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24901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 05, 2011, 06:35:22 PM
BBG as quoted by you on May 28:

 lot of inferences and suppositions here, but I think they are on to something. My guess is that, among other things, domestic spooks are tracking terror suspects via cell phone locational data, noting what other cells are proximate to suspects as they go about their day, then looking for patterns within that locational data post facto. This leads to a couple scary conclusions: first, if you find yourself stopped at a light next to a suspect of some sort, your locational data likely now has someone's interest piqued. Say you work at a college with several active Muslim organizations on it; there is likely no way not to end up next to someone who's phone is being tracked.

Secondly, there is no way these sorts of associational searches are being run in real time. That strongly implies that all "business record" (see below) locational data for all cell phones are being obtained and archived somewhere, with the situational searches run after the fact. If true that means ever citizen owning something with locational tracking ability has all their movements stored somewhere by who knows who, with who knows what kind of shelf life, accessible for who knows what reason, to who knows what end. Oversight would appear negligible in the vacuum within which all this is occurring. A massive infringement on constitutional protections as I understand them, in other words, one sure to be answered to some day.

24902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 05, 2011, 02:30:06 PM
But our complaint concerns tracking us here in the US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
24903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: June 05, 2011, 02:27:36 PM
A "secured creditor" is a creditor who loan is secured by defined assets.  Period.

I suppose I could be wrong, but my clear understanding is that this is something that a bankruptcy judge cannot interfere with.  Period.   

Thought experiment.  Someone declares bankruptcy.  He has a home with a mortgage by a bank in which is in in default.  Do his other creditors get to take a piece of what the home sells for?
24904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / June 30th on: June 05, 2011, 02:23:00 PM
Glen has announced that his last day on Fox will be June 30th.

I look forward to where he goes and what he does next! 

The Adventure continues!
24905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism, socialism: on: June 05, 2011, 12:16:52 PM and on the race baiting tactics of the left
24906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman on: June 05, 2011, 12:03:24 PM

Colin: Attempts to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict have hit another brick wall. Nothing really new at that, but with instability all around Israel’s neighborhood, where does that leave Israel’s future?

Colin: Welcome to this special edition of Agenda on Israel. With me is George Friedman. George, picture a typical young couple who’ve just visited their siblings in Israel and finding a country that’s alone in a region of increasing turmoil and, to some extent, isolated from its traditional friends. After talking to strategists and having read a lot, including your book, what would they see as its medium-term future?

George: Well, in the medium term Israel is a very secure country. Its greatest threat of a full peripheral war in attacks of the Jordan River line and from Egypt aren’t there, even though there’s unrest in Egypt, even though it’s possible Egypt might up abrogate peace treaty. Egypt isn’t about the surge into the Sinai because they can’t. They’re heavily dependent on American contractors to maintain their military. They have primarily American military equipment; the Americans will turn off the spigot very quickly if the Egyptians become aggressive; Egypt can’t wage war I suspect for a generation. There could be an uprising in Israel but the Israelis are ultimately able to handle that. There have been two intifadas. A third is not to destabilize them. They had trouble dealing with Hezbollah to the north but they could manage them in the end. There is increasing diplomatic isolation but to a great extent that’s more paper than reality, so whether someone recognizes the Palestinian state or not doesn’t change the reality on the ground.

It’s in the long run, the very long run, that Israel has its greatest problem, which is that, in the end, Israel is exactly what it says it is - a very small country surrounded by enemies. Many Israelis draw from this conclusion that they must be vigilant, which is true, and fairly rigid in their foreign policy. The problem is that, as a small country surrounded by enemies, there may arise circumstances in which they will be unable to resist. They are heavily dependent on the United States to be willing to support them because in the end Israel’s national security requirements outstrip their national security capabilities. The United States must support them in an extreme case. Any country that’s dependent on another country for their long-term survival is always vulnerable to shifts in that country’s policy. The United States at the moment shows no inclination to shift its underlying policy toward Israel, but in any worst-case scenario, which is what military planning is about, you really can’t tell. You therefore have a situation in which, if the conservatives in Israel are correct and they say the Palestinians will never make peace, Israel is a small country and it is surrounded by enemies, you have now described a long-run picture of extreme danger.

Colin: Extreme danger?

George: Here is the paradox in Israel: those who feel that the Arabs are absolutely implacable and that Israel is small and vulnerable and therefore it must not change are really the ones who were painting the bleakest picture of the future of Israel because they’re simply asserting that in the long-run, no matter how weak they are and how implacable their enemies, they can resist and win. That’s an improbable outcome. And therefore the real problem that Israel has is this: in the long-run, if it reaches no accommodation with the Palestinians either because they won’t or because the Palestinians won’t, Israel faces an existential threat. Israel, as the Israelis like to say, has very little room for error, to which the answer is always inevitable that Israel will commit an error, either an error as being too weak or an error of being too assertive. The real crisis that Israel has is if you accept the premise that they are weak, small and surrounded by enemies, you have also basically said that given the margin of error, Israel is in mortal danger in the long-run. Therefore Israel must somehow redefine the game either becoming more powerful, and many point to its nuclear capability as being that power, although I don’t see it as useful as others do, or reaching some sort of more dynamic diplomatic relationship. Can Israel do that? It’s a question of domestic political politics. But again, and this is really important point I want to make, if you believe the position of someone like Avigdor Lieberman, who was the foreign minister and the most aggressive, if you will, who asserts most vigorously the implacability of the Arabs and the vulnerability of Israel, it seems to me that his foreign policy of rigidity is ultimately, at some point, going to get Israel in deep trouble.

Colin: You say the United States at present shows no inclination to shift its policy towards Israel, but in your new book, you say the two countries’ interests are diverging.

George: The United States has interests in the Middle East beyond Israel and that includes good relations with Muslim countries. And the United States sees what the administration wrongly calls the Arab Spring as an opportunity. Israel has a very different set of interests in terms of establishing their position on the West Bank and in building settlements. These are two countries with different interests; they have an underlying interest in common in resisting certain tendencies in the Islamic world but not in others. It’s a complex relationship. The United States has already pulled away from Israel, as president Obama’s speech really made clear, whatever he said afterwards. The Israelis certainly have pulled away from the United States. They are not prepared to follow the American lead on a whole bunch of issues. This is a divergent relationship and it has to be recognized.

In the end, I think the divergence in a relationship puts Israel in substantial danger. I think that in the end Israel is the lesser power that is going to have to accommodate itself to the United States. But Israel, on the one hand, seems not to think that it’s in that much danger and can afford this and, on the other hand, thinks it is in so much danger that it can’t afford any flexibility whatsoever. Either one of Israel’s positions leads it to the same place: a fairly inflexible foreign policy, which is a perfectly good idea unless you hit the margin of error and something goes terribly wrong. It’s interesting that those who believe that there’s a margin of error, a very small margin of error, for Israel are those who argue that they’re the safest by being the most rigid and assertive. That may be true but small margin of error could exist on both sides of the equation. It’s hard to predict where it is. The key is that there is a small margin of error and Israel, I think, makes it smaller by taking positions that alienate it from the United States, no matter how unreasonable the United States appears to be. Ultimately Israel needs the strategic reserve that the United States represents.

Colin: Is it then inevitable Israel has to resolve the Palestinian question or could it find some accommodation elsewhere?

George: Israel has reached an accommodation with its neighboring countries in spite of its inability to settle the Palestinian dispute. Egypt has a peace treaty, has had a peace treaty for over 30 years, and that’s a very viable one. Israel has a very close working relationship with a Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Israel has many allies inside of Lebanon. Israel even has a quiet understanding with the Syrians, or has had one, concerning Lebanon and Syria’s assertion of control over Hezbollah. It’s been a complex relationship. It’s not really a question of Israel not having decent relations with its neighbors. But the real problem is these relationships change. We have the possibility of Egypt changing its foreign policy. Many things can shift. The worst-case scenario for Israel would be a conventional war along its frontiers and simultaneously an uprising among the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and perhaps in Israel itself. That’s the worst-case scenario and a scenario that really is frightening because it’s one that is difficult for Israel to survive and certainly difficult to stop with nuclear weapons. What are you going to do with nuclear weapons? Even if you wipeout Cairo or Damascus, it’s very difficult to use them against armies because your own armies are so close to them. You really are in an interesting situation and that’s why the Palestinian issue, if it can be settled, needs to be settled. Israel is in the potential position, it’s not there now but in the potential position, where it’s facing significant foreign threats and a massive uprising simultaneously. It’s hard to imagine anything worse than that, and therefore finding some settlement with the Palestinians is in their interests. Of course it has to be remembered that for all the discussion of a settlement with the Palestinians, a substantial number of Palestinians adhere to Hamas. Hamas opposes the existence of the state of Israel. Hamas’ position on any sort of a settlement is that it’s only an interim settlement and in the long-run the conflict will continue. So it’s very difficult to understand how Israel creates a peace treaty with the Palestinians when the Palestinians are so widely divided between Fatah and Hamas and where Hamas commands so much respect among the Palestinians and where Hamas simply opposes the existence of Israel. In looking at all of this, whereas you can point to what Israel should do, you also have to point at what can it do when the question of the survival of Israel is not a principle that the Palestinians will accept. This does not mean that Israel doesn’t have a problem, that the solution is not a Palestinian state. The problem is that the Israelis have is the danger that arises if the Palestinians are as implacable as they appear to be. And if you have a massive political shift over the next generation in the states bordering Israel, then Israel is truly in a strategic bind.

24907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 05, 2011, 11:10:54 AM
C'mon GM, you are too bright for this.  Our concern has been expressed in terms of American Constitutional rights.  Posting as if we are trying to extend American C'l rights to the whole planet is , , , tedious.
24908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 05, 2011, 10:44:49 AM
So why the nonsense about non-Americans having Constitutional rights?
24909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: More on anti-circumcission efforts in CA on: June 05, 2011, 10:43:37 AM

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — When a group of activists proposed banning circumcision in San Francisco last fall, many people simply brushed them aside. Even in that liberal seaside city, it seemed implausible that thousands of people would support an effort to outlaw an ancient ritual that Jews and Muslims believe fulfills a commandment issued by God.

But last month, the group collected the more than 7,100 signatures needed to get a measure on the fall ballot that would make it illegal to snip the foreskin of a minor within city limits. Now a similar effort is under way in Santa Monica to get such a measure on the ballot for November 2012.

If the anticircumcision activists (they prefer the term “intactivists”) have their way, cities across the country may be voting on whether to criminalize a practice that is common in many American hospitals. Activists say the measures would protect children from an unnecessary medical procedure, calling it “male genital mutilation.”

“This is the furthest we’ve gotten, and it is a huge step for us,” said Matthew Hess, an activist based in San Diego who wrote both bills.

Mr. Hess has created similar legislation for states across the country, but those measures never had much traction. Now he is fielding calls from people who want to organize similar movements in their cities.

“This is a conversation we are long overdue to have in this country,” he said. “The end goal for us is making cutting boys’ foreskin a federal crime.”

Jewish groups see the ballot measures as a very real threat, likening them to bans on circumcision that existed in Soviet-era Russia and Eastern Europe and in ancient Roman and Greek times. The circumcision of males is an inviolable requirement of Jewish law that dates back to Abraham’s circumcision of himself in the Book of Genesis.

They say the proposed ban is an assault on religious freedom that could have a widespread impact all over the country. Beyond the biblical, there are emotional connections: checking for circumcision was one of the ways Jewish children could be culled from their peers by Nazis and the czar’s armies.

“People are shocked that it has reached this level because there has never been this kind of a direct assault on a Jewish practice here,” said Marc Stern, associate general counsel for the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy group. “This is something that American Jews have always taken for granted — that something that was so contested elsewhere but here, we’re safe and we’re secure.”

Mr. Hess also writes an online comic book, “Foreskin Man,” with villains like “Monster Mohel.” On Friday, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying the comic employed “grotesque anti-Semitic imagery.”

Jena Troutman, the mother of two young boys who is promoting the ballot measure in Santa Monica, said she did not think of herself as a crusader against religion. Instead, she views her work as a chance to educate would-be parents against a procedure that “can really do serious damage to the child.”

“I am just a mom trying to save the little babies,” Ms. Troutman said. “I’d rather be on the beach, but nobody is talking about this, so I have to.”

Ms. Troutman has run the Web site for two years, and she is fond of rattling off sayings like “Your baby is perfect, no snipping required.” Well versed in the stories of circumcisions gone awry, she said the recent death of a New York City toddler who was circumcised at a hospital convinced her that she should push for the ballot measure.

Ms. Troutman, who has worked as a lactation educator and a doula, said she often approached women on the beach to warn them about the dangers of circumcising, but she has declined to answer questions about her own children.

Although precise numbers are not known, several studies have indicated that circumcision rates have been declining in the United States for the past several years and now range from 30 percent to 50 percent of all male infants.

Many medical groups take a neutral approach, saying that the practice is not harmful and that there is not enough scientific evidence to conclude that it is necessary, and leave the decision to parents and their doctor. Several studies have linked circumcision with a reduction in the spread of H.I.V. Roughly half of the 694 baby boys born in the Santa Monica-U.C.L.A. Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital in 2010 were circumcised before they left the hospital, officials there said.

Dr. David Baron, a family physician, certified mohel — someone who performs ritual circumcision — and former chief of staff at Santa Monica-U.C.L.A., said that he would not press any parent to circumcise a son but that he viewed the effort to ban the procedure as “ridiculous and dishonest.”

“To say it is mutilation is wrong from the get-go,” Dr. Baron said. “It is a perfectly valid decision to say that it is not what you want for your child. Any doctor who says it is needed is not being honest, but to say that it needs to be banned is shocking.”

If the ballot measure passed, it would certainly face legal challenges. But several legal experts said it was far from certain that it would be struck down in a court. Ms. Troutman said she considered putting religious exemptions in the measure, but then decided, “Why should only some babies be protected?”

Rabbi Yehuda Lebovics, an Orthodox mohel based in Los Angeles who says he has performed some 20,000 circumcisions over several decades, said he often had to soothe nervous mothers.

“I am now doing the sons of the boys I did 30 years ago,” Rabbi Lebovics said. “So I turn to the new mother and ask, ‘Do you have any complaints in the way it turned out?’ ”

24910  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bob Doll is bullish on America on: June 04, 2011, 11:07:36 PM
It's been a dreary week for economic news: slow job creation, falling home prices, lagging auto and consumer sales, and a sell-off in stocks. So it seems like a good moment to check in with one of Wall Street's leading perma-optimists, BlackRock Chief Equity Strategist Bob Doll, to see if he's still bullish on America.

To my considerable relief, he doesn't disappoint. "Credit markets are sound. Money growth is good," says Mr. Doll, whose optimism has been the right market call since March 9, 2009, when stocks hit their post-crisis lows. The Dow has since risen more than 85%, and Mr. Doll expects the slow economic expansion to continue.

As intriguing in this moment of U.S. pessimism is the 56-year-old uber-investor's long-term bullishness on American companies and U.S. competitiveness. "You could say we're the best house in a bad neighborhood," says the man who has spent 28 years managing money. "We have fewer problems and more solutions than Europe or Japan."

Mr. Doll is sitting in a conference room at one of BlackRock's two giant offices in midtown Manhattan. While his company remains obscure to most Americans, and has only existed since 1988, it is now the world's largest money manager.

Born as a subsidiary of the private equity firm Blackstone, the company went public in 1999 and after a series of mergers and acquisitions, BlackRock now keeps watch on more than $3.6 trillion of client money. Mr. Doll's job is to allocate almost $30 billion among shares of large U.S. corporations and to advise clients on the most compelling opportunities for equity investment.

Notably, his focus remains the United States, and he believes that the most important reason why America's house remains the nicest in the neighborhood of developed countries is that our family keeps getting bigger.

"Over the next 20 years, the U.S. work force is going to grow by 11%, Europe's going to fall by five, and Japan's going to fall by 17. This alone tells me the U.S. has a huge advantage over Europe and a bigger one over Japan for growth," he says. "And the reason for this is pretty simple. We have higher immigration than both of these, and we make more babies. We have a higher fertility rate. And they are the long-term determinants of population growth and therefore work force growth." Mr. Doll and his wife seem to be doing their part with three children.

But many Americans, whether they favor pundits on the right or the left, may have a hard time accepting that population growth and immigration are the keys to our prosperity. Mr. Doll explains the economics: "The long-term growth rate of any economy is the product of the change in the size of the work force multiplied by the productivity of the work force." Productivity is very hard to predict, he reports, but demographics is easy. "You count noses." And that tally shows a very healthy America.

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Christopher Serra
 .But doesn't Mr. Doll smell trouble on productivity? It rose just 1.3% in the first quarter compared to the same quarter last year. He says that U.S. productivity is "OK and better than lots of other places." This is a recurring theme of our discussion— that America is the least worst among the major developed economies.

Mr. Doll's optimism comes despite his skepticism about the last several years of heavy government intervention in the economy. His team at BlackRock calculated that, at most, half of the 2009 stimulus program was "true stimulus" for the economy. What about the rest? "Call your congressman and find out where the money went." More than a few readers may be tempted to call BlackRock and ask how they concluded that even half of it was spent effectively.

What about the impact of ObamaCare, the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and the president's continuing advocacy of tax increases? "All three of them are retardants to growth," says Mr. Doll.

He also concedes that "we face formidable long-term structural problems that make the U.S. less attractive than it otherwise might be," and yet he has written in these pages about America remaining a "city upon a hill" in the vision of Puritan John Winthrop. Mr. Doll could be making the least inspiring case for American exceptionalism in the history of the republic. "You might say we win by default, which is not a fun way to win," he says.

But can we really win merely by staying ahead of Europe and Japan? So far the answer seems to be yes. People are invariably shocked when Mr. Doll tells them that in 1995 the U.S. produced roughly 25% of the world's goods and services and in 2010, after 15 years that included a tech bust, a terrorist attack and a housing bust that triggered a financial crisis, the U.S. was still producing that same 25% of global GDP.

How is this possible given the rapid rise of China and India? Mr. Doll says the increase in emerging markets' share of the world economy has come "at the expense of mostly Japan and a bit Europe. The U.S. has held its own, which I think is a statement of our ability to be productive in a tough world."

But an investor would still have more upside in developing countries than in the U.S., right? Mr. Doll says that if he were forced to lock up his money in one place for the next 10 or 20 years he would indeed select the developing world and specifically India over China.

China's population will grow only slightly faster than that of the U.S. between now and 2030, he says, whereas he expects India's population to increase 32%, suggesting robust GDP growth. "The one-child birth policy in China will eventually arrest the growth rate of China to a much smaller number."

But in the short run, Mr. Doll likes the U.S. equity market best of all and reports that this is where most of his personal investments are, largely in the funds he oversees. "The U.S. stock market and the U.S. economy are increasingly different animals. It used to be when U.S. economic growth went a certain direction, so did the stock market," because so much of the business done by these companies was domestic. But now 40% happens elsewhere. Mr. Doll estimates that, over the next five years, 70% of the incremental earnings growth of S&P 500 companies will come from outside the U.S.

Among the formidable U.S. companies that he thinks are attractively priced now are Applied Materials, which makes the machines that make computer chips, pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers, and Chevron. He also believes that Alcoa "fits the slowly expanding global economy," and he is "increasingly intrigued" by Microsoft, a "blue chip" tech company with a stagnant stock price.

Mr. Doll is less bullish on the future for U.S. jobs. "I hope the number is not as high as seven or eight [percent unemployment] but I think it's higher than five," he says. "Said differently, when I went to school, we studied that full employment was 3% unemployment and then I went into the work world and I never saw three. And I think with almost every passing cycle—for a lot of reasons, technology being cheaper and more reliable than most human beings, as an example—the structural unemployment rate slowly but surely has moved higher. And I think that continues. So I hope it's not seven or eight. I think it's a little lower than that, hopefully six or seven. . . . Sad but true. And that has political and social consequences that I don't think we even know what to do with yet."

Inflation will also be higher, though Mr. Doll doesn't expect the Fed to let it get out of hand. Regulation is still too much of a burden, especially on young companies trying to go public, he adds, and "We need a major overhaul of our tax system if we're going to create more incentives and more productivity."

But even with all our problems, he says, "I think the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the U.S." He argues that we are still the source of technological innovation and home to the greatest universities and the most creative businesses. He sees promising advances in health care and alternative energy technologies. By alternative he doesn't necessarily mean "green" energy, but simply new power sources given that he expects oil prices to keep rising.

Also, it should be noted that his outlook is premised on meaningful spending reductions in Washington. "I think we are moving in an austerity direction," he says. "Six months ago, no one had a plan that said, 'I'm going to be able to cut the deficit by X trillion over Y years." Now, with House passage of a bill by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and the looming vote on the nation's debt limit, he hopefully notes that all sides are at least talking about "trillions over years."

Mr. Doll's optimism—or, more accurately, his lack of pessimism—has at times gotten the best of him, as in 2008. "We turned slightly to the negative side of neutral, but I never said, 'Get out,'" he recalls. "The severity and rapidity of the problems was beyond belief."

Now in 2011, his views may not strike anyone as wildly optimistic. But on Wall Street, Mr. Doll's sobering catalog of U.S. weaknesses is what passes for bullishness. With unemployment hitting 9.1%, Main Street can hardly be any more cheerful.

All of which suggests a political opportunity for someone who can present a credible plan to return to low unemployment and robust economic growth. Optimism about the future is implicit in America's high birth rate. Pundits may continue to try to convince voters to accept a new normal, but Americans are probably aiming higher than the best house in a bad neighborhood.

Mr. Freeman is assistant editor of The Journal's editorial page.

24911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 04, 2011, 10:58:50 PM
Is that what we have been discussing?  I seem to have missed that , , ,
24912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: President Chamberlin pressed to limit drone attacks on: June 04, 2011, 10:49:11 PM
WASHINGTON—Fissures have opened within the Obama administration over the drone program targeting militants in Pakistan, with the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and some top military leaders pushing to rein in the Central Intelligence Agency's aggressive pace of strikes.

Such a move would roll back, at least temporarily, a program that President Barack Obama dramatically expanded soon after taking office, making it one of the U.S.'s main weapons against the Pakistan-based militants fighting coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The program has angered Pakistan, a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants. The debate over drones comes as the two sides try to repair relations badly frayed by the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in January, a wave of particularly lethal drone strikes following Mr. Davis's release from Pakistani custody in March, and the clandestine U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.

The White House National Security Council debated a slowdown in drone strikes in a meeting on Thursday, a U.S. official said. At the meeting, CIA Director Leon Panetta made the case for maintaining the current program, the official said, arguing that it remains the U.S.'s best weapon against al Qaeda and its allies.

The result of the meeting—the first high-level debate within the Obama administration over how aggressively to pursue the CIA's targeted-killing program—was a decision to continue the program as is for now, the U.S. official said.

Another official, who supports a slowdown, said the discussions about revamping the program would continue, alongside talks with Pakistan, which is lobbying to rein in the drone strikes.

Most U.S. officials, including those urging a slowdown, agree the CIA strikes using the pilotless aircraft have been one of Washington's most effective tools in the fight against militants hiding out in Pakistan. The weapons have killed some top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and left militants off balance in a swath of mountainous territory along the Afghan border with Pakistan where they once operated with near impunity. No one in the administration is advocating an outright halt to the program.

 .Yet an increasingly prominent group of State Department and military officials now argue behind closed doors that the intense pace of the strikes aggravates an already troubled alliance with Pakistan and, ultimately, risks destabilizing the nuclear-armed country, said current and former officials familiar with the discussions.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, backed by top military officers and other State Department officials, wants the strikes to be more judicious, and argues that Pakistan's views need to be given greater weight if the fight against militancy is to succeed, said current and former U.S. officials.

Defenders of the current drone program take umbrage at the suggestion that the program isn't judicious. "In this context, the phrase 'more judicious' is really code for 'let's appease Pakistani sensitivities,' " said a U.S. official. The CIA has already given Pakistani concerns greater weight in targeting decisions in recent months, the official added. Advocates of sustained strikes also argue that the current rift with the Pakistanis isn't going to be fixed by scaling back the program.

The debate has largely been muted until now, in part because the details of the program are classified and because drone strikes against militants have generally been popular with the White House and most Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Pakistani officials have always publicly condemned the drone program; only in private have they consented to the campaign and acknowledged to having helped the CIA pinpoint targets.

Now Islamabad is lobbying Washington in public and private to curtail the strikes because of Pakistani complaints that they take a high civilian death toll.

Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, who commands Pakistani forces fighting militants in the country's northwest, said in an interview that drone strikes are making it harder to win allies among tribal leaders.

"It's a negative thing in my area of responsibility. It causes instability and impinges on my relationship with the local people," Gen. Malik said.

Advocates for reining in the program argue that the pace and scope of strikes have become politically unsustainable because of their unpopularity in Pakistan.

In a series of recent closed-door meetings, according to current and former U.S. officials, Ambassador Munter and some senior military officials argued that more selective targeting will maintain the strikes' effectiveness while easing the political blowback in Pakistan, making it easier for officials there to work with Washington.

"You can't take your foot off the gas completely—the drones have a suppressing effect on them," a U.S. official said of militant groups in the border areas. "On the other hand, the Pakistanis need some breathing space."

Pakistan has given some indications it would ramp up efforts to root out militants, following a renewed U.S. request to do so by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen during a visit to Pakistan last week.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss the covert program or any internal debate over its future.

"The president has issued a clear directive to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, and the United States government is completely united behind that goal. I think the results speak for themselves," Mr. Vietor said.

The CIA's targeted killing program, ramped up by President George W. Bush in July 2008, was initially designed to target high-level al Qaeda leaders. Strikes averaged roughly one a week in the last half of 2008.

Mr. Obama has overseen a dramatic expansion of the program. The drones were originally used against specifically selected "high-value" targets, a list drawn up with Pakistani help.

But in the past year, the CIA has been targeting lower-level fighters after tracking their activities and movements.

The CIA last year conducted more than 100 strikes. The pace has slowed to roughly 30 in the first five months of 2011, partly over concerns about Pakistani reaction, a U.S. official said.

The latest drone strike came Friday, hitting three compounds in Pakistan's South Waziristan region and killing at least four people, according to an official familiar with the matter.

There is disagreement over how many civilian bystanders the strikes have killed. The Pakistanis say hundreds of civilians have died in the strikes, which is part of the reason they want them scaled back. The U.S. says 30 civilians have been slain. Both sides agree hundreds of militants have been killed.

The pushback by some U.S. officials against the drone program comes as U.S. diplomats and officials serving in Pakistan express dissatisfaction with what they see as the generally hostile tenor of the U.S.'s policy toward Pakistan.

These diplomats and officials say the deep vein of anti-Americanism that runs through Pakistani society forces its elected and military leaders, including army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to distance themselves from Washington to avoid a popular backlash.

"What's worrying a lot of us is whether we're turning people who should be our natural allies into our adversaries," said a U.S. diplomat in Pakistan.

A senior U.S. official said the key is figuring out what level of drone strikes can satisfy U.S. security needs and at the same be tolerated by the Pakistanis. "I think we underestimate the importance of public opinion in Pakistan to our detriment," the official said. The Pakistanis have "a legitimate concern."

Islamabad has proposed narrowing the scope of the CIA program to target militants that have been agreed to by both sides, a Pakistani official said.

24913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lara Logan speaks on: June 04, 2011, 04:51:28 PM
24914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: June 04, 2011, 04:43:08 PM
ROTFLMAO!!!  cheesy
24915  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, corruption etc. on: June 04, 2011, 12:57:26 PM
One of the purposes of the Campaign Finance Laws is for we the people to know to whom the candidate is indebted.  Surely Edwards would be deeply indebted to those in question here.  Yes?
24916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: June 04, 2011, 11:10:43 AM

Forgive me, but the whole construct of your answer assumes that these jobs would have been vaporized altogether which misses the fundamental point that if GM had been reorganized under bankruptcy that management, the unions, creditors, and stockholders (I think I have the order correct there, but do not swear to it) would each take a haircut according to the determination of the bankruptcy judge.

The simple fact is that BO and the Dems simply bypassed the well-established legal procedures already in place of our bankruptcy laws so as to benefit their union friends, (and fcuk over the secured creditors) and get government people put on the Board of Directors.  So much for the rule of law!

Of course my little calculation does the same thing in a sense, but it assumed (error mine it would appear given your post  cheesy ) that this was understood in order to make the tongue-in-cheek point of pointing out how stupid and deranged the whole thing was even if we were to accept BO and the Dems pretense that GM would have simply dissappeared off the face of the earth, that no other company would have expanded to fill in the purported void, and that a $10B loss was/is a "success".
24917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 04, 2011, 10:59:00 AM
Agreed about Christie.
24918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 04, 2011, 06:14:11 AM
I like Stratfor a lot, and here is its most recent rumination on the current sit-rep, but I am liking our YA more:

U.S., Pakistan: The Unending Love-Hate Relationship

The United States and Pakistan are developing a special joint intelligence team designed to eliminate jihadist high value targets in the South Asian nation, according to media reports on Thursday. The reported move comes within days of a visit to Islamabad by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen. The team will include CIA and Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) operatives. According to the reports, the team is assigned to hunt down top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, including Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar; Ayman al-Zawahiri; the deputy of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, Sirajuddin Haqqani; the leader of Taliban forces in eastern Afghanistan, Atiya Abdel Rahman (purportedly the number three operational leader in al Qaeda); and Ilyas Kashmiri, the highest ranking Pakistani leader in al Qaeda who is involved in operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

“It is only reasonable to assume that Washington will continue to work on the unilateral path while pushing a viable joint operations program with the Pakistanis. In other words, the inherent problems in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship remain as is.”
That the CIA and ISI have agreed to joint operations aimed at eliminating key jihadist figures would be an extraordinary development considering that U.S.-Pakistani relations are at an all-time low. Washington and Islamabad were already at odds over American efforts to develop unilateral intelligence and military capabilities in Pakistan when U.S. Special Operations Forces on May 1 killed bin Laden in a compound some three hours’ drive time from the Pakistani capital in a unilateral operation. The incident massively aggravated tensions between the two sides, given that the Obama administration stated that its decision to go solo on the bin Laden hit was informed by concerns that the leaks within the Pakistani security system would jeopardize the mission.

So, the question is how — a mere month later — can the two sides come to an agreement on joint operations against top jihadist figures? Some of it can be explained by the fact that United States depends upon Pakistan for its regional strategy and that despite all the problems, Washington cannot simply afford to walk away from Pakistan and let it fall in its own jihadist abyss. Indeed, Mullen said, “I think the worst thing we could do would be cut them off…If the United States distanced itself from Pakistan, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we go back and it’s much more intense and it’s much more dangerous. We’re just not living in a world where we can afford to be unengaged in a place like this.”

Accepting Pakistan for what it is and trying to stabilize it means that the United States must be careful not to completely undermine Islamabad, and thus needs to try and work with the Pakistanis. Unilateral operations that become public contribute to the undermining of the Pakistani state. This would explain the move to engage in joint operations so publicly — a long-standing Pakistani demand that in theory is designed to shore up the sagging credibility of the Pakistani government and its security establishment.

That doesn’t, however, solve the American problem in which it cannot afford to rely on a hemorrhaging Pakistani security system to fight jihadists on Pakistani soil, particularly when the United States is looking for high-level leaders who provide operational expertise, or inspirational leadership protected by, at the very least, rogue former employees of the Pakistani security apparatus. Therefore, it is only reasonable to assume that Washington will continue to work on the unilateral path while pushing a viable joint operations program with the Pakistanis. In other words, the inherent problems in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship remain as is. Liaison work between intelligence agencies is always a double game. The liaisons work together in mutual interest, while other operations deeper in the shadows work against each other. The purpose of the liaison work is to disguise those operations.

Even if the Pakistani security system was not compromised, there is another serious disconnect between the United States and the South Asian country. Washington and Islamabad agree that there ultimately has to be a negotiated settlement with local Taliban forces and that there are those with whom there can never be reconciliation. The problem is that there is a disagreement on the definition of what constitutes reconcilable Taliban.

24919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism, socialism: on: June 04, 2011, 06:06:35 AM
An outstanding question.  May I suggest the Poltical Economics thread for its discussion?

In the context of a conversation about some chilling color photos of Hitler, Nazi rallies, etc. in the 1930s that recently surfaced, an internet friend writes:
I am reading about another "picture" of 1939 Nazi Germany -- a verbal picture that is even more frightening. This ePub formatted book, The Vampire Economy, was written in 1939. It paints a detailed picture of what living under National Socialism (the Nazi government) was like from the business man's point of view. I haven't finished the book yet, but the opening chapters are enough to demonstrate that we don't ever want to "go there."

More frightening than this history itself is the light that it shines on contemporary economies in the US and around the world. Almost everywhere, people are accepting a version of "state capitalism" as their definition of "capitalism" or even their definition of "free markets." The growing number of economic "features" we share with Nazi Germany is, for me, a very disturbing development. Most of the bureaucratic details enumerated in the attached book are not to be seen in the 2011 USA, but far too many are right here, front and center. Consider the author's discussion of the "contact man":

"THE business organization of private enterprise has had to be reorganized in accordance with the new state of things. Departments which previously were the heart of a firm have become of minor importance. Other departments which either did not exist or which had only auxiliary functions have become dominant and have usurped the real functions of management.

Formerly the purchasing agent and the salesmanager were among the most important members of a business organization. Today the emphasis has shifted and a curious new business aide, a sort of combination “go-between” and public relations counsel, is now all-important. His job ... is to maintain good personal relations with officials in the Economic Ministry, where he is an almost daily caller; he studies all the new regulations and decrees, knows how to interpret them in relation to his particular firm and is able to guess at what may be permitted or forbidden. In other words, it is his business to know how far one can go without being caught."

As the author explains this role in detail, it becomes clear that it isn't so different from that of our lobbyists and our tax attorneys. As to the importance of government connections, consider Dick Cheney's importance to Halliburton.

Could the US ever reach Nazi Germany's demented depths of state capitalism (i.e. fascism)? I would like to think that is impossible, but who knows? As this book makes clear, Nazi Germany would have been a horror even if genocide had never been on its agenda. Consider also that in the 1930s the US implemented a system that was a virtual copy of Italy's fascist government -- take a look at The Sources of New Deal Regime Uncertainty ( A shocking number of Nazi Germany's economic methods were on display in the USA in this very same 1937-1939 period.

24920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mister, how much to save that job in the window? on: June 04, 2011, 06:05:15 AM
Taking the mid-way point between the$5B and the $15B, i.e. $10B and dividing that by 68,500 I am coming up with about $146,000 per job saved.

This is a veritable bargain comparted to the 3,000,000 jobs BO claims to have saved ( an unfalsifiable number if ever there were one!) with $600,000,000 in stimulus spending, which works out to $200,000 per job saved.
24921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: June 04, 2011, 05:57:06 AM
The first step is to agree to go in that direction and as a society work out a consensus.

I'm guessing that it would look something like this:

Pot:  Legal, but regulated.  Home use OK, OK at clubs. bars-- just like alchohol.  Just like alcohol, no puffing in public places.  No access for children.  I'd be perfectly comfortable with no mass advertising, Home grown OK.  Stores like the clinics here in LA?  Psylocybin, peyote, and other psychedlics: Home grown OK, available at clinics.  Addictive substances (e.g. heroin and other substances which by-pass free will)  Decriminalized, but available through clinics administered by some sort of nurse practitioner or some sort of trained, certified person on site?

Just some initial thoughts.

24922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mish Shedlock on: June 04, 2011, 05:38:31 AM
Charts and analysis worth considering
24923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: June 03, 2011, 07:52:44 PM
What is the point of speaking to us as if we agree with something which we don't?

Oy vey.
24924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: June 03, 2011, 07:50:45 PM
Good discussion.  I would add that the US tax code is not only a matter of the marginal tax rate (as hugely important as that is) it is also a matter of mis-directing investment e.g. the housing bubble.
24925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: June 03, 2011, 07:45:52 PM
Doug, I didn't quite follow that.   Doug, or anyone, what is the total number of GM employees in America?

24926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 03, 2011, 07:35:36 PM
Uh , , , no.  Duh.  The concern here IS American citizens.
24927  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: June 03, 2011, 11:42:15 AM
"somewhere from $7-$15 billion in GM’s case (depending on average share price for 500 million shares). Should that loss have to be reported to the FEC on a dollar-per-auto-worker-vote basis?"

I'd like to do that calculation.  Would someone come up with the total number of GM employees please?
24928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 03, 2011, 11:09:11 AM
Please post this in Govt programs lest this thread become a repository for any and all issues.
24929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: June 03, 2011, 11:07:43 AM
Apparently, it was a slow news week. Either that, or our culture has really sunk quite low. But the "biggest" news concerned New York Democrat Anthony Weiner's wiener. Or more accurately, the accidental/pranked/hacked Tweet of a man's underwear-clad genitalia that was intended for a 21-year-old college student Weiner was following on Twitter. Long story short, Weiner insisted that he didn't peck out that Tweet, claiming his Twitter account had been hacked, but when pressed for investigation or at least a strong reaction, Weiner backtracked and said it was a prank -- a far less serious thing. Then he admitted that he couldn't say "with certitude" that the offending image wasn't indeed his package, and he got rather stiff and prickly when questioned by the media. That hasn't stopped the press from centering the 24-hour news cycle on Private Weiner, who now claims his lips are zipped. To be frank, however, we think the congressman is in a real pickle, and the wurst may be yet to come.

24930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: June 03, 2011, 11:00:14 AM
C'mon GM, don't be silly.  We both know I am not opposed to all search warrants.  I am noting though that a cost of the WOD is a lot of doors getting kicked in, exigently or otherwise tongue.    This something all good Americans believe should be minimized, yes?
24931  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: June 03, 2011, 10:57:38 AM

"It is a wise rule and should be fundamental in a government disposed to cherish its credit, and at the same time to restrain the use of it within the limits of its faculties." --Thomas Jefferson
24932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Anti-biotics in food chain on: June 03, 2011, 10:26:37 AM
Even though this is a POTH editorial, I concur.  I would add to this editorial that the anti-biotics in the animals are not destroyed by cooking and diminish our own good flora which has negative health consequences.

The High Cost of Cheap MeatPublished: June 2, 2011

The point of factory farming is cheap meat, made possible by confining large numbers of animals in small spaces. Perhaps the greatest hidden cost is its potential effect on human health.

Small doses of antibiotics — too small to kill bacteria — are fed to factory farm animals as part of their regular diet to promote growth and offset the risks of overcrowding. What factory farms are really raising is antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which means that several classes of antibiotics no longer work the way they should in humans. We pay for cheap meat by sacrificing some of the most important drugs ever developed.

Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council, joined by other advocacy groups, sued the Food and Drug Administration to compel it to end the nontherapeutic use of penicillin and tetracycline in farm animals. Veterinarians would still be able to treat sick animals with these drugs but could not routinely add the drugs to their diets.

For years, the F.D.A. has had the scientific studies and the authority to ban these drugs. But it has always bowed to pressure from the pharmaceutical and farm lobbies, despite the well-founded objections of groups like the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, which support an antibiotic ban.

It is time for the F.D.A. to stop corporate factory farms from squandering valuable drugs just to promote growth among animals confined in conditions that inherently create the risk of disease. According to recent estimates, 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in this country end up in farm animals. The F.D.A. can change that by honoring its own scientific conclusions and its statutory obligation to end its approval of unsafe drug uses.

24933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: June 03, 2011, 10:22:31 AM
So?  What's your point?

You used the War on Cancer, and I distinguished its applicability to the question presented here.  Your answer is a non-sequitor.

24934  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: June 03, 2011, 10:14:32 AM
@Francisco:  Yay!


Sorry I have dawdled on this.  Presing personal matters have intruded heavily on my time this week.  I will get out a proper newsletter and post here early next week.
24935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Gulf of Mexico deadzone on: June 03, 2011, 10:11:37 AM

As the surging waters of the Mississippi pass downstream, they leave behind flooded towns and inundated lives and carry forward a brew of farm chemicals and waste that this year — given record flooding — is expected to result in the largest dead zone ever in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dead zones have been occurring in the gulf since the 1970s, and studies show that the main culprits are nitrogen and phosphorus from crop fertilizers and animal manure in river runoff. They settle in at the mouth of the gulf and fertilize algae, which prospers and eventually starves other living things of oxygen.
Government studies have traced a majority of those chemicals in the runoff to nine farming states, and yet today, decades after the dead zones began forming, there is still little political common ground on how to abate this perennial problem. Scientists who study dead zones predict that the affected area will increase significantly this year, breaking records for size and damage.

For years, environmentalists and advocates for a cleaner gulf have been calling for federal action in the form of regulation. Since 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency has been encouraging all states to place hard and fast numerical limits on the amount of those chemicals allowed in local waterways. Yet of the nine key farm states that feed the dead zone, only two, Illinois and Indiana, have acted, and only to cover lakes, not the rivers or streams that merge into the Mississippi.

The lack of formal action upstream has long been maddening to the downstream states most affected by the pollution, and the extreme flooding this year has only increased the tensions.

“Considering the current circumstances, it is extremely frustrating not seeing E.P.A. take more direct action,” said Matt Rota, director of science and water policy for the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental advocacy group in New Orleans that has renewed its calls for federally enforced targets. “We have tried solely voluntary mechanisms to reduce this pollution for a decade and have only seen the dead zone get bigger.”

Environmental Protection Agency officials said they had no immediate plans to force the issue, but farmers in the Mississippi Basin are worried. That is because only six months ago, the agency stepped in at the Chesapeake Bay, another watershed with similar runoff issues, and set total maximum daily loads for those same pollutants in nearby waterways. If the states do not reduce enough pollution over time, the agency could penalize them in a variety of ways, including increasing federal oversight of state programs or denying new wastewater permitting rights, which could hamper development. The agency says it is too soon to evaluate their progress in reducing pollution.

Don Parish, senior director of regulatory relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, a trade group, says behind that policy is the faulty assumption that farmers fertilize too much or too casually. Since 1980, he said, farmers have increased corn yields by 80 percent while at the same time reducing their nitrate use by 4 percent through precision farming.

“We are on the razor’s edge,” Mr. Parish said. “When you get to the point where you are taking more from the soil than you are putting in, then you have to worry about productivity.”

Dead zones are areas of the ocean where low oxygen levels can stress or kill bottom-dwelling organisms that cannot escape and cause fish to leave the area. Excess nutrients transported to the gulf each year during spring floods promote algal growth. As the algae die and decompose, oxygen is consumed, creating the dead zone. The largest dead zone was measured in 2002 at about 8,500 square miles, roughly the size of New Jersey. Shrimp fishermen complain of being hurt the most by the dead zones as shrimp are less able to relocate — but the precise impacts on species are still being studied.

The United States Geological Survey has found that nine states along the Mississippi contribute 75 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorus. The survey found that corn and soybean crops were the largest contributors to the nitrogen in the runoff, and manure was a large contributor to the amount of phosphorus.

There are many other factors, of course, that determine what elements make it from crops into river water, for example, whether watersheds are protected by wetlands or buffer strips of land.

John Downing, a biogeochemist and limnologist at Iowa State University, said structural issues were also to blame. Many farms in Iowa, he said, are built on former wetlands and have drains right under the crop roots that whisk water away before soils can absorb and hold on to at least some of the fertilizer.     

Still, overapplication of fertilizers remains a key contributor, he said. “For farmers, the consequences of applying too little is much riskier than putting too much on.”


Page 2 of 2)

Hemmed in by the antiregulatory mood of Congress and high food costs, the Obama administration has looked to combat Mississippi River pollution through an incentive program introduced in 2009 by the Department of Agriculture that encourages a variety of grass-roots solutions, from wetlands creation to educating farmers on just-in-time application.

The Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative provides $320 million in grant money, which has so far been spread among 700 projects in 12 states, projects proposed by farmers, environmental groups and local governments. So far, the department says the results are quite promising. Phosphorus and nitrogen found in surface runoff from 150,000 acres enrolled in the program have decreased by nearly 50 percent.
That amount of land is just a drop in the bucket for the vast Mississippi watershed, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack thought it was promising enough to invite the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa P. Jackson, to visit one of the farms in the program.

“There is fear, real fear, in Iowa that we’ll take what we’re doing in Chesapeake Bay and transfer it here without regard to what’s already happening on the ground,” she said during her trip in April, adding she appreciated the opportunity “to ensure that isn’t our approach.”

Mr. Vilsack said that farmers had come a long way toward understanding their effect on ecosystems downstream and that what they needed were government incentives and creation of private markets — where, for example, farmers who do a lot of conservation could receive payments from farmers who do not — to help them improve environmental safeguards while they also keep food production high.

“A lot of folks are basing criticism and concerns on the way agriculture was, not the way it is now,” Mr. Vilsack said in a phone interview.  “We as a nation have an expansive appetite for inexpensive food. To produce more, you have to turn to strategies like chemicals and pesticides.”

That stance infuriates Dave Murphy, founder of Food Democracy Now!, an Iowa nonprofit that advocates for smaller organic farms. He argues that voluntary programs are a subterfuge.

“As is standard in Iowa and other states, voluntary regulation by the polluters and the industry themselves is the preferred method of getting around any serious environmental enforcement,” he said.

Even some farmers do not disagree. Chris Petersen, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, which represents small farmers, said the country’s policy were not working. “We’ve been trying to do this for years, and we are just not turning the corner.” 
24936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: June 03, 2011, 09:56:40 AM

The war on cancer is not kicking in people's doors.
24937  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Prayer on: June 03, 2011, 09:52:32 AM
Praying for inner harmony while surrounded by strife , , ,
24938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 1781; Liberty from God on: June 03, 2011, 09:49:38 AM
"And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever." --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781

24939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The US and the Pacific: a historical strategic priority on: June 03, 2011, 12:11:21 AM

Gates and the Pacific: A Historical Strategic Priority

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates left Hawaii for Singapore on Wednesday, bound for the 10th annual Asia Security Summit in Singapore — his last foreign trip before he leaves office at the end of the month. While in Hawaii, Gates signaled that at the summit he will emphasize the long-standing American commitment to the region: “We are a Pacific nation. We will remain a Pacific nation. We will remain engaged.”

This statement does more than reassure allies in the region at a time of personnel transition. It reflects the United States’ historical strategic commitments in the region. As an economic power, American commerce is closely tied to the world’s second- and third-largest economies — China and Japan. As a maritime power, the U.S. Navy has shifted more of its focus to East Asian waters. But while the importance of the Pacific region has grown since the Cold War, it has long been of foundational, fundamental importance to American geopolitical security and grand strategy.

“Rare is the country that does not see its relationship with Washington as at least a hedge against a rising and more assertive Beijing.”
When Gates called the United States “a Pacific nation” Tuesday, he was at the USS Missouri (BB 63), one of the last battleships the Americans built and now a museum at Pearl Harbor. Built and commissioned during World War II, the Missouri shelled Iwo Jima and Okinawa as the United States closed in on the Japanese home islands, and later provided fire support to troops in Korea. Indeed, some 50 years prior to the Missouri’s commissioning, U.S. naval officers began crafting and refining a plan to defeat “orange” — a notional adversary representing imperial Japan. For half a century, debates raged over the defensibility of Guam and ports in the Philippines, over the speed at which a fleet could be assembled to sail for the western Pacific, and what would be required to sustain it in extended combat.

Now, Gates travels to a region that has been neglected amid distraction for the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. He travels to a region where, since Washington’s focus waned following 9/11, North Korea has tested crude atomic devices and China has made enormous strides in building a modern military — including anti-ship ballistic missiles intended to target American aircraft carriers at a range of thousands of kilometers. The status of an American air station on Okinawa has faced intense debate and South Korea is uncomfortable with American deference to China in the midst of North Korean aggression.

But Gates is also visiting a region that has been a strategic U.S. priority since the 19th century — and a theater where the country has long worked to strengthen its position. It was no mistake that the Americans forced Spain to surrender Guam and the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, nor was the domination and ultimate annexation of Hawaii or the deployment of U.S. Marines to Beijing a product of happenstance. The result a century later is a robust foundation for American national power in the region.

In terms of commerce, the region’s economic bonds with the American economy continue to grow. In terms of military presence, while the United States may have some operational challenges in certain scenarios, it can call on allies from Australia to Japan and has sovereign-basing options in Hawaii and Guam. Politically, rare is the country that does not see its relationship with Washington as at least a hedge against a rising and more assertive Beijing, particularly as China asserts its maritime claims in the South China Sea. And, it is a region of powerful intra-regional tensions. Countries are more likely to distrust the intentions of those that border them than to share a powerful alliance with them. Even in the absence of deeply entrenched alliances with Australia, Japan and South Korea (not to mention other ties, such as the Philippines on counterterrorism, or with Taiwan, which depends on U.S. military armaments), this patchwork of regional tensions provides considerable flexibility to Washington, allowing it a number of scenarios to play a spoiling role and frustrate the emergence of a single regional hegemon.

24940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stratfor: The future of German energy on: June 02, 2011, 09:25:18 PM
On May 30 the German government announced the seven nuclear power reactors that had been shut down in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami would never be reopened. In fact, they went on to announce the entire shuttering of the German nuclear fleet by 2022. Germany relies on nuclear power for roughly one-third of its electricity needs and at this point, the closure of the entire nuclear sector opens a four-way power game for the future of the German economy and German loyalties. The German plan is to replace the entirety of the nuclear industry with renewable power. Unfortunate for the Germans this is not cost possible. Nuclear power is less than one-third of wind power and less than one-twentieth the cost of solar power. Replacing one-third of their total power generation within a decade is simply not feasible much less possible. Which brings us to the other three options: the first is France.

France’s entire post-World War II strategy has been about lashing itself to Germany so that Germany can never again threaten it. In the post-Cold War era, the strategy has been refined somewhat in order to make France as essential to German plans as possible. Now unlike Germany, and France’s population is remarkably pro-nuclear and so the French are going to be trying to build as many nuclear power reactors as possible so that they can export electricity to Germany to make up as much of the difference as possible. This has already been happening to a limited degree. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disasters in Japan, French power actors have been running up to the red line in order to supply power to replace those seven nuclear reactors that the Germans took off-line. So the French already have a leg up in this competition.

The second country is Poland. Poland’s concerns are little more complex. While the French are obviously concerned about what happens should Germany get too confident, the Poles are sandwiched between a resurgent Germany and resurgent Russia. There is nowhere for them to turn; economically they can’t compete with either; demographically they can’t compete with either. They need a way to shape the relations of one or both of the states. The Polish advantage, somewhat ironically, is coal — a fuel that has been steadily phased out across Europe over the last 20 years. Poland still gets 90 percent of its electricity from coal and unlike the expensive nuclear power reactors which require several billion euros and five to 10 years to construct, you can put up a coal plant for as little as a few hundred million in a year or two. Poland is actually the country, ironically then, with this old politically incorrect fuel source that actually has a chance of coming to Germany’s rescue in the shortest term for the lowest dollar amount.

The final player in the game is Russia. Russia has been attempting to secure a partnership with the Germans for decades and such a partnership would solve many of Russia’s long-term demographic, economic and military problems. A German-Russian partnership would neutralize Poland, and really, neutralize all of Europe. It would make it very difficult for the Americans put forward any sort of anti-Russian policies in the European sphere of influence as there would simply be no one to carry them out. The United States needs Germany to at least be neutral in its relations with Russia otherwise the Russians have a free hand in all the other theaters, and as powerful as the Americans are, so long as they are involved in the Islamic world they simply can’t counter Russia everywhere. Economically, the Russians see Germany as their strongest trading partner and their largest source of foreign investment. They realize that if they can get their hook into the German soul, their life simply gets easier all around. Their plan is pretty simple. There is something called the Nord Stream pipeline which bypasses all the transit states between the Russians and the Germans that is in the process of final testing right now. It should come online in 2012 and then slowly be ramped up to a full capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. That 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas is enough to replace half of the electricity that nuclear power has recently given Germany. All that has to be done is the construction of additional natural gas-burning power plants in Germany — the fuel is already there.

And so we have a four-part race: first, the Germans, who have a politically attractive plan that is economically unfeasible; second, the French, who have a politically attractive plan that is economically expensive; third, the Poles, who have a politically unattractive plan which is economically dirt cheap; and forth, the Russians, who already have the fuel source in place.

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24941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 02, 2011, 09:03:36 PM
And every night they see Boener and Mitchell on the evening news as the face of the Republican Party , , ,  cry
24942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: June 02, 2011, 08:23:31 PM
See my post of May 28.
24943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison 1835 on his fellow Founding Fathers on: June 02, 2011, 08:18:33 AM
"Whatever may be the judgement pronounced on the competency of the architects of the Constitution, or whatever may be the destiny of the edifice prepared by them, I feel it a duty to express my profound and solemn conviction ... that there never was an assembly of men, charged with a great and arduous trust, who were more pure in their motives, or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them." --James Madison, 1835
24944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: June 01, 2011, 11:01:29 PM
You mean Stewart is wrong and that is Weiner's penis? cheesy cheesy cheesy
24945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GM's brain may explode with this one :-) on: June 01, 2011, 08:53:43 PM
24946  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Officer Jared Reston on: June 01, 2011, 05:58:29 PM
24947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Blame it on Ailes LOL on: June 01, 2011, 05:25:48 PM
24948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism, socialism: on: June 01, 2011, 10:57:09 AM
Good conversation going here.  My apologies for the brevity of what follows, but there are many demands on my time right now.

I reject separating Marx from what his followers have done with considerable consistency.  The pattern of the extraordinarily murderous nature of Leninism, Stalinism, the Soviet Empire, Maoism, the Kymer Rouge, North Korea, etc  is no accident.  It ineluctably flows from the nature of concept such as "dictatorhip of the proletariat" and "the vanguard" and so forth.  The nature of Marxist logic becomes a feedback loop that repeatedly leads to mass evil.  How many did Lenin murder?  Stalin?  the rest of the Soviet Empire? Mao? the Kymer Rouge? etc etc etc  And let us not forget the evils of a lives lived with freedom suppressed.

Rachel's post today on "The Power of Word" thread opens with "He is a self-made man who worships his creator." This captures quite a bit IMHO.

24949  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cain promo clip on: June 01, 2011, 10:41:34 AM
24950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New firearms training methodology on: June 01, 2011, 10:32:34 AM


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