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25001  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Case Study: The will to live, the will to win on: May 14, 2011, 09:18:36 AM


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArDRg5SkuT0&feature=player_embedded
25002  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 14, 2011, 08:33:13 AM
See you next time Dog Howie.

@all:  My cell phone number is 310-738-1044.  This is my mobile number and the number to use to reach me starting at 09:30.  Before then, please continue to use 310-543-7521.

Those of you not going directly to the location, please meet at the park by 09:45 so that we can caravan to the location at 10:00.
25003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malpass: QE2 a Y2K? on: May 14, 2011, 08:26:02 AM
I don't really see how the end of QE2 can't be a big deal, but David Malpass does:
===========================

Concerns about the end of QE2 have put downward pressure on equities and bond yields. We think this will ease.
 
We expect the consensus outlook to improve as it did in the face of Y2K.  Like the June 30 end of QE2, Y2K crash warnings had a date certain, January 1, 2000, to worry about, causing months of hand-wringing due to the uncertainty.  Equities ended up rallying over 15% in the final three months of 1999 and went higher in following months.  We expect a substantial flow from bonds to equities in coming months as the growth outlook improves, inflation rises and the uncertainty over the end of QE2 is finally resolved. 
 
The $16 billion 30-year bond auction had the weakest number of bids per bond since November.  We think this signals a decline in risk aversion and a weakening of the bond squeeze that has dominated bond yields in recent weeks (see Bond Squeeze Nearly Over on May 3.)  Short-term interest rates and Treasury bond yields were being squeezed down by what we think were temporary factors, giving a false impression of market-based pessimism and risk aversion and a disconnect between falling bond yields and rising equities.  Several factors caused what we think was an artificial month-long decline in bond yields from April 11 through May 6 including the April risk that the $14.3 trillion debt limit might have suspended Treasury issuance while the Fed was still buying heavily – but due to strong April tax receipts and technical factors, Treasury now has headroom to continue regular deficit funding into August, lifting the squeeze (see a list of the temporary squeeze factors in the attachment).
 
The April low point in the consensus outlook had a long list of concerns beyond QE2 and falling bond yields.  These included the oil price spike, the ECB’s rate hike on April 7, Japan’s severe crisis, China’s aggressive monetary tightenings, the first quarter weather-related letdown in U.S. GDP and the deterioration in peripheral European debt markets. While each of this is a negative, we don’t think they will derail the global expansion, leaving room for an improvement in the outlook (see Tall Wall of Worry; Good Second Half Outlook on April 15.)
 
We note several positive developments: 
 
Retail stocks are rising. Consumer credit has increased six months in a row (through March) after 20 months of shrinkage.  We disagree with the view that consumer debt will constrain consumption – the key variable in consumption is the employment climate which is gradually improving.  Today’s retail sales data was a bit weaker-than consensus, but there were upward revisions to previous months and the net result is consistent with our expectation of over 3% real growth in the second quarter.  Retail sales are up 7.6% yoy.  Excluding autos, gas and building materials (which is an input for GDP), sales are up 5.5% yoy.
 
April tax receipts were strong.  This suggests economic strength.  More importantly, it helped Treasury delay the debt limit problem beyond the Fed’s final QE2 bond purchases in June.  We think the timing change for the debt limit increase broke the bond squeeze and will reduce the sensitivity of financial markets to the debt limit increase.
 
April payroll data was strong, consistent with today’s sizeable upward revisions in February and March retail sales data.
 
Bearish sentiment and continuing confusion about QE2 provides upside – for example, some analysts are asserting that M2 growth will drop when QE2 ends because that Fed will stop increasing excess reserves (yet excess reserves aren’t part of M2).
 
We expect the U.S. to continue very loose monetary and fiscal policy – meaning a near-zero Fed funds rate and over $3.7 trillion per year in federal spending.  We look for a moderate 3%-3.5% U.S. growth rate in coming quarters -- that’s disappointing given the severity of the recession and won’t create the surge in small-business jobs needed to pull the unemployment rate quickly below 8% but is fast enough to dispel the QE2 concerns and QE3 predictions. 
David Malpass
David Malpass is President of Encima Global and GrowPAC.com. He also served in the Reagan Treasury Dept, the Bush (41) State Dept and was Chief Economist at Bear Stearns.
25004  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: A Tectonic Shift in Central Europe on: May 14, 2011, 08:21:30 AM
A Tectonic Shift in Central Europe

At a Thursday meeting, the defense ministers of the Visegrad Group (V4) — a loose regional grouping of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — decided to create a battle group. The decision is significant but expected. It’s significant because it shows that the V4 states are willing to upgrade their loose alliance to the security and military level. It’s expected because STRATFOR has long forecast that they would be forced to take security matters into their own hands by NATO’s lack of focus on the singular issue that concerns them: Russian resurgence in the post-Soviet sphere.

Europe’s two major political and security institutions are the European Union and NATO, both born in the aftermath of World War II, which devastated Europe. They then evolved in the shadow of a looming confrontation with the Soviet Union, which threatened to revisit such devastation. Approximating national interests to form a common security strategy was not perfect during the Cold War, but it was simple, especially with Soviet armored divisions poised for a strike at Western Europe via the North European Plain and the Fulda Gap.

“Poland could therefore be pivotal in any divergence of the blocs from the European core and hamper Moscow’s national security designs.”
The Cold War and the memory of World War II acted as bookends holding European states on the metaphorical bookshelf. Once the two eroded in the 1990s, the books did not immediately come tumbling down. Instead, the drive to expand NATO and the European Union became an end to itself, giving both organizations a raison-d’etre in the 1990s. Inertia drove the entities.

But a number of factors since the mid-2000s has shaken this unity, primarily the emergence of an independent-minded Germany and the resurgence of Russia as a regional power. While Russia does not pose the same threat it did during the Cold War, Central Europeans continue to see Moscow as a security threat and would prefer for NATO to treat Russia accordingly. Germany sees Russia as a business opportunity and an exporter of cheap and clean energy. The two views collided most recently during discussions for NATO’s New Strategic Concept, producing a largely incomprehensible mission statement for the alliance. There are other tremors. The United States, the guarantor of European security structures, has spent the last 10 years obsessed with the Middle East and has been unable to prevent the divergence of interests on the European continent.

NATO has unsurprisingly become incapable of approximating national security interests toward a common mean, while the European Union has failed — spectacularly so in Libya — to create a coherent foreign policy. Instead, European countries are diverging into regionally focused groupings. The two most prominent of these are the Nordic states, which are cooperating closely with the Baltic states, and the V4. The blocs’ security concerns regarding Russian intentions are rooted in separate geographies. The Nordic and Baltic states’ focus is in the Baltic Sea region, while the V4 is concerned with Moscow’s strength in the traditional border states of Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. The two regional blocs remind us of primordial continental plates splitting off from Pangea. Europe’s tectonic plates, held together for 60 years by geopolitical conditions, have begun to diverge.

Poland is key. It shares a Baltic Sea coast with Nordic neighbors to the north, of which it perceives Sweden as a strategic partner. But its historical roots are in the northern slopes of the Carpathians, a geographical feature it shares with the other V4 members. It also happens to be the United States’ most committed Central European ally as well as the region’s most populous country and most dynamic economy. Poland could therefore be pivotal in any divergence of the blocs from the European core and hamper Moscow’s national security designs.

25005  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 14, 2011, 12:06:04 AM
Why do dogs lick their balls?
Because they can.

How do you give a dog medicine?
Put it on his balls.

When does a dog give you a kiss?
Right after he has taken his medicine.
25006  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: May 14, 2011, 12:04:22 AM


I watched BG's show tonight; live audience of college students focused on representing Founding Father ideas in the hostile environment of universities of today.  Looks like GB will be doing a lot of work in this area.  Good call for him.

25007  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: May 14, 2011, 12:01:18 AM
GM, that's the sort of thing I was looking for; thank you.
25008  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / TUF on: May 13, 2011, 09:00:24 PM
Any comments on TUF?
25009  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: May 13, 2011, 08:55:19 PM
I was aware of the anti-Semitic stuff.  Got any convenient URLs on it and/or the race-tinged stuff?
25010  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Aurora Borealis on: May 13, 2011, 08:48:45 PM

Time-lapse video captures aurora borealis (2 minutes):
http://mashable.com/2011/04/08/timelapse-aurora-borealis/

Timelapse Video of San Francisco-to-Paris Flight Captures Aurora Borealis
mashable.com
On a flight from SF to Paris, this guy set up his digital SLR camera on a tripod, attached a timelapse controller, and got spectacular footage of the aurora borealis...
25011  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Paul on: May 13, 2011, 07:43:29 PM
I confess to considerable sympathy for RP's willingness to get seriously radical with regard to the size and reach of our government in our lives, to abolish the Fed and restore responsible monetary policy, and for his respect for our Constitution.

OTOH sometimes he is just a fg nut,

I heard tonight on the Bret Baier report that he would not have approved the raid that killed OBL without prior approval from Pakistan.
25012  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 13, 2011, 05:09:38 PM
Pretty Kitty and I just came back from our favorite Chinese Massage place.  Only $20 per hour!!! -- and they are really good!!!  They soak your feet in hot tea while they start working on your head and then go from there. afro

They are open from 10:00-22:00 2219 Artesia Bl in Redondo Beach CA 90278  310-793-2308.   Just the thing for the night before fighting, between two days of fighting, and after two days of fighting , , , grin
25013  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: May 13, 2011, 05:05:09 PM
People seem to be responding well to the idea of a goodly portion of the time being spent on how to really hit people with sticks grin a.k.a. Dog Brothers Real Contact Stickfighting the DBMA way.

Right now I am focused on the DB Tribal, so further developments on this will have to wait until next week.
25014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 13, 2011, 04:59:46 PM
GF is an unusually insightful guy IMHO but in this one he seems to let himself be guided by the assumption that Afg. is the issue , , ,
25015  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: May 13, 2011, 04:58:35 PM
So with a quickie blast of his mighty Google Fu, GM has huffed and puffed and blown down JDN and MMcC's glass house. rolleyes  I'm shocked, absolutely shocked. rolleyes
25016  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 13, 2011, 04:51:41 PM
Colin: With Taliban in Pakistan claiming responsibility for an attack that killed 80 people in a paramilitary academy in the country’s northwest frontier, the Pakistan question looms large in Washington. But despite the rhetoric from both the United States and Islamabad, it is likely to be business as usual.

Colin: Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman.

George: Well first let’s frame the basic picture. The Pakistanis need the United States to counterbalance India. The United States needs Pakistan to find some sort of solution in Afghanistan. This is not a relationship made of love it is a relationship made of interests. The United States, if it did not have the cooperation of Pakistan, would simply not be able to wage the war. First the supply line from Karachi to the Khyber Pass would be closed. We could find an alternative working with Russia perhaps, but that would cause a problem. There is another alternative on the Caspian but that won’t solve the entire problem. If Pakistan were to turn on us, our position in Afghanistan would become difficult. Plus whatever limited help the Pakistanis are giving the United States in dealing with Taliban strongholds in Pakistan itself would disappear.

First much of the wild talk about punishing Pakistan and so on fails to take into account the American position in Afghanistan. And secondly it fails to take into account that Pakistan is a country of 180 million people, not a country that you can easily punish. At the same time, the Pakistanis badly need the United States to balance India because the Pakistanis by themselves would be no match for the Indians, would be threatened and overwhelmed, and therefore they can’t simply reject American relations. For the past 10 years since 9/11, there’s been terrific tension between the two countries. The United States has wanted the Pakistanis to do things in support of the United States that the Pakistanis felt would lead to a possible breakdown in Pakistan because of civil tension between the various factions. A fine line has been walked. With the capture of Osama bin Laden and the assertion that the Pakistanis harbored him or didn’t effectively act against him, there is the temptation, particularly on the part of the Americans, to break with the Pakistanis. The problem is that’s not an option for the Americans so long as they remain in Afghanistan. They need whatever level of cooperation the Pakistanis are going to give and that’s really where it stands in the midst of all of the hubbub and charges and senators demanding investigations and cutoffs of aid. We simply need the supply lines. We need what ever support the Pakistanis are prepared to give or we’re going to have to think about how to leave Afghanistan.

Colin: Is it your view as some suggest that the recent events in the United States can now leave Afghanistan earlier?

George: Well it depends very much on how the United States positions the death of Osama bin Laden. If it makes the claim that with this death of Osama bin Laden the threat of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan has diminished to the point that mission has been accomplished, then it can make the claim that it has to leave. And the problem there is of course that the threat of terrorism isn’t so much emanating from Afghanistan; it’s emanating from Pakistan. The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is only minimally affecting the struggle against terrorism. Certainly if the United States left, al Qaeda would move back into Afghanistan but by definition al Qaeda is going to be operating where ever the United States isn’t. This is a guerrilla war on a global level. In that sense guerrillas constantly decline combat where the conventional force is overwhelming and move to areas where the conventional force is weak. On a global level where ever the United States isn’t, is where al Qaeda is going to be. The United States can’t be in Pakistan. The ability to overwhelm Pakistan, it is an enormous country in terms of population - it is just beyond reach of the number of troops in Americans have - and therefore the argument that Osama bin Laden’s death changes something dramatically is probably dubious but as a political claim may be persuasive and may allow the administration to begin to consider withdrawal with a claim of some sort of victory.

Colin: George we’ve seen a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Afghanistan. Is that relevant to all this or is it a sideshow?

George: It’s not a sideshow but it’s not really relevant because in the end, India is geopolitically not in the position to insert large numbers of troops in Afghanistan and therefore can’t support the Karzai government. The map simply makes it almost impossible for the Indians to do that and so the Indians are fishing in muddy waters. They’re trying to shore up Karzai’s spirits. They’re trying to signal the Pakistanis. But again, all of this diplomatic signaling back and forth ignores geopolitical reality. The Indians cannot insert and support a significant military force in Afghanistan. They’re not an alternative to the United States. Their commitment to Afghanistan really doesn’t make that much of a difference. Sometimes diplomatic gestures mean something and sometimes they simply don’t. In this particular case I think the Indians would like it to be able to mean something but it doesn’t.

Colin: George thanks very much indeed. George Friedman there, ending Agenda. I’m Colin Chapman. Thanks for your time today.

25017  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CNN host also advises the President on: May 13, 2011, 04:49:20 PM
Any conflict of interest there?  Nah , , ,  otherwise the Pravdas would be all over it-- but they are not so there mustn't be , , , rolleyes

http://www.glennbeck.com/2011/05/13/cnn-host-admits-he-advises-obama/
25018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spengler: Excrement approaching fan , , , on: May 13, 2011, 04:31:27 PM
Another entry today for Egypt.  This one seems rather significant , , ,
==========================

 
 The hunger to come in Egypt
By Spengler

Egypt is running out of food, and, more gradually, running out of money with which to buy it. The most populous country in the Arab world shows all the symptoms of national bankruptcy - the kind that produced hyperinflation in several Latin American countries during the 1970s and 1980s - with a deadly difference: Egypt imports half its wheat, and the collapse of its external credit means starvation.

The civil violence we have seen over the past few days foreshadows far worse to come.

The Arab uprisings began against a background of food insecurity, as rising demand from Asia priced the Arab poor out of the grain   
market (Food and failed Arab states, Asia Times Online February 2, 2011). The chaotic political response, though, threatens to disrupt food supplies in the relative near term. Street violence will become the norm rather than the exception in Egyptian politics. All the discussion about Egypt's future political model and its prospective relations with Israel will be overshadowed by the country's inability to feed itself.

Egypt's political problems - violence against Coptic Christians, the resurgence of Islamism, and saber-rattling at Israel, for example - are not symptoms of economic failure. They have a life of their own. But even Islamists have to eat, and whatever political scenarios that the radical wing of Egyptian politic might envision will be aborted by hunger.

The Ministry of Solidarity and Social Justice is already forming "revolutionary committees" to mete out street justice to bakeries, propane dealers and street vendors who "charge more than the price prescribed by law", the Federation of Egyptian Radio and Television reported on May 3.

According to the ministry, "Thugs are in control of bread and butane prices" and "people's committees" are required to stop them. Posters on Egyptian news sites report sharp increases in bread prices, far in excess of the 11.5% inflation reported for April by the country's central bank. And increases in the price of bottled propane have made the cost of the most widely used cooking fuel prohibitive.

The collapse of Egypt's credit standing, meanwhile, has shut down trade financing for food imports, according to the chairman of the country's Food Industry Holding Company, Dr Ahmed al-Rakaibi, chairman of the Holding Company for Food Industries. Rakaibi warned of "an acute shortage in the production of food commodities manufactured locally, as well as a decline in imports of many goods, especially poultry, meats and oils". According to the country's statistics agency, only a month's supply of rice is on hand, and four months' supply of wheat.

The country's foreign exchange reserves have fallen by US$13 billion, or roughly a third during the first three months of the year, Reuters reported on May 5. The country lost $6 billion of official and $7 billion of unofficial reserves, and had only $24.5 billion on hand at the end of April. Capital flight probably explains most of the rapid decline. Egypt's currency has declined by only about 6% since January, despite substantial capital flight, due to market intervention by the central bank, but the rapid drawdown of reserves is unsustainable.

At this rate Egypt will be broke by September.

Egypt imported $55 billion worth of goods in 2009, but exported only $29 billion of goods. With the jump in food and energy prices, the same volume of imports would cost considerably more. Egypt closed the 2009 trade gap with about $15 billion in tourist revenues, and about $8 billion of remittances from Egyptian workers abroad. But tourism today is running at a fraction of last year's levels, and remittances are down by around half due to expulsion of Egyptian workers from Libya. Even without capital flight, Egypt is short perhaps $25 billion a year.


Source: Yahoo


Egyptian Stock Market Index (EGX 30)

Source: Bloomberg

Price controls and currency depreciation have made it more profitable for wholesalers - including some employees of state companies - to export rice and cooking oil illegally. According to the daily al-Ahram, hoarding of rice by wholesalers has pushed up the price of the grain by 35% this year, while 200 containers per day are sold to Turkey and Syria.

"What is happening," the newspaper claims, is that that traders are storing basic items such as rice and barley, hoarded in barns and in large quantities, and are reluctant to send it to the rice mills in order to raise the price of this strategic commodity". The al-Ahram report, headlined, "Conspiracy to Monopolize Rice," demands physical inspection of containers leaving Egyptian ports.
The rest of the story is predictable. Once the government relies on young men with guns to police its merchants, hoarding will only get worse. The Egyptian revolution has cracked down on the commercial elite that ran the country's economy for the past 60 years, and the elite will find ways to transfer as much of its wealth to safety as it can. The normal chain of distribution will break down and "revolutionary committees" will take control of increasingly scarce supplies. Farmers won't get fuel and fertilizer, and domestic supplies will fail.

The Egyptian government will go to the International Monetary Fund and other aid agencies for loans - the government reportedly will ask for $7 billion to tide things over - and foreign money at best will buy a few months' respite. The currency will collapse; the government will print IOUs to tide things over; and the Egyptian street will reject the IOUs as the country reverts to barter.

It will look like the Latin American banana republics, but without the bananas. That is not meant in jest: few people actually starved to death in the Latin inflations. Egypt, which imports half its wheat and a great deal of the rest of its food, will actually starve.

Revolutions don't only kill their children. They kill a great many ordinary people. The 1921 famine after the Russian civil war killed an estimated five million people, and casualties on the same scale are quite possible in Egypt as well. Half of Egyptians live on $2 a day, and that $2 is about to collapse along with the national currency, and the result will be a catastrophe of, well, biblical proportions.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. Comment on this article in Spengler's Expat Bar forum.

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
 
 
25019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on CPI: Inflation is here on: May 13, 2011, 11:14:42 AM
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.4% in April To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 5/13/2011


The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.4% in April, matching consensus expectations. The CPI is up 3.2% versus a year ago.

“Cash” inflation (which excludes the government’s estimate of what homeowners would charge themselves for rent) was up 0.5% in April and is up 3.8% in the past year.
 
About half of the increase in the CPI in April was due to energy, which rose 2.2%.  Food prices were up 0.4%.  Excluding food and energy, the “core” CPI increased 0.2%, matching consensus expectations. Core prices are up 1.3% versus last year.
 
Real average hourly earnings – the cash earnings of all employees, adjusted for inflation – fell 0.3% in April and are down 1.2% in the past year. Real weekly earnings are down 0.6% in the past year.
 
Implications:  The price inflation that has been evident at the producer level for some time has clearly made its way to the consumer. The CPI is up 3.2% in the past year and is accelerating. In the past six months, the CPI is up at a 5.1% annual rate and an even stronger 6.2% rate in the past three months. We like to follow “cash inflation,” which is everything in the CPI (including food and energy) but without owners’ equivalent rent (the government’s estimate of what homeowners would pay if they rented their own homes). Cash inflation increased 0.5% in April and is up at a 7.8% annual rate in the past three months. While these increases have been led by energy, which is up at a 42.8% annual rate in the past three months, the “core” CPI (which excludes food and energy) is also accelerating. Core prices are up only 1.3% versus a year ago, but up at a 2.1% annual rate in the past three months. Rising inflation is a concern now, but we fully expect the Federal Reserve to continue to justify keeping short-term interest rates near zero – through around the middle of next year – by saying that it’s “transitory.”
25020  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / It seems that there will not be an EMT this time. on: May 13, 2011, 11:13:00 AM
Woof All:

In recent years we have rather consistently had an EMT at the Gatherings, notably our own Kaju Dog.   Due to personal matters beyond his control he will not be able to make it.  Our possible back-up, Frankfurter has unexpectedly been hit with work committments and he too will not be able to make it.

Bottom line: no EMT. 

To the best of my knowledge, the nearest hospital is "Little Company of Mary" on Torrance Ave/BL in Torrance.  This is a very good hospital.  You should take a moment to find where it is and have directions so that if you are injured someone can take you there.  My guess is about 12-15 minutes driving time. Also, there is an "Urgent Care" on Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach called "Ocean Medical".  My guess is about 8 minutes driving time.

As always, only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times.
25021  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Where oh where , , , on: May 13, 2011, 11:05:19 AM
If you are not familiar with where we used to hold the Gatherings, please go to Mapquest.com and enter my old address

505 4th St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Please try to arrive by 09:45 so we can leave for the actual location at 10:00.
25022  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: May 13, 2011, 10:23:20 AM
Exactly.
25023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: May 13, 2011, 10:22:35 AM
Well, not having heard/seen GB's comments in context or otherwise, or seen Meghan McCain in the dress in question, I see no particular reason to take a side here-- though I do note that GB can be pretty hard (in a humorous way) on his own appearance so her comments about him in this regard are , , , hard for me to follow. 

Bottom line, whatever.  I watch the show most days and I know what I see and hear and I read and hear how others describe what I see and hear.
25024  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Disaster Plan problems found on: May 13, 2011, 08:40:58 AM
Disaster Plan Problems Found at U.S. Nuclear Plants
By MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: May 12, 2011
ROCKVILLE, Md. — Despite repeated assurances that American nuclear plants are better equipped to deal with natural disasters than their counterparts in Japan, regulators said Thursday that recent inspections had found serious problems with some emergency equipment that would have made it unusable in an accident.

 
N.R.C. employees said the agency had insufficiently weighed two factors found in the crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant.

In addition, the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acknowledged that the agency’s current regulations and disaster plans did not give enough consideration to two factors that had greatly contributed to the continuing Fukushima Daiichi crisis in Japan: simultaneous problems at more than one reactor and a natural disaster that disrupts roads, electricity and other infrastructure surrounding a plant.

The briefing was part of a review requested by the commissioners to evaluate the vulnerability of American reactors to severe natural disasters like the ones that hit the Japanese plant in March.

Marty Virgilio, the deputy executive director of the agency, told the five commissioners that inspectors checked a sample of equipment at all 104 reactors and found problems at less than a third of them. The problems included pumps that would not start or, if they did, did not put out the required amount of water; equipment that was supposed to be set aside for emergencies but was being used in other parts of the plants; emergency equipment that would be needed in case of flood stored in places that could be flooded; and insufficient diesel on hand to run backup systems.

Many of the emergency systems were put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Officials said the problems that had been found were addressed immediately but not everything had been inspected. Mr. Virgilio said he expected to have a fuller picture soon.

He said an entire category of new procedures, called “severe accident mitigation guidelines,” had been adopted voluntarily by the nuclear industry and thus was not subject to commission rules.

R. William Borchardt, the commission’s chief staff official, said some of the preparations for severe accidents “don’t have the same kind of regulatory pedigree” as the equipment in the original plant design.

The two-hour briefing given to the five-member commission was an early assessment, 30 days into a 90-day review being conducted by an N.R.C. task force.

Charlie Miller, the staff member leading the effort, said the staff was considering “enhancements” to its disaster plans and procedures. But as laid out by the staff, some of the changes under consideration could be far-reaching.

For example, the N.R.C. now looks at how well a plant’s design can handle a problem at just one reactor, even if there is more than one reactor at the site.

“You have to take a step back and consider what would happen if you had multiple units affected by some ‘beyond design basis’ events,” Mr. Miller said.

Another problem, staff members acknowledged, is that they have never paid much attention to the issues posed by handling an emergency when there is widespread damage to surrounding roads, power systems and communications links. In the past, the commission has explicitly rejected the notion that it should consider such combined events when reviewing a plant’s safety preparations.

Simultaneous with the commission’s meeting, Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, released a report arguing that a variety of other shortcomings existed at nuclear plants, including the frequent failure of emergency diesel generators, which are essential to plant safety if the power grid goes down. He also criticized the commission for not requiring plants to have a backup power source for spent fuel pools while the reactor is shut for maintenance or refueling.

The Fukushima accident has cast new attention on spent fuel pools; the reason the United States government recommended that Americans stay 50 miles from the plant was damage to the spent fuel pool of Fukushima’s Unit 4, a reactor that was shut down before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Mr. Markey pointed out that in the last eight years, the commission had received 69 reports of inoperable diesel generators at 33 plants, with six of those generators out for more than a month. The diesels provide power for water pumps that allow removal of “decay heat,” the heat that fuel generates even after a reactor shuts down. The Fukushima plants shut down successfully but decay heat wrecked their cores.

The N.R.C. said it was aware of the reports. But on Wednesday, attention was called to that problem by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, an industry group formed after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 to provide peer-to-peer safety reviews. That group said one of the few safety measures that was getting worse was the reliability of diesel generators.

Mr. Markey also complained that the commission had allowed some plant operators to remove equipment that eliminates hydrogen produced by overheating fuel. In addition, there is no requirement for equipment to remove hydrogen in the rooms where spent fuel is stored; the building surrounding Fukushima Unit 4 was destroyed by the explosion of hydrogen that came from the spent fuel pool.

Commission officials said they were reviewing their previous decision to permit very heavy loading of the spent fuel pools. Thinning them out would reduce the amount of heat production that had to be dealt with in case of a severe accident, they said.
25025  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Syria on: May 13, 2011, 08:18:48 AM
Second post of the morning

Hearty salutations and reassurances from Damascus. After killing more than 600 (and counting) and arresting and injuring thousands more in a seven week crackdown, the Syrian regime wants you to know that it thinks it has the upper hand over protestors. And Bashar Assad appreciates the support and understanding in these trying times from so many in the Arab world, Europe and the U.S.

That's the word this week from Syrian President Bashar Assad's adviser Bouthaina Shaaban, who called in the New York Times man in Beirut for a security update. It's all under control now, she said, and the world can relax. "I hope we are witnessing the end of the story. I think now we've passed the most dangerous moment."

The regime's confidence is playing out in towns like Homs, where reports filtering out via Facebook and smuggled phones tell of indiscriminate artillery shelling of entire civilian neighborhoods. Mass arrests are common and intensified this week. Human rights groups estimate that more than 10,000 people have been detained.

A correspondent for the Times of London, Martin Fletcher, who snuck into Syria on a tourist visa last week, reported that he found "scores of young men" held at secret detention centers in Homs. "It was quite obvious that . . . the regime had been arresting almost every young man of fighting age that they could find on the streets of Homs."

A French journalist spent 23 days inside Assad's jail and tells a harrowing story about his ordeal. He was beaten in the first few days, but "the psychological torture was hearing the screams of all the other detainees," said Khaled Sid Mohand, who reported for Le Monde daily and France Culture radio from Syria before his arrest. "Any time they would take a detainee from his cell you would hear him scream like hell. Sometimes for 15 minutes, sometimes as long as an hour."

And the world's reaction? The U.N. Security Council couldn't muster the courage to put out a press release. Iran, Russia, China, India and the Arab states all have President Assad's back. Six weeks into the crackdown, the U.S. did impose financial sanctions on three top Syrian officials, the intelligence agency and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The European Union followed by freezing the assets and putting a travel ban on 13 officials.

Statements have also been issued. "There may be some who think that this is a sign of strength but treating one's own people in this way is in fact a sign of remarkable weakness," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday in Greenland.

But neither the U.S. nor the EU put President Assad on the sanctions list or travel ban. President Obama didn't call for him to step down or even pull the U.S. Ambassador from Damascus. In an interview with the Atlantic website published Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton elaborated on the U.S. approach to the Syrian dictator: "What we have tried to do with him is to give him an alternative vision of himself and Syria's future."

In other words, America thinks Bashar Assad may still reform, cut ties with Iran, seek peace with Israel and therefore deserves to be treated like a potential friend of the U.S.—notwithstanding the brutality of the last two months.

Damascus certainly appreciates the forbearance, and it looks forward to normal relations once all this unpleasantness passes. The comments by U.S. officials were "not too bad," Ms. Shaaban told the Times. "Once security is back, everything can be arranged. We're not going to live in this crisis forever."

25026  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Romney and Romneycare on: May 13, 2011, 08:15:51 AM
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." If we may judge by his health-care speech at the University of Michigan yesterday, Mitt Romney is a very smart man.

The likely Republican Presidential candidate fulfilled the White House's fondest wishes, defending the mandate-subsidize-overregulate program he enacted as Massachusetts Governor in 2006 even as he denounced President Obama's national reprise. He then proposed his own U.S. reform that is sensible and might do so some actual good, but which also runs against the other two plans. These are unbridgeable policy and philosophical differences, though Mr. Romney is nonetheless trying to leap over them like Evel Knievel heading for the Snake River Canyon.

.Mr. Romney says that Massachusetts was "a state solution to a state problem" and that the other laboratories of democracy should also be allowed to run their own experiments free of ObamaCare's controls. But if Massachusetts is the triumph that Mr. Romney claimed yesterday, well, what's the problem with Washington exporting the same successful model? If an individual mandate to purchase health insurance was indispensable in the Bay State, as Mr. Romney argued, why isn't it necessary in every other state too?

The former Governor outlined a national approach like the one he ran on in 2008. Its core virtue is that it would equalize the tax treatment of health insurance, ending the destructive federal bias for employer-provided insurance over the individual market and encouraging a consumer market for competitive insurance and more efficient medicine. Health economists across the political spectrum have recognized this distortion for decades.

Mr. Romney also tried to draw a contrast between his new campaign plan and Mr. Obama's reform, saying, for instance, that it would create no new health-care bureaucracies. He neglected to mention that his state plan did precisely that. Mr. Romney's political appointees converted the architecture of the "connector" that was supposed to support individual and small-business insurance choice into a regulatory body dedicated to stamping it out.

The political tragedy is that Mr. Romney could have emerged as one of ObamaCare's most potent critics had he made different choices two years ago amid one of the country's most consequential debates in generations. He might have said that as Governor he made a good-faith effort to resolve some of health care's long-running dysfunctions, but that it hadn't worked out and that's why state experiments are valuable.

Mr. Romney also sold his plan using the same theories and language as Mr. Obama, and he might have rebutted the President from experience and evidence. Instead, he has lashed himself to the contradiction of attacking Mr. Obama's plan while claiming his own is different.

Many people have tried to talk Mr. Romney down from this daredevil campaign act, but Mr. Romney privately says he doesn't want to reinforce the rap he had in 2008 that he had reinvented himself too often. As a political matter, however, we think it's better to change positions than to try to defend the intellectually indefensible.

Mr. Romney is not taking our advice, as his nearby letter shows. He even said yesterday that he would do it all over again in Massachusetts, which means he is in for a year in which Republicans attack him on policy while Democrats defend him on policy but attack him as a hypocrite. Who knows what GOP voters will make of all this, but we won't be surprised if Mr. Romney's campaign suffers as many broken bones (433) as Knievel.

25027  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Crime Wave on: May 13, 2011, 08:12:44 AM
Coptic Christians, left, and Muslims threw stones at each other during clashes in Cairo last weekend.
Sidebar comment:  My readings elsewhere leave me with the thought that the apparent neutrality here on Muslim-Coptic fighting is an example of Pravda on the Hudson's politics getting in the way of the Truth.

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: May 12, 2011
 
CAIRO — The neighbors watched helplessly from behind locked gates as an exchange of gunfire rang out at the police station. Then about 80 prisoners burst through the station’s doors — some clad only in underwear, many brandishing guns, machetes, even a fire extinguisher — as the police fled.




“The police are afraid,” said Mohamed Ismail, 30, a witness. “I am afraid to leave my neighborhood.”
Three months after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a crime wave in Egypt has emerged as a threat to its promised transition to democracy. Businessmen, politicians and human rights activists say they fear that the mounting disorder — from sectarian strife to soccer riots — is hampering a desperately needed economic recovery or, worse, inviting a new authoritarian crackdown.

At least five attempted jailbreaks have been reported in Cairo in the past two weeks, at least three of them successful. Other attempts take place “every day,” a senior Interior Ministry official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly.

Newspapers brim with other episodes: the Muslim-Christian riot that raged last weekend with the police on the scene, leaving 12 dead and two churches in flames; a kidnapping for ransom of a grandniece of President Anwar el-Sadat; soccer fans who crashed a field and mauled an opposing team as the police disappeared; a mob attack in an upscale suburb, Maadi, that hospitalized a traffic police officer; and the abduction of another officer by Bedouin tribes in the Sinai.

“Things are actually going from bad to worse,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, the former international atomic energy official, now a presidential candidate. “Where have the police and military gone?”

The answer, in part, is the revolution’s legacy. Public fury at police abuses helped set off the protests, which destroyed many police stations. Now police officers who knew only swagger and brute force are demoralized.

In an effort to restore confidence after the sectarian riot last weekend, the military council governing the country until elections scheduled for September announced that 190 people involved would be sent to military court, alarming a coalition of human rights advocates.

After an emergency cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf reiterated a pledge he made before the riots: The government backed the police in using all legal procedures, “including the use of force,” to defend themselves, their police stations, or places of worship.

It was an extraordinary statement for a prime minister, in part because the police were already expected to do just that. “This may be the first time a government ever had to say that it was fully supporting its police,” said Bahey el-din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. “It is an indication of the seriousness of the problem.”

Many Egyptians, including at least one former police officer, contend that the police learned only one way to fight crime: brutality and torture.

Now police officers see their former leader, Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, serving a 12-year prison term for corruption and facing another trial for charges of unlawful killing. Scores of officers are in jail for their role in repressing the protests.

“They treated people like pests, so imagine when these pests now rise up, challenge them and humiliate them,” said Mahmoud Qutri, a former police officer who wrote a book criticizing the force. “They feel broken.”

Mr. Hassan, who has spent his career criticizing the police, said he sympathized. Police officers who defended their stations from protesters are in jail, while those who went home to bed are not facing any trial, he said.

“So the police are asking, ‘What is expected of us?’ It is a very logical question, and the problem is they don’t have an answer,” he said, blaming higher authorities.

Shopkeepers say the police used to demand goods for just half the price. Now, said Mr. Ismail, the witness to the police station jailbreak, the officers who visit his cellphone shop murmur “please” and pay full price. “The tables have turned,” he said.

The change in public attitudes is equally stunning, said Hisham A. Fahmy, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. “It’s: ‘Talk to me properly! I am a citizen!’ ”

The spike in crime is a remarkable contrast to life in the Mubarak police state, when violent street crime was a relative rarity and few feared to walk alone at night. “Now it is like New York,” said Mr. Fahmy, adding that his group, which advocates for international companies, had been urging military leaders to respond more vigorously.

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

Page 2 of 2)



At a soccer match pitting a Cairo team against a Tunisian team, police officers ringed the field until a referee made a call against an Egyptian goalie. Then the officers seemed to vanish as a mob of fans assaulted the referee and the visiting team. Five players were injured, two of them hospitalized, and the referee fled.

“When the violence erupted, the police just disappeared,” said Mourad Teyeb, a Tunisian journalist who covered the game. The one policeman he found told him, “I don’t care, I don’t assume any responsibility,” Mr. Teyeb said, adding that he feared for his life and hid in the Egyptian team’s dressing room.
Some see a conspiracy. “I think it is deliberate,” said Dr. Shady al-Ghazaly Harb, an organizer of the Tahrir Square protests, contending that officials were pulling back to invite chaos and a crackdown. “I think there are bigger masterminds at work.”

Interior Ministry officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the security situation, said the destruction of police stations had contributed to the disorder. The remaining stations are overcrowded with prisoners from other facilities. Of the 80 escapees from the police station, 60 have been recaptured, an officer said.

Mansour el-Essawy, the new interior minister, has called the lawlessness an inevitable legacy of the revolution. Of the 24,000 prisoners who escaped during the revolution, 8,400 are still on the run, and 6,600 weapons stolen from government armories have not been recovered, he said in an interview with an Egyptian newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm.

After the revolution, he said, the police justifiably complained of working 16-hour shifts for low pay. Bribery customarily made up for the low wages, critics say. So the ministry cut back the officers’ hours, and as a result also cut the number on duty at any time. And the sudden loss of prestige made it harder to recruit. “People are not stepping forward to join the police,” he complained.
25028  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Laffer on: May 13, 2011, 08:05:22 AM
By ARTHUR B. LAFFER
AND STEPHEN MOORE
The Obama administration's National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint last month against Boeing to block production of the company's 787 Dreamliner at a new assembly plant in South Carolina—a "right to-work" state with a law against compulsory union membership. If the NLRB has its way, Dreamliner assembly will return to Washington, a union-shop state, along with more than 1,000 jobs.

The NLRB's action, which Boeing will challenge at a hearing next month, is a big deal. It's the first time a federal agency has intervened to tell an American company where it can and cannot operate a plant within the U.S. It lays the foundation of a regulatory wall with one express purpose: to prevent the direct competition of right-to-work states with union-shop states. Why, as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley recently asked on these pages, should Washington have any more right to these jobs than South Carolina?

A recent New York Times editorial justified the NLRB decision by arguing that unions are suffering from "the flight of companies to 'Right-to-Work' states where workers cannot be required to join a union." That's for sure, and quite an admission. We've been observing that migration pattern for years, but liberals have denied it's actually happening—until now.

View Full Image

David Klein
 .Every year we rank the states on their economic competitiveness in a report called "Rich States, Poor States" for the American Legislative Exchange Council. This ranking uses 15 fiscal, tax and regulatory variables to determine which states have policies that are most conducive to prosperity. Two of these 15 policies have consistently stood out as the most important in predicting where jobs will be created and incomes will rise. First, states with no income tax generally outperform high income tax states. Second, states that have right-to-work laws grow faster than states with forced unionism.

As of today there are 22 right-to-work states and 28 union-shop states. Over the past decade (2000-09) the right-to-work states grew faster in nearly every respect than their union-shop counterparts: 54.6% versus 41.1% in gross state product, 53.3% versus 40.6% in personal income, 11.9% versus 6.1% in population, and 4.1% versus -0.6% in payrolls.

For years, unions argued that right-to-work laws were bad for workers and for the states that passed them. But with the NLRB complaint, they've essentially thrown in the towel. If forced unionism is better for the economy of a state, why would the NLRB need to intervene to keep Boeing from leaving Washington? Why aren't businesses and workers moving operations to heavily unionized places like Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania and fleeing states like Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas?

In reality, the stampede of businesses from forced-union states like Washington has accelerated in recent years. A 2010 study in the Cato Journal by economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University found that between 2000 and 2008 4.8 million Americans moved from forced-union states to right-to-work states. That's one person every minute of every day.

Right-to-work states are also getting richer over time. Prof. Vedder found a 23% higher per capita income growth rate in right-to-work states than in forced-union states, which over the period 1977-2007 amounted to a $2,760 larger increase in per-person income in those states. That's a giant differential.

So now the unions concede that this migration is indeed happening, but they say that it is unhealthy and undesirable because workers in right-to-work states are paid less and get worse benefits than the workers in union states. Actually, when adjusting for the cost of living in each state and the fact that right-to-work states were poorer to begin with, a 2003 study in the Journal of Labor Research by University of Oklahoma economist Robert Reed found that wages rose faster in states that don't require union membership.

Employers that move away from forced-union states mainly do so not to scale back wages and salaries—although sometimes that happens—but to avoid having to deal with intrusive union rules, the threat of costly work stoppages, lawsuits, worker paychecks going to union fat cats, and so on.

Boeing officials have admitted that their decision to build the new Dreamliner plant in South Carolina was due in part to the fact that the company could not "afford a work stoppage every three years" as had happened in Washington state over that past decade. (By the way, this is the comment the NLRB complaint cites as proof of "retaliation" against union workers.)

Boeing is merely making a business decision based on economic reality. In fact, the company chose South Carolina for the new plant even though Washington has no income tax and South Carolina does. The two of us are often accused of arguing that income tax rates are the only factors that influence where businesses and capital relocate. Taxes certainly matter. But Boeing's move shows that taxes are not always the definitive factor in plant location decisions. In the case of Washington the advantage of its no income tax status is outweighed by its forced-union status. Lucky are the six states—Texas, Tennessee, South Dakota, Nevada, Florida and Wyoming—that are both right-to-work states and have no income tax.

While there are only six right-to-work states that also have a zero earned income tax rate and three zero earned income tax rate states that have forced- union shops, their performance differences over the past decade (2000-09) are revealing. Of the nine zero income tax rate states, those six that are also right-to-work have grown a lot faster than the three with forced-union shops: 64.9% versus 53.8% in gross state product, 59.0% versus 46.8% in personal income, 15.5% versus 10.3% in population and 8.2% versus 6.9% in payrolls.

The Boeing incident makes it clear that right-to-work states have a competitive advantage over forced-union states. So the question arises: Why doesn't every state adopt right-to-work laws? Four or five are trying to do so this year, and have faced ferocious opposition from the union movement.

But that shouldn't stop state legislators in forced-union states from doing what's in their workers' best interests. They need to decide whether they want to continue to see jobs and tax receipts exit their states, or whether they want to adopt laws that afford their workers the right to join a union or not. The only alternative is to build a regulatory Berlin Wall around their borders to keep their businesses from leaving.

Mr. Laffer is the chairman of Laffer Associates. Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for the Journal's editorial page. They are co-authors of "Return to Prosperity: How America Can Regain Its Economic Superpower Status" (Threshold, 2010).

25029  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington, First Inaugural Address 1789 on: May 13, 2011, 07:43:51 AM
"The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens, and command the respect of the world." --George Washington, First Inaugural Address, 1789
25030  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: GCC broadens on: May 13, 2011, 07:20:57 AM
The Broadening of the Gulf Cooperation Council

It is rare that events in small countries like Jordan and Morocco warrant a diary. This week, that happened. The leaders of both countries welcomed the decision by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — a bloc of Persian Gulf Arab states — to allow Rabat and Amman’s accession into the Saudi-led GCC.

Since 1981, the GCC has been a forum for six Arab states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Apart from the fact that they are all located on the Arabian Peninsula’s east coast hugging the Persian Gulf, these states share commonalities, such as being wealthy (mostly thanks to their petroleum reserves) and under the rule of hereditary monarchies.

Why would such an exclusive bloc of countries want to include others, such as Jordan and Morocco? After all, both are relatively poor countries and are not located in the Persian Gulf region. Jordan is on the crossroads of Mesopotamia and the Levant. Morocco is the farthest Arab outpost on the western end of North Africa where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic.

“The GCC seeks to expand its footprint in the Arab world at a time when the region is in unprecedented turmoil.”
The answer is in the timing. The GCC seeks to expand its footprint in the Arab world at a time when the region is in unprecedented turmoil, as regimes are forced to adjust to the demand for democracy. A wave of popular unrest has swept across the Arab world, threatening decades-old autocratic structures. Not only is this turmoil forcing domestic political change, it is also leaving the Arab countries vulnerable to an increasingly assertive Iran.

As a result, the Saudi kingdom and its smaller GCC allies have been working hard to contain uprisings in their immediate vicinity — in Bahrain and Yemen — in the hopes that they themselves will remain largely immune. Meanwhile, the GCC states continue to have internal differences, especially regarding Iran. The most visible example of these differences is illustrated by Qatar, which has long tried to emerge as a player in Arab geopolitics and acts unilaterally on many issues.

That said, the GCC’s move to finally open up membership to other countries in the Arab world underscores that the bloc and its main driver, Riyadh, want to assume leadership of the region. With the GCC trying to emerge onto the regional scene, it raises the question of what will happen to the Arab League, which, despite its dysfunctional status thus far, remains the main pan-Arab forum.

The GCC has always been a subset of the 22-member Arab League, which includes all Arab states. Yet, the Arab League has long been dominated by Egypt. For the longest time, both the Arab League and the GCC have been able to coexist given that they had separate domains. But as the GCC expands its scope, the Arab League question presents itself.

One reason for the GCC’s attempts at expansion is the evolutionary process under way in Egypt. In the post-Mubarak era of multiparty politics, Cairo’s behavior could become less predictable. At the very least, the country’s military-controlled provisional authorities have demonstrated that they want to see their country revive itself as a regional player, illustrated in moves toward greater engagement with Hamas and efforts to re-establish relations with Iran.

Egypt is therefore unlikely to accept life under the growing influence of the GCC states. In other words, we may see another intra-Arab fault line emerge. While the Arabs struggle among themselves, Iran has been working on its regional security alliance, especially with Iraq in its orbit. Thus, the GCC effort to enhance its regional standing, in an effort to deal with a rising Iran, will run into a number of challenges, while also running the risk of self-dilution.

25031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Here's the man who did the deed on: May 13, 2011, 12:23:29 AM


http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/8e464776e6/the-navy-seal-who-killed-osama-bin-laden?playlist=featured_videos
25032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: May 12, 2011, 10:32:58 PM
It was the Jews from the bagel shop no doubt , , ,
25033  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Matanza de policia por cuchillo en Nicaragua on: May 12, 2011, 08:08:25 PM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eexGDSsJn9c&feature=player_embedded
25034  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 12, 2011, 03:30:00 PM
@Pappy- you have email.

@all:  If you are fighting, send me an email asking for the map.    Also happening will be meeting at the usual place and caravanning from there.



25035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Inflation really starting to roar on: May 12, 2011, 11:48:35 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.8% in April To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 5/12/2011


The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.8% in April, beating the consensus expected rise of 0.6%.  Producer prices are up 6.8% versus a year ago.

The April gain in the PPI was led by energy, which increased 2.5%. Food prices rose 0.3%. The “core” PPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.3%, higher than the consensus expected rise of 0.2%.
 
Consumer goods prices rose 0.9% in April and are up 8.7% versus last year.  Capital equipment prices were up 0.3% in April and are up 1.3% in the past year.
 
Core intermediate goods prices increased 1.1% in April and are up 5.6% versus a year ago.  Core crude prices rose 2.6% in April and are up 18.2% in the past twelve months.
 
Implications: Declining oil prices may temporarily tame producer price inflation in May, but, through April, inflation was roaring. Prices are up 6.8% in the past year and accelerating. In the past six months producer prices are up at an 11.5% annual rate; in the past three months they’re up at a 13.1% rate. Most of the gain in April was due to energy. But, while the Federal Reserve can still claim core inflation is low for consumers, core producer prices are accelerating, up 0.3% in April and up at a 3.2% annual rate in the past three months. Further up the production pipeline, core intermediate prices increased 1.1% in April and are up at a 13.1% annual pace in the past three months; core crude prices bounced back in April increasing 2.6%, and are up at a 10.5% rate in the past three months. Based on these inflation signals and the current state of the economy, the Fed’s monetary policy is way too loose, even if headline inflation takes a breather in May due to the drop in oil prices. In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment insurance fell 44,000 last week to 434,000.  This is very close to the four-week moving average of 437,000.  Continuing claims for regular state benefits increased 5,000 to 3.76 million.  Claims have been roiled of late by early auto shutdowns related to the disasters in Japan as well as a brutal tornado season in much of the Midwest and South.  We expect claims to generally decline over the next several weeks.
25036  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Alexander: Sunset or Sunrise on: May 12, 2011, 11:23:31 AM
Sunset or Sunrise on Liberty?
The Current Crisis and the Opportunity of a New Dawn for Liberty
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." --Thomas Payne

Sunrise on LibertyA few decades ago, one of the national service opportunities I pursued required a battery of examinations including a comprehensive personality profile. After three days of psychological tests, a career profiler compiled my assessment. In a later interview with said profiler, he looked at me and declared with candor, "You are crazy!"

That decree got no rise out of me. I have received that appraisal numerous times, but he did put a fresh perspective on it. He continued, "Not crazy in the pathological sense, but crazy in that you are one of very few people I have profiled who actually thrives in the midst of crisis and conflict." Apparently, most "normal people" try to avoid crisis and conflict. He labeled my folder, "Warrior."

In light of my penchant for what Sam Adams called "the animated contest for freedom," I offer the following opinion about the future of American Liberty.

On occasion I have been critical of Barack Hussein Obama, a phony "community organizer" con man, who, with the help of his Leftist puppeteers, masterfully duped 69 million Americans into giving him the most expensive public housing and benefits in the nation.

I am most critical of this charlatan's political endeavor to demolish free enterprise with a debt bomb, and from the economic rubble, resurrect a transformed USSA subject to tyrannical rule via Democratic Socialism.
Obama built his presidential campaign around the "change" theme: "This is our moment, this is our time to turn the page on the policies of the past, to offer a new direction. We are fundamentally transforming the United States of America."

His former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said infamously, "Never allow a crisis to go to waste," which was the basis for Obama's assertion, "this painful [economic] crisis provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people."

By no means will the full implementation of Democratic Socialism "improve the lives of ordinary people." As I have noted previously, Democratic Socialism, like Nationalist Socialism, is nothing more than Marxist Socialism repackaged. Likewise, it seeks a centrally planned economy directed by a single-party state that controls economic production by way of regulation and income redistribution.

The success of Democrat Socialism depends upon supplanting Essential Liberty -- the rights "endowed by our Creator" -- primarily by refuting such endowment.

Indeed, Obama's mission is transformation, and economic crisis is the horse he rode in on. It can also be the horse that he and his socialist cadre are chased out on.

Truth be told, I want to "fundamentally transform" what our nation has become after years of incremental encroachment upon Rule of Law by socialist predators, the most brazen offender in history being Obama. Indeed, I do not want the current economic "crisis to go to waste," and see it as a great opportunity to "change" our economy in such a way as to improve the lives of all Americans.

Of course, the opportunity I see in the current crisis is diametrically opposed to that which Obama and his Leftist cadres envision. I see a new dawn for Liberty on the horizon.

For all Patriots, steadfast in our devotion to Freedom, the sun is rising on one of two options to preserve the legacy of Liberty for this and future generations. The first and more desirable option is the transformational restoration of constitutional Rule of Law and the second is the transformational reformation of government, in fulfillment of Thomas Jefferson's contention, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

The current economic crisis, which had its beginnings in 2006 with the surprisingly ubiquitous collapse in real estate values and subsequent banking crisis, poses an ominous threat to Liberty. The Obama administration used the cover of this crisis to implement its so-called "stimulus plan," which primarily stimulated the growth of central government at an enormous cost.

The result was accelerated accumulation of crushing national debt, now approaching $15 trillion, which has placed our economy on a collision course with catastrophic collapse, short of bold intervention.

The economic indicators foretelling that collision abound.

The Commerce Department reports that the American economy grew at an annualized rate of 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2011. (You might have missed that report amid all the political campaigning over OBL's demise.)

Home values fell three percent in the first quarter and it is estimated that more than 28 percent of homeowners now owe more than the value of their property.

Energy and commodity costs are highly volatile, in large measure due to abysmal domestic economic and energy policies plus weak foreign policy. One way to devalue outstanding debt is inflation, and there are plenty of indicators that inflation is underway.

Imports are up and exports are down. The International Monetary Fund estimates that China's economy will surpass ours by 2016.

Unemployment inched back up to 9 percent last month, but the "real" unemployment rate, those who have given up the search and part-time workers seeking full-time employment, is almost 16 percent.

More Americans are dependent upon government assistance payouts than ever before. More than 18 percent of total personal income was redistributed in the form of "government benefits." Almost one in seven households receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (food stamps).

The declining status of the U.S. dollar as the world's safest fiat currency is a metaphor for the decline of our standing as the world's beacon of liberty, the decline of "American exceptionalism."

Having a good recollection of the Carter administration, I invoke Yogi Berra's sentiment, "It is like déjà vu all over again."

Despite the considerable barriers these indicators pose to economic recovery, there is still time for a transformational restoration of constitutional Rule of Law and the consequential rescaling of our central government to comport with the limits placed upon it by our Constitution. But as noted above, that will require bold intervention, and it will require that a majority of the members of Congress honor and abide by their oath of office.

At present, there are outstanding plans on the table to put prosperity over poverty, including the Republican Study Committee Budget for FY 2012 and Heritage Foundation's comprehensive plan to restore prosperity.

House and Senate leaders are stepping out with bolder propositions to cut government spending. As a prerequisite to raising the national debt ceiling to avoid default, Speaker John Boehner has drawn the line, and may even hold it: "Without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase, and the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given. We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions."

Conservative Senate leaders are calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment as a condition to any agreement on increasing the national debt limit.

Of course, Obama, the consummate socialist, trotted out the class warfare card in response: "Their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America, [pitting] children with autism or Down's syndrome against every millionaire and billionaire in our society."

Then, in his fatuous display of faux bipartisan, Obama insisted the budget talks must "start by being honest about what's causing our deficit."

Apparently, Obama thinks the budget deficit is caused by a lack of government spending and regulation, as he is proposing a lot more of both.

So, given the current crisis and the long odds against the restoration of Rule of Law, would you concede that this portends a Sunset or Sunrise on Liberty?

Call me crazy -- that profiler certainly did -- but I clearly see a new dawn for Liberty, whether it be transformational restoration of constitutional Rule of Law or the transformational reformation of government. Count me in for either option.

I believe, as did my mentor, President Ronald Reagan: "America's best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead."

But I also know, as did he, that "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States when men were free."

That extinction will arrive only if we "shrink from the service of our country."

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

25037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury continues bullish on: May 12, 2011, 11:19:09 AM


Retail Sales increased 0.5% in April To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 5/12/2011


Retail sales increased 0.5% in April (1.1% including large upward revisions to February/March). The consensus had expected a gain of 0.6%. Retail sales are up 7.6% versus a year ago.

Sales excluding autos were up 0.6% in April (1.0% including upward revisions to February/March). The consensus expected a gain of 0.6%. Retail sales ex-autos are up 6.9% in the past year.
 
The increase in retail sales for April was led by gas stations and grocery stores. There were no signficiant declines in any category of sales.
 
Sales excluding autos, building materials, and gas increased 0.2% in April and were up 0.5% including revisions for February/March. These sales are up 5.5% versus last year. This calculation is important for estimating GDP.
 
Implications:  The US consumer is on a roll. Retail sales increased for the tenth straight month in April – the longest winning streak since the late 1990s – and are up 7.6% versus a year ago.  Including upward revisions for prior months, overall sales were up 1.1% in April and 1% excluding autos. This was not all fueled by higher gas prices. Not even close. “Core” sales (which exclude autos, building materials, and gas) were up a solid 0.5% including upward revisions to prior months.  Even if these sales are completely unchanged for the rest of the second quarter they will still be up at a roughly 4% annual rate in Q2. Auto sales, which took a breather last month after eight straight monthly increases, bounced back in April and were revised higher for prior months as well.  Consumer spending is rising for two main reasons.  First, earnings are growing due to more jobs, more wages per hour, and more hours per worker.  Second, due largely to debt reductions, consumers’ financial obligations (debt service plus other recurring payments like rent, car leases, homeowners’ insurance, and property taxes) are now the smallest share of disposable income since 1995.  All of this bodes well for spending in the months to come.
25038  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 12, 2011, 11:14:15 AM
Starting time 10:00.

Also, remember a big dinner will be held Saturday evening.  Everyone comfortable with the Indian place we usually go?

25039  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: May 12, 2011, 11:12:23 AM
I have seen reports that the rebels are evolving into a more competent force and have taken a city?
25040  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: May 12, 2011, 11:10:41 AM
I agree with 95% of that.  The point I don't agree with is the idea that a stronger dollar would hurt the US.  I disagree on a number of levels.
25041  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: May 12, 2011, 11:07:31 AM
"As it were, the law would have made it illegal for immigrants not to carry their immigration papers"

Ummm , , , it is my distinct understanding that it already IS illegal not to carry papers establishing the legality of one's presence here-- not that the Feds seem to pay any attention to it.

But, trying to stay on track here JDN -- again I invite you to back up your assertions about hate and vitriol on the part of GB.

PS:  I read GM's comment about anti-semitism not to be an accusation of anti-semitism but to be a statement that if GB were considered hateful, then the same could be said but more so of JDN.

25042  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / C-Bad Dog on: May 12, 2011, 10:21:29 AM
from Russ "C-Bad Dog" Iger

When you have a chance, take a look at our website: www.blackpotterycoffee.webs.com  I just updated it with pictures of Kesang with the Chinese movie stars at our Cafe, and have added some recent pictures to our Gallery: http://blackpotterycoffee.webs.com/apps/photos/album?albumid=11378124
25043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: May 12, 2011, 08:43:21 AM
If anything I think that makes my point stronger-- US interest rates will have to go up MORE due to dollar's diminished world role.

Coincidentally enough , , , see this:
http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/larrykudlow/2011/05/12/bernankes_quantitative_neutrality/page/full/

http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/mikeshedlock/2011/05/12/oil_crashes
25044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on: May 12, 2011, 08:38:17 AM
Osama bin Laden is dead. The Middle East is in chaos. And radical Islam is floundering.

For a time after 9/11, bin Laden was riding high. Destroying 16 acres in Manhattan and hitting the Pentagon won al-Qaeda even more admiration from the Arab Street, hidden cash donations from sympathetic petrol-sheiks, and bribe and hush money from triangulating Middle East dictatorships.

But now bin Laden and most of his henchmen of a decade ago are dead, like the bloodthirsty Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed by American forces in Iraq. Or they were captured, like the 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Pakistan. Or they are in hiding, like Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the increasingly irrelevant blowhard al-Qaeda information minister.

What caused al-Qaeda's steady decline? There are a lot of reasons.

Right after 9/11, the United States crafted a set of antiterrorism protocols as sweeping as they were controversial: the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, renditions, tribunals, preventative detention, intercepts, wiretaps and enhanced interrogations. New security measures filtered down to every facet of American life, from radically intrusive and unpopular airport protocols that X-rayed baggage and passengers to beefed-up security on trains and at ports.

Civil libertarians mocked such vigilance, but the message went out that it was now much harder to come to America from the Middle East and in anonymity plan another 9/11. Subsequent terrorist attempts, aimed at targets such as the Brooklyn Bridge and Times Square, either failed or were thwarted before they began.

In wars abroad, thousands of radical Islamic jihadists heeded bin Laden's call to arms and flocked to the Hindu Kush and Anbar Province. The United States military and its allies were waiting, and then killed or wounded many thousands of terrorists and insurgents. That indisputable fact is as little remarked upon as it was critical to weakening and discrediting the martial prowess of radical Islam.

We also forget that the removal of Saddam Hussein, followed by his trial and execution by a democratically elected Iraq government, set off initial ripples of change in the Middle East between 2004 and 2006. The Syrian army was pushed out of Lebanon by popular protests. Muammar Gadhafi surrendered his nuclear weapons and publicly worried about his own future. Pakistan abruptly arrested for a time A.Q. Khan, who had franchised his nuclear weapons expertise.

These events did not lead directly to the current popular protests throughout the Middle East, but they may well have been precursors of a sort, once Iraq's elected government survived and the violence there abated.

But there is a final development that caused headaches for radical Islam -- the end of the American hysteria over the legality and morality of its own antiterrorism measures.

Although candidate Barack Obama was elected as the anti-Bush who promised to repeal the Bush protocols and end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Obama did no such thing. He continued the Bush-Petraeus withdrawal plan in Iraq. He escalated in Afghanistan. He kept all the antiterrorism measures that he had once derided. And he expanded the Predator drone assassination missions fivefold, while sending commandos inside Pakistan to kill -- not capture and put on trial -- bin Laden. He ignored most recommendations from Attorney General Eric Holder and guessed rightly that his own left-wing base would keep largely quiet.

The effect was twofold. America kept up the pressure on terrorists and their supporters. And the liberal opposition to our antiterrorist policies simply evaporated once Obama became commander in chief.

Some who once protested the removal of Saddam lauded the efforts to do the same to Gadhafi. Those who once sued on behalf of detainees at Guantanamo joined the government to ensure the Predator drone targeted-killing program continued.

The chances in 2012 that the buffoonish Michael Moore -- who once praised the Iraqi insurgents -- will be again feted as a guest of honor at the Democratic National Convention, as he was in 2004, or that Cindy Sheehan will grab headlines once again, are zero.

Polls show that Obama's America is still just as unpopular among Middle Easterners as it was under George W. Bush. But now a much different media assumes that the problem is theirs, not America's. In this brave new world, the American liberal community is now invested in the continuance of the once-despised Bush antiterrorism program and the projection of force abroad -- and has little sympathy for foreign criticism of an American president.

Quite simply, bin Laden's world of 2001 no longer exists. That's mostly good for us, but quite bad for the dead terrorist's followers.
25045  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: on: May 12, 2011, 08:33:48 AM
This week was a big week in China news. The United States and China sat down for strategic and economic dialogue, China’s new economic statistics revealed that the economy is starting to slow its pace of growth a little bit and beneath all of this there is a growing awareness that the U.S. is going to be putting more pressure for China to open up and more rapidly reform its economy. The United States and China concluded the strategic and economic talks this week with an agreement to hold consultations on the Asia-Pacific region. That’s really the big takeaway from this round of dialogue, but looking at the economic issues you can see a number of technical agreements that the two sides made.

China gave some concessions — they said the U.S. would be able to invest more in Chinese stocks and bonds, U.S. companies would be able to offer mutual funds or car insurance in China. They also pledged that the indigenous innovation policies that have been so controversial will not really apply to government procurement contracts, meaning that U.S. companies would be able to be considered at any level for Chinese government. We’ll see how that’s implemented, there’s obviously a lot of reason for doubt, but clearly China making that statement and making that pledge to the United States was important. And the Chinese also said that they would stop condoning the theft of intellectual property from the U.S. at least in regards to software that is being used on Chinese government computers. One industry group suggested the U.S. may lose about $8 billion a year because of that kind of theft.

The U.S. concessions had mainly to do with the suggestion that the U.S. will gradually ease the controls on its exports so that China can import more high-technology goods from the U.S. which it was hoping to do. Also, the U.S. said that it would allow more Chinese investment in, and of course there are national security concerns for the U.S. and that will continue to apply on a case-by-case basis. But overall, what China was really demanding was to get more access into the U.S. market, and there is a number of interests in the U.S. of course that would like to see that happen, so the U.S. claims that that will proceed very rapidly going forward.

Now at the same time that the dialogue was taking place, new economic statistics came out of China showing that in the month of April, the pace of growth in China is starting to slow a little bit. This comes as the government has taken over the past year, very, very tiny steps incrementally to moderate the pace of growth, and what we’re seeing is some of that bearing small fruit. We’ve seen that industrial output has started to slow its pace of growth a little bit, and also we’ve seen inflation stabilize a little bit, even sinking slightly compared to the previous month. Inflation of course has been the big worry. We’re still at three-year highs, in terms of inflation, and we’re also seeing asset bubbles grow as people withdraw their money from banks and invest in things that they think will gain in value namely real estate, because they’re afraid of this inflation problem. And we’re also seeing social frustration bubble up in different parts of China because of the rising prices, and that’s not going away. So fighting inflation will remain the priority in the short term even as we’re starting to hear the conversation shift a little bit among experts in China who are starting to see that in the second half of the year the government may have to become more accommodative and push growth a little bit more, which makes sense in terms of a normal Chinese economic cycles.

Now beneath the mostly technical discussions between the U.S. and China, reinforced by these new economic statistics, there is a growing awareness that the U.S. is going to begin to put more pressure on China to open up its economy and reform in ways that bring it into line with mainstream international practice as led by the United States. One event that created dissonance with the dialogue was China registering an $11.4 billion trade surplus for the month of April, but the U.S. is familiar at this point with large trade surpluses on a monthly basis from China and these negotiations are not really about a month by month development. Rather, the U.S. is expecting something much bigger. They’re putting pressure on China gradually to entirely rebalance and transform its economy. They’re aware that many in China are also arguing for this rebalancing to take place, but they’re also aware as the trade surplus shows, that this process is not happening very quickly. Vice Premier Wang Qishan said that China needs to make sure that all of its leaders are on the same page when it comes to this transformation of their economic model. His implication is of course that there are factual disagreements in China that are preventing reforms from happening. While it’s certainly true that there are factional divisions within China, it’s also curious that he would choose this platform and the United States to make that comment and what it suggests is that the Chinese are using these internal divisions as an excuse for the fact that they continue to move very slowly and reluctantly on the reforms that the U.S. is demanding.
25046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / STratfor: Iranian flotilla to Bahrain? on: May 12, 2011, 08:29:52 AM


Iranian Flotilla a Calculated Gamble

A little-known Iranian activist group called the Islamic Revolution Supporters Society announced Tuesday in Tehran that a flotilla of humanitarian activists would set sail for Bahrain from Iran’s southern port city of Bushehr on May 16. The “Solidarity with Oppressed Bahraini People” flotilla would be Iran’s way of calling attention to the Saudi and Bahraini governments for what Iran perceives as the subjugation of a Shiite majority by Sunni rulers. Iran’s Red Crescent Society has spoken in the past about readying aid for Bahrain, but this is the first time we’ve seen an Iranian activist group describe concrete plans to send an aid flotilla to Bahrain.

The aid flotilla public-relations tactic is not new, nor is it unique to Iran. In May of last year, a Turkish humanitarian activist group attempted to send an aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip. Israeli commandos boarded a ship and ended up killing nine civilians. Though accounts of which side initiated the provocation remain in dispute, the diplomatic outrage that ensued scored Ankara a great deal of credibility within the Arab world while largely portraying Israel as an aggressor. In perhaps the most classic illustration of this tactic, the Exodus ship in 1947, carrying Holocaust survivors, broke through a British blockade en route to Palestine. The story was later made into a book and film that vilified the British, portrayed the Zionists as anti-imperialists and played a key role in shaping global perceptions toward the creation of the state of Israel.

Iran is hoping for a similar propaganda feat. Even if the flotilla never makes it to Bahrain’s shores or even fails to set sail — a likely prospect, given that the ships would encounter heavy resistance from Bahraini and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces, with the U.S. 5th Fleet standing by from Manama — Iran could still use the affair to try to portray itself as the brave guardian of its Shiite brethren and the Sunni Gulf Arab states as U.S.-dependent assailants. In the early days of the Arab uprisings, Iran seized an opportunity to fuel Shiite dissent in Bahrain, hoping that a sustained crisis there would eventually lead to the empowerment of Shia in eastern Arabia. A quick response by Saudi-led GCC forces has kept Iran from obtaining results in the early phase of this campaign, but time and the current geopolitical dynamics still work in Iran’s favor. In the longer term, Tehran still hopes to reinvigorate growing Shiite grievances by exploiting incidents that highlight a broader Sunni interest in keeping Shia politically disabled.

“By threatening to send an aid flotilla and peacekeepers to Bahrain and hinting at invasions of Saudi Arabia, Iran forces the Bahrainis, Saudis and the Americans to contemplate the risks of direct clashes with Iranians.”
Nonetheless, an attempt to sail a flotilla to Bahrain across troubled diplomatic waters creates the possibility of an incident that would make the Gaza flotilla affair appear minor in comparison. One wrong move by any one side, and a public-relations move could rapidly escalate into a military showdown in which Iran is left with the uncomfortable choice of standing down and taking a credibility hit for failing to come to the aid of Iranian civilian aid workers, or squaring off in a losing fight against the world’s most powerful navy. There are no clear indications yet that Iran will in fact sail the aid flotilla, but a worst-case scenario in the Persian Gulf region would have obvious consequences for global energy prices.

As Iran debates the pros and cons of this flotilla gamble, its diplomatic efforts to sow fissures within the Sunni Arab camp are proceeding apace. In the past week alone, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has traveled to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Over the past month, hints of a developing Iranian-Egyptian diplomatic rapprochement have also come to light. The Sunni Arab states may not agree on a lot of things, but — with the exception of Syria, which has a complex alliance with Iran — they do by and large agree on the strategic need to keep Iran at bay. Iran is now trying to chip away at this rare display of Arab solidarity through diplomatic outreach to countries that are too physically distant to feel meaningfully threatened by the Persians (like Egypt) and countries that are more demographically secure, too small, and/or economically entwined with Iran to engage in provocations against it (Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman).

As for the stalwart Sunni regimes, like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, who are leading the resistance against Iranian power projection in the Persian Gulf, Tehran seems to be relying more on scare tactics to try to coerce them to the negotiating table. By threatening to send an aid flotilla and peacekeepers to Bahrain and hinting at invasions of Saudi Arabia, for example, Iran forces the Bahrainis, Saudis and the Americans to contemplate the risks of direct clashes with Iranians. Whether or not Iran follows through with such threats is an important question. If Iranian rhetoric remains just that then the Sunni Arab states are far more likely to throw their efforts into building a shield against Iran than to be pressured into searching for a diplomatic rapprochement with Iran. The flotilla announcement is the latest on Iran’s list of strategic gambits, but it will take more than talk for Tehran to demonstrate it has the backbone to meaningfully challenge a U.S.-backed Arab alliance.

25047  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: May 12, 2011, 08:24:51 AM
Well, McC got re-elected by pretending to be a hardass on defending the border and GB got dumped because of economic pressure organized by George Soros-- which IMHO should concern all lovers of free speech.

Losing in court proves NOTHING on the merits, only that activist judges can be found there.

"Racial bias"?  The term is certainly tossed about readily by the race-baiting left.  Do you have any more support for it than they do?  or for your assertion of "vitriol and hate" from GB?
25048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gold and Silver in the 70s on: May 12, 2011, 08:19:50 AM
I remind you of what happened to the price of the dollar when Volcker had to dramatically raise interest rates in the late 70s and of what happened when the Hunt Brothers tried cornering silver in the same period.  How much hot momentum money has been playing silver with its de minimis margin requirements.

What happens to US interest rates in a month when/if QE 2 comes to a close? 
25049  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China and Cybersecurity: Trojan chips on: May 12, 2011, 08:15:35 AM

Pasting here BBG's post in the Internet thread


China and Cybersecurity: Trojan Chips and U.S.–Chinese Relations
Published on May 5, 2011 by Dean Cheng and Derek Scissors, Ph.D. WEBMEMO #3242

One subject of the third round of the U.S.–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue will be cybersecurity. Part of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s proposed Strategic Security Dialogue, it reflects the growing prominence of cybersecurity in Sino-American strategic relations.   

The concerns include computer network exploitation and computer network attacks, but also tampering with the physical infrastructure of communications and computer networks. Vulnerabilities could be introduced in the course of manufacturing equipment or created through purchase of malignant or counterfeit goods. Recent experience highlights these problems.
Such possibilities have brought calls for trade barriers, ranging from random entry-point inspections of various types of goods and equipment (e.g., chips and routers) to prohibition of some imports (e.g., communications hardware), especially from a major manufacturer, the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The trade proposals tend to be vague because the cyber threat itself, while real, is vaguely presented. While an ill-defined threat certainly bears watching, it does not justify protectionism. Cybersecurity is largely classified, but trade is not, and trade policy cannot be held hostage to cybersecurity unless specific dangers are put forward.
What Is the Threat?
A longstanding fear has been that cyber attacks against the U.S. might result in disruptions to power, banking, and communications systems at a critical moment. The cyber attacks on Estonia and Georgia, which disrupted commerce and communications, raise the specter that the U.S. might undergo the equivalent of a cyber Pearl Harbor. Efforts by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to improve verification capabilities highlight the limitations of current computer engineering skills in, for example, diagnosing cyber intrusions. Initial studies on the Trusted Integrated Circuit program, seeking to create a secure supply chain, were requested in 2007. As of late 2010, DARPA was still seeking new research proposals for determining whether a given chip was reliable, and whether it had been maliciously modified, as part of the Integrity and Reliability of Integrated Circuits (IRIS) program.[1]
A more recent worry is vulnerabilities “hardwired” into the physical infrastructure of the Internet. In the last several years, the FBI has warned that counterfeit computer parts and systems may be widespread.
This can manifest itself in two ways: fake parts and systems, which may fail at dangerously higher rates, or contaminated systems that might incorporate hardwired backdoors and other security problems, allowing a foreign power to subvert a system.[2] Similar problems have been identified by American allies; the U.K. has identified counterfeit parts entering into its military supply chain.
Much cyber-related attention has been focused on the PRC. China is reportedly the source of many of the hacking efforts directed at U.S. military and security computer networks. Chinese computer infiltration has reputedly obtained access to such sensitive programs as F-35 design information. Such efforts as Titan Rain, Ghostnet, and others have reportedly attacked U.S. and other nations’ information systems systematically and have infiltrated email servers and networks around the world. One example is the “Shadow network,” which affected “social networking websites, webmail providers, free hosting providers and services from some of the largest companies.”[3] Many have been traced back to the PRC—but attribution to any specific Chinese entity is extremely difficult.
A growing concern is that China can exploit its position as one of the world’s largest producers of computer chips, motherboards, and other physical parts of the Internet to affect American and allied infrastructure. China has apparently already demonstrated an ability to tamper with Domain Name System (DNS) servers based in China, “effectively poisoning all DNS servers on the route.”[4]
The fear is that they could now affect foreign-based routers. In this regard, the issue of Chinese counterfeit parts is compounded by uncertainty about whether fake parts are being introduced as part of a concerted intelligence campaign or simply the result of profiteering by local contractors.
Public Information Is Lacking
The arcane nature of the threat enhances uncertainty. Understanding the workings of computer viruses, patches, and the vulnerabilities of routers or microchips is difficult. Comprehending the intricacies of global supply chains and tracing the ultimate source of sub-systems and components can be equally difficult. Former NSA and CIA Director General Michael Hayden writes that “Rarely has something been so important and so talked about with less clarity and less apparent understanding.”[5]
Several studies highlight some of the myriad vulnerabilities.
The 2005 Defense Science Board Task Force on High Performance Microchip Supply identified the growing security problem of microchips being manufactured (and more and more often designed) outside the United States.
The 2007 Defense Science Board Task Force on Mission Impact of Foreign Influence on DOD Software noted that software frequently incorporates pieces of code from a variety of sources, any of which might be a point of vulnerability.
The 2008 National Defense Industrial Association’s handbook “Engineering for System Assurance” provides a comprehensive overview of system assurance, which in turn highlights how difficult it can be to achieve it.
Over-classification is also a problem. General Hayden notes that much of the information on cyber threats is “overprotected.” Greg Garcia, head of the Bush Administration’s efforts on cybersecurity, has similarly noted that “there was too much classified…Too much was kept secret.”[6]
Leave Trade Alone
The ambiguity on the security side actually clarifies the trade side. If the cyber threat is understood only tenuously, testing imported goods for cyber threats will be inadequate to identify compromised equipment. With ineffective testing, banning some importers would not be worthwhile. In a global economy, equipment will simply be re-routed. The U.S. does not have the resources necessary to track the true source of goods when dangerous items cannot be easily discovered—and discovery may even be impossible.
If the threat was well understood but national security argued against the disclosure of vital information, this at least suggests that the danger from trade is secondary to other dangers. America retains the option, of course, of simply restricting trade on national security grounds without disclosing its reasons. This would be unwise.
One drawback of restricting trade would be the costs incurred by the U.S. in terms of spending on import inspections and the loss of availability of certain goods. The defense community is often not well-positioned to anticipate the extent of these economic costs. People will not relinquish scarce resources voluntarily when the gains from doing so are not spelled out.
The second drawback is the reaction of American trade partners. American exports already suffer from undocumented national security justifications for protectionism. Were the U.S. to introduce a new set of potentially sweeping restrictions based on hidden national security requirements, the global trade environment would immediately and sharply deteriorate. Costs would be far higher than indicated by looking at American actions alone.
Balancing Economic and Security Responsibilities
Security. For policymakers and the public to properly comprehend the magnitude of the problem, the Department of Defense must be as transparent as possible. Some material will be classified. But the trade-off between security classification and the ability to promptly and adequately respond to a threat should be weighted more heavily to the transparency side than it is at present.
Trade. The Department of Commerce and United States Trade Representative should restrict trade only in accordance with what can be defended publicly and systematically. Introduction of ad hoc trade restrictions that claim a classified basis will harm the American economy.
For now, it is unreasonable to impose considerable economic costs for the sake of a serious but vaguely presented threat.
Dean Cheng is Research Fellow in Chinese Political and Security Affairs and Derek Scissors, Ph.D., is Research Fellow in Asia Economic Policy in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.

http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2011/05/China-and-Cyber-Security-Trojan-Chips-and-US-Chinese-Relations
25050  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson 1785: Virtue on: May 12, 2011, 08:12:11 AM
"Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you... From the practice of the purest virtue, you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life, and in the moment of death." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, 1785


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