-Wasat, which has not gotten a license to operate as an official opposition party, is a small offshoot of the MB that is much more pragmatic than the parent entity. What remains of Tandheem al-Jihad and Gamaa al-Islamiyah, which renounced violence and condemned al Qaeda, are examples of radical Islamist groups. And small jihadist cells inspired by or linked to al Qaeda also complicate this picture.

Taken together, the MB remains an untested political force that faces infighting and competitors for the Islamist mantel and a large secular population. Given these challenges to the MB, confrontation with the West is by no means a given even if the MB emerged as a major force in a post-Mubarak order.

The MB is also well aware of the opposition it faces within Egypt, the region and the West. The crumbling of the Mubarak regime and perhaps the order that damaged the MB for decades is a historic opportunity for the movement, which it does not wish to squander. Therefore it is going to handle this opportunity very carefully and avoid radical moves. The MB is also not designed to lead a revolution; rather, its internal setup is such that it will gradually seek a democratic order.

The United States in recent years has had considerable experience in dealing with Islamist forces with Turkey, under the AKP, being the most prominent example. Likewise in Iraq, Washington has dealt with Islamists both Sunni (Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi for many years was a prominent figure in the Iraqi chapter of the MB called the Iraqi Islamic Party) and Shiite (Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, Muqtada al-Sadr, etc.) as part of the effort to forge the post-Baathist republic.

That said, the MB of Egypt is viewed as a very opaque organization, which increases U.S. and Israeli trepidations. Neither of these powers are willing to place their national security interests on the assumption that the MB would remain a benign force — as it appears to be — in the event that it came into power. Concerns also exist about potential fissures within the organization that may steer the movement into a radical direction, especially when it comes to foreign policy issues such as the alliance with the United States and the peace treaty with Israel.

The possible looming collapse of the 60-year Egyptian order presents a historic opportunity for the MB to position itself. Even though the movement has remained pragmatic for much of its history, seeks to achieve its goals via constitutional and electoral means, and has opted for peaceful civil obedience and working with the military as a way out of the current impasse, its commitment to democratic politics is something that remains to be seen. More important, it is expected to push for a foreign policy more independent from Washington and a tougher attitude toward Israel.

At this stage, however, it is not clear if the MB will necessarily come to power. If it does, then it will likely be circumscribed by other political forces and the military. There are also structural hurdles in the path of the MB’s taking power. First, the ban on the movement would have to be lifted. Second, the constitution would have to be amended to allow for religious parties to exist for the MB to participate as a movement. Alternatively, it could form a political party along the lines of its Jordanian counterpart. Being part of a future coalition government could allow the United States to manage its rise. Either way, the MB, an enormously patient organization, senses its time finally may have come.

24481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Muslim Brotherhood on: February 09, 2011, 07:52:30 AM
Much here worth noting:
==========

With Egypt’s nearly 60-year-old order seemingly collapsing, many are asking whether the world’s single-largest Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), is on the verge of benefiting from demands for democracy in Egypt, the most pivotal Arab state.

Western fears to the contrary, the MB is probably incapable of dominating Egypt. At best, it can realistically hope to be the largest political force in a future government, one in which the military would have a huge say.


The MB and the Egyptian State

The fear of Islamism for years allowed the single-party state to prevent the emergence of a secular opposition. Many secular forces were aligned with the state to prevent an Islamist takeover. Those that did not remained marginalized by the authoritarian system. As a result, the MB over the years has evolved into the country’s single-largest organized socio-political opposition force.

Even though there is no coherent secular group that can rival the MB’s organizational prowess, Egypt’s main Islamist movement hardly has a monopoly over public support. A great many Egyptians are either secular liberals or religious conservatives who do not subscribe to Islamist tenets. Certainly, the bulk of the people out on the streets in the recent unrest are not demanding that the secular autocracy be replaced with an Islamist democracy.

Still, as Egypt’s biggest political movement, the MB has raised Western and Israeli fears of an Egypt going the way of Islamism, particularly if the military is not able to manage the transition. To understand the MB today — and thus to evaluate these international fears — we must first consider the group’s origins and evolution.


Origins and Evolution of the MB

Founded in the town of Ismailia in 1928 by a schoolteacher named Hassan al-Banna, the MB was the world’s first organized Islamist movement, though Islamism as an ideology had been in the making since the late 19th century. It was formed as a social movement to pursue the revival of Islam in the country and beyond at a time when secular left-leaning nationalism was rising in the Arab and Muslim world.

It quickly moved beyond just charitable and educational activities to emerge as a political movement, however. Al-Banna’s views formed the core of the group’s ideology, an amalgamation of Islamic values and Western political thought, which rejected both traditional religious ideas as well as wholesale Westernization. The MB was the first organizational manifestation of the modernist trend within Muslim religio-political thought that embraced nationalism and moved beyond the idea of a caliphate. That said, the movement was also the first organized Islamic response to Western-led secular modernity.

Its view of jihad in the sense of armed struggle was limited to freedom from foreign occupation — British occupation in the case of Egypt and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. But it had a more comprehensive understanding of jihad pertaining to intellectual awakening of the masses and political mobilization. It was also very ecumenical in terms of intra-Muslim issues. Each of these aspects allowed the movement to quickly gain strength; by the late 1940s, it reportedly had more than a million members.

By the late 1930s, there was great internal pressure on the MB leadership to form a military wing to pursue an armed struggle against the British occupation. The leadership was fearful that such a move would damage the movement, which was pursuing a gradual approach to socio-political change by providing social services and the creation of professional syndicates among lawyers, doctors, engineers, academics, etc. The MB, however, reluctantly did allow for the formation of a covert militant entity, which soon began conducting militant attacks not authorized by al-Banna and the leadership.

Until the late 1940s, the MB was a legal entity in the country, but the monarchy began to view it as a major threat to its power, especially given its emphasis on freedom from the British and opposition to all those allied with the occupation forces. The MB was at the forefront of organizing strikes and nationalist rallies. It also participated, though unsuccessfully, in the 1945 elections.

While officially steering clear of any participation in World War II, the MB did align with Nazi Germany against the United Kingdom, which saw the movement become involved in militancy against the British. MB participation in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war further energized the militants. That same year, the covert militant entity within the movement assassinated a judge who had handed prison sentences to a MB member for attacking British troops.

It was at this point that the monarchy moved to disband the movement and the first large-scale arrests of its leadership took place. The crackdown on the MB allowed the militant elements the freedom to pursue their agenda unencumbered by the movement’s hierarchy. The assassination of then-Prime Minister Nokrashy Pasha at the hands of an MB militant proved to be a turning point in the movement’s history.

Al-Banna condemned the assassination and distanced the movement from the militants but he, too, was assassinated in 1949, allegedly by government agents. Al-Banna was replaced as general guide of the movement by a prominent judge, Hassan al-Hudaybi, who was not a member of the movement but held al-Banna in high regard. The appointment, which conflicted with the MB charter, created numerous internal problems and exacerbated the rift between the core movement and the militant faction.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government’s October 1951 decision to abrogate the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian treaty set off nationwide agitation against British rule. Armed clashes between British forces and Egyptians broke out. The MB’s militant faction took part while the core movement steered clear of the unrest. It was in the midst of this unrest that the 1952 coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser against the monarchy took place. The MB supported the coup, thinking they would be rewarded with a political share of the government. The cordial relationship between the new Free Officers regime and the MB did not last long, however, largely because the military regime did not want to share power with the MB and, like the monarchy, saw the MB as a threat to its nascent state.

Initially, the new regime abolished all political groups except the MB. The Nasser regime, in an attempt to manage the power of the MB, asked it to join the Liberation Rally — the first political vehicle created by the new state. Unsuccessful in its attempts to co-opt the MB, the Nasser regime began to exploit the internal differences within the movement, especially over the leadership of al-Hudaybi. The MB leader faced mounting criticism that he had converted the movement into an elite group that had reduced the movement to issuing statements and had taken advantage of the notion of obedience and loyalty to the leader to perpetuate his authoritarian hold. However, al-Hudaybi prevailed, and the MB disbanded the covert militant entity and expelled its members from the movement.

In 1954, the regime finally decided to outlaw the MB, accusing it of conspiring to topple the government and arresting many members and leaders, including al-Hudaybi. Meanwhile, the military regime ran into internal problems with Nasser locked in a power struggle with Gen. Muhammad Naguib, who was made the first president of the modern republic (1953-54). Nasser succeeded in getting the support of al-Hudaybi and the MB to deal with the internal rift in exchange for allowing the MB to operate legally and releasing its members.

The government reneged on its promises to release prisoners and the complex relationship between Nasser and al-Hudaybi further destabilized the MB from within, allowing for the militant faction to regain influence. The MB demanded the end of martial law and a restoration of parliamentary democracy. Cairo in the meantime announced a new treaty with London over the Suez Canal, which was criticized by the al-Hudaybi-led leadership as tantamount to making Egypt subservient to the United Kingdom.

This led to further police action against the movement and a campaign against its leadership in the official press. The Nasser government also tried to have al-Hudaybi removed as leader of the MB. Between the internal pressures and those from the regime, the movement had moved into a period of internal disarray.

The covert militant faction that was no longer under the control of the leadership because of the earlier expulsions saw the treaty as treasonous and the MB as unable to confront the regime, so it sought to escalate matters. Some members allegedly were involved in the assassination attempt on Nasser in October 1954, which allowed the regime to engage in the biggest crackdown on the MB in its history. Thousands of members including al-Hudaybi were sentenced to harsh prison terms and tortured.

It was during this period that another relative outsider in the movement, Sayyid Qutb, a literary figure and a civil servant, emerged as an influential ideologue of the group shortly after joining up. Qutb also experienced long periods of imprisonment and torture, which radicalized his views. He eventually called for the complete overthrow of the system. He wrote many treatises, but one in particular, “Milestones,” was extremely influential — not so much within the movement as among a new generation of more radical Islamists.

Qutb was executed in 1966 on charges of trying to topple the government, but his ideas inspired the founding of jihadism. Disenchanted with the MB ideology and its approach, a younger generation of extremely militant Islamists emerged. These elements, who would found the world’s first jihadist groups, saw the MB as having compromised on Islamic principles and accepted Western ideas. Further galvanizing this new breed of militant Islamists was the Arab defeat in the 1967 war with Israel and the MB’s formal renunciation of violence in 1970.

Anwar Sadat’s rise to power after Nasser’s death in 1970 helped the MB gain some reprieve in that Sadat gradually eased the restrictions on the movement — but retained the ban on it — and tried to use it to contain left-wing forces. After almost two decades of dealing with state repression, the MB had been overshadowed by more militant groups such as Tandheem al-Jihad and Gamaa al-Islamiyah, which had risen to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s. Close ties with Saudi Arabia, which sought to contain Nasserism, also helped the organization maintain itself.

While never legalized, the MB spent the years after Sadat’s rise trying to make use of the fact that the regime tolerated the movement to rebuild itself. Its historical legacy helped the MB maintain its status as the main Islamist movement, as well as its organizational structure and civil society presence. Furthermore, the regime of Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, was able to crush the jihadist groups by the late 1990s, and this also helped the MB regain its stature.

The MB thus went through different phases during the monarchy and the modern republic when it tried to balance its largely political activities with limited experiments with militancy, and there were several periods during which the state tried to suppress the MB. (The first such period was in the late 1940s, the second phase in the mid-1950s when the Nasser regime began to dismantle the MB and the third took place in the mid-1960s during the Qutbist years.)

24482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wesbury: Mark-to-market on: February 09, 2011, 07:38:46 AM
FASB Surrenders - America Wins To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/7/2011


If an accounting rule falls down and decays in the woods, and the business punditry and politicians completely ignore it, does it still have an impact on the economy?

The answer is YES. Especially when that rule is Mark-To-Market Accounting – aka: Fair Value Accounting. Everyone should breathe a huge sigh of relief…we are.
 
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) wanted to broaden the reach of its fair value accounting rules. Somehow it believes that marking everything to market (even when that market is illiquid) will somehow make the world a better and safer place. So, even after almost destroying the economy in 2008, FASB was pushing to have banks mark their loans – yes their loans – to a bid in the market place.
 
The good news, which went virtually un-reported on January 25, 2011, was that FASB surrendered on fair value accounting for loans. In the face of overwhelming opposition, banks will be allowed to carry loans on their books at amortized cost, reflecting cash flow (payments), as well as reasonable estimates of likely loan losses.
 
This decision is a huge win for the markets and the economy. Like the sword of Damacles, mark-to-market accounting has been hanging over the head of the economy. As long as it could be broadened, or brought back in the form it took in 2008, the risk of turning the next recession into a panic or even a depression was very real.
 
Most people don’t know this, but mark-to-market accounting played a role in the Great Depression. According to Milton Friedman (in his book The Great Contraction), fair value accounting was the predominant force for bank closures in the early stages of the Depression. These bank failures fed on themselves making the Depression worse.
 
In 1938, Franklin Roosevelt ended mark-to-market accounting and the economy recovered. There is absolutely no academic research on the role of MTM accounting in the Great Depression, but the more we study the issue the more convinced we become that it played a major role in that fiasco and the recovery from it.
 
One reason that its role is ignored is that government wants the story of economic crisis to be a simple one that blames business and praises government (or at least blames government for something that requires more government). Conventional wisdom blames a bubble in the stock market, greedy business people and a lack of government oversight for the Great Depression. This story-line led to the creation of the SEC and many other government agencies, programs and regulations.
 
Nothing has changed. Back in 2009, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill based on a flimsy theory of the crisis’s causes even before the report from The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. But that report would not have changed much policy anyway. On January 24, 2011 – the same week as FASB’s surrender - the FCIC said that the debacle was caused by a combination of stupid and unscrupulous business practices mixed with lax oversight by regulators. No surprise there.
 
Clearly, some people in the private sector made mistakes in assessing the riskiness of loans. That’s easy to see in hindsight. But, government’s role was much more detrimental than this, but was totally ignored by the FCIC majority.
 
A dissenting opinion was penned by Peter Wallison. He blames Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Community Reinvestment Act, and mark-to-market accounting for creating the crisis. We completely agree, but we would also add the policy of 1% interest rates by Alan Greenspan to the list.  If the federal funds rate would have been left at 3.5% or above, the bubble in housing would have likely never existed or would have been much, much smaller.
 
It was on March 9, 2009 that Barney Frank’s committee announced a hearing on fair value accounting. FASB was brought to the table and forced to correct its misguided rule. The stock market bottomed on that day and has virtually doubled since then. The recession was not ended by stimulus, TARP, regulations, PPIP, or any of the other alphabet soup government programs. It was ended by the correction of mark-to-market accounting. The risk of another Depression ended on that day and the economy and market have done nothing but move higher ever since.
 
With FASB finally giving in on the issue for good, the future looks a lot brighter than most people suspect. The accounting rule fell, it has been ignored by most, but the impact of that fall is very good for America.
24483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 09, 2011, 07:35:04 AM
FWIW I've always regarded O'Reilly as a bit of a mediocrity.  I grant the intimidating nature of interviewing an American President and I respected the way Bill opened the interview with praise for the State Dept's action on behalf of FOX's attacked reporters in Egypt.

Where Bill came up profoundly short though was in failing to directly question/disupte Obama on taxes and redistribution.

I agree with BD that BO came across well (partially enabled by O'Reilly's failure to challenge him on two whopping lies).  It appears that BO has gotten something out of his reads about President Reagan-- at least the parts about his personality.  Indeed IMHO the ultimate reason that BO beat McCain was that BO spoke in positives.  He is going to be a much more formidable opponent in 2012 for it.  If the Reps are not both shrewd and careful while being aggressive, they are going to get outplayed.
24484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And then came Reagan on: February 09, 2011, 07:27:17 AM
"It's hard for many people to remember just how discouraged many Americans felt in 1980. In the previous decade, the United States had suffered a humiliating loss of nerve, if not outright defeat, in Vietnam. We'd witnessed Soviet expansion in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central America. Fifty-two Americans were being held hostage in Iran -- for more than a year -- after attempts to rescue them had failed miserably, leaving eight American servicemen dead in the desert. The economy was in recession; mortgage rates were 13 percent and the prime rate went over 20 percent during the year; inflation was running at almost 14 percent and unemployment at 7.5 percent. Reagan gave Americans hope -- but he also changed the country, dramatically and quickly. His policies reined in inflation, allowed Americans to keep more of the money they earned, and helped create jobs in the private sector -- the largest peacetime expansion since World War II -- by lowering tax rates. But even more importantly, in my view, Reagan rebuilt the nation's defenses, helped stop the expansion of communism in our own hemisphere, and advanced the development of new weapons that made it impossible for the Soviets to keep up, which hastened the fall of the Soviet Union. ... Happy Birthday." --columnist Linda Chavez

24485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Planned Parenthood on: February 09, 2011, 07:25:39 AM
"This week, the Planned Parenthood abortion business was caught in the latest undercover video investigation -- this time helping two people representing themselves as sex-trafficking-ring operatives bent on getting abortions for the underage girls they victimize. ... It's one thing for pro-choice advocates to talk a good game about women's rights, but it's another for the day-to-day abortion activists to defend these videos to anyone watching as paid staffers help supposed sex-trafficking perpetrators secure abortions. Average Americans viewing the videos will be appalled to see supposed sex traffickers being shown how to get young, illegally imported girls back on the street to further the sex trade shortly after their abortions. They will be astonished to see how those acting as sex traffickers are directed by Planned Parenthood officials to another, shadier abortion center that will give them less grief about abortions on the young women. ... The power of the footage on-screen and the sick nature of the revelations the videos contain have the potential to continue to break the abortion debate wide open." --Steven Ertelt, editor of LifeNews.com
24486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coulter on: February 09, 2011, 07:24:00 AM


"[A]fter every multiple murder, liberals come up with some crackpot idea to 'do something' that invariably involves infringing on some aspect of our Second Amendment rights. ... In an open society that includes Sheriff Dumbnik and the ACLU, deranged individuals may explode into murder and mayhem now and then. The best we can do is enact policies that will reduce the death toll when these acts of carnage occur. There's only one policy of any kind that has ever been shown to deter mass murder: concealed-carry laws. In a comprehensive study of all public, multiple-shooting incidents in America between 1977 and 1999, the highly regarded economists John Lott and Bill Landes found that concealed-carry laws were the only laws that had any beneficial effect. And the effect was not small. States that allowed citizens to carry concealed handguns reduced multiple-shooting attacks by 60 percent and reduced the death and injury from these attacks by nearly 80 percent. When there are no armed citizens to stop mass murderers, the killers are able to shoot unabated, even pausing to reload their weapons, until they get bored and stop. ... Consider just the school shootings -- popular sites for mass murder because so many schools are 'gun-free zones.' Or, as mass murderers call them, 'free-fire zones.'" --columnist Ann Coulter
24487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The necessary and proper argument analyzed on: February 09, 2011, 07:21:35 AM
"Recognizing the vulnerability of relying on the Commerce Clause alone [to justify ObamaCare], the Obama administration in the Florida case shifted its emphasis to the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution. That clause empowers Congress to enact 'all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution' its enumerated powers. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly explained, the Necessary and Proper Clause does not expand the scope of Congress's enumerated powers. Instead, it gives Congress the ability to select among various means of exercising them. ... The Obama administration claimed that the individual mandate is a necessary and proper means of carrying out its reforms in the health-insurance market. These reforms include requiring insurers to offer coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, to extend coverage to dependents up to age 26, and to eliminate lifetime coverage caps. Because these reforms make health insurance more expensive, the government's lawyers claim that unless everyone is forced to buy health insurance, too many healthy people will sit on the market sidelines as 'free riders' until they become ill. So in order to make the 'reformed' health-insurance market work, it's necessary and proper to force everyone to buy insurance. Judge [Roger] Vinson flatly rejected the administration's attempt.... His decision acknowledges that, while reforming an insurance market is a regulation of commerce, Congress cannot artificially create its own 'free rider' crisis in the insurance market and then use that crisis to justify an otherwise unconstitutional mandate as 'necessary and proper' to save the market from collapse. This novel use of the Necessary and Proper Clause, if allowed to stand, would fundamentally transform our constitutional scheme from limited to unlimited federal power, narrowing the scope of individual liberty." --law professors Randy Barnett and Elizabeth Price Foley
24488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: February 09, 2011, 07:14:20 AM
a) FWIW IMHO the problems in which we find ourselves are not due not enough compromise by Republicans-- quite the contrary.

b) Given the results of his support for amnesty for illegal aliens (which I supported at the time) if he were still with us, I suspect were he with us today regarding current efforts I suspect he would be saying something like "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."
=======
Patriot Post

"His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. He was indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man." --Thomas Jefferson on George Washington

The Gipper

Happy Birthday to the Gipper"I never thought of myself as a great man, just a man committed to great ideas. I've always believed that individuals should take priority over the state. History has taught me that this is what sets America apart -- not to remake the world in our image, but to inspire people everywhere with a sense of their own boundless possibilities. There's no question I am an idealist, which is another way of saying I am an American." --Ronald Reagan

Opinion in Brief
"It's been more than six years since our nation bid farewell to Ronald Reagan, born 100 years ago [yesterday]. Yet at times it seems as though he never left. ... It's worth reminding ourselves as we mark the centennial of Reagan's birth what he accomplished -- and how. It's important to do this in part because much of what passes for praise of Reagan is veiled criticism. Reagan is hailed, for example, as a great communicator. And with good reason; few politicians could match his rhetorical skill and his ability to articulate great themes that resonated with the American people. But that's where many on the Left stop. What they really seek to emulate is not his policies or his agenda. They hope that, by studying his methods, a little of his 'magic' will rub off on the liberal policies that have proven such a hard sell over the last two years. Dress the liberal agenda in 'Reaganesque' terms, and the electorate is yours, right? What condescending nonsense. It wasn't just Reagan's ability to communicate that endeared him to millions of Americans. It was the fact that he was articulating their most deeply cherished beliefs. It went well beyond the optimistic outlook -- which, although welcome, is something any president can attempt. It was because he spoke in direct terms that avoided the usual 'buzzword' approach we get from Washington. And he used that approach to say what many Americans thought: Taxes are too high -- let's cut them. Inflation is too high -- let's tame it. The Cold War can be won, not managed, and the world made safer for everybody -- let's do it. The fable of the Left (the hard Left, anyway -- many others are coming around) is that this was all smoke and mirrors. But the facts tell a different story." --Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner

Political Futures
"The only good conservative is a dead conservative. That, in a nutshell, describes the age-old tradition of liberals suddenly discovering that once-reviled conservatives were OK after all. It's just we-the-living who are hateful ogres, troglodytes and moperers. Over the last decade or so, as the giants of the founding generation of modern American conservatism have died, each has been rehabilitated into a gentleman-statesman of a bygone era of conservative decency and open-mindedness. ... But it's Ronald Reagan who really stands out. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Gipper is enjoying yet another status upgrade among liberals. Barack Obama took a Reagan biography with him on his vacation. A slew of liberals and mainstream journalists (but I repeat myself) complimented Obama's State of the Union address as 'Reaganesque.' Time magazine recently featured the cover story 'Why Obama (Hearts) Reagan.' ... Now, on one hand, there's something wonderful about the overflowing of love for Reagan. When presidents leave office or die, their partisan affiliation fades and, for the great ones, eventually withers away. Reagan was a truly great president, one of the greatest according to even liberal historians like the late John Patrick Diggins. As you can tell from the gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth from the far left, the lionization of Reagan is a great triumph for the right, and conservatives should welcome more of it. On the other hand, what is not welcome is an almost Soviet airbrushing of the past to serve liberalism's current agenda." --columnist Jonah Goldberg

24489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Carrier-capable killer drones on: February 09, 2011, 06:59:03 AM
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/navys-killer-drone-takes-off-targets-2013-carrier-test/


America’s fleet of 11 big-deck aircraft carriers just got a lot closer to becoming a lot more dangerous. On Friday afternoon, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B, a prototype for the Navy’s first carrier-capable killer drone, flew for the first time from Edwards Air Force Base in California.
“Taking off under hazy skies, the X-47B climbed to an altitude of 5,000 feet, flew several racetrack-type patterns, and landed safely at 2:38 PM PST,” Northrop crowed in a press release. “The flight provided test data to verify and validate system software for guidance and navigation, and the aerodynamic control of the tailless design.”

“Designing a tailless, fighter-sized unmanned aircraft from a clean sheet is no small feat,” Northrop veep Janis Pamiljans added. While omitting a plane’s tail makes it way more stealthy, it also makes it harder to control.

If Northrop and the Navy can prove the X-47 works over the planned, three-year demonstration program, combat-ready X-47s could begin flying off carrier decks before the end of the decade.

The benefits are clear. With far greater range than the Navy’s existing F/A-18 strike fighters, the X-47 would allow Navy carrier groups to sail farther from shore when launching air strikes, helping protect the priceless vessels from the increasingly dangerous anti-ship missiles being fielded by nations such as China. The X-47 would also be able to sneak through the defensive umbrella of today’s “Triple-Digit” anti-aircraft missiles.

For these reasons, the X-47 could prove “among the most fungible and useful platforms in America’s future defense portfolio,” Navy undersecretary Bob Work wrote in 2007, back when he was still a lowly analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C.


Despite its enormous potential, the X-47 almost didn’t make it this far. The triangular drone was originally designed back in the early 2000s for the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System competition, which pitted the Northrop bot versus Boeing’s similar X-45. The winner would have joined the Navy and the Air Force. But in 2005, the Air Force abandoned the contest, and the X-47 and X-45 both wound up orphaned.

Thanks in part to Work’s lobbying, the Navy agreed to continue work on the X-47. (The X-45 survived, too, as a Boeing-funded effort.) As confidence in the new killer drone increased, so did the scope of — and funding for — its test program. In January, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates singled out the X-47 and other Navy drones as beneficiaries of billions of dollars in budgetary shifts.

Which isn’t to say the whole Navy is on board. Last month, Navy Vice Adm. Mark Fox told reporters he was skeptical that drones would be ready for carrier operations anytime soon. “Anything that takes off and lands on an aircraft carrier has to be pretty robust,” he said. “You test something in the desert and it works great. But the maritime world is a harsh and unforgiving environment.”

Plus, Fox added, “there’s still an enormous amount of merit in having somebody in the cockpit making decisions about whether you employ ordnance or not.”

But Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, Fox’s boss, calls the shots — and he said last fall that he wanted the X-47 or a similar drone on carriers before 2018. That’s probably just do-able under the current schedule, which sees the X-47 fly off a carrier and refuel mid-air by 2013.

Even so, Roughead agrees with Fox on one key point: the Navy still needs old-school manned fighters, too — specifically, the F-35C variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. “As rapidly as we want to engage with the unmanned system on carriers,” Roughead said, “we’re also moving forward with JSF.”


24490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: February 09, 2011, 06:41:58 AM
Well, so much for my occasionally reliable source's theory , , , cheesy
24491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / day by day cartoon on: February 09, 2011, 12:38:26 AM
http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2011/01/02/
24492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 09, 2011, 12:26:35 AM
These interest rates are still well below the rate of inflation-- and if we add tax considerations into the calculation the rates are even more negative in real terms.

At these rates, working from memory here, we are currently paying something like 1/8 of our tax revenues on interest payments on the national debt.  Double interest rates i.e. take them up to something like zero or slightly positive in real terms, and the contradictions of what we are doing are going to become a lot more apparent.  Take them into normal positive range and , , ,
24493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Friedman on: February 08, 2011, 04:58:19 PM
Egypt, Israel and a Strategic Reconsideration
February 8, 2011


By George Friedman

The events in Egypt have sent shock waves through Israel. The 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel have been the bedrock of Israeli national security. In three of the four wars Israel fought before the accords, a catastrophic outcome for Israel was conceivable. In 1948, 1967 and 1973, credible scenarios existed in which the Israelis were defeated and the state of Israel ceased to exist. In 1973, it appeared for several days that one of those scenarios was unfolding.

The survival of Israel was no longer at stake after 1978. In the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the various Palestinian intifadas and the wars with Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in Gaza in 2008, Israeli interests were involved, but not survival. There is a huge difference between the two. Israel had achieved a geopolitical ideal after 1978 in which it had divided and effectively made peace with two of the four Arab states that bordered it, and neutralized one of those states. The treaty with Egypt removed the threat to the Negev and the southern coastal approaches to Tel Aviv.

The agreement with Jordan in 1994, which formalized a long-standing relationship, secured the longest and most vulnerable border along the Jordan River. The situation in Lebanon was such that whatever threat emerged from there was limited. Only Syria remained hostile but, by itself, it could not threaten Israel. Damascus was far more focused on Lebanon anyway. As for the Palestinians, they posed a problem for Israel, but without the foreign military forces along the frontiers, the Palestinians could trouble but not destroy Israel. Israel’s existence was not at stake, nor was it an issue for 33 years.

The Historic Egyptian Threat to Israel
The center of gravity of Israel’s strategic challenge was always Egypt. The largest Arab country, with about 80 million people, Egypt could field the most substantial army. More to the point, Egypt could absorb casualties at a far higher rate than Israel. The danger that the Egyptian army posed was that it could close with the Israelis and engage in extended, high-intensity combat that would break the back of the Israel Defense Forces by imposing a rate of attrition that Israel could not sustain. If Israel were to be simultaneously engaged with Syria, dividing its forces and its logistical capabilities, it could run out of troops long before Egypt, even if Egypt were absorbing far more casualties.

The solution for the Israelis was to initiate combat at a time and place of their own choosing, preferably with surprise, as they did in 1956 and 1967. Failing that, as they did in 1973, the Israelis would be forced into a holding action they could not sustain and forced onto an offensive in which the risks of failure — and the possibility — would be substantial.

It was to the great benefit of Israel that Egyptian forces were generally poorly commanded and trained and that Egyptian war-fighting doctrine, derived from Britain and the Soviet Union, was not suited to the battle problem Israel posed. In 1967, Israel won its most complete victory over Egypt, as well as Jordan and Syria. It appeared to the Israelis that the Arabs in general and Egyptians in particular were culturally incapable of mastering modern warfare.

Thus it was an extraordinary shock when, just six years after their 1967 defeat, the Egyptians mounted a two-army assault across the Suez, coordinated with a simultaneous Syrian attack on the Golan Heights. Even more stunning than the assault was the operational security the Egyptians maintained and the degree of surprise they achieved. One of Israel’s fundamental assumptions was that Israeli intelligence would provide ample warning of an attack. And one of the fundamental assumptions of Israeli intelligence was that Egypt could not mount an attack while Israel maintained air superiority. Both assumptions were wrong. But the most important error was the assumption that Egypt could not, by itself, coordinate a massive and complex military operation. In the end, the Israelis defeated the Egyptians, but at the cost of the confidence they achieved in 1967 and a recognition that comfortable assumptions were impermissible in warfare in general and regarding Egypt in particular.

The Egyptians had also learned lessons. The most important was that the existence of the state of Israel did not represent a challenge to Egypt’s national interest. Israel existed across a fairly wide and inhospitable buffer zone — the Sinai Peninsula. The logistical problems involved in deploying a massive force to the east had resulted in three major defeats, while the single partial victory took place on much shorter lines of supply. Holding or taking the Sinai was difficult and possible only with a massive infusion of weapons and supplies from the outside, from the Soviet Union. This meant that Egypt was a hostage to Soviet interests. Egypt had a greater interest in breaking its dependency on the Soviets than in defeating Israel. It could do the former more readily than the latter.



(click here to enlarge image)
The Egyptian recognition that its interests in Israel were minimal and the Israeli recognition that eliminating the potential threat from Egypt guaranteed its national security have been the foundation of the regional balance since 1978. All other considerations — Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and the rest — were trivial in comparison. Geography — the Sinai — made this strategic distancing possible. So did American aid to Egypt. The substitution of American weapons for Soviet ones in the years after the treaty achieved two things. First, they ended Egypt’s dependency on the Soviets. Second, they further guaranteed Israel’s security by creating an Egyptian army dependent on a steady flow of spare parts and contractors from the United States. Cut the flow and the Egyptian army would be crippled.

The governments of Anwar Sadat and then Hosni Mubarak were content with this arrangement. The generation that came to power with Gamal Nasser had fought four wars with Israel and had little stomach for any more. They had proved themselves in October 1973 on the Suez and had no appetite to fight again or to send their sons to war. It is not that they created an oasis of prosperity in Egypt. But they no longer had to go to war every few years, and they were able, as military officers, to live good lives. What is now regarded as corruption was then regarded as just rewards for bleeding in four wars against the Israelis.

Mubarak and the Military
But now is 33 years later, and the world has changed. The generation that fought is very old. Today’s Egyptian military trains with the Americans, and its officers pass through the American command and staff and war colleges. This generation has close ties to the United States, but not nearly as close ties to the British-trained generation that fought the Israelis or to Egypt’s former patrons, the Russians. Mubarak has locked the younger generation, in their fifties and sixties, out of senior command positions and away from the wealth his generation has accumulated. They want him out.

For this younger generation, the idea of Gamal Mubarak being allowed to take over the presidency was the last straw. They wanted the elder Mubarak to leave not only because he had ambitions for his son but also because he didn’t want to leave after more than a quarter century of pressure. Mubarak wanted guarantees that, if he left, his possessions, in addition to his honor, would remain intact. If Gamal could not be president, then no one’s promise had value. So Mubarak locked himself into position.

The cameras love demonstrations, but they are frequently not the real story. The demonstrators who wanted democracy are a real faction, but they don’t speak for the shopkeepers and peasants more interested in prosperity than wealth. Since Egypt is a Muslim country, the West freezes when anything happens, dreading the hand of Osama bin Laden. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was once a powerful force, and it might become one again someday, but right now it is a shadow of its former self. What is going on now is a struggle within the military, between generations, for the future of the Egyptian military and therefore the heart of the Egyptian regime. Mubarak will leave, the younger officers will emerge, the constitution will make some changes and life will continue.

The Israelis will return to their complacency. They should not. The usual first warning of a heart attack is death. Among the fortunate, it is a mild coronary followed by a dramatic change of life style. The events in Egypt should be taken as a mild coronary and treated with great relief by Israel that it wasn’t worse.

Reconsidering the Israeli Position
I have laid out the reasons why the 1978 treaty is in Egypt’s national interest. I have left out two pieces. The first is ideology. The ideological tenor of the Middle East prior to 1978 was secular and socialist. Today it is increasingly Islamist. Egypt is not immune to this trend, even if the Muslim Brotherhood should not be seen as the embodiment of that threat. Second, military technology, skills and terrain have made Egypt a defensive power for the past 33 years. But military technology and skills can change, on both sides. Egyptian defensiveness is built on assumptions of Israeli military capability and interest. As Israeli ideology becomes more militant and as its capabilities grow, Egypt may be forced to reconsider its strategic posture. As new generations of officers arise, who have heard of war only from their grandfathers, the fear of war declines and the desire for glory grows. Combine that with ideology in Egypt and Israel and things change. They won’t change quickly — a generation of military transformation will be needed once regimes have changed and the decisions to prepare for war have been made — but they can change.

Two things from this should strike the Israelis. The first is how badly they need peace with Egypt. It is easy to forget what things were like 40 years back, but it is important to remember that the prosperity of Israel today depends in part on the treaty with Egypt. Iran is a distant abstraction, with a notional bomb whose completion date keeps moving. Israel can fight many wars with Egypt and win. It need lose only one. The second lesson is that Israel should do everything possible to make certain that the transfer of power in Egypt is from Mubarak to the next generation of military officers and that these officers maintain their credibility in Egypt. Whether Israel likes it or not, there is an Islamist movement in Egypt. Whether the new generation controls that movement as the previous one did or whether they succumb to it is the existential question for Israel. If the treaty with Egypt is the foundation of Israel’s national security, it is logical that the Israelis should do everything possible to preserve it.

This was not the fatal heart attack. It might not even have been more than indigestion. But recent events in Egypt point to a long-term problem with Israeli strategy. Given the strategic and ideological crosscurrents in Egypt, it is in Israel’s national interest to minimize the intensity of the ideological and make certain that Israel is not perceived as a threat. In Gaza, for example, Israel and Egypt may have shared a common interest in containing Hamas, and the next generation of Egyptian officers may share it as well. But what didn’t materialize in the streets this time could in the future: an Islamist rising. In that case, the Egyptian military might find it in its interest to preserve its power by accommodating the Islamists. At this point, Egypt becomes the problem and not part of the solution.

Keeping Egypt from coming to this is the imperative of military dispassion. If the long-term center of gravity of Israel’s national security is at least the neutrality of Egypt, then doing everything to maintain that is a military requirement. That military requirement must be carried out by political means. That requires the recognition of priorities. The future of Gaza or the precise borders of a Palestinian state are trivial compared to preserving the treaty with Egypt. If it is found that a particular political strategy undermines the strategic requirement, then that political strategy must be sacrificed.

In other words, the worst-case scenario for Israel would be a return to the pre-1978 relationship with Egypt without a settlement with the Palestinians. That would open the door for a potential two-front war with an intifada in the middle. To avoid that, the ideological pressure on Egypt must be eased, and that means a settlement with the Palestinians on less-than-optimal terms. The alternative is to stay the current course and let Israel take its chances. The question is where the greater safety lies. Israel has assumed that it lies with confrontation with the Palestinians. That’s true only if Egypt stays neutral. If the pressure on the Palestinians destabilizes Egypt, it is not the most prudent course.

There are those in Israel who would argue that any release in pressure on the Palestinians will be met with rejection. If that is true, then, in my view, that is catastrophic news for Israel. In due course, ideological shifts and recalculations of Israeli intentions will cause a change in Egyptian policy. This will take several decades to turn into effective military force, and the first conflicts may well end in Israeli victory. But, as I have said before, it must always be remembered that no matter how many times Israel wins, it need only lose once to be annihilated.

To some it means that Israel should remain as strong as possible. To me it means that Israel should avoid rolling the dice too often, regardless of how strong it thinks it is. The Mubarak affair might open a strategic reconsideration of the Israeli position.

24494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 08, 2011, 04:30:39 PM
Thank you for the clarification and citation.
24495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 08, 2011, 04:20:45 PM
As best as I can tell, it would make sense to limit the democratic process to those that believe in it.  Put the MB on the spot with their words elevating theocracy above democracy.
24496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 08, 2011, 03:44:24 PM
Sorry, I am not clear here.  Was it Bush or BO who slimed the Brits?
24497  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies/TV of interest on: February 08, 2011, 03:39:00 PM
No worries I am sure.  I was once embarassed to discover that I had been misspelling his last name for years without him telling me cheesy

Changing subjects:  Spartacus keeps getting better and better.  This weeks episode was AWESOME!
24498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Magnetic polar shifts? on: February 08, 2011, 02:53:25 PM
Forwarded to me by an occasionally reliable source-- but it does have a plausible ring to it.  Any comments from our educated folk here?
===================

Magnetic polar shifts causing massive global superstorms?
by Terrence Aym

NASA has been warning about it…scientific papers have been written about  it
…geologists have seen its traces in rock strata and ice core  samples…

Now "it" is here: an unstoppable magnetic pole shift that has sped up and 
is causing life-threatening havoc with the world's weather.

Forget about global warming—man-made or natural—what drives planetary 
weather patterns is the climate and what drives the climate is the sun's 
magnetosphere and its electromagnetic interaction with a planet's own magnetic 
field.

When the field shifts, when it fluctuates, when it goes into flux and 
begins to become unstable anything can happen.
 
And what normally happens is that all hell breaks loose.

Magnetic polar shifts have occurred many times in Earth's history.
 
It's happening again now to every planet in the solar system including 
Earth.

The magnetic field drives weather to a significant degree and when that 
field starts migrating superstorms start erupting.

The superstorms have arrived

The first evidence we have that the dangerous superstorm cycle has  started
is the devastating series of storms that pounded the UK during late  2010.

On the heels of the lashing the British Isles sustained, monster storms 
began to pummel North America. The latest superstorm—as of this writing—is a 
monster over the U.S. that stretched across 2,000 miles affecting more than
150  million people.

Yet even as that storm wreaked havoc across the Western, Southern, 
Midwestern and Northeastern states, another superstorm broke out in the Pacific 
and closed in on Australia.

The southern continent had already dealt with the disaster of historic 
superstorm flooding from rains that dropped as much as several feet in a matter
 of hours. Tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed. After the
deluge  bull sharks were spotted swimming between houses in what was once
the quiet town  of Goodna.

Shocked authorities now numbly concede that some of the water may never 
dissipate and have wearily resigned themselves to the possibility that region 
will now contain a small inland sea.

But then only a handful of weeks later another superstorm—the mega-monster 
cyclone Yasi—struck northeastern Australia. The damage it left in its wake
is  being called by rescue workers a war zone.

The incredible superstorm packed winds near 190mph. Although labeled as a 
category-5 cyclone, it was theoretically a category-6. The reason for that
is  storms with winds of 155mph are considered category-5, yet Yasi was
almost 22  percent stronger than that.

A cat's cradle

Yet Yasi may only be a foretaste of future superstorms.
 
Some climate researchers, monitoring the rapidly shifting magnetic field, 
are predicting superstorms in the future with winds as high as 300 to 
400mph.

Such storms would totally destroy anything they came into contact with  on
land.

The possibility more storms like Yasi or worse will wreak havoc on our 
civilization and resources is found in the complicated electromagnetic 
relationship between the sun and Earth. The synergistic tug-of-war has been 
compared by some to an intricately constructed cat's cradle. And it's in a 
constant state of flux.
The sun's dynamic, ever-changing electric  magnetosphere interfaces with
the Earth's own magnetic field affecting, to a  degree, the Earth's rotation,
precessional wobble, dynamics of the planet's  core, its ocean currents and—
above all else—the weather.

Cracks in Earth's Magnetic Shield

The Earth's northern magnetic pole was moving towards Russia at a rate  of
about five miles annually. That progression to the East had been happening 
for decades.

Suddenly, in the past decade the rate sped up. Now the magnetic pole is 
shifting East at a rate of 40 miles annually, an increase of 800 percent. And
it  continues to accelerate.

Recently, as the magnetic field fluctuates, NASA has discovered  "cracks"
in it. This is worrisome as it significantly affects the ionosphere, 
troposphere wind patterns, and atmospheric moisture. All three things have an 
effect on the weather.

Worse, what shields the planet from cancer-causing radiation is the 
magnetic field. It acts as a shield deflecting harmful ultra-violet, X-rays and 
other life-threatening radiation from bathing the surface of the Earth. With
the  field weakening and cracks emerging, the death rate from cancer could
skyrocket  and mutations of DNA can become rampant.

Another federal agency, NOAA, issued a report caused a flurry of panic 
when they predicted that mammoth superstorms in the future could wipe out most 
of California. The NOAA scientists said it's a plausible scenario and would
be  driven by an "atmospheric river" moving water at the same rate as 50
Mississippi  rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Magnetic field may dip, flip and disappear

The Economist wrote a detailed article about the magnetic field and  what's
happening to it. In the article they noted:

"There is, however, a growing body of evidence that the Earth's  magnetic
field is about to disappear, at least for a while. The geological  record
shows that it flips from time to time, with the south pole becoming the  north,
and vice versa. On average, such reversals take place every 500,000  years,
but there is no discernible pattern. Flips have happened as close  together
as 50,000 years, though the last one was 780,000 years ago. But, as 
discussed at the Greenland Space Science Symposium, held in Kangerlussuaq this 
week, the signs are that another flip is coming soon."

Discussing the magnetic polar shift and the impact on weather, the 
scholarly paper "Weather and the Earth's magnetic field" was published in the 
journal Nature. Scientists too are very concerned about the increasing danger of
 superstorms and the impact on humanity.

Superstorms will not only damage agriculture across the planet leading  to
famines and mass starvation, they will also change coastlines, destroy
cities  and create tens of millions of homeless.

Superstorms can also cause certain societies, cultures or whole countries 
to collapse. Others may go to war with each other.

A Danish study published in the scientific journal Geology, found  strong
correlation between climate change, weather patterns and the magnetic  field.

"The earth's climate has been significantly affected by the planet's 
magnetic field, according to a Danish study published Monday that could 
challenge the notion that human emissions are responsible for global  warming.

"'Our results show a strong correlation between the strength of the 
earth's magnetic field and the amount of precipitation in the tropics,' one of 
the two Danish geophysicists behind the study, Mads Faurschou Knudsen of the 
geology department at Aarhus University in western Denmark, told the
Videnskab  journal.
"He and his colleague Peter Riisager, of the Geological Survey of  Denmark
and Greenland (GEUS), compared a reconstruction of the prehistoric  magnetic
field 5,000 years ago based on data drawn from stalagmites and  stalactites
found in China and Oman."

In the scientific paper "Midday magnetopause shifts earthward of 
geosynchronous orbit during geomagnetic superstorms with Dst = -300 nT" the  magnetic
intensity of solar storms impacting Earth can intensify the effects of  the
polar shift and also speed up the frequency of the emerging  superstorms.

Possible magnetic pole reversal may also be initiating new Ice  Age

According to some geologists and scientists, we have left the last 
interglacial period behind us. Those periods are lengths of time—about 11,500  years
—between major Ice Ages.

One of the most stunning signs of the approaching Ice Age is what's 
happened to the Chandler wobble.

The Earth's wobble has  stopped.

As explained in the geology and space science website 
earthchangesmedia.com, "The Chandler wobble was first discovered back in 1891 by  Seth Carlo
Chandler an American astronomer. The effect causes the Earth's poles  to move
in an irregular circle of 3 to 15 meters in diameter in an oscillation.  The
Earth's Wobble has a 7-year cycle which produces two extremes, a small 
spiraling wobble circle and a large spiraling wobble circle, about 3.5 years 
apart.

"The Earth was in October 2005 moving into the small spiraling circle  (the
MIN phase of the wobble), which should have slowly unfolded during 2006 and
 the first few months of 2007. (Each spiraling circle takes about 14
months). But  suddenly at the beginning of November 2005, the track of the
location of the  spin axis veered at a very sharp right angle to its circling
motion.

"The track of the spin axis began to slow down and by about January 8, 
2006, it ceased nearly all relative motion on the x and y coordinates which are
 used to define the daily changing location of the spin axis."

And the Earth stopped wobbling—exactly as predicted as another strong sign 
of an imminent Ice Age.

So, the start of a new Ice Age is marked by a magnetic pole reversal, 
increased volcanic activity, larger and more frequent earthquakes, tsunamis, 
colder winters, superstorms and the halting of the Chandler  wobble.
Unfortunately, all of those conditions are being met.

http://www.helium.com/items/2083868-magnetic-polar-shifts-causing-massive-gl
obal-superstorms/print

 


24499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: February 08, 2011, 02:16:18 PM
It would have been nice if the article had bothered to mention the history of the politicization (sp?) of all this which IMHO the Dems deserve the substantial majority of the credit.  Also it would have been nice if the article had bothered to delve into what kind of people Obama, who IMO is a genuine radical when it comes to Constitutional Law (see his Chicago Public Radio interview of 2003 or so for a hair-raising glimpse at just how radical he is) is nominating.  Oh well, tis Pravda on the Potomac reporting, so no surprise.
24500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: February 08, 2011, 02:08:12 PM
My personal favorite is Aretha Franklin's rendition preceding Thomas Hearns fighting for (and winning) the Light Heavy Weight title from Dennis Andries in Detroit.
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