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24551  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: June 17, 2011, 07:54:43 PM
Just spoke with Night Owl.  He tells me it should be going up tonight.
24552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism, socialism: on: June 17, 2011, 07:30:54 PM
 shocked shocked shocked

That certainly conflicts with my first impression of the school.  I was a high school senior dating a woman about to graduate.  I would ditch school and go up to Columbia and she and I would have great sex all day long, then I would go home. grin grin grin

More seriously now, although I graduated from Columbia Law School, which in some circles is a fairly prestigious thing, there have been so many anti-patriotic liberal fascist things that I have seen coming out of the various schools at Columbia that I no longer feel pride in it.  cry
24553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: June 17, 2011, 07:25:45 PM
My first reaction is that IMHO the ratings agencies acted with spectacular recklessness and that I have no problem with this.
24554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pak culture on: June 17, 2011, 11:43:52 AM
From a friend unusually seasoned in the ways of the world:

I had dinner with a friend last night, who is in town taking pre-deployment training to Pakistan.  Either yesterday or the day before, the class had a guy from Pakistan speak to the class about culture over there.  My friend talked about two things the Pakistani gentleman (PG) spoke about that I thought pariculary interesting.

First, the concept that there must always be a winner and a loser, and it essentially must be then and there.  The example the PG gave was a car accident.  He said that in America two people can get in a cars accident, pull over, exchange info, and move on knowing the matter will get sorted out.  Not so in Pakistan.  There must be a guilty party who admits guilt/responsibility right then and there.  In other words, there must be a winner and a loser.

Secondly, the concept of an honor culture.  Not a real surpise to many of us, but perhaps the extreme to which it is critical is the point the speaker tried to make.  A Pakistani simply must maintain his honor, and never be seen to lose face, no matter the consequences.  If they lose their honor, they "can't go back home."  This results in actions that we would find hard to fathom why somebody would engage in because the consequences will be certain and severe.  But no matter.  If the alternative is losing honor/face, then the dire consequences route is the preferred option. It may not be logical, but that will not matter.  Again, the point the speaker was making was just how extremely critical honor is to Pakistanis.
24555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Analysis of Greece/PIGS crisis on: June 17, 2011, 10:25:30 AM
By John H. Cochrane And Anil Kashyap
Greek debt is in trouble—again. After a month of dickering, it seems likely that the International Monetary Fund and the European Union will agree to roll over Greece's debt so bondholders will be paid in full. Why is Europe so terrified of letting bondholders bear some of the risk that comes with high yields?

The answer is that most of those bondholders are banks. If Greece defaults, then important French and German banks will be in deep trouble. Even a small rescheduling would force the banks to admit their losses.

If Greece is allowed to default, reschedule or abandon its restructuring, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy may soon follow. This scenario is beyond the EU's bailout capability. And it would leave the European financial system in shambles, because, again, the banks are holding that debt.

There are four key facts to recognize:

First, the Greek government has borrowed more than it can plausibly afford to pay and certainly more than it will choose to pay. It now owes more than one and a half years' economic output. The reforms necessary to produce strong economic growth and drastically cut spending are very unlikely.

Keep in mind, Greece is not being bailed out. Greece's bondholders are being bailed out. Greece would rather default. Cleared of its debts, it would likely be able to borrow again soon.

Financial markets have figured this out. As of yesterday, it cost $182 per year to insure $1,000 five-year Greek debt, implying a 63% probability of total loss in five years. Yes, the write-down is inevitable.

Second, European banks are holding the bag. This week the Moody's rating agency put three large French banks under review for a potential downgrade because of their Greek exposure. Beyond direct exposure, banks throughout Europe lend to each other and write insurance against sovereign defaults. Even U.S. prime money market funds are indirectly exposed.

One would think that wise regulators would have required hefty capital against sovereign lending, or lending to other banks whose main investments are Greek debt. One would think that given a full year, those regulators would have at least increased the capital requirements for sovereign debt, run serious stress tests against sovereign default, or forced banks to buy credit-default swap insurance from counterparties other than Greek banks. But one would be wrong. (This is a sobering lesson for the U.S.'s plan under Dodd-Frank to trust that our wise regulators will spot all dangers, require adequate capital, and keep banks from getting into trouble.)

Third, the European Central Bank (ECB) is now involved as well. It started buying secondary-market Greek debt last May. The ECB has now lent in excess of 80 billion euros to Greek banks, replacing private funding that has run away, and typically receiving Greek government debt as collateral.

If there is even a minor credit event, the ECB could no longer legally take that collateral. If Greece defaults and Greek banks fail, the ECB is stuck with junk collateral. This explains why ECB President Jean Claude Trichet insists that there must be "no credit event, no selective default."

Fourth, in the end this is all about Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. If Greece were the only country in trouble, it would have been allowed to default. European governments would have plugged the holes in their banks, bailing out those deemed "too big to fail" and reorganizing the others so that deposit and lending operations continue unimpeded. After all, Greece is small.

But Spain, Portugal and Italy are also experiencing slow growth, high unemployment, and have unpopular governments with limited ability or desire to implement reforms. The banks in each of these countries are chock full of their government's debt. Other euro-area banks are lending to them, indirectly taking on additional exposure. And the ECB is full in, holding their sovereign debt and lending vast amounts of money to their banks, taking sovereign debt as collateral.

Germany would like banks to roll over their Greek debt. But Greece cannot possibly pay 17% interest rates for 10 years. So if banks roll over debt at market rates, Greece's eventual default is ensured. Banks cannot roll over at low rates without enduring huge losses. Thus, the only way to get banks to "voluntarily" roll over the debt is by letting them carry the debt at artificial "hold to maturity" valuations, which leaves the danger to the financial system.

Germany knows it's likely to bear the brunt of bailouts. The German sentiment that bondholders should bear risk is nice. Alas, the chance to do that is passing quickly. All the private bondholders will soon have cashed in their debt, and only the ECB, IMF, governments and government-guaranteed banks are left.

So what to do? Prepare for the worst. Europe needs to expunge the rot from its banks so that the inevitable write-downs do not imperil its financial system. Sovereign debt and sovereign exposure must face large capital buffers. Sovereign debt must be marked to market. Banks must run serious stress tests to find implicit sovereign exposure. Banks with inadequate capital must raise it, find buyers, or reorganize. If that means bailouts of "systemically important" banks, then governments must do so, face their taxpayers, and make their regulators explain how they let this happen.

Sovereign defaults often follow financial crises. But with a more proactive policy, any European sovereign defaults need not create a second financial crisis.

Messrs. Cochrane and Kashyap are professors of economics and finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

24556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Three months later on: June 17, 2011, 10:07:27 AM
http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/06/japan_three_months_after_the_q.html
24557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SEC might bring civil fraud charges against ratings agencies! on: June 17, 2011, 09:55:07 AM
The SEC just might bring civil fraud
charges<http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303499204576389973019552548.html>
against
ratings agencies for their role in the financial crisis. Regulators are
focusing on whether S&P and Moody's failed to adequately rate the subprime
mortgages that underpinned mortgage-bond deals.
David

24558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: June 17, 2011, 09:22:51 AM
Quote
1) The ONLY way Fast & Furious makes sense is as a direct attack on the Second Amendment. Otherwise, it makes no sense at all. The idea of "rolling up" a firearms trafficking ring is nonsense. If that had been the intent, it would have been a joint operation with the Mexican government. It wasn't...in fact, ATF went to some length to keep the Mexicans in the dark.

2) The idea of getting a gunrunning indictment against any of the cartel heads is equal nonsense. A gunrunning indictment? Against men that are, in effect, men with standing death warrants on their heads, mass murderers with their own private armies? Wow, they'd be shaking in their boots!

3) Fast & Furious worked exactly as the ATF and the people holding its strings -- the Department of Justice and probably Homeland -- planned for it to work. That is, it put demonstrably made-in-America, sold-in-America guns at Mexican crime scenes, waiting for the largely inept, totally corrupt Mexican law enforcement to find them, submit them to the US for tracing and shout loudly that they had found the literal "smoking gun," that American gun shops/shows were flooding Mexico with arms. That's why supervisors were "jovial, if not giddy" when the first Gunwalker guns began turning up at Mexican crime scenes...it was working!

4) I think ATF believed it had enough regulatory juice to keep the gun stores involved from talking, or if not keeping them from talking demonizing them, and maybe driving them out of business, if they did.
EDN QUOTE

Exactly so.  On the other hand, this is claptrap:

"It's hardly a secret that I don't think much of the failed narco-state of Mexico, a country of peasants that has allowed a series of blowhard morons turn their country in something resembling one of the rings of hell."  Given the ongoing destruction of this country, a whole bunch more of humility would be in line.
24559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bret Baier Report on: June 16, 2011, 11:49:55 PM
BTW Fox's Bret Baier Report, a genuine news show, is beginning to give the ATF Gun Running Story some ongoing coverage.  Looks like they may have been amongst the lurkers here  grin
24560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: June 16, 2011, 11:48:02 PM
BTW, count Fox's Bret Baier (for whom I have genuine respect, unlike many of the Barbie and Ken dolls that populate some of Fox's shows) as amongst the readers of this forum and indeed, this thread.  Tonight he reported on the possibility that a decrease in Solar Flares could results in Global Cooling.
24561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 16, 2011, 11:45:08 PM
Good thing I was sitting down as I read that or the shock might have been too much for me  cheesy grin
24562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 16, 2011, 11:43:39 PM
GM:

I get the connection, but if someone were looking for Arab Muslim money corrupting the integrity of US higher education, they would not be looking for it on this thread.

BTW, I aboslutely LOVE the Pallywood material!!! It most certainly DOES belong here.
24563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 16, 2011, 11:17:33 PM
I interrupt GM's schooling of JDN to express a moment of exasperation. (sorryJDN, that's how I see it  cheesy)  GM, I love you man, but does this series of posts really belong in this thread?  Hint: the correct answer is NO. cheesy  This could properly belong in the Educatin thread on SCH forum or Cog. Dis. of the Left on this forum, or Ialam in America , , , but it really does not belong here.
24564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: June 16, 2011, 11:08:00 PM
Arrgh!  Just had a post vaporize.

a) Until Baraq, US presidents have refused to acknowledge the C'l validity of the WP Act (or is it a Resolution?).  Now Baraq concedes the point but says a NATO operation, of which the US is the alpha partner, which is trying to kill Kaddaffy and wipe out most of his military assets, is not a war and therefore the WPA does not apply?  WTF?  In other words, isn't Baraq conceding the validity of the WPA so as to appear consistent with his previous bleatings on the subject as a Senator and/or community organizer?  And Boener, in search of the obvious posturing ploy of the moment, now concedes the WPA to the detriment of future Presidents?  The correct analysis is offered in Boener's final comment in the last sentence of CCP's post (also see BD's recent posts in the C'l Law thread on the SCH forum for more scholarly detail)/

b) We need to keep in mind that Kaddaffy is under a lot of pressure.  Someone could betray him, a drone could get him, something could happen-- and Peacock Baraq will strut to the rapture of the chattering class and the Pravdas.   We need to handle ourselves in a way that protects us from looking foolish and churlish in such an eventuality.
24565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 16, 2011, 06:38:56 PM
Concerning the defunding in order to lend Executive Kinetic Action rolleyes please see post 136 (today) at http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=2158.100
24566  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV on: June 16, 2011, 06:34:35 PM
Baltic: 

Once the shows on the various networks have run, there is a specified time (I'll have to check the contract to see what it is) that we are prevented from selling, then it will become available through the website here.

Thank you for all your help in getting the word out!!!
24567  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: June 16, 2011, 06:32:43 PM
Hello Kitty (DF):

Cindy says she has NOT received your registration.  Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

Crafty Dog
24568  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The legend returns! on: June 16, 2011, 02:09:31 PM
Emerging from the legendary mists of Dog Brothers lore comes the Salty Dog.  Rumor has it he will be bringing a fighter or two to the Open Gathering  cool
24569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sarah's writing skills on: June 16, 2011, 01:28:21 PM
Sarah's writing skills

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/writing-analysts-claim-palin-writes-at-8th-grade-level/
24570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 16, 2011, 01:19:39 PM
I hear there is also this Jewish fellow with Wolverine sideburns who waves around sticks , , ,
24571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's friend Bill Ayers on: June 16, 2011, 01:16:58 PM


http://www.theblaze.com/stories/canada-turns-away-obamas-old-pal-1960s-domestic-terrorist-bill-ayers/
24572  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: June 16, 2011, 10:59:26 AM
Family matters (child with the cooties, and parents too) are distracting us at the moment.  Pretty Kitty will get to this soon.

24573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on Operation Gunrunner on: June 16, 2011, 07:36:26 AM
Congress irate over ATF guns-to-Mexico program

By Sharyl Attkisson



Congress grilled representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Department of Justice Wednesday over a program that intentionally let guns flow over the border into Mexico -- and into the hands of criminals -- in order to track drug cartels.


CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson broke the story on the CBS Evening News in March. Earlier this year, two of the guns may have been used in the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent, prompting outrage and investigations, Attkisson reports.


Six months ago today, border patrol agent Brian Terry was gunned down. Today, three senior ATF agents sat beside Terry's mom, cousin and sister -- and said their agency may be to blame.


Two of the guns found at the scene of Terry's murder were part of thousands the ATF allegedly allowed gun traffickers to purchase. The ATF called it letting "guns walk" -- a tactic they hoped would lead to them to drug kingpins. Agents who disagreed with the strategy blew the whistle.


"To walk a single gun is in my opinion an idiotic move," said ATF senior special agent Pete Forcelli. "We weren't giving guns to people who were hunting bear. We were giving guns to people who were killing other humans."


After Terry's murder, ATF quickly rounded up gun trafficking suspects they'd watched for a year. That's when the first reports of gunwalking began to surface. Asked if they were true at the time, ATF Phoenix chief Bill Newell told reporters "hell no" -- surprising those who worked for him.


"I was appalled, because it was a blatant lie," Forcelli said. Newell didn't respond to interview requests.


Also under attack: the Justice Department which oversees the ATF. Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich says the agency is cooperating with Congress, but Rep. Darryl Issa says information is being withheld.


"You should be ashamed of yourself," Issa said at the hearing Wednesday holding up a blacked-out sheet of paper. "The pages go on like this forever. You've given us black paper instead of white paper. How dare you make an opening statement of 'cooperation.'"


Issa pressed Weich on who in Washington authorized the program -- and received no answer.


"There was serious profound disagreement about strategy -- but the common goal was to stop gun trafficking to Mexico," Weich said. "Some of the testimony provided today is of great concern. That is why the attorney general asked the inspector general to look into it."


When Brian Terry was gunned down last December, he'd already mailed Christmas gifts.


"The gifts that Brian had picked out with such thought and care began to arrive in the mail that same week," recalled Terry's cousin Robert Heyer, a Secret Service agent. "With each delivery, we felt the indescribable pain of Brian's death."


Terry's family wants someone to accept responsibility. The Department of Justice inspector general is investigating -- and any gunwalking that was taking place has been halted.
24574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia's Chess Match in Libya on: June 16, 2011, 07:28:05 AM


Russia's Chess Match In Libya

Russian businessman and politician Kirsan Ilyumzhinov told Russian media Tuesday that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is ready to begin immediate talks with NATO and Benghazi-based rebels over the settlement to the Libyan civil war. Ilyumzhinov claims Gadhafi told him this during their recent meeting in Tripoli, when the pair were filmed playing chess by Libyan state television. Ilyumzhinov, the president of the governing body of the international chess world and who has ties to the Kremlin, claims that he offered Gadhafi a draw in the match, not wanting to offend his host. In the same vein, the Russian government is trying to facilitate a draw for Gadhafi in the Libyan conflict, as it asserts itself as a mediator, and more importantly, positions itself to exploit the Libyan crisis for its own geopolitical aims.

“Moscow appears to be setting itself up as the mediator in the Libyan conflict, not only between Tripoli and the rebel opposition, but more importantly, between Tripoli and the West.”
Gadhafi has never displayed any intention of leaving Libya, a point he reportedly reiterated to Ilyumzhinov during his visit. The Libyan leader may still think he can one day reconquer the territory he has lost since February. But in reality, the best option he can hope for at this point is maintaining power of a rump Libya following a partition of the country (a course of action neither side has advocated publicly). Gadhafi is hoping he can outlast the political will in Washington and in Europe to maintain the bombing campaign, at which point he could force talks aimed at ending the conflict through a negotiated settlement — one that leaves him with a sizable chunk of the country under his control.

What no one can say for sure is how long he can hold out, and how long NATO can maintain the political will to continue the operation against him. What is known is that no serious effort is being taken to arm and train rebel forces to do the job for the West. This means hopes for regime change ride on NATO planes or the possibility that members of Gadhafi’s own regime might overthrow him. Otherwise, negotiations will eventually have to take place, because no one is prepared to invade Libya or keep bombing it forever.

Moscow knows this, and appears to be attempting to set itself up as the mediator in the Libyan conflict, not only between Tripoli and the rebel opposition, but more importantly between Tripoli and the West. Russia voiced its opposition to the intervention in Libya from the outset. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin once said that the Western push for military action against Gadhafi’s regime was “reminiscent of a medieval call for a crusade.” NATO’s air campaign against Libya has presented Moscow with an opportunity to return to a familiar confrontational stance with the West. But Russia knows how to turn on the charm offensive when it wants to, and can also utilize its position as mediator.

No other country is as well placed as Russia to fulfill this role, and Moscow is eager to take advantage of the opportunity. The Germans’ refusal to take part in the air campaign has exposed a major rift in the alliance that works in the Russian interest. Russia also has a strategic interest in positioning itself to be able to exploit Libya’s energy assets: By acting as a mediator to all sides, it can work toward its ultimate aim of scuttling European hopes that North Africa may present an opportunity to lessen the dependence on Russian energy supplies. But Libya isn’t the only dispute Russia has attempted to mediate as of late: Moscow has also tried in the past year to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians. Overall, Russia doesn’t really care about these issues, but wants to show an ability, real or imagined, to remain a player in global politics.

The NATO air campaign has gone on for three months, with only eight countries participating. The French and British militaries have made pointed comments in recent days about the toll the effort is taking, a theme hammered home last week by outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Attempts to induce other NATO members to join in the airstrikes have been unsuccessful, meaning those doing the fighting now will have to push on without outside help.

Credibility is on the line, and that will be a powerful driver for these countries to succeed in their mission of regime change. It came as no surprise last Thursday to hear an anonymous NATO official concede that efforts are being made to assassinate Gadhafi in the course of selecting targets for bombing. And, the Italian defense minister said as much in May. But if air power is the only tool NATO has at its disposal — along with the hope that the regime simply crumbles under the pressure of economic sanctions, military pressure and political isolation — the Russians may eventually find themselves perfectly situated to serve as a go-between in talks aimed at ending the conflict without its main goals having been accomplished.

This is where Ilyumzhinov’s visit becomes important. A former president of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, he has ties to the Kremlin as well as Russian intelligence. He claims his visit was not mandated by Moscow, yet admits that he informed President Dmitri Medvedev’s personal envoy for Africa, Mikhail Margelov, of his trip in advance. Margelov recently visited Benghazi, and plans to travel to Tripoli soon. Ilyumzhinov’s role as the president of the World Chess Federation, meanwhile, provides him with a somewhat believable alibi for traveling to Tripoli in the first place. He claims he was invited by Gadhafi’s son Mohammed (who is president of the Libyan Chess Federation and Olympic Committee), with whom he has a prior relationship dating back just under a decade.

Ilyumzhinov may rival Gadhafi for personal eccentricity — Ilyumzhinov is famous for declaring that he was once taken aboard a UFO, and for claiming he can communicate through telepathy — but he is acting as a tool of Russian foreign policy in his dealings with Gadhafi. Moscow is testing the waters with an “unofficial” delegate from the Kremlin for many reasons. Moscow probably used Ilyumzhinov to check on Gadhafi’s status. But they will also gauge international reaction to Ilyumzhinov’s visit.

Should his words be taken seriously, this opens the door for Moscow to officially start working in the country. If no one cares, then Russia can chalk Ilyumzhinov up as an eccentric who was never working for the Kremlin. On the flip side, Moscow wants to show the Libyan leader that it can be a useful friend to his government at a time in which his allies are few and far between.

When asked about their chess match, Ilyumzhinov told one Russian media outlet: “Of course, I could have won, for he sacrificed his knight to me. But I did not take it, and I myself proposed a draw. He tried to struggle, to fight. He has a warrior’s spirit.” High praise from a Russian official, certainly, but also symbolic of the position his government is trying to stake out for the coming months in Libya.

24575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Stock exchange for pirates on: June 16, 2011, 07:16:09 AM
By AVI JORISCH
Pirates are on a hot streak this season. World-wide, the first quarter of 2011 saw 142 recorded attacks, up from 67 in that time last year. Off the coast of Somalia there were 97, as against 35 last year. Why? Despite some efforts by Western powers to patrol the Horn of Africa, pirates are still able to access capital, as any successful business must.

The world's first pirate stock exchange was established in 2009 in Harardheere, some 250 miles northeast of Mogadishu, Somalia. Open 24 hours a day, the exchange allows investors to profit from ransoms collected on the high seas, which can approach $10 million for successful attacks against Western commercial vessels.

While there are no credible statistics available, reports from various news sources suggest that over 70 entities are listed on the Harardheere exchange. When a pirate operation is successful, it pays investors a share of the profits. According to a former pirate who spoke to Reuters, "The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land by providing cash, weapons or useful materials. . . . We've made piracy a community activity."

The big player on the Harardheere exchange is a pirate named Mohammed Hassan Abdi, who goes by the name of "Afweyne," or "Big Mouth." Known as the "father of piracy," Abdi and his son Abdiqaadir are in charge of the exchange and are, according to a recent United Nations report, among the best-known pirates in the area. Abdi's boats have hijacked a variety of ships, including the German freighter Hansa Stavanger, which German special forces tried unsuccessfully to liberate in 2009. After a four-month hostage ordeal, the pirates released the ship off the coast of Kenya.

View Full Image

REUTERS
 
A crowd collects ransom money from pirates in Harardheere, Somalia.
.Piracy has changed Harardheere from a small fishing village to a town crowded with luxury cars. As local security officer Mohamed Adam put it to Reuters, "Piracy-related business has become the main profitable economic activity in our area and as locals we depend on their output." Mr. Adam claims that the district government gets a cut of every dollar collected by pirates and uses it—naturally—for schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure.

Cutting off these financial relationships is essential to curbing piracy. The U.S. could begin by instituting, via executive order, a sanctions regime against these rogue actors. Just as the government maintains lists of terrorists, narco-traffickers, weapons proliferators and money launderers, so too should it keep a list of pirates. This would heighten international awareness of piracy and give banks an additional tool to employ against illicit actors. Pirates, like all other criminals, eventually use the banking sector to try to hide their criminal gains.

The U.N. and other international organizations—such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental body that sets standards regarding terrorism finance and money laundering—also have roles to play. For one, the U.N. should expand its current Somalia and Eritrea monitoring committee, which was established in 1992 to implement the U.N. travel ban, asset freeze, and arms embargo on Somalia, as well as the arms embargo on Eritrea. An expanded committee could improve the anti-piracy intelligence-gathering capabilities of its members and track the finances of significant international pirates.

For its part, the FATF could get serious about including piracy within its mission of highlighting how money launderers and terrorists raise and move funds. To date, the organization has never issued a report on piracy. Doing so would prod a variety of international organizations, policy makers, law-enforcement agencies, and banking authorities to grapple seriously with this threat.

There are four banks in Somalia today—the Central Bank, the Commercial and Savings Bank of Somalia, and the Somali Development Bank (all of which are wholly or partly owned by the government), as well as the independent Universal Bank of Somalia. International financial institutions providing correspondent banking services to the four, or wiring money into or out of the country, should carry out enhanced due diligence on all transactions to make sure they are not related to piracy or the Harardheere stock exchange. In Washington, the Treasury Department could mandate this standard of care by issuing guidance to all American financial institutions.

Piracy increases the cost of international commerce by $12 billion annually, and in Somalia alone more than 20 vessels and 400 hostages are currently being held, according to the International Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. and others have a duty to deploy their financial firepower against this threat.

Mr. Jorisch, a former U.S. Treasury official, is president of the Red Cell Intelligence Group and the author of "Tainted Money: Are We Losing the War on Money Laundering and Terrorism Finance?" (Red Cell IG, 2009).

24576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin 1774 on: June 16, 2011, 07:06:42 AM


"The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy." --Benjamin Franklin, Emblematical Representations, 1774

24577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The War continues on: June 16, 2011, 07:05:32 AM


By Scott Stewart

We talk to a lot of people in our effort to track Mexico’s criminal cartels and to help our readers understand the  dynamics that shape the violence in Mexico. Our contacts include a wide range of people, from Mexican and U.S. government officials, journalists and business owners to taxi drivers and street vendors. Lately, as we’ve been talking with people, we’ve been hearing chatter about the 2012 presidential election in Mexico and how the cartel war will impact that election.

In any democratic election, opposition parties always criticize the policies of the incumbent. This tactic is especially true when the country is involved in a long and costly war. Recall, for example, the 2008 U.S. elections and then-candidate Barack Obama’s criticism of the Bush administration’s policies regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. This strategy is what we are seeing now in Mexico with the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) criticizing the way the administration of Felipe Calderon, who belongs to the National Action Party (PAN), has prosecuted its war against the Mexican cartels.

One of the trial balloons that the opposition parties — especially the PRI — seem to be floating at present is the idea that if they are elected they will reverse Calderon’s policy of going after the cartels with a heavy hand and will instead try to reach some sort of accommodation with them. This policy would involve lifting government pressure against the cartels and thereby (ostensibly) reducing the level of violence that is wracking the country. In effect, this stratagem would be a return of the status quo ante during the PRI administrations that ruled Mexico for decades prior to 2000. One other important thing to remember, however, is that while Mexico’s tough stance against the cartels is most often associated with President Calderon, the policy of using the military against the cartels was established during the administration of President Vicente Fox (also of PAN), who declared the “mother of all battles” against cartel kingpins in January 2005.

While this political rhetoric may be effective in tapping public discontent with the current situation in Mexico — and perhaps obtaining votes for opposition parties — the current environment in Mexico is far different from what it was in the 1990s. This environment will dictate that no matter who wins the 2012 election, the new president will have little choice but to maintain the campaign against the Mexican cartels.


Changes in the Drug Flow

First, it is important to understand that over the past decade there have been changes in the flow of narcotics into the United States. The first of these changes was in the way that cocaine is trafficked from South America to the United Sates and in the specific organizations that are doing that trafficking. While there has always been some cocaine smuggled into the United States through Mexico, like during the “Miami Vice” era from the 1970s to the early 1990s, much of the U.S. supply came into Florida via Caribbean routes. The cocaine was trafficked mainly by the powerful Colombian cartels, and while they worked with Mexican partners such as the Guadalajara cartel to move product through Mexico and into the United States, the Colombians were the dominant partners in the relationship and pocketed the lion’s share of the profits.

As U.S. interdiction efforts curtailed much of the Caribbean drug flow due to improvements in aerial and maritime surveillance, and as the Colombian cartels were dismantled by the Colombian and U.S. governments, Mexico became more important to the flow of cocaine and the Mexican cartels gained more prominence and power. Over the past decade, the tables turned. Now, the Mexican cartels control most of the cocaine flow and the Colombian gangs are the junior partners in the relationship.

The Mexican cartels have expanded their control over cocaine smuggling to the point where they are also involved in the smuggling of South American cocaine to Europe and Australia. This expanded cocaine supply chain means that the Mexican cartels have assumed a greater risk of loss along the extended supply routes, but it also means that they earn a far greater percentage of the profit derived from South American cocaine than they did when the Colombian cartels called the shots.

While Mexican cartels have always been involved in the smuggling of marijuana to the U.S. market, and marijuana sales serve as an important profit pool for them, the increasing popularity of other drugs in the United States in recent years, such as black-tar heroin and methamphetamine, has also helped bring big money (and power) to the Mexican cartels. These drugs have proved to be quite lucrative for the Mexican cartels because the cartels own the entire production process. This is not the case with cocaine, which the cartels have to purchase from South American suppliers.

These changes in the flow of narcotics into the United States mean that the Mexican narcotics-smuggling corridors into the United States are now more lucrative than ever for the Mexican cartels, and the increasing value of these corridors has heightened the competition — and the violence — to control them. The fighting has become quite bloody and, in many cases, quite personal, involving blood vendettas that will not be easily buried.

The violence occurring in Mexico today also has quite a different dynamic from the violence that occurred in Colombia in the late 1980s. In Colombia at that time, Pablo Escobar declared war on the government, and his team of sicarios conducted terrorist attacks like  destroying the Department of Administrative Security headquarters with a huge truck bomb and bombing a civilian airliner in an attempt to kill a presidential candidate, among other operations. Escobar thought his attacks could intimidate the Colombian government into the kind of accommodation being in discussed in Mexico today, but his calculation was wrong and the attacks served only to steel public opinion and government resolve against him.

Most of the violence in Mexico today is cartel-on-cartel, and the cartels have not chosen to explicitly target civilians or the government. Even the violence we do see directed against Mexican police officers or government figures is usually not due to their positions but to the perception that they are on the payroll of a competing cartel. There are certainly exceptions to this, but cartel attacks against government figures are usually attempts to undercut the support network of a competing cartel and not acts of retribution against the government. Cartel groups like Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) have even produced and distributed video statements in which they say they don’t want to fight the federal government and the military, just corrupt officers aligned with their enemies.

This dynamic means that, even if the Mexican military and federal police were to ease up on their operations against drug-smuggling activities, the war among the cartels (and factions of cartels) would still continue.


The Hydra

In addition to the raging cartel-on-cartel violence, any future effort to reach an accommodation with the cartels will also be hampered by the way the cartel landscape has changed over the past few years. Consider this: Three and a half years ago, the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) was a part of the Sinaloa Federation. Following the arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva in January 2008, Alfredo’s brothers blamed Sinaloa chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, declared war on El Chapo and split from the Sinaloa Federation to form their own organization. Following the December 2009 death of Alfredo’s brother, Arturo Beltran Leyva, the organization further split into two factions: One was called the Cartel Pacifico del Sur, which was led by the remaining Beltran Leyva brother, Hector, and the other, which retained the BLO name, remained loyal to Alfredo’s chief of security, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. Following the August 2010 arrest of La Barbie, his faction of the BLO split into two pieces, one joining with some local criminals in Acapulco to form the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA). So not only did the BLO leave the Sinaloa Federation, it also split twice to form three new cartels.

There are two main cartel groups, one centered on the Sinaloa Federation and the other on Los Zetas, but these groups are loose alliances rather than hierarchical organizations, and there are still many smaller independent players, such as CIDA, La Resistencia and the CJNG. This means that a government attempt to broker some sort of universal understanding with the cartels in order to decrease the violence would be far more challenging than it would have been a decade ago.

Even if the government could gather all these parties together and convince them to agree to cease hostilities, the question for all parties would be: How reliable are all the promises being made? The various cartels frequently make alliances and agreements, only to break them, and close allies can quickly become the bitterest enemies — like the Gulf cartel and its former enforcer wing, Los Zetas.

We have heard assertions over the last several years that the Calderon administration favors the Sinaloa Federation and that the president’s real plan to quell the violence in Mexico is to allow or even assist the Sinaloa Federation to become the dominant cartel in Mexico. According to this narrative, the Sinaloa Federation could impose peace through superior firepower and provide the Mexican government a single point of contact instead of the various heads of the cartel hydra. One problem with implementing such a concept is that some of the most vicious violence Mexico has seen in recent years has followed an internal split involving the Sinaloa Federation, such as the BLO/Sinaloa war.


From DTO to TCO

Another problem is the change that has occurred in the nature of the crimes the cartels commit. The Mexican cartels are no longer just drug cartels, and they no longer just sell narcotics to the U.S. market. This reality is even reflected in the bureaucratic acronyms that the U.S. government uses to refer to the cartels. Up until a few months ago, it was common to hear U.S. government officials refer to the Mexican cartels using the acronym “DTOs,” or drug trafficking organizations. Today, that acronym is rarely, if ever, heard. It has been replaced by “TCO,” which stands for transnational criminal organization. This acronym recognizes that the Mexican cartels engage in many criminal enterprises, not just narcotics smuggling.

As the cartels have experienced difficulty moving large loads of narcotics into the United States due to law enforcement pressure, and the loss of smuggling corridors to rival gangs, they have sought to generate revenue by diversifying their lines of business. Mexican cartels have become involved in kidnapping, extortion, cargo theft, oil theft and diversion, arms smuggling, human smuggling, carjacking, prostitution and music and video piracy. These additional lines of business are lucrative, and there is little likelihood that the cartels would abandon them even if smuggling narcotics became easier.

As an aside, this diversification is also a factor that must be considered in discussing the legalization of narcotics and the impact that would have on the Mexican cartels. Narcotics smuggling is the most substantial revenue stream for the cartels, but is not their only line of business. If the cartels were to lose the stream of revenue from narcotics sales, they would still be heavily armed groups of killers who would be forced to rely more on their other lines of business. Many of these other crimes, like extortion and kidnapping, by their very nature focus more direct violence against innocent victims than drug trafficking does.

Another way the cartels have sought to generate revenue through alternative means is to increase drug sales inside Mexico. While drugs sell for less on the street in Mexico than they do in the United States, they require less overhead, since they don’t have to cross the U.S. border. At the same time, the street gangs that are distributing these drugs into the local Mexican market have also become closely allied with the cartels and have served to swell the ranks of the cartel enforcer groups. For example, Mara Salvatrucha has come to work closely with Los Zetas, and Los Aztecas have essentially become a wing of the Juarez cartel.

There has been a view among some in Mexico that the flow of narcotics through Mexico is something that might be harmful for the United States but doesn’t really harm Mexico. Indeed, as the argument goes, the money the drug trade generates for the Mexican economy is quite beneficial. The increase in narcotics sales in Mexico belies this, and in many places, such as the greater Mexico City region, much of the violence we’ve seen involves fighting over turf for local drug sales and not necessarily fighting among the larger cartel groups (although, in some areas, there are instances of the larger cartel groups asserting their dominance over these smaller local-level groups).

As the Mexican election approaches, the idea of accommodating the cartels may continue to be presented as a logical alternative to the present policies, and it might be used to gain political capital, but anyone who carefully examines the situation on the ground will see that the concept is totally untenable. In fact, the conditions on the ground leave the Mexican president with very little choice. This means that in the same way President Obama was forced by ground realities to follow many of the Bush administration policies he criticized as a candidate, the next Mexican president will have little choice but to follow the policies of the Calderon administration in continuing the fight against the cartels.

24578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rove: Bad news getting much worse on: June 16, 2011, 07:01:45 AM


By KARL ROVE
A kerfuffle was stirred up last week by a devastating McKinsey & Company study that concluded up to 78 million Americans would lose their current health coverage as employers stopped offering insurance because of President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The report contradicted Mr. Obama's frequent pledge that under his reform, "if you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan." And McKinsey's was at least the fourth such analysis calling the president's promise into question.

 Pulitzer Prize-winner Joseph Rago tracks the White House effort to prevent the impact of its policies.
.In May 2010, former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin concluded that employers would drop coverage for about 35 million Americans because of ObamaCare. A month later, in June 2010, the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) pegged the number between 87 million to 117 million. And last November, Allisa Meade, a McKinsey analyst, told health-insurance company executives that 80 million to 100 million people might lose their employer-provided health insurance.

Simple economics is the reason. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's Employer Health Benefits 2010 Annual Survey, the annual premium for an average policy last year was $5,049 for a single worker, with the company picking up roughly $4,150 and the employee the rest. For a family of four, the total cost was $13,770, with the company picking up $9,773.

Yet under ObamaCare, businesses can stop providing health-care coverage, paying a $2,000 per-worker fine instead. For small businesses, the trade-off is even more attractive: They are given a pass on the first 50 workers.

Workers losing coverage will be moved into the "exchange," a government-run marketplace to buy health plans. Those whose insurance costs were more than a specified share of their income (9.5% in 2014) could get subsidies. The exchange starts in 2014 and is fully operational by 2016.

Perversely, ObamaCare both drives up the cost of insurance with mandates and rules while making it attractive for companies to dump the increasingly more expensive coverage and pay a lesser fine. There will be huge ramifications for the country's finances if more workers lose coverage than was estimated.

When Mr. Obama's health-care bill passed in March 2010, the CBO and the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation predicted that 24 million workers would be covered by the exchange. Of these, nine million to 11 million would lose their employer-provided coverage, offset by six million to seven million who would be getting employer-provided insurance, for a net of three million workers losing company-sponsored coverage. The CBO said the exchanges would cost $511 billion over ObamaCare's first decade.

But what if more people are dumped into the exchange than originally estimated? Costs from the increased subsidies will explode.

If Mr. Holtz-Eakin is correct that there will be 11 million more people in the exchange, then costs could be nearly 40% higher than the $511 billion price tag. If between 78 million and 87 million people are moved into the exchange, the tab could more than triple. And if NCPA's upper-range estimate is right and 117 million people were dumped into the exchange, ObamaCare would cost nearly $2 trillion more than expected in the first decade alone. Much of this extra expense would come from workers losing their employer-sponsored insurance.

Mr. Obama's health-care law has already put the country in bad financial shape. He claimed it reduced the deficit by $143 billion—but that was before the CBO added $115 billion to administer the legislation, including the hiring of bureaucrats and thousands of IRS agents to enforce the new mandates. This reduced Mr. Obama's claimed savings to $28 billion.

The deficit-reduction claim also came before House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan drew attention to the law's Ponzi scheme. It's funded by borrowing $521 billion from the Social Security Trust Fund, Medicare, and new long-term care insurance premiums, and by ignoring the $300 billion cost over 10 years of the annual inflation increases in reimbursements to hospitals and doctors. These gimmicks hide the fact that ObamaCare is really $701 billion in the red in its first decade.

ObamaCare's deficits in its second decade (2020 to 2029) will be even more horrendous as it continues borrowing from Social Security, Medicare and the long-term care insurance program to meet its much larger than anticipated expenses, including a much higher number of people who end up in the exchange.

On March 9, 2010, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi famously told a meeting of county officials that "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."

We are now, to our horror, finding out how harmful this measure is. More Americans are realizing that unless repealed, ObamaCare will sink America in a sea of red ink. This helps explain why the nation has turned so hard against it—and against its author whose slippery pledges so misled us.

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

24579  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: June 16, 2011, 06:56:32 AM
New Mexican President, Same Cartel War?
June 16, 2011


Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Criminal Cartels
STRATFOR Book
Mexico In Crisis: Lost Borders and the Struggle for Regional Status
By Scott Stewart

We talk to a lot of people in our effort to track Mexico’s criminal cartels and to help our readers understand the  dynamics that shape the violence in Mexico. Our contacts include a wide range of people, from Mexican and U.S. government officials, journalists and business owners to taxi drivers and street vendors. Lately, as we’ve been talking with people, we’ve been hearing chatter about the 2012 presidential election in Mexico and how the cartel war will impact that election.

In any democratic election, opposition parties always criticize the policies of the incumbent. This tactic is especially true when the country is involved in a long and costly war. Recall, for example, the 2008 U.S. elections and then-candidate Barack Obama’s criticism of the Bush administration’s policies regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. This strategy is what we are seeing now in Mexico with the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) criticizing the way the administration of Felipe Calderon, who belongs to the National Action Party (PAN), has prosecuted its war against the Mexican cartels.

One of the trial balloons that the opposition parties — especially the PRI — seem to be floating at present is the idea that if they are elected they will reverse Calderon’s policy of going after the cartels with a heavy hand and will instead try to reach some sort of accommodation with them. This policy would involve lifting government pressure against the cartels and thereby (ostensibly) reducing the level of violence that is wracking the country. In effect, this stratagem would be a return of the status quo ante during the PRI administrations that ruled Mexico for decades prior to 2000. One other important thing to remember, however, is that while Mexico’s tough stance against the cartels is most often associated with President Calderon, the policy of using the military against the cartels was established during the administration of President Vicente Fox (also of PAN), who declared the “mother of all battles” against cartel kingpins in January 2005.

While this political rhetoric may be effective in tapping public discontent with the current situation in Mexico — and perhaps obtaining votes for opposition parties — the current environment in Mexico is far different from what it was in the 1990s. This environment will dictate that no matter who wins the 2012 election, the new president will have little choice but to maintain the campaign against the Mexican cartels.


Changes in the Drug Flow

First, it is important to understand that over the past decade there have been changes in the flow of narcotics into the United States. The first of these changes was in the way that cocaine is trafficked from South America to the United Sates and in the specific organizations that are doing that trafficking. While there has always been some cocaine smuggled into the United States through Mexico, like during the “Miami Vice” era from the 1970s to the early 1990s, much of the U.S. supply came into Florida via Caribbean routes. The cocaine was trafficked mainly by the powerful Colombian cartels, and while they worked with Mexican partners such as the Guadalajara cartel to move product through Mexico and into the United States, the Colombians were the dominant partners in the relationship and pocketed the lion’s share of the profits.

As U.S. interdiction efforts curtailed much of the Caribbean drug flow due to improvements in aerial and maritime surveillance, and as the Colombian cartels were dismantled by the Colombian and U.S. governments, Mexico became more important to the flow of cocaine and the Mexican cartels gained more prominence and power. Over the past decade, the tables turned. Now, the Mexican cartels control most of the cocaine flow and the Colombian gangs are the junior partners in the relationship.

The Mexican cartels have expanded their control over cocaine smuggling to the point where they are also involved in the smuggling of South American cocaine to Europe and Australia. This expanded cocaine supply chain means that the Mexican cartels have assumed a greater risk of loss along the extended supply routes, but it also means that they earn a far greater percentage of the profit derived from South American cocaine than they did when the Colombian cartels called the shots.

While Mexican cartels have always been involved in the smuggling of marijuana to the U.S. market, and marijuana sales serve as an important profit pool for them, the increasing popularity of other drugs in the United States in recent years, such as black-tar heroin and methamphetamine, has also helped bring big money (and power) to the Mexican cartels. These drugs have proved to be quite lucrative for the Mexican cartels because the cartels own the entire production process. This is not the case with cocaine, which the cartels have to purchase from South American suppliers.

These changes in the flow of narcotics into the United States mean that the Mexican narcotics-smuggling corridors into the United States are now more lucrative than ever for the Mexican cartels, and the increasing value of these corridors has heightened the competition — and the violence — to control them. The fighting has become quite bloody and, in many cases, quite personal, involving blood vendettas that will not be easily buried.

The violence occurring in Mexico today also has quite a different dynamic from the violence that occurred in Colombia in the late 1980s. In Colombia at that time, Pablo Escobar declared war on the government, and his team of sicarios conducted terrorist attacks like  destroying the Department of Administrative Security headquarters with a huge truck bomb and bombing a civilian airliner in an attempt to kill a presidential candidate, among other operations. Escobar thought his attacks could intimidate the Colombian government into the kind of accommodation being in discussed in Mexico today, but his calculation was wrong and the attacks served only to steel public opinion and government resolve against him.

Most of the violence in Mexico today is cartel-on-cartel, and the cartels have not chosen to explicitly target civilians or the government. Even the violence we do see directed against Mexican police officers or government figures is usually not due to their positions but to the perception that they are on the payroll of a competing cartel. There are certainly exceptions to this, but cartel attacks against government figures are usually attempts to undercut the support network of a competing cartel and not acts of retribution against the government. Cartel groups like Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) have even produced and distributed video statements in which they say they don’t want to fight the federal government and the military, just corrupt officers aligned with their enemies.

This dynamic means that, even if the Mexican military and federal police were to ease up on their operations against drug-smuggling activities, the war among the cartels (and factions of cartels) would still continue.


The Hydra

In addition to the raging cartel-on-cartel violence, any future effort to reach an accommodation with the cartels will also be hampered by the way the cartel landscape has changed over the past few years. Consider this: Three and a half years ago, the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) was a part of the Sinaloa Federation. Following the arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva in January 2008, Alfredo’s brothers blamed Sinaloa chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, declared war on El Chapo and split from the Sinaloa Federation to form their own organization. Following the December 2009 death of Alfredo’s brother, Arturo Beltran Leyva, the organization further split into two factions: One was called the Cartel Pacifico del Sur, which was led by the remaining Beltran Leyva brother, Hector, and the other, which retained the BLO name, remained loyal to Alfredo’s chief of security, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. Following the August 2010 arrest of La Barbie, his faction of the BLO split into two pieces, one joining with some local criminals in Acapulco to form the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA). So not only did the BLO leave the Sinaloa Federation, it also split twice to form three new cartels.

There are two main cartel groups, one centered on the Sinaloa Federation and the other on Los Zetas, but these groups are loose alliances rather than hierarchical organizations, and there are still many smaller independent players, such as CIDA, La Resistencia and the CJNG. This means that a government attempt to broker some sort of universal understanding with the cartels in order to decrease the violence would be far more challenging than it would have been a decade ago.

Even if the government could gather all these parties together and convince them to agree to cease hostilities, the question for all parties would be: How reliable are all the promises being made? The various cartels frequently make alliances and agreements, only to break them, and close allies can quickly become the bitterest enemies — like the Gulf cartel and its former enforcer wing, Los Zetas.

We have heard assertions over the last several years that the Calderon administration favors the Sinaloa Federation and that the president’s real plan to quell the violence in Mexico is to allow or even assist the Sinaloa Federation to become the dominant cartel in Mexico. According to this narrative, the Sinaloa Federation could impose peace through superior firepower and provide the Mexican government a single point of contact instead of the various heads of the cartel hydra. One problem with implementing such a concept is that some of the most vicious violence Mexico has seen in recent years has followed an internal split involving the Sinaloa Federation, such as the BLO/Sinaloa war.


From DTO to TCO

Another problem is the change that has occurred in the nature of the crimes the cartels commit. The Mexican cartels are no longer just drug cartels, and they no longer just sell narcotics to the U.S. market. This reality is even reflected in the bureaucratic acronyms that the U.S. government uses to refer to the cartels. Up until a few months ago, it was common to hear U.S. government officials refer to the Mexican cartels using the acronym “DTOs,” or drug trafficking organizations. Today, that acronym is rarely, if ever, heard. It has been replaced by “TCO,” which stands for transnational criminal organization. This acronym recognizes that the Mexican cartels engage in many criminal enterprises, not just narcotics smuggling.

As the cartels have experienced difficulty moving large loads of narcotics into the United States due to law enforcement pressure, and the loss of smuggling corridors to rival gangs, they have sought to generate revenue by diversifying their lines of business. Mexican cartels have become involved in kidnapping, extortion, cargo theft, oil theft and diversion, arms smuggling, human smuggling, carjacking, prostitution and music and video piracy. These additional lines of business are lucrative, and there is little likelihood that the cartels would abandon them even if smuggling narcotics became easier.

As an aside, this diversification is also a factor that must be considered in discussing the legalization of narcotics and the impact that would have on the Mexican cartels. Narcotics smuggling is the most substantial revenue stream for the cartels, but is not their only line of business. If the cartels were to lose the stream of revenue from narcotics sales, they would still be heavily armed groups of killers who would be forced to rely more on their other lines of business. Many of these other crimes, like extortion and kidnapping, by their very nature focus more direct violence against innocent victims than drug trafficking does.

Another way the cartels have sought to generate revenue through alternative means is to increase drug sales inside Mexico. While drugs sell for less on the street in Mexico than they do in the United States, they require less overhead, since they don’t have to cross the U.S. border. At the same time, the street gangs that are distributing these drugs into the local Mexican market have also become closely allied with the cartels and have served to swell the ranks of the cartel enforcer groups. For example, Mara Salvatrucha has come to work closely with Los Zetas, and Los Aztecas have essentially become a wing of the Juarez cartel.

There has been a view among some in Mexico that the flow of narcotics through Mexico is something that might be harmful for the United States but doesn’t really harm Mexico. Indeed, as the argument goes, the money the drug trade generates for the Mexican economy is quite beneficial. The increase in narcotics sales in Mexico belies this, and in many places, such as the greater Mexico City region, much of the violence we’ve seen involves fighting over turf for local drug sales and not necessarily fighting among the larger cartel groups (although, in some areas, there are instances of the larger cartel groups asserting their dominance over these smaller local-level groups).

As the Mexican election approaches, the idea of accommodating the cartels may continue to be presented as a logical alternative to the present policies, and it might be used to gain political capital, but anyone who carefully examines the situation on the ground will see that the concept is totally untenable. In fact, the conditions on the ground leave the Mexican president with very little choice. This means that in the same way President Obama was forced by ground realities to follow many of the Bush administration policies he criticized as a candidate, the next Mexican president will have little choice but to follow the policies of the Calderon administration in continuing the fight against the cartels.

24580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rick Perry? on: June 15, 2011, 09:56:35 PM
Up to now, Rick Perry has had a point in professing no interest in running for the presidency, Why bother? The voluble Texas governor sits atop a state that looks more like one of the boom nations of Southeast Asia than the faltering 49 across America.

The Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas recently estimated that since June 2009, Texas has produced about 37% of the net new jobs in the U.S. At The Journal's offices this week, Gov. Perry said a closer look puts the Texas new-jobs number closer to 48%. Whatever. It's an astounding feat.

What's more, Rick Perry deeply believes the nation's greatness is found within its 50 separate states, not Washington. Why go to the failed city?

View Full Image

Martin Kozlowski
 .A few months ago, it was probably true that Rick Perry wasn't running. His two top political aides left him to join the Gingrich campaign. There is no way these two would have deserted Perryland for Newt's world if the governor were making a presidential run. Since Newt's staff collapsed, both are back with Mr. Perry, who's currently got a presidential announcement wound tighter than the Dallas Mavs' defense.

My guess is he's in. Why? He got clearance from what obviously has become the second-most powerful force in American politics—a candidate's wife. In the governor's telling, his wife, Anita, sat him down and said this was no ordinary presidential election for the country. Rick, you've gotta run.

She's right about the race. There may be lots of reasons not to put oneself through the modern presidential gauntlet, but not this time. Four more years of below-average economic growth and above-trend unemployment and it'll take a generation for the U.S. to climb out. The betting here is that Anita Perry wins this argument. They usually do.

What does Rick Perry bring to what is now a slow dance? Three things: Texas, Texas and the Tenth Amendment.

With Rick Perry, you get a double helping of Texas—the person and the state itself. That leads naturally to the early-stage question: Is Rick Perry more Texas than the nation can handle?

Some say that if you close your eyes, you could swear you're hearing George W. Bush and (to some ears) that awful West Texas accent. I don't. Unlike the former president, Mr. Perry has fine-tuned the sound of Texas (Paint Creek, north of Abilene) into a semi-syrupy drawl. And unlike most pols, he delivers a speech in more than one note.

On Tuesday night in Manhattan (N.Y.), he gave the keynote at the New York Republicans' Lincoln dinner, and when Rick Perry got soft and quiet—I know this will sound nuts—it had the whiff of that comfy Jimmy Stewart drawl in his cowboy movies.

 Perry would give the race three things: himself, Texas and the 10th Amendment.
.Podcast: Listen to the audio of Wonder Land here. .Onstage, the governor gives you passion. He gives you emotion. Compared to the seven GOP contenders at CNN's 30-seconds-only Twitter debate this week, Rick Perry would be the most animated by far—rocking back, his arms tossed out in broad sweeps. Which brings us to the "swagger problem." Can America handle Rick Perry's Texas swagger?

He's given to wearing cowboy boots. He wears starched, high-collar white shirts with big Texas cufflinks. He sports a fat Texas A&M Aggies ring. He's plenty Texas alright. Any other time, it might be fatal. Not now. The 2012 electorate—fraught over the economic future—is going to blow right past personal quirks to laser in on what the candidate says about the Problem. This is going to be a substance election. What of substance does Rick Perry offer?

Texas. Without the details of the Texas economic boom, this is a normal candidacy. But the details are impressive. Texas is a zero income-tax state, and Mr. Perry gives the impression he'd die at the Alamo before allowing one. The state is historically business-friendly. I recall attending the 1992 GOP convention in Houston, visiting from New York, and feeling as if I were in a capitalist utopia. You could argue that many of the state's new companies are mainly fleeing intolerable hells, such as California. But Texas and Mr. Perry keep producing new welcome mats, notably the recent passage of a loser-pays tort-reform bill. Mr. Perry says Haley Barbour told him they'd need turnstiles on the border if that tort bill passed, and indeed the in-migration of doctors to Texas is significant.

What makes a Perry candidacy intriguing is that he has built out the Texas story into a political philosophy, or movement, erected around the Tenth Amendment. In economic terms, Mr. Perry argues that the nation will grow more if we have 50 states competing with each other rather than competing to survive Washington. But it's broader than that. The tea party is mostly about spending. The Perry argument is about the fundamental relationship between the states and Washington. It's about decades of federal encroachment on state prerogatives.

Whether this Lone Star package would fly is anyone's guess. A person who's been governor of Texas awhile has baggage. I-hate-Rick Perry quotes would be a dime a dozen in Texas. Mr. Perry championed a quixotic Trans-Texas Corridor of highways and rail lines. His Enterprise Fund ladles out millions in subsidies to lure corporations. He just pushed through a pre-abortion sonogram requirement. Texas, a large death-penalty state, does a lot of them. A Perry candidacy might not be a slam dunk with independents—unless 9% unemployment trumps everything this election.

Say this—if the Texas governor gets in, you won't see another debate like last Tuesday's GOP flatliner in New Hampshire.

24581  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 15, 2011, 09:47:45 PM
 cool cool cool
24582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reynolds on tax rates on: June 15, 2011, 09:45:24 PM


WSJ

By ALAN REYNOLDS
The intelligentsia of the Democratic Party is growing increasingly enthusiastic about raising the highest federal income tax rates to 70% or more. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich took the lead in February, proposing on his blog "a 70 percent marginal tax rate on the rich." After all, he noted, "between the late 1940s and 1980 America's highest marginal rate averaged above 70 percent. Under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Not until the 1980s did Ronald Reagan slash it to 28 percent."

That helped set the stage for Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) and nine other House members to introduce the Fairness in Taxation Act in March. That bill would add five tax brackets between 45% and 49% on incomes above $1 million and tax capital gains and dividends at those same high rates. The academic left of the Democratic Party finds this much too timid, and would rather see income tax rates on the "rich" at Mr. Reich's suggested levels—or higher.

This new fascination with tax rates of 70% or more is ostensibly intended to raise gobs of new revenue, so federal spending could supposedly remain well above 24% of gross domestic product (GDP) rather than be scaled back toward the 19% average of 1997-2007.

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...All this nostalgia about the good old days of 70% tax rates makes it sound as though only the highest incomes would face higher tax rates. In reality, there were a dozen tax rates between 48% and 70% during the 1970s. Moreover—and this is what Mr. Reich and his friends always fail to mention—the individual income tax actually brought in less revenue when the highest tax rate was 70% to 91% than it did when the highest tax rate was 28%.

When the highest tax rate ranged from 91% to 92% (1951-63), even the lowest rate was quite high—20% or 22%. As the nearby chart shows, however, those super-high tax rates at all income levels brought in revenue of only 7.7% of GDP, according to U.S. budget historical data.

President John F. Kennedy's across-the-board tax cuts reduced the lowest and highest tax rates to 14% and 70% respectively after 1964, yet revenues (after excluding the 5%-10% surtaxes of 1969-70) rose to 8% of GDP. President Reagan's across-the-board tax cuts further reduced the lowest and highest tax rates to 11% and 50%, yet revenues rose again to 8.3% of GDP. The 1986 tax reform slashed the top tax rate to 28%, yet revenues dipped trivially to 8.1% of GDP.

What about those increases in top tax rates in 1990 and 1993? The top statutory rate was raised to 31% in 1991, but it was really closer to 35% because exemptions and deductions were phased-out as incomes increased. The economy quickly slipped into recession—as it did during the surtaxes of 1969-70 and the "bracket creep" of 1980-81, which pushed many middle-income families into higher tax brackets. Revenues fell to 7.8% of GDP.

The 1993 law added two higher tax brackets and, importantly, raised the taxable portion of Social Security benefits to 85% from 50%. At just 8% of GDP, however, individual income tax receipts were surprisingly low during President Bill Clinton's first term.

The Internet/telecom boom of 1998-2000 was the only time individual income tax revenues remained higher than 9% of GDP for more than one year without the economy slipping into recession (as it did when the tax topped 9% in 1969, 1981 and 2001).

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Getty Images
 
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich
.But that was an unrepeatable windfall resulting from the quintupling of Nasdaq stocks—combined with (1) the proliferation of nonqualified stock options that have since been thwarted by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, and (2) the 1997 cut in the capital gains tax to 20%. Realized capital gains rose to 4.6% of GDP from 1997 to 2002—up from 2.5% of GDP from 1987 to 1996 when the capital gains tax was 28%.

Suppose the Congress let all of the Bush tax cuts expire in 2013, which is the current trajectory. That would bring us back to the tax regime of 1993-96 when the individual income tax brought in no more revenue (8% of GDP) than it did in 2006-08 (8.1% of GDP).

It is true that President Obama proposes raising the capital gains tax to 23.8%, which could raise more revenue than the 28% rate of 1993-96. But a 23.8% tax on capital gains and dividends would nevertheless be high enough to depress stock prices and related tax revenues.

Still, pundits cling to the myth that lower tax rates mean lower revenues. "You do probably get a modest boost to GDP from tax cuts," concedes the Atlantic's Megan McCardle. "But you also get falling tax revenue. It can't be said too often—and there you are, I've said it again."

Yet the chart nearby clearly shows that reductions in U.S. marginal tax rates did not cause "falling tax revenue." It is not necessary to argue that tax rate reduction paid for itself by increasing economic growth. Lowering top marginal tax rates in stages from 91% to 28% paid for itself regardless of what happened to GDP.

It is particularly remarkable that individual tax revenues did not fall as a percentage of GDP because changes in tax law, most notably those of 1986 and 2003, greatly expanded refundable tax credits, personal exemptions and standard deductions. As a result, the Joint Committee on Taxation recently reported that 51% of Americans no longer pay federal income tax.

Since the era of 70% tax rates, the U.S. income tax system has become far more "progressive." Congressional Budget Office estimates show that from 1979 to 2007 average income tax rates fell by 110% to minus 0.4% from 4.1% for the second-poorest quintile of taxpayers. Average tax rates fell by 56% for the middle quintile and 39% for the fourth, but only 8% at the top. Despite these massive tax cuts for the bottom 80%, overall federal revenues were the same 18.5% share of GDP in 2007 as they were in 1979 and individual tax revenues were nearly the same—8.7% of GDP in 1979 versus 8.4% in 2007.

In short, reductions in top tax rates under Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, and reductions in capital gains tax rates under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, not only "paid for themselves" but also provided enough extra revenue to finance negative income taxes for the bottom 40% and record-low income taxes at middle incomes.

Mr. Reynolds is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute and the author of "Income and Wealth" (Greenwood Press 2006).

24583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 15, 2011, 09:38:03 PM
As I mentioned, I have yet to watch the whole Rep debate.  What is this I hear that Romney called for leaving Afpakia?
24584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / With allies like this , , , on: June 15, 2011, 09:37:08 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 -- 10:15 PM EDT
-----

Pakistan’s Chief Of Army Is Fighting to Keep His Job in Wake of Bin Laden Raid

Pakistan’s army chief, the most powerful man in the country, is fighting to save his position in the face of seething anger from top generals and junior officers since the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to Pakistani officials and people who have met the chief in recent weeks.

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who has led the army since 2007, faces such intense discontent over what is seen as his cozy relationship with the United States that a colonels’ coup, while unlikely, was not out of the question, said a well-informed Pakistani who has seen the general in recent weeks, as well as an American military official involved with Pakistan for many years.

The Pakistani Army is essentially run by consensus among 11 top commanders, known as the Corps Commanders, and almost all of them, if not all, were demanding that General Kayani get much tougher with the Americans, even edging toward a break, Pakistanis who follow the army closely said.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/16/world/asia/16pakistan.html?emc=na
24585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Romney-Bachman? on: June 15, 2011, 04:42:31 PM


By JAMES TARANTO
Yesterday's column on Tim Pawlenty's feebleness in criticizing Mitt Romney's version of ObamaCare prompted several readers to write with the suggestion that Pawlenty is pursuing the vice presidential nomination. We doubt it. We've met with Pawlenty twice in recent months, and he has a well-considered (if, thus far, not so well-implemented) plan to win the presidential nomination. Further, if he was sucking up to the former Massachusetts governor Monday night with a Romney-Pawlenty ticket in mind, that would represent a one-day change in strategy, since it was only Sunday morning when Pawlenty referred to "ObamneyCare."

Furthermore, if Pawlenty were angling for the subordinate spot on a Romney ticket, blurring the two men's differences would be precisely the wrong way of going about it. Pawlenty on Monday did not display any strengths to compensate for Romney's weaknesses. Other than regional appeal--the Upper Midwest, though lately a Democratic stronghold in presidential elections, is an area where Republicans can reasonably hope to do better--it's hard to see what Pawlenty would bring to the ticket.

Steve Moore says that Rep. Michele Bachmann could win Iowa.

But if we assume Romney is to be the nominee--a big "if," let us emphasize--then another candidate's performance Monday amounted to a very effective audition for the vice presidency: Michele Bachmann.

Whereas the argument for Pawlenty is that he is most things to all people--that few voters have any reason to be against him--Bachmann stirs genuine enthusiasm among two of the Republican factions most wary of Romney: the Tea Party and the religious right. A Romney-Bachmann ticket would be balanced in terms of ideology (he's moderate, she's conservative), governing style (he's technocratic, she's idealistic), religion (he's Mormon, she's evangelical) and, of course, sex.

This column has no brief for Romney, but strictly as political analysis, we'd say a Romney-Bachmann ticket looks more formidable than the McCain-Palin ticket that lost in 2008. Romney, unlike McCain, has executive and private-sector experience. He's in his mid-60s, old enough that his maturity makes for an attractive contrast with Barack Obama, but not so old that anyone will wonder if he's up to the job.

Romney's biggest weakness is the one The Wall Street Journal identified in a hard-hitting editorial last month titled "Obama's Running Mate":

Presidents lead by offering a vision for the country rooted in certain principles, not by promising a technocracy that runs on "data." Mr. Romney's highest principle seems to be faith in his own expertise.
Like another Massachusetts governor who ran for president, Romney would promise "competence, not ideology"--although Michael Dukakis actually was an ideologue of the liberal left. But again, Romney looks better than McCain, who offered a lack of vision but no reason to think he was a competent administrator.

 
Associated Press
 
Mitt campaigns for Michele in 2008.
.As for Bachmann, her biggest advantage over Sarah Palin may be that she is now running for president. That means that if Romney were to name her a year hence, she would be far a more familiar and media-savvy politician than Palin was in 2008. She would be much less vulnerable to both smears from the partisan media and unforced errors like Palin's disastrous interview with Katie Couric, whoever that is. For those who care about such things, the presence of a woman on the ticket might serve as an excuse to vote against re-electing the first black president.

To be sure, Bachmann is running for the presidential nomination, and while no one considers her the favorite, she's surely a shorter shot than she was a few days ago. But a rival who is able to attract significant support in the primaries is likely to bring more to the ticket than one who isn't. What did Joe Biden get Barack Obama other than comic relief?

An interesting aside: A Romney-Bachmann ticket, or a Romney-Pawlenty one for that matter, would combine candidates from the only state Richard Nixon lost in 1972 and the only state Reagan lost in 1984. What's more, of the seven GOP candidates on stage Monday, all but Rick Santorum come from the home state of at least one Democratic presidential nominee since 1960. The four states in question--Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas--have produced a majority of Democratic nominees (8 of 13) during that time.

24586  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Switch hitter vs. switch pitcher on: June 15, 2011, 04:36:42 PM


http://www.shoonsports.com/switch-hitter-vs-switch-pitcher-pat-venditte/

24587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bull Wesbury breaks into a canter, running of bulls to come? ;-) on: June 15, 2011, 04:00:52 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.2% in May To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 6/15/2011


The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.2% in May versus a consensus expected gain of 0.1%. The CPI is up 3.6% versus a year ago.

“Cash” inflation (which excludes the government’s estimate of what homeowners would charge themselves for rent) was up 0.2% in May and is up 4.2% in the past year.

The rise in the CPI came despite a 1.0% drop in energy prices. Food prices were up 0.4%. Excluding food and energy, the “core” CPI increased 0.3% versus a consensus expected gain of 0.2%. Core prices are up 1.5% versus last year.

Real average hourly earnings – the cash earnings of all employees, adjusted for inflation – rose 0.1% in May but are down 1.6% in the past year. Real weekly earnings are down 1.0% in the past year.

Implications:  The Federal Reserve is running out of room to hide. Policymakers have used low “core” consumer inflation (which excludes food and energy) to justify keeping short-term interest rates near zero. But core inflation is accelerating. Although core prices are still up only 1.5% in the past year, they increased 0.3% in May – the most for any month since 2006 – and are up at a 2.5% annual rate in the past three months. The increase in core prices in May was broad-based, led by vehicle costs, shelter (homes and hotels), and clothing. The unusually sharp increase in auto prices in May is related to supply-chain disruptions from Japan. But accelerating core inflation is evident even without autos. The surprising news in today’s report was that, despite a 1% drop in energy prices, overall consumer prices still climbed 0.2%, which was more than the consensus expected. The CPI is up 3.6% in the past year.  The measure we closely follow, “cash inflation,” is everything in the CPI (including food and energy) but without owners’ equivalent rent (the government’s estimate of what homeowners would pay if they rented their own homes). Cash inflation also increased 0.2% in May and is up 4.2% versus a year ago. Inflation has been evident at the producer level for some time. Now, producers are passing some of those costs on to consumers. Rising inflation is a concern now, but we fully expect the Fed to maintain short-term interest rates near zero until mid-2012.

24588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Unemployment Ins. clusterfcuk on: June 15, 2011, 03:39:13 PM
Unemployment insurance is primarily the charge of state governments, but lately it has developed into an unhealthy relationship with Washington that has become unaffordable. To restore some balance, Republicans in Congress are proposing to give states more flexibility in how they spend federal unemployment dollars. Democrats call the plan an end to federal unemployment subsidies as most people know them. If only.

In the 1930s the federal government established a loose framework for jobless insurance that gives states leeway to determine their own tax rates, eligibility and benefits. Most states provide 26 weeks of benefits, which are funded by state payroll taxes on employers. During periods of high unemployment, states are required by federal law to extend benefits by another 13 weeks. The federal government typically funds half of these extended benefits.

As part of the 2009 stimulus bill—the source of so much fiscal mayhem—Congress agreed to subsidize all 13 weeks of extended benefits and gave states $7 billion to expand their eligibility. That was a Faustian bargain because states will have to pay more benefits over the long run for all of the new individuals that they've added to their rolls.

Congress has since funded an additional 60 weeks of "emergency" benefits, for a total of 99 weeks. The most Congress had previously extended benefits was up to 33 weeks during the early 1990s. The catch is that states now can't reduce their weekly benefit amounts or eligibility. So the only real options for states whose unemployment trust funds are running dry is to take out loans or raise taxes on employers. Roughly 30 states have done the former, but the way that the unemployment system works has made higher taxes nearly inevitable.

If states don't pay down the principal on their loans within about two years of their loan's origination—which is this year for most states—the system requires the feds to raise employer payroll taxes by 0.3% each year that a state's loan is left outstanding. Employers in 22 states will likely see their taxes rise this year, which means less incentive to hire even as the jobless rate is still 9.1%.

That's where the GOP's Jobs Act would help. The bill would let states use the remaining $31 billion of the $56 billion in unemployment benefits that Congress appropriated last year for other purposes like paying off their federal loans or reducing employer taxes. Imagine that—a jobs bill that actually promotes jobs. States with high unemployment could continue to spend the funds on benefits, but they would no longer be required to do so.

Meanwhile, more evidence has arrived that jobless subsidies are a disincentive work. A recent report by Chicago Federal Reserve economists Luojia Hu and Shani Schechter indicates that benefit extensions account for a roughly 1% increase in the unemployment rate. They calculate that between 10% and 25% of the recent decline in unemployment is due to people exhausting their benefits. Allowing the extended emergency benefits to expire, they conclude, could help reverse their adverse effects on employment.

The jobless subsidies for this year have already been appropriated, so the best Republicans can do is let extended benefits sunset at the end of this year and let states put the appropriated money to more productive uses. Then get on with the task of stopping job-killing government policies.

24589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: China's Cyber Assault on: June 15, 2011, 12:46:41 PM
This eems rather ominous , , ,

By RICHARD CLARKE
In justifying U.S. involvement in Libya, the Obama administration cited the "responsibility to protect" citizens of other countries when their governments engage in widespread violence against them. But in the realm of cyberspace, the administration is ignoring its primary responsibility to protect its own citizens when they are targeted for harm by a foreign government.

Senior U.S. officials know well that the government of China is systematically attacking the computer networks of the U.S. government and American corporations. Beijing is successfully stealing research and development, software source code, manufacturing know-how and government plans. In a global competition among knowledge-based economies, Chinese cyberoperations are eroding America's advantage.

The Chinese government indignantly denies these charges, claiming that the attackers are nongovernmental Chinese hackers, or other governments pretending to be China, or that the attacks are fictions generated by anti-Chinese elements in the United States. Experts in the U.S. and allied governments find these denials hard to believe.

Three years ago, the head of the British Security Service wrote to hundreds of corporate chief executive officers in the U.K. to advise them that their companies had in all probability been hacked by the government of China. Neither the FBI nor the Department of Homeland Security has issued such a notice to U.S. executives, but most corporate leaders already know it.

Some, like Google, have the courage to admit that they have been the victims of Chinese hacking. We now know that the "Aurora" attack (so named by the U.S. government because the English word appears in the attack software) against Google in 2009 also hit dozens of other information technology companies—allegedly including Adobe, Juniper and Cisco—seeking their source code. Aurora wasn't an isolated event. This month Google renewed its charge against China, noting that the Gmail accounts of senior U.S. officials had been compromised from a server in China. The targeting of specific U.S. officials is not something that a mere hacker gang could do.

The Aurora attacks were followed by systematic penetrations of one industry after another. In the so-called Night Dragon series, attackers apparently in China went after major oil and gas companies, not only in the U.S. but throughout the world. The German government claims that the personal computer of Chancellor Angela Merkel was hacked by the Chinese government. Australia has also claimed that its prime minister was targeted by Chinese hackers.

Recently the computer-security company RSA (a division of EMC) was penetrated by an intrusion which appears to have stolen the secret sauce behind the company's SecureID. That system is widely used to protect critical computer networks. And this month, the largest U.S. defense contractor, Lockheed, was subject to cyberespionage, apparently by someone using the stolen RSA data. Cyber criminals don't hack defense contractors—they go after banks and credit cards. Despite Beijing's public denials, this attack and many others have all the hallmarks of Chinese government operations.

In 2009, this newspaper reported that the control systems for the U.S. electric power grid had been hacked and secret openings created so that the attacker could get back in with ease. Far from denying the story, President Obama publicly stated that "cyber intruders have probed our electrical grid."

There is no money to steal on the electrical grid, nor is there any intelligence value that would justify cyber espionage: The only point to penetrating the grid's controls is to counter American military superiority by threatening to damage the underpinning of the U.S. economy. Chinese military strategists have written about how in this way a nation like China could gain an equal footing with the militarily superior United States.

What would we do if we discovered that Chinese explosives had been laid throughout our national electrical system? The public would demand a government response. If, however, the explosive is a digital bomb that could do even more damage, our response is apparently muted—especially from our government.

Congress hasn't passed a single piece of significant cybersecurity legislation. When the Chinese deny senior U.S. officials' claims (made in private) that Beijing is stealing terabytes of data in the U.S., Congress should not leave the American people in doubt. It should demand answers to basic questions:

What does the administration know about the role of the Chinese government in cyberattacks on public and private computer networks in the United States?

If there is widespread Chinese hacking of sensitive U.S. networks and critical infrastructure, what has the administration said about it to the Chinese government? Specifically, did President Obama raise concerns about these attacks with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House this spring?

Since defensive measures such as antivirus software and firewalls appear unable to stop the Chinese penetrations, does the administration have any plan to address these cyberattacks?

In private, U.S. officials admit that the government has no strategy to stop the Chinese cyberassault. Rather than defending American companies, the Pentagon seems focused on "active defense," by which it means offense. That cyberoffense might be employed if China were ever to launch a massive cyberwar on the U.S. But in the daily guerrilla cyberwar with China, our government is engaged in defending only its own networks. It is failing in its responsibility to protect the rest of America from Chinese cyberattack.

Mr. Clarke was a national security official in the White House for three presidents. He is chairman of Good Harbor Consulting, a security risk management consultancy for governments and corporations.

24590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 15, 2011, 12:28:55 PM
Andraz:

Looks like he's read a bit more than one or two books evil
24591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US's non-policy on: June 15, 2011, 12:22:19 PM


http://www.mexidata.info/id2933.html
24592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Hiatus on: June 15, 2011, 11:53:34 AM
President Obama's re-election machine is already running full bore, but has his entire Administration also decamped for the campaign trail? We ask because the towering ambitions of Mr. Obama's first two years have suddenly gone into abeyance in his third, apparently to be deferred until years five through eight. The White House is more or less conceding that it doesn't have a chance of winning a second term unless his major policies go on hiatus.

This holiday from committing liberal history began in December with the White House-GOP deal that extended the Bush tax rates through the 2012 election and added a payroll tax cut on employees to 4.2% from 6.2%. These proposals came from the same Democrats who only months earlier had increased payroll taxes to finance their health-care bill and routinely claim that tax rates don't matter to the private economy. But then, 9.1% joblessness and 1.8% growth have a way of concentrating the political mind.

Next came the much-ballyhooed White House scrub for "excessive" regulation, even as hundreds of new rules mandated by the legislation of the first two years continue to be written and to slow business investment. But at least the rule review persuaded the Environmental Protection Agency to stop treating dairy farm milk spills as if they were Gulf oil leaks. That should help next year in Wisconsin.

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Associated Press
 
The White House is more or less conceding that Mr. Obama's major policies must go on hiatus.
.Picking up the vacation pace, this week the EPA delayed by two months the carbon regulations that it wants to impose, even as it resists bipartisan attempts on Capitol Hill to kill them altogether. Next up may be a delay in pending regulations meant to harm coal-fired power, before opponents gather enough votes to kill them. The EPA has already yanked an entire rule that would have forced thousands of businesses to install new industrial boilers.

Maybe the White House should short-circuit all this by dispatching EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to an undisclosed location through November 2012.

Also this week, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission voted—five to zero—to delay by six months the derivatives swap rules that were due this month under the Dodd-Frank financial re-regulation. The alphabet soup of financial regulators will eventually add tens of thousands of pages to the Federal Register, but for now they are conceding that the derivatives market isn't the calamity they claimed it was in the rush to pass the bill.

Then there's health care. Over the last year, the Health and Human Services Department has granted at least 1,372 temporary waivers to ObamaCare mandates, most notably for price controls on private insurance companies. Many have gone to Democratic allies like unions, but many more went to ordinary businesses and even states. HHS has already given a pass to Nevada, New Hampshire and Maine, and another dozen or so have applied or are expected to ask for exemptions.

 Opinion Journal Columnist John Fund on the GOP presidential debate.
.This is less political favoritism than a panicked, ad hoc bid to minimize pre-election insurance disruptions that can be attributed to a law that is still widely reviled. If the law isn't enforced, maybe voters will forget it passed. In its New Hampshire reprieve, HHS admitted that ObamaCare would "destabilize the individual market," though it neglected to mention that this is what ObamaCare is meant to do. Just not yet.

By the way, this waiver process isn't in the law's statutory language. HHS has simply created it via regulation. In other words, the health bureaucracy knew the rules they were writing would be destructive and have created a political safety valve. They have even found a way to override ObamaCare's cuts to the Medicare Advantage program that were counted as "savings" to make the health bill look less spendthrift. Medicare Advantage offers insurance choices to one in four seniors and is popular in, well, Florida, so seniors also get a two-year reprieve.

Why aren't liberals deploring this betrayal of their programs? Perhaps because even they can't ignore reality forever. Mr. Obama's epic fiscal binge, waves of new industrial policy and the political allocation of credit haven't created the boom they promised. If business can now be persuaded that the government assault is over and start to invest again so the economy improves enough for Mr. Obama to win a second term, then a two-year delay in fulfilling their dreams is well worth it.

Liberals figure that as long as Mr. Obama can be re-elected next year on another hope-and-change platform, it will be too late to hope to change anything and he can then return to his legacy project of building a tax and entitlement state on the European model. The economy may benefit from Mr. Obama's temporary amnesty, but the real lesson of this hiatus from liberalism is that it should be shut down permanently.

24593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Fred Burton on tracking OBL's courier on: June 15, 2011, 10:44:31 AM

Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton examines the sophisticated surveillance operation that led to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s safe house in Pakistan.


Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

In this week’s Above the Tearline, we thought we’d take a look at the highly sophisticated surveillance operation that took place many weeks before the SEAL Team Six takedown of the Osama bin Laden safe house.

In the aftermath of the bin Laden takedown, most of the mainstream media has been focused on the brilliant SEAL Team Six assault on the compound. What we would like to take a look at is the highly sophisticated CIA surveillance operation that took place on the courier, who was bin Laden’s lifeline to the free world. Trade craft wise, the surveillance of the courier is the brilliance in this operation in my assessment, meaning you had to set up a standalone safe house in country for a CIA team to operate it in without the knowledge of the Pakistani government. In essence you’re operating behind enemy lines.

One of the other concepts of operating a unilateral surveillance team in a foreign country is the notion of third-party intelligence services trying to figure out what you’re doing. Such as the Indian Intelligence Bureau, the Russian SVR, as well as the very aggressive intelligence capabilities of and organizations such as al Qaeda getting wind of what your team could be doing. The personnel operating in this surveillance team are on a very dangerous mission. In essence, if caught they are committing crimes against Pakistan and they are on their own. They’re operating - the term is black - in country so the U.S. would not acknowledge any activities on the part of our government if the surveillance team had been picked up before the bin Laden operation went down.

The courier was operationally very secure. For example he would remove his cell phone battery so the cell phone could not have been used to track his movements to the compound. And think about the surveillance team and the ability to follow that man without getting caught. At any point along this operation if the courier saw the surveillance team, the operation would’ve been blown. I know from first-hand experience in the Ramzi Yousef case, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing, that elements within the Pakistani ISI cannot be trusted so this is why the CIA decided to put together a unilateral operation once they had the lead on the courier. And the logistics, and the care and feeding and the backstop of what took place to get this team into country to surveil all the courier from many, many weeks before the bin Laden operation is probably the most brilliant CIA surveillance operation in quite some time.

24594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / You say you do not believe on: June 15, 2011, 08:47:32 AM


From a letter by the Rebbe:

I do not accept your assertion that you do not believe.

For if you truly had no concept of a Supernal Being Who created the world with purpose, then what is all this outrage of yours against the injustice of life?

The substance of the universe is not moral, nor are plants and animals. Why should it surprise you that whoever is bigger and more powerful swallows his fellow alive?

It is only due to an inner conviction in our hearts, shared by every human being, that there is a Judge, that there is right and there is wrong. And so, when we see a wrong, we demand an explanation: Why is this not the way it is supposed to be?

That itself is belief in G-d.


24595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Medved on: June 15, 2011, 08:18:07 AM
Well, the writer seems to be thinking of two specific items:  

a) the $200m comment, which does seem to be a moment of poor/reckless fact checking, and

b) the wrong state comment, which personally I file under the same heading as Obama once saying there were 57 states.

Here's Medved's analysis:

The headline for the big GOP debate should read “ROMNEY SOLIDIFIES HIS STATUS AS FRONTRUNNER” but the appropriate sub-head may prove even more significant in the long run: “Bachmann Makes Energetic and Well-Received Debut.” At this point, no one should doubt that the feisty congresswoman from Minnesota will emerge as a major contender—certainly in Iowa (where she was born and raised, and where her evangelical fervor will rally Mike Huckabee’s currently unfocused cadres) and, if she wins there, then most likely in the rest of the country.
Michelle Bachmann greets the audience after the presidential debate at St. Anselms College in Manchester, New Hampshire on June 13, 2011. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton, Reuters / Landov)

For weeks, political analysts have argued that the biggest question about the shape of the Republican race involved identifying the anti-Mitt—the formidable Romney rival who could provide a rallying point for all those who for, whatever reason, found the former Massachusetts governor unacceptable. In recent weeks it looked increasingly likely that Tim Pawlenty would play that role, especially after he unveiled an audacious economic plan that was generally well-received among conservatives. But the New Hampshire debate (carried on CNN) will give rise to feverish speculation that Bachmann may gain momentum as the Mittster’s most fearsome rock-the-establishment challenger.

It’s not that Bachmann delivered a brilliant or masterful or inspiring performance on the stage at St. Anselm College, where she announced her formal candidacy in the midst of the broadcast; it’s just that she so wildly exceeded expectations, especially from all those skeptics who wrote her off long-ago as a whining, unhinged Sarah Palin wannabe, without the moose-hunting exoticism, flirtatious mien or flighty, ditzy voice.

Actually, the main reason that Bachmann helped herself so substantially is that her credibility should destroy the final, forlorn and dwindling chance that the former Alaska governor might still join the race. Tea Party enthusiasts who adore Palin for her fearless, unabashedly conservative positions, girl-next-door sex appeal, impassioned patriotism, and vibrant family life will find a more convincing, less tarnished version of the same virtues in Bachmann. She’s the mother of five (like Palin) and she and her husband raised 23 teenaged foster children (as she told the TV audience three different times), taking kids from troubled inner city backgrounds and guiding them all successfully through high school, with most of them ultimately enrolling in college. Moreover, in the New Hampshire debate Bachmann looked simply smashing—radiant, self-assured, elegantly understated in her tailored, severe black suit with the luminous white blouse, simultaneously formidable and friendly, with her piercing, pale blue eyes igniting for the camera like Bunsen Burners every time she spoke.

One of the common rules for such encounters spells out that the candidate who seems to enjoy himself (or herself) the most, almost always wins the public; that’s why Huckabee, hugely accomplished raconteur and communicator that he is, won every one of last year’s GOP debates and became a major candidate despite lack of money and no prior name recognition. Michele Bachmann, who sparkled and smiled and clearly enjoyed herself more than any of her stiff, often somber male colleagues, has already demonstrated considerable fund-raising prowess (her 2010 congressional campaign broke records) and enjoys semi-celebrity status because of her notorious rants on cable TV.

In this appearance, however, she had obviously abandoned the flame-thrower persona in favor of approach that could actually qualify as… presidential. She looked seasoned and sure-footed most of the night, even though she stumbled through two confusing and contradictory answers to late-in-the-game questions on social issues (about whether she’d accept gay marriage in states like New Hampshire where it’s already operational, and how she felt about Pawlenty’s willingness to permit abortions in instances of rape, incest, and a risk to the mother’s life).

More interesting than these abstruse ruminations were her political instincts at the conclusion of the formal broadcast. CNN kept cameras on the candidates as the network talking-heads delivered voice-over commentary on what had just occurred. Most of the contenders embraced their wives and socialized with one another, milling about on stage. I noticed that Bachmann, on the other hand, plunged into the crowd of spectators, shaking hands, signing autographs, making new friends, flashing that perfect smile with its charmingly imperfect teeth. She is, quite simply, one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met in politics and she gained ground in the debate because some of that natural warmth and ebullience managed to come across.

As for Romney, he also helped himself, showing vast improvement from his robotic debate performances from four years before. Two strengths stood out most conspicuously here: first, his admirable ability to turn any question on any subject into an opportunity to bash Obama, as if they were already fighting it out for the White House, just the two of them. He never let the audience forget that the president represented his true opponent and that any minor disagreements with Pawlenty or Santorum or Gingrich hardly mattered.

Second, it’s obvious that Mitt has now conquered one of the toughest challenges facing any participant in televised debates—listening to your rivals respectfully, without looking smug or supercilious or discomfited or, worst of all, bored. Al Gore famously lost his second debate with George W. Bush in large part because he greeted many of his opponent’s answers with audible, impatient sighs. Romney on the other hand, looked directly at the other debaters when they spoke, smiling sympathetically, suggesting fellowship, courtesy, even open-mindedness. In general, Mitt looked considerably more comfortable and more at ease than he ever did in 2008; assuming he’s received some serious media coaching, it’s safe to say it paid off handsomely.

His only weak moment came on a question suggesting that pro-lifers might distrust him because he formally endorsed abortion rights. His feeble, oddly plaintive answer—that he counted as proudly, unequivocally pro-life because he had campaigned that way four years ago—amounted to a missed opportunity to reassure those who still see in Romney an excess of calculation and a shortage of passion.

The biggest missed opportunity, however, marred Pawlenty’s otherwise capable outing: when asked why he had used the term “Obamaney-care” on Fox News to emphasize the similarity between the health plans of Barack and Mitt, he provided only a lame narrative (which he recited twice) about Obama himself suggesting he had borrowed key ideas from the Massachusetts plan Romney at one time proudly promoted. Pawlenty pointedly refused to engage Romney on his point of greatest vulnerability, even after moderator John King goaded him by saying he had been willing to make snide remarks about Mitt in the safety of a cable news studio, but wouldn’t try it when his rival stood beside him for a live televised event.

In one sense, T-Paw may have displayed admirable instincts to avoid going after his opponent with hammer-and-tong ferocity in their very first joint appearance; it’s probably too early in the process for any sort of nasty confrontation. But he should have at least cited the main similarity between Romney’s health reform and Obama’s bureaucratic nightmare: both schemes rely on an individual mandate, in which government uses its bullying power to require that every citizen purchase health insurance. Pawlenty could have delivered a far more effective but still gracious response by saying, “No, I don’t want to debate the details of Governor Romney’s plan—that’s irrelevant outside of Massachusetts, and I understand that in that very liberal state there are some people who still like it. But I just think it’s the wrong approach when government gives us more orders rather than allowing us more liberty; when government grows and freedom shrinks. Governor Romney and Barack Obama both supported plans that forced people to buy insurance, whether they wanted it or needed it or not. I just think that’s exactly the wrong approach.”

In other answers, particularly on foreign policy and right-to-work laws, Pawlenty delivered crisp, focused, persuasive sound bites that came across with special effectiveness when delivered in his aw-shucks, Mr. Rogers, friendly neighbor demeanor.

Rick Santorum also provided coherent, thoughtful responses to every question he faced and came across like a seasoned, trustworthy, telegenic and impressive conservative. His problem? There’s no segment of the party base ready to rally to his banner. The Tea Party platoons (effusively praised by Santorum) are already somewhat divided between Ron Paul, Herman Cain and now (in much greater numbers, presumably) Michele Bachmann. If Rick Perry of Texas belatedly joins the fray, he’ll also draw substantial Tea Party support. Santorum, with no money and no natural power-base (he lost his last statewide election in Pennsylvania by 18 points) will find it impossible to escape the dreaded “Good Guy/Can’t Win” label—like the Ralph Bellamy role in Golden Age Hollywood movies, with a character who’s upright, admirable, handsome, hard-working and with no chance at all of winning a glamorous leading lady who’s more likely to go for the raffish Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart.

Finally, the three guys who don’t really belong on that stage: Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Ron Paul.

Newt looked less scary than expected, and never conveyed the battered air of a candidate on an epic losing streak whose presidential aspirations had recently exploded in a welter of accusations and embarrassments. On stage in New Hampshire, he provided informed and well-crafted responses, but hardly delivered the brilliant nuggets one might expect from what pundits invariably describe as “the most brilliant, creative mind in the Republican Party.” Newt did well, but no better than Romney, Pawlenty, Santorum or Bachmann. Given the crushing baggage he must lug through all future laps in this long race, the former Speaker did little to jump-start his sputtering campaign.

Among the seven candidates who showed up at St. Anselm, Herman Cain may have hurt himself the most. His line about “bringing the best minds together in a room, getting the right answers, and then forming a new policy” has begun to sound like a dodge and a platitude, not the endearing modesty of a self-advertised non-politician. His other answers (particularly the muddled and ignorant defense of a prior statement about feeling uncomfortable with a Muslim in his cabinet) showed not just every-man naivete but appalling ignorance. It’s now clear that his problem isn’t that he doesn’t read briefing papers; it’s that he doesn’t read newspapers. As a consistently successful businessman, Mr. Cain ought to realize that no big corporation would hire a new CEO who hadn’t thoroughly familiarized himself with the top issues on the agenda, and proposed decisive approaches; it’s not enough to say you’ll count on experts to set you straight.

And speaking of setting the record straight, I now acknowledge that my past insults aimed at Ron Paul (calling him “Dr. Demento,” among other endearments), may have counted as overly generous. Last time he ran, the Mad Doctor inspired a cult following and raised a great deal of money, but won fewer than 30 delegates and consistently modest primary vote totals. This time, he’ll do even worse: his body language (waving his arms and twitching his eyebrows like a pan-handling street corner prophet predicting the end of the world) and not just his words suggest a crank and a crackpot. Even Dennis Kucinich might have been embarrassed by Dr. Paul’s suggestion that halting the bombing of Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and Yemen would actually make the United States more secure, or that eliminating “welfare to foreign nations” would allow us to continue current levels of Medicare (that cost more than a hundred times what we spend on all foreign aid programs combined).

At least Dr. Paul rightly ridiculed Herman Cain’s repeated promise to consult experts before reaching decisions. The crotchety 75-year-old promised to bring all the troops home regardless of the advice or insistence of his generals and admirals because, after all “I’m Commander in Chief.”

Those words provided the debate’s single most chilling moment and will encourage any voters who paid attention to this exercise to rush to support the more plausible candidates. Yes, Dr. Paul provides some comic relief and a bit of unpredictability that sometimes enlivens boring televised debates but his presence also undermines the valuable idea that there is such a thing as a consistent GOP message, and that running for the presidency amounts to serious business.

This column appeared originally in The Daily Beast on June 14, 2011.
24596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison 1822 Freedom of Religion from Government on: June 15, 2011, 08:14:57 AM


"We are teaching the world the great truth that governments do better without kings and nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of government." --James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, 1822

24597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taken in by Gay Girl on: June 15, 2011, 08:11:13 AM
Nice summary Rachel!

Another example of dishonesty:

http://townhall.com/columnists/jonahgoldberg/2011/06/15/taken_in_by_gay_girl


Which brings me to this by Andraz:

" if there is a lecture to be had from post-modern crisis of human thought, its that today there is no one true light that illuminates the blind anymore. There are only different stories. Only shades.  But I presume to understand, you were coming up in a time where stories were taken literally and the light was still one and true (for both sides).  I hate to be an old trumpet, and hate it even more to disprove this dubious attempt yet again, but necessity prevails. GM makes things sound so simple. Now its my sacred duty to complicate them and carve the way forth for truth, so it may never rest buried under piles of rubble."

As I think you already know about me Andraz, I fully get the point about shades and different stories, that we are all blind men grasping a different part of the elephant and so forth.  That said, IMHO you seem to go substantively further to a dimension where there is no true and false, no right and wrong.  Posting clips which you admit "very well may have been staged" does not serve to free Truth from under piles of rubble; rather it ADDS rubble and hides it amongst the smoke of obfuscation-- which serves to cause of those who seek to push the Jews into the sea. 

This is the sort of thing that leads to very bright, very well educated academics (i.e. you  cheesy ) speaking such foolishness as Israel "surrounding the Palestinians" and unwilling to notice the clear simple implications of Muslim treatment of the Coptics in Egypt for the nature of Islam in this part of the world.   As Rachel's clip nicely shows, it is the Jews of Israel who have Jerusalem open to all.  It was (and is) the Muslims who seek to deny the history of the Jews there.  Even today they burrow under their mosque seeking to remove the physical evidence that our temple was there before their mosque.

This is the sort of thing that leads to an inability to see that the underlying fundamental problem is not the Jews, it is that the other side contains percentages of those who seek to remove us altogether.

NEVER AGAIN. 

24598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on Bachman on: June 15, 2011, 12:42:53 AM


http://www.theblaze.com/stories/do-you-know-michele-bachmann-a-quick-history-of-her-political-life/
24599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Salafists accepting democracy? on: June 15, 2011, 12:18:26 AM
On first read, some of this piece strikes me as , , , needing a bit more thought.  That said, the question presented is of profound importance.
==============================

Democratizing Salafists and the War Against Jihadism

Egypt’s provisional military authority on Sunday approved the application of the country’s first Salafist party, Hizb al-Nour. Days earlier, the world’s oldest — and Egypt’s primary — Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, was licensed by the Political Parties Affairs Committee (which is appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces).

According to Egyptian media reports, as many as four other parties of Salafist persuasion are in the making, following unprecedented popular unrest in the country, which led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government.

“The democratization of Salafism even in a limited form could have far-reaching geopolitical implications. Salafists considering democratic politics as a legitimate means of pursuing political objectives can have a moderating effect on ultra-conservative, extremist and radical forces.”
The establishment of Hizb al-Nour marks the first time a Salafist group has sought to enter relatively free electoral politics in the Arab world. Unlike the bulk of Islamists (of the Muslim Brotherhood persuasion), Salafists (also known as Wahhabists) have generally been ideologically opposed to democracy. From the point of view of Salafists/Wahhabists and other radical Islamists, as well as the jihadists, democracy is un-Islamic because they see it as a system that allows man to enact laws, which, in their opinion, is the right of God.

With Hizb al-Nour as a legal political entity, it appears that at least some Egyptian Salafists seem to have moved past a major redline. As far as Egypt is concerned, they are looking at an intense intra-Islamist competition, which could allow the country’s military to consolidate its position while it oversees the shift toward multiparty politics. From the ruling Egyptian council’s perspective, the presence of Salafists in the electoral mix helps it check the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and vice versa.

The case of Egypt notwithstanding, there will be a great many Salafist actors in the region who will continue to insist that Islam and democracy are incompatible. But the democratization of Salafism even in a limited form could have far-reaching geopolitical implications. Salafists considering democratic politics as a legitimate means of pursuing political objectives can have a moderating effect on ultra-conservative, extremist and radical forces.

At the least, it provokes critical debate that could undermine them from within. There are already a significant number of Salafists who do not support the violent ideology of jihadism and consider it to be a deviation from Salafism. That said, jihadism gained ground due to the fact that mainstream Salafists traditionally have never articulated a political program.

If Salafists in significant numbers embrace democratic politics, it could undermine jihadists in the long run. Mainstream politics could serve as an alternative means of pursuing religious goals — one that is less costly than the path of violence and offers a stake in the political system. Furthermore, it provides for a socialization process that could foster norms whereby Salafists can become comfortable with political pluralism.

In the near term, however, Salafists participating in democratic politics can have a destabilizing effect in the region’s most influential Arab state, Saudi Arabia, at a time when popular demands for political reforms have swept the Arab world. Thus far, the kingdom has remained immune to the mass agitation that has overwhelmed almost every other Arab country. In addition to their petroleum wealth, the Saudis have relied on the Salafist religious establishment to prevent the eruption of public unrest.

The political debut of Egyptian Salafists could, however, encourage some among the Saudi Salafists to follow suit. Salafists in the Saudi kingdom could demand political reforms; in the 1990s, a significant current within Saudi Salafism did engage in such a campaign, albeit unsuccessfully. In the current climate, however, the outcome could differ.

While there is concern in the United States and Israel regarding the entry of Islamists into the political mainstream in the Middle East, Salafists embracing democratic politics could actually help counter violent extremism. In the short term, though, it could destabilize the Arab world’s powerhouse and the world’s leading exporter of crude.

24600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 14, 2011, 11:40:01 PM
I'm off to spend some time with my wife, but first a few comments:

1) "You speak of Academia like its a coherent whole, „us against the world“ type of an institution, that holds its own in a sea of predators. Well here is some first hand insight : even at hardline scientific cathedras, you would be hard pressed to find phds that agree on something. Viscious competition and backstabbing is common just as it is common in management or sports."

I am reminded of Harvard Prof, Nixon cabinet member, and later US Senator from NY, Daniel Moynihan who commented that Washington politics was child's play to that at Harvard -- working from memory here-- "precisely because so little of import was at stake". 

That said, IMHO it is a simple fact that US academia is overwhelmingly leftist and much of it is dedicated to propagation of leftist ideology and not a search for the Truth.

2) Concerning the description of the video that Kostas posted at my request, I regret my lack of citations, but I do remember receiving it from various places and with considerable certainty I regard my description of it to be quite true.

3) "where IDF soldiers shoot tied civilians point blank range, with high ranking officers present."  Working from memory here again because I am too lazy to go surf through all those videos to double check, but IIRC the shooting was in the leg with a rubber bullet-- in which case your description here leaves a very misleading impression.

There's more, but my wife is cuter than all of you guys put together smiley


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