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24851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Destruction of America by Hollywood et al on: July 18, 2011, 09:39:08 AM
Underlining my point and my anger is this:

Hat tip to GM.
24852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison, Federalist 14; 1787 on: July 18, 2011, 09:33:12 AM

"Is it not the glory of the people of America, that whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience? To this manly spirit, posterity will be indebted for the possession, and the world for the example of the numerous innovations displayed on the American theatre, in favor of private rights and public happiness." --James Madison, Federalist No. 14, 1787

24853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: July 18, 2011, 12:11:56 AM
Forgive me JDN, but what pleasant sophistry that seeks to ignore the elephant in the room!  We don't share a border with Japan, which is not in a state of war with its narco gangs, nor do we have 12-20 million illegal Japanese here who think the Southwest of the US should belong to them.
24854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Destruction of America by Hollywood et al on: July 17, 2011, 07:38:13 PM
Woof All:

As many of us have commented, Hollywood (and related entertainment folks) have been a source of unremitting hostility to America and as a result of much anti-Americanism. Much of what the world thinks it knows about America it gets from Hollywood.

I enjoyed the Bourne movies, but isn't the plot line (the evil CIA run amuck) one we have seen time and time again (e.g. Robert Redford's  , , , Day of the Condor I think it was).  Evil businessmen, evil right wing politicians, warmongering soldiers, patriotic kooks and Christian nutjobs (often protrayed as latently gay) etc etc. The heroes are those who turn upon that from which they come.  Leftists are heroes of the oppressed (endless list) yet never is told a story based around the evils of Stalinism, the oppression of East Europe by the Soviet Empire etc etc.

There is also the matter of values portrayed positively, adultery as a joke, promiscuity and the debasement of sex, binge drinking, romanticization of criminals, etc etc.

I could go on, but I think most of us here already recognize what I am getting at.

So this thread is a chance to vent (and perhaps strategize) about particularly egregious examples.

Recent ones that come to mind for me are

a) Sex and the City 2:  One of the most offensive, ugly American culturally arrogant movies I have ever seen.

b) and the proximate cause of my starting this thread, the movie "Machete", a genuinely seditious work.  Staring Danny Trejo, who has brought a certain intensity to a variety of minor roles over the years, the movie's style is a sort of gloriously bad "B Movie" of the sort which most of us enjoy.  What offended me though was its seditious message of disloyalty to American sovereignty.  I am not going to deconstruct the movie's plot such as it is (right wing politician, murderous minuteman border patrol groups, Mexican narcos conspiring to create circumstances so there will be demand to build a big electric fences the length of the border so money can be made on the construction contracts and drug scarcity can be created so as to increase profits) but the movie's grand finale, including US ICE Agent going to a higher law and forming violent alliance with a illegal alien network to obliterate the border.

The following actors who participated in this movie should be ashamed and their patriotism questioned.

Danny Trejo
Robert DeNiro
Jessica Alba (breaks my heart to say this because I think she is hot)
Steven Seagal
Jeff Fahey
Cheech Marin (hard to be mad, I love his Cheech and Chong character, but this movie is of a piece with his Born in East LA, which also concludes with overwhelming the border with illegals)
Don Johnson
and Lindsay Lohan

24855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: July 17, 2011, 07:12:39 PM

Well, maybe so, but over the sweep of time, his point is not without merit.
24856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: July 17, 2011, 05:37:55 PM

Good in depth read on the subject.
24857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: July 17, 2011, 05:32:53 PM

Concerning Baraq and Fannie & Freddie, in a mere 18 months in the US Senate he become the #2 all time recipient of donations  shocked and the Franklin Raines mentioned in the piece (who, IIRC acclerated Fannie earnings so he could get an even huger bonus) was selected by Baraq to , , , something important, but I forget what.
24858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: July 17, 2011, 05:28:01 PM
I noted that when I read about the case.  A powerful example for your POV.
24859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prudent Bear: Sovereign Debt Crisis Learning Curve on: July 17, 2011, 01:57:31 PM
Mehtinks this one deserves extra attention , , ,
The Sovereign Debt Crisis Learning Curve:
During the second-half of his reign, Alan Greenspan became fond of trumpeting the U.S. economy’s newfound resiliency.  This was a theme peppered throughout his “Age of Turbulence” memoir, published in the pre-crisis year 2007.  Greenspan cited computer and telecommunications technologies; monumental productivity advancements; a flexible workforce; the financial system’s superior capacity to effectively invest limited savings; and, of course, enlightened policymaking. 

Back when I wrote more colorfully, I was fond of saying, “Financial crisis is like Christmas.”  In hindsight, it would have been more accurate to write “private-sector financial crisis is…”  Whether it was banking system debt problems from the early-90s; the series of “emerging” market Credit collapses; the unwinding of LTCM leverage; the bursting of the tech Bubble; the 2002 corporate debt crisis; or the spectacular collapse of the mortgage/Wall Street finance Bubble - the Fed would reliably respond to each and every crisis with the “gift” of reflationary policymaking. 

And, no doubt about it, “inflationism” was the market gift that kept on giving.  Crisis, in the Age of Activist Central Banking, created momentous opportunities to harvest speculative returns.  Those that best understood and exploited these dynamics (our era’s “titans of industry”) accumulated incredible fortunes – and vast AUM (assets under management).

It’s becoming increasingly apparent these days that public (government) debt problems are a whole different kettle of fish.  Rather than a “gift”, they instead present extraordinary challenges for both policy making and the markets.  European policymakers are today at a complete loss.  In Washington, politicians are making a sad mockery out of responsible debt management – and the markets have yet to even lower the boom.

From my analytical vantage point, the U.S. economy’s “resilience” was always more about New Age Finance than it was some New Paradigm economy coupled with sagacious economic management.  The Fed’s pegging of short-term interest rates, along with timely market interventions, created powerful incentives for private-sector Credit expansion - in the real economy and throughout the financial sphere.  System Credit, resilient as never before, was at the heart of it all.  Over years evolved a most powerful dynamic encompassing a historic private-sector Credit boom and speculative financial Bubble - both backstopped by the GSEs and aggressive fiscal and monetary management. 

Wall Street finance provided the nucleus of the private sector Credit boom:  asset-backed securities, mortgage-backed securities, “repos,” derivatives, CDOs, CLOs, etc.  New Age risk intermediation - “Wall Street alchemy” – created seemingly endless “safe” higher-yielding and liquid securities, the perfect fodder for the mushrooming “leveraged speculating community.”  The structures both of the financial architecture and policymaking incentivized aggressive leveraging by the hedge funds and proprietary trading desks.  And when the markets occasionally caught the leveraged players overextended and vulnerable, Washington was quick with market bailouts.  These dynamics nurtured history’s greatest expansions of “private” sector debt and system leverage.

Of course, Fed rate cuts played a pivotal role in prolonging the Credit Bubble.  Greenspan’s asymmetrical approach – transparent little “baby-step” tightening moves and aggressive rate-slashing in the event of mounting systemic stress – was a godsend for leveraged speculation.  The critical role played by the GSEs has never received the Credit it deserves.  Beginning with the faltering bond Bubble in 1994, the GSE’s became aggressive (non-price sensitive) buyers of MBS, mortgages and miscellaneous debt instruments anytime market liquidity became an issue (when the speculators needed to deleverage).  GSE assets expanded $151bn (24%) in 1994, $305bn in 1998, $317bn in 1999, $242bn in 2000, $344bn in 2001, $240bn in 2002, and another $245bn in 2003.  With effectively parallel “activist” central banks backstopping the markets – the Federal Reserve and the GSEs down the road - the mortgage finance Bubble inflated to historic proportions.  This dynamic will not be repeated in our lifetimes. 

Sovereign debt crises are altogether different in nature to those “private” affairs that we’ve become rather comfortable with over the years.  Keep in mind that crises of confidence in private debt securities are quite amenable to rate cuts, the public sector’s explicit or implicit assumption/guarantee of private obligations, and system Credit reflation through public debt issuance and central bank monetization.  If sufficiently determined to do so, policymakers have the capacity to resolve about any private debt issue.  And, of course, the short-term benefits can be irresistible:  i.e. buoyant asset markets, reduced unemployment, bolstered confidence, economic expansion, inflating tax receipts and reelection (or, in the case of central bank chairmen, hero status). 

The great longer-term costs – which can remain “long-term” as long as policymakers perpetuate Credit Bubble excess – include mispriced finance, dysfunctional markets, the misallocation of resources, increasingly fragile financial and economic structures, social disquiet, geopolitical risks, and an unmanageable accumulation of public-sector debt and obligations.  Importantly, the mechanisms that work all too well in dealing with private debt crisis are not readily available come that fateful day when the markets question the creditworthiness of the government’s debt load. 

There is more attention paid these days to sovereign debt ratios and such.  At about 150% of GDP, Greece finances were (belatedly) recognized as an unmitigated disaster.  At 120%, Italy is too vulnerable.  Here at home, the National Debt Clock shows federal debt surpassing $14.3 TN.  Federal borrowings have expanded at a double-digit to GDP rate for the past three years, with total debt increasing more than $5.0 TN in short order.  There is today no realistic prospect for meaningful fiscal reform.

And while Europe is briskly moving up The Sovereign Debt Crisis Learning Curve, complacency still abounds here at home.  And the more hideous things appear in Europe and Washington, the more confident our markets become that policymakers will soon come to their senses and resolve the ugliness.  Such wishful thinking is a holdover from the good old private debt crisis days.

Avoid thinking in terms of sovereign debt in isolation.  The massive accumulation of public-sector debt is almost without exception symptomatic of deep systemic problems.  Whether we’re discussing Greece, Spain, Italy, the U.S. or Japan, enormous deficits and public debt loads are reflective of a post-private-sector Credit Bubble environment.  This is a critical issue.  Not only are governments running up huge debts, the underlying economic structure has already been heavily impaired from years of Credit abuse.  And as much as policymakers hope and intend for their borrowing, spending and monetizing programs to promote sound economic and financial recoveries, the reality is that expansionary policies exacerbate deleterious Credit Bubble effects.  It’s a case of aggressive monetary stimulus thrown at systems already way out of kilter. 

The empirical work of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff demonstrates conclusively that heavy debt loads negatively impact growth dynamics (they have found 90% of GDP an important threshold).  This is no earth-shaking revelation, especially if one comes from the analytical perspective that huge accumulations of public debt are generally associated with an extended period of private and public sector Credit excess.  And years of Credit-related excesses will almost certainly foment acute financial fragilities and economic impairment. 

It’s no coincidence that the greatest expansion of public debt comes late in the cycle when the economy’s response to additional layers of debt becomes both muted and uneven.  Indeed, a precarious dynamic evolves where enormous amounts of (non-productive) government debt are required just to stabilize increasingly fragile economic structures.  In the meantime, late-cycle stimulus will most certainly distort and dangerously inflate highly speculative securities markets – especially when higher market prices are the direct aim of policy.

There was a Financial Times column today that posited that Italy’s problem was that it was stuck with the ECB rather than the Federal Reserve!  If only the Fed were purchasing Italian sovereign debt as it does Treasurys, Italian debt service costs and deficits would be much lower.  Crisis resolved.  Well, monetary policy certainly does play a critical role in sovereign debt Bubbles and crises.   

Back in the autumn of 2009, Greece could finance its massive deficit spending program for two-years at less than 2%.  Portuguese yields were about 125 bps and Ireland 175 bps.  Spanish and Italian 2-year yields were around 1.5%.  The Fed’s, ECB’s and global central bankers’ moves to slash interest rates to near zero were instrumental in the marketplace’s accommodation of unprecedented government debt issuance at artificially  low yields.  The European “periphery” markets were part of the expansive Global Government Finance Bubble.  And the market perception that monetary policy would ensure ongoing low sovereign debt service costs was instrumental in the market disregarding – and mispricing - Credit risk throughout the eurozone.  Even last spring, after the Greek crisis’ initial eruption, markets held to the assumption that policymakers would sustain low sovereign borrowing costs and insulate bondholders from significant losses.

Not only has monetary policy fostered the rapid expansion of government debt at artificially low rates, it has also set the stage for a very destabilizing change in market perceptions.  Particularly after many years of interventionist policymaking (throughout the protracted private Credit boom), the markets naturally turn complacent when it comes debt crisis risks.  Yet as Europe is confronting these days, there are limited available options when crisis finally arrives at sovereign debt’s doorstep.  At some point, fiscal and monetary stimulus comes to the inevitable end of the road.  At some point, markets say “no mas.” 

Piling on additional government debt is then no longer a solution, inaugurating the debilitating and depressing “austerity” cycle.  And, as we continue to witness here at home, having the central bank monetize federal debt only worsens market distortions and delays desperately-needed fiscal (and economic) reform.  As much as there was an element of certainty in the marketplace with regard to the mechanics of private-sector debt crisis resolution, sovereign debt Bubbles and crises just seem to foment uncertainty.  Policymakers are destined to look incompetent, while markets will appear fickle and unstable.  Meanwhile, fragile recoveries will turn increasingly vulnerable.  And throughout, there will be a growing disconnect between what the markets have come to expect from policymakers and what they can now realistically deliver.

As witnessed in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, there comes a point where the market recognizes debt trap dynamics and begins to price in sovereign risk.  And it is not long into this process of risk re-pricing that the marketplace comes to view huge debt loads as unmanageable albatrosses.  This destabilizing process has now commenced with Spain and Italy.  Once unleashed, sovereign debt crisis momentum can prove difficult to contain. 

To be sure, the debt situation in these economies remains manageable only as long as the markets are content to finance sovereign borrowings at monetary policy-induced low rates.  Or, stated differently, Italy’s (and others’) debt load is viable only if the marketplace disregards risk.  Well, the market is today rather keen to risk and debt dynamics - and has been determined to push borrowing costs significantly higher.  This not only imperils the government debt and Credit default swap (CDS) markets, but casts an immediate pall on the Italian and European banking sector with their huge exposures to increasingly problematic sovereign debt.  As an analyst quoted in the Financial Times put it, “A banking sector is only as strong as its sovereign.”

European Credit and inter-bank lending markets are faltering.  The resulting de-leveraging and de-risking – and tightened general finance - will likely further pressure markets, overall confidence and economic activity – adding further pressure to the unfolding debt crisis.  And as China and Asian central bankers witness the spectacle of an unraveling Italy, they must view the unfolding U.S. debt debacle with heightened trepidation.  Perhaps this was on ECB President Trichet’s mind this past weekend when he referred to “the global debt crisis.”
24860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: July 17, 2011, 12:01:34 PM
 cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry
24861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, letter to Judge Roane, 1821 on: July 17, 2011, 11:23:41 AM

"The great object of my fear is the federal judiciary. That body, like gravity, ever acting, with noiseless foot, and unalarming advance, gaining ground step by step, and holding what it gains, is ingulfing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge Spencer Roane, 1821
24862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Catching up on: July 17, 2011, 11:20:52 AM

"The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we may safely moor; and notwithstanding the efforts of the papers to disseminate early discontents, I expect that a just, dispassionate and steady conduct, will at length rally to a proper system the great body of our country. Unequivocal in principle, reasonable in manner, we shall be able I hope to do a great deal of good to the cause of freedom & harmony." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, 1801

"[W]here there is no law, there is no liberty; and nothing deserves the name of law but that which is certain and universal in its operation upon all the members of the community." --Benjamin Rush, letter to David Ramsay, 1788

"Men must be ready, they must pride themselves and be happy to sacrifice their private pleasures, passions and interests, nay, their private friendships and dearest connections, when they stand in competition with the rights of society." --John Adams, letter to Mercy Warren, 1776

"A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired." --Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, 1775

"The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position." --George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
24863  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Keep your booger hook off the bang hook on: July 17, 2011, 11:12:42 AM
24864  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Baggy Pants Moron on: July 17, 2011, 08:29:15 AM
24865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shifty; an action in Afpakia on: July 17, 2011, 08:15:31 AM
If you watched the series, “Band of Brothers”, you will remember Shifty as the guy who was the best shot in the company. He was called upon several times in the series to take care of a German sniper or to give cover so other troops could maneuver.

SHIFTY DIED JAN 17, in peace.                                                                                            
 "Shifty" By Chuck Yeager

Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st  Airborne Infantry.  If you've seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty.  His character appears in all 10 Episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.

 I met Shifty in the  Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn't know who he was at the time.I just saw an elderly gentleman having Trouble reading his ticket.I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the "Screaming Eagle," the symbol of The 101st Airborne, on his hat.
 Making conversation, I asked him if he d been in the 101st Airborne Or if his son was serving.  He said quietly that he had been in the 101st. I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served, and how many jumps he made.Quietly and humbly, he said "Well, I  guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 ... " at which point my heart skipped.

 At that point, again, very humbly, he said "I made the 5 training Jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into  Normandy ..    Do you know  where  Normandy is?"At this point my heart stopped. I told him "Yes, I know exactly where  Normandy is,and I know what D-Day was."

At that point he said "I also made a second jump into  Holland , into  Arnhem ."
 I was standing with a genuine war hero ....And then I realized  that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day. I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from  France , and he said "Yes...  And it's real sad because, these days, so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can't make the trip."My heart was in my throat and I didn't know what to say.

I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats.  When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I'd take his in coach.

 He said "No, son, you enjoy that seat.  Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and who still care is enough to make an old man very happy."  His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.

Shifty died on Jan. 17 after fighting cancer.
There was no parade.
No big event in  Staples   Center ..
No wall to wall back to back 24x7 news coverage.
No weeping fans on television.
And that's not right!!

Let's give Shifty his own Memorial Service, online, in our own quiet way.
Please forward this email to everyone you know.  Especially to the veterans.
                                          Rest in peace, Shifty.

Chuck Yeager, Maj Gen. [ret.]
P.S.  I think that it is amazing how the "media" chooses our "heroes" these days... Michael Jackson & the like!    

Please do me a favor and pass this on so that untold thousands can read it.....

                    We owe no less to our REAL HEROES

24866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Looking for the exits , , , on: July 17, 2011, 07:13:26 AM
Libyan Coalition Shifting Toward The Exits

The international contact group on Libya will meet for the fourth time Friday in Istanbul. It will be the contact group’s first meeting since the NATO bombing campaign entered a new phase this week.

The idea of pursuing a negotiated settlement to end the conflict — once an initiative only seriously championed by players not involved in the air campaign — is no longer a non-starter with the NATO members directing the military operations. Air strikes will continue for now, but the United States, United Kingdom, France and Italy are looking for other possible avenues to end the conflict. Regime change remains the goal, but after nearly four months, the tone of the operation has changed.

No one has dropped the demand that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi exit office. But the level of commitment to the use of force varies among the member states of the restricted NATO coalition. These countries probably did not think, when they agreed to begin bombing Libya months ago, that they would still be discussing in mid-July a Libya controlled mostly by Gadhafi. Thus, the search for alternative exit routes has begun.

“It is only a matter of time before the West seeks to begin a formal negotiation with members of the Gadhafi regime.”
After being the last of a coalition within NATO to join the air campaign, Italy was the first country to break ranks and signal in June that it wanted out. Although it has not withdrawn entirely from the NATO mission, Italy has cut funding by more than half in recent weeks. Rome also dispatched its foreign minister to Algeria, a known Gadhafi ally, where the Italian minister openly warned of the potential for Sahel-based militants to take advantage of Libyan instability to acquire weapons. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi himself recently said that had it been up to him, he would have followed Germany’s example and abstained from the air campaign altogether. With so much of its energy supply coming from Libya, Italy seems to be regretting its push for an indictment by the International Criminal Court, and has begun a gradual return to its hedging strategy, just in case it has to deal with Gadhafi again in the future.

France was Italy’s opposite from the start. It has been the country most dedicated to the mission of regime change, and it was the first to recognize the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council (NTC) as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Alongside the United Kingdom, France played an instrumental role in bringing the United States into the war — a critical step in helping the mission get off the ground. France also has energy interests in Libya (though not on the same scale as Italy) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has used the Libyan war to demonstrate France’s strength among European militaries.

Paris still wants Gadhafi out, but its resolve has diminished. On the weekend of July 9-10, quite a few French officials issued the first open calls for a political settlement in Libya. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet even went so far as to say that France had proven military force alone would not work in this situation. Longuet said the NTC needed to come to the table and drop its demand that Gadhafi first step down. His stance was later complemented by similar statements from the French foreign minister and prime minister. The collective message from Paris represented a stark reminder that the resolve to bomb Gadhafi into submission is not limitless among the NATO states participating in the Libyan mission.

Although these same French officials shortly thereafter sought to reaffirm their dedication to the air campaign and to Gadhafi’s ouster, Paris has shown its hand. It is willing to accept that force alone may not complete the mission. It is only a matter of time before the West seeks to begin a formal negotiation with members of the Gadhafi regime.

The question is, what triggered France’s change of heart?

This is where Russia’s role in the matter becomes interesting. France is in the midst of developing a greater relationship with Moscow as a means of balancing the warming ties between Russia and Germany — a country with which the Kremlin is actively pursuing a relationship. France and Russia have found common interests in Libya. Russia has been trying to position itself as a mediator ever since it became clear that the conflict in Libya represented more than just an opportunity to create distractions for the Americans. If France senses a growing possibility that the bombing campaign may fail, it only makes sense for Paris to use the moment as an opportunity to work with Russia, giving Moscow a chance to wield its influence in Libya. The timing of France’s public shift gives credence to this possibility: it occurred just days before Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov traveled to the United States on July 11-12 to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.

Obama used Lavrov’s visit to voice the first public U.S. support for Russia’s role as a mediator in Libya with Clinton delivering statements along the same lines. At the same meeting, Lavrov stated that Russia has unambiguously entered the camp advocating for Gadhafi to step down (it’s unclear whether or not his words reflect what Moscow actually wants). Although the United States has allowed the NATO operation to be labeled as “Europe’s war,” Washington has played a critical function in the logistics of the conflict, and like everyone else, Washington is trying to secure an alternative exit strategy should air power not suffice. Whether anyone can convince members of the Gadhafi regime (to say nothing of the leader himself) that giving up power won’t simply land them in The Hague, of course, is another matter.

24867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romeny advisor backs exchanges of Obamacare on: July 17, 2011, 06:32:11 AM
This could go in the Health Care thread, but given its political implications for the Romney campaign I put it here:


SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, a top supporter and adviser of Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney, strenuously backed the core piece of President Barack Obama’s health-care law and urged the states to move forward together in adopting health insurance exchanges.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney greets voters after at a town hall meeting campaign stop in Derry, New Hampshire, Friday.Speaking to a bipartisan group of governors at the National Governors Association,  the former Republican governor who served as secretary of health and human services in the Bush administration, called the exchanges where individuals and small businesses can purchase health plans “a very practical solution to a problem that needs to be solved.” He warned governors who are reluctant to move forward with their state-level exchanges that their intransigence will only empower federal regulators.

And he said the health care law that passed is a compromise that gives the states the flexibility they need.

“This is a profoundly important time for the states,” said Mr. Leavitt. “States need to lead.”

The comments came at a time when every major Republican presidential candidate has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the president’s health care law. For former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, the issue is extra sensitive: the health care plan he secured for Massachusetts included an exchange almost identical to the federal law. He has tried to tightrope through the issue, blasting the federal law as he defends his own.

The federal law gives the states until January 2014 to set up their own exchanges, with federal oversight. If they fail to do so, their citizens will get access to a federal exchange.

But some Republican governors have been reluctant. They oppose the federal law and say they hope it will be repealed by a Republican president in 2013.

Mr. Leavitt urged them to get moving anyway. If all 50 states move forward, they will compel the federal Department of Health and Human Services to give them the flexibility to tailor their exchanges to their state needs. If only 20 move forward, the other 30 will “give license” to HHS to be inflexible in designing regulations governing the exchanges.

He urged the governors not defend their “partisan flags” over the interests of their states.

Republican governors pushed back hard. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska called the law a huge, unfunded mandate.

“There’s no way to get people to take charge of the health care issue if they think the federal government is going to take charge of them, if they think the states are going to take care of them,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

Cindy Gillespie, a Washington lobbyist who helped Mr. Romney design the Massachusetts plan, also raised a red flag.

“Between the exchanges and Medicaid expansion (in the law), there will be a complete upheaval of the insurance market in every state,” she warned.

But in an interview with Washington Wire, Mr. Leavitt said the problem of access to health insurance for individuals and small businesses will not disappear if a Republican president wins repeal.

24868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Steyn: The Great Charade on: July 16, 2011, 11:51:36 PM

JULY 16, 2011 7:00 A.M.

The Great Charade

The spenders are negotiating among themselves how much debt they’re going to burden you with.   

There is something surreal and unnerving about the so-called “debt ceiling” negotiations staggering on in Washington. In the real world, negotiations on an increase in one’s debt limit are conducted between the borrower and the lender. Only in Washington is a debt increase negotiated between two groups of borrowers.

Actually, it’s more accurate to call them two groups of spenders. On the one side are Obama and the Democrats, who in a negotiation supposedly intended to reduce American indebtedness are (surprise!) proposing massive increasing in spending (an extra $33 billion for Pell Grants, for example). The Democrat position is: You guys always complain that we spend spend spend like there’s (what’s the phrase again?) no tomorrow, so be grateful that we’re now proposing to spend spend spend spend like there’s no this evening.

On the other side are the Republicans, who are the closest anybody gets to representing, albeit somewhat tentatively and less than fullthroatedly, the actual borrowers — that’s to say, you and your children and grandchildren. But in essence the spenders are negotiating among themselves how much debt they’re going to burden you with. It’s like you and your missus announcing you’ve set your new credit limit at $1.3 million, and then telling the bank to send demands for repayment to Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s kindergartner next door.

Nothing good is going to come from these ludicrously protracted negotiations over laughably meaningless accounting sleights-of-hand scheduled to kick in circa 2020. All the charade does is confirm to prudent analysts around the world that the depraved ruling class of the United States cannot self-correct, and, indeed, has no desire to.

When the 44th president took office, he made a decision that it was time for the already unsustainable levels of government spending finally to break the bounds of reality and frolic and gambol in the magical fairy kingdom of Spendaholica: This year, the federal government borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends, a ratio that is unprecedented. Barack Obama would like this to be, as they say, “the new normal” — at least until that 43 cents creeps up a nickel or so, and the United States government is spending twice as much as it takes in, year in, year out, now and forever. If the Republicans refuse to go along with that, well, then the negotiations will collapse and, as he told Scott Pelley on CBS the other night, Gran’ma gets it. That monthly Social Security check? Fuhgeddabouddit. “I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue,” declared the president. “Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.”

But hang on. I thought the Social Security checks came out of the famous “Social Security trust fund,” whose “trustees” assure us there’s currently $2.6 trillion in there. Which should be enough for the August 3rd check run, shouldn’t it? Golly, to listen to the president, you’d almost get the impression that, by the time you saw the padlock off the old Social Security lockbox, there’s nothing in there but a yellowing IOU and a couple of moths. Indeed, to listen to Obama, one might easily conclude that the whole rotten, stinking edifice of federal government is an accounting trick. And that can’t possibly be so, can it?

For the Most Gifted Orator in Human History, the president these days speaks largely in clichés, most of which he doesn’t seem to be quite on top of. “Eric, don’t call my bluff,” he sternly reprimanded the GOP’s Eric Cantor. Usually, if you’re bluffing, the trick is not to announce it upfront. But, in fact, in his threat to have Granny eating dog food by Labor Day, Obama was calling his own bluff. The giant bluff against the future that is government spending.

How many of “the wealthy” do you require to cover a one-and-a-half trillion-dollar shortfall every single year? When you need this big a fix, there aren’t enough people to stick it to. “We are not broke,” insists Van Jones, Obama’s former “green jobs” czar and bespoke Communist. “We were robbed, we were robbed. And somebody has our money!”

The somebody who has our money is the government. They waste it on self-aggrandizing ideologue nitwits like Van Jones and his “green jobs” racket. How’s the “green jobs” scene in your town? Going gangbusters, is it? Every day these guys burn through so much that they can never bridge the gap. By that, I don’t mean that an American government that raises $2 trillion but spends $4 trillion has outspent America, but that it’s outspent the planet. In my soon to be imminently forthcoming book, I discuss a study published last year by John Kitchen of the U.S. Treasury and Menzie Chinn of the University of Wisconsin. Its very title is a testament to where we’re headed:

“Financing U.S. Debt: Is There Enough Money In The World — And At What Cost?”


The authors’ answer is yes, technically, there is enough money in the world — in the sense that, on current projections, by 2020 all it will take to finance the government of the United States is for the rest of the planet to be willing to sink 19 percent of its GDP into U.S. Treasury debt. Which Kitchen and Chinn say is technically doable. Yeah. In the same sense that me dating Scarlett Johansson is technically doable.

Unfortunately, neither Scarlett nor the rest of the planet is willing to do it. It’s not 2020 and we’re not yet asking the rest of the planet for a fifth of its GDP. But already the world is imposing its own debt ceiling. Most of the debt issued by the Treasury so far this year has been borrowed from the Federal Reserve. That adds another absurd wrinkle to the D.C. charade: Washington is negotiating with itself over how much money to lend itself.

Meanwhile, the World’s Greatest Orator bemoans the “intransigence” of Republicans. Okay, what’s your plan? Give us one actual program you’re willing to cut, right now. Oh, don’t worry, says Barack Obluffer. To demonstrate how serious he is, he’s offered to put on the table for fiscal year 2012 spending cuts of (stand well back now) $2 billion. That would be a lot in, say, Iceland or even Australia. Once upon a time it would have been a lot even in Washington. But today $2 billion is what the Brokest Nation in History borrows every ten hours. In other words, in less time than he spends sitting across the table negotiating his $2 billion cut, he’s already borrowed it all back. A negotiation with Obama is literally not worth the time.

In order to fund Obamacare and the other opiates of Big Government dependency, the feds need to take 25 percent of GDP, now and forever: The “new normal.” It can’t be done. Look around you. The new normal’s already here: flatline jobs market, negative equity, the dead-parrot economy. What comes next will be profoundly abnormal. His name was Obamandias, King of Kings. Look upon his works, ye mighty, and despair. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.

Do they still teach Shelley in high school? Or just the “diversity manual” about “social justice” the Omaha Public Schools paid for with $130,000 of “stimulus” funding?

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2011 Mark Steyn.
24869  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: July 16, 2011, 10:40:28 PM
Damian will be doing one hour plus on both Friday and Saturday evenings after the day's training is over.  Damian is an interesting guy.  I think everyone will be pleased.
24870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Euro on: July 16, 2011, 05:06:11 PM
Portfolio: The Question of the Eurozone's Future
July 14, 2011 | 1336 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Vice President of Analysis Peter Zeihan explains the existential difficulties that lie ahead for the eurozone.

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

It’s hard to be bullish on much in Europe these days. The government bonds of Ireland, Portugal and Greece have all been downgraded to junk, the Europeans been sent back to the drawing board by the markets on their new bailout regimen and now the markets are talking about Italy being the next country to suffer a default. It’s easy to see why: next to Greece, Italy has the highest debt in Europe at about 120 percent of GDP. Its government is, shall we say, eccentric, and it has the highest debt relative to GDP of any country in the world with the exception of course of Greece and Japan. The sheer size of that debt, some 2 trillion euro, is larger than the combined government debts of the three states that are currently in receivership combined. In fact, it’s more than double the total envisioned amount of the bailout fund in its grandest incarnation.

Italy certainly deserves to be under the microscope, but STRATFOR does not see it as ripe for a bailout. Unlike Ireland or Portugal or Greece, Italy has a strong and large banking system, or at least healthy as compared to say, Ireland. So while Italy’s debt load is 120 percent of GDP, only 50 percent of GDP needs to be handled by outside investors, the banks handle everything else. But let’s keep such optimism in context. It’s now been 16 months since the first bailout of Greece back in March of last year and it’s becoming ever more apparent that the fear isn’t so much that the contagion from the weak states will infect the strong ones, but there are just a lot more weak states out there than anybody gave the Europeans credit for when this all started. So long as there is no federal entity with the political and fiscal capacity of dealing with the crisis, this is just going to get worse and it’s only a matter of months before what we think of as real states such as Belgium, Austria and Spain, are to be starting to flirt with conservatorship themselves.

Ad hoc crisis management can deal, has dealt, with the small peripheral economies, but it’s not capable of dealing with the problem that is now looming: potential financial instability and multi-trillion euro economies. With the illusions of stability that have sustained the euro to this point being peeled away one by one with every revelation of new debt improprieties, it’s only a matter of time before the euro collapses. This is of course unless one of three things happens. Option one is for the stronger nations to just directly subsidize the weaker nations, basically having the North transfer wealth in large amounts to the South year after year after year. Conservatively, that’s one trillion euros a year, and it is difficult to see how that would be politically palatable in a place like Germany.

Option two is to create something called Eurobonds. Right now the markets are scared of anything that has the word Portugal or Greece attached, and Greek debt is currently selling for about 16 percent versus the 3 percent of Germany. Eurobonds would allow European states to issue debt as a collective, so the full faith and credit of the European Union would back up any debt, which means that this 13 percent premium on Greek debt would largely disappear overnight. Of course that would mean that the European whole would be ultimately responsible for those debts at the end of the day, which means after a few years we’d be back in the same situation we are right now, with the debt ultimately landing on Germany’s doorstep once again. In STRATFOR’s view, the only difference between direct subsidization in the Eurobond plan would be when the Germans pay, now or later.

The third and final option is to simply print currency to buy up the government debt directly, either via the ECB or with the ECB granting a loan to the bailout fund to purchase the debt itself. This is an option that the Europeans are sliding toward because it puts off the hard decisions on political and economic power to another day. However it comes at a cost: inflation. Printing currency is a seriously inflationary business and for Europe this would put them in a double bind. Europe already has to import most of its energy, it already has a rapidly aging labor force and it already has very little free land upon which to build. Combined, this already makes the European Union the most inflationary of the world’s major developed economies, and that’s before you figure in printing currency.

24871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another Operation Gun Runner- out of Florida? on: July 16, 2011, 05:01:46 PM
I don't remember where, but I heard something about the Operation Gun Runner in Texas-Mexico apparently has a correlary in Florida running guns to Central America.  Anyone heard anything about it?

There is a brief reference to it in the piece below:

Guns Gone Wild -- ATF's Good Intentions Gone Bad
Obama's Solution: New Gun Control Measures
"The ultimate authority ... resides in the people alone. ... The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation ... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition." --James Madison

Obama's ATF Political FollyIn January of this year, Federal Judge John Roll, a Republican nominated by President George H.W. Bush, was among six citizens murdered by a psychopath in Tucson. Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was among 14 wounded in that attack.

Predictably, Barack Hussein Obama and his Leftist cadres in the Democrat Party were quick to convert the Tucson tragedy into political fodder to formulate a new round of "common sense" gun control legislation. Indeed, Obama claimed the Tucson assault should "at least be the beginning of a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people." He went on, "I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way [to confiscate guns]."

But Obama's nefarious plan to undermine the Second Amendment was well underway many, many months prior to the Tucson murders -- and well below the radar. In fact, anti-gun activist Sarah Brady said that Obama told her, "I just want you to know that we are working on [gun control]. ... We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar."

Why would Obama want to be so clandestine with his anti-2A agenda?

In recent decades, Democrats have suffered serious electoral and judicial setbacks when trying to enact gun control measures. Given the lack of broad support for such measures, Obama is silently advancing the Socialist agenda to disarm Americans and, ultimately, neutralize our ability to defend Essential Liberty.

In March of this year, I detailed insider accounts regarding Project Gunrunner, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation begun in 2005, which originally had the objective of tracking weapons transfers between the U.S. and Mexico in order to expose Mexican drug cartels.

However, in early 2009, the Obama administration determined that the original purpose of Gunrunner could be altered in order to provide a new mandate for implementing their gun control rationale: Stopping the flow of "assault weapons" into Mexico. To facilitate that agenda, Attorney General Eric Holder authorized operation "Fast and Furious," that set into motion an ATF plan to encourage and enable "straw purchase" firearm sales to arms traffickers, and allow the guns to make their way into the hands of violent Mexican drug cartel assassins.

Holder determined that he could manufacture a case that guns purchased in the U.S. were responsible for all the violence in Mexico. Then Obama could use that "evidence" to make the argument that, in order to stem the violence, more stringent gun control measures were necessary, starting incrementally with restricting gun sales in Border States. As Demo Rep. Carolyn McCarthy put it, "[Obama] is with me on [gun control], and it's just going to be when that opportunity comes forward that we're going to be able to go forward."

Border Patrol Agent Brian TerryThe "opportunity" was moving forward unabated until one of the ATF's Fast and Furious guns was used last December to murder U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, and other guns were used in the February ambush of Immigration and Customs Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila by Los Zetas Cartel soldiers in Mexico. Agent Zapata was killed in that assault.

I should note here that in all accounts from my sources within ATF, clearly the agents involved at the tactical level of Gunrunner and F&F were under the impression that these operations were legitimate efforts to identify transit lines between the U.S. and members of Los Zetas and other Mexican drug cartels.

However, at the strategic (high-level management) levels of the ATF in Arizona and Texas, it was well understood that Holder had a scheme to use this operation to jumpstart Obama's gun control scheme. (In a March 2010 ATF memo, agents reported that the managers in charge of Fast and Furious were "jovial, if not giddy" over news that ATF guns were associated with murders in Mexico.)

There is new evidence that Holder even used "stimulus debt" to launch "Operation Castaway" in Florida -- putting guns into the hands of the world's most brutal transnational gang, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) -- to generate additional "supporting evidence" for Obama's gun control mandate.

Recall if you will, Democrat outrage when Oliver North, working for the Reagan administration, ran a clandestine operation selling arms to Middle East bad guys so they could kill other bad guys over there, and then used some of the sales proceeds to fund the good guys in Central America fighting against Marxists south of our border. No such Democrat angst is evident this time.

Obama and Holder are moving forward with their subterfuge with no concern about rebuke. Moreover, they are doing so as if agents Terry and Zapata were still walking the line.

Last Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced, "The president directed the attorney general to form working groups with key stakeholders to identify common-sense measures that would improve Americans' safety and security while fully respecting Second Amendment rights. That process is well underway at the Department of Justice with stakeholders on all sides working through these complex issues. And we expect to have some more specific announcements in the near future."

Well underway, indeed. Lost amid the din of all the extra-constitutional federal tax-n-spend debates this week, Obama spared Democrat congressional action on gun control by unilaterally circumventing the Second Amendment via an Executive Order. You guessed it -- he decreed new restrictions on gun sales in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Holder's Deputy Attorney General, James Cole, claimed that Obama's EO would help the ATF disrupt illegal weapons trafficking networks between the U.S. and Mexico.

Meanwhile, there's a growing list of serious crimes committed in the U.S. with ATF guns that were thought to be in Mexico.

Parents of Agent Jaime ZapataAs Obama ramps up additional gun control measures, I would remind him that the first shots of the American Revolution were fired in response to the government's attempt to disarm American colonists, specifically to capture and destroy arms and supplies stored by the Massachusetts militia in the town of Concord.

As reflected in James Madison's words regarding the "ultimate authority" for defending liberty, our Founders fully understood that to secure Liberty, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

As Madison's Supreme Court appointee, Justice Joseph Story, wrote in his 1833 "Commentaries on the Constitution," "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."

The Second Amendment was and remains "The Palladium of Liberties."

Those who are foolishly willing to compromise Essential Liberty to pursue Obama's illusion of safety, in the timeless judgment of Benjamin Franklin, "deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

24872  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Vacation Travel on: July 16, 2011, 04:59:22 PM
It’s travel season in many parts of the world. In fact, our own Scott Stewart is traveling, so in lieu of this week’s regular Security Weekly, we bring you a valuable piece for anyone with an upcoming trip. Fred Burton, former special agent and STRATFOR’s VP of Intelligence, discusses tips on how to stay safe while traveling.

STRATFOR does not endorse or recommend any commercial products. The brands mentioned by name in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of STRATFOR.

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

Hi, I’m Fred Burton with STRATFOR. We get a lot of questions at STRATFOR regarding personal safety while traveling on vacation. We would like to address three specific points with this video. The first is vacation preparation, the second is how to choose and be safe in your hotel and the third is situational awareness.

I have laid out some items that I always pack whenever I’m going on vacation; the first is a surefire tactical flashlight. You can utilize this for a range of different emergencies. I like it to be used as a possible weapon where you can blind an assailant on the street in the event of a robbery at night. It’s also a great tool to help you get down emergency stairwells and exits in the event of emergency at your hotel. The other thing that I routinely carry with me on vacation is a very good knife, I like the Benchmade Griptilian Knife that has a locking blade. Paracord is wonderful with multiple uses to tie off anything that you want to utilize it for. It can also help you in the unfortunate event, in case you need to attempt to rappel off your balcony. Another item that’s wonderful, is a rescue belt, this one is by Bisons designs. I like it because you can wear it, and it’s always there. You could utilize this is as a tourniquet. Another thing to always remember is make sure you bring enough medicines with you, and any kind of specialty kind of medicine. In my case, I always carry an Epipen in the event of, or to help prevent anaphylactic shock. The last thing I would like to bring your attention is a company called Global Rescue, they will come to your aid anywhere around the world in the event of an emergency. They will help you get out of the country, they will medevac you, they’ll physically send people to help you.

Before your vacation, you need to research the specific area that you intend to travel to with an eye towards the hotel that you’re going to stay. Make sure that this is a low crime area where there hasn’t been any violence, such as robbery or terrorists plots or previous attacks. When traveling I always try to stay on the third floor. I pick a hotel room that’s on the interior of a property with a balcony. The balcony affords you the opportunity, if you needed to, in the case of a fire or another emergency, to rappel off, utilizing either your emergency belt, your paracord or even sheets from the bed.

After getting into your hotel room, the first thing I always do is make sure once the door shuts, that it has a very good locking mechanism that is going to work. If it doesn’t, you should request another hotel room. After checking the locks on the hotel door I always walk the emergency fire exit to show me where it’s going to go, with my flashlight so I have a good mental reference as to how things are going to look in the event of an emergency and I have to utilize the stairwell to get out. Another important factor to take a mental note of is whether or not you have sprinklers in your hotel room and in this case we do which is a very good thing. Situational awareness while on vacation is key. You want to stay observant and alert, don’t carry a lot of cash and I always carry a throw-down wallet. That’s a wallet that in the event of an unfortunate robbery on the street, you could give that to the bad guy and yet you have other cash in your pocket and credit cards. Whenever I venture out into the local economy or into a city, I’m always carrying my pocketknife, my flashlight as well as my paracord, just in case.

24873  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: July 16, 2011, 04:32:55 PM
Other things I do for preparation for and/or recovery from long trips:

1)  Massage.  There is an AWESOME Chinese place in my neighborhood that does great work for $20 per hour.  I get 90 minutes a day or two before my travel.  Sometimes both days! My body is the tool with which I generate my living and tools require upkeep and maitainence.  Some people might regard this as wimpy, my attitude is I am worth it.

2) Airplane travel becomes an ever more challenging experience.  Crummier seats, less leg room, no entertainment on some airlines (included in this Hall of Shame are , , , ahem , , , US Airways on its domestic flights and Iberia).  The seats are really, really tough on my hips and lower back and so in addition to the massage, I have particular workout routines that focus on alignment of the hips.

3) When big time zone changes are involved LOTS OF DRUGS cheesy  but not alcohol (I have maybe 2 or 3 drinks per years, I find it to be very counterproductive) specifically 10 mgs of melatonin (that is considered a big dose) and a Benadryl.

4) If I need the caffeine I will have a diet Coke or a coffee.  Because I only drink caffeine on special occasions (to fire up for a seminar in another time zone, to stay awake when driving) one Diet Coke and I am seriously wired.

5) Both before and after a long trip I make a point of a session at Bluff Cove.  This entails about 40 to 445 minutes of LSD aerocis with variable heart rate.
24874  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: July 16, 2011, 02:17:18 PM
I thought C-Gong Fu Dog did a fine job of integrating into his fighting the 3SS ideas that we worked only the day before.  As he has time to bubble and ferment inside with them and the experience of the Gg with them, I look for his game to move forward nicely.  Similarly I look for good things out of him in Kali Tudo  wink

C-Spartan Dog:  Do not confuse success with progress.  Sometimes we move forward more from a challenging day than a "successful" day.  Also, as you note, emotion plays a big role in fighting.  For example, when I heard that George Forman would be wearing the shorts he wore the night he lost to Mohamed Ali when he challenged Michael Moore to retake the Heavyweight title, I bet on him because I knew he would be bringing EVERYTHING in his soul to that fight.  I made a lot of money that night  grin
24875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scotland Yard, the dog that did NOT bark , , , on: July 16, 2011, 01:30:51 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Saturday, July 16, 2011 -- 1:38 PM EDT

Taint From Tabloids Rubs Off on a Cozy Scotland Yard

For nearly four years, six overstuffed plastic bags containing possible evidence of phone hacking by the British tabloid, The News of the World, collected little more than dust in the evidence room of Scotland Yard.

During that time, British police officials assured Parliament, judges, lawyers, potential hacking victims, the news media and the public that there was no evidence of widespread hacking by the paper. But that assertion has been reduced to tatters in the last week, torn apart by an avalanche of contradictory evidence, admissions by newspaper executives that the hacking was more widespread, and a reversal by police officials who now admit to mishandling the case.

In an article in the Sunday New York Times, Don Van Natta Jr. explains how the British police agency and News International, the British subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the publisher of The News of the World, became so intertwined that they shared the goal of containing the investigation.

Read More:
24876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 16, 2011, 10:53:14 AM

If you were the American Commander in Chief, what would you have us do?

24877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 16, 2011, 10:48:55 AM
True!  Pravda on the Hudson most certainly lives in a big glass house, but the question presented here is the WSJ.  I think I posted here at the time that Murdoch took over of my concerns; also to be noted is that the Pravdas will be using all this to continue their attack on non-Pravda sources and beliefs.
24878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who pays that? on: July 16, 2011, 10:46:06 AM
"Further, regarding your high tax rates quote , , , my accountant friend laughed; his quote was "who pays that?""

JDN, I think you miss a key point here.  OF COURSE few people actually pay that!!!  The reason is that they jump through the tax code's inducements to invest in the places to which the government wishes them to invest a.k.a. their special interest friends.  THIS is one of the meanings of "public-private partnership" so often blathered about.  This is one of the faces of economic fascism. 

The net result is malinvestment and is an insidious and invidious destructive force acting upon the American economy.
24879  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: July 16, 2011, 10:06:56 AM
Ron Balicki tried getting me a job once as one of the bad guys/things but at 6'1" I was 1" too tall for the maximum allowed for the costume.
24880  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: July 16, 2011, 10:02:34 AM
?Que/Quien viene proximo?
24881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ has become Fox-fied on: July 16, 2011, 09:48:59 AM
Although as my inserts below indicate I have some disagreements with the following POTH piece, I do agree with its general thrust that Murdoch has been bad for the WSJ, a paper which I used to love dearly.

It’s official. The Wall Street Journal has been Fox-ified.
Earl Wilson/The New York Times

It took Rupert Murdoch only three and a half years to get there, starting with the moment he acquired the paper from the dysfunctional Bancroft family in December 2007, a purchase that was completed after he vowed to protect The Journal’s editorial integrity and agreed to a (toothless) board that was supposed to make sure he kept that promise.

Fat chance of that. Within five months, Murdoch had fired the editor and installed his close friend Robert Thomson, fresh from a stint Fox-ifying The Times of London. The new publisher was Leslie Hinton, former boss of the division that published Murdoch’s British newspapers, including The News of the World. (He resigned on Friday.) Soon came the changes, swift and sure: shorter articles, less depth, an increased emphasis on politics and, weirdly, sometimes surprisingly unsophisticated coverage of business.  (Marc: Agree!)

Along with the transformation of a great paper into a mediocre one came a change that was both more subtle and more insidious. The political articles grew more and more slanted toward the Republican party line. (Marc: Disagree!  Lots of Dem blather that would never have seen the light of day began appearing!) The Journal sometimes took to using the word “Democrat” as an adjective instead of a noun, a usage favored by the right wing. In her book, “War at The Wall Street Journal,” Sarah Ellison recounts how editors inserted the phrase “assault on business” in an article about corporate taxes under President Obama. The Journal was turned into a propaganda vehicle for its owner’s conservative views. That’s half the definition of Fox-ification.  ("Conservative" does not mean "pro certain busienss interests, and as noted the papaer moved leftward, not rightward)

The other half is that Murdoch’s media outlets must shill for his business interests. With the News of the World scandal, The Journal has now shown itself willing to do that, too.

As a business story, the News of the World scandal isn’t just about phone hacking and police bribery. It is about Murdoch’s media empire, the News Corporation, being at risk — along with his family’s once unshakable hold on it. The old Wall Street Journal would have been leading the pack in pursuit of that story.

Now? At first, The Journal ignored the scandal, even though, as the Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff pointed out in Adweek, it was front-page news all across Britain. Then, when the scandal was no longer avoidable, The Journal did just enough to avoid being accused of looking the other way. Blogging for Columbia Journalism Review, Dean Starkman, the media critic, described The Journal’s coverage as “obviously hamstrung, and far, far below the paper’s true capacity.”

On Friday, however, the coverage went all the way to craven. The paper published an interview with Murdoch that might as well have been dictated by the News Corporation public relations department. He was going to testify before Parliament next week, he told the Journal reporter, because “it’s important to absolutely establish our integrity.” Some of the accusations made in Parliament were “total lies.” The News Corporation had handled the scandal “extremely well in every way possible.” So had his son James, a top company executive. “When I hear something going wrong, I insist on it being put right,” he said. He was “getting annoyed” by the scandal. And “tired.” And so on.

In the article containing the interview, there was no pushback against any of these statements, even though several of them bordered on the delusional. The two most obvious questions — When did Murdoch first learn of the phone hacking at The News of the World? And when did he learn that reporters were bribing police officers for information? — went unasked. The Journal reporter had either been told not to ask those questions, or instinctively knew that he shouldn’t. It is hard to know which is worse. The dwindling handful of great journalists who remain at the paper — Mark Maremont, Alan Murray and Alix Freedman among them — must be hanging their heads in shame.

To tell you the truth, I’m hanging my head in shame too. Four years ago, when Murdoch was battling recalcitrant members of the Bancroft family to gain control of The Journal, which he had long lusted after and which he viewed as the vehicle that would finally allow him to go head-to-head against The New York Times, I wrote several columns saying that he would be a better owner than the Bancrofts.

The Bancrofts’ history of mismanagement had made The Journal vulnerable in the first place. I thought that Murdoch’s resources would stop the financial bleeding, and that his desire for a decent legacy would keep him from destroying a great newspaper.

After the family agreed to sell to him, Elisabeth Goth, the brave Bancroft heir who had long tried to get her family to fix the company, told me, “He has a tremendous opportunity, and I don’t think he’s going to blow it.” In that same column, I wrote, “The chances of Mr. Murdoch wrecking The Journal are lower than you’d think.”

Mea culpa.

Gail Collins is on book leave.

24882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lott: Seven Myths (lies) on: July 16, 2011, 08:49:33 AM
24883  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: July 16, 2011, 08:23:20 AM
Woof All: 

Damian Halforty is going to be coming to the camp all the way from New Zealand, (we also have two coming from Great Britain) to where he has emmigrated from South Africa.  While he lived in South Africa he was a noted security specialist (including stints in east Africa) and was the author of a book on Anti-carjacking techniques.  (Do I have these details correct Damian? Please feel free to add or delete).

    Anyway, Damian will be doing a session on anti-carjacking at the Camp. (He mentioned something about using the Dogcatcher while exiting the vehicle) I am very excited about this! 

A question is presented by the fact that I have billed the camp as "all Real Contact Stickfighting".   I do not want people feeling misled about the contents of the camp, so I am asking for some feedback.  Would we rather have a full half day on this (it looks like my truck is going to be the laboratory) or would we rather have this as an extra session Saturday evening?

Guro Crafty
24884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: No new tax Dems on: July 15, 2011, 02:28:14 PM

If Democrats think it is a national priority to raise taxes to lower the deficit, why don't they take a stand in the Senate and do it?

Democrats hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, so Majority Leader Harry Reid shouldn't need a single Republican vote to move his tax agenda forward. A budget resolution requires only 51 votes, which means Democrats could vote today to pass a budget resolution on a $1 trillion tax increase as President Obama has endorsed, or the $2 trillion that Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad has proposed.

Instead, Mr. Reid continues to put any Democratic budget with tax increases in the deep freeze even as the party keeps saying the polls show that Americans support a tax hike as part of a debt plan. Why not go for it?

The answer is Senator Reid can't rally his own caucus to get anywhere near 51 votes for a big tax increase. Even as President Obama and Mr. Reid continue to push for a closed-door bipartisan agreement to raise taxes, the only bipartisan consensus in the Senate on taxes right now is . . . against raising them. Here's a sampling:

Ben Nelson of Nebraska, up for re-election in November 2012: "Raising taxes at a time when our economy remains fragile takes us in the wrong direction." He adds: "If we start with plans to raise taxes, pretty soon spending cuts will fall by the wayside."

Joe Manchin of West Virginia, also up for re-election next year, told us: "Make no mistake, I don't believe in tax hikes, I believe in tax fairness." This means closing "unnecessary loopholes."

Virginia's Jim Webb, who is retiring at the end of next year: "During my time in the Senate, I have consistently opposed the notion of increasing revenues through raising taxes on ordinary, earned income—those amounts, whether large or small, that Americans take home as part of their every-day work and their basic compensation packages." He said he advocates raising taxes "by other means," including "ending costly subsidies and tax loopholes or by adjusting such measures as capital gains."

Joe Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut, told the Connecticut Mirror he has a lot of "unanswered questions" about the Democratic budget plan, and that the $2 trillion to come from tax hikes could be too "high" for him to accept. "For 50% to come from tax increases is a lot."

Specific tax-hike proposals also hit a wall of opposition in the Democratic caucus. An increase on the oil and gas industry, a top priority for the White House, has firm opposition from three energy-state Democrats—Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mr. Nelson of Nebraska. Ms. Landrieu cites bipartisan opposition to the idea.

Bill Nelson of Florida and Mr. Begich have expressed reservations about another populist Democratic revenue raiser: a millionaire surtax.

One of the most unjustified tax loopholes is the ethanol subsidy. But 13 Senate Democrats voted against a measure earlier this year to kill it, including Iowa liberal Tom Harkin.

The White House and Harry Reid may think Americans favor reducing debt with a big tax increase. But first they need to convince the antitax Democrats in their own caucus.

24885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reich on: July 15, 2011, 02:26:00 PM

Reich was in Clinton's cabinet. 


After a bruising midterm election, the president moves to the political center. He distances himself from his Democratic base. He calls for cuts in Social Security and signs historic legislation ending a major entitlement program. He agrees to balance the budget with major cuts in domestic discretionary spending. He has a showdown with Republicans who threaten to bring government to its knees if their budget demands aren't met. He wins the showdown, successfully painting them as radicals. He goes on to win re-election.

Barack Obama in 2012? Maybe. But the president who actually did it was Bill Clinton. (The program he ended was Title IV of the Social Security Act, Aid to Families with Dependent Children.)

It's no accident that President Obama appears to be following the Clinton script. After all, it worked. Despite a 1994 midterm election that delivered Congress to the GOP and was widely seen as a repudiation of his presidency, President Clinton went on to win re-election. And many of Mr. Obama's top aides—including Chief of Staff Bill Daley, National Economic Council head Gene Sperling and Pentagon chief Leon Panetta—are Clinton veterans who know the 1995-96 story line by heart.

Republicans have obligingly been playing their parts this time. In the fall of 1995, Speaker Newt Gingrich was the firebrand, making budget demands that the public interpreted as causing two government shutdowns—while President Clinton appeared to be the great compromiser. This time it's House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his Republican allies who appear unwilling to bend and risk defaulting on the nation's bills—while President Obama offers to cut Social Security and reduce $3 of spending for every dollar of tax increase.

And with Moody's threatening to downgrade the nation's debt if the debt limit isn't raised soon, Republicans appear all the more radical.

So will Barack Obama pull a Bill Clinton? His real problem is one Mr. Clinton didn't have to contend with: a continuing terrible economy. The recession in 1991-92 was relatively mild, and by the spring of 1995, the economy was averaging 200,000 new jobs per month. By early 1996, it was roaring—with 434,000 new jobs added in February alone.

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Martin Kozlowski
 .I remember suggesting to Mr. Clinton's then-political adviser, Dick Morris, that the president come up with some new policy ideas for the election. Mr. Morris wasn't interested. The election will be about the economy—nothing more, nothing less, he said. He knew voters didn't care much about policy. They cared about jobs.

President Obama isn't as fortunate. The economy remains hampered by the Great Recession, brought on not by overshooting by the Federal Reserve but by the bursting of a giant housing bubble. As such, the downturn has proven resistant to reversal by low interest rates. The Fed has kept interest rates near zero for more than two years, opened the spigots of its discount window, and undertaken two rounds of quantitative easing—all with little to show for it.

Some in the White House and on Wall Street assume the anemic recovery will turn stronger in the second half of the year, emerging full strength in 2012. They blame the anemia on disruptions in Japanese supply chains, bad weather, high oil prices, European debt crises, and whatever else they can come up with. These factors have contributed, but they're not the big story.

When the Great Recession wiped out $7.8 trillion of home values, it crushed the nest eggs and eliminated the collateral of America's middle class. As a result, consumer spending has been decimated. Households have been forced to reduce their debt to 115% of disposable personal income from 130% in 2007, and there's more to come. Household debt averaged 75% of personal income between 1975 and 2000.

We're in a vicious cycle in which job and wage losses further reduce Americans' willingness to spend, which further slows the economy. Job growth has effectively stopped. The fraction of the population now working (58.2%) is near a 25-year low—lower than it was when recession officially ended in June 2009.

Wage growth has stopped as well. Average real hourly earnings for all employees declined by 1.1% between June 2009, when the recovery began, and May 2011. For the first time since World War II, there has been a decline in aggregate wages and salaries over seven quarters of post-recession recovery.

This is not Bill Clinton's economy. So many jobs have been lost since Mr. Obama was elected that, even if job growth were to match the extraordinary pace of the late 1990s—averaging 300,000 to 350,000 per month—the unemployment rate wouldn't fall below 6% until 2016. That pace of job growth is unlikely, to say the least. If Republicans manage to cut federal spending significantly between now and Election Day, while state outlays continue to shrink, the certain result is continued high unemployment and anemic growth.

So Mr. Obama's challenge in 2012 has nothing to do with Mr. Clinton's in 1996. Most Americans care far more about jobs and wages than they do about budget deficits and debt ceilings. Even if Mr. Obama is seen to win the contest over raising the debt limit and succeeds in painting Republicans as radicals, he risks losing the upcoming election unless he directly addresses the horrendous employment problem.

How can he do this while continuing to appear more reasonable than Republicans on the deficit? By coming up with a bold jobs plan that would increase outlays over the next year or two but would credibly begin a long-term plan to shrink the budget. To the extent the jobs plan spurs growth, the long-term ratio of debt to GDP will improve.

Elements of the plan might include putting more money into peoples' pockets by exempting the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes for the next year, recreating a Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps to employ the long-term jobless, creating an infrastructure bank to finance improvements to roads and bridges, enacting partial unemployment benefits for those who have been laid off from part-time jobs, and giving employers tax credits for net new hires.

The fight over the debt ceiling will be over very soon. Most Washington hands know it will be raised. Political tacticians know President Obama will likely appear to win the battle, and his apparent move to the center will make Republicans look like radicals. But the Clinton script will take the president only so far. If he wants a second term, he'll have to come out swinging on jobs.

Mr. Reich, a former U.S. secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and author of "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future" (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010).

24886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: No times for games on: July 15, 2011, 02:19:52 PM

Looked at one way, it shouldn't be hard. Both parties in Washington have every reason to want to prove they possess the baseline political competence to meet the government's central and pending crisis, which is the spending crisis. Both parties should be eager to reach a debt ceiling agreement, if only to prove the system isn't broken. Because really, they are the system. If it's broken, they're broken, and if they're broken, who needs them?

So you'd think the hangman's noose would have concentrated their minds. Instead, of course, it's a battle. As this is written, the president seems to have the edge. But if he wins—whatever winning looks like—he'll likely pay a price for his political victory. He usually does. He won on health care, which ruined his first two years in office and sharply accelerated the decline in his popularity.

The issues of spending and taxes should be decoupled. The spending crisis is what's going on and demands attention now; it's because of out-of-control spending that we are up against the debt ceiling. Taxes—whether to raise them on the wealthy, whether to reform the tax code and how—can't be satisfyingly dealt with in the next few weeks. It is gameful of the White House to obscure the central crisis by focusing on a secondary one. The American people have very interesting thoughts and views on taxes, and in no way is it certain that this issue will always favor the Republicans. There's an election in 2012, we can argue it through from now to then.

A central problem for Republicans is that they're trying to do everything—cut spending, fight off tax increases, win national support—from the House. The House is probably not enough to win a fight like this. In the words of a conservative strategist, Republicans have one bullet and the Democrats have three: the presidency, the Senate, and a mainstream media generally willing to accept the idea that the president is the moderate in the fight.

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Chad Crowe
 .The president is in the better position, and he knows it. Majority Leader Eric Cantor reports Mr. Obama went into enough-is-enough mode during White House talks this week, warned Mr. Cantor not to call his bluff, and ended the meeting saying: "Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting here?" I'm glad Reagan is his model for how presidents should comport themselves, but he should know Reagan never tried to scare people into doing things his way. Instead he tried to encourage support, and with a light touch. When locked in battle with a Democratic Congress he didn't go on TV and make threats. He didn't say, "Congress needs to know we must rebuild our defense system, and if they don't, your children will die in a fiery hale of Soviet bullets."

That was—how to put it?—not his style. It's not any president's style. But it's what Mr. Obama was doing when he told CBS's Scott Pelley that he isn't sure there will be "money in the coffers" to send out Social Security checks. Soon he may be saying there won't be money in the coffers to let students return to college or to pay servicemen. The president is playing Targeted Catastrophe. He's attempting to agitate and frighten people into calling their congressmen and saying Don't Cut Anything, Raise Taxes on Millionaires.

Three weeks of Targeted Catastrophe could be pretty effective. But if the president wins this way, there will be residual costs. He will have scared America and shook it up, all for a political victory. That will not add to affection or regard for the president. Centrists and independents, however they react in terms of support, will not think more highly of him.

Which gets me, briefly, to the latest poll on whether Americans think we're on the right track or wrong track as a nation. The wrong-track number hit 63% this month, up from 60% last month, according to Reuters/Ipsos, which laid the increase to pessimism about the economy and "prolonged gridlock in Washington."

Fair enough. But there's more to be said about the nation the president seems to be busy agitating. It's always assumed the right track/wrong track numbers are about the economy, which makes sense because economic facts are always in the forefronts of everyone's minds. Will I get laid off, can I pay the bills, can my business survive?

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.But there are other reasons for American unease, and in a way some are deeper and more pervasive. Some are cultural. Here are only two. Pretty much everyone over 50 in America feels on some level like a refugee. That's because they were born in one place—the old America—and live now in another. We're like immigrants, whether we literally are or not. One of the reasons America has always celebrated immigrants is a natural, shared knowledge that they left behind everything they knew to enter a place that was different—different language, different ways and manners, different food and habits, different tempo. This took courage. They missed the old country. There's a line in a Bernard Shaw play, "Mrs. Warren's Profession": "I kept myself lonely for you!" That is the unspoken sentence of all immigrants toward their children—I made myself long for an old world so you could have a better one.

But everyone over 50 in America feels a certain cultural longing now. They hear the new culture out of the radio, the TV, the billboard, the movie, the talk show. It is so violent, so sexualized, so politicized, so rough. They miss the old America they were born into, 50 to 70 years ago. And they fear, deep down, that this new culture, the one their children live in, isn't going to make it. Because it is, in essence, an assaultive culture, from the pop music coming out of the rental car radio to the TSA agent with her hands on your kids' buttocks. We are increasingly strangers here, and we fear for the future. There are, by the way, 100 million Americans over 50. A third of the nation. That's a lot of displaced people. They are part of the wrong-track numbers.

So is this. In the Old America there were a lot of bad parents. There always are, because being a parent is hard, and not everyone has the ability or even the desire. But in the old America you knew it wasn't so bad, because the culture could bring the kids up. Inadequate parents could sort of say, "Go outside and play in the culture," and the culture—relatively innocent, and boring—could be more or less trusted to bring the kids up. Popular songs, the messages in movies—all of it was pretty hopeful, and, to use a corny old word, wholesome. Grown-ups now know you can't send the kids out to play in the culture, because the culture will leave them distorted and disturbed. And there isn't less bad parenting now than there used to be. There may be more.

There is so much unease and yearning and sadness in America. So much good, too, so much energy and genius. But it isn't a country anyone should be playing games with, and adding to the general sense of loss
24887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: June Industrial Production on: July 15, 2011, 01:57:49 PM
Industrial production increased 0.2% in June To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 7/15/2011

Industrial production increased 0.2% in June, coming in slightly below the consensus expected gain of 0.3%. Including revisions to prior months, production rose 0.1%. Output is up 3.4% in the past year.

Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, was unchanged in June. Auto production fell 2.0% in June. Non-auto manufacturing increased 0.1%. Auto production is up 2.5% versus a year ago while non-auto manufacturing has risen 3.8%.
The production of high-tech equipment increased 0.6% in June and is up 10.0% versus a year ago.
Overall capacity utilization was unchanged at 76.7% in June. Manufacturing capacity use was unchanged at 74.4%.
Implications:  Industrial production grew modestly in June but is going to surge sharply in July as automakers start to recover from the supply-chain disruptions coming from Japan. In the past three months, auto and light truck assemblies have dropped at a 39% annual rate, resulting in razor-thin inventories and slower sales (as auto companies and dealers curbed incentives). The reversal of that problem is going to generate eye-grabbing and positive headlines in the next few months. Since the multiple disasters that hit Japan, we have been following manufacturing production excluding autos to assess the underlying trend – even though some of these manufacturers were also temporarily hurt by the supply-chain problems. That production increased 0.1% in June, the most since the disasters hit in March, and was up 3.8% versus a year ago. In addition, we expect business investment in equipment to accelerate. Corporate profits and cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies are at record highs. Meanwhile, companies can fully expense these purchases for tax purposes through year-end. In other news this morning on the manufacturing sector, the Empire State index, a measure of manufacturing activity in New York, increased to -3.8 in July from -7.8 in June. This is a smaller gain than the consensus expected but we expect better regional survey numbers where the auto industry is more prominent.
24888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PP: Baraq changes tune on Syria on: July 15, 2011, 01:37:21 PM
Many penetrating comments in here, but in the big picture ultimately do they matter?
Administration Changes Tune on Syria
Better late than never, we suppose. This week the Obama administration finally decided that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whom Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently called "a reformer," has now "lost legitimacy." Was it the brutal repression of his own people, which in just the last two months has seen more than 1,600 Syrians murdered by regime goons? Nope. Was it inheriting his father's family business, and with it the guilt for as many as 100,000 Syrian and Lebanese lives lost to terrorism, torture and war? Nope. Was it Syria's covert pursuit of nuclear weapons, or its continued sponsorship of the terrorist mafia known as Hezbollah? Nope. None of these was worth calling Assad out for what he is -- an iron-fisted dictator with a regime propped up by brute force and fear, a leader hated by his own people, and an international pariah. But when you attack the U.S. embassy, even the Obama administration must take notice.

On Monday, Assad's security forces and their underlings orchestrated and carried out attack on the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus. The absence of Syrian police, which required the Marine security unit to eject the attackers forcibly, is an unmistakable indication the regime was behind the attack. It may seem easy to dismiss an action in which no Americans were harmed and which did no significant damage to U.S. property, but the fact that Assad felt he could safely attack the embassy of the United States without fear of serious repercussion speaks volumes.

Assad watched as the Obama administration did nothing during the 2009 Iranian protests. He watched as the Obama administration dithered for weeks before finally launching a half-hearted "kinetic military action" against Libya's lunatic dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. He then watched as Obama promptly stepped back and handed the Libyan tar baby to NATO, which appears no closer to finishing the job -- whatever it is -- than it was on March 23. What does Assad have to fear from an America that will not lead, or a NATO that cannot fight? Why not attack the U.S. embassy, and gain support from all those in the Middle East (and there are still many) who side with the dictators over democracy? So far, Assad's risk calculus has been proven correct.

24889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Libya's new government on: July 15, 2011, 01:32:48 PM
Interesting development.

There has been much sneering around here (with good reason!) about Baraq's handling of all this, but it is not impossible that things turn out relatively well , , ,


ISTANBUL—The U.S. and some 30 other countries declared they were recognizing Libya's opposition National Transitional Council as the country's "legitimate governing authority" on Friday, opening the way for billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets to be released to them.

 Leaders from 30 nations and organizations convene in Istanbul to discuss a road-map to peace in Libya. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, talks to British Foreign Secretary William Hague during the fourth Libya Contact Group Meeting. Video and image courtesy of Reuters.

The upgrade came in the concluding statement of a meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Istanbul. Diplomats described the move as a significant boost for opposition forces that have been fighting to topple Col. Moammar Gadhafi, as well as a clear message to the Libyan strongman to step aside.

The U.S. and many of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies had previously treated the Benghazi-based council, known as the TNC, as their legitimate "interlocutor" in Libya, a lesser status that had significant legal implications.

"We still have to work through various legal issues, but we expect this step on recognition will enable the TNC to access additional sources of funding," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters. However, a senior U.S. official said that it would take time to work out the simplest legal way for the U.S. to disperse the funds.

More than $30 billion of Libyan assets are frozen in the U.S. U.S. officials have been looking at two options. The first involves issuing "directive licenses" to banks in the U.S that would authorize them to release the funds to the TNC. However, that could fall foul of provisions in two United Nations Security Council resolutions on Libya, according to people familiar with the matter.

The second option, using the frozen assets as collateral for loans to the TNC would be more complex to set up, but wouldn't run into hurdles at the U.N.

The U.S. appeared to be following, rather than leading, some of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies with Friday's announcement. Italy said it would immediately release €100 million ($141.4 million) in credit to the TNC, using frozen assets as collateral, and had already begun taking legal steps to make that possible.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said a contract for the €100 million would be signed "in the next few days," and that his country was in a position to offer up to €400 million in total.

France's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, later told reporters that his country was in the process of unfreezing $250 million in Libyan assets, but added that this could take time due to legal complications. Turkey, meanwhile, has already pledged a $200 million to the TNC under a collateralization scheme.

"Our loan implementation will constitute an example to other countries...we should cover the needs of our Libyan brothers," said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, at a closing news press conference with the meeting's co-chairman, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayn.

The senior U.S. official said there was no immediate prospect of the U.S. releasing funds.

Mr. Davutoglu had opened Friday's conference with a call for the contact group members to loan the TNC "a percentage" of the funds frozen in their counties to meet humanitarian needs during the religious Ramadan holidays next month.

How to handle Ramadan also formed part of the discussions among diplomats, who said NATO would have to navigate between the twin dangers of granting Col. Gadhafi propaganda victories by continuing to bomb, and giving him time to regroup his forces by relenting.

Mahmoud Shamman, spokesman for the TNC, said there was "no chance" of a cease-fire before Ramadan, a position backed by France's Mr. Juppe. Mr. Shamman also said the TNC needs $3 billion over the next six months, but so far has been promised only $700 million to $800 million.

Mrs. Clinton said the decision to give full recognition to the TNC had come only after it provided "assurances regarding its intentions to pursue democratic reform that is inclusive geographically and politically, and to uphold Libya's international obligations and to disburse funds in a transparent manner, to address the humanitarian and other needs of the Libyan people."

Pressed as to why it had taken the U.S. so long to recognize the TNC, Mrs. Clinton said: "we really acted in warp time in diplomatic terms, but we took our time to make sure that we were doing so based on the best possible assessments."

Diplomats said Friday's contact group meeting, the fourth since it was formed in March, differed from previous ones in focusing on the post-Gadhafi transition, rather than on NATO's military campaign. Mr. Juppe said there was agreement that Col. Gadhafi would have to leave power ahead of any political transition, but that it was up to the Libyans to decide whether that meant his paving the country.

There were few answers, though, on how to achieve that Friday. Friday's joint statement reiterated support for actions by the International Criminal Court to bring Col. Gadhafi to justice, making any deal under which he might leave for exile difficult.

Write to Marc Champion at and Joe Parkinson at

24890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: July 15, 2011, 01:24:27 PM
"[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments." --Alexander Hamilton

Government & Politics
The Debt Ceiling and the Constitution
"C'mon, man!" Joe Biden exclaimed Monday, "Let's get real!" On Wednesday, Barack Obama was so upset that he took his ball and went home, shoving his chair away from the table and saying tersely, "I'll see you tomorrow." The topic, of course, is the debt ceiling, which Obama and his pals at the Treasury Department insist must be raised by Aug. 2 to prevent default on U.S. debt. But this isn't your father's debt ceiling; it's $14.3 trillion currently, and Democrats want $2 trillion more. It's no wonder that tensions are running high. This is where ideological rubber hits the road and either builds America or tears it down.

The sticking points aren't new. Democrats want to raise taxes by as much as $2 trillion in addition to making cuts to various budget items, not least of which is defense. Republicans want cuts with no tax increases. Obama is so insistent on tax increases that, according to a GOP aide in the discussions, he declared, "This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this." He didn't yield as he demagogued Social Security, either. "I cannot guarantee that [Social Security] checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue," he shamelessly warned. Who's throwing grandma off the cliff now?

After that snit, he audaciously criticized Republicans' "my way or the highway" approach.

As for the cuts under discussion, they aren't genuine cuts like those average Americans are making -- buying less milk and fewer eggs, for example. Called base-line budgeting, Washington's cuts are merely reductions in projected growth, as in, "We're still going to buy more milk and eggs than we did last year, but not quite as much as we would have under better political circumstances."

To put it in perspective, spending over the next decade is projected to reach about $46 trillion, including $13 trillion in new debt. The haggling is over $2-4 trillion in cuts to that projected increase. Spreading $2 trillion over 10 years "saves" just $200 billion a year, or less than the interest payment on the debt, and even by reducing projected growth by that much, we still end up with an increase in spending. That, in a nutshell, is Washington-speak.

As for the status of compromise, it has succeeded only in Minnesota, where the Democrat governor and Republican legislature just agreed to end a government shutdown. At the federal level, Republicans have all but given up on a comprehensive reform package. As many as 60 House Republicans might vote against any increase to the debt ceiling, and Democrats control the Senate and the White House, making a deal without their support impossible. What to do?

McConnell's Plan

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) concluded this week, "[A]fter years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is unattainable. I was one of those who had hoped we could do something big for the country. But in my view the president has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes or default." McConnell is absolutely correct. However, his solution is questionable.

He outlined a complicated legislative maneuver in which Congress would permit the president to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally in three increments totaling $2.5 trillion, provided that he offer equivalent spending cuts each time. Each increase would be subject to a resolution of disapproval from Congress. The president would almost certainly veto that, but he would also then "own" the debt increase, and Congress -- particularly Republicans -- could be absolved, in theory, of responsibility for raising the debt ceiling. The plan has caused a split on both sides of the aisle. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) both praised the deal, and Reid is working to make it reality. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), not so much. Many House Republicans indicate it's a non-starter.

The Wall Street Journal asks, "The debt ceiling is going to be increased one way or another, and the only question has been what if anything Republicans could get in return. If Mr. Obama insists on a tax increase, and Republicans won't vote for one, then what's the alternative to Mr. McConnell's maneuver?"

"Ugly and unpleasant as it is," writes Daniel Foster of National Review, "not all retreats are capitulations. McConnell clearly thinks of this as a tactical retreat in the service of his overarching strategic objective: to make President Obama a one-term president."

On the other hand, there are constitutional concerns with McConnell's plan. The Constitution (Article I, Section Cool puts budget responsibility directly in the hands of Congress, not the president. Technically, the deal would leave Congress with the authority to dictate the amount of the increases and to "disapprove" if they choose, but there's a real sense that one of the three co-equal branches of government is abdicating its constitutional duty for political gain.

Rory Cooper of the Heritage Foundation writes, "Depending on exactly how the legislative language is drafted, it well might violate the Bicameralism and Presentment Clauses for the making of law, the separation of powers regarding Congress's control over the budget and spending, [and] the legislative Recommendations Clause, and it might also be struck down as an attempt to grant the President the equivalent of a line-item veto. It is also unclear whether the unconstitutional portion would be struck down by the courts and severed from the rest of the statute (which would eliminate Congress's ability to veto the cuts) or if the entire scheme would be struck down. But, at a minimum, the proposal is highly dubious as a matter of constitutional law."

Call us crazy, but we think the Constitution trumps political concerns. Regardless of the worthy strategic objective of limiting Obama to one term in office, or of limiting blame in the polls, the ends don't justify the means. The debt was run up by politicians who have ignored their sacred oaths to support and defend the Constitution. Congress and the president must take their oaths seriously, and solidify the full faith and credit of the United States by cutting excessive and unconstitutional spending. The goal should be to lower the debt ceiling, not bicker about how high to raise it. Following the Constitution -- not skirting it -- is the proper path to arrive there.

(Comment here.)

Essential Liberty
"Republicans have been neatly set up to take the fall if a deal is not reached by Aug. 2. Obama is already waving the red flag, warning ominously that Social Security, disabled veterans' benefits, 'critical' medical research, food inspection -- without which agriculture shuts down -- are in jeopardy. The Republicans are being totally outmaneuvered. The House speaker appears disoriented. It's time to act. Time to call Obama's bluff. A long-term deal or nothing? The Republican House should immediately pass a short-term debt-ceiling hike of $500 billion containing $500 billion in budget cuts. That would give us about five months to work on something larger. ... Will the Democratic Senate or the Democratic president refuse this offer and allow the country to default -- with all the cataclysmic consequences that the Democrats have been warning about for months -- because Obama insists on a deal that is 10 months and seven days longer? That's indefensible and transparently self-serving. Dare the president to make that case. Dare him to veto -- or the Democratic Senate to block -- a short-term debt-limit increase." --columnist Charles Krauthammer

24891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Napolitano open letter to Boener on: July 15, 2011, 12:40:48 PM
24892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I'm shocked! Absolutely shocked! on: July 15, 2011, 12:22:28 PM

Waiting for firestorm of indignation , , ,
24893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hold the line! on: July 15, 2011, 11:58:44 AM

Dear Republicans - It's Time for You to Choose - Choose Wisely

Posted by Erick Erickson (Profile)

Friday, July 15th at 5:00AM EDT

“From here on out, if you lose this fight, every time you balk at expanding government, social security checks will be withheld, medicare payments will be withheld, and in just a few short years, surgeries will be cancelled, vaccinations withheld, and hospitals shuttered.”Dear House Republicans,

In the election of 2010, voters sent you to Washington to do two things: (1) End Obamacare and (2) pull us back from the brink of financial ruin.

You have failed at the first task. Obamacare remains. You never even seriously attempted to restrain its funding or implementation. Heck, you haven’t even saved the incandescent lightbulb.

Will you now fail at the second task too?

If you cave, fold, or compromise on the President’s terms, you will have failed in both your missions. If you support Mitch McConnell’s plan, you will have decisively failed.

Now is a time for choosing. Now is your time for choosing.As I pointed out to John Boehner yesterday, despite what the pundits in Washington are telling you, it is you and not Obama who hold most of the cards. Obama has a legacy to worry about. Should the United States lose its bond rating, it will be called the “Obama Depression”. Congress does not get pinned with this stuff.

But there are a few points that you need to understand.

First, as the hours go on, the doom and gloom scenarios are going to get worse. By the end of July, Goldman Sachs, Ben Bernanke, and Timmy Geithner are going to tell you the world will end unless you raise the debt ceiling.

They did it with TARP too.

And now we know that the amount of money used in TARP was far less than allocated and a lot of the TARP situation involved Hank Paulson forcing solvent banks to play along. Oh, and a great many Republicans were primaried out of office.

Do not believe the doom and gloom. Wise decisions are never made when premised on fear.

Second, understand that the pundits and talking heads people expect you to listen to probably have it wrong. Remember, in 2010, they told you that if you kept being the Party of No, you’d lose. And yet . . .

As I’ve said repeatedly, the pundits and chattering class in Washington have a bias far greater than their liberal one — it is a good government bias. They believe Republicans and Democrats should come together and do grand bargains. Evil and stupid come together and do something evil and stupid. The press heralds it as bipartisanship at its finest, damn the results. We’ve been doing these grand bargains for years. Remember the last time we had a balanced budget in DC? That was at $5 trillion in national debt and no one bothered to read the fine print that the “balance” was actually based on a 10 year Congressional Budget Office projection.

Likewise, the pundits with a good government bias for some reason tend to ignore the Democrats’ problems. In 2010, the media told us you beat the Democrats because the Democrats got their message wrong, not their policy. We know the truth. But we also know that the Democrats were willing to lose to advance socialism. Are you willing to lose to advance freedom?

Finally, and here is my big point — you have to win this fight. If you do not win this fight, there will be no more chances to turn back government. Why? Because President Obama is holding senior citizens hostage with their social security checks.

If the President can force your hand by using entitlements as a lever to punish the American people if you don’t do as he wants, you will have established this as a precedent. From here on out, if you lose this fight, every time you balk at expanding government, social security checks will be withheld, medicare payments will be withheld, and in just a few short years, surgeries will be cancelled, vaccinations withheld, and hospitals shuttered.

It will all be because if you lose this fight now, the Democrats will know for certain from here on out that they can use withholding entitlements as a tool to force your hand.

You must win this fight. You must show you are not afraid. When Ben Bernanke brings the Grim Reaper in on August 1st to tell you we are all going to die, you must mock death and choose life — not bipartisan compromises that will keep growing government and ever more rapidly turn this nation into a third class banana republic. In short, you must hold the freaking line!

Now, some of you, if you have read this far, are saying, “But in 1995, the Republicans got blamed for shutting down the government.” They did. But that’s because Americans detest losers. And Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole threw in the towel instead of fighting. Their will broke. They did not break the President’s will. Of course, the next year the GOP still only lost 9 House seats and actually gained Senate seats. Imagine what would have happened had they broken the President’s will.

House Republicans, this is a time for choosing: Do you choose to be more courageous than the Democrats who were willing to risk defeat to advance socialism? Is keeping your job more important to you than saving the country? If so, the odds are you will both lose your job and lose your country.

This is a time for choosing. Choose wisely.
24894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: July 15, 2011, 11:30:09 AM
Thanks Rachel.  I needed that.
24895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne on: July 15, 2011, 11:26:09 AM
"Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian Tribe in American History"

I just finished reading the extraordinary book.  The research, the story itself and its telling are quite remarkable.  Gwynne is a tremendously gifted writer who not only turns the history into an exhilarating page turner, but captures the POV of both sides and the pathos of this remarkable and remarkably unknown history.

Truly a special book.
24896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: July 15, 2011, 11:19:35 AM
Good piece, but , , , Although of course this has implications for the Presdential race, but then most things do.  So to prevent this thread from becoming an incoherent mishmash, please post that in the Budget thread.  Thank you.
24897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: July 15, 2011, 11:17:15 AM
Bought it in 1997 and so we are still solidly in the black.  Moving out of CA is under consideration.
24898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: July 15, 2011, 11:16:13 AM
That would be for the Media thread please smiley
24899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 15, 2011, 11:15:27 AM
The Afghanistan Withdrawal Creates A Complex Diplomatic Dynamic

Three blasts struck Mumbai, India’s financial hub, Wednesday, killing at least 21 people and injuring more than 100 others. The attacks took place on the same day Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s foreign intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, was in Washington on an unannounced visit. These two developments come a day before the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (which is supposed to lead talks with the Taliban), Burhanuddin Rabbani, is due to visit the Indian capital.

“With these state actors locked in a difficult dynamic, Islamist militant non-state actors allied with al Qaeda are trying to act as spoilers to U.S.-led regional efforts.”
These three seemingly disparate events are important in the frame of the U.S. strategy to withdraw NATO forces from Afghanistan. The withdrawal of Western forces from the southwest Asian nation requires the United States to maintain a difficult triangular balance between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. The United States and Pakistan must reconcile their differences on how to bring closure to the longest war in American history. The decades-old conflict between India and Pakistan also cannot be allowed to cloud the Western calculus for Afghanistan.

With these state actors locked in a difficult dynamic, Islamist militant non-state actors allied with al Qaeda are trying to act as spoilers to U.S.-led regional efforts. For al Qaeda and its South Asian allies, disrupting the American strategy is not only a means of countering their own existential issues but an opportunity to ensure that they can enhance their stature after Western forces pull out from Afghanistan. It is not clear whether Wednesday’s attacks were the work of al Qaeda-linked elements or local Indian Islamist militants. Nevertheless, the global jihadist network knows that the surest path toward their goals is reached by having Pakistan-based militants stage terrorist attacks in India, triggering an Indo-Pakistani conflict.

Washington, even as it tries to prevent such a scenario, must manage its unprecedented bilateral tensions with Pakistan. Washington and Islamabad should be jointly formulating an arrangement for post-NATO Afghanistan. However, this is not happening, at least not yet. The Obama administration is caught between the pragmatic need to work with Pakistan to achieve its goals in Afghanistan and idealistic ambitions of effecting a change in the Pakistani security establishment’s attitude toward Islamist militant proxies.

The ISI chief’s visit to Washington is an attempt by Pakistan to clear up misunderstandings and to try to get the Americans to appreciate the view from Islamabad. Pakistan does not want a Western exit from Afghanistan that exacerbates the jihadist insurgency within Pakistan’s borders.

While the Pakistanis work to sort out their problems with the Americans, India is concerned about its own regional security in post-NATO Afghanistan. Rabbani’s visit to the Indian capital is an important part of New Delhi’s efforts in this regard. Rabbani is the former Afghan president whose presidency was toppled when the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996 and he is the most senior leader of the country’s largest ethnic minority, the Tajiks. The Tajiks have long opposed Pakistan’s backing of Pashtun forces, the Talibs in particular. Although Rabbani recently paid an extensive visit to Pakistan in an effort to facilitate peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban, he remains closer to the Indians than to the Pakistanis.

For this reason, Rabbani’s trip to New Delhi will be of concern to Islamabad. The Pakistanis hope that what they perceive as a disproportionate amount of Indian influence in Afghanistan will sink to manageable levels after NATO forces leave. Conversely, India does not want to lose the leverage it has built over the past decade in Afghanistan.

Therefore, a three-way relationship exists that needs to find its natural balance. Such an equilibrium cannot just be conducive to a NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan; it must also prevent a regional conflagration after the U.S.-led Western troops have departed.

Assassination May Create Leadership Void In Crucial Kandahar

Ahmed Wali Karzai, a Kandahar strongman and the half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was shot and killed during a meeting July 12 by a security commander from Ahmed Wali’s hometown. Sadar Mohammad, the shooter, who was then killed by Karzai’s bodyguards, had long worked for the Karzai family. Both men were members of the Popolzai tribe, which belongs to the Pashtun, Afghanistan’s main ethnic group. Much speculation will center on the reasons for the shooting — whether it resulted, for instance, from a personal dispute, perhaps related to Ahmed Wali’s illicit activities, or from an infiltration by the Taliban (which the latter claims, as they do in many cases whether they are responsible or not). Ahmed Wali’s death is an important development, but it must be looked at in the appropriate context to be understood.

“President Hamid Karzai will seek a replacement able to maintain the existing networks and power structure, but Ahmed Wali’s charisma, clout and relationships make him tough to replace.”
Ahmed Wali was often accused of corruption, drug dealing and other illicit behavior, yet his brother gave him consistently unflinching support. This loyalty was not simply due to family connections but reflected the important role Ahmed Wali played in maintaining the presence and influence of his brother’s government in Kandahar province, the Taliban’s homeland. While he was not the actual governor, as chairman of the provincial council Ahmed Wali developed relationships with various power networks in the Pashtun region. He even interacted with the Taliban, both out of pragmatism and for personal gain.

Ahmed Wali spent years systematically developing networks to enhance his wealth and influence — and to some extent that of the Karzai regime. He had his hands in all business in the province — from the drug trade to facilitating the movement of resources from the United States. Many U.S. officials would like to think that weeding out corruption would help a viable government take root in Kandahar. However, that same convoluted system of personal networks is characteristic of Afghan politics and is essential to maintaining stability. Ahmed Wali’s success within this system ensured Hamid Karzai’s influence and presence on the Taliban’s core territory.

A reassessment of all local alliances is necessary in gauging the state of affairs in Kandahar province after Ahmed Wali’s killing. President Karzai will seek to appoint a successor able to maintain the existing networks and power structure, but Ahmed Wali’s charisma, clout and relationships make him tough to replace. Conversely, his death gives the Taliban an opportunity to compete for some of these networks — not to mention lucrative narcotics routes — and to fracture or divide others. Local warlords and businessmen will be deciding where to place their allegiance in order to maximize their positions, security and personal gain. This process can be particularly fluid in a country like Afghanistan, and the timing is especially delicate as the United States and its allies are beginning to draw down their forces in the region.

As the United States prepares to begin its withdrawal, the important question is how much authority the Karzai regime can maintain against Taliban forces in the Taliban’s ethnic, tribal and historical geographic core. Kandahar is a key indicator. With or without Ahmed Wali, Kandahar is where we can first expect the Taliban to gain influence when foreign troops leave. Without Ahmed Wali as a bulwark against their influence — and if a capable successor is not found — the Karzai regime’s ability to maintain control after a U.S. exit just got harder. Meanwhile, if the Taliban or other groups try and take Ahmed Wali’s networks, renewed instability and fighting in the south could make the U.S. drawdown more difficult.

If the Taliban can capitalize on this moment and fracture the Karzai power structure substantially, it would bring about an important shift at a time when the United States is attempting to reshape perceptions and redefine the war. As Washington attempts to initiate and then accelerate the drawdown, U.S. leadership is trying to negotiate with the Taliban through intermediaries. The loss of Ahmed Wali eliminates one such conduit and potentially increases U.S. dependence on Pakistani networks.

A STRATFOR source illustrated the tenuous situation created by the loss of Ahmed Wali. The source said that some locals working with the International Security Assistance Force, upon hearing of Ahmed Wali’s death, rushed to withdraw their money from Kabul Bank, a business over which he wielded substantial influence. The question now becomes whether the United States and the Karzai regime can maintain stability if the structure they have so painstakingly built begins to come apart. Ahmed Wali was no doubt important, but it is unclear how much the development and perpetuation of his networks depended on his personality. It remains to be seen whether the command, management and maintenance of the networks he built can be transitioned without significant maneuvering and fracturing . For the Karzai regime, the challenge is to fill the leadership void in the midst of the U.S. withdrawal. For the United States, it must handle negotiations with Pakistan to manage its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

24900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq lies on SS checks on: July 15, 2011, 10:00:16 AM
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