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24601  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syria on: August 12, 2011, 07:55:07 AM

Analyst Reva Bhalla examines the shift in the U.S. stance toward Syria, Turkish concerns and implications of Syrian instability for Israel.

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

Related Links
In Syria, Confusion Surrounds Former Defense Minister’s Alleged Death
Syria Becomes the New Arena for Turkey and Iran
Syria as a Battleground for Saudi Arabia and Iran
U.S. President Barack Obama is widely expected to make a statement calling for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step down. The apparent shift in the U.S. position suggests that the United States has identified alternatives to the al Assads worth backing, thereby raising the potential for a military coup. However the number of unknowns in this crisis is deeply unsettling for Syria’s neighbors.

Obama calling for al Assad to go does not necessarily mean that the United States is about to engage in another military operation in the region and pull another Libya. That’s simply not likely at this moment. Instead, the United States is looking to regional heavyweights like Turkey to manage the situation in Syria. However managing the situation in Syria is not as easy as simply throwing support behind the opposition and bracing for the fall of the regime. It’s much more complicated than that.

There is still a key element sustaining the al Assad regime as the Alawite minority in Syria realizes what is at stake should they begin to fracture and create a vacuum in Damascus for the Sunni majority to fill. There are some indications that Alawite unity is under great stress and that the armed forces that are primarily commanded by Alawite officers are under extreme stress as this military campaign wears on. There have also been some serious signs of dissent among the senior military command and these are certainly all factors that need to be monitored closely in assessing the durability of this regime. At the same time, this is not going to be a quick and easy fall. This is going to be a bloody and arduous fight for the al Assad regime and it’s not one that Turkey is quite prepared for, even if in the long term it’s in Turkey’s interest to place Syria in the hands of the Sunni majority and eventually under Ankara’s influence.

Another country not quite prepared for this transition is Israel. The Israeli political leadership is under a great deal of pressure right now. Internally, large demonstrations have taken place in Israel over everything from high taxes, lack of access to public services and high levels of government corruption. Externally, Israel is bracing itself for a U.N. vote on Palestinian recognition that has the potential to unleash intifada-like violence on its borders. At the same time, Israel is watching very nervously as the military regime in Egypt tries to manage its political transition, and now most importantly and most urgently, Israel is watching the Syrian regime struggle and try to sustain itself. The Syrian regime may be hostile to Israel, but at least it was predictable. All of these pressures combined are leading the Israeli populace at large to question the legitimacy of the Israeli political leadership.

In Syria you can see very easily why a mostly Sunni conscript force does not really feel the need to risk their lives for the regime. There is a lack of unity and nationalism there that stems from the fractured demographics of the country, the nature of the regime itself among other things. In a state as tiny and as vulnerable as Israel, however, where military conscription is universal and where you have a traditionally strong military culture, the stakes are much, much higher if a serious chasm develops between the state and its people.

24602  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bernard Hopkins advises Rashad Evans on: August 12, 2011, 07:34:53 AM
24603  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iraq's divided Shia complicate Iran's plans on: August 12, 2011, 06:55:03 AM
Thursday, August 11, 2011   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Iraq's Divided Shia Complicate Iran's Regional Plans

An AFP report on Wednesday quoted radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr criticizing Iran, his principal benefactor. Al-Sadr claimed that he had asked Tehran to hand over a renegade leader of his movement, Abu Deraa (who was thrown out of the al-Sadrite movement some three years ago and has been living in the Islamic Republic ever since), but Iranian authorities refused to do so. “The one who must be eliminated is not being eliminated, and the one who needs shelter is not sheltered,” remarked al-Sadr.

“Intra-Shia rifts in Iraq represent the biggest challenge to Tehran’s efforts to consolidate influence in Baghdad. The divisions among Shia place serious arrestors in the path of the Persian Islamist state and its ambitions of becoming a regional player”
These remarks are rather extraordinary, considering the close ties that al-Sadr has enjoyed with Iran, a nation where he has spent most of the past three years. Al-Sadr, with his Iraqi nationalist credentials and his independent streak, has never been fully under Iranian control. These latest remarks, however, suggest a shift is under way in this patron-client relationship.

From Iran’s point of view, a wide range of Iraqi Shiite political and militant entities are needed to maintain influence in its western neighbor. Al-Sadr has always known that his group is one of many Shiite assets that the Iranians have in his country. However, it appears that Iran’s support for entities that have splintered from his movement is now beginning to threaten al-Sadr’s political plans, and he is speaking out.

This apparent souring of relations comes at a time when Iran is focused on the prospect of filling the geopolitical vacuum that will exist once the U.S. military withdraws from Iraq by the end of the year. Intra-Shia rifts in Iraq represent the biggest challenge to Tehran’s efforts to consolidate influence in Baghdad. The divisions among Shia place serious arresters in the path of the Persian Islamist state and its ambitions of becoming a regional player. This dissent is comforting for both the region’s Sunni Arab countries and the United States as they look for ways in which to stem the rising Iranian tide.

Only a few months ago, Saudi Arabia prevented Iran from exploiting popular unrest in Bahrain, despite the protests being led largely by Bahrain’s majority Shia and being targeted to undermine the stability of the Sunni monarchy. As in Iraq, Bahraini intra-Shia differences worked counter to Iran’s strategic impetus. But divisions among Shiite communities are endemic across the region, a part of the historical evolution of the minority Islamic sect.

The fragmented nature of Shia communities has its roots in the structure of Shia religious leadership. The clergy hold a very strong role in Shia Islam. Shia are obligated to follow a cleric known as marjaa taqleed. Clearly, every community has multiple clerics who in turn become rival centers of power.

Despite the preeminent position enjoyed by the clerics, Shiite politics have no shortage of non-clerical rival political forces. Between the clerics who concern themselves with religious matters and the non-clerics who focus on political matters, there exists the clerics who double as politicians. Add competing ideological trends to this mix, and the result is the highly fragmented Iraqi Shia landscape.

In spite of this factionalized state of affairs, the Iranians have been successful in pulling together a single Shiite coalition that currently dominates the Iraqi state. This alliance, however, remains extremely tenuous. The Iranians will have to continuously spend a great deal of resources to hold this coalition together, which in turn means that they will likely struggle to dominate Iraq for the foreseeable future.

24604  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paine, 1776 on: August 12, 2011, 06:52:41 AM
"Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to 'bind me in all cases whatsoever' to his absolute will, am I to suffer it?" --Thomas Paine, The American Crises, No. 1, 1776
24605  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Social Breakdown (The UK riots) on: August 12, 2011, 12:15:11 AM

Rioting for Fun and Profit
Paul A. Rahe · 9 hours ago

The riots in Britain are instructive. There is, according to The Wall Street Journal, one neighborhood where the rioters backed off. In the North London neighborhood of Dalton, we are told,

Hundreds of Turkish and Kurdish men, many armed with broken billiard cues, poured onto the streets to protect their businesses and homes from the kind of mayhem that was laying waste to other parts of London.

"They created a barrier and chased the kids back," said Burcu Bay, who works as a waitress at Tugra, a Turkish sweet shop and cafe on Dalston's main thoroughfare. "It was like being in a war."

What happened in Dalston, an area defined by its large Turkish and Kurdish immigrant community, was a rare instance of locals uniting to defy the wave of violence that has swept London in recent nights, leaving a trail of burned-out buildings, looted shops and broken glass. In other areas, rioters encountered little resistance, as terrified locals took cover and stretched police were.

The clashes in Dalston, a ramshackle neighborhood of pawn shops, Turkish social clubs and kebab joints, began when a gang of about 50 youths approached the area from the east, setting fire to a bus and smashing in the windows of a chain restaurant, a bank and an electrical goods shop.

Dozens of local men came out on the street to block their progress. Over the course of the evening, they pushed back the heavily outnumbered troublemakers in three separate surges, driving them away from a cluster of Turkish-owned shops and businesses. Women and elderly men sought refuge in local cafés to watch the clashes from a safe distance.

In some instances, skirmishes turned violent. "The police wanted to arrest one of my friends because he punched some of the guys," said a waiter at the Somine restaurant. "We didn't let them."

A key driver behind the locals' response was the strong sense of communal identity among Turkish and Kurdish residents of Dalston, who saw the rioters as a kind of alien invasion. "These people weren't local," said the waiter. "We've been here for ten years and would have known them if they were from the area."

The article – written by Guy Chazan and Jeanne Whalen with help from Peter Evans – is a nice piece of reporting. It tells you everything that you need to know – right down to the crucial fact that the police wanted to arrest one man for punching a thug intent on stealing his property. What is happening right now in London and in cities to the north could best be described as a self-inflicted wound.

Do you remember the riots a year or two ago in Paris and in other French cities and the burning of cars along the Champs Ėlysées? What you may not remember is something else that was reported in passing at the time – that, for some years prior to these riots, one hundred cars a night were being torched in the cities of France. I passed through Paris not long after these events, and a French professor I know told me that this latter piece of news came as a real shock to her. The truth is that the police had, in effect, abandoned the Muslim neighborhoods and that impecunious, hard-working Muslims living in these neighborhoods, men and women who had scrimped and saved to buy jalopies, had been losing them to the thugs for some time. None of this was reported until the disorders spread from the slums in the suburbs to the wealthy districts of Paris.

Something of the same sort can be said about Britain as well. There are two dimensions to the British story. First – although what we call the right to bear arms had its origins as an English right, guaranteed in the 1688/89 Declaration of Rights and Bill of Rights – that right was  gradually abrogated in the course of the twentieth century. Second – although the right to self-defense, the right to defend one’s person and property when the authorities cannot in a timely and effective fashion provide protection – is a natural right and had always, until recently, been recognized as such in Britain – that right, too, was abrogated in the course of the last century. There is a very fine book on the subject by my friend Joyce Lee Malcolm, author of To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right. Entitled Guns and Violence: The English Experience, it was published by Harvard University Press seven years ago. Her two books ought to be force-fed to every member of Parliament.

For some time now – and this was already true, alas, in the Thatcher years – the political class (Labour, Tory, and Liberal) has been united behind the principle that these matters must be left to the police – that, if one’s life or limbs are in danger, one can of course use force to defend one’s person but that one cannot rightfully lift a finger to defend one’s property and that, if the attack extends to one’s person, the force that one deploys in its defense must be strictly proportionate to the threat. If, for example, your home was burglarized over and over again and you secured a gun, a knife, or a baseball bat and killed or harmed an intruder, you would go to prison for a long stay.

I am not making this up. I was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford between 1971 and 1974. I was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge in the spring of 1999, and I was a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford in 2005/6. In the quarter-century that passed between my first stint in the UK and my second, Britain changed. I remember a man living in a rural area being sent to prison for what amounted to life for killing someone who had repeatedly broken into his home.

I remember other things as well. When I was at Cambridge University, my wife and I went into London one evening to go to the opera. Our return on the train was decidedly uncomfortable. Our car – and the other cars nearby – came to be filled with young women and men (mostly the latter) who were drunk and disorderly. There was no one on the train to prevent them from making our trip a real misery. Had we said a word, I have no doubt that the crowd would have turned on us. It reminds me a bit of what it was like in New York City in the summer of 1969. The hooligans were in command.

In fact, it was worse than that. One evening, a group of thugs took the train into Cambridge from a nearby town, walked to Clare Hall, hurled bricks through the windows, broke into the apartments, stole computers, then marched to the train station and journeyed home. No one was ever caught.

I am told that fewer than ten percent of burglaries are solved and that, of those who are convicted, fewer than ten percent do time. In effect, there is no law and there is no order in Britain. You cannot bear arms. You are denied the means of self-defense. It is illegal to use force to defend your property. If you use “disproportionate force” in defending your person, you can and will be jailed. It is demanded that you leave all such matters to the police, and law enforcement is ineffectual. Not surprisingly, even before the riots that Britain is suffering right now, theft and violent crime were considerably greater there than in the United States.

In Britain, they have a lot to learn – or relearn – and it is an open question whether these recent events will give rise to a bout of a rethinking or not. I rather doubt that David Cameron has the backbone, and one cannot look to the Liberals or to Labour. Those associated with the last-mentioned party, which is out of power right now, will whine and whine about “social justice.” In the United Kingdom, as in the United States, a left-liberal is someone who pities the criminal, not the victim.

In the US, we are generally better off. For one thing, we incarcerate criminals. There has been much hand-wringing about this in recent years, as our own left-liberals fulminate against the incarceration rate. But there is one truth that cannot be gainsaid: a criminal who is locked up is not on the streets committing crimes. Lock them up and the crime rate will go down (as it has in the US).

We are better off in other ways as well. The right to bear arms is not only given lip service here. In recent years, it has been reasserted by the Supreme Court. Moreover, in many states, one has a right to defend one’s property. In those states, if someone breaks into my home, I can kill him with impunity. And, finally, thanks in part to the example of Rudy Giuliani in New York, we have policing methods aimed at concentrating attention on high-crime areas and on harassing criminals that really work.

The appearance of flash mobs in Philadelphia and Chicago is, however, a warning. I would like to know more than I do about the incarceration rate in Pennsylvania and Illinois, about the policing methods used, and about the laws pertinent to the right of a shopkeeper to gun down thieves.

In times like these, it is useful to remember the immortal words of John Adams: “We talk of liberty and property, but, if we cut up the law of self-defence, we cut up the foundation of both. . . . If a robber meets me in the street, and commands me to surrender my purse, I have a right to kill him without asking questions.” 

24606  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A member of the Unorganized Militia steps in on: August 11, 2011, 10:54:25 PM
24607  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: August 11, 2011, 10:44:17 PM
A VERY valid point, but one distinct from the investment POV.
24608  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: August 11, 2011, 10:43:11 PM
Initial snap impressions:

IMHO Fox made a mistake in letting the audience make noise.

*Santorum:  Had some good moments, but his numbers will not noticeably improve.   Time to go.
*Cain:  Much improved, but ditto
*Ron Paul:  Had several good moments, but some awkward ones.  His numbers will do well, but ultimately he will not be the candidate.  His distinct and confident approach to foreign affairs, loudly cheered by an audience full of his supporters, presents a contrast with the indistinct positions of the other candidates.  This is a point I have mentioned previously-- traditional Rep coherence on foreign affairs, traditionally a strong issue for them, is not to be found at present.
*Newt Gringrich:  A good night for Newt and his numbers should move up.  I like Chris Wallace, but he definitely is a Washington insider type (very funny watching him interview Glenn Beck at the height of GB's ratings-- clearly he just id not get it) and it chuckled me (and I suspect many people) to see him bitch slap CW-- who responded with self-importance.
*Bachman:  Held her own, numbers should remain solid, but over IMHO some chinks remain in her armor.
*Pawlenty:  His mission to go after Bachman I do not think served him well and a lot of his statements seemed canned.  I think his numbers will compel him to withdraw.  A decent man, but IMHO he just is not going to get traction.
*Romney: Remains the leader.
*Huntsman: remains a Bushie pipe dream.  He remains a non-entity.

24609  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: August 11, 2011, 10:28:01 PM
JDN:  Search on the SCH forum for an interesting and controversial article by Charles Murray on that very question.
24610  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: August 11, 2011, 10:25:51 PM
Good luck and prosperity to both of us  smiley
24611  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: August 11, 2011, 05:39:08 PM
CounterPOV:  Popped bubbles don't bounce.
24612  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 11, 2011, 12:43:27 PM

I am sure that will not be a problem.


At the moment I am having some serious problems with my email program, so please use this thread as a backstop.
24613  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cats and other felines on: August 11, 2011, 12:01:20 AM
24614  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / British humor alive and well on: August 10, 2011, 11:53:41 PM
24615  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pistol packin' Playmate on: August 10, 2011, 11:43:01 PM

A Playboy playmate was charged with firearm offenses after attempting to board a plane in Florida with a loaded handgun in her bag, the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday.

Shanna Marie McLaughlin, Playboy's Miss July 2010, was arrested around 6:35pm Monday at Orlando International Airport as she attempted to board a plane to Los Angeles.

The 26-year-old, who has a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon, told police that the bag she was carrying was hers, but that she did not know that her boyfriend had put his loaded .45 caliber Colt revolver in it.

The model was jailed Monday on charges of carrying a firearm in a place prohibited by law, but has since been released, the Sentinel reported.

McLaughlin's former school, the University of Central Florida, had to apologize publicly last year after she was photographed scantily clad in a sports locker room for a magazine spread.

McLaughlin was back in the headlines last month when she publicly lent her support to Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who had been criticized by his former fiance Crystal Harris over his sexual prowess.

Read more:

24616  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: August 10, 2011, 10:18:36 PM
Heck, everyone should be reading this forum grin
24617  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Art Laffer on: August 10, 2011, 10:15:37 PM
24618  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another GB prediction coming true on: August 10, 2011, 08:02:57 PM
24619  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq Administration: Jerusalem not in Israel on: August 10, 2011, 07:58:33 PM
24620  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 10, 2011, 07:53:36 PM
Grateful for a painful insight last night.
24621  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: August 10, 2011, 07:52:49 PM
OK, I think we have mined this particular vein enough for right now  cheesy
24622  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The American solution on: August 10, 2011, 07:49:20 PM

If British shopkeepers had the right to bear arms, vicious thugs would think twice before looting

By Nile Gardiner
Last updated: August 10th, 2011

Turks on the streets of Dalston on Monday night
During the Los Angeles riots in 1992, many store owners in the south central part of the city defended their property against marauding gangs with their own weapons, and succeeded in protecting their livelihoods and thousands of jobs that depended on them. And across the country, Americans admired their bravery, thankful for the Second Amendment to the US Constitution which protects their right to keep and bear arms, and thereby defend themselves, their families and their property. In contrast in London in 2011, shopkeepers were left at the mercy of feral, brutal thugs acting with impunity across whole swathes of the capital as the police were overwhelmed. If they had the right to bear arms and defend their stores with force, it would have been a very different story, and brutal looters would have met firm resistance.
Britain’s gun laws are among the most draconian in the world, yet the nation has some of the highest levels of violent crime and burglary in the West, and there is no shortage of gun crime in major cities such as London and Manchester. While criminal gangs are often able to acquire firearms on the black market, ordinary law-abiding British citizens are barred from owning guns for self-defence.
The riots in London, the West Midlands and the North West should prompt a renewed debate in Britain over the right to bear arms by private citizens. The shocking scenes of looting across the country are a reminder that the police cannot always be relied upon to protect homes and businesses during a period of widespread social disorder. The defence of life and property can never be entrusted solely to the state, not least when there is a complete breakdown in law and order. As we have seen this week in Britain, when individuals are barred from defending their own property from mobs of vicious thugs, sheer anarchy and terror reins
24623  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The UK riots on: August 10, 2011, 07:40:20 PM
A lot of obvious stuff in here, but perhaps one or two points worthy of consideration:

Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart discusses personal safety during mob violence situations while using the recent London riots as an example.

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

In today’s Dispatch we’re going to change gears a little bit and take a tactical and a practical look at riots and using the topic of the London riots, discuss how people should behave and what you should do when riots happen.

It needs to be understood that riots and mob activity can and quite frequently do turn violent. It is still very important for regular citizens just to maintain a heightened alert of situational awareness during times of civil disobedience. So what you’re going to want to do is really keep alert as to what’s going on through the news media. You are going to obviously want to keep your eyes and ears open to see what is happening on the street outside your hotel or outside your residence or business. In a lot of recent riots including the London riot, there have been a lot of rumors that the protesters are actually using twitter and instant messaging and blackberries to coordinate their movements. If you can find out which twitter feeds that the protesters are using, that can allow you to really monitor where they’re going, what their intentions are and that can also help you stay one step ahead of them and help you stay out of trouble.

If you are a foreigner you are going to want to make sure that you’re connected with your government and with your embassy. A lot of governments allow you to register and they will send out either text warnings or email warnings to you that will let you know when things are going on. One of the positive things about being registered with your embassy is that if it does become necessary to evacuate from a country — especially a Third World country that’s kind of remote — it’s nice to be on the Embassy system so they know you’re there, they will be looking for you and they will account for you when they are looking for space to get you out whether it is on a ship or an aircraft.

If you are a resident in a city like London or you’re just a visitor, the second thing that you want to do is to start looking at your contingency plans and your fly-away kit. You want to make sure that you have everything you need packed and ready to go in case you need to run. It’s also important to remember that most security measures and physical security measures were made to protect against one threat but not really the mob violence threat. Many times in a mob violence type situation, they can turn into a confining cage that can actually endanger you. If a mob has time and they have sledgehammers, pipes, they can break through bulletproof windows or bullet resistant windows, they can break through heavy doors and they can get into a facility given that time. It may take a half-hour, it may take 40 minutes but they can get through those the security measures so just because you have good security at your site, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be prepared to get out of there and to fly to safety.

One of the things after we’ve gotten intelligence on our eyes, once we examine our contingency plans and our fly-away kits we also then want to figure out exactly where our line is when we’re going to want to withdraw, and this is going to be something that each individual is going to have to come up with themselves; when the rioters get to such and such an intersection such and such block, this is the place where I’m going to want to make my escape and get out of the area.

There are also different kinds of mob violence and it’s important to remember that. In cases like London it’s basically general, you have a lot of looting and some of this is really kind of a financially motivated. You have kids that are hitting sporting goods stores to steal sneakers, they are hitting electronics stores; it’s not really directed against any one group or any sort of ethnicity. However, there are other cases we’ve seen some past London riots, for example the May Day riots in 2000, we had a very anti-globalization campaign going on and in those kinds of riots multinational corporations and hotels and banks and restaurants were attacked just because they were a part of these globalized chains. So really understanding what the riots are about, what’s motivating the mob and who they are going to target is very important in creating your plan and creating your understanding of when you need to pull out of the area. Once the mob is attacking there’s really very little that a person can do to defend themselves or their property and it’s really at that point where you need to forget about the property and be much more concerned about saving life.

24624  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: August 10, 2011, 02:32:11 PM
A pitch based upon experience is quite relevant, but the essential point is as posited by CCP.
24625  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: August 10, 2011, 02:29:31 PM
Good find, thanks for that.
24626  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: August 10, 2011, 02:25:30 PM
Baaad Dog GM cheesy  Rubbing a dog's nose in his mess is considered poor methodolgy cheesy
24627  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: August 10, 2011, 02:23:55 PM
I can do that smiley
24628  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The congnitive dissonance of the left on: August 10, 2011, 12:01:23 PM
That's not the point being made.
24629  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The UK riots on: August 10, 2011, 12:00:28 PM
Good idea grin

I'm hearing that the authorities are telling neighborhoods NOT to organize  huh
24630  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dealing with Social Breakdown on: August 10, 2011, 10:32:08 AM
I'd like to open a discussion about what a citizen is to do when living in the UK context.  Guns are not a legal option, nor are knives.  What to do?  (I gather the sales of baseball bats have gone through the roof.) What else?   Worth thinking about:  How to organize the neighborhood?
24631  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The congnitive dissonance of the left on: August 10, 2011, 10:28:17 AM
We agree!
24632  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: August 10, 2011, 09:53:56 AM
Even though I don't really trust CNN and thus wonder if the numbers are exaggerated, I can't say that I doubt them being in the right direction.  There is a reason one of the Ten Commandments is about not coveting they neighbor's stuff-- envy and the politics of envy come as easily to human nature as they are destructive.

The Republicans and the Tea Party are going to need to man up on this and frontally attack on the basis of exposing just how dishonest the numbers the Progressives are and just how bad the Truth is and how little even 100% taxes would actually accomplish.  Congressman Ryan is the best I have seen at this.
24633  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The congnitive dissonance of the left on: August 10, 2011, 09:48:35 AM
To be precise here, Baraq did run and get elected on Afpakia being "the right war"-- which was a major strand in the line of thoughts against Bush.  Yes his concept of how to wage it is incoherent (Vital we win, but we are going to start leaving in 18 months) but the logic of his mini-Surge inherently is to bring it to the enemy much more than the also not very coherent strategy from Bush.
24634  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: August 10, 2011, 09:42:20 AM
"We have heard of the impious doctrine in the old world, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the new, in another shape - that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form? It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object." --James Madison, Federalist No. 45
24635  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Weatherman Willian Ayers is VP for AERA! on: August 09, 2011, 06:13:01 PM
Read below how William Ayers, unrepentant Weather Underground domestic terrorist, is actually Vice President for Curriculum Studies at the American Educational Research Association (AARA), the nation's largest organization of Education school professors and researchers.  And you think it's an accident that our public school teachers are being taught to teach our school children anti-capitalist, anti-American, pro-Socialist ideas, including that America is a racist, sexist, oppressive nation?:
24636  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 09, 2011, 02:31:12 PM
"So I guess I don't get your "intended point" about the "true value" of the stock market."

This is true cheesy   
24637  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Pot & the Kettle on: August 09, 2011, 02:18:08 PM
The Chinese government and its media outlets are using Standard & Poor's U.S. credit downgrade to give Washington a tongue lashing for its "debt addiction." And it's no surprise that Beijing would take the chance to score points domestically and rebuke the know-it-alls at the U.S. Treasury, having been on the receiving end of their hectoring for so long.

On the other hand, who are the Chinese kidding with their chest-pounding economic nationalism? A People's Daily commentary yesterday threatened to use China's holdings of U.S. debt as a "financial weapon" to deter arms sales to Taiwan. The official Xinhua news agency's Saturday editorial was a hilarious moral lecture, suggesting that an addicted America's ability to print dollars should be put under "international supervision." But if borrowing is really an addiction that has sapped America's self-discipline, China is both the pusher and a user.

The real reason Beijing is anthropomorphizing the bond market is to deflect domestic criticism over losses on the investment of its $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves. Chinese are asking why Beijing continues to lend their wealth to Americans rather than using it on development at home. The question arises from a misconception that Beijing has encouraged, which is that the reserves represent the earnings of the Chinese people, their "blood and sweat."

The reality is less admirable. The People's Bank of China (PBoC) accumulated its forex reserves by borrowing yuan from the Chinese people. The U.S. dollar assets and yuan liabilities are roughly balanced on the central bank's balance sheet. If the U.S. government is addicted to debt, so is China's.

The purpose of that precarious balance sheet is to subsidize exports by keeping the yuan's value low and deferring inflation. An economy like China's that is enjoying rapid productivity growth would normally see rising real wages and hence benign inflation that would increase the cost of its exports. Because that process has been stopped, China's exporters remain competitive across a range of labor-intensive products such as shoes and garments in which the country no longer has a true comparative advantage.

Were the PBoC to stop buying U.S. Treasurys and other dollar assets, the result would be an immediate increase in the yuan's value. The losses on U.S. investments as the yuan slowly appreciates are one part of the cost for the export-subsidy policy.

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 .The Chinese economy has become dangerously dependent on exports and investment in future export capacity for growth. Unwinding that dependence and encouraging domestic consumption requires boosting household incomes, which have been depressed by low interest rates on savings—another cost of Beijing's policies. Chinese leaders have been talking about rebalancing the economy in favor of consumption for the better part of a decade, but that can't happen as long as they continue to accumulate reserves.

In the short term Chinese threats to stop buying U.S. debt are empty, since there are no other asset markets deep and liquid enough to absorb the purchases needed to keep the yuan stable. Were China to buy euros or yen in sufficiently large quantities, it would soon run into a protectionist backlash in Europe and Japan as those nations ran trade deficits. The U.S. willingness to run a persistent trade deficit is key to the dollar's status as a reserve currency.

In the longer term, the world should hope that China does stop buying U.S. debt and makes the yuan convertible. China's economic policy makers understand that they have to liberalize their financial system and integrate it into the world economy. But that also means freeing the system from Communist Party political control, as well as breaking with powerful state-owned enterprises that benefit from export subsidies and cheap credit. This makes agreement between President Obama and the tea party look easy by comparison.

The U.S. has certainly allowed unsustainable spending to continue too long. But the Chinese should refrain from self-congratulation. They'll endure more painful withdrawal symptoms than the U.S. will when the PBoC ends its own unsustainable borrowing.

24638  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Effects of the helicopter downing on: August 09, 2011, 01:49:05 PM
Dispatch: Effects of the U.S. Helicopter Downing in Afghanistan
August 9, 2011 | 1809 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Analyst Kamran Bokhari examines the potential fallout from the Taliban’s downing of a U.S. Chinook helicopter.

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

Related Links
Afghanistan Weekly War Update: A Helicopter Crashes in Eastern Afghanistan
Intelligence Guidance: Week of Aug. 7, 2011
U.S. and Pakistan: Afghan Strategies
U.S. military authorities are referring to the downing of a helicopter used by U.S. special forces, in which as many as 30 American military personnel were killed, as a one-off incident. While that may be the case, the downing of a U.S. military helicopter, with as many as 25 members of the Navy SEALs aboard it, will be a source of emboldenment for the Taliban. Should the Taliban be able to reproduce this incident in the future, it will enhance its position on the battlefield as well as the negotiating table.

A Pentagon spokesperson described the incident in which 30 U.S. military officials were killed aboard a CH-47 helicopter that was brought down by a Taliban RPG [rocket-propelled grenade], as a one-off incident and cautioned against reading too much into it and said that this did not constitute “a watershed or a new trend.” Indeed, the available evidence does suggest that the Taliban militiamen got lucky in this particular incident in the province of Wardak in central Afghanistan, when a team of Navy SEALs tried to rescue rangers who were pinned down in a firefight with the jihadist militiamen.

Even though the Taliban may have gotten lucky this time around, they will definitely be wanting to try and reproduce this incident in the future, just as U.S. military officials are investigating the incident in terms of trying to understand how this happened and how it can be prevented in the future. The Taliban can be expected to do their own probe in which they would want to be able to glean from “lessons learned.”

The point to note here is that while the tactical military skills and circumstances may be reproducible, but in the long run the frequency of such events essentially depends upon the Taliban having advanced intelligence on helicopter missions. And that’s where they will run into some problems, because ultimately it depends upon how good the Taliban penetration is of the Afghan security forces and how much U.S. military authorities are sharing with their Afghan counterparts.

Should the Taliban be able to bring down additional helicopters in the near future, then that allows them to extract concessions from the United States on the negotiating table in terms of the circumstances of withdrawal and the share of power that the Taliban will be demanding in a post-NATO Afghanistan.

24639  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Charter success on: August 09, 2011, 01:13:19 PM

We write frequently about the charter-school wars in New York City because the battle touches so many aspects of the effort to give children from poor families the education necessary to escape their circumstances.

Today's report has good news: Results released yesterday of test scores in the New York State Assessment Program showed that the most relentlessly attacked charter schools—Eva Moskowitz's Harlem Success academies—have outperformed their public-school peers, often by a wide margin.

At all New York City's public schools, 60% of third, fourth and fifth graders passed the math exam; at Harlem Success, 94% passed. In the state language arts exam, 49% from the city schools passed compared to 78% at the charters. The 94% pass rate for the academies' black and Hispanic students surpassed the 73% pass rate for white students taking the exam in New York state.

Other New York City charters—such as Geoffrey Canada's Promise Academies or the Democracy Prep charter schools—generally produce similar results, even compared to the state's best public schools. In a 2009 study of New York City charter schools, Caroline Hoxby of Stanford concluded, "On average, a student who attended a charter school for all of the grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86% of the 'Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap' in math and 66% of the achievement gap in English."

Meanwhile, the battle to stop the movement continues. Ms. Moskowitz's effort to open another school on Manhattan's Upper West Side has met massive resistance. Actor Matt Damon is now throwing his celebrity against charters. Their students, meanwhile, continue upward.

24640  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: August 09, 2011, 12:08:52 PM
24641  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 09, 2011, 12:08:11 PM
My intended point is the true value of the stock market e.g. if the reference point is gold, or silver, or a basket of commodities, or a basket of currencies.
24642  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: Calculating the value of Nature on: August 09, 2011, 12:00:35 PM

An Economist for Nature Calculates the Need for More Protection
Published: August 8, 2011
COTO BRUS, Costa Rica — Dawn is breaking over this remote upland region, where neat rows of coffee plants cover many of the hillsides. The rising tropical sun saturates the landscape with color, revealing islandlike remnants of native forest scattered among the coffee plantations.

But across this bucolic countryside, trouble is brewing. An invasive African insect known as the coffee berry borer is threatening the area’s crops. Local farmers call the pest “la broca”: the borer.
Despite the early hour, Gretchen Daily, a Stanford University biology professor, is already at work studying this complex ecosystem. Amid a cacophony of birdsong, Dr. Daily and her team are conducting experiments that demonstrate the vital connection between wildlife and native vegetation. Preliminary data from new studies suggest that consumption of insects like la broca by forest-dwelling birds and bats contribute significantly to coffee yields.

Since 1991, Dr. Daily, 46, has made frequent trips to this Costa Rican site to conduct one of the tropics’ most comprehensive population-level studies to monitor long-term ecological change.

“We are working to very specifically quantify in biophysical and dollar terms the value of conserving the forest and its wildlife,” she said.

In recent years, Dr. Daily has expanded her research to include a global focus. She is one of the pioneers in the growing worldwide effort to protect the environment by quantifying the value of “natural capital” — nature’s goods and services that are fundamental for human life — and factoring these benefits into the calculations of businesses and governments. Dr. Daily’s work has attracted international attention and has earned her some of the world’s most coveted environmental awards.

Part of Dr. Daily’s interest in natural capital emerged from her research in Costa Rica, where she became intrigued with an innovative government initiative known as Payment for Environmental Services. The program, initiated in the 1990s, pays landowners to maintain native forest rather than cut it and has contributed to a significant reduction in Costa Rica’s deforestation rate.

The Costa Rican program helped inspire Dr. Daily to co-found the Natural Capital Project in 2006. NatCap, as the program is known, is a venture led by Stanford University, the University of Minnesota and two of the world’s largest conservation organizations, the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. It aims to transform traditional conservation methods by including the value of “ecosystem services” in business, community and government decisions. These benefits from nature — like flood protection, crop pollination and carbon storage — are not part of the traditional economic equation.

“Currently, there is no price for most of the ecosystem services we care about, like clean air and clean water,” said Stephen Polasky, professor of ecological/environmental economics at the University of Minnesota. He says that because economic calculations often ignore nature, the results can lead to the destruction of the very ecosystems upon which the economy is based.

“Our economic system values land for two primary reasons,” said Adam Davis, a partner in Ecosystem Investment Partners, a company that manages high-priority conservation properties. “One is building on the land, and the second is taking things from the land.”

“Right now, the way a forest is worth money is by cutting it down,” Mr. Davis said. “We measure that value in board-feet of lumber or tons of pulp sold to a paper mill.” What has been missing, he says, is a countervailing economic force that measures the value of leaving a forest or other ecosystem intact.

Early on, Dr. Daily recognized that new tools were needed to quantify nature’s value. “We began by developing a software program called InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs) to map and value nature’s goods and services that are essential for humans,” she said.

The software, which is available as a free download, enables the comparison of various environmental scenarios. What is the real cost of draining a wetland or clearing a coastline of mangroves? InVEST models the trade-offs and helps decision makers better understand the implications of their choices.


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“Our dream was not to try to capture the full value of nature’s services, because that’s so hard to do,” Dr. Daily said. “Our goal is to begin making inroads in the decision-making process by including at least some of the value of nature in the economic equation.”

The Natural Capital Project now works in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific and North America. In China, NatCap is working with the government on an ambitious program to protect natural capital. After deforestation caused extensive flooding in 1998, China committed $100 billion to convert vast areas of cropland back into forest and grassland. The government is building on this success by helping to develop and test the InVEST software to put in place a new reserve network that is projected to span 25 percent of the country. The reserves will help with flood control, irrigation, drinking supply, hydropower production, biodiversity and climate stabilization.
At a NatCap site in Hawaii, Kamehameha Schools, the state’s largest private landowner, used InVEST to evaluate future land use for a 26,000-acre site on the North Shore of Oahu. In the past, the landholding had been used for aquaculture, crops and habitation. After examining the alternatives modeled by InVEST, Kamehameha Schools selected a diversified mix of forestry and agriculture intended to improve water quality, sequester carbon and generate income.

About seven months ago,, the philanthropic arm of, unveiled a powerful new tool that enables global-scale monitoring and measurement of changes in the earth’s environment. Called Google Earth Engine, it features a huge trove of satellite imagery of the earth’s surface. NatCap is now moving the InVEST software onto the Google Earth Engine platform.

“Right now, when we do a NatCap project or use InVEST, we send people to a country or state, and they spend weeks accumulating the data and putting it in the right format,” said Peter Kareiva, vice president and chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy. Google Earth Engine will greatly speed the analysis process, Dr. Kareiva said.

Luis Solórzano, program director of environmental science at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, who worked on Google Earth Engine, says that the new tool can map trends and allow scientists to forecast such things as soil fertility, erosion and deforestation. “It’s the kind of tool policy makers need to make informed decisions,” Dr. Solórzano said.

Because the natural capital concept is anthropocentric, Dr. Daily sometimes is asked whether quantifying ecosystem services runs the risk of ignoring nature’s intrinsic worth or overlooking difficult-to-measure aspects of the natural world, like aesthetic or spiritual benefits.

Dr. Daily acknowledges that certain properties of nature defy quantification. “The beauty of the natural capital approach is it leaves the vast, immeasurable aspects of nature in their own realm while focusing in a very practical way on environmental benefits that we can and should incorporate into our current decisions.”

The precarious state of the world’s environment has concerned Dr. Daily since her teenage years, when her family lived in West Germany and she witnessed the destructive power of acid rain on the country’s forests. “I realized then that I wanted to be a scientist,” she said. This early fascination with nature led to her passion for the forests of Costa Rica, and that in turn set the course for her international leadership with natural capital.

Dr. Daily’s work took on a special urgency with the 2005 publication of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which was developed under the auspices of the United Nations. This report found that recent and rapid human-caused changes have produced a “substantial and largely irreversible loss” in the diversity of life on earth and that two-thirds of the world’s ecosystem services were declining.

“The loss of earth’s biodiversity is permanent,” Dr. Daily said. “And it is happening on our watch. We need to convey with compelling evidence the value of nature and the cost of losing it. I find it stunning that until the next asteroid hits the planet, it is humanity that is collectively deciding the future course of all known life.”
24643  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison 1787; Jefferson 1813 on: August 09, 2011, 10:15:14 AM
"No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity." --James Madison, Federalist No. 10, 1787

"An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens....There has never been a moment of my life in which I  should have relinquished for it the enjoyments of my family, my farm, my friends & books." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Melish, 1813

24644  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The SEAL tragedy in Afpakia on: August 09, 2011, 02:38:41 AM
I recently visited a Special Operations headquarters in the Middle East—the location, along with other details, must remain classified. I received an incredibly impressive briefing on how U.S. commandos generate intelligence, locate targets, and then swoop down on them. The "operators" are the model of manly understatement. They don't brag but convey a quiet confidence that they know what they are doing—and they do.

As has been reported in several outlets, the Joint Special Operations Command—which comprises Navy SEALs, the Army's Delta Team, the Air Force's "Night Stalker" helicopter crews and other, even more clandestine forces—carries out a dozen operations a night in Afghanistan alone. Other JSOC contingents carry out raids in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and other lands where al Qaeda and its ilk operate. Most of these operations go so smoothly—resulting in a "jackpot," a wanted suspect killed or captured—that there is no mention of them in the press.

JSOC—and the entire U.S. Special Operations Command, of which JSOC is only one element—has come a long way since the 1980s. It was formed then in the wake of Operation Eagle Claw, the Iranian hostage rescue mission that resulted in disaster at a rendezvous point code-named Desert One.

Robert Gates was working at the CIA at the time, and as secretary of defense earlier this year he feared that the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden would turn into another Desert One. His fear was understandable but misplaced. Such operations have become much more routine than they were in 1980. Since 9/11, JSOC has become the most experienced and capable special-operations force the world has ever seen.

Yet things can still go wrong, especially when the element of surprise is lost. Normally the enemy has no idea when the raiders are coming, since they descend from the night sky and surround their targets before they have time to respond. But it's different when another special operations element is caught in a firefight and a Quick Reaction Force is sent out to rescue them.

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 .In 2005, a SEAL team was caught in a firefight in Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan. A Quick Reaction Force aboard a lumbering Chinook transport helicopter was shot down by the Taliban with a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 on board. (The only SEAL to survive that harrowing mission, Marcus Luttrell, was part of the ground element being rescued and subsequently wrote a best-selling memoir, "Lone Survivor.")

History repeated itself on Saturday. Another U.S. contingent was caught in a firefight—this time in the treacherous Tangi Valley south of Kabul—and another Quick Reaction Force of SEALs was sent out in a Chinook helicopter. The Taliban, undoubtedly knowing the SEALs were on the way, used another rocket-propelled grenade to bring down the giant helicopter. This time the loss of life included 30 Americans, most of them members of the ultra-elite Seal Team Six, along with eight Afghan counterparts.

The loss underscores how heroic these men are—volunteers multiple times over who give up hope of a normal life to spend month after month deployed in one war zone after another chasing some of the most dangerous terrorists on earth. They know the risks they run: All Special Operations headquarters have a "wall of honor" displaying the pictures of fallen heroes—all supremely fit and dedicated young men struck down in the prime of life. Yet their comrades routinely strap on body armor and mount helicopters, night after night, knowing that their picture could soon hang on that wall.

While we should be in awe of special operators and their accomplishments, we should keep their capabilities in perspective: They cannot win a war by themselves.

The Tangi Valley is an area infested by Taliban. Even if Saturday's raid had been a success, killing or capturing some local Taliban leaders, it would hardly have ended the insurgent threat in that area. Counterterrorism raids are a vital part of any integrated counterinsurgency strategy, but they cannot substitute for the lack of such a strategy. The loss of leaders hurts any organization, but terrorist groups like the Taliban—or al Qaeda or Hezbollah—have shown considerable ability to regenerate even after major losses.

Only one thing can lead to their decisive defeat: a critical number of boots on the ground. In Afghanistan, the U.S. and our allies have the necessary ratio of ground forces in only two provinces—Helmand and Kandahar. The rest of the country is an "economy of force" mission. U.S. commanders hope to shift resources from the south, once that has been secured, to the east to gain control of ungoverned areas. But that strategy has been thrown into jeopardy by President Obama's decision to pull out 30,000 U.S. troops by September 2012.

Many in the administration wanted an even more precipitous withdrawal, arguing that we could rely on Special Operations troops to keep our enemies from establishing control of critical terrain. Saturday's disaster shows the risks of that strategy and underlines the limitations of even the world's best special operators. So we should honor them, but we should not exaggerate what they can do.

Mr. Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is completing a history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.

24645  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Is Baraq smart? on: August 09, 2011, 02:30:26 AM
The aircraft was large, modern and considered among the world's safest. But that night it was flying straight into a huge thunderstorm. Turbulence was extreme, and airspeed indicators may not have been functioning properly. Worse, the pilots were incompetent. As the plane threatened to stall they panicked by pointing the nose up, losing speed when they ought to have done the opposite. It was all over in minutes.

Was this the fate of Flight 447, the Air France jet that plunged mysteriously into the Atlantic a couple of years ago? Could be. What I'm talking about here is the Obama presidency.

When it comes to piloting, Barack Obama seems to think he's the political equivalent of Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager and—in a "Fly Me to the Moon" sort of way—Nat King Cole rolled into one. "I think I'm a better speech writer than my speech writers," he reportedly told an aide in 2008. "I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I'll tell you right now that I'm . . . a better political director than my political director."

On another occasion—at the 2004 Democratic convention—Mr. Obama explained to a Chicago Tribune reporter that "I'm LeBron, baby. I can play at this level. I got game."

Of course, it's tempting to be immodest when your admirers are so immodest about you. How many times have we heard it said that Mr. Obama is the smartest president ever? Even when he's criticized, his failures are usually chalked up to his supposed brilliance. Liberals say he's too cerebral for the Beltway rough-and-tumble; conservatives often seem to think his blunders, foreign and domestic, are all part of a cunning scheme to turn the U.S. into a combination of Finland, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

I don't buy it. I just think the president isn't very bright.

Socrates taught that wisdom begins in the recognition of how little we know. Mr. Obama is perpetually intent on telling us how much he knows. Aristotle wrote that the type of intelligence most needed in politics is prudence, which in turn requires experience. Mr. Obama came to office with no experience. Plutarch warned that flattery "makes itself an obstacle and pestilence to great houses and great affairs." Today's White House, more so than any in memory, is stuffed with flatterers.

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President Barack Obama
.Much is made of the president's rhetorical gifts. This is the sort of thing that can be credited only by people who think that a command of English syntax is a mark of great intellectual distinction. Can anyone recall a memorable phrase from one of Mr. Obama's big speeches that didn't amount to cliché? As for the small speeches, such as the one we were kept waiting 50 minutes for yesterday, we get Triple-A bromides about America remaining a "Triple-A country." Which, when it comes to long-term sovereign debt, is precisely what we no longer are under Mr. Obama.

Then there is Mr. Obama as political tactician. He makes predictions that prove false. He makes promises he cannot honor. He raises expectations he cannot meet. He reneges on commitments made in private. He surrenders positions staked in public. He is absent from issues in which he has a duty to be involved. He is overbearing when he ought to be absent. At the height of the financial panic of 1907, Teddy Roosevelt, who had done much to bring the panic about by inveighing against big business, at least had the good sense to stick to his bear hunt and let J.P. Morgan sort things out. Not so this president, who puts a new twist on an old put-down: Every time he opens his mouth, he subtracts from the sum total of financial capital.

Then there's his habit of never trimming his sails, much less tacking to the prevailing wind. When Bill Clinton got hammered on health care, he reverted to centrist course and passed welfare reform. When it looked like the Iraq war was going to be lost, George Bush fired Don Rumsfeld and ordered the surge.

Mr. Obama, by contrast, appears to consider himself immune from error. Perhaps this explains why he has now doubled down on Heckuva Job Geithner. It also explains his insulting and politically inept habit of suggesting—whether the issue is health care, or Arab-Israeli peace, or change we can believe in at some point in God's good time—that the fault always lies in the failure of his audiences to listen attentively. It doesn't. In politics, a failure of communication is always the fault of the communicator.

Much of the media has spent the past decade obsessing about the malapropisms of George W. Bush, the ignorance of Sarah Palin, and perhaps soon the stupidity of Rick Perry. Nothing is so typical of middling minds than to harp on the intellectual deficiencies of the slightly less smart and considerably more successful.

But it takes actual smarts to understand that glibness and self-belief are not sufficient proof of genuine intelligence. Stupid is as stupid does, said the great philosopher Forrest Gump. The presidency of Barack Obama is a case study in stupid does.

24646  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GF on Regional Power China on: August 09, 2011, 01:44:59 AM

STRATFOR CEO Dr. George Friedman explains why the United States should treat China as a regional power and not a superpower, in the third of a series on global pressure points.

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

Colin: The world is full of pundits who predict that China will, sometime in the first half of this century, overtake the United States as an economic power. The only difference between them is when this will happen. STRATFOR doesn’t believe this will happen and as China’s economy slows down while facing inflation, many others have doubts also. For his latest assessment, we turn to George Friedman, who we welcome back to Agenda.

George, China argues that the United States should treat it as an equal. For the United States, this seems a step too far. Is this a chasm that can be resolved peacefully?

George: The United States doesn’t treat China as an equal or an unequal, it treats it as China. As a country it has interests and those interests may coincide with American interests or they may not. But the United States, and any other country treats any other country as its interests. In many cases, the problem really is that observers of China have bought into the Chinese view that China is a superpower economically, militarily, politically, and therefore the United States should it treat it as such. But the fact is that China is far from a superpower in any of these realms. It remains a relatively weak economic power and certainly a weak military and political power, and the United States treats it as it is: a significant regional power with a great many weaknesses, and when it threatens American interests, the United States is quite happy to slap it back.

Colin: With the possibility of confrontation between the world’s first and second largest economy troubles many countries in the Asia Pacific region. First of all Japan and Korea but also many nations of Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Vietnam and a resources giant, Australia.

George: Well I mean it’s interesting that they’re troubled. I must admit that I’ve never understood what it meant for a nation to be troubled—I understand people being troubled. Look, there can’t be confrontation militarily between the United States and China. Firstly because the United States is incapable of intruding on mainland China militarily—it’s a vast population, a large army. And China has no naval capability worthy of the name. They have launched their first aircraft carrier. That means they have one aircraft carrier. They don’t have the cruisers, they don’t necessarily have the advanced attack submarines, they don’t have the Aegis defense systems. In other words they’ve launched a ship and now they have to train their pilots to land and takeoff from the ship and the aircraft that take off from the ship have to be able to engage and survive American F-14s. The distance between being a challenge to the United States and having one aircraft carrier is vast and generational. Not only do they have to train the people to fly off the deck, they have to train naval commanders, admirals, to command carrier battle groups, and even more admirals who know how to command groups of carrier battle groups. The United States has been in the business of handling carrier battle groups since the 1930s. The Chinese have not yet floated their first carrier battle group, and one isn’t enough. So it’s really important to understand that while China has made a minor movement in floating aircraft carrier, a technology that is now just about 80 years old—that’s very nice but it does not make them a power.

Colin: Now, financial analysts and economists talk up China as an economic power but at STRATFOR we’re doubters. China has slowed down this year, but do we still believe that Chinese growth is unsustainable?

George: The question of Chinese growth is the wrong question. I can grow anything if I cut profit margins to the bone or take losses. According to the Chinese Ministry of Finance, Chinese profits on their exports are about 1.7 percent, which means that some of these people are exporting at almost no level. The Chinese grow their economy not in the way that Western economies grow that when you sell more products, you make more money. The Chinese grow their economy to avoid unemployment. The Chinese nightmare is unemployment because in China unemployment leads to massive social unrest. Therefore the Chinese government is prepared to subsidize factories that really should be bankrupt because they’re so inefficient in order to keep these companies going. They will lend money to these companies not to grow them but in order to make certain that they don’t default on other loans. So I think one of the mistakes we make is the growth rate of China being the measure of Chinese health. I want everyone to remember that in the 1980s Japan was growing phenomenally and yet their banking system crashed in spite of the fact of having vast dollar reserves. So when you look at the Japanese example you see a situation where growth rates, which Westerners focused on, were seen to be a sign of health when in fact they were simply a solution to a problem of unemployment and underneath it the economy was quite unhealthy. This doesn’t mean that China doesn’t have a large economy, but having a large economy and being able to sustain healthy, balanced growth are two very different things.

Colin: Wouldn’t it be in the interests of both countries to find more common ground, perhaps to work together to make the Western Pacific a zone of peace involving Japan and other countries?

George: Well first of all, there is a zone of peace in that region. There’s no war going on. Secondly, the guarantor that it’s a zone of peace is the American 7th Fleet—the Chinese can’t do anything about it. As for tension bubbling about, so much of this is what I’ll call newspaper babble. Some minister or some secretary says something hostile, something is said—these are merely words. Here’s the underlying fact: China cannot sell the products it produces in China because over a billion people living in China live in absolute poverty and can’t buy it. They’re the hostage to European and American consumers, and their great fear is that those consumers, if they go into a recession, won’t buy those products. The problem the Chinese have is that they can’t invest their own money into the Chinese economy—there’s no room to put it, there aren’t enough workers, there’s not enough land and so on. So they have this massive hangover that they’re willing to invest in the world to get out of China. So there is a very good relationship between the United States and China. The Chinese get to sell products to the Americans; the Americans get these products. The problem the Chinese have is that their wage rates are now higher than those of other countries. It is cheaper to hire workers in Mexico today than in China. Their great historic advantage is dissolving yet they must continue to export.  The American desire that the Chinese change the value of the yuan, that they float it, of course will never happen. The Chinese can’t afford to let that happen because of course that would make their exports even more expensive and place them in even more difficult trouble. So the United States enjoys jerking their chain by saying they should float the yuan. The Chinese respond saying that they will do that in a few years as soon as something else happens that’s unnamed. And the Chinese condemn the United States for their naval activities, and all of these are words. These two countries are locked together in a very beneficial relationship. In the long run it’s more beneficial to the United States than to the Chinese, and that’s one of the paradoxes. But again it takes a long time for people to realize that economies have failed or recovered. I remember back in 1993, people were still speaking about the Japanese super-state long after the banking system collapsed. One of the interesting things about the global financial community is that they always seem to be about two years behind reality, and the China situation is that they are in the midst of a massive slowdown. They’re admitting to a certain degree of slowdown—we suspect it’s much more substantial than that. In fact, given Chinese inflation rate, they may be entering negative territory. So this is a country that has had a magnificent run up in 30 years, it is going to be an important economic and military and political power over the next century but for right now it’s got problems.

Colin: George Friedman there, ending the Agenda for this week. Thanks for joining us, and until the next time, goodbye.

24647  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Tipping Point? on: August 09, 2011, 01:29:34 AM
The Nation's Pulse
American Tipping Point
By Jeffrey Lord on 8.2.11 @ 6:08AM

Hush puppies and the Tea Party.

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

You always think of these things together, right?

No? Well, you should.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But make no mistake.

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

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

My oh my oh my oh my.

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

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

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

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

A new American Tipping Point


24648  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 09, 2011, 01:03:20 AM
Please address then the valuations of the dollar in gold, silver, commodities, and other currencies.
24649  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 08, 2011, 10:05:35 PM
Well then putting aside all the other points which you are not addressing, let us list the other facts concerning food prices un and underemployment, indebtedness per citizen and a whole clusterfcuk of other data.
24650  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Richard Young on: August 08, 2011, 10:02:54 PM
Obama and the UN: Grabbing Your Guns
August 3, 2011 by The Editors     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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