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24551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris on: February 16, 2011, 06:05:23 AM
Morris often gets outside of his true lane of expertise, but here he is back in it, dead center:

So what happens if the cuts proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., prove unacceptable to the Senate and the president? What if there is no compromise? What if nobody gives in?

A budget deadlock, played out over months, will doom President Obama and assure his defeat. But an easily won compromise will help him get re-elected.

The central question in Obama's bid for a second term is: Will the issues that doomed his party in 2010 still be the key questions in 2012? If they are, we already know how the election will come out. If they are not, Obama can win.

When the president says he does not "want to re-fight the battles of the past two years," he means that he embraces this reality. He doesn't want Obamacare, high spending, huge deficits, cap and trade, card check and the like to be the items of discussion in the 2012 election.

But he has failed to put forward a compelling agenda for the next two years. That was the essential defect of his State of the Union speech. Nobody is going to storm any barricades for high-speed rail and more R&D spending.

If the Republicans hold firm in demanding huge spending cuts and Obama does not give in, the question of whether or not to cut spending will dominate the nation's political discourse for months on end and will spill over into the 2012 election.

To assure that it will, the Republicans should hold firm to their budget spending cuts without surrender or compromise. If necessary, it is OK to vote a few very short term continuing resolutions to keep the government open for a few weeks at a time, always keeping on the pressure.

hen the debt limit vote comes up, they should refuse to allow an increase without huge cuts in spending. If the debt limit deadline passes, they should force the administration to scramble to cobble together enough money to operate for weeks at a time.

If Obama offers a half a loaf, the GOP should spurn it for weeks and months. Then, rather than actually shut down the government, let them accept some variant of their proposed cuts but only give in return a few more weeks time, at which point the issue will be re-litigated. Don't go for Armageddon. Just keep fighting the battle.

Same with the debt limit. Extend it for a few hundred billion dollars and then go back for more cuts in return for a further extension. Make Obama pay for each continuing resolution and each debt limit hike with more cuts to spending.

Always avoid cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Save those for after 2012. For now, focus on Medicaid block granting and discretionary spending (including some modest cuts in defense).

Like a guerilla army, never go to a shutdown (a general engagement), but keep coming up with cuts, compromising, letting the government stay open for a few more weeks, letting the debt limit rise a few hundred billion, and then come back for more cuts and repeat the cycle.

And don't just demand spending cuts. Go for defunding of Obamacare, blocking the EPA from carbon taxation and regulation, a ban on card check unionization, and constraints on the FCC's regulation of the Internet and talk radio. Put those items on the table each time, each session.

Every time the issues come up, every time the cuts are litigated, Obama's efforts to appear to be a centrist will be frustrated. Time and again, he will have to oppose spending cuts. Over and over, he will come across as the liberal he is, battling for each dime and opposing any defunding.

Obama's campaign strategy has two elements: Change the subject from the 09-10 agenda, and move to the center. A tough, determined Republican budget offensive, embracing all these elements and fought in this guerilla style, will frustrate both and lead to his defeat.
24552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Mr. Peabody on: February 16, 2011, 12:43:16 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU8TbLza3qY
24553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: February 15, 2011, 04:58:40 PM
Nonetheless, if the accusation is true then Justice Thomas acted inappropriately by failing to disclose.
24554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reagan on: February 15, 2011, 04:55:32 PM
I would add that
a) Reagan understood being in the public eye due to his acting career; and
b) There is perhaps no better preparation for the socializing, schmoozing, politicking, lying, and backstabbing of Washington than being President of the Screen Actors Guild.
24555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Overview on: February 15, 2011, 04:51:53 PM
Analyst Reva Bhalla takes a closer look at the unique factors afflicting each of the Middle Eastern countries currently experiencing unrest.

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

With protests breaking out everywhere from Yemen to Bahrain to Algeria to Iran, everyone is asking themselves who’s next in the so-called wave of revolutions. Now while there are some common trends in each of these countries, this can’t be seen as some sort of domino effect where revolutions will spread everywhere in sight. Each of these countries are living in very unique circumstances, and understanding those factors are important in understanding which of these regimes are really at risk.

There are common threads to many of the countries experiencing unrest right now. First, most obviously, you have severe socio-economic conditions where you have high rates of youth unemployment in particular, inflationary pressures driving up the price of food and fuel, lack of basic services. Overall, you see a general reaction to decades of crony capitalism that really built up during the Nasserite era in this region.

Exacerbating matters in places like Algeria and Yemen are these illegitimate succession plans. So for example, in Yemen, the president has already announced that he is not going to run again for president in 2013, nor will his son, and that was designed to appease the political opposition. So far it seems to have worked, and the political opposition has dropped out of the demonstrations, leaving those on the streets more and more divided.

Now, in Algeria, the main concern is not so much the civil unrest in the streets, although that’s notable. The real concern is who is manipulating that unrest behind the scenes. So in Algeria, you have an intense power struggle that’s been playing out between an increasingly embattled president, who has wanted to hand the reins over to his brother, and a powerful intelligence minister, who is hotly opposed to those plans. So as these demonstrations play out, it’s extremely important to take a look at what quiet concessions are being offered behind the scenes as this power struggle plays out.

Another key theme is that many of these countries face the dilemma of how to integrate Islamists in the political system. Now, countries like Jordan have a better relationship with the Islamists in the opposition; there, they actually have the ability to participate in the political system, albeit not to the levels they want. In other countries — like Algeria, Syria and, of course, Egypt — these are the countries that continue to struggle with this Islamist dilemma.

One thing is clear to us: In Egypt, we did not see a popular revolution in the true sense of the word; what we saw was a carefully and thoughtfully managed succession by the military. In Algeria, you’re mostly seeing a power struggle play out. In places like Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain, you’re seeing opposition groups and tribes start to seize the opportunity to press for their demands, but they are still operating under great constraints, and, in many cases, they know their limits.

In other words, while this latest unrest is a wake-up call for many regimes in the region, we are not seeing a wave of revolutions spread throughout the region. And where you do see things flare up, like we might see in Algeria this coming Friday, you have to take a closer look at the political intrigue behind the demonstrations to really understand the true risk to the regime.

24556  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: February 15, 2011, 01:42:47 PM
For cherries, this is my parable:

Do you remember the first time you had sex?

Were you any good at it?

Have you gotten better since then?

24557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Retail Sales on: February 15, 2011, 10:55:09 AM
Doug:  Interesting circles you travel in!

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

Retail sales and sales excluding autos both increased 0.3% in January To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/15/2011


Retail sales and sales excluding autos both increased 0.3% in January. Both fell slightly short of consensus expectations.

Including revisions to November/December, sales were up 0.2% in January while sales ex-autos were unchanged. Retail sales are up 7.8% versus a year ago; sales ex-autos are up 6.2%.
 
The increase in retail sales for January was led by grocery stores, gas stations, department stores and warehouse clubs, internet/mail-order, and autos. The weakest category of sales, by far, was building materials.
 
Sales excluding autos, building materials, and gas increased 0.4% in January, but were unchanged including downward revisions for November/December. These sales are up 5.1% versus last year. This calculation is important for estimating GDP.
 
Implications:  Today’s report on retail sales was lukewarm. Sales increased less than the consensus expected and were revised down slightly for prior months. However, the modest growth in sales in January was primarily due to one category – building materials – which was held down by the unusually harsh winter weather in much of the country. Most major categories of sales increased in January. Despite this, “core” sales, which exclude autos, gas, and building materials (all of which are volatile from month to month) increased a healthy 0.4% and were up for the 15th time in the last 18 months. We expect consumer spending to continue to move higher. Worker earnings are up, consumer debt has stabilized at much lower levels, and consumers’ financial obligations are now the smallest share of income since the mid-1990s. In other news this morning, the Empire State Index, a measure of manufacturing activity in New York, increased to +15.4 in February from +11.9.  On the inflation front, import prices increased 1.5% in January and are up 5.3% in the past year.  Excluding petroleum, import prices increased 1.1% in January and are up 3.2% versus a year ago.   Export prices rose 1.2% in January and are up 6.8% in the past year.  Excluding farm products, export prices still gained 0.9% in January and are up 5.3% from a year ago.  These widespread gains in trade prices are a leading sign of higher inflation that will ultimately hit the US consumer.
24558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 15, 2011, 10:38:49 AM
Agreed!

OTOH the question of how he operates in the civilian political system remains to be seen.  One term in the House of Representatives is a REALLY thin resume in this regard.
24559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 15, 2011, 10:19:55 AM
I wonder if Baraq will support them this time around , , ,
24560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Lost Cause Scenario on: February 15, 2011, 10:14:50 AM
The Lost Cause Scenario Adar I 11, 5771 · February 15, 2011
By Yanki Tauber Print this Page


 
Much is made of Abraham's valiant efforts to save the wicked city of Sodom. We read how Abraham virtually went to battle with G-d on behalf of these very sinful people, contesting the divine decree that Sodom (and its four sister cities, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar) be destroyed. "It behooves You not to do such," Abraham challenged, "to kill the righteous together with the wicked . . . Shall the Judge of the entire world not do justice?!" "If there be found fifty righteous people in the city," Abraham bargained, "would You not spare the place because of the fifty righteous ones who are in it?" "What if there be five less than fifty?" Abraham persisted. "What if there be forty? . . . Thirty?"

But something about the story doesn't add up. Why should the wicked people be spared "because of the righteous"? If there are some righteous people left in Sodom, G-d obviously doesn't have to "kill the righteous together with the wicked"-He can airlift them outta there before He wrecks the place. Indeed, G-d sent two angels to rescue Lot and his family, the only righteous people in Sodom, before overturning the city. So where's the injustice? What's the logic in Abraham's argument?

Also: every good salesman has more than one pitch up his sleeve; when one line of reasoning fails to elicit the desired response, the seasoned marketer will quickly shift to another tack. Yet Abraham (a pretty good salesman, actually) seems to have only this one argument to make. When it turns out that there's not even ten righteous folk in any of the cities, Abraham drops the case.

One of the explanations offered by the commentaries is that as long as there are righteous people in a place, there remains the possibility and hope that they will have a positive influence on their community. So it makes sense to spare the entire city because of the righteous people in it-it's not a lost cause yet. When Abraham learns, however, that there are no righteous people remaining in Sodom (or not enough righteous people to make a difference), he has nothing further to say on their behalf.

This suggests a deeper meaning to Abraham's argument. When Abraham says to G-d, "Do not destroy the city because of the righteous who are in it," he's not just speaking about Sodom as a city, but also about its individual sinners. The chassidic masters refer to the human being as a "city in miniature": each of us is a virtual metropolis populated by numerous organs and limbs, traits and faculties, drives and desires, thoughts and actions. Even a thoroughly wicked "city" is bound to have a few righteous "inhabitants"-a few remaining enclaves of purity, a few pinpoints of goodness. To destroy a person-even a most wicked person-is also to destroy the latent tzaddik within him, to reject not only his negative actuality but also his positive potential.

The question, however, is: does there remain enough potential goodness to exert a positive influence on the "city" and perhaps effect a transformation? If this were the case, it would indeed be a grave injustice, unbehooving the Judge of the entire world, to "kill the righteous together with the wicked." But what if we are dealing with a "lost cause"? What if we have before us a person or community in which the "tzaddik within" is so completely overwhelmed that one can see no possibility of it ever asserting itself? When there is no salvageable goodness remaining in the person, what can be said to protest the Divine decree?

Abraham, who in the course of his lifetime had converted many thousands to the ethos and morals of monotheism, was quite the expert at identifying and activating the "hidden tzaddik" in the most corrupt environments. But when confronted with an evil as impregnable as Sodom's, even Abraham fell silent.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

But Moses did not.

Four hundred years after Abraham approached G-d to plead on behalf of the wicked of Sodom, Moses had a "lost cause scenario" of his own on his hands, when the Children of Israel sinned by worshipping a Golden Calf. What can be said in defense of a people who succumb to idolatry a mere forty days after experiencing the greatest Divine revelation of all time-a revelation bearing the message "I am the L-rd your G-d . . . you shall have no other gods before Me"?

The Divine anger seethed. Like his great-great-great-great-grandfather before him, Moses stepped in to stave off a decree of annihilation.

But Moses took a different approach. He didn't say, "But there are many who didn't sin." He didn't say, "Spare the wicked because of the righteous," or "spare the wicked because of the potential for righteousness within then." Instead he said: "Forgive them, G-d. If you won't, blot me out of your Torah."

Moses demanded an unconditional forgiveness, a forgiveness without a "because." If you are a G-d who forgives without cause, Moses said, I'm prepared to be part of your Story. If not, edit me out; I'll have no part in it.

Abraham was a great lover of humanity. He loved his fellow man because he saw the potential for goodness in him or her, even when the rest of the person didn't look that great. But Moses' love was greater: Moses loved his people regardless of whether he could or could not discern the hidden tzaddik in their city.

And the amazing thing was, in the end Moses did turn his errant people around. In the end, their supposedly irredeemable potential came to glorious light.

For such is the paradox of love. If you care for someone because you see in him a potential for improvement and wish to have a positive influence on him, that's really great of you, but there will be times when you'll find that potential inaccessible and your positive influence rebuffed. But if you care for him irrespective of whether you can see anything good in him, and regardless of whether you can reasonably hope to influence him in any way-if you love him even if he is a "lost cause"-then you will end up having a profound influence on his life.


24561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 15, 2011, 09:51:07 AM
He has my interest for sure, but a lot remains to be seen.   Getting things done in the political system requires the ability to herd cats, which is quite unlike the military. 
24562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: February 15, 2011, 09:48:42 AM
By FARNAZ FASSIHI
Iranian police used tear gas and electric prods to crack down on the country's biggest antigovernment protests in at least a year, as demonstrators buoyed by activism across the Middle East returned to the country's streets by the tens of thousands Monday.

The day of planned antigovernment rallies began largely peacefully, according to witnesses, with protesters marching silently or sitting and chanting. But as demonstrators' ranks swelled, police and antiriot forces lined the streets, ordered shops to shut down and responded at times with force, according to witnesses and opposition websites, in a repeat of the official crackdown that helped snuff out months of spirited opposition rallies a year ago.
By day's end, online videos showed garbage bins on fire, protesters throwing rocks at the police and crowds clashing with motorcycle-mounted members of the pro-regime Basij militia.

Thousands of Iranians gathered in several locations across Tehran Monday, heeding calls in recent days by opposition leaders to demonstrate in solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian protesters. Farnaz Fassihi has details.
Monday's protests come as calls for regime change have led to the popular ousters of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. They mark a broadening from Iranian rallies that drew hundreds of thousands through 2009 and early 2010.

Those rallies targeted what opposition leaders said was a flawed presidential election that they say unfairly returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Monday's protests, by comparison, demanded that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the core of power in the Islamic Republic, step down.

"Mubarak! Ben Ali! It's now the turn for Seyed Ali!" people chanted, according to witnesses and videos, referring to the country's spiritual head.

In Tehran's Enghelab Avenue, the main route for the rally, a crowd of young men and women on Monday evening stomped on a giant banner depicting Mr. Khamenei and set it on fire, a sign of deepest disrespect in the Muslim world. Videos of the scene showed crowds cheering in response.

Iran's government and its opposition alike have sought to identify themselves with the mood of change sweeping the Middle East. Iranian officials sought to paint this year's Arab revolts as Islamic uprisings like the Iranian revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi more than 30 years ago.

Iran's opposition protesters, meanwhile, have renewed their challenge to the government, emboldened by rallies led by a similar cadre of educated, tech-savvy youth seeking better economic opportunity and more political freedoms.

Those who saw the rallies in Tehran placed the number of protesters in the capital in the tens of thousands. Witnesses in the cities of Mashad, Isfahan and Tabriz saw crowds they estimated at thousands of demonstrators each, with blog reports and other online dispatches placing overall participation in such cities at over 10,000 each.

Iranian officials have all but banned reporting on anti-regime protests, making it difficult to estimate not only the size of crowds, but the number of casualties, fatalities and arrests.

Iran's protests coincided with a visit Monday by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who briefly addressed the unrest sweeping the Mideast at a joint press conference with Mr. Ahmadinejad. "We see that sometimes when the leaders and heads of countries do not pay attention to the nations' demands, the people themselves take action," Mr. Gul said. He didn't mention Iran.

Iranian officials didn't comment on Monday's protests. The Fars News Agency, affiliated with the country's Revolutionary Guards, reported that a "group of thugs" commissioned by the U.S. and Israel had taken to the streets to cause riots. Fars News said protestors had shot and killed one person and injured several others.

Iran's government "over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt, and now, when given the opportunity to afford their people the same rights…once again illustrate their true nature," Mrs. Clinton told reporters in Washington. "We wish the opposition and the brave people in the streets across cities in Iran the same opportunity that they saw their Egyptian counterparts seize in the last week."
To support Iranian protestors, the State Department began using social media, particularly Twitter—sending its messages, for the first time, in Farsi—in calling on Iran's government to allow protestors to freely assemble and communicate.

Separately, an online collective known as "Anonymous" said it had launched so-called denial of service attacks on a number of high-profile Iranian government sites. In a DOS attack, computers flood a server to prevent it from displaying a web page.

The group, which has attacked a number of corporate and other websites in apparent retaliation for moves against the document-leaking organization WikiLeaks, targeted the websites of Iran's state news broadcaster and the website of President Ahmadinejad, among others. It is unclear how successful the attacks were, but those two sites weren't accessible late Monday.

This year's uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired populations across the Middle East, showing how rulers once thought invulnerable could be toppled in a wave of popular discontent. Iran's regime has so far provided a counterexample, as it has shown less reluctance to take a violent line against its people. Opposition groups and human-rights organizations say more than 100 people were killed and more than 5,000 jailed in Iran's demonstrations of late 2009 and early 2010.

Opposition leaders in Iran started with relatively modest goals after the 2009 election, including nullifying the election results, which they said were rigged. Iranian officials said the results reflected the will of the people.

Now, analysts say, revolts in Egypt and Tunisia have galvanized Iranian protesters around the goal of regime change. "It's very clear that we are now way beyond a post-election crisis," said Hamid Dabashi, professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University. "People are going after the regime."

Monday's protests began peacefully in the early afternoon as men and women streamed on foot along pre-designated routes in multiple cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Mashad and Shiraz. Drivers honked in support. Shopkeepers waved the victory sign.

In response, the government deployed heavy security. Cellphone and text-messaging service was down along the protest routes, Iranians reported.

As the afternoon waned, crowd swelled and began chanting against Mr. Khamenei, according to eyewitnesses and reports posted on the Internet. Security forces attacked people with electric prods and tear gas. Protesters ran and hid, and then regrouped defiantly a few feet away.

One witness described a scene in which a flower-decorated car in a bridal convoy became stuck in the protests. With security forces in pursuit of demonstrators, a bride in full regalia stepped out of the car and helped shove protesters inside to protect them, this person said.
Witnesses said the plain-clothes Basij militia were dispatched on motorbikes and vans later in the evening. They took position in side streets and beat protesters with sticks and batons, witnesses said.

Various observers reported several injuries and arrests. Their accounts weren't possible to verify.

"I saw a young woman thrown to the sidewalk, her head split open and she was bleeding, but the guy kept kicking her," a young man from Tehran said via Internet chat.

A young female activist said by telephone from the city of Isfahan that plain-clothes Basij militia had attacked a group of young men and women and dragged them into a parking lot on Revolution Avenue. They locked the gate and began beating them with wooden sticks and electric batons as the protesters fell to the ground and screamed, the activist said.

"Everyone was terrified and we felt helpless. All we could do was shout 'Death to the Dictator,' but the police chased us," said the activist.

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi had called the protest and vowed to participate. But they were put under house arrest all day, according to opposition web sites. When Mr. Mousavi and his wife attempted to leave the house, security forces stopped them, and blocked their street with multiple police cars, according to the website.

As darkness fell on Tehran, the city was rocked again by the chants from residents on rooftops across the capital: "God is great," and "Death to the dictator," according to witnesses. The Facebook page of the protest, 25 Bahman, said it would soon announce further plans for demonstrations in the following days.

—Jay Solomon in Washington and Cassell Bryan-Low in London contributed to this article.
Write to Farnaz Fassihi at farnaz.fassihi@wsj.com
24563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The two faces of the MB in Egypt on: February 15, 2011, 08:33:54 AM
By CHARLES LEVINSON
CAIRO—Moaz Abdel Karim, an affable 29-year-old who was among a handful of young activists who plotted the recent protests here, is the newest face of the Muslim Brotherhood. His political views on women's rights, religious freedom and political pluralism mesh with Western democratic values. He is focused on the fight for democracy and human rights in Egypt.

A different face of the Brotherhood is that of Mohamed Badi, 66-year-old veterinarian from the Brotherhood's conservative wing who has been the group's Supreme Guide since last January. He recently pledged the Brotherhood would "continue to raise the banner of jihad" against the Jews, which he called the group's "first and foremost enemies." He has railed against American imperialism, and calls for the establishment of an Islamic state.
After Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Friday amid the region's most dramatic grassroots uprising since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the Brotherhood became poised to assume a growing role in the country's political life. The question for many is: Which Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Egyptian Islamist opposition group is plagued by rifts between young and old, reformist and hard-liner, and between big city deal-making politicians, and conservative rural preachers. Charles Levinson explains.
It was Mr. Karim and his younger, more tolerant cohorts who played a key role organizing the protests that began on Jan. 25 and ultimately unseated a 29-year president. But it's the more conservative, anti-Western old guard that still make up by far the bulk of the group's leadership.

Mr. Badi, the current leader, wrote an article in September on the group's website in which he said of the U.S. that "a nation that does not champion moral and human values cannot lead humanity, and its wealth will not avail it once Allah has had His say."

He wrote in that same article that "resistance is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny, and all we need is for the Arab and Muslim peoples to stand behind it and support it... We say to our brothers the mujahideen in Gaza: be patient, persist in [your jihad], and know that Allah is with you..."

On Monday, meanwhile, Mr. Karim stood shoulder to shoulder at a press conference with youth leaders from half a dozen mostly secular movements, to lay out their vision for how Egypt's transition to democracy should proceed and to praise the Army for cooperating. Their top demand: a unity government that includes a broad swath of opposition forces.

The Brotherhood, whose leaders Mr. Karim butted heads with in recent weeks, put out a similar message on Saturday calling for free and fair elections. Seeking to allay fears that it would make a power grab, the Brotherhood also said it wouldn't run a candidate in presidential elections or seek a majority in parliament.

Both Egyptians and outsiders, however, remain wary. They are unsure about how the group will ultimately harness any newfound political gains and whether its more-moderate wing will, in fact, have lasting clout.

"It's never entirely clear with the Brothers," says Josh Stacher, a political science professor at Kent State University who spent years in Egypt studying the organization. "It's a big group, with lots of different points of view. You can find the guy always screaming about Israel and then you got the other guys who don't care about Israel because they're too busy worrying about raising literacy rates."
Israel, which shares a long and porous border with Egypt, fears that if a moderate wing of the Brotherhood exists—and many in Israel's leadership are skeptical that it does—it could be shoved aside by more extreme factions within the group.

The Brotherhood's conservative wing has for years put out anti-Israel comments and writings, and helped fund Hamas, the Palestinian militant group. It has also spoken out in support of attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"If the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, through elections or some other way, that would be a repeat of 1979 in Iran," when moderate governments installed after the shah gave way to the ayatollahs, says a senior Israeli official. "It's something we're looking at with great caution."

The U.S. appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach, with officials saying in recent days it should be given a chance. President Barack Obama, in an interview with Fox News, acknowledged the group's anti-American strains, but said it didn't enjoy majority support in Egypt and should be included in the political process. "It's important for us not to say that our only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed Egyptian people," he said.
The outlawed Islamist opposition group is plagued by rifts between young and old, reformist and hard-liner. There are big city deal-making politicians, and conservative rural preachers who eschew politics in favor of proselytizing Islam.

Egypt's government has long highlighted the group's hard-line wing as a threat to the country. Yet its selective crackdowns have historically empowered the very hard-liners it has sought to undermine, analysts and Brotherhood members say.

The conservative leadership's autocratic leadership style within the movement, its lack of tolerance for dissenting opinions and its preference to conduct business behind closed doors have all contributed to deep skepticism among outsiders about the Brotherhood leadership's stated commitment to democracy.

In recent years, meanwhile, the group's pragmatic wing has forged a historic alliance with secular opposition activists. Their role in the unseating of Mr. Mubarak appears to have given them a boost in a struggle for influence with the Brotherhood's fiery old guard.

"The Muslim Brotherhood as a whole doesn't deserve credit for this revolution, but certain factions within the movement absolutely do, generally those that have more modern views," says Essam Sultan, a former member of the group who left in the 1990s to form the moderate Islamist Wasat, or Centrist, Party. "That wing should get a massive bounce out of this."

Whether that bounce will be enough to propel the more-moderate Brothers to a permanent position of influence—or what their legislative agenda would actually be—is one of the key unknowns in Egypt's political evolution.

In many ways, this faction resembles conservative right-of-center politicians elsewhere in the Arab world. They espouse a view of Islam as a part of Egyptian heritage and argue that democracy and pluralism are central Islamic values. They are pious and socially conservative, and reject the strict secularism that is a feature of most Western concepts of liberal democracy.

On Wednesday, when it was still unclear whether Mr. Mubarak would step down, Essam el-Eryan, one of the only reformists currently on the group's 12-member ruling Guidance Council, said in a statement that the group didn't seek the establishment of an Islamic state; believed in full equality for women and Christians; and wouldn't attempt to abrogate the Camp David peace treaty with Israel—all tenets espoused by Brotherhood leaders over the decades. Mr. el-Eryan said those Brothers who had suggested otherwise in their writings and public comments in recent days and years had been misunderstood or weren't speaking for the organization.

Founded in the Suez Canal town of Ismailiya in 1928 by a 22-year-old school teacher, the organization used violence to battle the British occupation in the 1940s.

The group allied with some young officers to overthrow the king in 1952 and bring Gamal Abdel Nasser to power, only to become implicated in an assassination attempt on Nasser two years later. He responded with a fierce crackdown, sending the group's leadership to prison for years, and its membership ranks into exile.

The Muslim Brotherhood abandoned violence in the years that followed, formally renouncing it as a domestic strategy in 1972. But some of its offspring have taken a bloodier path. Some former members established the group responsible for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Al-Sadat in 1981, and others have allied with Al Qaeda.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, an older generation of leftist and Islamist student activists battled each other violently on college campuses. Egypt's opposition grew increasingly ineffective, partially as a result of those rifts.

"We saw three successive generations of Brotherhood leaders fail to bring change, and we learned from their mistakes," says Mr. Karim, one of the leaders of the group's youth wing.

Brotherhood and secular leaders say the seeds of the cooperation that drove this year's protests were planted in the early 2000s when Israel's crackdown on the second Palestinian uprising and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq brought secularists and Islamists alike into the streets to protest a common cause.

Then, in 2005, the Brotherhood struck a key victory in the parliamentary elections, winning an all-time high of 88 seats. Though officially banned, the organization is tolerated and allowed to put up candidates as independents.

Many of the Brotherhood lawmakers were pragmatists compared to the hard-line members of the group who preferred to stay out of politics. They were more open to working with other groups to forge compromises, and won plaudits from secular opposition leaders by focusing their legislative efforts on fighting an extension of the country's emergency law.

They also stood up for the independence of the judiciary and pushed for press freedoms, and didn't work to ban books or impose Islamic dress on women—moves many critics had feared.

"In the past, Muslim Brothers in parliament sometimes made noise about racy books or the Ms. Egypt beauty pageant, and it made a lot of us uncomfortable," says Osama Ghazali Harb, head of the National Democratic Front, a secular opposition party. "They didn't do this in the last five years."

The regime responded to the Brothers' newfound parliamentary prowess with one of the most brutal crackdowns in the group's history. Instead of coming down on the organization's hard-line leaders, it focused on the movement's moderates.

"The government wants them to be secretive, hard-line, because it makes them fulfill the role of the bogey man that they're propped up to be," says Kent State's Mr. Stacher. "You don't want soft and squishy huggable Islamists, and you don't want sympathetic characters. You want scary people who go on CNN and rail against Israel."

Eighteen Brotherhood legislative staffers drafting education and health-care reform bills were among hundreds arrested. So, too, were the leading pragmatists on the movement's 12-man leadership bureau.

The power vacuum was quickly filled by conservatives, who in 2007 put out a platform paper walking back many of the group's more-moderate views.

It stated, for example, that neither women nor Christians were qualified to run for president. Casting further doubts on the organization's commitment to the separation of church and state, the paper called for a religious council to sign off on laws.

Rifts between conservatives and reformers in the group began to flare into the open. The group's moderates argued that the paper was only a draft and never officially adopted.

In the 2008 elections to the Brotherhood's Guidance Council, hard-liners nearly swept the field, according to people familiar with the group. Only one seat on the leadership council is held by a consistent reformist, say these people, as well as one of the two alternate members who would step in should someone be arrested or die.

During this same period, Mr. Karim, from the Brotherhood's youth wing, says his relationships with activists in other groups were being cemented through online networks. "The new media allowed me to connect with the other" activists in Egypt, he says. "And I realized that there are things we agree on, like human-rights issues and political issues."

Past partnerships between the Brotherhood and secular parties had been top-down short-lived agreements born of political necessity.

This latest alliance formed more organically, say several young activists who are working with the Brotherhood.

"We just got to know, trust and like each other, even—believe it or not—the Brothers," says Basim Kamel, a 41-year-old leader in Mohamed ElBaradei's secular movement.

As conservatives were gaining influence within the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership ranks, Mr. Karim and his fellow youth cadres were growing impatient.

He says they began arguing with their superiors, saying the group was losing credibility in the street because they weren't out protesting for democracy like the secular activists were.

In November 2008, the Brotherhood's then-leader Mahdy Akef called for "establishing a coalition among all political powers and civil society" to challenge the "tyranny that Egypt is currently witnessing."

Mr. Akef couldn't be reached for comment, but those familiar with the group's inner workings say the shift came as the leadership realized they risked losing their youth cadres, particularly after a series of high-profile defections by young Brotherhood activists.

When Mr. ElBaradei returned to Egypt in February 2010 to lead an alliance of opposition groups, many of them youth-driven, the Muslim Brotherhood backed him, formalizing a partnership that had already gelled among the rank and file.

The alliance was uneasy at times. When other opposition groups voted to boycott November's parliamentary elections, for example, the Brotherhood broke ranks and ran.

After the uprising in Tunisia in January, Brotherhood youth, including Mr. Karim, met with the leaders of other youth movements and decided to plan a similar uprising in Egypt.

A group of about 12 youth leaders, including Mr. Karim, met secretly over the course of two weeks to figure out how to plot a demonstration that would outfox security forces.

The Brotherhood's senior leadership refused to endorse their efforts at first. They ultimately agreed to allow members to participate as individuals—and to forgo holding up religious slogans that the Brotherhood might have used in the past, such as "Islam is the solution," or waving Korans.

—Summer Said in Cairo and Richard Boudreaux in Jerusalem contributed to this article.
24564  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 15, 2011, 08:24:58 AM
Grateful for a walk on the beach with my son, a wonderful Valentine's Day dinner with my family prepared by my wife, and grateful that my wife married me  smiley
24565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Common Cause continues efforts to silence conservative justices on: February 15, 2011, 08:20:31 AM
The motivation here is, as previously noted, unprincipled and political.  However, has Common Cause found a chink in Thomas's armor?

===========Common Cause Asks Court About Thomas Speech
POTH
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
Published: February 14, 2011
 
WASHINGTON — Discrepancies in reports about an appearance by Justice Clarence Thomas at a political retreat for wealthy conservatives three years ago have prompted new questions to the Supreme Court from a group that advocates changing campaign finance laws.

When questions were first raised about the retreat last month, a court spokeswoman said Justice Thomas had made a “brief drop-by” at the event in Palm Springs, Calif., in January 2008 and had given a talk.
In his financial disclosure report for that year, however, Justice Thomas reported that the Federalist Society, a prominent conservative legal group, had reimbursed him an undisclosed amount for four days of “transportation, meals and accommodations” over the weekend of the retreat. The event is organized by Charles and David Koch, brothers who have used millions of dollars from the energy conglomerate they run in Wichita, Kan., to finance conservative causes.

Arn Pearson, a vice president at the advocacy group Common Cause, said the two statements appeared at odds. His group sent a letter to the Supreme Court on Monday asking for “further clarification” as to whether the justice spent four days at the retreat for the entire event or was there only briefly.

“I don’t think the explanation they’ve given is credible,” Mr. Pearson said in an interview. He said that if Justice Thomas’s visit was a “four-day, all-expenses paid trip in sunny Palm Springs,” it should have been reported as a gift under federal law.

The Supreme Court had no comment on the issue Monday. Nor did officials at the Federalist Society or at Koch Industries.

Common Cause maintains that Justice Thomas should have disqualified himself from last year’s landmark campaign finance ruling in the Citizens United case, partly because of his ties to the Koch brothers.

In a petition filed with the Justice Department last month, the advocacy group said past appearances at the Koch brothers’ retreat by Justice Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia, along with the conservative political work of Justice Thomas’s wife, had created a possible perception of bias in hearing the case.

The Citizens United decision, with Justice Thomas’s support, freed corporations to engage in direct political spending with little public disclosure. The Koch brothers have been among the main beneficiaries, political analysts say.
24566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 15, 2011, 08:00:43 AM
The Allen West clip has been removed huh My first listen was rather casual (I was doing emails at the same time) and I wanted to give it another listen   cry
24567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: February 15, 2011, 07:57:24 AM
Interesting idea.

Here's this:  I very much consider myself a Tea Party man, but disagree with the not insignificant faction within the movement that tends towards isolationism and Fortress America.  Yes we are evolving from the unipolar moment of America in the world but that needs to be thought out on its own terms-- not undercut our troops actively defending us in hard fighting and unprepare for the Chinese challenge simply in order to have cuts that enable BO to continue to piss away our country's future.
================

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/us/politics/15pentagon.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=print


February 14, 2011
Gates Sees Crisis in Current Spending
By THOM SHANKER and CHRISTOPHER DREW
WASHINGTON — Even as the Obama administration on Monday rolled out its budget for 2012, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was dueling with Congress over military spending for this year, saying the Pentagon cannot do its job with cuts of more than $9 billion.

Mr. Gates said restrictions on spending “may soon turn into a crisis” for the military, as Congress, deadlocked over the politics of passing a federal budget for 2011, placed the government on a “continuing resolution” that has limited Pentagon spending since last autumn.

If that stopgap budget stays in place for the entire fiscal year, it would result in military spending of $526 billion, not counting the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or a cut of $23 billion from the administration’s request of $549 billion. Mr. Gates demanded that Congress approve 2011 spending of at least $540 billion.

“Suggestions to cut defense by this or that large number have largely become exercises in simple math, divorced from serious considerations of capabilities, risk, and the level of resources needed to protect this country’s security and vital interests around the world,” Mr. Gates said in a Pentagon news conference.

Congressional leaders now say they plan to attach a full military appropriations bill to the continuing resolution that would finance the rest of the government. While that bill would impose cuts of $16 billion, this at least could allow the Pentagon to award new contracts and shift some money around among programs.

But Congress could make some of these allocations, and Mr. Gates said that despite the Pentagon’s reservations, he would continue money for an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter until Congress acted. The bill being drafted, for example, could include $450 million to keep the engine project alive. Pentagon officials have estimated that it could cost $2 billion to $3 billion to finish developing the engine, which Mr. Gates and President Obama say the military cannot afford.

The dispute has drawn attention recently because the engine work provides jobs in Ohio, the home state of the new House speaker, John A. Boehner. But Democrats in both houses have also repeatedly voted to save the second engine, partly to provide competition for contracts that could ultimately be worth up to $100 billion.

For next year, the Pentagon is requesting $670.6 billion for the 2012 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. That includes $553 billion for its base budget and $117.8 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a result, the total of $693 billion in 2010 might have represented the peak for the surge in military spending that began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And Congressional leaders say that new members from the Tea Party movement may try to cut military spending even more.

The biggest cuts for next year would come in the war budget with most of the troops returning from Iraq. The overseas spending would drop by $41.4 billion from the $159.3 billion that the administration proposed for 2011, and it would fall to the lowest level since 2006.

All six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also weighed in to the coming budget debate on Monday, signing a letter expressing support for what they described as “modest and manageable” increases in fees for working-age military retirees who have chosen to remain on the Defense Department’s Tricare medical insurance program.

Total health care costs for the Pentagon, which is the nation’s single largest employer, top $50 billion a year, one-tenth of its budget. A decade ago, health care cost the Pentagon $19 billion; five years from now, without changes, it is projected to cost $65 billion. Tricare fees have not increased since 1995.

“We will continue to provide the finest health care benefits in the country for our active and retired military service members and their families while continuing to serve as responsible financial stewards of the taxpayers’ investment in our military,” the letter said.

All six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, each a four-star officer, have not signed such a correspondence, known as a “24-star letter,” since 2006. Congress has voted down other plans to increase Tricare fees, which veterans groups oppose.

As pressure mounted to reduce the deficits, Democratic lawmakers began planning last summer to trim the Pentagon’s request for 2011. The Republicans have added to the proposed cuts since they took control of the House last month.

Under the latest proposal, which could be voted on this week, House Republicans would cut about $15 billion from the Pentagon’s main operating accounts. That would include $11 billion in cuts that the Democratic lawmakers had settled on before the midterm elections.

The reductions would also include $2 billion to $3 billion in lawmakers’ pet projects known as earmarks and more than $1 billion in unspent money from various programs. Other cuts would come in military construction and energy projects.


24568  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Self Defense Laws of all 50 States on: February 14, 2011, 10:42:47 PM

Woof all:


In the real world, our Rules of Engagement (ROE) and our environmental awareness usually are more important than our physical fighting skills. Some of us have clearly worked out our ROE already.   This is good.   Having a sense of what one is and is not willing to fight for is an essential ingredient of not getting started in matters for which one is not willing to fight.

He who has not really thought about it may find himself having to work things out on the fly while under duress-- not good!!!

For example, someone barks and instinctively he barks back as a matter of self-respect and/or the respect of onlookers.  Sometimes all is well-- the situation subsides.  But sometimes, the situation escalates and a terrible problem arises-- in this moment he must determine whether to fight.  If not, then he may fear installing a backdown from an adrenal escalation into his self-programming.  He may fear that this is very bad for future response to adrenal dumps.  He may fear looking or feeling like a coward.  As a result he may decide to fight-- that is to say he agrees to fight for , , , for what? Certainly not for anything which he would have fought if he had lready
worked out his thinking!

For me, and your mileage may vary, a fundamental principle is "What you think of me is none of my business".  Of course there may be variations, but on the whole if someone barks at me it is very simple: according to the physical realities of the situation I can leave or respond with verbal judo/de-escalation techniques.  If these fail, then I can be clear both to myself and to any witnesses that may be present that I sought to avoid the fight and now must act.  This makes for an unencumbered mind and a superior level of action-- and better testimony should it ever come to that.

My next rule of engagement is to "Avoid the Three Ss".  That is to say, avoid Stupid people in Stupid places doing Stupid things.

Putting these three rules together (Environmental awareness; What you think of me is none of my business; and Avoid the Three Ss) will prevent most problems before they even get started.

Still, the flying fickle finger of fate can reach out and tap us with
difficult situations.

Certainly environmental awareness includes being aware of what is going on in your physical awareness.  Certainly you should have skills for "Managing Unknown Contacts"  See for example the "Practical Unarmed Combat" DVD in our catalog for some outstanding material by undercover LEO, highly regarded LEO trainer and my friend "Southnark"-- but today I want to talk about a particular aspect of environmental awareness which is off most people's radar screens -- the legal jungle in which we find ourselves.

As my criminal law professor in law school said to me "We don't have a justice system. We have a legal system."  Be very clear that its rules and values may be very different from your sense of Natural Law!!!  You need to be very, very clear that witty heuristics to be found on internet forums may have little or no basis in fact for where you may be when the excrement hits the fan.

Furthermore, worth noting is that few of us find ourselves in only one legal jurisdiction over time or even at the same time-- within America think municipal, state, and federal all covering you in one place at one time and that as you move around you find yourself under the different laws of the various states.  Indeed, we have fifty different sets of state law and there can be substantial differences amongst them.  THIS DIVERSITY IS A GOOD THING.  In the wisdom of our Founding Fathers (divinely inspired in my humble opinion) our federal system is a laboratory of freedom so that we can try different approaches and move away from ones that do not suit us to ones that do suit us.

REGARDLESS, BE CLEAR THAT THE LAW OF WHERE YOU ARE AT A GIVEN MOMENT ALSO NEEDS TO BE PART OF YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS.  If you are to walk as a warrior for all your days you should know how you are and aren't you allowed to be armed; if you are required to retreat and if so, under what circumstances; what the rules are concerning the coming to the aid of another; when may you use deadly force; what is considered deadly force; what you can and
can't do to fleeing felons, what the criminal  consequences possible are for your actions, as well as other things.

Typically the reality of it is that we DO NOT really know the answers to these questions.  I know I don't, at least not to my satisfaction! We may have read the heuristics of some seemingly knowing poster on a forum, but is that really going to give us a clear and systematic sense of what the law of the legal jungle in which we operate may be?  Not when the adrenaline is flowing! The district attorney is not going to care what we say we read on the internet, nor is our lawyer as we pay his fee or the judge and jury as they decide our fate.

So, what to do if we do want to be aware of our legal environment?

Funny you should ask wink

As some of you may know, a long, long time ago in a universe far, far away for one year (1982) I was an attorney in Washington DC where I did first year associate drone work for a law firm that had absolutely nothing to do with criminal law-- so my formal connection with law in general and criminal law in particular, is essentially that of a  semi-educated layman.   Of course, the effects of that education and experience linger and given my current line of work it is only natural that I have been paying attention to these self-defense legal and criminal law issues along the way.

It is from that perspective that I say that I have found what I am going to use in my own life from here forward.  It is a book called "Self-Defense Laws of All 50 States" by Attorney Mitch Vilos and Evan Vilos.

In my opinion, this book is simply outstanding.  As the attorney that I am (technically speaking I still am one, albeit "inactive status" for the last 29 years) I appreciate the thorough nature of the work that has gone into this book.  The citations of legal authority readily enable well targeted additional research, should, God forbid, such become necessary.  The quality of the citations also give me confidence in the quality and level of research that has gone into this book.

Although the statutes and citations are present, the deeper worth of the book can be found in the simple yet suitably nuanced examples that effectively communicate to real people wanting a practical sense of the laws and rules. This is much more than "here's the statute and a simple explanation that is so vague as to be useless".

For example, in my home state of California simply reading the statute would give the impression that I was in 19th century Texas, but with commendable thoroughness the authors go beyond the statute itself to explain how the real standards applied to your behavior are to be found in the jury instructions. In other words, as part of doing the work they realized that California required something more and different for the reader to get a good sense of
the true reality.

In all states various sample stories are given to illustrate the laws and
questions presented; my sense of things is that without compromise in quality of analysis, the material is readily understood by real people.  I would add that in contrast to other articles and books I have seen wherein the author is rather prissy, these authors seem to me to be quite comfortable with the idea that some good people have guns and knives and that there are situations where that is a good thing.

After a few broad overview chapters, each chapter is dedicated to a
particular state and answers the same matrix of questions:

Defense of Self and Others
    Non-Deadly Force
    Deadly Force
Use of Deadly Force to Prevent Serious Felonies
Defense of Third Persons
Exceptions to Justifiable Self-Defense
   Initial Aggressors
   Provocation
   Committing Felony or Unlawful Act
   Mutual Combat
   Exceptions to the Exceptions
      Withdraw and communicate
Duty or No Duty to Retreat-- Generally
Defense of Person(s) in Special Places (home, business, occupied vehicle)
   Duty or No Duty to retreat from Special Places
      Co-habitants, co-employees- duty to retreat
   Presumption of reasonableness in public places
Responsibility to Innocent Third Parties
Civil Liability
Defense of Property
Helpful Definitions Relating to Self-Defense Statutes
Topics not explained in statutes of cases

Thus no matter the state, the matrix is the same.   This is very valuable--our knowledge instead of being random, now becomes systematic!  If I am going on a trip to a certain state, all I need to do is read that chapter and I will be informed as to the laws of the legal jungle in which I will be!  Furthermore simply reading the material is a good exercise in clarifying your own thinking and thinking about things that may not have otherwise occurred to you.

As you may have noticed, we do not clutter our catalog with lots of items. If something is there, it is there for a reason.  I was so impressed with this book that I called up author Mitch Vilos and told him about who we are and how we look to help people walk as warriors for all their days.  I am delighted to report that we now offer it in our catalog for $30.

I know $30 can seem like a lot of money for one book, but I would point out that this book is, in considerable measure, a labor of passion by two men who want you to know your rights and to avoid the abundant pitfalls faced by those of us who look to take responsibility for the defense of ourselves, our family, and the innocent.  As you can imagine, the work going into getting all 50 States in one coherent, well-organized, well-told book is considerable and the volume of sales is such that the price is what it is--which in my opinion is quite a bargain in terms of what is delivered.

Buy it. http://dogbrothers.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=46&products_id=158 Learn the law of where you live, work, study, and play.  Have it on your shelf for reference before you travel or bring it with you.  This too is part of walking as a warrior for all your days.

The Adventure continues,
Guro Crafty
24569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on BO's budget on: February 14, 2011, 05:34:08 PM
As evinced by my posts of his work in the Political Economics thread, Wesbury is no doom and gloom bear-- so his words may carry extra weight when it comes to the budget:

The Federal Budget: It's a Mess To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/14/2011


If the US federal government were a bank, the FDIC would close them down this Friday night. Earlier today, President Obama submitted next year’s budget. The new budget, despite “cutting” the deficit by $1.1 trillion, will require Congress to pass a large increase in the “debt ceiling.”

In February 2010, the US raised the debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion (up $1.9 trillion) and then promptly borrowed every dime it could. Even with the “cuts” proposed by the President (or those being talked about by Congress), the government will spend roughly $7 trillion more than it receives in income over the next 10 years. Bottom line: The US federal budget is a mess. It’s on an unsustainable course. And that’s a view that takes all the “spin” at face value.
 
And believe us, there is a ton of spinning taking place. The president’s budget director Jacob Lew says the new budget will “save” $1.1 trillion over the next ten years. But about 1/3 of the “savings” will come from higher taxes. Under this budget, spending will be 49% higher in 2021 than it is in 2011.
 
 In other words, even after tightening its fiscal belt and confiscating more private resources, the federal government will remain huge and out of control. The President’s budget for 2012-2021 forecasts that federal spending will never fall below 22.3% of GDP. Never before in history has the level of non-defense spending been so high for so long.
 
In effect, the budget proposed by President Obama locks in, like many European states, a deficit of at least 3% of GDP for as far as the eye can see. As a result, growing spending more slowly than GDP or freezing spending is no longer enough. The only way to get government under control is to cut spending outright.
 
The last time spending grew more slowly than GDP was under President Clinton, when spending fell from over 22% of GDP in 1992 to 18.2% in 2000. The end of the Cold War gave the US a peace dividend, which allowed for defense cuts.
 
But since President Bush took power in 2000, federal spending has increased by 93% and if we can believe the budgets being proposed in recent days, this spending binge will be locked in place and not reversed.
 
That’s why we’re cheered by the open rebellion of many newly elected members of the House to both their leadership’s plan and Obama’s plan to slow spending. They know that, after the government binge of the past decade, simply slowing the growth of spending or even “freezing” it is not good enough. They are not looking for excuses to cut spending slowly.
 
Claiming budget savings by freezing spending at today’s levels is like an alcoholic who says he’s sober because he’ll never drink more than yesterday’s bender. Trouble is, this alcoholic doesn’t even pay his own tab.
24570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman on Egypt on: February 14, 2011, 12:51:18 PM
By George Friedman
This seems very sound to me:

On Feb. 11, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned. A military council was named to govern in his place. On Feb. 11-12, the crowds that had gathered in Tahrir Square celebrated Mubarak’s fall and the triumph of democracy in Egypt. On Feb. 13, the military council abolished the constitution and dissolved parliament, promising a new constitution to be ratified by a referendum and stating that the military would rule for six months, or until the military decides it’s ready to hold parliamentary and presidential elections.

What we see is that while Mubarak is gone, the military regime in which he served has dramatically increased its power. This isn’t incompatible with democratic reform. Organizing elections, political parties and candidates is not something that can be done quickly. If the military is sincere in its intentions, it will have to do these things. The problem is that if the military is insincere it will do exactly the same things. Six months is a long time, passions can subside and promises can be forgotten.

At this point, we simply don’t know what will happen. We do know what has happened. Mubarak is out of office, the military regime remains intact and it is stronger than ever. This is not surprising, given what STRATFOR has said about recent events in Egypt, but the reality of what has happened in the last 72 hours and the interpretation that much of the world has placed on it are startlingly different. Power rests with the regime, not with the crowds. In our view, the crowds never had nearly as much power as many have claimed.

Certainly, there was a large crowd concentrated in a square in Cairo, and there were demonstrations in other cities. But the crowd was limited. It never got to be more than 300,000 people or so in Tahrir Square, and while that’s a lot of people, it is nothing like the crowds that turned out during the 1989 risings in Eastern Europe or the 1979 revolution in Iran. Those were massive social convulsions in which millions came out onto the streets. The crowd in Cairo never swelled to the point that it involved a substantial portion of the city.

In a genuine revolution, the police and military cannot contain the crowds. In Egypt, the military chose not to confront the demonstrators, not because the military itself was split, but because it agreed with the demonstrators’ core demand: getting rid of Mubarak. And since the military was the essence of the Egyptian regime, it is odd to consider this a revolution.


Mubarak and the Regime

The crowd in Cairo, as telegenic as it was, was the backdrop to the drama, not the main feature. The main drama began months ago when it became apparent that Mubarak intended to make his reform-minded 47-year-old son, Gamal, lacking in military service, president of Egypt. This represented a direct challenge to the regime. In a way, Mubarak was the one trying to overthrow the regime.

The Egyptian regime was founded in a coup led by Col. Gamal Abdul Nasser and modeled after that of Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, basing it on the military. It was intended to be a secular regime with democratic elements, but it would be guaranteed and ultimately controlled by the military. Nasser believed that the military was the most modern and progressive element of Egyptian society and that it had to be given the responsibility and power to modernize Egypt.

While Nasser took off his uniform, the military remained the bulwark of the regime. Each successive president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, while formally elected in elections of varying dubiousness, was an officer in the Egyptian military who had removed his uniform when he entered political life.

Mubarak’s decision to name his son represented a direct challenge to the Egyptian regime. Gamal Mubarak was not a career military officer, nor was he linked to the military’s high command, which had been the real power in the regime. Mubarak’s desire to have his son succeed him appalled and enraged the Egyptian military, the defender of the regime. If he were to be appointed, then the military regime would be replaced by, in essence, a hereditary monarchy — what had ruled Egypt before the military. Large segments of the military had been maneuvering to block Mubarak’s ambitions and, with increasing intensity, wanted to see Mubarak step down in order to pave the way for an orderly succession using the elections scheduled for September, elections designed to affirm the regime by selecting a figure acceptable to the senior military men. Mubarak’s insistence on Gamal and his unwillingness to step down created a crisis for the regime. The military feared the regime could not survive Mubarak’s ambitions.

This is the key point to understand. There is a critical distinction between the regime and Hosni Mubarak. The regime consisted — and consists — of complex institutions centered on the military but also including the civilian bureaucracy controlled by the military. Hosni Mubarak was the leader of the regime, successor to Nasser and Sadat, who over time came to distinguish his interests from those of the regime. He was increasingly seen as a threat to the regime, and the regime turned on him.

The demonstrators never called for the downfall of the regime. They demanded that Mubarak step aside. This was the same demand that was being made by many if not most officers in the military months before the crowds gathered in the streets. The military did not like the spectacle of the crowds, which is not the way the military likes to handle political matters. At the same time, paradoxically, the military welcomed the demonstrations, since they created a crisis that put the question of Mubarak’s future on the table. They gave the military an opportunity to save the regime and preserve its own interests.

The Egyptian military is opaque. It isn’t clear who was reluctant to act and who was eager. We would guess that the people who now make up the ruling military council were reluctant to act. They were of the same generation as Hosni Mubarak, owed their careers to him and were his friends. Younger officers, who had joined the military after 1973 and had trained with the Americans rather than the Soviets, were the likely agitators for blocking Mubarak’s selection of Gamal as his heir, but there were also senior officers publicly expressing reservations. Who was on what side is a guess. What is known is that many in the military opposed Gamal, would not push the issue to a coup, and then staged a coup designed to save the regime after the demonstrations in Cairo were under way.

That is the point. What happened was not a revolution. The demonstrators never brought down Mubarak, let alone the regime. What happened was a military coup that used the cover of protests to force Mubarak out of office in order to preserve the regime. When it became clear Feb. 10 that Mubarak would not voluntarily step down, the military staged what amounted to a coup to force his resignation. Once he was forced out of office, the military took over the existing regime by creating a military council and taking control of critical ministries. The regime was always centered on the military. What happened on Feb. 11 was that the military took direct control.

Again, as a guess, the older officers, friends of Mubarak, found themselves under pressure from other officers and the United States to act. They finally did, taking the major positions for themselves. The demonstrations were the backdrop for this drama and the justification for the military’s actions, but they were not a revolution in the streets. It was a military coup designed to preserve a military-dominated regime. And that was what the crowds were demanding as well.


Coup and Revolution

We now face the question of whether the coup will turn into a revolution. The demonstrators demanded — and the military has agreed to hold — genuinely democratic elections and to stop repression. It is not clear that the new leaders mean what they have said or were simply saying it to get the crowds to go home. But there are deeper problems in the democratization of Egypt. First, Mubarak’s repression had wrecked civil society. The formation of coherent political parties able to find and run candidates will take a while. Second, the military is deeply enmeshed in running the country. Backing them out of that position, with the best will in the world, will require time. The military bought time Feb. 13, but it is not clear that six months is enough time, and it is not clear that, in the end, the military will want to leave the position it has held for more than half a century.

Of course, there is the feeling, as there was in 2009 with the Tehran demonstrations, that something unheard of has taken place, as U.S. President Barack Obama has implied. It is said to have something to do with Twitter and Facebook. We should recall that, in our time, genuine revolutions that destroyed regimes took place in 1989 and 1979, the latter even before there were PCs. Indeed, such revolutions go back to the 18th century. None of them required smartphones, and all of them were more thorough and profound than what has happened in Egypt so far. This revolution will not be “Twitterized.” The largest number of protesters arrived in Tahrir Square after the Internet was completely shut down.

The new government has promised to honor all foreign commitments, which obviously include the most controversial one in Egypt, the treaty with Israel. During the celebrations the evening of Feb. 11 and morning of Feb. 12, the two chants were about democracy and Palestine. While the regime committed itself to maintaining the treaty with Israel, the crowds in the square seemed to have other thoughts, not yet clearly defined. But then, it is not clear that the demonstrators in the square represent the wishes of 80 million Egyptians. For all the chatter about the Egyptian people demanding democracy, the fact is that hardly anyone participated in the demonstrations, relative to the number of Egyptians there are, and no one really knows how the Egyptian people would vote on this issue.

The Egyptian government is hardly in a position to confront Israel, even if it wanted to. The Egyptian army has mostly American equipment and cannot function if the Americans don’t provide spare parts or contractors to maintain that equipment. There is no Soviet Union vying to replace the United States today. Re-equipping and training a military the size of Egypt’s is measured in decades, not weeks. Egypt is not going to war any time soon. But then the new rulers have declared that all prior treaties — such as with Israel — will remain in effect.


What Was Achieved?

Therefore, we face this reality. The Egyptian regime is still there, still controlled by old generals. They are committed to the same foreign policy as the man they forced out of office. They have promised democracy, but it is not clear that they mean it. If they mean it, it is not clear how they would do it, certainly not in a timeframe of a few months. Indeed, this means that the crowds may re-emerge demanding more rapid democratization, depending on who organized the crowds in the first place and what their intentions are now.

It is not that nothing happened in Egypt, and it is not that it isn’t important. It is simply that what happened was not what the media portrayed but a much more complex process, most of it not viewable on TV. Certainly, there was nothing unprecedented in what was achieved or how it was achieved. It is not even clear what was achieved. Nor is it clear that anything that has happened changes Egyptian foreign or domestic policy. It is not even clear that those policies could be changed in practical terms regardless of intent.

The week began with an old soldier running Egypt. It ended with different old soldiers running Egypt with even more formal power than Mubarak had. This has caused worldwide shock and awe. We were killjoys in 2009, when we said the Iranians revolution wasn’t going anywhere. We do not want to be killjoys now, since everyone is so excited and happy. But we should point out that, in spite of the crowds, nothing much has really happened yet in Egypt. It doesn’t mean that it won’t, but it hasn’t yet.

An 82-year-old man has been thrown out of office, and his son will not be president. The constitution and parliament are gone and a military junta is in charge. The rest is speculation.

24571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: February 14, 2011, 12:10:26 PM
Brief · February 14, 2011

The Foundation
"We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt." --Thomas Jefferson

For the Record

Obama's $3.73 trillion budget is the biggest everThe White House released its 2012 budget proposal Monday morning and the damage is staggering: $3.73 trillion. The budget deficit will be $1.65 trillion for fiscal 2011, up from $1.29 trillion in fiscal 2010. The deficit will represent 10.9 percent of gross domestic product, a post-World War II record. "My budget makes investments that can help America win this competition and transform our economy, and it does so fully aware of the very difficult fiscal situation we face," Obama said. In other words, eat, drink and be merry because our children and grandchildren will pay the bill.

Political Futures
"At Philadelphia's 30th Street Station on Tuesday, lifelong government rail promoter Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a $53 billion high-speed train initiative and half-joked: 'I'm like the ombudsman for Amtrak.' As with most gaffetastic Biden-isms, the remark should prompt more heartburn than hilarity. Just who exactly is looking out for taxpayers when it comes to federal rail spending? Vigorous independent oversight of public infrastructure binges is especially critical given the nation's long history of mass transit slush funds, cost overruns and union-monopolized construction projects to nowhere. ... When Biden talks about 'seizing the future,' he's talking about seizing your wallets for his party's electoral security. ... [T]he Obama administration's political abuse of the Amtrak inspector general's office, still under congressional investigation, is a recipe for yet more porkulus-style waste." --columnist Michelle Malkin

Government
"House Republicans have promised major spending reforms, but GOP leaders are tongue-tied when they are asked which specific programs they want to cut. The GOP wants to cut domestic spending to 2008 levels, but that's just an accounting goal. The GOP needs a larger vision to guide their reforms. Republicans need to communicate to the public how a smaller government would benefit America and what federal agencies and activities are damaging and counterproductive. A key part of this strategy should be to revive a central theme of the 1981 and 1995 budget-cutting drives -- getting the federal government out of what are properly state and local activities. Constitutional federalism has taken a beating as federal aid to the states has doubled over the last decade to $646 billion this year. ... The federal-aid system does not deliver high-quality and cost-efficient services to citizens. It delivers bureaucracy, overspending, and regulatory micromanagement from Washington. In addition to helping balance the budget, Republicans can start a national debate about the proper role of the federal government by pushing to terminate the vast array of costly state aid programs." --Cato Institute's Chris Edwards

Reader Comments
"I was surprised to hear Mark Alexander call Sen. Bob Corker a friend. He has disappointed me, as a conservative, at most turns. I am not alone in this opinion. 'Bailout Bob' is on every Tea Party list I've seen as a one term senator. Perhaps you are simply golfing buddies and do not discuss the Fed or the importance of paring down this government while on the links." --Cathy

Editor's Reply: First, I do not play golf. Second, while Bob and I do not agree on everything, that does not mean we can't agree on anything. The "all or nothing" litmus test is a losing formula for any party, particularly the Tea Party. What I can tell you is that Bob is a self-made individual of very high character and faith, a very smart Patriot who is not a typical Beltway egomaniacal politico.
"Regarding Mark Alexander's essay, The Debt Bomb Showdown, it's too bad you litter an otherwise fine piece ... claiming to know something that you cannot know -- the truth of what goes on in Obama's mind and his motives. This used to be called lying and bearing false witness. Divining something by dint of your gigantic intellect or unparalleled mastery of grand strategic skullduggery does not qualify as knowing something in any actual sense. Again, it was a good piece otherwise." --Joe

Editor's Reply: I "divine" nothing when asserting Obama is an ideological Socialist who would, if unabated by wiser minds, reduce the USA to the USSA. I draw my conclusions from his words and deeds prior to being elected to the Senate, and since. I have read his books and studied the records of his associations with Leftist mentors such as Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger, William Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Khalid al-Mansour, Rashid Khalidi, Bob Creamer and others. He is a disciple of uber-Leftist Saul Alinsky, whose "Rules for Radicals" is the "bible" of "community organizers." His short record as part time Senator yielded the most radical Left voting record of any Senate member. His record as president has done much the same. Oh, but maybe Obama is now reformed? "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." --John Adams
"In Friday's 'Obama's Instruction Manual for Business' it illustrates how Obama is now trying to cozy up with the Chamber of Commerce and get business to jump 'back in the game.' Does he forget the first eight months of his term when he constantly harangued that the sky was falling and there was nothing but doom and gloom until the economy was in shambles? He painted such a nightmarish picture so he could ram thru his emergency measures. Then he expected the world to turn on a dime because HE said it was OK. The world, the economy and the public do not respond well to such bipolar behavior in the White House. The steady positive faithful outlook Ronald Wilson Reagan served us well during very trying times. Oh that we had such a man in public service today." --Greg

"It really bothers me that The Patriot Post used Mr. Rogers' photo as you did Friday. He is one of my heroes and IMHO to see Obama's head photoshopped in is in poor taste and insulting to the memory of a great man. This is the first time I have ever felt that you went over the line." --Joy

Editor's Reply: King Friday said he thought it was funny...

Liberty
"ack in 1942, the Supreme Court said that because the federal government has the right to regulate interstate commerce, the Department of Agriculture could tell a farmer how much wheat he could grow, even if the wheat never left his farm and was consumed there by his family and their farm animals. That case was a landmark, whose implications reached far beyond farming. ... ObamaCare is another piece of Congressional legislation for which there is no federal authority in the Constitution. But when someone asked Nancy Pelosi where in the Constitution there was any authority for passing such a law, her reply was 'Are you kidding?' Two federal courts have now said that they are not kidding. The ultimate question is whether the Supreme Court of the United States will back them up. That may depend on how soon the case reaches the Supreme court. If the issue wends its way slowly up through the Circuit Courts of Appeal, by the time it reaches the Supreme Court, Obama may have put more of his appointees there -- and, if so, they will probably rubberstamp anything he does. He would therefore have done a complete end-run around the Constitution and be well on his way to becoming the Hugo Chavez of North America." --economist Thomas Sowell

Opinion in Brief
"Here's a chunk of the problem with the proposed reconciliation of business and the Obama administration. 'We're trying,' the president said, in addressing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce [last] week, 'to run the government like you run your businesses -- with better technology and faster services.' ... What the president left out was imagination. And creativity. And a spirit of to-hell-with-it-let's-see-if-this-thing-works. ... The president used one word familiar to patrons of the marketplace -- 'invest.' That's what he wants business to do -- 'invest in America' for the sake of jobs, etc. He used the same word in the State of the Union message with a different spin. The idea there was Spend Taxpayer Money on Green Energy and the Like. The difference? Business ... pours money into a project with a clear, distinct idea of profits to come. A government 'investment'? You equate that kind of money transfer with bridges to nowhere and ethanol subsidies: things government does inasmuch as from those things government expects voter gratitude. The Chamber of Commerce and the president don't talk the same language. To them the same words mean different things." --columnist William Murchison

The Gipper
"We do have a rendezvous with destiny. Either we will preside over the great nightfall for all mankind, or we will accept the leadership that has been thrust upon us. I believe that is the obligation and responsibility of the Republican party today." --Ronald Reagan

 
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 Willa's Chocolate Covered Shortbread
These buttery concoctions, dipped in dark chocolate, are incredibly delicious and passed our staff's taste test with flying colors! We can't get enough of them and know you'll enjoy these treats as much as we do. Packaged in a beautiful silver tin and excellent for gift-giving, each tin weighs 13 oz.
 

Faith & Family
"It is difficult to explain to a culture rapidly forgetting its foundation why that foundation matters. While churches and schools have left instruction in Western Civilization behind, the recipients of its strong underpinnings float aimlessly trying to redefine the definite and ignore the irrefutable. And here it is: Western Civilization in general and America in particular was built on Judeo-Christian values. Those values shaped every area of life from government to finance to family. They brought order to all three. Government was no longer top-down, but of the people. People were free to 'pursue happiness' in part by choosing their own work. Judeo-Christian teaching taught them to work hard, make and keep contracts, treat employees fairly, pay an honest day's wage, and keep their word. Prosperity followed from those foundational principles." --President of Culture Campaign Sandy Rios

Culture
"One of liberalism's many problems is that once an idea or program is proved wrong and unworkable, liberals rarely acknowledge their mistake and examine the root cause of their error so they don't repeat it. Take multiculturalism... In a speech to a security conference in Munich, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared state multiculturalism a failure. For good measure, Cameron said Britain also must get tougher on Islamic extremists. Predictably, this has angered Islamic extremists. A genuinely liberal country, he said, 'believes in certain values and actively promotes them. ... Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law, equal rights, regardless of race, sex or sexuality.' ... It may be too late for Britain, as it may be too late for France and Germany. It isn't too late for the United States, though it is getting close. Too many American leaders suffer from the same weak-kneed syndrome that has gripped Britain. Who will tell immigrants to America that the days of multiculturalism are over and if they want to come to America, they must do so legally and expect to become Americans with no hyphens, no allegiance to another country, and no agenda other than the improvement of the United States?" --columnist Cal Thomas

 
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 Taste of Tennessee
We have searched high and low to find a delightful sampling of delicious products made in The Patriot Shop's home state. Enjoy!
 

The Last Word
"A lot of people in America are elated by the sight of mobs gathering in the streets of Egypt. They view it as an oppressed people longing for liberty. They rejoice at the prospect of a dictator being dumped in favor of democracy. That is because a lot of people who are forever quoting Santayana's quip, 'Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,' have apparently remembered precious little themselves. It would seem that the extent of their historical knowledge begins and ends with the final score of the recent Super Bowl. The thing to keep in mind is that Cairo and Alexandria are not to be confused with Concord and Lexington, and nobody in the streets lobbing rocks and burning bottles is named Washington, Adams, Madison or Jefferson. Then there are those simpletons whose eyes begin to twinkle at the mere mention of the word 'revolution.' But comparing most revolutions to our own is sheer insanity. The French Revolution led to Robespierre and the Reign of Terror. The Russian Revolution led to Stalin and the gulags. China's Revolution brought us Mao and the slaughter of millions, Cuba's Revolution brought us Castro and the Iranian Revolution brought forth the Ayatollah Khomeini. ... Those good-hearted chumps who insist that democracy is the end-all and be-all are sadly misguided. Hitler won a popular election, as did Hamas in Gaza, as did Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, in America. Just because folks are allowed to vote is no guarantee that they can always be trusted to do the right thing." --columnist Burt Prelutsky

24572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: February 14, 2011, 10:51:33 AM
Lets be precise:  It remains to be seen whether the closing was a temporary (and rational!) security measure, or is a permanent state of affairs.  MB is simply reporting here, yes?
24573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Islamo terrorist trial on: February 14, 2011, 03:43:13 AM
Associated Press
JAKARTA—Indonesia's best-known radical cleric went on trial Monday on fresh terrorism charges as the predominantly Muslim nation grappled with a jump in religious tensions and violence.

Abu Bakar Bashir, a spiritual leader of the al-Qaeda-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah, faces a maximum penalty of death if found guilty of helping fund a new terror cell in Aceh province and mobilizing foot soldiers.

The 72-year-old has denied all links to extremist activity, saying as he arrived at the tightly guarded South Jakarta District Court that charges filed against him were "fabricated."

"All I ever wanted to do was defend Islam," he said, as more than 100 supporters shouted "Allah Akbar."

The trial is expected to last one month.

Jemaah Islamiyah was blamed for a string of suicide bombings, including the 2002 attacks on Bali island that killed 202 people, most of them Western tourists. Authorities discovered the new cell in Aceh province a year ago.

Mr. Bashir, who has been arrested twice before in the past decade and spent 26 months in prison on terrorism charges, is known for his fiery sermons.

He is seen by many experts as a driving force behind the country's small but increasingly vocal hardline fringe.

In the last week, Islamic militants have carried out bloody attacks on Christians and members of a minority Islamic sect, raising concerns about escalating religious intolerance.

24574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The end of FM? on: February 14, 2011, 03:28:58 AM


It's enough to make you believe in miracles: The Obama Administration is now on record as saying that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should go out of business. It took a global financial panic and $140 billion in taxpayer losses, but on Friday there it was in black-and-white in the U.S. Treasury's report to Congress on reforming the mortgage market: The Administration will "ultimately . . . wind down both institutions."

This marks a break with decades of bipartisan support and protection for the two government-sponsored giants of mortgage finance. Fannie Mae has its roots in the Roosevelt Administration, and a phalanx of bankers, mortgage lenders, homebuilders and Realtors worked together to keep the companies growing and federal mortgage subsidies flowing. Now even some Democrats—though not yet those on Capitol Hill—admit their business model was a catastrophe waiting to happen.

***
Under the Administration's proposals, Fan and Fred wind down over five to seven years. The two mortgage giants would, in effect, gradually price themselves out of the mortgage finance market by raising guarantee prices and down payment requirements, while lowering the size of the mortgages they could securitize and guarantee. This sounds like a plausible set of first steps to lure private capital back into the mortgage market, where some 92% of all new mortgages are currently underwritten or guaranteed by the government.

The $5 trillion question, however, is what would replace Fan and Fred. And here the Obama Administration has punted, offering the "pros and cons" of three broad proposals without endorsing any one of them.

Door No. 1 is the best of the lot by our lights. Under this option, federal guarantees would be limited to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans for lower-income buyers and VA assistance for veterans and farm programs—each a narrowly targeted market segment. A Treasury official says this would reduce the taxpayer backstop over time to about 10% to 15% of the mortgage market.

The Administration puts the case for federal withdrawal from the broader housing market in compelling terms: "The strength of this option is that it would minimize distortions in capital allocation across sectors, reduce moral hazard in mortgage lending and drastically reduce direct taxpayer exposure to private lenders' losses." Bravo.

Treasury points to other benefits: "With less incentive to invest in housing, more capital will flow into other areas of the economy, potentially leading to more long-run economic growth and reducing the inflationary pressure on housing assets. Risk throughout the system may also be reduced, as private actors will not be as inclined to take on excessive risk without the assurance of a government guarantee behind them. And finally, direct taxpayer risk exposure to private losses in the mortgage market would be limited to the loans guaranteed by FHA and other narrowly targeted government loan programs: no longer would taxpayers be at direct risk for guarantees covering most of the nation's mortgages."

Those two paragraphs more or less sum up 20 years of Journal editorials on housing.

View Full Image

Corbis
 .So what's not to like? The Administration says this option could reduce access to credit for some home buyers, and that it would leave the government without the tools to intervene in a future crisis. As for the credit point, other countries have high rates of home ownership with far less government support. If the government stands aside, it would open the way for alternative forms of finance, such as covered bonds, that now can't compete in the U.S. because of government favoritism for the 30-year mortgage model. This would open options for borrowers by increasing the diversity of financing.

As for a future crisis, government intervention is less likely to be needed if the market isn't distorted by government subsidies in the first place.

Behind Door No. 2 is a rump Fan or Fred, one that would stay small in "normal" times but stand ready to step in with Uncle Sam's firepower in a future housing-finance crisis. But as the Administration acknowledges, it would be difficult both to stay small and retain the capacity to go large when needed. We'd add that the political pressure to expand any federal mortgage-lending program would be too great for lawmakers to resist. Within a generation, the winding down of Fan and Fred would be unwound.

But the greatest danger lies behind Door No. 3, which looks like Fannie in a new suit. Under this last option, the Administration envisages a group of tightly regulated, well-capitalized private mortgage insurers whose policies would be backstopped by government reinsurance. The government would charge premiums for this insurance, "which would be used to cover future claims and recoup losses to protect taxpayers." This reintroduces the lethal mix of private profit and public risk by other means.

The problem with Fan and Fred from the beginning was not—despite the Administration's claims—that the profit motive corrupted their benign goals. Rather, the political influence and financial power of the housing lobby ensured that the companies operated outside the normal rules of politics and financial discipline. Thanks to an implicit government guarantee, the market never put any limit on their growth, even as their liabilities climbed into the trillions. Few politicians had the nerve to challenge a housing lobby that would attack them for opposing home ownership. The same political flaws would afflict a future reinsurer and its coterie of putatively private insurers.

The power of the housing lobby is implicit even in the Treasury's refusal to pick a preferred reform. As with entitlement reform, the Administration is leaving the hard work to House Republicans, who will bear the brunt of the political blowback. A reasonable GOP fear is that the Administration, whatever its rhetoric now, will pounce with a veto when it's politically advantageous—in, say, 2012.

***
Our view is that there should be no federal housing guarantee. If Congress wants to subsidize housing for the poor, it ought to do so explicitly through annual appropriations. One lesson—perhaps the most important—of the financial crisis is that broad policy favors for housing hurt every American by misallocating capital and credit. The feds created incentives to pour money into McMansions we didn't need while robbing scarce capital from manufacturing, biotech and other uses that might have created better jobs and led to a more balanced and faster growing economy.

We realize this is political heresy, but it is the beginning of wisdom in getting government out of the mortgage market. We're glad to see the Administration concede this rhetorically, even if it lacks the courage to embrace its logical policy conclusions.

24575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion and theocratic politics on: February 14, 2011, 03:04:59 AM
Yes, yes I know Geraldo is an idiot , , ,

http://www.therightscoop.com/egyptian-youth-ok-with-muslim-brotherhood
24576  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 2/27/11 Guro Crafty in Manhattan Beach on: February 13, 2011, 09:58:10 PM
Woof All:

For Those of you in the Los Angeles area:

L.A. Budo of Manhattan Beach is proud to host Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny, the Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers and Head Instructor Dog Brothers Martial Arts.  No experience needed; stick or BJJ experience will be a plus

Topics Covered:

*Intro to DMA Basic stick work
* Closing the distance from weapon range to grappling range
* Sticks on the ground

Sunday Feb 27
11:00-14:00 a.k.a. 11AM-2 PM   
$130
David Dow
L.A. Budo
1809 Manhattan Beach Blvd. (west of Aviation Bl)
Manhattan Beach CA 90266
tel: (310) 798-2010
david@labudo.com
24577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 13, 2011, 09:48:44 PM
Herman Cain at CPAC
http://www.therightscoop.com/herman-cain-stupid-people-are-ruining-america
24578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 13, 2011, 09:26:04 PM
YA:

That was very interesting commentary.  It gives me a sense of things that I did not have before.   That said, am I missing the mark when I wonder where the sense of responsibility is for refuge being given to those who launch attacks on the US from their territory?
24579  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA School Program on: February 13, 2011, 08:18:39 PM
Yes indeed, thank you Dog Howie.

Guro Boo Dog is hard at work on the DBMA SP website.
24580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 13, 2011, 06:47:36 PM
YA:

What do you make of this piece?
24581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Boot: We could still lose Iraq on: February 13, 2011, 06:44:27 PM
By Max Boot
POTB
February 13, 2011

My kids — the oldest is 13 — seem to think that anything that happened in the pre-iPad era is ancient history and therefore of little relevance to them. The American public and politicos must tacitly agree. How else to explain the sudden disappearance of Iraq from our public discourse?

Remember Iraq? That country we invaded in 2003? The one where more than 4,400 American soldiers have lost their lives and more than 32,000 have been wounded? The one where we've spent nearly $800 billion?

As recently as 2008, Iraq dominated American politics. But now it's a nonstory. Other subjects have pushed it off the front page, from the economy and healthcare to Afghanistan, Tunisia and Egypt.  In a way, Iraq has been a victim of its own success. Because it seems to be doing relatively well, policymakers have shifted their attention to more urgent concerns. But there is a danger that our present inattention could undo the progress that so many have struggled so hard to attain.

Iraq has made impressive gains since 2006, when it was on the brink of all-out civil war. Violence is down more than 90% even as the number of U.S. troops has fallen to 50,000 from 170,000. The Iraqi political system continues to function with the recent inauguration of a new coalition government led by returning Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. And the economy is picking up steam, as contracts are signed with foreign companies that can tap the country's vast oil reserves.

But there remain disquieting reminders of darker days. More than 250 Iraqis died in terrorist attacks in January, up from 151 in December, with most of those attacks attributed to Al Qaeda in Iraq, a group whose obituary has been written more than once. Roughly as many civilians died in Iraq last year as in Afghanistan — about 2,400. Remind me again which country is at peace?

The political situation remains as uncertain as the security situation; indeed, the two are closely connected. The formation of a new government occurred only after an agonizing nine-month deadlock in 2010. Iyad Allawi, who won the most votes, lost the prime minister's office and accepted as a consolation prize leadership of a new strategic policy council with undefined powers. His primarily Sunni Muslim backers remain convinced they will be frozen out of power by the Shiite prime minister. Maliki, in turn, is deeply suspicious of Sunni groups such as the Sons of Iraq, as well as of his Shiite rivals in cleric Muqtada Sadr's movement and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Shiites and Sunnis are united chiefly by their desire to curb Kurdish autonomy, a prospect that fills the Kurds with understandable dread.

In short, Iraq remains a volcano. It has been capped for the moment but could erupt again. Especially because the most effective cap — a U.S. military presence — is due to be removed at the end of the year.

Prospects of a security accord that would keep American forces in Iraq past 2011 are rapidly dimming. Maliki, who spent long years of exile in Syria and Iran — no fans of the United States — has always been suspicious of America. He would certainly prefer not to have tens of thousands of U.S. troops under a four-star general looking over his shoulder. President Obama, for his part, came to office pledging to withdraw from Iraq and, judging by his State of the Union address, appears determined to do just that.

Unless both men change course and soon, the mission now performed by 50,000 U.S. troops will be left to about 1,000 diplomats and perhaps 100 soldiers in an Office of Security Cooperation, with thousands of mostly non-American contractors providing security and logistical support.

The State Department plans to set up a network of consulates, training centers and branch offices throughout Iraq, but a new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warns that it will be very difficult to maintain much of a presence outside Baghdad without the support currently of the U.S. military, which provides everything from helicopters to "quick reaction forces" in case of trouble.

Even if the embassy carries out the current plan perfectly, many of the important functions still performed by the American troops will fall into abeyance. For example, U.S. troops conduct joint patrols with Iraqi troops and Kurdish peshmerga fighters along the ill-defined border with the Kurdish region to prevent an outbreak of fighting. That is not a role the State Department can or will perform.

All of this is worrisome because if there is any lesson in American military history, it is that the longer U.S. troops stay in a post-conflict area, the greater the odds of a successful transition to democracy. The iconic examples are Germany, Japan and South Korea. When U.S. forces leave prematurely, on the other hand, the odds of a bad outcome greatly increase, whether in the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, Haiti in the 1930s and 1990s, or Somalia in the 1990s. Foreign peacekeepers are still in Bosnia and Kosovo long after the end of their conflicts. Does anyone think that Iraq is more stable than those postage-stamp-size countries on the periphery of Europe?

Iraq may very well muddle through no matter what. It has so far. But I would be a lot more confident about its future if we were making a bigger commitment. It would be a tragedy if, after years of struggle and sacrifice, we were to lose Iraq now — when we are so close to a successful outcome — because of our own attention deficit disorder.

Max Boot is a contributing editor to Opinion and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is writing a history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.
24582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Commentary: Tea Party: 2 on: February 13, 2011, 03:26:02 PM
American liberty is more fragile than we are inclined to suppose. The Framers of the Constitution were well aware that the republics of ancient Greece and those of medieval and early modern Italy were situated on diminutive territories. They knew that Rome's expansion had eventuated in Rome's loss of liberty, and they understood why Montesquieu had initially argued that a republic could not be sustained on an extended territory. A government set at a considerable distance from the people over whom it rules is apt to become a despotism, for it is out of sight and out of mind, beyond reach and beyond control. This the Framers understood. They took heart, however, from the French philosopher's suggestion that a federation of small republics could overcome this geographical imperative. They were reassured by his tacit acknowledgement that, by way of the separation of powers, the "republic concealed under the form of a monarchy" that had emerged in Great Britain had overcome this imperative as well. And they themselves observed that the religious and economic diversity that had followed from America's territorial extension were successfully subverting the force of faction.

In the early 1790s, however, when James Madison began thinking about the political consequences inherent in the ambitious program of economic development charted by Alexander Hamilton, he had occasion to reconsider Montesquieu's warning. He believed that "a consolidation of the States into one government" was implicit in Hamilton's assertion of federal prerogatives. And he feared that such a consolidation would neutralize the expedients suggested by Montesquieu and instituted by the Framers and leave "the whole government to that self directed course, which, it must be owned, is the natural propensity of every government."

First, Madison thought, the separation of powers could give way to centralized administration of the sort that typified despotism. If federalism were subverted in this way and the national government by one means or another took over the prerogatives of the states and the localities, the legislature situated in the new nation's capital would quickly prove to be incompetent "to regulate all the various objects belonging to the local governments," and this "would evidently force a transfer of many of" those objects "to the executive department."

Second, Madison contended, because the state and local governments are close to the people—in sight and in mind, within reach and control—they and not the federal government are the natural instruments of civic agency. If, however, they were made to be dependent on and subject to the national government, they would cease to serve this function, and the sheer size of the country would stand in the way of concerted popular political action. It would prevent the exercise of "that control" on the national legislature "which is essential to a faithful discharge of its trust, [since] neither the voice nor the sense of ten or twenty millions of people, spread through so many latitudes as are comprehended within the United States, could ever be combined or called into effect, if deprived of those local organs, through which both can now be conveyed." In such circumstances, Madison warned prophetically, "the impossibility of acting together, might be succeeded by the inefficacy of partial expressions of the public mind, and this at length, by a universal silence and insensibility." It was the absence of effective popular checks that would leave the national government to a "self directed course."

Madison, Jefferson, and their heirs in the Jacksonian period were arguably wrong about the political consequences implicit in the program proposed by Hamilton in the 1790s and revived by Henry Clay in the late 1820s. Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans implemented a policy indistinguishable from Hamilton's program and Clay's American System, and that policy did not have the consequences that Madison, his associates, and their heirs feared. But the prospect that Madison imagined is, in fact, the prospect the world's most venerable democratic republic now faces.

Over almost a century, under the influence of the Progressives and their heirs—the proponents of the New Deal, the Great Society, and Barack Obama's New Foundation we have experienced a gradual consolidation of power in the federal government. Legislative responsibilities have been transferred to administrative agencies lodged within the executive—such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and the vast array of bodies established under the recent health-care reform—and these have been delegated in an ever increasing number of spheres the authority to issue rules and regulations that have the force of law.

In the process, the state and local governments have become dependent on federal largesse, which always comes with strings attached in the form of funded or unfunded "mandates" designed to make these governments fall in line with federal policy. Civic agency, rooted as it normally is in locality, has withered as the localities have lost their leverage. The civic associations so admired by Alexis de Tocqueville have for the most part become lobbying operations with offices in Washington focused on influencing federal policy, and many of them have also become recipients of government grants and reliable instruments for the implementation of federal policy.

The Tea Party movement is, however, testimony to the fact that all is not lost. When confronted in a brazen fashion with the tyrannical impulse underpinning the administrative state, ordinary Americans from all walks of life are still capable of fighting back. It is easy enough to mock. Like all spontaneous popular movements, the Tea Party has attracted its fair share of cranks: it would have been a miracle if it had not attracted those who are obsessed with the question of Barack Obama's birth certificate or the heavy-handed and ineffective procedures adopted by the Transportation Security Agency.

_____________

But it should be reassuring rather than frightening to the American elite that at the dawn of the third millennium, Americans know to become nervous and watchful when a presidential candidate who has presented himself to the public as a moderate devotee of bipartisanship intent on eliminating waste in federal programs suddenly endorses "spreading the wealth around" and on the eve of his election speaks of "fundamentally transforming America." It should be of comfort to them that a small-business owner in Nebraska believes he has reason to express public qualms when a prospective White House chief of staff, in the midst of an economic downturn, announces that the new administration is not about to "let a serious crisis go to waste" and that it intends to exploit that crisis as "an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before." And it should be a source of pride to elites that the philosophical superstructure of the United States demonstrated extraordinary durability when a significant number of their fellow citizens refused to sit silent after an administration implied the inadequacy of the founding by promoting itself as the New Foundation, and after the head of government specifically questioned the special place of the United States in the world by denying "American exceptionalism."

Most important, it should be humbling to those elites that ordinary American citizens choose spontaneously to enter the political arena in droves, concert opposition, speak up in a forthright manner, and oust a host of entrenched office holders when they learn that a system of punitive taxation is in the offing, when they are repeatedly told what they know to be false—that, under the new health-care system that the administration is intent on establishing, benefits will be extended and costs reduced and no one will lose the coverage he already has—and when they discover that Medicare is to be gutted, that medical care is to be rationed, and that citizens who have no desire to purchase health insurance are going to be forced to do so.

In 1776, when George Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, he included a provision reflecting what the revolutionaries had learned from the long period of struggle between Court and Country in England and in America: "that no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles." What we are witnessing with the Tea Party movement is one of the periodic recurrences to fundamental principles that typify and revivify the American experiment in self-government.

These developments are never exclusively salutary. The people sometimes err, as Montesquieu understood and as, I believe, has happened with considerable frequency in our nation's past. But as Thomas Jefferson observed in the wake of the rebellion mounted by Daniel Shays in 1786, if the "turbulence" to which popular government is "subject" is regrettable, "even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs." In Europe, Jefferson explained, "under the pretence of government, they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep." He feared that the same would in time happen in America. If the people in the United States should ever "become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I," he wrote to one correspondent, "and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves."From the outset, Jefferson feared that in this country the government would eventually find its way to what his friend James Madison would later call a "self directed course." It was with this unwelcome prospect in mind that he asked, "What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve their spirit of resistance?" In the end, then, one does not have to agree with the Tea Party movement in every particular to welcome its appearance.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/how-to-think-about-the-tea-party/
24583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Commentary: Tea Party: Looking into the past in order to understand the present on: February 13, 2011, 03:24:18 PM
Looking into the past in order to understand the present.....
(link at the bottom)

 

How to Think About the Tea Party « Commentary Magazine

Paul A. Rahe is a professor of history at Hillsdale College and the author, most recently, of Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty and Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift."

On February 19, 2009, when the finance commentator Rick Santelli indulged in a rant against the newly unveiled "stimulus" bill on the CNBC cable network and called for a demonstration in Chicago modeled on the Boston Tea Party, he fired a shot heard round the country. Santelli's diatribe was focused on the fact that Americans who had played by the rules, had saved much of what they had earned, and had paid their bills on time were being required to bail out fellow citizens who had gotten caught short in purchasing a domicile they could not afford or while speculating in real estate. In the weeks that followed, ordinary citizens spontaneously gathered in towns and cities across the continent to organize Tea Parties in protest against what they took to be an unjust redistribution of wealth from the industrious and the rational to the greedy and improvident. The mainstream media treated them with contempt, and most Republicans kept their distance. Leading Democrats denounced them as frauds and ignoramuses and sought to brand them as racists. Even when the president of the United States used the obscene epithet "teabaggers" to refer to them, however, the adherents of what was coming to be a full-fledged movement—the Tea Party movement—stood firm. And in the course of the summer of 2009, as Americans began to grow fearful of the scope and intrusiveness of the Obama administration's health-care proposal, that movement's numbers grew. In August 2009, when congressmen and senators held town halls to discuss the proposed bill, ordinary Americans showed up in droves; and, to the evident dismay of their representatives, they bluntly spoke their minds.

By January 2010, when the unknown Republican Scott Brown defeated the well-known Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts race for the seat in the Senate once occupied by Ted Kennedy, it was clear that the Tea Party movement was destined to become a powerful force not only within the Republican Party but in the country as a whole, and patronage-minded Republican senators and congressmen who hoped to be re-elected in 2010 began to get with the program. Republican candidates who were not quick to do so soon came under fire. A three-term senator from Utah who failed to take note was denied his party's nomination for re-election at the state's Republican convention. A senator from Alaska, the scion of an entrenched political dynasty and a member of the Republican leadership, suffered the same fate in her party primary. In Delaware, a popular nine-term congressman who had served two terms as governor lost his party's senatorial primary to an insurgent who had never held political office. In Kentucky, the same fate met its secretary of state. In Florida, a former state senator came from nowhere (the first poll had him at three percent) to force a popular sitting governor to abandon his quest for the Republican senatorial nomination. And in the Republican senatorial primaries in Colorado and Nevada, Tea Party–backed insurgents defeated a lieutenant governor and a former party chairman.

It is perfectly understandable that Republican regulars thwarted in the primaries, Democrats defeated in the midterm elections, and adherents of both parties who found themselves suddenly deprived of political influence should find these developments disconcerting. It is equally understandable that those who find unpalatable either the Tea Party's approach or some of the more colorful and/or questionable candidates to emerge victorious as a consequence of its rise might consider this leaderless and inchoate force's impact worrisome or even frightening. In point of fact, however, this sort of upheaval is nothing new. Such forces have risen periodically throughout the history of the United States and have their antecedents in 17th- and 18th-century England.

_____________

In his 1748 Spirit of Laws, the great political philosopher Montesquieu attributed the recurring turmoil that had long beset England to the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. The Tudors for the most part had been able to sidestep the problem in the 16th century because Henry VIII and his children had sufficient wealth in the lands he had seized from the Catholic Church to cover most of their needs. But their Stuart successors in the 17th century found that those resources had been largely exhausted; and to cover their expenses and those of the government they directed, they were compelled to have frequent recourse to Parliament for revenue.

To their dismay and that of their ministers, what soon came to be called "the Country" rose up in high dudgeon time and time again to denounce on the floor of the House of Commons what was perceived as favoritism, corruption, arbitrary rule, conspiracy, and papist predilections on the part of a Court thought to be intent on encroaching on the rights of ordinary Englishmen and the prerogatives possessed by Parliament. These tensions produced the English civil war of the 1640s, the execution of Charles I in 1648, the rule of the Rump Parliament and the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell in the 1640s and 1650s, followed by the Restoration of the monarchy in 1658, which was in turn followed 30 years later by the Glorious Revolution.

By the time Montesquieu arrived in England, things had settled down. The political tensions that had periodically given rise to turbulence and bloodshed were now being resolved peacefully through electioneering and balloting, and monarchs now found themselves forced to appoint as ministers those who had the confidence of Parliament and were not simply tools of the Crown.

Montesquieu found the dynamics of English politics both instructive and amusing. "The hatred" that had long existed between Court and Country he regarded as a permanent feature. This hatred "would endure," he observed, "because it would always be powerless," and it would be powerless because "the parties" inspired by the separation of powers would be "composed of free men" who would be inclined to switch sides if either the executive power or the legislative power appeared to have "secured too much."

The English were a commercial people who lived in what Montesquieu called "a republic concealed under the form of a monarchy." The regime under which they were reared, being neither republican in the classical sense nor genuinely monarchical, did little to inculcate in them a spirit of self-sacrifice and even less to inspire in them a love of honor and glory. Instead, it left Englishmen to their own devices; and in the absence of direction from above, they tended to succumb to the restlessness and anxiety that Montesquieu called inquiétude. In such a nation, he remarked, the charges lodged by the party that stood in opposition to the executive branch "would augment even more" than usual "the terrors" to which a people so disposed were naturally prone, for they "would never know really whether they were in danger or not."

Ordinarily the legislature, which enjoyed the confidence of the people, would be in a position to moderate their fears. "In this fashion," Montesquieu noted, when "the terrors impressed" on the populace lacked "a certain object, they would produce nothing but vain clamors & name-calling; & they would have this good effect: that they would stretch all the springs of government & render the citizens attentive."

And if the terrors fanned by the party opposed to the English executive were ever "to appear on the occasion of an overturning of the fundamental laws," he observed, "they would be muted, lethal, excruciating & produce catastrophes: before long, one would see a frightful calm, during which the whole would unite itself against the power violating the laws."

Moreover, he added, if such "disputes took shape on the occasion of a violation of the fundamental laws, & if a foreign power appeared," as happened when the arrival of the Dutch political and military leader William of Orange in 1688 triggered the Glorious Revolution, "there would be a revolution, which would change neither the form of the government nor its constitution: for the revolutions to which liberty gives shape are nothing but a confirmation of liberty."

Over the past generation, historians have tended to interpret the American Revolution similarly as a clash between Court and Country. The pattern described by Montesquieu was duplicated in colonies such as Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York in the 17th and 18th centuries. Moreover, the charges leveled against King and Parliament by the American colonists in the period stretching from 1762 to 1776 were a compendium of those lodged long before by the critics of James I and Charles I; the opponents of the Long Parliament, the Rump Parliament, and Oliver Cromwell; the proponents of the Glorious Revolution; and those who subsequently became disgruntled under the rule of William of Orange following his installation as William III and those who followed him over the next century culminating in the reign of George III.

The same pattern manifested itself also in the political disputes that followed the founding of the United States. To be sure, when Thomas Jefferson and James Madison organized the first American political party, they did not accuse Alexander Hamilton and those who came to be called the Federalists of papist predilections. But they did assert that the economic program proposed by Hamilton in his capacity as George Washington's secretary of the treasury amounted to a conspiracy to overthrow republicanism in America and consolidate power in the hands of an irresponsible executive indistinguishable from a monarch. That is why Jefferson spoke of the election of 1800 and his own ascendancy to the presidency as a second American revolution.

Similar rhetoric was deployed by the movement that sprang up against the so-called "Tariff of Abominations" shortly after its passage in 1828. Andrew Jackson articulated much the same argument in the battle he undertook in his second presidential term (1832-36) against Nicholas Biddle's proposal for a rechartering of the Second Bank of the United States, and so did Abraham Lincoln and his fellow Republicans in their quest in the late 1850s against what they called "the slave-power conspiracy."

One could hear echoes of these earlier controversies in the campaign mounted against the railroads and banks by the People's Party in 1892 (the force widely considered the originator of what has come to be called "populism"), in the presidential campaign undertaken by the insurgent Democrat William Jennings Bryan in 1896 against the tight-money fiscal policies that he said were crucifying America on a "cross of gold," and in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's assertion at the Democratic Convention in 1936 that "a small group" of economic royalists was intent on concentrating "into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor—other people's lives." And, of course, it is a similar suspicion that has given rise to the Tea Party movement.

Consider what Barack Obama and the Democrats did over the past two years—with their so-called stimulus, health-care reform, and reform of financial regulation. Each initiative involved the passage of a bill more than a thousand pages in length that virtually no one voting on could have read, and no one but those who framed it could have understood. Each involved a massive expansion of the federal government and massive payoffs to favored constituencies. And each was part of a much larger project openly pursued by self-styled progressives in the course of the last century and aimed at concentrating in the hands of "a small group" of putative experts "an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor—other people's lives." Without quite knowing whom they are evoking, Tea Partiers are inclined to say, as FDR said in 1936, that if they do not put a stop to what is going on, "for too many of us life" will be "no longer free" and "liberty no longer real"—for otherwise the bureaucratic busybodies ensconced in Washington will deprive us of the means by which to "follow the pursuit of happiness" as we see fit.

The only difference is that FDR's assertions demonizing the "economic royalists" were demonstrably false, and when the Tea Partiers make comparable claims today, they are, alas, telling the truth.

24584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: February 13, 2011, 12:53:41 PM
So, the answer to my question is "No"?
24585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Do I have my zeros correct? on: February 13, 2011, 12:52:08 PM
"Bernanke said a Federal Reserve study found that the QE policy has created or saved as many as 3 million jobs."

If I have my zeros correct, that is $200,000 per job?!? shocked
24586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Will Bill Donovan on: February 13, 2011, 12:49:15 PM
By ANDREW ROBERTS
William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan, the head of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, has long been a controversial figure. If a man can be judged by the quality of his enemies, Donovan—who was cordially disliked or distrusted by Harry Truman, Douglas MacArthur, George Marshall and especially by J. Edgar Hoover—was a giant of his era. That President Franklin Roosevelt eventually came to like and admire Donovan, a Republican enemy of the New Deal, says much for both men. As Douglas Waller makes clear in his fast-moving and well-written biography, "Wild Bill Donovan," Roosevelt's approval was the foundation of Donovan's place at the center of American intelligence operations from July 1941 to September 1945.

Hailing from a poor Catholic neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y., Donovan (1883-1959) won early renown as the most-decorated officer of World War I, earning the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal with two oak-leaf clusters, two Purple Hearts and the Congressional Medal of Honor. When he later sent any of his 10,000 OSS operatives into harm's way during World War II, they knew that he was not asking anything of them that he hadn't himself already done.

After World War I, Donovan went into the law and politics, failing to become lieutenant governor of New York in 1922 or governor in 1932. In the course of the gubernatorial campaign, he described the Democratic presidential nominee Roosevelt as "a new kind of red, white and blue dictator" with "delusions of grandeur." Worse, when he met Mussolini in 1936 he congratulated the dictator on Italy's "unity of spirit" and the Italian general Pietro Badoglio on his "great victory" over the poor, gassed, brutalized Abyssinian tribesmen. On German fascism, Donovan was far sounder, protesting in 1933 over the Nazis' ill treatment of Jewish judges.

By July 1940, Donovan was one of the leading advocates of active aid to Britain and an opponent of America First isolationism, visiting London in a semi-official capacity and becoming convinced that Winston Churchill was fighting civilization's fight. The prime minister reciprocated by praising Donovan's "animating heart-warming flame" to FDR. With British assistance, Donovan toured Yugoslavia, Turkey, the Middle East and Spain, sending back encouraging cables. Walter Lippmann claimed that Donovan had "almost singlehandedly overcome the unmitigated defeatism which was paralyzing Washington."

View Full Image

Library of Congress
 
Col. William J. Donovan in 1919. His Wound Chevrons are visible on his right sleeve.
.Donovan, who had come to admire FDR proposed to the president the creation of a spy and sabotage service based on Britain's MI6, "with men calculatingly reckless with disciplined daring." With the support of the secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, but in the teeth of the opposition of practically everyone else, Donovan was appointed "Coordinator of Information" in July 1941. Roosevelt loved the intelligence with which Donovan then deluged him—more than 200 memos in his first six months—calling him "my secret legs."

For all the deliberate opacity of his title, the coordinator had a precise sense of his mission. He now opened a door on the world of codepads, pistols with silencers, lock-picking sets, matchbox cameras, bombs that looked like baking flour, stiletto knives, chemical and biological assassination weapons, and suicide capsules (which Donovan always carried with him, although his aides worried lest he mix them up with his identical-looking aspirin).

"Hush-Hush" Donovan hired anyone of ability, believing that "later on we'll find out what they can do." Future CIA directors Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby and William Casey all served under Donovan. From its headquarters at 25th & E streets on Navy Hill in Washington and at Rockefeller Center in New York, the Office of Strategic Services became America's first world-wide intelligence service. World-wide except for Latin America, which Hoover managed to ring-fence for the FBI. Donovan and Hoover—who each kept files on the other—maintained a fiction of professionalism that barely hid their mutual detestation.

The tales of OSS derring-do—one agent, Virginia Hall, had a prosthetic leg from a prewar hunting accident but was still parachuted into Occupied France— are thrilling and none more so than the elaborate effort, in July 1941, to burgle the safe in the Spanish embassy in Washington for the diplomatic codebooks. The meticulous preparation and sheer chutzpah of the operation—infiltrating a secretary, distracting the embassy staff, sending in a safe-cracker, photographing and replacing the codebooks within hours—was extraordinary, not least because it had to be undertaken monthly when the codes changed. One can't help sympathizing with Donovan when the OSS had to curtail its activities because the FBI turned out to be up to the same thing. (When FDR ordained that it was henceforth to be the FBI's job to break into embassies, Donovan promptly started spying on the FBI, concluding that Hoover was "a fairy" —just as Hoover was concluding that Donovan was a serial adulterer.)

The stories of the OSS's homelier operations are superb, too. Gland experts produced female sex hormones to inject into Hitler's vegetable so that his mustache would fall out and his voice go soprano. Planes released bats that were fitted with time-delayed incendiary devices. They were supposed to fly under the eaves of German houses and blow them up; in fact, the poor creatures dropped like stones.

For every success Donovan could claim —such as the German agent Fritz Kolbe, who stole 1,600 documents from the foreign ministry in Berlin and took them to an OSS safe house in Switzerland—there was a failure: for example Donovan's prediction, supposedly based on firm intelligence, that the Third Reich would "collapse . . . a few months" after D-Day.

Yet he was always an invigorating, thrusting, positive force. He insisted on taking part in the Salerno, Anzio and Normandy landings, hitting the beaches virtually in the second wave each time. At one point at Salerno, this 200-pound, 5-foot-9-inch, 60-year-old man with thickening heart muscles actually got into a firefight with an Italian patrol. It left him "happy as a clam."

Mr. Waller, a former Newsweek and Time correspondent, makes a powerful case that Donovan was a great American. He does not, however, even attempt to make the case that the OSS significantly affected the outcome of the war. Yet Donovan had no fewer than 28 networks working in southern France by the spring of 1944, which was no mean feat.

The author is caustic about the OSS operations in Italy, citing several "bad operational breakdowns and security lapses," not least when some OSS officers pocketed the cash intended for bribing Axis officials. Yet Donovan got a grip on the situation by the time of the fall of Rome in June 1944, setting himself up at the Grand Hotel Plaza there and sending no fewer than half his officers home. As Gen. Mark Clark fought his way up the peninsula, the OSS dropped 75 commando teams behind enemy lines, with 2,000 tons of arms and supplies, in support of the estimated 85,000 Italian partisans fighting against the Germans.

Just as he had no great respect for the inviolability of embassies, Donovan had little time for the Geneva Convention. In an operation codenamed "Sauerkraut," he organized the recruitment of angry and disaffected German soldiers from POW camps—i.e., sour krauts—and slipped them behind enemy lines in their Wehr macht uniforms to plant subversive propaganda, gather intelligence and lower enemy morale. The scheme worked better than the absurd idea of having planes drop leaflets over Germany showing, as Donovan put it in a memo, "pictures of succulent, appetizing dishes that would make a hungry person almost go mad with longing."

Wild Bill Donovan
By Douglas Waller
Free Press, 466 pages, $30
.Another black propaganda wheeze was to produce fake German mailbags stuffed with poison-pen letters whose addresses were copied from prewar German phone directories. The mailbags were then air-dropped in the hope that German civilians would give them to postmen to deliver. The commitment of the OSS to getting every detail right was such that when it produced fake Polish army uniforms, the buttons had to be sewn onto coats by threading the holes parallel, in the European style, rather than crisscrossing them.

The value of Donovan's organization is best seen at the time of Operation Overlord, when the OSS and the British Special Operations Executive dropped 10,000 tons of weaponry and equipment to the French Resistance, which put it to good use in slowing down the German counter attack. As he watched the D-Day landings from the deck of the USS Tuscaloosa, which was giving and receiving fire off Utah Beach, Donovan was in his element. His contribution to the winning of the war is necessarily hard to quantify, but by the end of Mr. Waller's chronicle a fair-minded reader will judge it to have been considerable.

President Truman disbanded the OSS on Sept. 20, 1945, within a week of the Japanese surrender and just as the Soviet Union seemed to pose a new threat. His antipathy toward Donovan was fueled by Hoover's disgusting (and untruthful) allegation that among Wild Bill's many mistresses was Donovan's own daughter-in-law. Yet such was America's need for an OSS substitute that only two years later the organization was resuscitated with a new name —the Central Intelligence Agency—but without its great wartime leader. He deserved better.

—Mr. Roberts's latest book is "The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War," to be published in the United States in May by Harper.
 
24587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morgan Freeman solves it on: February 13, 2011, 12:31:51 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3cGfrExozQ&feature=player_embedded
24588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH editorial on: February 13, 2011, 11:02:36 AM
Some details in this editorial that are often left out in some right wing commentary:
=======================

Republicans have a long history of favoring small government except when it comes to surveillance and security, at which point civil liberties take a back seat. Last week, however, 26 Republicans in the House demonstrated a remarkable consistency by joining 122 Democrats to prevent the extension of three questionable provisions of the Patriot Act, the post-9/11 law created during the Bush administration.

USA Patriot ActThe vote splashed some cold water on the House Republican leadership, which had been so confident that it raised the extension under fast-track rules that require a two-thirds majority. The leadership is planning to bring it back this week under the normal rules. It is almost certain to pass and be sent to the Senate.

Nonetheless, the concerns that briefly brought together liberals, Tea Party members and longtime centrists from both parties should send a message to the White House and the Senate. The provisions of the Patriot Act should be carefully re-examined before being hastily reauthorized year after year. The Tea Party-backed congressman Justin Amash of Michigan was right to say that some raise serious concerns about violating the ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Three provisions in the act are set to expire on Feb. 28, and would be renewed under the House bill, supported by the Obama administration, through December.

One would allow a roving wiretap on a terror suspect to monitor his conversations as he moves from phone to phone. That can be a useful tool, but the authorization is so broad that the government does not even have to specify the suspect’s name to get a warrant. The failure to provide a more narrow identification of the suspect is too lax and could lead to abuse.

Another expiring provision has long raised serious civil liberties concerns, allowing the government to examine library and bookstore records of suspects, along with hard drives, tax documents and gun records. Investigators are not required to show probable cause that the material is related to a terrorist investigation.

The third provision, allowing surveillance of “lone wolf” suspects who may not be tied to recognized terror organizations, is also overly broad but has never been used. Rather than renew it without debate, the government should explain whether it is really necessary.

The extensions will probably pass the House this week — though leaders do not plan to give anyone a chance to amend them — and go to the Senate, which should provide another opportunity for reconsideration. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Judiciary Committee chairman, has introduced a bill that would add several safeguards to the act, most notably the phasing out of “national security letters,” which the F.B.I. has used to obtain evidence without a court order. These letters have been subject to widespread misuse and have never received proper oversight.

Unfortunately, the same bill that would bring the letters under control would extend the three expiring provisions in the Patriot Act through 2013. It is a much better measure, however, than a bill by Senator Dianne Feinstein that would extend the provisions for three more years without the new safeguards, or one by Senator Mitch McConnell that would make the three provisions permanent. Congress should not miss an opportunity to wield some oversight on this issue and determine whether the government could achieve its goals with less sweeping surveillance powers.

24589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Elections to be held in West Bank, and Gaza? on: February 13, 2011, 10:53:25 AM
Palestinian Leaders Suddenly Call for Elections
By ETHAN BRONNER
Published: February 12, 2011
JERUSALEM — The Palestinian leadership announced Saturday that it planned to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by September, apparently a response to the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt calling for greater democracy and government accountability.

 The decision was announced in the West Bank city of Ramallah after a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which oversees the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is also the chairman of the P.L.O.
At the same meeting, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator with Israel, submitted his resignation and Mr. Abbas accepted it. A subcommittee was formed to look for a successor as well as to consider restructuring the negotiations unit.

The Islamist Hamas faction rejected the plan for national elections, saying Mr. Abbas had no legitimacy to call for them since he was serving beyond his term.

The Palestinians have not held elections since 2006, when Hamas won a majority in the parliament, leading to a year and a half of uneasy power sharing and a brief civil war in June 2007. Since then, Hamas has governed Gaza and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has controlled the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority announced that postponed local elections would be held in July, a move that Hamas also rejected.

Hamas has said it believes that elections should follow a reconciliation process between itself and Fatah, including a restructuring of the P.L.O. to include Hamas, which is currently excluded.

The authority’s announcement on national elections said: “We call upon all parties to set aside their reservations and disagreements. Let us work together to hold elections and uphold the will of the Palestinian people. As for differences and disagreements, whether in political or security matters, we believe that these issues could be resolved by the coming elected Legislative Council.”

In explaining his resignation as chief peace negotiator, Mr. Erekat said that the leak to Al Jazeera television last month of some 1,600 documents — minutes and e-mails — from the negotiations had come from his department and that he bore responsibility for the embarrassment they caused. The leaks showed Mr. Erekat and fellow negotiators making more far-reaching offers than were publicly known regarding the yielding of land to Israel in East Jerusalem and on other divisive issues, like the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is today Israel.

A member of the P.L.O. executive committee who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that there was unhappiness with Mr. Erekat, especially after the leaks were exposed, and that he was leaving because of it. Mr. Erekat has been a part of the negotiating team for nearly two decades.

Other Palestinian officials said there were no negotiations to lead and blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

“I think this resignation makes a point that we don’t believe Netanyahu has any intention of accepting the minimum of what had been agreed to before,” Nabil Shaath, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said in a telephone interview. “We want a total end of building settlements, including in East Jerusalem.”

In reaction to Mr. Erekat’s announcement, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, said the resignation was proof that negotiations and peaceful efforts with Israel were a failure, and added that the Palestinian Authority should “cease all types of coordination with the Zionist enemy.”


Khaled Abu Aker contributed reporting from Ramallah, and Fares Akram from Gaza.

24590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 13, 2011, 10:36:29 AM
Well, that IS a rather big deal  smiley

Here's these from that Islamo-Communist conspiracy, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal:
=========

As it happens, yesterday was also the 32nd anniversary of the Shah's downfall in Iran. The hard men of Tehran are now seeking to tap into Egypt's revolutionary fervor, hailing Hosni Mubarak's downfall as "a great victory." Earlier on this Islamic Revolution's Victory Day, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on Arabs to "free" themselves from the "arrogant powers" (i.e., the U.S. and Israel) in the spirit of Ayatollah Khomeini.

The regime's words were all about 1979, but its actions suggested their minds are far more focused on 2009. Recall the Cairo-like scenes from Tehran two summers ago, when hundreds of thousands rose up over a stolen presidential election. Their uprising was brutally put down. The frustrations with a crony authoritarian regime that is far more savage than Mubarak's Egypt continue to fester.

Iran this week jammed the BBC Persian TV's coverage of the Egyptian uprising. According to the Guardian, the Iranians acted after the BBC brought together Iranian and Egyptian callers on air to exchange ideas.

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who challenged Mr. Ahmadinejad for the presidency, asked permission to stage a rally in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia this Monday. It was a clever idea to get around the long-standing ban on public gatherings. The government turned them down. At least eight opposition activists and journalists have been detained since Wednesday. Clearly the mullahs are nervous about contagion.



=========
Hosni Mubarak left Cairo and nearly three decades in power last night, and Egypt erupted with cheers, fireworks and dancing. A better immediate outcome to Egypt's three-week crisis is hard to imagine. Now comes the morning after, and the beginning of another drama for the Arab world's leading nation.

The collapse of the Mubarak regime, wholly unexpected a month ago, offers an overdue opportunity to let Egypt and fellow Arab states catch the global democracy wave that began in 1989. The way to a truly liberal democracy is long and filled with many potential wrong turns. But Egypt starts on it with an enthusiastic mandate for reform, and advantages as well as handicaps.

***
Among the advantages, the military council that says it will oversee a transition has had its reputation and popular support enhanced by the uprising. By most appearances, the brass pushed Mr. Mubarak out yesterday, after the Egyptian leader refused to step down in a greatly anticipated speech on Thursday night. He enraged the streets and jeopardized the army's position of neutrality, increasing the chances of violence.

View Full Image

Zuma Press
 .Dictators of long standing rarely leave easily, or quickly, and at least Mr. Mubarak left before more blood was shed. His consiglieri, an ashen-faced Vice President Omar Suleiman, read a 30-second statement to announce Mr. Mubarak's departure and the transfer of power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Services. Mr. Suleiman, who was previously expected to take over, may be left out of the transition, too tarnished by the events of the past three weeks to play an effective leadership role.

The military has been the power behind the Egyptian throne since the 1952 coup, and skeptics called yesterday's power shift another military coup. Many other Third World countries have seen generals take over and promise a transition to democracy, only to stay for good. The military has interests that run deep into Egypt's politics and economy, and the generals will want those safeguarded. But the circumstances of this "coup" are unique. The military yesterday promised to honor the people's demands for democracy. The last month was also a good lesson for them that in this century free societies tend to be more stable.

Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, who was Egypt's defense minister, and the other senior officers on the military council can take some obvious steps to build their legitimacy. As soon as possible they should lift emergency rule, which has been enforced since Anwar Sadat's assassination in 1981 and Mr. Mubarak's rise to the throne.

By rising up in January, Egyptians claimed their right to free speech and assembly. Such habits of a free society are worth decriminalizing and promoting. Long stifled by Mr. Mubarak's tight grip, the country hasn't had time to debate and disagree, nurture opposition figures and join political parties.

This transition will take time, a reality acknowledged by many in Cairo's Tahrir Square. The demonstrations were all the more remarkable for throwing up no leader in the mold of a Lech Walesa. Speaking on al Jazeera last night, former U.N. official Mohamed ElBaradei talked about "a one-year transition" to free elections. Before those take place, he said that Egypt needs a new constitution drawn up by a provisional council, including figures from the military and opposition. Ayman Nour, an opposition leader jailed by the Mubarak regime, said that Egyptians waited for yesterday for many years and would be patient. This is wise counsel.

Who knows what leader might emerge. Mr. ElBaradei lived abroad until the revolution started, and Mr. Nour's party lacks deep support and is divided. Marshal Tantawi won good will by appearing on Tahrir Square during the protests.

But the most galvanizing figure of the uprising is the Google executive, Wael Ghonim, who was jailed for a time but emerged with the Nelson Mandela-like message that he sought no revenge against his captors. This, too, is wisdom, because in history's successful revolutions victors have sought reconciliation rather than reprisals. Think the Philippines and South Africa, not France or Iran.

To satisfy the aspirations of this revolution, the political reforms will have to be credible and deep, not merely cosmetic. A Mubarak in new clothing will invite more trouble down the road. A democracy with proper constitutional checks, competing branches of government and the rule of law offers the best insurance against the rise of a different form of autocracy led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood is disciplined and organized and will no doubt fight to gain power. But it's worth noting that the words heard most often from protestors in Egypt have been "dignity," "modernity," "freedom," "jobs." We shouldn't overlook that at this moment the hallmarks of successful societies—democracy and a vibrant free market—appear to have displaced Allah as the galvanizing ideas for the young in Egypt and Tunisia.

Political Islam is so 1979—nowhere more so than in Iran, where an opposition rose up two years ago with the same demands as the Egyptians, only to fail amid a ruthless and violent government crackdown. (See editorial below.) Egypt's revolt should inspire the Iranians anew, and it will if it ends in greater freedom.

The U.S. and Europe can't dictate events in Egypt, but they can influence this transition. America's close ties and $1.5 billion in yearly aid to the military, which has been armed by Washington since the 1979 Camp David accords, will give the U.S. influence with the generals. Another carrot to Egypt's next leaders would be a free trade agreement and open access to the U.S. and EU markets for its goods as democracy advances.

***
President Obama spoke for many Americans yesterday by saying that Egypt's nonviolent revolution "inspired us" with "a moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice." He has learned since his embarrassing silence over Iran in 2009. But this is also a day to note that George W. Bush was the President who broke with the foreign policy establishment and declared that Arabs deserved political freedom as much as the rest of the world. He was reviled for it by many of the same pundits who are now claiming solidarity with Egyptians in the streets. We are all neocons now.

Egypt's march toward political freedom is only beginning, and we can expect more drama and disagreement as it unfolds. But this new Egypt is the best opportunity since 9/11 to change the sclerotic Arab world, and it ought to be seized by Egyptians and their friends.

24591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Whelton: The decline and fall of American English, and stuff on: February 13, 2011, 10:31:19 AM
What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness
The decline and fall of American English, and stuff
Clark Whelton

I recently watched a television program in which a woman described a baby squirrel that she had found in her yard. “And he was like, you know, ‘Helloooo, what are you looking at?’ and stuff, and I’m like, you know, ‘Can I, like, pick you up?,’ and he goes, like, ‘Brrrp brrrp brrrp,’ and I’m like, you know, ‘Whoa, that is so wow!’ ” She rambled on, speaking in self-quotations, sound effects, and other vocabulary substitutes, punctuating her sentences with facial tics and lateral eye shifts. All the while, however, she never said anything specific about her encounter with the squirrel.

Uh-oh. It was a classic case of Vagueness, the linguistic virus that infected spoken language in the late twentieth century. Squirrel Woman sounded like a high school junior, but she appeared to be in her mid-forties, old enough to have been an early carrier of the contagion. She might even have been a college intern in the days when Vagueness emerged from the shadows of slang and mounted an all-out assault on American English.

My acquaintance with Vagueness began in the 1980s, that distant decade when Edward I. Koch was mayor of New York and I was writing his speeches. The mayor’s speechwriting staff was small, and I welcomed the chance to hire an intern. Applications arrived from NYU, Columbia, Pace, and the senior colleges of the City University of New York. I interviewed four or five candidates and was happily surprised. The students were articulate and well informed on civic affairs. Their writing samples were excellent. The young woman whom I selected was easy to train and a pleasure to work with. Everything went so well that I hired interns at every opportunity.

Then came 1985.

The first applicant was a young man from NYU. During the interview, he spiked his replies so heavily with “like” that I mentioned his frequent use of the word. He seemed confused by my comment and replied, “Well . . . like . . . yeah.” Now, nobody likes a grammar prig. All’s fair in love and language, and the American lingo is in constant motion. “You should,” for example, has been replaced by “you need to.” “No” has faded into “not really.” “I said” is now “I went.” As for “you’re welcome,” that’s long since become “no problem.” Even nasal passages are affected by fashion. Quack-talking, the rasping tones preferred by many young women today, used to be considered a misfortune.

In 1985, I thought of “like” as a trite survivor of the hippie sixties. By itself, a little slang would not have disqualified the junior from NYU. But I was surprised to hear antique argot from a communications major looking for work in a speechwriting office, where job applicants would normally showcase their language skills. I was even more surprised when the next three candidates also laced their conversation with “like.” Most troubling was a puzzling drop in the quality of their writing samples. It took six tries, but eventually I found a student every bit as good as his predecessors. Then came 1986.

As the interviews proceeded, it grew obvious that “like” had strengthened its grip on intern syntax. And something new had been added: “You know” had replaced “Ummm . . .” as the sentence filler of choice. The candidates seemed to be evading the chore of beginning new thoughts. They spoke in run-on sentences, which they padded by adding “and stuff” at the end. Their writing samples were terrible. It took eight tries to find a promising intern. In the spring of 1987 came the all-interrogative interview. I asked a candidate where she went to school.

“Columbia?” she replied. Or asked.

“And you’re majoring in . . .”

“English?”

All her answers sounded like questions. Several other students did the same thing, ending declarative sentences with an interrogative rise. Something odd was happening. Was it guerrilla grammar? Had college kids fallen under the spell of some mad guru of verbal chaos? I began taking notes and mailed a letter to William Safire at the New York Times, urging him to do a column on the devolution of coherent speech. Undergraduates, I said, seemed to be shifting the burden of communication from speaker to listener. Ambiguity, evasion, and body language, such as air quotes—using fingers as quotation marks to indicate clichés—were transforming college English into a coded sign language in which speakers worked hard to avoid saying anything definite. I called it Vagueness.

By autumn 1987, the job interviews revealed that “like” was no longer a mere slang usage. It had mutated from hip preposition into the verbal milfoil that still clogs spoken English today. Vagueness was on the march. Double-clutching (“What I said was, I said . . .”) sprang into the arena. Playbacks, in which a speaker re-creates past events by narrating both sides of a conversation (“So I’m like, ‘Want to, like, see a movie?’ And he goes, ‘No way.’ And I go . . .”), made their entrance. I was baffled by what seemed to be a reversion to the idioms of childhood. And yet intern candidates were not hesitant or uncomfortable about speaking elementary school dialects in a college-level job interview. I engaged them in conversation and gradually realized that they saw Vagueness not as slang but as mainstream English. At long last, it dawned on me: Vagueness was not a campus fad or just another generational raid on proper locution. It was a coup. Linguistic rabble had stormed the grammar palace. The principles of effective speech had gone up in flames.

In 1988, my elder daughter graduated from Vassar. During a commencement reception, I asked one of her professors if he’d noticed any change in Vassar students’ language skills. “The biggest difference,” he replied, “is that by the time today’s students arrive on campus, they’ve been juvenilized. You can hear it in the way they talk. There seems to be a reduced capacity for abstract thought.” He went on to say that immature speech patterns used to be drummed out of kids in ninth grade. “Today, whatever way kids communicate seems to be fine with their high school teachers.” Where, I wonder, did Vagueness begin? It must have originated before the 1980s. “Like” has a long and scruffy pedigree: in the 1970s, it was a mainstay of Valspeak, the frequently ridiculed but highly contagious “Valley Girl” dialect of suburban Los Angeles, and even in 1964, the filmParis When It Sizzles lampooned the word’s overuse. All the way back in 1951, Holden Caulfield spoke proto-Vagueness (“I sort of landed on my side . . . my arm sort of hurt”), complete with double-clutching (“Finally, what I decided I’d do, I decided I’d . . .”) and demonstrative adjectives used as indefinite articles (“I felt sort of hungry so I went in this drugstore . . .”).

Is Vagueness simply an unexplainable descent into nonsense? Did Vagueness begin as an antidote to the demands of political correctness in the classroom, a way of sidestepping the danger of speaking forbidden ideas? Does Vagueness offer an undereducated generation a technique for camouflaging a lack of knowledge?

In 1991, I visited the small town of Bridgton, Maine, on the evening that the residents of Cumberland County gathered to welcome their local National Guard unit home from the Gulf War. It was a stirring moment. Escorted by the lights and sirens of two dozen fire engines from surrounding towns, the soldiers marched down Main Street. I was standing near the end of the parade and looked around expectantly for a platform, podium, or microphone. But there were to be no brief remarks of commendation by a mayor or commanding officer. There was to be no pastoral prayer of thanks for the safe return of the troops. Instead, the soldiers quickly dispersed. The fire engines rumbled away. The crowd went home. A few minutes later, Main Street stood empty.

Apparently there was, like, nothing to say.

Clark Whelton was a speechwriter for New York City mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani.
24592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 13, 2011, 10:23:04 AM
We are looking at protests throughout the Arab world in the coming days.  What is the US policy to be?

I begin with a glance in the rear view mirror by noting that we would be in rather good shape right now if the Baraq, Pelosi, Reid, Kerrey, Gore, Clinton, et al had supported Bush and the Neocons's idea of supporting democracy in Iraq and elsewhere.  I note the absence of support by Baraq for the freedom marchers in Iran last year (though I note with approval the comments of VP Biden jabbing Ahmadinejad to allow the same freedoms to the people of Iran).

Turning to the question I present, at this moment what makes sense to me is to support freedom and democracy-- for those who support it. 
24593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: February 13, 2011, 10:15:50 AM


GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Armed men opened fire and hurled a grenade into a crowded nightclub early Saturday, killing six people and wounding at least 37 in a western city whose former tranquility has been shattered by escalating battles among drug cartels.

The attack in Mexico's second-largest municipality took place just hours after a shootout between soldiers and presumed cartel gunmen left eight people, including an innocent driver, dead in the northeastern city of Monterrey. Monterrey is Mexico's third-largest city.
 
In the Guadalajara attack, assailants in a Jeep Cherokee and a taxi drove up to the Butter Club, located in a bar and restaurant district popular with young people, and sprayed it with bullets.  Some of the men then got out of the taxi and threw a grenade into the nightclub entrance, said a police official. The gunmen fled after the pre-dawn attack, he said.

Three were killed at the scene and three more died later in hospitals, said Medical Services Director Yannick Nordin. A Venezuelan and a Colombian were among the dead.

While there have been isolated grenade attacks around the city, Saturday's was the first to be thrown into a crowd and cause so many injuries.

The U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara recently warned U.S. citizens not to drive at night in parts of the city after suspected drug-gang members burned vehicles and blocked streets.

Such alerts have become common for highways in some areas of northern and western Mexico, but not for Guadalajara, which is known more for its mariachi music and tequila than as a focal point of a drug war that has claimed nearly 35,000 lives since 2006.

24594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obligations on the FMs on: February 13, 2011, 10:09:47 AM
Educate me please:

Is the US government obligated as a matter of law to cover the FMs debts?
24595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GB on Egypt on: February 13, 2011, 10:03:48 AM
Glenn has, how rare, been taking a contrarian interpretation of the events in Egypt.  He sees them as the result of a Green-Red alliance dedicated to overthrowing western values world-wide and as the first step of much more to come.  He is very emphatic that there is a reason the BO et al (e.g. intel chief Clapper!) are underplaying the true nature of the MB.

I'd be glad to see continuing discussion here of Glenn's ideas this past week and next.
24596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Military acknowledges Israel Peace Treaty on: February 13, 2011, 09:58:57 AM
CAIRO—Egypt's new military rulers indicated Saturday they would abide by the country's peace treaty with Israel and said they aim to ensure a peaceful transition to elections and a "free democratic state."

A day after the ouster of Egypt's longstanding president, Hosni Mubarak, the country's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a communiqué saying the country "is committed to all regional and international obligations and treaties." Those treaties include its 1979 peace agreement with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement, saying the peace agreement "has greatly contributed to both countries and is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the entire Middle East."

The military rulers said Egypt's current cabinet would remain in power until a new government was formed. They pledged to insure "a peaceful transition of power in the framework of a free and democratic system." The new elected government "will rule the country to build a free democratic state," the statement said. It didn't set a timetable for the transition to democracy.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement posted on its website Saturday that it wasn't seeking power or a majority of parliament seats. The group reiterated its previous assertion that it was only a participant in the Egyptian revolution and that its demands echoed those of the nation. It called on the army to rapidly form a new transitional government, scrap emergency laws, amend the constitution, ensure free elections and free all political detainees.

Mr. Mubarak stepped down Friday after 18 days of unrelenting protests, handing power to the military and opening the door to an uncertain new course for the Arab world's most populous country, and for the entire Middle East.

A number of senior government officials and former ministers were banned from traveling outside the country, including information minister Anas al-Fiqi and former prime minister Ahmad Nazif, state news media reported, citing court sources.

In a sign of attempts to restore normalcy, the military relaxed the hours of a nighttime curfew, the Associated Press reported.

In Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the mass protests against Mr. Mubarak's rule, soldiers cleared the entrances to the square of barricades, barbed wire and the improvised barriers erected by protesters during the days of the heaviest clashes with pro-Mubarak demonstrators.

The country's stock market will reopen on Wednesday, the bourse said in a statement. It had planned to open on Sunday, after being closed since Jan. 27, two days after the start of the protests. In the last two days of trading before it closed, the exchange dropped 16%
24597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MB and Baraq Obama on: February 12, 2011, 08:31:30 AM
Reliability unknown:
===============================
Obama Allies Organizing Terrorists

By Scott Wheeler

 


What does the US Department of Justice have in common with the radical Muslim Brotherhood? It turns out a close associate of our Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez will soon be advising this fundamentalist group on how to takeover and run Egypt, further destabilizing this critical arena. The Executive Director of Perez's former organization is planning on teaming up with the Muslim Brotherhood in the overthrow of the Egyptian government. To the point, Thomas Perez was president of Casa de Maryland, a group known to advocate for illegal alien rights, just prior to joining the DOJ. The group's current Executive Director, Gustav Torres, is also on the board of directors of an extremist group called The Organizers Forum.  This group has chosen to ignore the organic democracy movement made up of many pro US demonstrators and declare the unpopular Muslim Brotherhood as the winner of the rulers' roulette in Egypt.
 

"Our fall 2011 International Dialogue will be located in Egypt where we will meet with labor and community organizers and other activists in Cairo.  There are exciting changes and developments that are currently taking place in Egypt with elections coming soon to determine leadership transitions in what has been an autocratic regime, now challenged by the Muslim Brotherhood" reads The Organizers Forum website.


But the Muslim Brotherhood came to this rebellion late and appears to be waiting on the sideline for the chaos there to provide them an opportunity to use its signature method, violence, to take control of this strategically situated country. What is so strange about The Organizers Forum is its declaration that the Muslim Brotherhood is the group opposing the "autocratic regime" when in fact informed analysts know that it is not - at least not until their experienced well-connected community organizer brethren arrive from the United States. 


The group's board of directors reads like a who's who of Obama associates including: Mary Gonzales, Associate Director of the Gamaliel Foundation; and Wade Rathke, Chief Organizer of ACORN just to name a couple.


There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation reported about the Muslim Brotherhood in the media since the uprising in Egypt. To be clear, for years, counterterrorism experts both inside and outside of the US government have sought to have the Muslim Brotherhood listed as a Specially Designated Terrorist Organization by the State Department. Most consider it the godfather of all violent terrorist organizations, having founded HAMAS and al Qaida. Ayman al Zwahiri, al Qaida's number two behind Osama bin Laden, was a leader in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed in Egypt and responsible for a significant assassination attempt - on President Hosni Mubarak in 1995.


Bruce Tefft, a retired CIA officer and a founding member of the CIA's counter terrorism bureau told this column, "The Muslim Brotherhood created the PLO and HAMAS" and counts among its membership "both al Zawahiri and bin Laden." The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is also the chapter that spawned Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the September 11 attacks.


When Obama visited Cairo in 2009, many noticed a strange move by the administration to invite members of the Muslim Brotherhood to attend his speech, typically the kind of people that the Secret Service would screen out of presidential events. In June of 2009, Fox News reported,

 

"Khaled Hamza, editor of the Muslim Brotherhood Web site, confirmed to FOXNews.com that 10 members of the Brotherhood's parliamentary bloc received official invitations to attend the speech." Read more:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/06/03/muslim-brotherhood-members-attend-obamas-cairo-speech#ixzz1CpqOYdXh

 


So much of what Obama has done since being elected President has made the bizarre seem normal. Through sound analysis one easily views connections between violent Left-wing groups in the United States and violent Islamic terrorist organizations in the Middle East, Obama would be unquestionably close to the nucleus of the chart.


Imagine dancing between two such disparate and dangerous organizations as Bill Ayer's Weather Underground and the terrorists of Hamas.  These two factions joined only in the bloody pool of the death Western Freedom.


Over the past several months this column has questioned what the anti-American Left has in common with radical Islam.  Hyperbole aside, the answer lies in their mutual hatred of the United States.  And Obama seems to have far more in common with them than he does with any patriotic American.


# # #

 

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24598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pipeline from Canada on: February 12, 2011, 08:25:50 AM
Canada PM Harper Urges U.S. to Approve Oil Pipeline

Published February 04, 2011

| Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday urged U.S. officials to approve a proposed oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, calling Canada a "secure, stable and friendly" neighbor that poses no threat to U.S. security.

By contrast, many other countries that supply oil are not stable, secure or friendly to U.S. interests, Harper said at a White House news conference following a meeting with President Barack Obama.

Harper did not name any other country, but pipeline supporters have singled out countries such as Venezuela, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Iran as places where the United States faces security threats and instability. Canada's environment minister has used the term "ethical oil" to describe his country's crude supplies, saying Canada respects human rights, workers' rights and environmental responsibility.

"The choice that the United States faces in all of these matters is whether to increase its capacity to accept such energy from the most secure, most stable and friendliest location it can possibly get that energy, which is Canada, or from other places that are not as secure, stable or friendly to the interests and values of the United States," Harper said.

Obama, standing next to Harper at a news conference, did not address the pipeline issue.

A Canadian company is pushing to build a 1,900-mile pipeline that would carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. The $7 billion pipeline could substantially reduce U.S. dependency on oil from the Middle East and other regions, according to a report commissioned by the Obama administration.
The study suggests that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, coupled with a reduction in overall U.S. oil demand, "could essentially eliminate Middle East crude imports longer term." The pipeline would double the capacity of an existing pipeline from Canada, producing more than 500,000 barrels a day of crude oil derived from formations of sand, clay and water in western Canada.

A report prepared by a Massachusetts firm at the request of the U.S. Energy Department was completed in December, but made public this week in advance of Obama's meeting with Harper.

"This study supports what we have been saying for some time -- that Keystone XL will improve U.S. energy security and reduce dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East and Venezuela," said Russ Girling, CEO of Calgary-based TransCanada, the project's developer. "Keystone XL will also create 20,000 high-paying jobs for American families and inject $20 billion into the U.S. economy."

An environmental group that opposes the pipeline said Harper failed to acknowledge that tar sands oil is highly polluting.

"There are cleaner, safer ways to meet U.S. energy needs than to import this dirty oil from Canada via a dangerous pipeline through America's heartland," said Alex Moore of the environmental group Friends of the Earth.

Moore said he was glad that Obama did not express support for the pipeline, adding that if Obama is serious about making America a leader in clean energy, "he has no choice but to stop this project."

Environmental groups call the pipeline an ecological disaster waiting to happen and say the so-called tar sands produce "dirty" oil that requires huge amounts of energy to extract.

A coalition of 86 environmental and progressive groups sent a letter Friday urging Obama to reject the pipeline and "stop giving a free pass to oil companies to increase profits at the expense of Americans." Activists also gathered across from the White House on Friday to protest the project.

The American Petroleum Institute, meanwhile, sent a letter urging Obama to approve the project.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton must grant a permit allowing the pipeline to cross the U.S-Canadian border before TransCanada can proceed. Clinton said in October she was "inclined" to approve the project but has since backed off those remarks.

Lawmakers from both parties have written to the State Department for and against the pipeline, which would travel through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma before reaching Texas. Some of the strongest opposition is in Nebraska, where the state's two U.S. senators have raised sharp questions. The pipeline would travel over parts of the massive Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking water to about 2 million people in Nebraska and seven other states and supports irrigation.

The aquifer serves five of the states where the pipeline travels -- South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas -- as well as Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.
24599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Kurzweil 2 on: February 12, 2011, 07:25:45 AM


The Singularity isn't just an idea. it attracts people, and those people feel a bond with one another. Together they form a movement, a subculture; Kurzweil calls it a community. Once you decide to take the Singularity seriously, you will find that you have become part of a small but intense and globally distributed hive of like-minded thinkers known as Singularitarians.

 

Not all of them are Kurzweilians, not by a long chalk. There's room inside Singularitarianism for considerable diversity of opinion about what the Singularity means and when and how it will or won't happen. But Singularitarians share a worldview. They think in terms of deep time, they believe in the power of technology to shape history, they have little interest in the conventional wisdom about anything, and they cannot believe you're walking around living your life and watching TV as if the artificial-intelligence revolution were not about to erupt and change absolutely everything. They have no fear of sounding ridiculous; your ordinary citizen's distaste for apparently absurd ideas is just an example of irrational bias, and Singularitarians have no truck with irrationality. When you enter their mind-space you pass through an extreme gradient in worldview, a hard ontological shear that separates Singularitarians from the common run of humanity. Expect turbulence.

 

In addition to the Singularity University, which Kurzweil co-founded, there's also a Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, based in San Francisco. It counts among its advisers Peter Thiel, a former CEO of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook. The institute holds an annual conference called the Singularity Summit. (Kurzweil co-founded that too.) Because of the highly interdisciplinary nature of Singularity theory, it attracts a diverse crowd. Artificial intelligence is the main event, but the sessions also cover the galloping progress of, among other fields, genetics and nanotechnology. 

 

At the 2010 summit, which took place in August in San Francisco, there were not just computer scientists but also psychologists, neuroscientists, nanotechnologists, molecular biologists, a specialist in wearable computers, a professor of emergency medicine, an expert on cognition in gray parrots and the professional magician and debunker James "the Amazing" Randi. The atmosphere was a curious blend of Davos and UFO convention. Proponents of seasteading—the practice, so far mostly theoretical, of establishing politically autonomous floating communities in international waters—handed out pamphlets. An android chatted with visitors in one corner.

 

After artificial intelligence, the most talked-about topic at the 2010 summit was life extension. Biological boundaries that most people think of as permanent and inevitable Singularitarians see as merely intractable but solvable problems. Death is one of them. Old age is an illness like any other, and what do you do with illnesses? You cure them. Like a lot of Singularitarian ideas, it sounds funny at first, but the closer you get to it, the less funny it seems. It's not just wishful thinking; there's actual science going on here.

 

For example, it's well known that one cause of the physical degeneration associated with aging involves telomeres, which are segments of DNA found at the ends of chromosomes. Every time a cell divides, its telomeres get shorter, and once a cell runs out of telomeres, it can't reproduce anymore and dies. But there's an enzyme called telomerase that reverses this process; it's one of the reasons cancer cells live so long. So why not treat regular non-cancerous cells with telomerase? In November, researchers at Harvard Medical School announced inNature that they had done just that. They administered telomerase to a group of mice suffering from age-related degeneration. The damage went away. The mice didn't just get better; they got younger. 

 

Aubrey de Grey is one of the world's best-known life-extension researchers and a Singularity Summit veteran. A British biologist with a doctorate from Cambridge and a famously formidable beard, de Grey runs a foundation called SENS, or Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. He views aging as a process of accumulating damage, which he has divided into seven categories, each of which he hopes to one day address using regenerative medicine. "People have begun to realize that the view of aging being something immutable—rather like the heat death of the universe—is simply ridiculous," he says. "It's just childish. The human body is a machine that has a bunch of functions, and it accumulates various types of damage as a side effect of the normal function of the machine. Therefore in principal that damage can be repaired periodically. This is why we have vintage cars. It's really just a matter of paying attention. The whole of medicine consists of messing about with what looks pretty inevitable until you figure out how to make it not inevitable."

 

Kurzweil takes life extension seriously too. His father, with whom he was very close, died of heart disease at 58. Kurzweil inherited his father's genetic predisposition; he also developed Type 2 diabetes when he was 35. Working with Terry Grossman, a doctor who specializes in longevity medicine, Kurzweil has published two books on his own approach to life extension, which involves taking up to 200 pills and supplements a day. He says his diabetes is essentially cured, and although he's 62 years old from a chronological perspective, he estimates that his biological age is about 20 years younger.

 

But his goal differs slightly from de Grey's. For Kurzweil, it's not so much about staying healthy as long as possible; it's about staying alive until the Singularity. It's an attempted handoff. Once hyper-intelligent artificial intelligences arise, armed with advanced nanotechnology, they'll really be able to wrestle with the vastly complex, systemic problems associated with aging in humans. Alternatively, by then we'll be able to transfer our minds to sturdier vessels such as computers and robots. He and many other Singularitarians take seriously the proposition that many people who are alive today will wind up being functionally immortal.

 

It's an idea that's radical and ancient at the same time. In "Sailing to Byzantium," W.B. Yeats describes mankind's fleshly predicament as a soul fastened to a dying animal. Why not unfasten it and fasten it to an immortal robot instead? But Kurzweil finds that life extension produces even more resistance in his audiences than his exponential growth curves. "There are people who can accept computers being more intelligent than people," he says. "But the idea of significant changes to human longevity—that seems to be particularly controversial. People invested a lot of personal effort into certain philosophies dealing with the issue of life and death. I mean, that's the major reason we have religion."

 

Of course, a lot of people think the Singularity is nonsense — a fantasy, wishful thinking, a Silicon Valley version of the Evangelical story of the Rapture, spun by a man who earns his living making outrageous claims and backing them up with pseudoscience. Most of the serious critics focus on the question of whether a computer can truly become intelligent.

 

The entire field of artificial intelligence, or AI, is devoted to this question. But AI doesn't currently produce the kind of intelligence we associate with humans or even with talking computers in movies—HAL or C3PO or Data. Actual AIs tend to be able to master only one highly specific domain, like interpreting search queries or playing chess. They operate within an extremely specific frame of reference. They don't make conversation at parties. They're intelligent, but only if you define intelligence in a vanishingly narrow way. The kind of intelligence Kurzweil is talking about, which is called strong AI or artificial general intelligence, doesn't exist yet.

 

Why not? Obviously we're still waiting on all that exponentially growing computing power to get here. But it's also possible that there are things going on in our brains that can't be duplicated electronically no matter how many MIPS you throw at them. The neurochemical architecture that generates the ephemeral chaos we know as human consciousness may just be too complex and analog to replicate in digital silicon. The biologist Dennis Bray was one of the few voices of dissent at last summer's Singularity Summit. "Although biological components act in ways that are comparable to those in electronic circuits," he argued, in a talk titled "What Cells Can Do That Robots Can't," "they are set apart by the huge number of different states they can adopt. Multiple biochemical processes create chemical modifications of protein molecules, further diversified by association with distinct structures at defined locations of a cell. The resulting combinatorial explosion of states endows living systems with an almost infinite capacity to store information regarding past and present conditions and a unique capacity to prepare for future events." That makes the ones and zeros that computers trade in look pretty crude.

 

Underlying the practical challenges are a host of philosophical ones. Suppose we did create a computer that talked and acted in a way that was indistinguishable from a human being—in other words, a computer that could pass the Turing test. (Very loosely speaking, such a computer would be able to pass as human in a blind test.) Would that mean that the computer was sentient, the way a human being is? Or would it just be an extremely sophisticated but essentially mechanical automaton without the mysterious spark of consciousness—a machine with no ghost in it? And how would we know?

 

Even if you grant that the Singularity is plausible, you're still staring at a thicket of unanswerable questions. If I can scan my consciousness into a computer, am I still me? What are the geopolitics and the socioeconomics of the Singularity? Who decides who gets to be immortal? Who draws the line between sentient and nonsentient? And as we approach immortality, omniscience and omnipotence, will our lives still have meaning? By beating death, will we have lost our essential humanity?

 

Kurzweil admits that there's a fundamental level of risk associated with the Singularity that's impossible to refine away, simply because we don't know what a highly advanced artificial intelligence, finding itself a newly created inhabitant of the planet Earth, would choose to do. It might not feel like competing with us for resources. One of the goals of the Singularity Institute is to make sure not just that artificial intelligence develops but also that the AI is friendly. You don't have to be a super-intelligent cyborg to understand that introducing a superior life-form into your own biosphere is a basic Darwinian error.

 

If the Singularity is coming, these questions are going to get answers whether we like it or not, and Kurzweil thinks that trying to put off the Singularity by banning technologies is not only impossible but also unethical and probably dangerous. "It would require a totalitarian system to implement such a ban," he says. "It wouldn't work. It would just drive these technologies underground, where the responsible scientists who we're counting on to create the defenses would not have easy access to the tools."

 

Kurzweil is an almost inhumanly patient and thorough debater. He relishes it. He's tireless in hunting down his critics so that he can respond to them, point by point, carefully and in detail.

 

Take the question of whether computers can replicate the biochemical complexity of an organic brain. Kurzweil yields no ground there whatsoever. He does not see any fundamental difference between flesh and silicon that would prevent the latter from thinking. He defies biologists to come up with a neurological mechanism that could not be modeled or at least matched in power and flexibility by software running on a computer. He refuses to fall on his knees before the mystery of the human brain. "Generally speaking," he says, "the core of a disagreement I'll have with a critic is, they'll say, Oh, Kurzweil is underestimating the complexity of reverse-engineering of the human brain or the complexity of biology. But I don't believe I'm underestimating the challenge. I think they're underestimating the power of exponential growth."

 

This position doesn't make Kurzweil an outlier, at least among Singularitarians. Plenty of people make more-extreme predictions. Since 2005 the neuroscientist Henry Markram has been running an ambitious initiative at the Brain Mind Institute of the Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne, Switzerland. It's called the Blue Brain project, and it's an attempt to create a neuron-by-neuron simulation of a mammalian brain, using IBM's Blue Gene super-computer. So far, Markram's team has managed to simulate one neocortical column from a rat's brain, which contains about 10,000 neurons. Markram has said that he hopes to have a complete virtual human brain up and running in 10 years. (Even Kurzweil sniffs at this. If it worked, he points out, you'd then have to educate the brain, and who knows how long that would take?)

 

By definition, the future beyond the Singularity is not knowable by our linear, chemical, animal brains, but Kurzweil is teeming with theories about it. He positively flogs himself to think bigger and bigger; you can see him kicking against the confines of his aging organic hardware. "When people look at the implications of ongoing exponential growth, it gets harder and harder to accept," he says. "So you get people who really accept, yes, things are progressing exponentially, but they fall off the horse at some point because the implications are too fantastic. I've tried to push myself to really look."

 

In Kurzweil's future, biotechnology and nanotechnology give us the power to manipulate our bodies and the world around us at will, at the molecular level. Progress hyperaccelerates, and every hour brings a century's worth of scientific breakthroughs. We ditch Darwin and take charge of our own evolution. The human genome becomes just so much code to be bug-tested and optimized and, if necessary, rewritten. Indefinite life extension becomes a reality; people die only if they choose to. Death loses its sting once and for all. Kurzweil hopes to bring his dead father back to life.

 

We can scan our consciousnesses into computers and enter a virtual existence or swap our bodies for immortal robots and light out for the edges of space as intergalactic godlings. Within a matter of centuries, human intelligence will have re-engineered and saturated all the matter in the universe. This is, Kurzweil believes, our destiny as a species.

 

Or it isn't. When the big questions get answered, a lot of the action will happen where no one can see it, deep inside the black silicon brains of the computers, which will either bloom bit by bit into conscious minds or just continue in ever more brilliant and powerful iterations of nonsentience.

 

But as for the minor questions, they're already being decided all around us and in plain sight. The more you read about the Singularity, the more you start to see it peeking out at you, coyly, from unexpected directions. Five years ago we didn't have 600 million humans carrying out their social lives over a single electronic network. Now we have Facebook. Five years ago you didn't see people double-checking what they were saying and where they were going, even as they were saying it and going there, using handheld network-enabled digital prosthetics. Now we have iPhones. Is it an unimaginable step to take the iPhones out of our hands and put them into our skulls?

 

Already 30,000 patients with Parkinson's disease have neural implants. Google is experimenting with computers that can drive cars. There are more than 2,000 robots fighting in Afghanistan alongside the human troops. This month a game show will once again figure in the history of artificial intelligence, but this time the computer will be the guest: an IBM super-computer nicknamed Watson will compete on Jeopardy! Watson runs on 90 servers and takes up an entire room, and in a practice match in January it finished ahead of two former champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. It got every question it answered right, but much more important, it didn't need help understanding the questions (or, strictly speaking, the answers), which were phrased in plain English. Watson isn't strong AI, but if strong AI happens, it will arrive gradually, bit by bit, and this will have been one of the bits.

 

A hundred years from now, Kurzweil and de Grey and the others could be the 22nd century's answer to the Founding Fathers — except unlike the Founding Fathers, they'll still be alive to get credit — or their ideas could look as hilariously retro and dated as Disney's Tomorrowland. Nothing gets old as fast as the future.

 

But even if they're dead wrong about the future, they're right about the present. They're taking the long view and looking at the big picture. You may reject every specific article of the Singularitarian charter, but you should admire Kurzweil for taking the future seriously. Singularitarianism is grounded in the idea that change is real and that humanity is in charge of its own fate and that history might not be as simple as one damn thing after another. Kurzweil likes to point out that your average cell phone is about a millionth the size of, a millionth the price of and a thousand times more powerful than the computer he had at MIT 40 years ago. Flip that forward 40 years and what does the world look like? If you really want to figure that out, you have to think very, very far outside the box. Or maybe you have to think further inside it than anyone ever has before.
24600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Eh tu Watson; Kurzweil's singularity on: February 12, 2011, 07:15:48 AM
Computer beats best humans at Jepoardy

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/10/worth-watching-watson/
===========
On Feb. 15, 1965, a diffident but self-possessed high school student named Raymond Kurzweil appeared as a guest on a game show called I've Got a Secret. He was introduced by the host, Steve Allen, then he played a short musical composition on a piano. The idea was that Kurzweil was hiding an unusual fact and the panelists — they included a comedian and a former Miss America — had to guess what it was.

 

On the show (you can find the clip on YouTube), the beauty queen did a good job of grilling Kurzweil, but the comedian got the win: the music was composed by a computer. Kurzweil got $200.

 

Kurzweil then demonstrated the computer, which he built himself—a desk-size affair with loudly clacking relays, hooked up to a typewriter. The panelists were pretty blasé about it; they were more impressed by Kurzweil's age than by anything he'd actually done. They were ready to move on to Mrs. Chester Loney of Rough and Ready, Calif., whose secret was that she'd been President Lyndon Johnson's first-grade teacher.

 

But Kurzweil would spend much of the rest of his career working out what his demonstration meant. Creating a work of art is one of those activities we reserve for humans and humans only. It's an act of self-expression; you're not supposed to be able to do it if you don't have a self. To see creativity, the exclusive domain of humans, usurped by a computer built by a 17-year-old is to watch a line blur that cannot be unblurred, the line between organic intelligence and artificial intelligence.

 

That was Kurzweil's real secret, and back in 1965 nobody guessed it. Maybe not even him, not yet. But now, 46 years later, Kurzweil believes that we're approaching a moment when computers will become intelligent, and not just intelligent but more intelligent than humans. When that happens, humanity — our bodies, our minds, our civilization — will be completely and irreversibly transformed. He believes that this moment is not only inevitable but imminent. According to his calculations, the end of human civilization as we know it is about 35 years away.

 

Computers are getting faster. Everybody knows that. Also, computers are getting faster faster — that is, the rate at which they're getting faster is increasing.

 

True? True.

 

So if computers are getting so much faster, so incredibly fast, there might conceivably come a moment when they are capable of something comparable to human intelligence. Artificial intelligence. All that horsepower could be put in the service of emulating whatever it is our brains are doing when they create consciousness — not just doing arithmetic very quickly or composing piano music but also driving cars, writing books, making ethical decisions, appreciating fancy paintings, making witty observations at cocktail parties.

 

If you can swallow that idea, and Kurzweil and a lot of other very smart people can, then all bets are off. From that point on, there's no reason to think computers would stop getting more powerful. They would keep on developing until they were far more intelligent than we are. Their rate of development would also continue to increase, because they would take over their own development from their slower-thinking human creators. Imagine a computer scientist that was itself a super-intelligent computer. It would work incredibly quickly. It could draw on huge amounts of data effortlessly. It wouldn't even take breaks to play Farmville.

 

Probably. It's impossible to predict the behavior of these smarter-than-human intelligences with which (with whom?) we might one day share the planet, because if you could, you'd be as smart as they would be. But there are a lot of theories about it. Maybe we'll merge with them to become super-intelligent cyborgs, using computers to extend our intellectual abilities the same way that cars and planes extend our physical abilities. Maybe the artificial intelligences will help us treat the effects of old age and prolong our life spans indefinitely. Maybe we'll scan our consciousnesses into computers and live inside them as software, forever, virtually. Maybe the computers will turn on humanity and annihilate us. The one thing all these theories have in common is the transformation of our species into something that is no longer recognizable as such to humanity circa 2011. This transformation has a name: the Singularity.

 

The difficult thing to keep sight of when you're talking about the Singularity is that even though it sounds like science fiction, it isn't, no more than a weather forecast is science fiction. It's not a fringe idea; it's a serious hypothesis about the future of life on Earth. There's an intellectual gag reflex that kicks in anytime you try to swallow an idea that involves super-intelligent immortal cyborgs, but suppress it if you can, because while the Singularity appears to be, on the face of it, preposterous, it's an idea that rewards sober, careful evaluation.

 

People are spending a lot of money trying to understand it. The three-year-old Singularity University, which offers inter-disciplinary courses of study for graduate students and executives, is hosted by NASA. Google was a founding sponsor; its CEO and co-founder Larry Page spoke there last year. People are attracted to the Singularity for the shock value, like an intellectual freak show, but they stay because there's more to it than they expected. And of course, in the event that it turns out to be real, it will be the most important thing to happen to human beings since the invention of language.

 

The Singularity isn't a wholly new idea, just newish. In 1965 the British mathematician I.J. Good described something he called an "intelligence explosion":

 

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an "intelligence explosion," and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.

 

The word singularity is borrowed from astrophysics: it refers to a point in space-time — for example, inside a black hole — at which the rules of ordinary physics do not apply. In the 1980s the science-fiction novelist Vernor Vinge attached it to Good's intelligence-explosion scenario. At a NASA symposium in 1993, Vinge announced that "within 30 years, we will have the technological means to create super-human intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended."

 

By that time Kurzweil was thinking about the Singularity too. He'd been busy since his appearance on I've Got a Secret. He'd made several fortunes as an engineer and inventor; he founded and then sold his first software company while he was still at MIT. He went on to build the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind — Stevie Wonder was customer No. 1—and made innovations in a range of technical fields, including music synthesizers and speech recognition. He holds 39 patents and 19 honorary doctorates. In 1999 President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Technology.

 

But Kurzweil was also pursuing a parallel career as a futurist: he has been publishing his thoughts about the future of human and machine-kind for 20 years, most recently in The Singularity Is Near, which was a best seller when it came out in 2005. A documentary by the same name, starring Kurzweil, Tony Robbins and Alan Dershowitz, among others, was released in January. (Kurzweil is actually the subject of two current documentaries. The other one, less authorized but more informative, is called The Transcendent Man.) Bill Gates has called him "the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence."

 

In real life, the transcendent man is an unimposing figure who could pass for Woody Allen's even nerdier younger brother. Kurzweil grew up in Queens, N.Y., and you can still hear a trace of it in his voice. Now 62, he speaks with the soft, almost hypnotic calm of someone who gives 60 public lectures a year. As the Singularity's most visible champion, he has heard all the questions and faced down the incredulity many, many times before. He's good-natured about it. His manner is almost apologetic: I wish I could bring you less exciting news of the future, but I've looked at the numbers, and this is what they say, so what else can I tell you?

 

Kurzweil's interest in humanity's cyborganic destiny began about 1980 largely as a practical matter. He needed ways to measure and track the pace of technological progress. Even great inventions can fail if they arrive before their time, and he wanted to make sure that when he released his, the timing was right. "Even at that time, technology was moving quickly enough that the world was going to be different by the time you finished a project," he says. "So it's like skeet shooting—you can't shoot at the target." He knew about Moore's law, of course, which states that the number of transistors you can put on a microchip doubles about every two years. It's a surprisingly reliable rule of thumb. Kurzweil tried plotting a slightly different curve: the change over time in the amount of computing power, measured in MIPS (millions of instructions per second), that you can buy for $1,000.

 

As it turned out, Kurzweil's numbers looked a lot like Moore's. They doubled every couple of years. Drawn as graphs, they both made exponential curves, with their value increasing by multiples of two instead of by regular increments in a straight line. The curves held eerily steady, even when Kurzweil extended his backward through the decades of pretransistor computing technologies like relays and vacuum tubes, all the way back to 1900.

 

Kurzweil then ran the numbers on a whole bunch of other key technological indexes — the falling cost of manufacturing transistors, the rising clock speed of microprocessors, the plummeting price of dynamic RAM. He looked even further afield at trends in biotech and beyond—the falling cost of sequencing DNA and of wireless data service and the rising numbers of Internet hosts and nanotechnology patents. He kept finding the same thing: exponentially accelerating progress. "It's really amazing how smooth these trajectories are," he says. "Through thick and thin, war and peace, boom times and recessions." Kurzweil calls it the law of accelerating returns: technological progress happens exponentially, not linearly.

 

Then he extended the curves into the future, and the growth they predicted was so phenomenal, it created cognitive resistance in his mind. Exponential curves start slowly, then rocket skyward toward infinity. According to Kurzweil, we're not evolved to think in terms of exponential growth. "It's not intuitive. Our built-in predictors are linear. When we're trying to avoid an animal, we pick the linear prediction of where it's going to be in 20 seconds and what to do about it. That is actually hardwired in our brains."

 

Here's what the exponential curves told him. We will successfully reverse-engineer the human brain by the mid-2020s. By the end of that decade, computers will be capable of human-level intelligence. Kurzweil puts the date of the Singularity—never say he's not conservative—at 2045. In that year, he estimates, given the vast increases in computing power and the vast reductions in the cost of same, the quantity of artificial intelligence created will be about a billion times the sum of all the human intelligence that exists today. 

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