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24651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: December 13, 2010, 11:41:10 AM
It's A Good Deal To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/13/2010

As the Senate votes to pass the tax cut deal announced by President Obama last Monday night, political debate rages on. What’s left of the Left in Congress hates the deal. It’s the second drubbing in a row (November 2nd, being the first). The deal says “lower tax rates are better than higher tax rates.”

After years of complaining about the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy, two Democratic Presidents (Clinton and Obama) have now come out in support of them. President Obama’s chief political advisor, David Axelrod, called that part of the deal “odious” on the Sunday talk shows.
Some Republicans don’t like the deal because it includes, by their count, more than $300 billion in “spending” that they feel they were elected to stop. This includes the one-year reduction in the payroll tax rate, extending the program of 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, plus other tax credits.
There is still a small chance that Congress will add so many goodies as the bill is written (like continued credits for ethanol), that the deal becomes unsupportable. But, the odds of any crack-up on the way to passage remain very low. We expect it to pass within the next week or two with very minor additions.
The benefits of the deal outweigh its costs by a significant margin. The consensus seems to expect about a 1% kick to real GDP growth from a deal, but that is in comparison to “no deal.” We have been more bullish than the consensus and have expected the extension of Bush era tax rates. As a result, we have raised our forecast a small amount – from 3.7% real GDP growth in 2011 to 4%.
Many have argued that the “cost” of the deal is $900 billion, but this is Washington speak and has little to do with reality. After bottoming at an annual run rate of $2.0 trillion (roughly 14.5% of GDP) in 2009, total tax revenues to the federal government have climbed to about $2.2 trillion (15% of GDP) in the past year. This has happened without higher tax rates. And as long as the economy continues to recover, revenues will continue to climb, eventually rising back to 19% of GDP, where they were before the Panic of 2008. After that, “bracket creep” generated by economic growth will push revenue even higher relative to GDP.
In other words, the US does not need higher tax rates in order to gather more revenue and balance the budget. If government spending were frozen at current levels, the budget would be balanced at the end of 2014. If government spending were cut back to 2008 levels, a balanced budget could be achieved sooner than that. In other words, this deal does not spin the budget out of control. On the contrary, it focuses all the energy of those who want to balance the budget on the spending side of the ledger rather than the tax side. This is great news.
Some analysts are trying to tie rising Treasury bond yields to fears about a bigger deficit and the “cost” of the deal. This is a misreading of the markets. Treasury bond yields are rising because a tax hike has been avoided and economic growth is likely to be robust. The bottom line is that stocks remain cheap, while bonds are certainly not.
24652  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I am worried on: December 13, 2010, 09:51:03 AM
Pravda on the Hudson is now starting to say things I have been saying here:

For nearly two years, China’s turbocharged economy has raced ahead with the aid of a huge government stimulus program and aggressive lending by state-run banks.

But a growing number of economists now worry that China — the world’s fastest growing economy and a pillar of strength during the global financial crisis — could be stalled next year by soaring inflation, mounting government debt and asset bubbles.

Two credit ratings agencies, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings, say China is still poised for growth, yet they have also recently warned about hidden risks in its banking system. Fitch even hinted at the possibility of another wave of nonperforming loans tied to the property market.

In the late 1990s and early this decade, the Chinese government was forced to bail out and recapitalize these same state-run banks because a soaring number of bad loans had left them nearly insolvent.

Those banks are much stronger now, after a series of record public stock offerings in recent years that have raised billions of dollars from global investors.

But last week, an analyst at the Royal Bank of Scotland advised clients to hedge against the risk that a flood of cash into China, coupled with soaring inflation, could result in a “day of reckoning.”

A sharp slowdown in China, which is growing at an annual rate of about 10 percent, would be a serious blow to the global economy since China’s voracious demand for natural resources is helping to prop up growth in Asia and South America, even as the United States and the European Union struggle.

And because China is a major holder of United States Treasury debt and a major destination for American investment in recent years, any slowdown would also hurt American companies.

Aware of the risks, Beijing has moved recently to tame its domestic growth and rein in soaring food and housing prices by raising interest rates, tightening regulations on property sales and restricting lending.

At the end of the Central Economic Work Conference, a high-level annual economic policy meeting that concluded on Sunday, Beijing promised to combat inflation and stabilize the economy. Those pledges came just days after the central bank ordered banks to set aside larger capital reserves in a bid to slow lending, the sixth time it has done so this year. And the government reported on Saturday that the consumer price index had climbed 5.1 percent in November, the sharpest rise in nearly three years.

Analysts say more tightening measures are expected in the coming months but that the challenges are mounting.

“There are so many moving pieces,” said Qu Hongbin, the chief China economist for HSBC in Hong Kong. “It wouldn’t be honest to say things aren’t complicated.”

Optimists say China has been adept at steering the right economic course over the last decade, ramping up growth when needed and tamping it down when things get too hot.

But this time, Beijing is not just struggling with inflation, it is also trying to restructure its economy away from dependence on exports and toward domestic consumption in the hopes of creating more balanced and sustainable growth, analysts say.

China is also facing mounting international pressure to let its currency, the renminbi, rise in value. Some trading partners insist China is keeping its currency artificially low to give Chinese exporters a competitive advantage.

Beijing contends that raising the value of its currency would hurt coastal factories that operate on thin profit margins, forcing them to lay off millions of workers.

The most immediate challenge appears to be inflation, which some analysts say may be even more serious than the new figures suggest. Housing prices have skyrocketed. And prices for milk, vegetables and other foods have soared this year.

“The money supply is too large,” said Andy Xie, an economist based in Shanghai who formerly worked at Morgan Stanley. “They increased the money supply to stimulate the economy. Now land prices have jumped 20 times in some places, 100 times in others. Inflation is broad-based. Go into a supermarket. Milk is more expensive in China than it is in the U.S.”

In Shanghai, where the average monthly wage is about $350, a gallon of milk now costs about $5.50.

Wages have also risen sharply this year in coastal provinces amid reports of labor shortages and worker demands for higher pay. Many analysts expect more wage increases next year.

That may be good for workers, analysts say, but it will also change the dynamics of the Chinese economy and its export sector while contributing to higher inflation.

Beijing is now under pressure to mop up excess liquidity after state banks went on a lending binge during the stimulus program that got under way in early 2009. Analysts say a large portion of that lending was diverted to speculate in the property market.


In addition to restricting lending at the big state banks, Beijing recently moved to close hundreds of underground banks and attempted to restrain local governments from borrowing to build huge infrastructure projects, some of which may be wasteful, according to analysts.

Some economists say the real solution is for Beijing to privatize more industries and let the market play a bigger role. After the financial crisis hit, the state assumed more control over the economy.
Now, state banks and big state-owned companies are reluctant to surrender control over industries where they have monopoly power, analysts say.

“Inflation is not the most serious problem,” says Xu Xiaonian, a professor of economics at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. “The most fundamental problem we have to resolve is structural. We need more opening up and reform policies. Look at the state monopolies in education, health care, telecom and entertainment. We need to break those up. We need to create more jobs and make the economy more innovative.”

Zhiwu Chen, a professor of finance at Yale, agrees.

“The state economy and the local governments will be where the future problems occur,” Professor Chen said in an e-mail response to questions on Sunday. “They will be the sources of real troubles for the banks and the financial system.”

Though no economist is forecasting the end to China’s decades-long bull run, many have turned more cautious. And Fitch Ratings recently released a study it conducted with the forecasting consultancy Oxford Economics that examined the effect a slowdown in China would have on the rest of the world.

Fitch expects China’s economy to grow at an annual rate of 8.6 percent next year, down from about 9.7 percent this year. But the report, which was released a few weeks ago, said that if growth slowed to 5 percent, the economies of many other Asian nations would suffer seriously. Steel, energy and manufacturing industries around the world would also be hard hit, it said.

Fitch analysts are careful not to forecast a sharp slowdown in China. But if one comes, they say, it is “most likely to stem from a combination of property crash and banking crisis.”
24653  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: December 13, 2010, 08:44:09 AM
FWIW IMHO BO is simply posturing until we get out.

FWIW IMHO if we were there to succeed this pipeline project would really be something around which to focus our efforts; both for its symbolic and real world meaning.
24654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Day by Day on: December 12, 2010, 09:55:06 PM
24655  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: December 12, 2010, 09:53:33 PM
No comments on the previous post?  I thought it quite significant , , ,

Anyway, in a tragi-comic vein, here's this:
24656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Day by Day on: December 12, 2010, 09:47:32 PM
24657  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty in Seattle April 16-17 on: December 12, 2010, 09:40:43 PM
Hosted once again by DBMA GL Rob Crowley.  Details to follow.
24658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Breyer on Second Amendment on: December 12, 2010, 09:16:49 PM
Breyer: Founding Fathers Would Have Allowed Restrictions on Guns

Published December 12, 2010

If you look at the values and the historical record, you will see that the Founding Fathers never intended guns to go unregulated, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer contended Sunday.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Breyer said history stands with the dissenters in the court's decision to overturn a Washington, D.C., handgun ban in the 2008 case "D.C. v. Heller."

Breyer wrote the dissent and was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He said historians would side with him in the case because they have concluded that Founding Father James Madison was more worried that the Constitution may not be ratified than he was about granting individuals the right to bear arms.

Madison "was worried about opponents who would think Congress would call up state militias and nationalize them. 'That can't happen,' said Madison," said Breyer, adding that historians characterize Madison's priority as, "I've got to get this document ratified."

Therefore, Madison included the Second Amendment to appease the states, Breyer said.

"If you're interested in history, and in this one history was important, then I think you do have to pay attention to the story," Breyer said. "If that was his motive historically, the dissenters were right. And I think more of the historians were with us."

That being the case, and particularly since the Founding Fathers did not foresee how modern day would change individual behavior, government bodies can impose regulations on guns, Breyer concluded.

In July 2008, the concurring opinion in "D.C. v. Heller" written by Justice Antonin Scalia and shared by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. found that the district's ban on handgun possession at home "violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense."

The ruling raised concerns by dissenters like Breyer that gun laws nationwide would be thrown out. That has not happened yet.

Breyer, who just published "Making Our Democracy Work," a book about the role of the court in American life, outlined his judicial philosophy as one in which the court must take a pragmatic approach in which it "should regard the Constitution as containing unwavering values that must be applied flexibly to ever-changing circumstances."

Since the Founding Fathers could not foresee the impact of modern day communications and technology, the only option is to take the values of the Founding Fathers and apply them to today's challenges.

"The difficult job in open cases where there is no clear answer is to take those values in this document, which all Americans hold, which do not change, and to apply them to a world that is ever changing," Breyer said. "It's not a matter of policy. It is a matter of what those framers intended."

He suggested that those values and intentions mean that the Second Amendment allows for restrictions on the individual, including an all-out ban on handguns in the nation's capital.

"We're acting as judges. If we're going to decide everything on the basis of history -- by the way, what is the scope of the right to keep and bear arms? Machine guns? Torpedoes? Handguns?" he asked. "Are you a sportsman? Do you like to shoot pistols at targets? Well, get on the subway and go to Maryland. There is no problem, I don't think, for anyone who really wants to have a gun."
24659  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / CA and Los Angeles too on: December 12, 2010, 09:11:16 PM
24660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Asia (Japan, China, etc) on: December 12, 2010, 08:53:57 PM

24661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AA Missiles to Venezuela on: December 12, 2010, 08:52:25 PM

Venezuela acquires 1,800 antiaircraft missiles from Russia

Russia delivered at least 1,800 shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles to Venezuela in 2009, U.N. arms control data show, despite vigorous U.S. efforts to stop President Hugo Chavez's stridently anti-American government from acquiring the weapons.
The United States feared that the missiles could be funneled to Marxist guerrillas fighting Colombia's pro-American government or Mexican drug cartels, concerns expressed in U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and first reported in the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
It had been unclear how many of the Russian SA-24 missiles were delivered to Venezuela, though the transfer itself was not secret. Chavez showed off a few dozen at a military parade in April 2009, saying they could "deter whatever aerial aggression against our country." A high-level Russian delegation told American officials in Washington in July of that year that 100 of the missiles had been delivered in the first quarter of 2009.
Then earlier this year, Russia reported to the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms, which records the transnational sale of weaponry, that the deal totaled 1,800 missiles.
The U.N. registry did not reveal the model of the delivered weaponry. But the American commander for military forces in Latin America, Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, publicly expressed concern this year that Venezuela was purchasing as many as 2,400 of the missiles, also called the IGLA-S.
Matt Schroeder, a missile expert at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said the missiles are among the most sophisticated in the world and can down aircraft from 19,000 feet.
"It's the largest recorded transfer in the U.N. arms registry database in five years, at least. There's no state in Latin America of greater concern regarding leakage that has purchased so many missiles," he said, referring to reports of Venezuelan arms flowing to Colombian guerrillas.
The database also shows that from 2006 through 2008, Russia delivered to Venezuela 472 missiles and launching mechanisms, 44 attack helicopters and 24 combat aircraft, purchases funded by Venezuelan oil sales.
A self-styled Socialist who claims that successive U.S. governments want to topple him, Chavez told his countrymen during the 2009 military parade that "we don't want war with anyone, but we are obligated to prepare." Months later, in December 2009, he said in a nationally televised address that "thousands of missiles are arriving" but did not say what kind.
Secret American cables said that the United States was concerned about the Chavez government's acquisition of Russian arms, which also included attack helicopters, Sukhoi fighter planes and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
A State Department cable on Aug. 10, 2009, to embassies in Europe and South America said Russian sales to Venezuela total "over $5 billion last year and growing." There was also concern about Spain's plans to sell aircraft and coastal patrol boats to Venezuela.

The cables show how both the Bush and Obama administrations tried to stop the arms sales by highlighting the possibility that the weapons could end up with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a rebel group that Colombian officials say has received material support from Chavez's government.
"In early March, Secretary Clinton raised the sale with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov," the August 2009 cable says, referring to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russia's foreign minister.
A cable from Washington to Moscow dated Feb. 14, 2009, said FARC computer files seized by Colombia's army indicated that Venezuela tried to facilitate arms market deals for the rebels. It expressed fear that missiles acquired by the FARC, which is mired in the drug trade, could wind up with Mexican cartels that "are actively seeking to acquire powerful and highly sophisticated weapons."
Chavez has long denied that his government assists the FARC. A spokeswoman for the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington said diplomats there could not respond to the allegations by U.S. officials. The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry in Caracas did not respond to phone calls.
The August 2009 cable notes that Russian ammunition sold to Venezuela was found in FARC hands and that U.S. officials raised the issue with Russian diplomats visiting Washington.
The American efforts to derail Russian and Spanish arms sales to Venezuela appeared to strain U.S. relations with both countries.
In a meeting in Moscow in 2005, Anatoliy Antonov, who oversaw disarmament issues for the Russian foreign ministry, told a U.S. Embassy official that Washington was trying to restrict Russian access to the arms market.
24662  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Jury Duty on: December 12, 2010, 08:11:19 PM
Woof All:

I know many people look to duck jury duty; in many cases the hardship is genuine and the desire/need to avoid it is real.  That said, IMHO many people duck it though for , , , lesser reasons.

I have served twice, and got selected to sit on trials both times; one a shooting, the other a shoplifting case.  Both times I was very proud and inspired by the people with whom I served.

Tomorrow I begin jury duty once again and I am looking forward to it.  I am shocked and pleasantly surprised to report that there has been practical progress in lessening the wasted time often associated with the experience.  I was able to register by an automated phone call, and the day before each day I find out whether I am needed or not.  For example, right now on a Sunday night, I know that they will not need me tomorrow and tomorrow I call to find out about Tuesday.

To serve and defend our Constitution,
24663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: December 12, 2010, 07:05:22 PM
Thank you for the citation GM.  Also, "Our man formerly in Iraq" confirms the story as well.
24664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mass murder of Christians on: December 12, 2010, 06:52:59 PM
This source is unknown to me.  It was forwarded by a friend.


Breaking news quickly passes into "archive"; but days, weeks, and sometimes years may be required, to reconstruct what actually happened. Sometimes there are no survivors of a crime or catastrophe, and no testimony to work with, beyond what forensic specialists can provide. But humans are not that easy to kill, and there are usually a few accusers left about.

On Sunday, Oct. 31, during Mass, Islamist terrorists attacked the main Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad -- the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. While there have been persistent and increasing attacks on Christians, as well as on other religious minorities, all over the Muslim world, this one was especially notable, and deserved far more sustained press coverage. Many details are only now emerging, from the wounded who were flown out of Iraq to Rome, and other European cities, for medical treatment.

The attack was sustained over five hours. Iraqi military authorities had the church surrounded for most of this time; American-made helicopters buzzed overhead. But, rather than risk the lives of soldiers, the authorities were content to simply contain the massacre.

It had begun with a diversionary strike against the Baghdad stock exchange, across the street: two of its guards were killed. Those inside the church could hear the automatic rifle fire, which began towards the end of the homily. Congregants were at first relieved that the attack did not seem to be directed at the church. Its entrances were blocked, the main wooden door barricaded.

A jeep parked outside the church then exploded, and a brigade of jihadis, in Iraqi army uniforms, burst through the main entrance commando-style. First one priest -- a Father Wasim, among those trying to hold the door -- shouted, "Leave them alone, take me!" He was immediately shot. A Father Thair then shouted from the altar, likewise, "Leave them alone, take me!" and was likewise annihilated.

While this was happening, a Father Raphael succeeded in herding about 70 of the faithful into the sacristy, and blocking its door. In due course the jihadis found it had a small high window, and tossed grenades through that; others amused themselves by firing bullets through the door.

In the cathedral proper, the jihadis used the central crucifix for target practice, while shouting in mockery, "Come on, tell Him to save you!" At their leisure, they executed the men of the congregation, while terrorizing the women and children in various other ways. They shot the arms off a couple of girls who tried to use cellphones; they shot babies who were crying. And in classical Arabic, with Egyptian and Syrian accents, they declared: "We are going to heaven, and you are going to hell. Allah is great!"

At their leisure, for over the five hours they twice stopped for formal Islamic prayers. They were also able to place bombs around the cathedral, for the purpose of blowing it up at the end, but owing to faulty wiring these did not go off. Survivors, in the accounts I've seen in Italian media, say the jihadis eventually ran out of bullets, and then began calling for the bombs to be detonated. They had several colleagues stationed on the roof, orchestrating their affair; unmolested by the troops surrounding the church. Two of the jihadis with suicide belts managed to blow themselves up.

Finally, the Iraqi troops went into action. The dead were now counted; the wounded removed to area hospitals where friends and relatives were already making their hysterical inquiries. The church was now "secured," so that passersby could not get a view of the devastation inside it.

My reader may get far more detail through patient Internet searching. The facts mentioned above seem incontestable. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream reporting came down to "58 killed and a larger number wounded." There were some insulting editorials, which generically condemned "religious intolerance," thus putting murderers and victims on the same level.

The exodus of Christians from Iraq is, by now, more or less common knowledge. Within Iraq itself, there is a movement from such cities as Baghdad and Mosul -- which once had large Christian populations -- to safer territory in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Throughout the Middle East, from countries that remained majority Christian long after the Islamic conquests of the seventh century, the exodus of the last Christians is proceeding. In Palestine, entirely Christian towns such as Bethlehem have been, quite recently, Islamicized. In Lebanon -- itself established as a Christian enclave -- Hezbollah has largely taken over. The Coptic Christians of Egypt, who still number in their millions, suffer frequent violent attacks. Et cetera.

There were once Jews all over the Middle East; now they are down to Israel only, whose very right to exist is challenged. Christians are now following the Jews into exile or extinction. But in the West, we just don't want to know.

David Warren
© Ottawa Citizen
24665  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 12, 2010, 01:53:57 PM
Author Robert Fulghum tells this story of one of his professors, a wise man whose name was Alexander Papaderos:

At the last session on the last morning of a two-week seminar on Greek culture, Dr. Papaderos turned and made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?"

Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence.

"No questions?" Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.

So, I asked.

"Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?"

The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go.

Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.

"I will answer your question."

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter.

And what he said went something like this:

"When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

"I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine--in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light--truth, understanding, knowledge--is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.

"I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world--into the black places in the hearts of men--and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life."

And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.
24666  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Karzai reading this thread on: December 12, 2010, 01:50:21 PM
Afghanistan's President Karzai signs deal on gas pipeline project
The proposed 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline would cut through Taliban territory in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A flurry of 26 deaths over two days highlights difficulties the project would face.

By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
December 12, 2010

Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with regional leaders Saturday to sign an agreement for a massive energy project that could eventually net his country billions of dollars in revenue: a 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline whose proposed route cuts through the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.
As if to highlight the complications facing the project, at least 26 people were killed in attacks Friday and Saturday, including a Taliban commander and several people believed to be with a private security firm, Afghan and NATO officials said.

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The United States strongly supports the proposed pipeline because it could draw Central Asia's significant energy resources to Pakistan and India an bypass Iran, Washington's top adversary in the region.

Karzai met with Turkmen, Indian and Pakistani officials in Ashgabat, the capital of neighboring Turkmenistan, to sign the accord.

"On this very important occasion, let me once again highlight our vision for regional cooperation, which is to contribute to regional stability and prosperity," Karzai said in a statement, "and to enhance the conditions for Afghanistan to resume its central role as a land bridge in this region."

But the proposed $7.6-billion TAPI Gas Pipeline project and any revenue it may generate may be years away. The planned route passes from Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic, through violent territory still unsettled by insurgencies, including the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and the Pakistani city of Quetta, which is considered the home of the Taliban leadership.

The latest violence took place in Afghanistan's south and the northern province of Kunduz.

In the most deadly attack, a roadside bomb blast struck a pickup truck carrying Afghan men Friday in a rural stretch of Helmand province, killing 15 people, Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for Helmand's governor, said Saturday.

Also in Helmand, a man described as a senior Taliban commander and three members of his family were killed Saturday in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization airstrike, the official Bakhtar news agency reported.

A car bomb exploded Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of the Information and Culture Directorate in Kandahar, injuring four police officers and two youths, said Zalmay Ayoubi, spokesman for the governor there.

"The enemies of peace and the people have lost the ability to fight against the government, and now they want to terrorize the public by committing such criminal acts just to show their existence," said a statement issued by the governor's office.

In Kunduz, a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden car attacked an Afghan army checkpoint, injuring five soldiers and nine civilians in nearby homes, mostly women and children, said Muhbullah Sayedi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

U.S.-led forces also announced an investigation of allegations that seven Afghan members of a private security firm were killed Saturday during a counterinsurgency operation near the eastern Afghan city of Gardez, the site of a Dec. 5 suicide bombing that killed Western troops.

A military news release said the U.S.-led troops opened fire after armed men emerged from a vehicle and compound suspected of being linked to the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Taliban.

"The security force takes civilian casualty allegations seriously and is currently accessing who the individuals were, why they were armed and why they were in that area at that time of the morning," the news release said.

Protecting civilian lives has become a key component of the international force's strategy in Afghanistan. Deteriorating security erodes the Afghan civilians' trust in the central government and its armed forces, sometimes leading them to turn to the Taliban for protection.

The United States hopes the Afghan army and police force will be able to secure the country and tamp down the Taliban once international troops begin to depart. But attempts at political reconciliation between the central government and the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until the U.S. invasion in 2001, appear to have stalled.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters Wednesday in Kabul, the Afghan capital, that a large U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan was showing results.

After a meeting with Karzai, Gates told reporters he would return to Washington believing that Afghanistan will be ready for a U.S. troop drawdown by 2014, as set out by President Obama.
24667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Freedom of religion... on: December 12, 2010, 12:55:57 PM
It reads to me like he is leaving civil law issues open , , ,
24668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bernanke wants $10 fast food meals (Scott Grannis quoted) on: December 12, 2010, 10:24:39 AM

Bernanke Wants A $10 Three-Piece Chicken Meal

Eighteen months ago I decided to get fit and lose weight. I bought a racing bike and hit the roads. I also bought a 2hp Vitamix blender that whips up fruit and protein smoothies faster than you can say Jamba ( JMBA - news - people ) Juice. The payoff has been great. I've lost 15 pounds and with it all kinds of petty inflammations in the ankles, knees and lower back. (I'll share the details of my diet and exercise regimen if you email me at Put "Diet" in the subject line.)

But no one is perfect, least of all me. Every once in a while I get a powerful urge to eat greasy food. Not long ago I drove by the window of the local KFC and ordered a three-piece Kentucky Fried Chicken meal, all dark, original recipe, with coleslaw, beans and a root beer. The order came to $9.47.

Let's stop here. Nine and a half bucks for a KFC meal? Seriously? KFC is a fast-food retailer. Fast food is supposed to be cheap. But $9.47 for one ordinary meal is not cheap. What's going on?
Facts such as higher KFC prices reflect the world as it is. These facts contradict recent headlines about Consumer Price Index inflation. The October CPI rose just 0.6% at an annualized rate, the lowest since records began in 1957. Bear in mind that the official scorekeeper for CPI inflation is the U.S. Department of Labor, whose head is politically appointed. At the same time the independent Federal Reserve has its own inflation target, rumored to be 1.5% to 2%.

There you have it. The Fed thinks prices are too low. It wants higher prices--$10 for a chicken dinner at KFC; $40 for a family of four.

Where, oh where, do you start with such destructive nonsense?

For one, it boggles the mind to think the Fed goes along with the Labor Department's exclusion of food and energy prices in the CPI. Good lord, people have to eat. And go places. Gas prices are certainly not cheap. They are low only compared with the summer of 2008.

But the CPI is flawed in other ways that bear no resemblance to the way people actually live. As the always savvy Scott Grannis points out in his Calafia Beach Pundit blog: "If there is any deflation out there, it can be found mainly in the energy and housing sectors, both of which experienced a huge run-up in price in the years prior to 2008. In my book that's not deflation, it's payback. Almost anywhere else you look, prices are rising."

Are you listening, Ben Bernanke? Do you actually get out in the world? The swift backlash against Bernanke's QE2 is borne out in the fact that prices, in real life, are rising faster than most people's wages. QE2 will only take us further down the stagflation path--and will hurt the poor the hardest. There are 40 million Americans already on food stamps. Higher food prices will increase that shameful number.

Ironically, for a Democratic Administration that fancies itself a greater friend of the poor, a cheap dollar slams the working poor the hardest. The working poor--those striving to stay off unemployment and/or welfare--pay the highest percentage of their wages for food. They tend to have the longest commutes in older, gas-guzzling cars. Higher gas prices slam them. Many working poor don't have smartphones or computers or the time and know-how to bargain shop on the Internet. Finally, they have most of their meager assets in cash: paychecks, tips, checking accounts and small savings accounts.

In a misguided attempt to prop up house prices and prevent the next wave of bank failures, the Fed is destroying the value of the working poor's cash.

A crushed dollar hurts the majority of Americans and the economy in general. But the rich--especially the younger affluent--do relatively well. The majority of their assets are in things that hold their value when the dollar goes down: stocks, gold, commodities, beachfront property, etc. The rich can hold just enough cash to take advantage of bargains when they appear. They can also invest in smartphones, 4G mobility and software that facilitate price shopping for the best bargain.
You might like Ben Bernanke if you're 35 years old, made a ton of money on Wall Street and your diversified assets are inflating. You don't like him if you're 60 years old and own a KFC franchise--or eat at one.

A soft dollar will not lift America from its economic doldrums. The opposite is needed. A strong dollar would redirect capital to worthy entrepreneurs--and out of ruinous commodity speculation. For the rest of us it would restore the purchasing power we thought we'd earned in the first place.
24669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Blasphemy in Pakistan on: December 12, 2010, 10:22:08 AM
Blasphemy in Pakisan
24670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WW2: Occupied France on: December 12, 2010, 10:14:20 AM
We are now more than 65 years away from the end of World War II, but that global conflict and its precursor, the so-called Great War of 1914-18, continue to fascinate and torment us, even as the veterans who fought in them retreat to another realm. What is striking about the current spate of books and movies about these conflicts is that for many in the West, they no longer seem to represent the unequivocal victory of good over evil, right over wrong, liberty over tyranny. A plethora of historical reassessments of the aerial campaigns against German and Japanese cities question not only the moral but also the political validity of the carpet-bombing of civilians. In his recent film, "Inglourious Basterds," Quentin Tarantino turned all tables when he had Jews behaving like Nazis, and in the massive HBO mini-series "The Pacific" a Marine's reference to "yellow monkeys" reverberates through the entire series.

All wars, but these two in particular, with their mass effort and mass death—the first great democratic wars of history—are now freighted with the toxic irony that came to pervade the 20th century and continues to afflict us still. If today we question traditional narratives, no longer trust our leaders and have lost all faith in grand ideas, the gnarled roots of such skepticism lead back through the World Wars of the last century.

In "And the Show Went On," Alan Riding, former Paris bureau chief of the New York Times, tracks a period of particular moral murkiness. He focuses on French writers and artists—the whole lot might, in an act of leveling, be called artistes—and their response to the German invasion of France in 1940. Mr. Riding is less interested, though, in the broader historical implications of his theme than in the human stories that emerge when the imagination is confronted by a violent reality.

For the French the defeat in 1940, and the next four years of German occupation, remain the most sensitive and sensational of all historical topics. Before his execution in February 1945, the openly collaborationist yet highly talented writer Robert Brasillach remarked: "Whatever their outlook, during these years the French have all more or less been to bed with Germany." But, as recently as May 2008, French president Nicolas Sarkozy continued to claim the high ground: "The true France," he asserted, "never collaborated." A nation that has always cherished its intellectuals, that rightly prides itself on its cultivation of the arts, is still tortured by the notion that the thoughtful, sensitive and most intelligent "Marianne" ever slept with the arrogant and brutal "Fritz." Mr. Riding shows that she did, and with considerable relish at that. As the vivacious actress Arletty put it so unforgettably in pondering her predicament during the occupation: "My heart is French but my ass is international."

And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris
By Alan Riding
Knopf, 400 pages, $28.95

.For most of us, Mr. Riding's conclusion is hardly news, certainly not the headline stuff it was in the early 1970s when the historian Robert O. Paxton of Columbia University exploded the myth of a broad French opposition to the occupying Germans—and a broad refusal to collaborate. Until Mr. Paxton's research was published, the French had lived under the comfortable illusion that the true France, as President Sarkozy would have it, had been intrepid members of the Resistance, supporters of Charles de Gaulle and the Free French and anti-German through and through. The can of worms that Mr. Paxton opened has been spoiling the air at the elegant Deux Magots café on the Boulevard Saint-Germain ever since.

RoBut what constituted collaboration or resistance? Any attempt to define those terms conjures up all the fundamental problems of our modern and postmodern world, a world not of fixity but of fluidity. Where do we put the philosopher-playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, who continued to publish during the occupation and later reinvented himself as a great résistant? Or the remarkable novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline, an avowed anti-Semite who nevertheless insisted that he hated the Germans just as much? Or that artistic provocateur, Jean Cocteau, who was at the very center of social life in occupied Paris but later felt abused by the accusation that he had collaborated, claiming ingenuously that "People are always thrusting me into scandals." Notoriety or flattery often seemed more appealing to this group than truth. And what about those world-renowned entertainers Édith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and Sacha Guitry, who clearly needed the bright lights as much for psychological as economic reasons? Piaf's subsequent signature song "Non, je ne regrette rien" ("No, I regret nothing") reverberated with double meaning. Where, too, should we slot a pan-European like Alfred Fabre-Luce, whose dream was a united Europe and who saw in German conquest, faute de mieux, a step toward that dream?

Mr. Riding is very good at pointing to the complexities and ambiguities of the situation. He retraces much of the ground that Frederic Spotts covered in 2008 in "The Shameful Peace," but the two authors, while both expatriate residents of France, take opposed positions. Mr. Spotts has nothing but scorn for those who compromised between 1940 and 1944, whatever the reason. Mr. Riding, by contrast, finds the behavior of most French thinkers, painters and performers all too human. Many vacillated. Many were concerned merely with survival. Many who joined the Resistance later had been quick to cooperate earlier. The entertainment industry hardly skipped a beat. More plays and movies were produced in those four years than in any comparable four-year period in the French past. The Germans were delighted; such frenetic activity was exactly what they wanted, and they probably exercised less control in France than in any other territory they occupied.

.The divide in France on the painful subject of the German occupation during World War II is in part generational and in part political. Because of the difficulty of defining collaboration and resistance, the two sides have found little common ground. Robert O. Paxton initiated the French debate with his landmark "Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-44" (1972). Among more recent books, the British historian Julian Jackson's "The Fall of France" (2003) and "France: The Dark Years, 1940-44" (2001) are exceptional for their industry and integrity.

Irène Némirovsky's enormously successful novel "Suite Française" (first published in English in 2006) gives one a poignant sense of the ambiguities inherent in the situation after June 1940: "Their conversation," she wrote of her characters, "was pessimistic, almost despairing, but their voices light-hearted."

Because it is so troubling, very little of the remarkable work of Ernst Jünger, who accompanied the German occupiers of Paris, has been trans lated into English. The French, however, have always been fascinated by him—his diary for the years of occupation is available en français—and upon his death in February 1998, at age 102, Le Monde titled its obituary "Le Siècle de Jünger," identifying the 20th century with him.

Jean Galtier-Boissière may have kept the most readable French diary during those dark years. Alas, this too has not been translated into English. A brilliant editor, he had founded the satirical monthly Le Crapouillot during the Great War. In its issue of January 1931, devoted to Berlin, the journal announced that, by comparison with the German capital, Paris was tame and chaste—countering the impression that both Alan Riding and Frederic Spotts wish to leave.

On the aesthetics of Nazism, the most intriguing recent contribution is Roger Griffin's "Modernism and Fascism" (2007), which takes the analysis of Nazism far beyond Frederic Spotts's more narrowly focused study "Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics" (2002). Albert Speer's memoir, "Inside the Third Reich" (1970), remains invaluable, as do the various translated volumes of Joseph Goebbels's diaries. Goebbels was of course the Nazi "minister of enlightenment." The sculptor Arno Breker, whose massive show at the Orangerie in Paris in 1942 attracted much attention, is the subject of a fascinating section in Jonathan Petropoulos's "The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany " (2000).

Film has probably been a more suitable medium for delving into the anguish and complexity of the Nazi occupation than the written word. Alain Resnais's "Night and Fog" (1955), Marcel Ophüls's "The Sorrow and the Pity" (1969), Louis Malle's "Lacombe, Lucien" (1974) and Joseph Losey's "Monsieur Klein" (1976) are a few of the outstanding cinematic contributions.

—Modris Eksteins
.Contradiction would be the offspring of fear and confusion. The writers Ramon Fernandez and Marguerite Duras—the one a convinced collaborationist, the other a member of the Resistance—were neighbors on the Rue Saint-Benoît. While sharing the same cleaning woman, they would intentionally ignore each other's social gatherings, be they of noisy fascists or furtive résistants. In comparable fashion, the writers Pierre Drieu La Rochelle and André Malraux, while political foes, remained personal friends. After a visit to Germany in 1935, Drieu had embraced Nazism, whereas Malraux supported the anti-fascist Popular Front in France. These differences notwithstanding, Drieu would become godfather to one of Malraux's children, and Malraux would seek to protect Drieu after the liberation in 1944.

Unlike Mr. Spotts, Mr. Riding refuses to judge. Instead he cites Anthony Eden, Britain's wartime foreign secretary: "If one hasn't been through the horrors of an occupation by a foreign power, you have no right to pronounce upon what a country does which has been through all that." The logical extension of Mr. Riding's carefully constructed and sympathetic account would be a similar retelling of the other stories of Europe, without the usual polemical and self-righteous tone. In Eastern Europe, where the only choice was between two totalitarian options, communist or fascist, the dilemma was even more horrific than in France. It was easiest not to think about it and just play according to the rules in force that day.

For some the most fascinating chapter in Mr. Riding's evocative book will be the one on Florence Gould, whose tale highlights the moral conundrums of the time. Born in San Francisco of French parents in 1895, she married the enormously wealthy Frank Jay Gould, heir to a railroad fortune and owner of a consortium of hotels and casinos on the Riviera. The Goulds remained in France during the war: he in the south, she principally in Paris, where she ran a vibrant and sumptuous "literary" salon, visited by all sides in the conflict.

In a city where shortages were the norm, her gatherings never lacked for Dom Pérignon or petits fours. Ernst Jünger, the brilliant German soldier and writer, was one of her closest companions (though Mr. Riding rejects the widespread assumption that they were lovers). Florence—even the name evoked angels of mercy and an identity beyond borders—represents, some might say, the more modern Marianne, so feminine, so attractive, yet so cosmopolitan. "I may not know much about literature," she said, "but I know a lot about writers." While Mr. Spotts dismisses her as little more than a spoiled and vulgar tramp, Mr. Riding imbues her with considerable charm. Her long career as hostess and patron, both during and again after the war, lends credence to the latter judgment.

Engrossed in the immediacy of his story, Mr. Riding rarely pans to the wider view. If he had done so, he might have noted that at the heart of the 20th-century tragedy, pumping the blood of Modernism as a broadly based cultural mode and mood, was not Paris or France; it was Berlin and Germany. Many of the impulses for creative destruction—industrial, technological, scientific and intellectual—emanated from this heartland of the European continent. But at the same time the violence that the French were inclined to blame exclusively on the alien intruder, le Boche, had a powerful resonance within.

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Roger-Viollet / The Image Works
Maurice Chevalier on a visit arranged by occupation authorities to French prisoners of war in Germany in the winter of 1941-42.
.If Friedrich Nietzsche postulated, with some reason, that he was dynamite, Louis Aragon, the French poet and novelist, gave this abstraction a more practical dimension when he said that he could imagine nothing more beautiful than the "splendid and chaotic heap" produced by a cathedral and some dynamite. In the Second Surrealist Manifesto, in 1929, André Breton stated: "The simplest Surrealist act consists in going down into the street, guns in hand, and shooting at random, for as long as possible, into the crowd." This violent motif, this rage against tradition, deeply embedded in French painterly and literary imaginings, predated 1914, let alone 1940. The whole aim of artistic and literary modernism since the tail end of the 19th century had been to break down boundaries, definitions, laws and categories. Artists and intellectuals—the advance guard—were at war with the status quo before the military started fighting in either war.

Correspondingly, the appeal of Hitler and the Third Reich to some of the French and indeed European intelligentsia was based on this anger, resentment and craving for change. But the appeal was fortified by the importance Nazism assigned to the arts. On his only visit to Paris, on June 23, 1940, Hitler asked to see the Garnier opera house before any other building and admitted, according to the sculptor Arno Breker who accompanied him, that he wanted to be "surrounded by artists." With this emphasis on artists and aesthetic considerations, what Nazism did was to accelerate a process whereby politics would be turned into spectacle, an art form for the masses, and art in turn would become inseparable from politics. As reluctant as we may be to admit it, Hitler helped usher in our world.

—Mr. Eksteins is professor emeritus of history at the University of Toronto. His forthcoming book, "Solar Dance," deals with the posthumous success of Vincent van Gogh.
24671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Yoo on Gitmo on: December 12, 2010, 10:01:41 AM

When announcing in 2002 that the U.S. would detain al Qaeda fighters at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously described the base as "the best, least worst place." Mr. Rumsfeld's quip distilled a truth: The U.S. would capture enemy fighters and leaders, and their detention, while messy, was of great military value.

For two years, President Barack Obama has pretended that terrorism is a crime, that prisoners are unwanted, and that Gitmo is unneeded. As a presidential candidate, he declared: "It's time to show the world . . . we're not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they're there or what they're charged with." Upon taking office, he ordered Gitmo closed within the year.

But the president's embrace of the left's terrorism-as-crime theories collided with his responsibility to protect a great nation. Now the reality of the ongoing war on terror is helping to shatter the Gitmo myth and end its distortion of our antiterrorism strategies.

This week the intelligence community reported to Congress that one-quarter of the detainees released from Guantanamo in the past eight years have returned to the fight. Though the U.S. and its allies have killed or recaptured some of these 150 terrorists, well over half remain at large. The Defense Department reports that Gitmo alumni have assumed top positions in al Qaeda and the Taliban, attacked allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and led efforts to kill U.S. troops.

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Associated Press
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously described Guantanamo Bay as "the best, least worst place."

Even that 25% recidivism rate is likely too low. The intelligence community reports that it usually takes about two and a half years before a released detainee shows up on its radar. Our forces probably have yet to re-engage most of the terrorists among the 66 detainees released so far by the Obama administration.

The Bush administration released many more, but those freed by this administration are likely more dangerous. Contrary to the Gitmo myth, innocent teenagers and wandering goat herders do not fill the base. Last May, an administration task force found that of the 240 detainees at Gitmo when Mr. Obama took office, almost all were leaders, fighters or organizers for al Qaeda, the Taliban or other jihadist groups. None was judged innocent.

All of this is having an impact on Congress, which this week voted overwhelmingly to de-fund any effort to shut down the Gitmo prison. It also barred the Justice Department from transferring detainees to the U.S. homeland. Despite Attorney General Eric Holder's rush to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in downtown New York, the planners of the 9/11 attacks will stay put.

Congress is reflecting the wishes of the American people. In the Gitmo myth, President George W. Bush was a Lone Ranger acting without Congressional permission, and Gitmo was a law-free zone. But the American people never opposed capturing and detaining the enemy. And now Democratic Congress has ratified Mr. Bush's policy.

Freezing the Gitmo status quo will stop the release of al Qaeda killers, but it won't end the serious distortions in Mr. Obama's terrorism policy.

The administration relies on unmanned drones to kill al Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan and Afghanistan. CIA Director Leon Panetta calls it "the only game in town." Drones take no prisoners, but they also ask no questions. Firing missiles from afar cannot substitute for the capture and interrogation of al Qaeda leaders for intelligence. (The real question now is whether CIA agents will decline to interrogate prisoners, thanks to Mr. Holder's criminal investigations into Bush policies.)

As long as no one is sent to Gitmo, the Obama administration will leave itself two options for dealing with terrorists: kill, or catch-and-release. Mr. Obama's drone-heavy policy means that more people will die—not only al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, but also innocent Afghan and Pakistani civilians.

The Gitmo myth also drove the Justice Department's push to prosecute al Qaeda leaders in U.S. civilian courts. Nowhere else did the Obama administration place its view of terrorism more clearly on display as a law-enforcement problem. The near-acquittal of Ahmed Ghailani, the al Qaeda operative who facilitated the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, by a New York jury last month has clearly revealed that path as a dead end—even if Mr. Holder remains in denial.

The simple alternative is to continue detentions at Gitmo. Detention is consistent with the rules of war, which allow captured combatants to be held indefinitely without requiring criminal charges to be filed. It also keeps our troops and agents in the field focused on finding and killing the enemy, not on collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.

Using its constitutional power of the purse, the new Congress should continue to keep Gitmo in operation. It should press President Obama to resume the capture, detention and interrogation of al Qaeda leaders. It should also educate the public about the real state of affairs in Guantanamo: The military has spent millions to create a model facility.

Most importantly, Congress can use its oversight power to probe the decision-making that led to the release of the 150 or more recidivists. It can require a full accounting from the military and intelligence agencies of the harms caused by released detainees, and it can bring to light the risks that these bureaucratic mistakes will pose to American lives.

After the left's long denunciation of Bush-era policies, Mr. Obama should admit that he has made his share of mistakes—not the least of which has been propagating the Gitmo myth. If Americans die at the hands of released detainees, we will know who to blame.

Mr. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an American Enterprise Institute scholar. Mr. Delahunty is an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. Both served in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

Copyright 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

24672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Freedom of religion... on: December 12, 2010, 09:40:52 AM

"I'm not sure how to dumb this down for you, since this forum doesn't allow for crayons or hand puppets."

You are a bright, well-educated man.  This sort of commentary is not necessary to presenting your case.  Please don't.

Thank you,


What does the judge do?

24673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamo-fascist bomber in Sweden on: December 12, 2010, 09:28:27 AM

A man blew himself up in a suicide attack in central Stockholm this evening surrounded by Christmas shoppers. A car exploded just minutes earlier on a nearby street, injuring two people.
The man carried six pipe-bombs, but only one exploded. In addition he had a backpack filled with nails, and a possible additional bomb.

According to witnesses, the man shouted something in Arabic before he detonated the bombs.

The bomber was the only one killed in the attack. Several people nearby went into shock and suffered hearing loss.

The bombs detonated at Bryggargatan street. According to one source, if he would have blown up on the nearby Drottninggatan street, it would have been a massacre.

Approximately ten minutes before the explosions occurred, Swedish news agency TT received an email, also addressed to Säpo, in which a reached out to “Sweden and the Swedish people”.

He cites Sweden’s silence surrounding the cartoons by Swedish Lars Vilks which portray the prophet Mohammed as a dog, the Swedish troops in Afghanistan, saying in audio files attached to the email that “now your children, daughters and sisters die like our brothers’ and sisters’ children die”.

“Our actions will speak for themselves. As long as you don’t stop your ward against Islam and degrading the prophet and your stupid support of that pig Vilks,” the man said.

The man also urges all Muslims in Sweden to “stop sucking up to and degrading”. He concludes the message with yet another call to “all the mujahedeen in Europe and Sweden”.

“Now it’s time to act, don’t wait any longer. Fear no one, don’t fear prison, don’t fear death.”

The message contained audio files in both Swedish and Arabic. The audio files do not link the man to any organization. The man also says that he's been to the Middle East and asks his family to forgive him for lying to them. "I never went to the Middle East to work or earn money. I went there for Jihad."

The email was also sent to Säpo, the Swedish Security service. They did not see the mail before the explosion.
24674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: December 11, 2010, 11:35:12 AM
Nice find.  It is more than a little too bad for all of us that AG badly lost his way.
24675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rail gun on: December 11, 2010, 11:31:50 AM

Navy Sets World Record With Incredible, Sci-Fi Weapon


A theoretical dream for decades, the railgun is unlike any other weapon used in warfare. And it's quite real too, as the U.S. Navy has proven in a record-setting test today in Dahlgren, VA.

Rather than relying on a explosion to fire a projectile, the technology uses an electomagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound. The conductive projectile zips along a set of electrically charged parallel rails and out of the barrel at speeds up to Mach 7.

The result: a weapon that can hit a target 100 miles or more away within minutes.

"It's an over-used term, but it really changes several games," Rear Admiral Nevin P. Carr, Jr., the chief of Naval Research, told prior to the test.

For a generation raised on shoot-'em-up video games, the word "railgun" invokes sci-fi images of an impossibly destructive weapon annihilating monsters and aliens. But the railgun is nonetheless very real.

An electromagnetic railgun offers a velocity previously unattainable in a conventional weapon, speeds that are incredibly powerful on their own. In fact, since the projectile doesn't have any explosives itself, it relies upon that kinetic energy to do damage. And at 11 a.m. today, the Navy produced a 33-megajoule firing -- more than three times the previous record set by the Navy in 2008.

"It bursts radially, but it's hard to quantify," said Roger Ellis, electromagnetic railgun program manager with the Office of Naval Research. To convey a sense of just how much damage, Ellis told that the big guns on the deck of a warship are measured by their muzzle energy in megajoules. A single megajoule is roughly equivalent to a 1-ton car traveling at 100 mph. Multiple that by 33 and you get a picture of what would happen when such a weapon hits a target.

Ellis says the Navy has invested about $211 million in the program since 2005, since the railgun provides many significant advantages over convention weapons. For one thing, a railgun offers 2 to 3 times the velocity of a conventional big gun, so that it can hit its target within 6 minutes. By contrast, a guided cruise missile travels at subsonic speeds, meaning that the intended target could be gone by the time it reaches its destination.

Furthermore, current U.S. Navy guns can only reach targets about 13 miles away. The railgun being tested today could reach an enemy 100 miles away. And with current GPS guidance systems it could do so with pinpoint accuracy. The Navy hopes to eventually extend the range beyond 200 miles.

"We're also eliminating explosives from the ship, which brings significant safety benefits and logistical benefits," Ellis said. In other words, there is less danger of an unintended explosion onboard, particularly should such a vessel come under attack.

Indeed, a railgun could be used to inflict just such harm on another vessel.

Admiral Carr, who calls the railgun a "disruptive technology," said that not only would a railgun-equipped ship have to carry few if any large explosive warheads, but it could use its enemies own warheads against them. He envisions being able to aim a railgun directly at a magazine on an enemy ship and "let his explosives be your explosives."

There's also a cost and logistical benefit associated with railguns. For example, a single Tomahawk cruise missile costs roughly $600,000. A non-explosive guided railgun projectile could cost much less. And a ship could carry many more, reducing the logistical problems of delivering more weapons to a ship in battle. For these reasons, Admiral Carr sees the railgun as even changing the strategic and tactical assumptions of warfare in the future.

The Navy still has a distance to go, however, before the railgun test becomes a working onboard weapon. Technically, Ellis says they've already overcome several hurdles. The guns themselves generate a terrific amount of heat -- enough to melt the rails inside the barrel -- and power -- enough to force the rails apart, destroying the gun and the barrel in the process.

The projectile is no cannon ball, either. At speeds well above the sound barrier, aerodynamics and special materials must be considered so that it isn't destroyed coming out of the barrel or by heat as it travels at such terrific speeds.

Then there's question of electrical requirements. Up until recently, those requirements simply weren't practical. However, the naval researchers believe they can solve that issue using newer Navy ships and capacitors to build up the charge necessary to blast a railgun projectile out at supersonic speeds. Ellis says they hope to be able to shoot 6 to 12 rounds per minute, "but we're not there yet."

So when will the railgun become a working weapon? Both Ellis and Carr expect fully functional railguns on the decks of U.S. Navy ships in the 2025 time frame.
24676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 10, 2010, 10:36:25 PM
My guess is that he figured out that --surprise! Bill had settled in and there was no getting the microphone away from him;  and rather that standing there like a potted plant, he left.  Not the most manly of excuses, but well, no surprise there , , , rolleyes
24677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis on: December 10, 2010, 03:14:13 PM
makes a case for bullishness:
24678  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: December 10, 2010, 10:51:20 AM
The looming real budget cuts about to hit the Defense Department would be unfortunate in any setting but are likely to present especially acute problems for U.S. forces five or 10 years down the road due to growth in both quantity and quality of Chinese military systems over that time. While U.S. forces are looking at cuts across the board, and already find it difficult to field meaningful numbers of best-in-the-world systems such as the F-22, China is beginning to hit its stride in the production of military systems that compete with U.S. quality.

Chinese fighter aircraft in particular are beginning to encroach on the dominance of American F-15s and F-16s in technical sophistication and flight performance -- not surprising, considering the F-15 entered active service with the U.S. Air Force in 1976 and the F-16 in 1980. China's new F-11B, an improved and entirely Chinese-made upgrade of the Russian SU-27, poses a particular threat to older U.S. aircraft. With the F-22 program capped at 187 aircraft, and with any fight to defend Taiwan requiring U.S. aircraft to fly from distant bases, it is becoming a real possibility that U.S. forces could lose air superiority.

24679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: December 10, 2010, 10:46:49 AM
Government & Politics
Framing the Tax Debate
"Tax deal" is the buzz phrase of the week in Washington, as Barack Obama and congressional Republicans came to an agreement Monday on a two-year extension of current income tax rates for all Americans. Predictably, the Left went hysterical. House Democrats promptly held a voice vote to reject the compromise unless undisclosed changes are made to it, though the Senate began debate on a larded-up version of the proposal Thursday night with a test vote scheduled for Monday. As usual, the devil is in the details -- and, in this case, the definitions.

Obama, his fellow Democrats and their acolytes in the media continue to frame the debate in terms of tax "cuts" versus the budget deficit -- as if tax rates before 2001 were the natural order of things and to keep rates where they are is a "cut" that will increase the deficit. On the contrary, without the deal, everyone's taxes will rise by hundreds or even thousands of dollars next year. With the deal, no one's income taxes will be cut. In fact, some taxes will skyrocket. The estate (death) tax will be resurrected at 35 percent with a $5 million exemption -- up from 0 percent this year, but down from the previous 55 percent. The only new cut would be a temporary payroll tax reduction of two percentage points.

The facts, however, don't stop the Left from their dishonest characterization. "The far-reaching package ... would add more than $900 billion to the deficit over the next two years," The Washington Post lamented. Ditto for The New York Times, the Associated Press and others. This assumes that economic behavior won't change if taxes go up, meaning federal revenue will increase by the exact amount of the tax increase. Ergo, if Congress prevents the tax hike, that lost revenue adds to the deficit. It's a wrong assumption, demonstrable by the fact that federal revenue actually went up after the Bush tax cuts went into effect.

Meanwhile, Obama was so concerned about the "cost" that he insisted that unemployment benefits be extended for another year. Now that will actually cost nearly $60 billion, and it will cause the unemployment rate to remain higher than it otherwise should. On top of that, Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) secured various energy subsidies in exchange for their votes, and more pork is almost sure to follow.

The fact that Obama conceded to any deal is notable. The Wall Street Journal concludes, "Obama has implicitly admitted that his economic strategy has flopped. He is acknowledging that tax rates matter to growth, that treating business like robber barons has hurt investment and hiring, and that tax cuts are superior to spending as stimulus. It took 9.8% unemployment and a loss of 63 House seats for this education to sink in, but the country will benefit." The flop is so complete that even former economic adviser Larry Summers warned of a "double dip" recession if taxes go up. John Maynard Keynes, call your office.

Though Obama did accept the deal with the GOP, he proved to be a rather disagreeable compromiser, calling Republicans "hostage takers" and the American people the "hostages." Obama thus not only reneged on an oft-repeated campaign promise to repeal the Bush-era tax cuts "for the rich," he also proved utterly ungracious to those lawmakers with whom he had just struck a deal. "ecause of this agreement, middle-class Americans won't see their taxes go up on January 1st, which is what I promised," he said. "[But] I'm as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I've been for years. In the long run, we simply can't afford them. And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them."

Some conservatives are opposing the bill because of the aded deficit spending. Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said, "The plan would resurrect the Death Tax, grow government, blow a hole in the deficit with unpaid-for spending, and do so without providing the permanent relief and security our economy needs to finally start hiring and growing again."

Yet given that Democrats still control the White House and, until January, both houses of Congress, this deal may be the best we can hope for now. Republicans should fight to resist wasteful spending, but tax hikes must be prevented. If they are, taxpayers will keep billions of their hard-earned dollars over the next two years. With that renewed tax stability for small businesses, unemployment should go down, though not as much as if the rates were permanent. In 2012, Republicans could be in far better position to win a permanent solution.

24680  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer: Swindle of the year on: December 10, 2010, 10:42:19 AM

"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." --Thomas Jefferson

IMHO CK, for whom I have high regard, misses a key point.  Not raising taxes is not a stimulus!!!  However many good points abound in this piece.
windle of the year

By Charles Krauthammer
Washington Post
Friday, December 10, 2010;

Barack Obama won the great tax-cut showdown of 2010 - and House Democrats don't have a clue that he did. In the deal struck this week, the president negotiated the biggest stimulus in American history, larger than his $814 billion 2009 stimulus package. It will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years - which just happen to be the two years of the run-up to the next presidential election. This is a defeat?

If Obama had asked for a second stimulus directly, he would have been laughed out of town. Stimulus I was so reviled that the Democrats banished the word from their lexicon throughout the 2010 campaign. And yet, despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies.

No mean achievement. After all, these are the same Republicans who spent 2010 running on limited government and reducing debt. And this budget busting occurs less than a week after the president's deficit commission had supposedly signaled a new national consensus of austerity and frugality.

Some Republicans are crowing that Stimulus II is the Republican way - mostly tax cuts - rather than the Democrats' spending orgy of Stimulus I. That's consolation? This just means that Republicans are two years too late. Stimulus II will still blow another near-$1 trillion hole in the budget.

At great cost that will have to be paid after this newest free lunch, the package will add as much as 1 percent to GDP and lower the unemployment rate by about 1.5 percentage points. That could easily be the difference between victory and defeat in 2012.

Obama is no fool. While getting Republicans to boost his own reelection chances, he gets them to make a mockery of their newfound, second-chance, post-Bush, Tea-Party, this-time-we're-serious persona of debt-averse fiscal responsibility.

And he gets all this in return for what? For a mere two-year postponement of a mere 4.6-point increase in marginal tax rates for upper incomes. And an estate tax rate of 35 percent - it jumps insanely from zero to 55 percent on Jan. 1 - that is somewhat lower than what the Democrats wanted.

No, cries the left: Obama violated a sacred principle. A 39.6 percent tax rate versus 35 percent is a principle? "This is the public option debate all over again," said Obama at his Tuesday news conference. He is right. The left never understood that to nationalize health care there is no need for a public option because Obamacare turns the private insurers into public utilities, thus setting us inexorably on the road to the left's Promised Land: a Canadian-style single-payer system. The left is similarly clueless on the tax-cut deal: In exchange for temporarily forgoing a small rise in upper-income rates, Obama pulled out of a hat a massive new stimulus - what the left has been begging for since the failure of Stimulus I but was heretofore politically unattainable.

Obama's public exasperation with this infantile leftism is both perfectly understandable and politically adept. It is his way back to at least the appearance of centrist moderation. The only way he will get a second look from the independents who elected him in 2008 - and abandoned the Democrats in 2010 - is by changing the prevailing (and correct) perception that he is a man of the left.

Hence that news-conference attack on what the administration calls the "professional left" for its combination of sanctimony and myopia. It was Obama's Sister Souljah moment. It had a prickly, irritated sincerity - their ideological stupidity and inability to see the "long game" really do get under Obama's skin - but a decidedly calculated quality, too. Where, after all, does the left go? Stay home on Election Day 2012? Vote Republican?

No, says the current buzz, the left will instead challenge Obama for the Democratic nomination. Really now? For decades, African Americans have been this party's most loyal constituency. They vote 9 to 1 Democratic through hell and high water, through impeachment and recession, through everything. After four centuries of enduring much, African Americans finally see one of their own achieve the presidency. And their own party is going to deny him a shot at his own reelection?

Not even Democrats are that stupid. The remaining question is whether they are just stupid enough to not understand - and therefore vote down - the swindle of the year just pulled off by their own president.
24681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The trouble with our banking system on: December 10, 2010, 10:27:13 AM
An internet friend wrote this:
24682  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel-Turkey on: December 10, 2010, 10:19:57 AM

U.S. Hopes for Smoother Israeli-Turkish Relations
December 9, 2010 | 1318 GMT
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Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) thanks Turkish pilots for their support in stopping the Carmel Mountain fire near Tirat Hacarmel, Israel, on Dec. 3Summary
There are growing indications that the Israeli government is preparing to make a public apology for the deaths of nine Turkish civilians in the summer Gaza flotilla incident and is willing to pay compensation to the victims’ families. Though the Israeli government can expect Turkey to play up hostilities as Ankara expands its influence in the region, both countries have deeper, underlying reasons to mend ties and put this issue behind them. The United States, meanwhile, can remove a critical obstacle to its relationship with Turkey as Washington looks to Ankara for its cooperation, particularly in relation to Iran and Russia.

Turkey and Israel are in negotiations to find a way to normalize relations after the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident in which nine Turkish civilians died. The two have been stumbling toward reconciliation privately for some time but more recently began publicizing their rapprochement through such gestures as Turkey’s sending firefighting aircraft to Israel to help in combating the Carmel Mountain fires. There are signs now that a compromise is in the making, with Israel trying to find a way to apologize to and compensate the families of the victims without having to apologize directly to the Turkish state.

Domestic politics on both sides are hampering the reconciliation process. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) needs to preserve his credibility in the coming election year and wants to convince Turkish citizens that he has forced Israel to concede on his terms and has arduously defended Turkish sovereignty. For this reason, Erdogan reiterated Dec. 8 that “there is no such distinction as ‘the people’ or ‘the state.’ They [the Israelis] must apologize to the Republic of Turkey.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing criticism from his country’s far right. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman charged the prime minister with “caving in to terrorism” and demanded that Turkey apologize to Israel instead. Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom also criticized the idea — albeit less dramatically — when he said Dec. 8 that it would be inconceivable for Israel to apologize to Turkey as such a move would encourage other countries to act like Ankara.

Looking Beyond Domestic Constraints
Though the domestic complications are substantial, deeper strategic interests are driving Israel and Turkey to work out a compromise so each can move on to other items on their foreign policy agendas. Publicly, Turkey began distancing itself from Israel well before the May 31 flotilla affair by strongly condemning Israel over its January 2009 invasion of Gaza, excluding Israel from Anatolian Eagle air exercises in October 2009 and by lashing out against Israel over the low seat controversy. Though Israel initially might have been surprised by Ankara’s moves, it is also quite accustomed to having diplomatic relationships with countries that need to make outbursts against Israel from time to time. Israel’s relationships with Egypt and Jordan, for example, are vital to Israeli national security interests, but Israel also knows these countries have domestic constituencies, which tend to respond favorably to anti-Israeli rhetoric, to which they must answer. This is something Israel can tolerate, as long as its peace agreements with these countries remain intact.

When Turkey was more insular, there was little need for Ankara to engage in such rhetoric. Now, as Turkey — under the rule of the Islamic-rooted AKP — is steadily expanding its influence across the Middle East, the anti-Israel card acts as a booster to Turkish credibility in the region. Israel will end up having to increasingly tolerate this. The flotilla incident (specifically, the resulting deaths of Turkish civilians) took this dynamic several steps too far, but now that the situation is settling and Turkey has captured the region’s attention, Ankara can demonstrate through the Israeli apology that Turkey is still the only country that can speak and deal with Israel on a level platform.

The U.S. Connection
But these negotiations are not confined to Turkey and Israel. The common bond between these countries is the United States, and when Turkey and Israel are sparring, they both end up risking potentially serious damage to their relationships with Washington. As Israel is discovering, the current U.S. imperative in the region is to find a way to restore a balance of power in the Persian Gulf so that the United States can address pressing concerns in Russia and the Far East. Turkey is the one power in the region with the potential, the assets and historical influence to manage affairs from Syria to Iraq to Iran. Just as important, Turkey’s geopolitical positioning makes it a critical component to any U.S.-led campaign to counter Russian influence in Europe and the Caucasus. Israel simply cannot compete with Turkey in this regard, and though the U.S.-Israeli relationship remains strong, Israel cannot count on Washington to defend it against Turkey if doing so would go against broader U.S. interests in the region. In addition, whether Israel likes it or not, Turkey is building influence with a number of Arab states and players that remain hostile to Israel. If Israel risks a lasting rupture in relations with Turkey, it also risks upsetting its strategy of keeping the Arab states too weak and divided to pose a meaningful threat.

Turkey has more room to maneuver than Israel in handling this diplomatic spat, but is also finding trouble in managing its relationship with Washington while its relationship with Israel is on the rocks. The United States and Turkey are already attempting to work out a number of issues as Turkey continues to assert its regional autonomy and as U.S. policymakers struggle to come to terms with the AKP as a powerful, Islamic-rooted political entity. Still, the United States needs Turkey to assist with an array of regional issues, and Turkey is eager to fill a vacuum in the Middle East as the United States draws down its presence there. For Washington and Ankara to move on to the strategic questions of how they can work together to contain an emerging Iran or a resurgent Russia, they need to clear the air a bit and work through several unresolved issues.

One such issue is ballistic missile defense (BMD). Turkey made an important and symbolic move in signing on to the NATO version of BMD, allowing the United States to signal to countries like Russia and Iran that Turkey remains part of a Western coalition of forces to limit their regional expansion. The BMD commitment was important for the United States to show Turkey is still more or less in league with Washington on issues like limiting Russian and Iranian expansion into Eurasia and the Middle East, respectively.

As for the next steps, U.S. policymakers privately have been urging the Turkish leadership to mend ties with Israel. As long as the United States’ two key allies in the region are throwing rhetorical daggers at each other, it will be politically difficult for Washington to openly conduct policy in the region in coordination with Turkey. The United States has been playing the role of mediator between Israel and Turkey and appears to be making progress in getting Israel to agree to some type of apology to move the rapprochement along. There may also be a connection between Israel’s openly suggesting an apology to the Turkish victims and the United States’ controversial announcement Dec. 7 that it was lifting its long-standing demand for Israel to freeze settlement construction. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration had tried to use this demand to build credibility in the region and demonstrate its willingness to be forceful with the Israelis. Backing down at this point of the peace process — and while Latin American countries are on a recognition drive for a Palestinian state — is channeling a great deal of criticism toward Washington. However, it can also be viewed as a highly visible favor to Israel — a favor perhaps intended to move along the Turkish-Israeli reconciliation.

Some type of compromise between Israel and Turkey is inevitable. Though the road to reconciliation will be bumpy, the strategic impetus for U.S.-Turkish cooperation is likely to outweigh domestic political constraints in the end.

Read more: U.S. Hopes for Smoother Israeli-Turkish Relations | STRATFOR
24683  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Poland on: December 10, 2010, 10:16:27 AM

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski ended a visit to the United States on Dec. 9. The visit comes amid some tensions between Poland and the United States, as Warsaw is dissatisfied with Washington’s level of commitment to Polish security. Poland is thus looking elsewhere for security guarantees to guard against the Russian resurgence. It has begun cooperating with Sweden and discussing security issues with other Central European countries and, more recently, has been developing a cooperative relationship with Turkey.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski wrapped up a two-day visit to the United States on Dec. 9. The most significant result of the visit was U.S. President Barack Obama’s official commitment to a previous Washington proposal to station U.S. land-based SM-3 interceptors in Poland by 2018 as part of its NATO-wide missile defense system and an offer to periodically station F-16 fighter jets and C-130 transport planes in Poland starting in 2013 for joint military exercises. Poland confirmed the latter offer, but Washington has not issued confirmation as of this writing.

The periodic stationing of U.S. Air Force assets in Poland is significant in that it will enhance Poland’s ability to use its own F-16s, purchased from the United States in 2003. However, neither the SM-3s nor the F-16s — nor the current rotational deployment of a unarmed Patriot missile battery — are enough to guarantee that the United States is fully committed to Poland’s defense. Poland therefore could look to enhance its strategic situation through a multitude of partnerships much closer to home, particularly with Sweden, other Central Europeans and potentially Turkey.

Komorowski’s visit to the United States came amid slight tensions between Washington and Warsaw. Recently leaked U.S. diplomatic cables showed that Warsaw was not satisfied with the rotational deployment of the unarmed Patriot missile battery; one senior Polish military official quoted in the cables referred to them as “potted plants.” But the tensions preceded the leaks and even the Patriot missile system’s deployment. Specifically, they have been building ever since September 2009, when Washington reneged on the ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans struck between the previous U.S. administration and Warsaw. What irked Warsaw in particular was the perception that the United States changed the BMD plans in order to gain assurances from Russia that it would not sell the S-300 air defense system to Iran and that it would support the U.S. effort to impose U.N. sanctions on Tehran. The perception in Warsaw was that the United States was trading Poland’s security guarantees for concessions from Russia in a part of the world completely unrelated to Warsaw’s security.

What Poland Wants
Essentially, Warsaw wants Washington to explain its grand strategy so that Poland understands where it fits in it. As Komorowski directly said during his visit, Poland has “no interests either in Iraq or Afghanistan,” and it followed the United States into both countries purely out of principle. In other words, Poland sacrificed in Iraq and Afghanistan so that it can receive strong security guarantees from the United States in Europe.

The unarmed Patriot battery, the horse-trading between the United States and Russia on BMD, and the rotational, for-exercise-only deployment of F-16s is an inadequate commitment from Warsaw’s perspective. The deployment of F-16s is not a complete throwaway, however; it will help Poland become proficient in flying and maintaining its own F-16s and thus enhance its security. But Poland has wanted a permanent U.S. deployment of some sort for a long time, a point that Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich reiterated in his visit to Washington on Sept. 30. The rotational and temporary nature of both the Patriot and F-16 offers is insufficient. And the fact that the F-16s only come into the picture in 2013 — and the SM-3 BMD component in 2018 — adds to Poland’s suspicion that the United States simply is not ready to commit itself to Polish security fully.

Poland’s geopolitical situation is difficult. Komorowski pointed this out by saying, “We are between Russia and Germany and this is such a place where, even if someone integrates, even if we have a common European home, or NATO, there are still some drafts. No matter on which floor someone opens a door or window, we Poles still have a runny nose.”

Looking Elsewhere
Without a firm U.S. commitment, Poland is looking to patch up its security holes as best as it can. It has turned to Sweden for help on the diplomatic front, jointly applying pressure on the Russians in Eastern Europe. The Polish and Swedish foreign ministers have made joint visits to Ukraine and Moldova in the past three weeks. Warsaw is also looking to its fellow Central Europeans via the Visegrad Group — Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — a group that in 2010 began discussing security matters seriously, including cooperation among members’ air forces. It also intends to make EU defense policy — a concept that has not really carried much weight in policymaking circles for much of the last 60 years — one of the main pillars of its EU presidency in the latter part of 2011, a big part of which will mean turning to France to try to spur greater cooperation on defense matters.

However, Poland’s solutions come with their own problems. Cooperation with Sweden has not (yet) included defense matters. The Central Europeans — even combined — do not have the strength to counter Russia (and often bicker with each other). And any EU defense policy would have to include Germany, which is unlikely to offer Poland any true security guarantees due to its budding relationship with Russia.

This is why STRATFOR is watching carefully the cooperation developing between Poland and Turkey. While Komorowski was in Washington, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was in Ankara meeting with the Turkish leadership. The talks were broad and concentrated on everything from general cooperation in NATO, Turkish EU prospects and a potential EU visa waiver for Turkish citizens. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan specifically stated that cooperation between the countries’ defense industries will increase. But what is interesting is that both Poland and Turkey are sizable regional powers that are trying to manage a Russian resurgence in their own regions. The two countries have no outstanding security concerns, nor are they politically at odds on any significant issue. Neither country wants to be outwardly hostile toward Russia, but both want the credibility and strength to give Moscow notice that there are red lines and limits to the spread of its power. There are differences as well, with Ankara far more reserved about openly aligning with the United States on contentious issues like Russia.

The more Warsaw feels that the U.S. alliance, which Poland has no intentions of abandoning, is insufficient for its security, the more it will look to the countries in its immediate region that perceive the Russian resurgence with as much — or almost as much — trepidation as Poland does. Sweden and Turkey both fit this profile. What they perceive as their own spheres of influence — Stockholm in the Baltics and Ankara in the Balkans and Caucasus — are experiencing heavy Russian involvement. They are therefore potentially useful allies in countering Russia while the United States is constrained by its operations in the Middle East.

Read more: Poland Examines its Defense Partnership Options | STRATFOR
24684  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Google foreclosure map on: December 10, 2010, 09:57:54 AM
A friend writes:

"The repercussions of the Housing boom & bust are likely to continue for years to come."

Seeing foreclosures nationwide on Google Maps, described at Google Map Foreclosure Tricks: 

Google Maps Foreclosure Listings

1. Punch in any US address into Google Maps.

2. Your options are Earth, Satellite, Map, Traffic and . . . More. (Select “More”)

3. The drop down menu gives you a check box option for “Real Estate.”

4. The left column will give you several options (You may have to select “Show Options”)

5. Check the box marked “Foreclosure."

Note: This map does not reveal any of the millions of REOs that have already been sold by the banks that hold them.

But the maps do reveal an entire nation littered with foreclosure sales. It is an ugly and graphic depiction of how much inventory is out there, and why housing is stillmany years away from being healthy.

24685  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 09, 2010, 10:37:40 PM
"In an internal investigation, there is no right to remain silent and no right to an attorney."

Which makes sense to me.

@ZG:  I'm sorry, I am not clear.  You are a naturalized Mexican citizen?  Ay you no doubt know very well, from well before the narco wars the law down there has been and is VERY harsh concerning foreigners and guns.  Additionally, as noted on the US-Mexico thread, the Mex Army is getting concerned about the US military getting involved in Mexico.  Given the conspiracy minded nature of Mexican political thought about the US (not without raw material one might add!) it would be very easy to get caught in the crossfire of these politics-- especially any person of other than native born citizenship as I understand you to be.

I am not unfamiliar with Mexico (e.g. I train the SWAT team for the State Penitentiary for el Estado de Mexico every time I go down there for a seminar.  The situation there is very complicated right now and the narcos have penetrated to very, very high levels.  For example IIRC last year the man who schedules the President's itinerary was caught accepting the equivalent of $400,000 US a month!  Having no personal knowledge of your teammates and their environs upon arrival, I caution you that you would be a pigeon flying with eagles.  This is said with love and respect.
24686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Count your fingers after shaking hands with him on: December 09, 2010, 08:11:06 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thu, December 09, 2010 -- 8:53 PM ET

Obama Weighs Overhaul of Tax Code to Lower Rates and Close Loopholes

President Obama is considering whether to push early next
year for an overhaul of the income tax code to lower rates
and raise revenues in what would be his first major effort to
begin addressing the long-term growth of the national debt.

While administration officials cautioned on Thursday that no
decisions have been made and that any debate in Congress
could take years, Mr. Obama has directed his economic team
and Treasury Department analysts to review options for
closing loopholes and simplifying income taxes for
corporations and individuals, though the study of the
corporate tax system is farther along, officials said.

Read More:
24687  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 09, 2010, 08:08:25 PM
PGR= Procuraduria General de la Republica?
24688  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 09, 2010, 04:34:18 PM
24689  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: December 09, 2010, 04:10:44 PM
I have just floated home in a beautific grooviness trance from my Bikram Yoga class to find this  tongue  This is not the tone of conversation that we look to have around here.  angry Let's all take a deep breath, sing kumbaya, and have a group hug please.  
24690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Prequel to Iran-Contragate on: December 09, 2010, 03:54:08 PM
24691  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Whoops , , , on: December 09, 2010, 11:10:46 AM
24692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Vigilante action on: December 09, 2010, 10:49:52 AM
24693  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: December 09, 2010, 10:49:12 AM

Posiblemente si Uds no fueron desarmados eso habira ocurido antes ahora , , ,
24694  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Yoga on: December 09, 2010, 10:38:19 AM
From my comments posted on the DBMA Assn forum:

"As I may have mentioned, the last several months I've been having a lot of hip and lower back pain.  Gradually I have been figuring out the solution and feel like I am on the road forward.

"What is helping at the moment is the Bikram Yoga in combination with weight lifting-- I am experiencing a lot of synergy between the two. e.g. Tuesday was Bikram followed by Squat Day yesterday (Wednesday) and I plan to do Bikram again today and maybe tomorrow.  It is intense, but the Bikram people speak of geometric progress with training it on successive days.

"For reasons beyond my ken, I began yesterday with light weight cleans for speed and form; this seemed to set up my shoulder girdle for nice support for the bar as I began squatting.  For some reason I wanted to alternate with incline bench machine (a very good fluid one with well designed bio-mechanics) with my sets of squats-- maybe also related to opening the shoulder girdle.  I hit my mark for the day for squats at 5x221 (45lb bar + 80 klilos in weights) I am now getting into territory which begins to challenge me a bit and do not have a sense yet of whether I should go up 10 or 20 kilos for next week.  Also, the gym has a very interesting new machine for "bicycling" with the arms.  It is EXTREMELY well made and seems to do very good things."

I would add that I LOVE the heat, but am not wild about some of the BY postures for me and find somewhat irksome the pressurefrom teachers pushing me to precision in form that is currently out of reach for me. 
24695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How bail outs work , , , on: December 09, 2010, 10:07:39 AM
Bailing out … the Irish, Greeks, Spanish, Portuguese or whoever - SIMPLE

It is a slow day in a damp little Irish town. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt and everybody lives on credit. On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the town, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night. The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel. The guy at the Farmers' Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the pub. The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him "services" on credit. The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note. The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich German will not suspect anything. At that moment the German comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money and leaves town. No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the bailout package works.
24696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Blacklisted pilot wins rights case in Canada on: December 09, 2010, 09:56:44 AM
Blacklisted pilot wins rights case against Bombardier
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Canada’s human-rights laws trump American anti-terrorism efforts in Canada, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal says in a decision released Tuesday.

The tribunal awarded a Pakistani-born Canadian man $319,000 in damages, ruling his human rights were violated when Bombardier Inc. barred him from flight training at a Montreal facility because U.S. authorities had designated him a security threat.

The decision amounts to a repudiation of the process that U.S. authorities use to label people security threats. The Quebec tribunal decided that because of the secrecy of the process, the lack of appeals and alleged racial profiling in an array of national security practices, applying U.S. threat designations in Canada must be considered a violation of Charter rights.

The rejection that sparked the complaint was actually Javed Latif’s second. He had first applied for training under his U.S. pilot’s licence, which alerted Bombardier to his designation as a security threat by American officials. According to the tribunal, the violation occurred when Mr. Latif applied for training under his Canadian pilot’s licence, and was rejected because of the American threat label.

“Those rules do not apply here in Canada, were not adopted here in Canada by Canadian law,” said Athanassia Bitzakadis, the lawyer who represented the Quebec Human Rights Commission, which brought the case before the tribunal. “So Bombardier cannot simply refer to those rules to justify a discriminatory decision to refuse to someone a service, a service that they offer to everyone here in Quebec.”

Tribunal judge Michele Rivet criticized Bombardier for taking the U.S. designation on faith and not objectively assessing whether Mr. Latif was a security threat. She also said Bombardier could have consulted Transport Canada or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Testifying before the tribunal, Steven Gignac, the Bombardier official who denied Mr. Latif’s request, said he considered the U.S. authorities credible when they had deemed Mr. Latif a threat. He said if he agreed to train him there would have been “serious consequences for Bombardier Inc.”

At the time of the incident in 2004, Mr. Latif had been a pilot for 25 years and had flown over U.S. airspace many times.

In 2008, U.S. authorities removed Mr. Latif’s designation as a threat to national security, and he has since trained with Bombardier in Montreal on three occasions.

According to Mr. Latif’s lawyer, Catherine McKenzie, he now works for an airline based in the Middle East, and she has not been able to reach him with word of the decision.

Much of the Quebec Human Rights Commission’s case rested on testimony from Reem Bahdi, an expert on U.S. national security practices. Prof. Bahdi, of the University of Windsor, argued that because of broadly discriminatory practices, a U.S. threat designation must be considered discriminatory if no specific reasons are given. One example she cited was the National Security Entry and Exit Regulation System, which requires citizens of specific countries, all of which happen to be Muslim, to register upon entering and exiting the U.S.

“Basically what they [the tribunal] were presented with was a whole series of policies that targeted Arabs and Muslims alongside a policy that said, and by the way, all of these policies, all of this decision making is going to take place in secret,” she said.

The amount awarded to Mr. Latif by the tribunal includes moral and material damages as well as the highest amount for punitive damages that the tribunal has ever given, $50,000.

Bombardier is reviewing the decision and considering whether to appeal.

Whatever happens, Prof. Bahdi said, this decision must have an effect on how other cross-border companies operate in Canada.

“What this decision says is that Canadian companies have to conform to Canadian standards of justice,” she said. “And we in Canada still take quite seriously the notions of due process, and individuals not being tarnished with the terrorist label and having no ability to clear their names.”

24697  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bikram Yoga on: December 09, 2010, 09:27:33 AM
Cindy and I are taking advantage of an introductory offer of one month in Bikram Yoga.   More on this soon.
24698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Confucius Peace Prize on: December 09, 2010, 09:23:50 AM
BEIJING—A ceremony Friday to mark the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a jailed Chinese dissident, is turning into a global showdown.

China is preventing Mr. Liu, his family and friends from attending the ceremony in Oslo, making it the first time there will be no one at the ceremony to accept the award since 1936, when it went to Carl von Ossietsky, a German journalist held in a concentration camp by Nazi Germany.

A furious Chinese government has deployed its rapidly expanding global influence to challenge the Nobel Committee's legitimacy and to press other countries to boycott the ceremony, which will feature an empty chair with a photograph of Mr. Liu on it. The ceremony will be followed by a concert hosted by Hollywood stars Denzel Washington and Anne Hathaway.

A newly established Chinese organization has even introduced its own version of the award—the Confucius Peace Prize—which it says will be awarded on Thursday to Lien Chan, a politician from Taiwan who has promoted reconciliation with mainland China.

The Nazis and the Soviets both established their own prizes to rival the Nobels.

A key question for the Communist Party is whether its efforts will backfire by drawing domestic attention to Mr. Liu, who was little known in China until state media launched a vitriolic campaign to demonize him.

Mr. Liu, a former literature professor who took part in the pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for "state subversion" over his role in organizing a dissident charter calling for multiparty elections.

For the Nobel Committee, meanwhile, the issue is whether this year's prize—which follows last year's controversial award to President Barack Obama—will promote democratic change in China, as it hopes, or reinforce the party's determination to stifle it.

The committee has, as usual, invited only the ambassadors of the 65 nations that have embassies in Oslo to attend the ceremony. But 20 have declined—double the number last year—including many that either have warming relations with China, or share its resentment of being pushed on human rights and democracy by the West.

The countries that have declined are Afghanistan, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Vietnam and China itself.

One diplomat from Sri Lanka initially told The Wall Street Journal that its embassy in Oslo was sure to send someone "if nobody had a cold," but later said that no one would attend, saying: "We are a small country and China is now our friend."

China provided crucial economic aid, arms and diplomatic support to Sri Lanka during the final stages of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebel movement in 2009.

China also was outraged when the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, won the prize in 1989, but made no effort to organize a boycott, isolated as it was after the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests around Tiananmen Square earlier that year.

Activist Laureates
See advocates for political change who have received the Nobel Peace Prize.

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 .."I don't think they held any kind of campaign in 1989—they just stayed away and showed their displeasure. Of course, China is much stronger now," Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, told The Wall Street Journal. "Even the Soviets did not mount a campaign like this."

When the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov won the prize in 1975, Moscow also declined to let him collect it, but did permit his wife, Yelena Bonner, to attend the ceremony.

In 1983, Communist authorities in Poland also permitted the wife of Lech Walesa—the dissident trade unionist—to receive his prize.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's opposition leader, was under house arrest when she won in 1991, but her then-18-year-old son accepted the award on her behalf. Ms. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest last month.

The Nobel Committee, Western governments and human-rights activists have repeatedly urged China to free Mr. Liu, as well as his wife, Liu Xia, who has been under effective house arrest since he won the prize.

Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa—another Nobel Peace laureate—made a public appeal last week for China to release Mr. Liu and his wife or risk losing its credibility as a world power.

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Protesters demand the release of jailed Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo in front of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, less than a week before the award ceremony in Oslo.
.However, China has gone on the offensive, denouncing the award as part of a Western conspiracy. It has detained scores more dissidents, and prevented dozens of others from leaving China in case they try to attend Friday's ceremony.

It has delayed talks on a trade deal with Norway, even though the government there says it has no influence over the Nobel Committee, and has warned other countries that they will have to "bear the consequences" if they attend the ceremony.

Jiang Yu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Tuesday called the Nobel Committee "clowns" and accused the Norwegians of "orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves."

She said more than 100 countries and organizations have expressed explicit support for China's opposition to this year's Peace Prize.

The Nobel Committee countered by saying that ambassadors from 44 of the 65 countries invited would attend the ceremony—along with about 30 to 40 of Mr. Liu's supporters from around the world. But only one of those was on a list of 143 that Liu Xia invited to attend, as most have been unable to leave China. He is Wan Yanhai, an AIDS activist who moved to the U.S. last year. "The ceremony is really important—it's a symbolic event for the Chinese democratic movement," Mr. Wan said in an interview. "This will be like a catalyst in a chemical process. What the Communist Party is doing now is to show how ugly authoritarian government is."

24699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maybe it was the dot on her forehead that gave her away on: December 09, 2010, 06:53:39 AM

NEW DELHI—India expects Washington to apologize for the patting down of the Indian ambassador to the U.S. during a security check at an airport in Mississippi, a senior Indian diplomat said Thursday.

24700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH continues to struggle with what to do about Sarah #2 on: December 09, 2010, 06:01:39 AM
A recent segment of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” her live-action show on TLC, was preceded by a warning that parts of it “may be disturbing to some viewers.” Presumably this referred to scenes of Ms. Palin clubbing to death a huge halibut and then triumphantly holding up a still-beating halibut heart, images that probably did send chills down the spines of animal lovers and moderate Republicans. But no scene in the show is as disturbing as the way she uses it to enhance her political glow.

Sarah PalinThe eight hours of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” are a visually sumptuous — if occasionally bloody — marketing campaign for an ostensibly undeclared presidential candidate. They are yet another in a series of brilliant bypasses of conventional politics that may provide Ms. Palin with a legacy. Other candidates have found new ways to reach voters — Barack Obama’s e-mail fund-raising in 2008 comes to mind — but having one’s own hagiographic reality show is a chapter in an entirely new playbook.

And Ms. Palin is astonishingly good at turning every halibut clubbing and caribou shooting into an advertisement for her own ruggedness or a political parable. The program is theoretically nonpolitical and its producers have a blog intended to siphon off heated arguments among viewers. But having converted her lifestyle and family into political accessories, Ms. Palin never resists temptation when it comes along and the cameras are rolling.

Referring to the 14-foot wall that her husband built for protection from the journalist Joe McGinniss, who moved in next door, Ms. Palin says, “This is what we need to do to secure our nation’s border.” She says she loves that the liberals “get all wee-wee’d up” that her baby shower was held in a shooting range. And she exults that her teenage daughter Willow is gutting salmon instead of texting or partying, perhaps suggesting that her parenting skills are what the nation needs, too.

In the two years since her rocky vice presidential candidacy, Ms. Palin has become famously contemptuous of the “lamestream media,” which she has often described as elite and conspiratorial (against her and America’s exceptionalism). She would not be the first politician who has stumbled and then lashed at the press for its lack of balance. But the parallel structure Ms. Palin has created as an alternative to conventional scrutiny and campaigning has been remarkably effective.

She is a regular on Fox News and its affiliated radio shows, and her book tour (no questions from reporters, please) has taken her largely to Republican-leaning primary states. As a recent article in The New York Times Magazine documented, she has no need for an actual press staff and believes it is sufficient to communicate largely through Twitter and Facebook. And as long as she remains more provocative than substantive, her strategy works.

On Monday, at 3:17 p.m., she issued a Facebook broadside that blamed the Obama administration’s “incompetence” for the latest round of WikiLeak revelations. Within three hours, it was “liked” by more than 4,000 followers and picked up by scores of major news organizations and blogs, though its suggestion that the administration might have been able to stop the leaks was partisan wishful thinking.

“She tweets one thing, and all of a sudden you’ve got a room full of people that want to know,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, complained to The Times Magazine, referring to the White House press corps.

But Mr. Gibbs and his successors will probably have to get used to it. Ms. Palin will not be the last potential candidate to aim her political fire from a camouflage blind, and then retreat to a careful seclusion where only easygoing questions can be asked.

We now live in a world where a politician can be the executive producer of her own precampaign show. A world where a governor can quit her elected job and make far more money, and political headway, creating a television legend as America’s most fearless outdoorswoman and most encouraging mother to her brood of hunters and fishers. A world where millions of supporters flock to this portrait of a way of life that is radically different from the way most Americans now live and get some extremist politics mixed in with the supposed nostalgia. To paraphrase TLC, voter discretion is now advised.

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