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25151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: January 25, 2011, 08:10:37 AM
That seems a valid point, but what do you make of this Brian Wesbury clip?-- which I see my previous post forgot to include embarassed
25152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: Rand Studysay Military green energy program useless on: January 25, 2011, 08:02:46 AM
The United States would derive no meaningful military benefit from increased use of alternative fuels to power its jets, ships and other weapons systems, according to a government-commissioned study by the RAND Corporation scheduled for release Tuesday.

The report also argued that most alternative-fuel technologies were unproven, too expensive or too far from commercial scale to meet the military’s needs over the next decade.
In particular, the report argued that the Defense Department was spending too much time and money exploring experimental biofuels derived from sources like algae or the flowering plant camelina, and that more focus should be placed on energy efficiency as a way of combating greenhouse gas emissions.

The report urged Congress to reconsider the military’s budget for alternative-fuel projects. But if such fuels are to be pursued, the report concluded, the most economic, environmentally sound and near-term candidate would be a liquid fuel produced using a combination of coal and biomass, as well as some method for capturing and storing carbon emissions released during production.

The findings by the nonprofit research group, which grew out of a directive in the 2009 Defense Authorization Act calling for further study of alternative fuels in military vehicles and aircraft, are likely to provoke much debate in Washington.

The Obama administration has directed billions of dollars to support emerging clean-energy technologies even as Congress has been unwilling to pass any sort of climate or renewable energy legislation.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is seeking to improve the military’s efficiency and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels over the coming decade, devoting $300 million in economic stimulus financing and other research money toward those goals.

RAND’s conclusions drew swift criticism from some branches of the military — particularly the Navy, which has been leading the foray into advanced algae-based fuels.

“Unfortunately, we were not engaged by the authors of this report,” said Thomas W. Hicks, deputy assistant secretary of energy for the Navy. “We don’t believe they adequately engaged the market,” he said, adding, “This is not up to RAND’s standards.”

The analysis has also irked environmental groups and biofuels proponents, who argued that RAND had underestimated the commercial viability of algae and overestimated the availability and efficacy of carbon capture and storage technology.

The Air Force is engaged in extensive testing of biofuel blends in its aircraft, and the Navy received 20,000 gallons of algae-based fuel for testing and certification from the California company Solazyme last summer. Solazyme signed a contract with the Defense Department to deliver another 150,000 gallons this year.

Proponents of these endeavors argue that the military, with its substantial buying power, can help spur the expansion of renewable fuel markets into the civilian sphere.

“This would not be the first example of a military-driven research project where the civilian benefit far outweighs the military benefit,” said Paul Winters, a spokesman for the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington. “Witness the Internet,” he said.

Mr. Hicks of the Navy also took issue with the notion that there was no military benefit to the pursuit of oil alternatives.

“We are doing this because there are energy security issues at play,” he said. “Every barrel of oil we can replace with something that’s produced domestically, the better we are as a nation, and the more secure and more independent we are.”

In the report, however, James T. Bartis, a senior policy researcher at RAND and the lead author of the analysis, argued that while the military consumes substantial amounts of liquid fuels — about 340,000 barrels each day — this accounts for less than 2 percent of the nation’s total use, which is estimated to be 19 million barrels a day.

As such, the greenhouse-gas benefits arising from the military’s efforts along these lines are likely to be minuscule. The authors argued that both the Defense Department and Congress should “reconsider whether defense appropriations should continue to support the development of advanced alternative fuel technologies.”

Further, the report said that the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required that any alternative and synthetic fuels bought by federal agencies for “mobility-related use” must have lower greenhouse gas emissions — or at least no greater — than those of conventional fuels.


The full life-cycle emissions of many plant-based fuel alternatives are still not fully understood, Mr. Bartis argued — particularly the degree to which they cause, directly or indirectly, changes in land use around the globe.

Alternative fuels made from plants also compete with food crops for land. Producing just 200,000 barrels of such fuels a day — or about 1 percent of total oil consumption in the United States — would require an area “equal to about 10 percent of the croplands currently under cultivation in the United States,” Mr. Bartis said.
The most promising alternative fuels, according to the report, are those derived from what is known as the Fischer-Tropsch process, a method developed almost a century ago by Germany for turning coal into a liquid fuel. The method is still in limited use in a handful of countries, and it can be used with a variety of feedstocks — coal, natural gas, even biomass.

The conversion process, however, is extremely energy-intensive, and when coal is used, it produces vast amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide — far more than conventional fuels.

But a blend of coal and sustainably produced biomass as feedstocks, combined with carbon-capture technology, could be a viable low-carbon alternative, the report said.

Meanwhile, other advanced fuels like those derived from algae are far from commercially ready, RAND said. “Large investments in research and development will be required before confident estimates can be made regarding production costs and environmental impacts,” the authors said.

RAND’s findings rankled industry and environmental groups.

Brian Siu, a policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he was still analyzing the report, but he called coal-based fuels a nonstarter. “Any liquid coal deployment would increase coal mining beyond today’s levels,” he said. “That would drive more mountaintop removal, groundwater contamination, biodiversity loss and other mining impacts.”

In an e-mail, Mary Rosenthal, the executive director of the Algal Biomass Organization, a trade group, said the report’s characterization of algae as a mere research topic was “both demeaning and patently false.”

“We have more than 100 companies, academic institutions and national laboratories working to develop the algae-to-fuels industry,” she said. “We believe algae commercialization is far closer than RAND suggests.”
25153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: Smiles on: January 25, 2011, 07:57:29 AM
In the middle of a phone call four years ago, Paula Niedenthal began to wonder what it really means to smile. The call came from a Russian reporter, who was interviewing Dr. Niedenthal about her research on facial expressions.

“At the end he said, ‘So you are American?’ ” Dr. Niedenthal recalled.
Indeed, she is, although she was then living in France, where she had taken a post at Blaise Pascal University.

“So you know,” the Russian reporter informed her, “that American smiles are all false, and French smiles are all true.”

“Wow, it’s so interesting that you say that,” Dr. Niedenthal said diplomatically. Meanwhile, she was imagining what it would have been like to spend most of her life surrounded by fake smiles.

“I suddenly became interested in how people make these kinds of errors,” Dr. Niedenthal said. But finding the source of the error would require knowing what smiles really are — where they come from and how people process them. And despite the fact that smiling is one of the most common things that we humans do, Dr. Niedenthal found science’s explanation for it to be weak.

“I think it’s pretty messed up,” she said. “I think we don’t know very much, actually, and it’s something I want to take on.”

To that end, Dr. Niedenthal and her colleagues have surveyed a wide range of studies, from brain scans to cultural observations, to build a new scientific model of the smile. They believe they can account not only for the source of smiles, but how people perceive them. In a recent issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, they argue that smiles are not simply the expression of an internal feeling. Smiles in fact are only the most visible part of an intimate melding between two minds.

“It’s an impressive, sophisticated analysis,” said Adam Galinsky, a social psychologist at Northwestern University.

Psychologists have studied smiles carefully for decades, but mostly from the outside. When the zygomaticus major muscles in our cheeks contract, they draw up the corners of our mouths. But there’s much more to a smile than that.

“A smile is not this floating thing, like a Cheshire Cat,” said Dr. Niedenthal. “It’s attached to a body.” Sometimes the lips open to reveal teeth; sometimes they stay sealed. Sometimes the eyes crinkle. The chin rises with some smiles, and drops in others.

Cataloging these variations is an important first step, said Dr. Niedenthal, but it can’t deliver an answer to the enigma of smiles. “People like to make dictionaries of the facial muscles to make a particular gesture, but there’s no depth to that approach,” she said.

Some researchers have tried to move deeper, to understand the states of mind that produce smiles. We think of them as signifying happiness, and indeed, researchers do find that the more intensely people contract their zygomaticus major muscles, the happier they say they feel. But this is far from an iron law. The same muscles sometimes contract when people are feeling sadness or disgust, for example.

The link between feelings and faces is even more mysterious. Why should any feeling cause us to curl up our mouths, after all? This is a question that Darwin pondered for years. An important clue, he said, is found in the faces of apes, which draw up their mouths as well. These expressions, Darwin argued, were also smiles. In other words, Mona Lisa inherited her endlessly intriguing smile from the grinning common ancestor she shared with chimpanzees.

Primatologists have been able to sort smiles into a few categories, and Dr. Niedenthal thinks that human smiles should be classified in the same way. Chimpanzees sometimes smile from pleasure, as when baby chimps play with each other. but chimpanzees also smile when they’re trying to strengthen a social bond with another chimpanzee.

Dr. Niedenthal thinks that some human smiles fall into these categories as well. What’s more, they may be distinguished by certain expressions. An embarrassed smile is often accompanied by a lowered chin, for example, while a smile of greeting often comes with raised eyebrows.

Chimpanzees sometimes smile not for pleasure or for a social bond, but for power. A dominant chimpanzee will grin and show its teeth. Dr. Niedenthal argues that humans flash a power grin as well — often raising their chin so as to look down at others.

“ ‘You’re an idiot, I’m better than you’—that’s what we mean by a dominant smile,” said Dr. Niedenthal.


Page 2 of 2)

But making a particular facial expression is just the first step of a smile. Dr. Niedenthal argues that how another person interprets the smile is equally important. In her model, the brain can use three different means to distinguish a smile from some other expression.

One way people recognize smiles is comparing the geometry of a person’s face to a standard smile. A second way is thinking about the situation in which someone is making an expression, judging if it’s the sort where a smile would be expected.
But most importantly, Dr. Niedenthal argues, people recognize smiles by mimicking them. When a smiling person locks eyes with another person, the viewer unknowingly mimics a smile as well. In their new paper, Dr. Niedenthal and her colleagues point to a number of studies indicating that this imitation activates many of the same regions of the brain that are active in the smiler.

A happy smile, for example, is accompanied by activity in the brain’s reward circuits, and looking at a happy smile can excite those circuits as well. Mimicking a friendly smile produces a different pattern of brain activity. It activates a region of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex, which distinguishes feelings for people with whom we have a close relationship from others. The orbitofrontal cortex becomes active when parents see their own babies smile, for example, but not other babies.

If Dr. Niedenthal’s model is correct, then studies of dominant smiles should reveal different patterns of brain activity. Certain regions associated with negative emotions should become active.

Embodying smiles not only lets people recognize smiles, Dr. Niedenthal argues. It also lets them recognize false smiles. When they unconsciously mimic a false smile, they don’t experience the same brain activity as an authentic one. The mismatch lets them know something’s wrong.

Other experts on facial expressions applaud Dr. Niedenthal’s new model, but a number of them also think that parts of it require fine-tuning. “Her model fits really well along the horizontal dimension, but I have my doubts about the vertical,” said Dr. Galinsky. He questions whether people observing a dominant smile would experience the feeling of power themselves. In fact, he points out, in such encounters, people tend to avoid eye contact, which Dr. Niedenthal says is central to her model.

Dr. Niedenthal herself is now testing the predictions of the model with her colleagues. In one study, she and her colleagues are testing the idea that mimicry lets people recognize authentic smiles. They showed pictures of smiling people to a group of students. Some of the smiles were genuine and others were fake. The students could readily tell the difference between them.

Then Dr. Niedenthal and her colleagues asked the students to place a pencil between their lips. This simple action engaged muscles that could otherwise produce a smile. Unable to mimic the faces they saw, the students had a much harder time telling which smiles were real and which were fake.

The scientists then ran a variation on the experiment on another group of students. They showed the same faces to the second group, but had them imagine the smiling faces belonged to salesclerks in a shoe store. In some cases the salesclerks had just sold the students a pair of shoes — in which they might well have a genuine smile of satisfaction. In other trials, they imagined that the salesclerks were trying to sell them a pair of shoes — in which case they might be trying to woo the customer with a fake smile.

In reality, the scientists use a combination of real and fake smiles for both groups of salesclerks. When the students were free to mimic the smiles, their judgments were not affected by what the salesclerk was doing.

But if the students put a pencil in their mouth, they could no longer rely on their mimicry. Instead, they tended to believe that the salesclerks who were trying to sell them shoes were faking their smiles — even when their smiles were genuine. Likewise, they tended to say that the salesclerks who had finished the sale were smiling for real, even when they weren’t. In other words, they were forced to rely on the circumstances of the smile, rather than the smile itself.

Dr. Niedenthal and her colleagues have also been testing the importance of eye contact for smiles. They had students look at a series of portraits, like the “Laughing Cavalier” by the 17th-century artist Frans Hals. In some portraits the subject looked away from the viewer, while in others, the gaze was eye to eye. In some trials, the students looked at the paintings with bars masking the eyes.

The participants rated how emotional the impact of the painting was. Dr. Niedenthal and her colleagues found, as they had predicted, that people felt a bigger emotional impact when the eyes were unmasked than when they were masked. The smile was identical in each painting, but it was not enough on its own. What’s more, the differences were greater when the portrait face was making direct eye contact with the viewer.

Dr. Niedenthal suspects that she and other psychologists are just starting to learn secrets about smiles that artists figured out centuries ago. It may even be possible someday to understand why Mona Lisa’s smile is so powerful. “I would say the reason it was so successful is because you achieve eye contact with her,” said Dr. Niedenthal, “and so the fact that the meaning of her smile is complicated is doubly communicated, because your own simulation of it is mysterious and difficult.”
25154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Intelligence on: January 25, 2011, 07:42:59 AM
No worries BD; in this context the term "intelligence" was ambiguous. smiley
25155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: Using Right Hemispere on: January 25, 2011, 07:41:48 AM
When inexperienced chess players sit down to play against experts, they probably wonder what it is that makes the experts so good that it seems they are almost playing a different game. New research suggests that one difference is that the experts use more of their brains.

In a study in the current issue of the journal PLoS One, a team of scientists in Germany showed experts and novices simple geometric objects and simple chess positions and asked the subjects to identify them.
Reaction times were measured and brain activity was monitored using functional M.R.I. scans. On the identification of the geometric objects, the subjects performed the same, showing that the chess experts had no special visualization skills. When the subjects were shown the chess positions, the experts identified them faster.

Focusing on an element of an earlier study on pattern and object recognition by chess experts, the researchers had expected to see parts of the left hemispheres of the experts’ brains — which are involved in object recognition — react more quickly than those of the novices when they performed the chess tasks. But the reaction times were the same.

What set the experts apart was that parts of their right brain hemispheres — which are more involved in pattern recognition — also lit up with activity. The experts were processing the information in two places at once.

The researchers also found that when the subjects were shown the chess diagrams, the novices looked directly at the pieces to recognize them, while the experts looked on the middle of the boards and took everything in with their peripheral vision.

One of researchers, Merim Bilalic, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, said in an interview that the way the experts’ brains handled the chess tasks was more efficient. The study also showed that expertise is an acquired skill, not an innate one. “It tells you a very sobering message,” he said. “It tells you there are no shortcuts to expertise.”

In another study, reported Friday in Science, researchers at the Riken Brain Science Institute in Japan sought to discover which regions of the brain gave experts in shogi, a game similar to chess, their insights.

The scientists recruited beginning, intermediate and professional players. The subjects were shown different types of shogi positions and problems as well as chess diagrams, Chinese chess diagrams and photographs. They were asked to answer questions about each image and to solve some of the shogi positions, and their answers were timed.

The shogi experts reacted no more strongly to the chess and Chinese chess diagrams than amateurs, indicating that their expertise was highly specialized.

As in the German study, the subjects’ brain activity was monitored using functional M.R.I. scans. The researchers found that there were two regions of the professionals’ brains that were excited consistently when they were asked to solve the shogi problems.

One was the precuneus, which is in the superior parietal lobule, where perception and high-level thinking occur. The other area was the caudate nucleus, which is in the subcortical region.

The same areas were activated in the intermediate players’ brains only when they were familiar with the patterns and had a reasonably good idea of how to solve the problems. The same areas were almost never activated in the brains of the beginners.

The significant role of the caudate nucleus was, at least on its surface, surprising because it is part of the basal ganglia, which, the researchers write, “is thought to be responsible for the formation and execution of habit” and for “goal directed behavior.” Put another way, idea generation in the caudate nucleus is “quick and implicit,” as opposed to conscious.

So, it seems, becoming a good chess or shogi player and wanting to win is habit-form
25156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT/ POTH: Artic Fence on: January 25, 2011, 07:27:59 AM
Pravda on the Hudson, humbled by the postings on this forum,  cheesy takes a more responsible tone in its coverage grin

Judging by the weather, the world seems to have flipped upside down.

For two winters running, an Arctic chill has descended on Europe, burying that continent in snow and ice. Last year in the United States, historic blizzards afflicted the mid-Atlantic region. This winter the Deep South has endured unusual snowstorms and severe cold, and a frigid Northeast is bracing for what could shape into another major snowstorm this week.
Yet while people in Atlanta learn to shovel snow, the weather 2,000 miles to the north has been freakishly warm the past two winters. Throughout northeastern Canada and Greenland, temperatures in December ran as much as 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Bays and lakes have been slow to freeze; ice fishing, hunting and trade routes have been disrupted.

Iqaluit, the capital of the remote Canadian territory of Nunavut, had to cancel its New Year’s snowmobile parade. David Ell, the deputy mayor, said that people in the region had been looking with envy at snowbound American and European cities. “People are saying, ‘That’s where all our snow is going!’ ” he said.

The immediate cause of the topsy-turvy weather is clear enough. A pattern of atmospheric circulation that tends to keep frigid air penned in the Arctic has weakened during the last two winters, allowing big tongues of cold air to descend far to the south, while masses of warmer air have moved north.

The deeper issue is whether this pattern is linked to the rapid changes that global warming is causing in the Arctic, particularly the drastic loss of sea ice. At least two prominent climate scientists have offered theories suggesting that it is. But others are doubtful, saying the recent events are unexceptional, or that more evidence over a longer period would be needed to establish a link.

Since satellites began tracking it in 1979, the ice on the Arctic Ocean’s surface in the bellwether month of September has declined by more than 30 percent. It is the most striking change in the terrain of the planet in recent decades, and a major question is whether it is starting to have an effect on broad weather patterns.

Ice reflects sunlight, and scientists say the loss of ice is causing the Arctic Ocean to absorb more heat in the summer. A handful of scientists point to that extra heat as a possible culprit in the recent harsh winters in Europe and the United States.

Their theories involve a fast-moving river of air called the jet stream that circles the Northern Hemisphere. Many winters, a strong pressure difference between the polar region and the middle latitudes channels the jet stream into a tight circle, or vortex, around the North Pole, effectively containing the frigid air at the top of the world.

“It’s like a fence,” said Michelle L’Heureux, a researcher in Camp Springs, Md., with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

When that pressure difference diminishes, however, the jet stream weakens and meanders southward, bringing warm air into the Arctic and cold air into the midlatitudes — exactly what has happened the last couple of winters. The effect is sometimes compared to leaving a refrigerator door open, with cold air flooding the kitchen even as warm air enters the refrigerator.

This has happened intermittently for many decades. Still, it is unusual for the polar vortex to weaken as much as it has lately. Last winter, one index related to the vortex hit its lowest wintertime value since record-keeping began in 1865, and it was quite low again in December.

James E. Overland, a climate scientist with NOAA in Seattle, has proposed that the extra warmth in the Arctic Ocean could be heating the atmosphere enough to make it less dense, causing the air pressure over the Arctic to be closer to that of the middle latitudes. “The added heat works against having a strong polar vortex,” he said.

But Dr. Overland acknowledges that his idea is tentative and needs further research. Many other climate scientists are not convinced, saying that a two-year span, however unusual, is not much on which to base a new theory. “We haven’t got sufficient insight to make definitive claims,” said Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at a company called Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Lexington, Mass., has spotted what he believes is a link between increasing snow in Siberia and the weakening of the polar vortex. In his theory, the extra snow is creating a dense, cold air mass over northern Asia in the late autumn, setting off a complex chain of cause and effect that ultimately perturbs the vortex.


Dr. Cohen said in an interview that the rising Siberian snow might, in turn, be linked to the decline of Arctic sea ice, with the open water providing extra moisture to the atmosphere — much as the Great Lakes produce heavy snows in cities like Buffalo and Syracuse. He is publishing seasonal forecasts based on his work, supported by the National Science Foundation. Those forecasts correctly predicted the recent harsh winters in the midlatitudes. But Dr. Cohen acknowledges, as does Dr. Overland, that some of his ideas are tentative and need further research.

The uncertainty about what is causing the strange winters highlights a core difficulty of climate science. While mainstream researchers are sure that greenhouse gases released by humans are warming the Earth, they acknowledge being on shakier ground in trying to predict the regional effects of that change. It is entirely possible, they say, that some regions will cool temporarily, because of disruption of the atmospheric and oceanic circulation, even as the Earth warms over all.
Bloggers who specialize in raising doubts about climate science have gleefully pointed to the recent winters in the United States and Europe as evidence that climatologists must be mistaken about a warming trend. These commentators have not been as eager to write about the strange warmth in parts of the Arctic, a region that scientists have long predicted will warm more rapidly than the planet as a whole.

Without doubt, the winter weather that began and ended 2010 was remarkable. Two of the 10 largest snowstorms in New York City history occurred last year, including the one that disrupted travel right after Christmas. The two snowstorms that fell on Washington and surrounding areas within a week in February had no known precedent in their overall impact on the region, with total accumulations of 40 inches in some places.

But the winters were not the whole story. Even without them, 2010 would have gone down as one of the strangest years in the annals of climatology, thanks in part to a weather condition known as El Niño, which dumped heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere early in the year. Later, the ocean surface cooled, a condition known as La Niña, contributing to heavy rainfall in many places.

Despite cooling from La Niña, newly compiled figures show that 2010 was among the two warmest years in the historical record. It featured a heat wave in Russia, all-time high temperatures in at least 17 countries, the hottest summer in New York City history, and devastating floods in Pakistan, China, Australia, the United States and other countries.

“It was a wild year,” said Christopher C. Burt, a weather historian for Weather Underground, an Internet site.

Still, however erratic the weather may have become, it is not obvious to most people how global warming could lead to frigid winters. Many scientists are hesitant to back such assertions, at least until they gain a better understanding of what is going on in the Arctic.

In interviews, several scientists recalled that in the decade ending in the mid-1990s, the polar vortex seemed to be strengthening, not weakening, producing mild winters in the eastern United States and western Europe.

At the time, some climate scientists wrote papers attributing that change to global warming. Newspapers, including this one, printed laments for winter lost. But soon after, the apparent trend went away, an experience that has made many researchers more cautious.

John M. Wallace, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, wrote some of the earlier papers. This time around, he said, it will take a lot of evidence to convince him that a few harsh winters in London or Washington have anything to do with global warming.

“Just when you publish something and it looks like you’re seeing a connection,” Dr. Wallace said, “nature has a way of humbling us.”
25157  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: January 24, 2011, 10:48:04 PM
Either we need to go back to the old days where "men" meant "men" or "men and women" or we need some new fg pronouns to avoid the tediousness of "his or her" e.g. the Chinese third person singular pronoun is "ta" and simply means "he" or "she" without specifying which.

The irritation for me for example is that a phrase such as "our fighting men and women" gives equal billing as if women were equal in numbers and danger, whereas "our fighting men" can be seen as excluding those women who do serve in harm's way, albeit not in tip of the spear combat units.
25158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: January 24, 2011, 10:43:00 PM
BW makes his case.  Watch this clip and tell me what you think GM (and anyone else)
25159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 24, 2011, 11:53:16 AM
Brian Wesbury and Scott Grannis would disagree with you on that.  If we want to discuss this particular point further, lets take it over to the Political Economy thread.
25160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: UAW on: January 24, 2011, 11:04:01 AM
The top priority for the United Auto Workers this year is to organize one of the foreign, or so-called "transplant," car makers. That makes perfect sense—for the UAW. Their rich labor contracts and stifling work rules helped bring low Detroit's Big Three, so the union needs new dues-paying members.

We've long believed companies get the unions they deserve, but in this case it's worth noting that the UAW isn't confident enough to play by normal labor-organizing rules. New UAW chief Bob King has set out 11 "principles" that he says car makers must embrace or the UAW will "expose" them as "human rights violators." Yes, like dictatorships.

This is no idle intimidation, especially with the union's political allies manning key labor jobs in Washington. The threat is also backed with at least $60 million from the union's $800 million strike fund. With fewer than 400,000 members, down from 1.5 million in 1979, the union can afford to raid that fund since it isn't likely to strike the weakened GM, Ford or Chrysler anytime soon.

Mr. King's principles start by repeating the well-established ban on employer intimidation for union activity, but then go much further. He also wants car makers to give up their right to discuss unionization on company grounds "unless the UAW is invited to participate." In effect, the UAW wants companies to give up their right to free speech even in their own workplaces. Meanwhile, unions are free to visit employee homes whenever they wish.

The union chief is also demanding that "an impartial, third party" resolve "any disagreements" over the conduct of the organizing campaign. The National Labor Relations Board currently plays this role, but the UAW seems to want companies to agree to a separate judicial body and waive their rights under the law.

Last but not least audaciously, Mr. King sneaks in unionization by "card check." Not even the last Congress's Democratic supermajority passed this Big Labor priority. But the UAW principles commit companies to unionize if a majority of workers sign union cards, forgoing a secret ballot election. All the UAW would have to do to allow card check is claim a "history of anti-union activities" at the target company. It would also oblige arbitration on a first labor contract, if six months after a union is formed the two sides can't agree. This was also part of the card check bill that died quietly last year.

The UAW is making these demands because it knows how hard it will be to organize the 88,000 or so workers at Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and other foreign-owned plants. The union has tried and failed before, most notably in its repeated attempts to organize Nissan's plant in Smyrna, Tennessee and Toyota's in Georgetown, Kentucky. These companies have for the most part built plants in business-friendly Southern states and showed employees that a nonunion job paid on par with UAW wages is better over the long term than a union presence that makes the company uncompetitive.

The UAW hasn't announced its first target, which might be the politically vulnerable Toyota or a new arrival like Kia or VW. The political campaign is already under way, and last week the UAW sent a thousand members to lobby Congress for support.

As much as GM and Chrysler, the UAW was also bailed out by the Bush and Obama Administrations in 2008-2009. And Mr. King's principles do acknowledge that the union should learn from that failure and build "relations with employers based upon a foundation of respect, shared goals and a common mission." But you wouldn't know that from the bullying way it has begun its latest organizing campaign.

25161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: China's next buying spree on: January 24, 2011, 10:58:44 AM
I think this author misses fails to discuss some key points e.g. Chinese governmental control of the purchased companies towards geopolitical ends, but the piece does inform nonetheless.

From 2007 through the first half of this year, Chinese buyers—state, private and in between—acquired 400 companies located outside of the country. The acquisitions span a wide range: mining companies in Australia, Vietnam and South America; oil and gas companies in Africa and the Middle East; banking, financial services and insurance companies in Europe; and electronics, telecommunications and lab testing companies in the U.S. The total cost? $86 billion.

That may sound like a big number, but in fact it's relatively small. The number of companies at play in global cross-border M&A markets during this period exceeded 12,400, with acquisition costs of more than $1.3 trillion. China's share of the total number was 3.2%, and its share of total acquisition value was 6.6%. China ranks sixth in both number of deals and in acquisition value: behind the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Japan, though just ahead of the United Arab Emirates. Cross-border acquisitions by U.S. investors numbered over 5,000 (42.1% of all transactions), and nearly $400 billion by value (30.1% of aggregate value).

China's acquisitions beyond its borders are also modest compared with foreign investors' acquisitions within China. Currently, China's annual cross-border acquisitions are about half of annual foreign direct investments in the country.

What is significant about China's acquisitions over the past few years is the change they represent from the negligible amounts in the past. Prior to 2007, nearly all China's foreign investments involved buying U.S. debt, along with lesser purchases of euro and yen debt. China currently holds more than $1.6 trillion of U.S. government debt and an additional $1 trillion of non-U.S. government debt and other assets.

It didn't used to be in the business of acquiring foreign companies. That's changed, and I expect that China's acquisitions will at least double in the next five years, and perhaps quadruple by 2020.

There are three principal drivers behind this forecast. First is China's extraordinarily high rate of domestic savings—above 45% of GDP. As long as this rate appreciably exceeds China's not-quite-so-high rate of domestic investment (about 35% of GDP), China will have a large global trade surplus, regardless of fluctuations in its exchange rate. This surplus, together with China's net receipts from other sources—including earnings from its prior foreign investments, the excess of inbound versus outbound investment, and remittances from Chinese residents abroad—will generate a current account surplus of $300 billion to $350 billion annually. This will provide a ready source of financing for foreign acquisitions.

Second, China has shifted its focus away from investing in U.S. government debt. While it will continue to invest in such holdings, the investments will be much smaller than in the past. China is aiming to strengthen the renminbi's role as a potential international reserve, thus it will be less willing to shore up the dollar by purchasing large amounts of U.S. government debt. The result is that it will use its surplus to acquire foreign companies.

The third and perhaps strongest driver of a growing Chinese role in international M&A markets is Beijing's interest in acquiring foreign companies that possess one or more of the following characteristics: rich holdings of natural resources, high-technology or emergent technologies, and financial know-how and close connections with other financial institutions. Because of the recession, such acquisitions may be available at more attractive prices than usual.

If this forecast is accurate, it will have significant consequences for China and global markets.

Externally, China will be a more active and influential player in global M&A markets. In some cases, China may exercise its financial leverage to successfully challenge competing bidders from other dominant countries. This competition could help integrate China more fully into the global economy.

China's prominence could also lead to increased tension with host countries, especially in light of the marked disparities between the restrictions that it imposes on foreign investors' acquisitions within China and the looser ones usually applied on China's acquisitions abroad. Demands for equivalent and reciprocal treatment shouldn't come as a surprise.

Yet such demands can be expected to evoke strong resistance within China, especially if reciprocal treatment is sought in fields like energy, natural resources, rare earths, chemicals and infrastructure that are dominated by large state-owned companies such as Sinopec, Cnooc and Chinalco.

China's foreign acquisitions will have other repercussions within China. Experience gained from corporate governance in companies it acquires abroad may be a good influence on the often obscure governance practices of Chinese companies. More diligent governance practices—like independent audits and transparent executive compensation—are likely to be met with favor from China's Securities Regulatory Commission, but resistance from corporate management. But if the more advanced governance practices prevail, it would be beneficial for China and the rest of the world.

Mr. Wolf holds the distinguished corporate chair in international economics at the RAND Corporation and is a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

25162  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with the adrenaline dump on: January 24, 2011, 10:55:18 AM
Woof Andrew:

I thought I posted an answer to you yesterday, but do not see it there today.  huh  Weird.

Anyway, SG covers the ED question.  Next time we get together ask me to share with you an unusual Vunak training method.
25163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 24, 2011, 10:52:09 AM
The Dick Morris piece is the sort of thing he does best:

"The key to winning the election of 2012 is to force Obama to defend his agenda of 2009-2010 by demanding its repeal and rollback."

Exactly so.
25164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: State Bankruptcy Law proposal on: January 24, 2011, 10:46:27 AM
As states struggle with enormous deficits and exploding pension costs, some analysts are urging Congress to enact a law enabling states to declare bankruptcy the way municipalities can under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code. This is a bad idea. A state bankruptcy provision could create more problems than it solves.

Bankruptcy proponents understandably worry that states such as California and Illinois are so deep in the hole they may end up petitioning Congress for federal relief. To forestall this possibility, the argument goes, even the threat of bankruptcy would give governors and legislators a powerful new weapon for forcing concessions from recalcitrant public employee unions.

Yet state officials committed to cutting costs already have options for putting the squeeze on their unions. One is the threat of mass layoffs, which most governors can impose unilaterally. Governors and legislators also can prospectively freeze wages or even cut them through involuntary furloughs, as California and several other states did over the past two years.

True, management (i.e., taxpayers) often starts from a weak position in contract talks with government unions. But governors and legislators have the power to change that, too—because the bargaining rights of state and local government unions are primarily a matter of state law.

By reopening their collective bargaining statutes, state officials can narrow the terms of future negotiations—restricting compulsory arbitration, say, or taking retiree health insurance off the table and making it a management prerogative. They can also pressure unions by revoking privileges such as the employer-collected dues checkoff. They can even eliminate future union contracts.

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 .This is not as unlikely as it may sound. At least 18 states already outlaw collective bargaining with some categories of government employees; Virginia and North Carolina prohibit it for all public workers. Two newly elected Republican governors, Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio, have threatened to dismantle their state bargaining statutes if unions fail to make concessions.

For constitutional reasons, any federal law enabling state bankruptcy would have to be voluntary, meaning states would have to invite federal judges to play tough with their unions. But if Gov. Jerry Brown and the California legislature are unwilling to rewrite their collective bargaining rules—signed into law by Mr. Brown himself, 33 years ago—why assume they would plead with a federal judge to do it for them?

It's more likely that a state like California would pursue bankruptcy if powerful unions and other budget-dependent interest groups saw this as a way to deflect some of the pain to bondholders. California is one of the states that constitutionally guarantees its general obligation debt, and whose bondholders are now seemingly untouchable. That could change with a bankruptcy option.

Such an option would certainly rattle the bond market—which bankruptcy proponents see as a good thing. Yet this ignores the potential for collateral damage and disruption. While bond spreads might get wider for the most troubled states, the enactment of a state bankruptcy law is likely to raise the cost of borrowing for all municipal issuers.

Much of the talk about state bankruptcy has centered on the solvency threat posed by unfunded public pension liabilities of as much as $3 trillion, according to an estimate by Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University. This is truly a significant concern, complicated in some cases by state constitutions that make it impossible to claw back unaffordable benefits for current workers.

However, while most public pension liabilities are pooled in statewide, off-budget trust funds, they largely reflect the cost of retirement benefits promised to teachers, cops and firefighters—who mainly work for municipalities, not state governments. This raises another complication: Could a judge in a state bankruptcy proceeding interfere with the pension obligations of localities?

A growing number of states are finally starting to get serious about pension reform. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who confronts one of the nation's worst pension underfunding problems, is using the prospect of insolvency to push for significant pension reductions. Bankruptcy could complicate this task. If Mr. Christie somehow persuaded a Democrat-dominated state legislature to join him in asking a federal judge to reduce pensions, New Jersey's unions might be that much quicker to seek a federal bailout.

The focus of state bankruptcy advocates on employee compensation costs is somewhat misplaced. More than half of all state expenditures go to Medicaid, K-12 public school aid and other transfer payments. These are the areas—not current pension bills or debt service—that have been the prime source of unsustainable and unaffordable spending growth in state budgets.

The biggest state budget gaps will never be closed until politicians use the tools they already have to challenge the overweening power of public employee unions. Meanwhile, Washington can help by lifting some of the burdens it imposes on the states. Converting Medicaid into a block grant, for example, would remove one big excuse governors now have for failing to do more to control their health-care costs. By giving states more flexibility to deal with this program and other federal mandates, Congress will have greater justification for telling governors to fix their own problems.

Mr. McMahon is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and its Albany-based Empire Center for New York State Policy.

25165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Another adjustment to the model on: January 24, 2011, 10:32:04 AM
A hearty "Amen!" from me on that as well, and I am sure BBG will agree when he returns-- that was a fine meaty quote you shared there Tricky.

Concerning "consensus".  A German MD internet friend of mine recently wrote that " 'Consensus' means there is no definitive proof" or something like that.

Anyway, this today from todays Pravda on the Beach/LATimes, which actually runs counter to its biases and therefor gets a hat tip of respect from me:

Predictions that climate change will drive trees and plants uphill, potentially slashing their range to perilous levels, may be wrong, suggests a new study that found vegetation in California actually crept downhill during the 20th century.

The research, published in the Jan. 21 issue of the journal Science, challenges widely held assumptions about the effect of rising temperatures on shrubs and trees that play a critical role in mountain environments.

Various studies in recent years have predicted that to survive global warming, mountain plant communities will march to higher elevations in search of cooler temperatures — and, if they are unable to do so quickly enough, could perish.

Save on daily L.A. Times deals powered by Groupon.

But comparing data from the early and late 20th century, authors of the Science paper found that despite warming, many plant species in California mountain ranges are growing at lower elevations than they did 80 years ago. The scientists attributed the shift to a wetter climate in Central and Northern California, which offset the effect of higher temperatures.

The lesson, said coauthor John Abatzoglou, a University of Idaho assistant geography professor, is that "we'd be remiss if we just focus on temperature," in forecasting the influence of climate change on plant life. "This might mean species extinction rates may not be as dire as predicted."

Climate warming models have consistently indicated that California will get hotter. But modeling has been less certain about the effect on total precipitation. Some models suggest the state will grow wetter — if less snowy. Some suggest it will grow drier.

The researchers were careful to say that the rise in precipitation in much of California over the last century could be a function of natural variability and have no link to the effects of greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere.

For whatever reason, Abatzoglou said the Sierra was 5% to 10% wetter in the final half of the 1900s than in the first half, allowing tree and shrub species to take hold at lower elevations.

Comparing historic vegetation data from 1905 to 1935 to information gathered from 1975 to 2005 by researchers and federal agencies, the study found that about five dozen species had on the whole migrated downhill an average of about 264 feet.

Researchers relied in part on a treasure trove of botanical information collected in the 1920s and '30s as part of a broad-ranging survey of California wild lands directed by U.S. Forest Service silviculturist Albert Wieslander. Partly funded by New Deal programs, it includes records from about 14,000 plots, hand-drawn maps and several thousand photographs that document timber stand conditions.

"These data sets provide us with an unprecedented view" of the large-scale changes in plant distribution that have occurred over the last 75 years in California, said coauthor Solomon Dobrowski, an assistant forest management professor at the University of Montana.

Those shifts, he said, were driven by changes in water availability rather than in average annual temperature, which rose about 1 degree across the state during that period.

Implications of the findings extend beyond California. Globally, "many locations north of the 45-degree latitude have experienced increased precipitation over the last century," Dobrowski said. "And global climate models generally predict these locations [will] become wetter over the next century."

If it turns out that California does grow drier with global warming, "We would expect things to turn a corner and start moving uphill," he said.

Even if they don't, the effect of climate change on mountain environments could be complex. Insects are more sensitive to temperature and are likely to move uphill, Dobrowski said. And if the plants they eat and pollinate are shifting downhill, that could be an issue.

"We can't oversimplify the problem in terms of biological communities," he said.

Connie Millar, a U.S. Forest Service research ecologist who is studying climate change's effects on alpine ecosystems, said the Science paper demonstrated that global modeling results can't just be uniformly applied. "There are surprises at regional and local scales," she said, adding that land managers needed to take that into account in planning how to deal with climate change.

For instance, if valued plant communities are moving out of public lands at higher elevations into private property downhill, they will be more vulnerable to development and more in need of open space corridors connecting them to protected areas.

Millar's research in the Eastern Sierra and the Great Basin has also found that tree lines are moving down rather than up, although for slightly different reasons. They are shifting down slope into drainages that are cooler, and coincidentally, moister.
25166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson on Pravda on the Beach on: January 24, 2011, 07:10:26 AM
The NYT on the Los Angeles Times:

LOS ANGELES — Big city newspapers all across the country have suffered one indignity after another in the last few years. But few of them have been as hard hit — or gotten as much grief for it — as The Los Angeles Times.

Here in the city that has always strived to show how a sense of sophistication lies beneath the silicone and the superficial, The Times has joined the city’s impossible freeway traffic as a unifying force of complaint.

On a recent weekday evening, Edie Frère, owner of a stationery store in the city’s quaint Larchmont Village section, wistfully recalled reading The Times as a young girl, captivated by the old Hollywood starlets and socialites who graced the society pages.

“We need a paper that’s more, and this is less,” said Ms. Frere, 66. “I think it’s just not a world-class paper, no matter how you cut it. It used to be a world-class paper.”

Never mind that The Times is considered a front-runner to win a Pulitzer Prize this year for its coverage of city officials in Bell who gave themselves enormous salaries, a story that tapped into a growing national outrage over wasteful government spending. Or that it still maintains, despite all the bloodletting since the paper was bought in 2000 by the Tribune Company, 13 foreign bureaus, more than any other large metropolitan daily except The Washington Post.  Or that it is the only big city daily that still employs a battalion of correspondents stationed in cities across the country.

In the sidewalk cafes, coffee shops, hair salons and studio lots of this sprawling metropolis, the notion that The Times remains one of the best newspapers still in business is a foreign one.

“When I came here back in ’74, it would take me all day to read the paper. Now it takes me 10 minutes — tops,” said Quintin Cheeseborough, 57, who is self-employed and comes to the Los Angeles Central Library occasionally to read The Times. On a recent morning, he was reading The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, but not The Los Angeles Times.

Since The Times was sold to Tribune, its newsroom staff has been cut in half. For many Angelenos, the downsizing is just one more sign that their city is losing stature. Add it to the list of other ego-bruising blows, like the loss of its professional football team, the flight of Fortune 500 companies from the city limits and a failed bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“We don’t even have a football team. So what does that tell you?” said Mr. Cheeseborough, a note of resignation in his voice.

The Times’s weekday circulation has been nearly halved since 2000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, falling to just over 600,000 — a far steeper rate of decline than at many other big dailies like The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit Free Press and The Washington Post.

To identify where all the local harrumphing comes from, it helps to understand just how closely the rise of The Times is associated with the rise of Los Angeles as a capital of culture and commerce.

The paper’s founding families, the Otises and the Chandlers, used their fledgling publication to push for the development that helped give rise to modern Los Angeles. Water was first piped into the San Fernando Valley because they arranged for it. Los Angeles Harbor was built in part because of their backing.

Not that everyone shares such a dim view of the paper. Bill Mullins, 55, an equipment clerk at the city’s Central Library, said that despite the cutbacks, he still thinks The Times invests in the kind of journalism most news organizations have eliminated.

“The L.A. Times will do stuff that I love, like a story on a Los Angeles boy who went to Iraq. And it will start on the front page and jump to Page 12, and then take up all of Page 13,” Mr. Mullins said. “I mean, you can’t get that kind of stuff in three minutes on NBC or ABC.”

Still, seeing the paper sold to a bottom-line-driven corporate owner from Chicago was a major blow to many here. Even Mr. Mullins said that he thought the sale to Tribune would be the paper’s “death knell.”   And what Tribune did to local coverage after acquiring the paper only reinforced those concerns. Times bureaus and printing facilities in Orange County and the San Fernando Valley once employed hundreds of people to publish separate editions, each with a locally tailored front page.

John S. Carroll, a former Times executive editor, recalled that each of those operations was like a separate paper. “It was like going to a newspaper in a medium-size city,” Mr. Carroll recalled of visiting there. “It was really something.”

Those operations are no more. Breaking local news no longer appears on the front page, because to save money it moved up its deadlines and moved late-breaking local, national and foreign news to a separate section.


The paper’s absence in the community is felt in ways beyond what it no longer covers. The Chandler family, apart from its role in city commerce and politics, was also a cultural force in Los Angeles.

“The intertwinement with the community was much greater when the Chandlers owned the paper, with their charitable contributions, their contributions to the arts,” said Leo Wolinsky, who left the paper in 2008 after holding a number of top jobs there, including executive editor. “If you walk around downtown L.A., The Los Angeles Times and the Chandler name is on everything. When the Tribune Company came, that got cut back severely.”

More than just cutbacks have left many Angelenos with a dim view of their paper. Under its current publisher, Eddy W. Hartenstein — a former DirecTV chief executive who became the fourth publisher under Tribune — The Times has run a number of ads on its front page and on the fronts of other sections that many here felt cheapened the paper. One ad that ran last summer, for a King Kong feature at Universal Studios, declared: “Universal Studios Hollywood Partially Destroyed.”

That ad prompted outrage from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, who took the highly unusual step of writing a letter to Tribune’s chairman, Samuel Zell, accusing him of making “a mockery of the paper’s mission.”

Mr. Hartenstein, who through a spokeswoman said he would “pass” on a request to be interviewed for this article, defended the ad at the time, saying it met the paper’s standards.  Mr. Hartenstein appears somewhat aware that he has some community relations mending to do. He wrote a letter to readers on Dec. 26 saying that the paper would remain committed to hard-hitting local coverage. But that is a complicated task.

Harvey Levine, 48, a television stage manager who lives on the city’s West Side, ended his subscription after unread copies began piling up at home. “The L.A. Times should be the paper that I trust and go to daily, and it’s not,” said Mr. Levine, a native of Canada who as a young man dreamed of a career in Hollywood and bought copies of the weekend Times in Toronto.

“I know they have a lot of really good writers and they win lots of awards, but I thought it just wasn’t enough,” he said.
25167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fed subsidies to fed unions on: January 24, 2011, 06:55:40 AM
Not the most highbrow of websites, but the argument seems sound enough:

Lines are being drawn and the fight to reduce overly generous pay and benefits to government employees at the federal, state, and local level is underway. Not too surprisingly, public employee unions are gearing up, rallying government employees, and exerting pressure to maintain the generous pay and benefits that has loaded government with unsustainable debt. Public employee unions are, even now, pressing the Obama Administration for additional benefits and power.

President Obama, either unwilling, or perhaps unable, to bring long-overdue accountability to powerful public employee unions, has instead issued guidance requiring greater Union representation and input into federal agency decision making. Obama's decision will likely embolden union bosses to think they can escape accountability and an honest review of benefits, salary, and pensions of government employees.

Perhaps it is time to send a different message. President Obama, like many Americans, is probably unaware that the federal government actually subsidizes federal government employee union operations. In fact, the federal government provides unions with free office space, pays for union member time and picks up travel and per diem costs. These “perks” represent a tax that has never been approved by American taxpayers--perks which operate at a level below the radar of Congress and well below the radar of the IRS. These hidden “perks” provided to government employee unions cost American taxpayers millions of dollars annually.

According to official data, federal employees currently spend some 2.9 million official work hours, at government expense, engaging in collective bargaining and union activities, representing a taxpayer cost of approximately $120 million. But the taxpayer costs and subsidizes to public employee unions is much higher than the official report because government does not account for all the expenses related to union activity.

Federal government unions are, in essence, running a business within the federal government. As we begin the debate over the proper role (if any) unions should have in government, one step Americans should all be able to agree upon is that taxpayer money should not be used to subsidize union activities.

Many Americans may be unaware that unions exist in every federal agency. In fact, most agencies have several unions competing for employee participation and funding which means that federal agencies are subsidizing the costs for several unions at the same time!

These federal agency union representatives have a large presence in Washington, DC, the seat of the federal government. But, most federal locations throughout the United States also have a union representative. So, for example, in a city, such as Kansas City, where the federal complex houses multiple government agencies, there will be multiple federal union representatives, from each federal union, within each federal agency, all at the same building location.

Why is this important?

Federal government union representatives are actually federal employees. They hold GS ranks and civil service status, and actually have federal jobs that they were employed to perform. Their union duties are, supposedly, performed over and above the requirements of their regular day job. However, because of the pernicious and growing power of federal unions, oftentimes, union duties often are performed in lieu of their job. Paid time off from regular government duties is allowed, in most federal agencies, for the union representative to solicit federal employees (i.e. market services), to attend union meetings (i.e. work for an entity other than their government employer) or travel to have “face time” with their union bosses in DC. All at taxpayer expense.

In addition, union representatives often request and are provided with office space that is more expansive than is warranted by their GS rank or than their federal job duties require. The cost of this additional square footage is also paid for by the American taxpayer, and is paid for at each federal agency, for each federal union representative, for each federal union. Federal government union representatives total thousands of federal employees, all billing their time, travel and per diem, for non-government related work, to the American taxpayer.

Perhaps an even bigger problem is that the federal government union representatives sometimes seem to operate under the mistaken belief that they were hired by the government to work for the union—and that union work is more important than the federal job they were hired to perform.

Unions seem, at best, indifferent to the performance of government and are exclusively concerned with pay and benefits of union workers. Therein lies another irony for the American taxpayer. Unions are organized to negotiate against employers, but, since the federal government is the employer, and since the American people pay for the federal government, then, technically, federal government employee unions might be construed as organizing against the American people.

It is time to bring some accountability to public employee unions. A good first step would be for Congress to get a grip on the proliferation of benefits for unions in the federal government, whose activities are an additional burden on federal taxpayers. Congress should change federal policies on payment of travel, per diem and office space for federal government union employees.

Better yet, perhaps President Obama should take the lead.
25168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Intelligence on: January 24, 2011, 06:49:25 AM

That is a different kind of intelligence  cheesy  May I ask you to please post that on the "Intel Matters" thread on the P&R forum?

Thank you,
25169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / $160m and counting to FM lawyers on: January 24, 2011, 06:27:23 AM

Since the government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, taxpayers have spent more than $160 million defending the mortgage finance companies and their former top executives in civil lawsuits accusing them of fraud. The cost was a closely guarded secret until last week, when the companies and their regulator produced an accounting at the request of Congress.

The bulk of those expenditures — $132 million — went to defend Fannie Mae and its officials in various securities suits and government investigations into accounting irregularities that occurred years before the subprime lending crisis erupted. The legal payments show no sign of abating.
Documents reviewed by The New York Times indicate that taxpayers have paid $24.2 million to law firms defending three of Fannie’s former top executives: Franklin D. Raines, its former chief executive; Timothy Howard, its former chief financial officer; and Leanne Spencer, the former controller.

Late last year, Randy Neugebauer, Republican of Texas and now chairman of the oversight subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, requested the figures from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It is the regulator charged with overseeing the mortgage finance companies and acts as their conservator, trying to preserve the company’s assets on behalf of taxpayers.

“One of the things I feel very strongly about is we need to be doing everything we can to minimize any further exposure to the taxpayers associated with these companies,” Mr. Neugebauer said in an interview last week.

It is typical for corporations to cover such fees unless an executive is found to be at fault. In this case, if the former executives are found liable, the government can try to recoup the costs, but that could prove challenging.

Since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the government in September 2008, their losses stemming from bad loans have mounted, totaling about $150 billion in a recent reckoning. Because the financial regulatory overhaul passed last summer did not address how to resolve Fannie and Freddie, Congress is expected to take up that complex matter this year.

In the coming weeks, the Treasury Department is expected to publish a report outlining the administration’s recommendations regarding the future of the companies.

Well before the credit crisis compelled the government to rescue Fannie and Freddie, accounting irregularities had engulfed both companies. Shareholders of Fannie and Freddie sued to recover stock losses incurred after the improprieties came to light.

Freddie’s problems arose in 2003 when it disclosed that it had understated its income from 2000 to 2002; the company revised its results by an additional $5 billion. In 2004, Fannie was found to have overstated its results for the preceding six years; conceding that its accounting was improper, it reduced its past earnings by $6.3 billion.

Mr. Raines retired in December 2004 and Mr. Howard resigned at the same time. Ms. Spencer left her position as controller in early 2005. The following year, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, then the company’s regulator, published an in-depth report on the company’s accounting practices, accusing Fannie’s top executives of taking actions to manipulate profits and generate $115 million in improper bonuses.

The office sued Mr. Raines, Mr. Howard and Ms. Spencer in 2006, seeking $100 million in fines and $115 million in restitution. In 2008, the three former executives settled with the regulator, returning $31.4 million in compensation. Without admitting or denying the regulator’s allegations, Mr. Raines paid $24.7 million and Mr. Howard paid $6.4 million; Ms. Spencer returned $275,000.

Fannie Mae also settled a fraud suit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission without admitting or denying the allegations; the company paid $400 million in penalties.

Lawyers for the three former Fannie executives did not respond to requests for comment. A company spokeswoman did not return a phone call or e-mail seeking comment.

In addition to the $160 million in taxpayer money, Fannie and Freddie themselves spent millions of dollars to defend former executives and directors before the government takeover. Freddie Mac had spent a total of $27.8 million. The expenses are significantly larger at Fannie Mae.

Legal costs incurred by Mr. Raines, Mr. Howard and Ms. Spencer in the roughly four and a half years prior to the government takeover totaled almost $63 million. The total incurred before the bailout by other high-level executives and board members was around $12 million, while an additional $18 million covered fees for lawyers for Fannie Mae officials below the level of executive vice president. Many of these individuals are provided lawyers because they are witnesses in the matters.

Employment contracts and company by-laws usually protect, or indemnify, executives and directors against liabilities, including legal fees associated with defending against such suits.

After the government moved to back Fannie and Freddie, the Federal Housing Finance Agency agreed to continue paying to defend the executives, with the taxpayers covering the costs.


But indemnification does not apply across the board. As is the case with many companies, Fannie Mae’s by-laws detail actions that bar indemnification for officers and directors. They include a person’s breach of the duty of loyalty to the company or its stockholders, actions taken that are not in good faith or intentional misconduct.

Richard S. Carnell, an associate professor at Fordham University Law School who was an assistant secretary of the Treasury for financial institutions during the 1990s, questions why Mr. Raines, Mr. Howard and others, given their conduct detailed in the Housing Enterprise Oversight report, are being held harmless by the government and receiving payment of legal bills as a result.
“Their duty of loyalty required them to put shareholders’ interests ahead of their own personal interests,” Mr. Carnell said. “Had they cared about the shareholders, they would not have staked Fannie’s reputation on dubious accounting. They defied their duty of loyalty and served themselves. At a moral level, they don’t deserve indemnification, much less payment of such princely sums.”

Asked why it has not cut off funding for these mounting legal bills, Edward J. DeMarco, the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said: “I understand the frustration regarding the advancement of certain legal fees associated with ongoing litigation involving Fannie Mae and certain former employees. It is my responsibility to follow applicable federal and state law. Consequently, on the advice of counsel, I have concluded that the advancement of such fees is in the best interest of the conservatorship.”

If the former executives are found liable, they would be obligated to repay the government. But lawyers familiar with such disputes said it would be difficult to get individuals to repay sums as large as these. Lawyers for Mr. Raines, for example, have received almost $38 million so far, while Ms. Spencer’s bills exceed $31 million.

These individuals could bring further litigation to avoid repaying this money, legal specialists said.

Although the figures are not broken down by case, the largest costs are being generated by a lawsuit centering on accounting improprieties that erupted at Fannie Mae in 2004. This suit, a shareholder class action brought by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, is being heard in federal court in Washington. Although it has been going on for six years, the judge has not yet set a trial date. Depositions are still being taken in the case, suggesting that it has much further to go with many more fees to be paid.
25170  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Jack LaLanne on: January 24, 2011, 12:08:05 AM

Fitness Guru Jack LaLanne Dies at 96
Published January 23, 2011

Feb. 20, 1980: Jack LaLanne pumps iron in the gym in his home in Hollywood, Calif.

LOS ANGELES -- Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru who inspired television viewers to trim down, eat well and pump iron for decades before diet and exercise became a national obsession, died Sunday. He was 96.  LaLanne died of respiratory failure due to pneumonia Sunday afternoon at his home in Morro Bay on California's central coast, his longtime agent Rick Hersh said.

LaLanne ate healthy and exercised every day of his life up until the end, Hersh said.

"I have not only lost my husband and a great American icon, but the best friend and most loving partner anyone could ever hope for," Elaine LaLanne, LaLanne's wife of 51 years and a frequent partner in his television appearances, said in a written statement.

He maintained a youthful physique and joked in 2006 that "I can't afford to die. It would wreck my image."

Former "Price is Right" host Bob Barker credited LaLanne's encouragement with helping him to start exercising often.

"He never lost enthusiasm for life and physical fitness," the 87-year-old Barker told The Associated Press on Sunday. "I saw him in about 2007 and he still looked remarkably good. He still looked like the same enthusiastic guy that he always was."

LaLanne (pronounced lah-LAYN') credited a sudden interest in fitness with transforming his life as a teen, and he worked tirelessly over the next eight decades to transform others' lives, too.

"The only way you can hurt the body is not use it," LaLanne said. "Inactivity is the killer and, remember, it's never too late."

His workout show was a television staple from the 1950s to the '70s. LaLanne and his dog Happy encouraged kids to wake their mothers and drag them in front of the television set. He developed exercises that used no special equipment, just a chair and a towel.

He also founded a chain of fitness studios that bore his name and in recent years touted the value of raw fruit and vegetables as he helped market a machine called Jack LaLanne's Power Juicer.

When he turned 43 in 1957, he performed more than 1,000 push-ups in 23 minutes on the "You Asked For It" television show. At 60, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco -- handcuffed, shackled and towing a boat. Ten years later, he performed a similar feat in Long Beach harbor.

"I never think of my age, never," LaLanne said in 1990. "I could be 20 or 100. I never think about it, I'm just me. Look at Bob Hope, George Burns. They're more productive than they've ever been in their whole lives right now."

Fellow bodybuilder and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger credited LaLanne with taking exercise out of the gymnasium and into living rooms.

"He laid the groundwork for others to have exercise programs, and now it has bloomed from that black and white program into a very colorful enterprise," Schwarzenegger said in 1990.

In 1936 in his native Oakland, LaLanne opened a health studio that included weight-training for women and athletes. Those were revolutionary notions at the time, because of the theory that weight training made an athlete slow and "muscle bound" and made a woman look masculine.

"You have to understand that it was absolutely forbidden in those days for athletes to use weights," he once said. "It just wasn't done. We had athletes who used to sneak into the studio to work out.  It was the same with women. Back then, women weren't supposed to use weights. I guess I was a pioneer," LaLanne said.

The son of poor French immigrants, he was born in 1914 and grew up to become a sugar addict, he said.  The turning point occurred one night when he heard a lecture by pioneering nutritionist Paul Bragg, who advocated the benefits of brown rice, whole wheat and a vegetarian diet.

"He got me so enthused," LaLanne said. "After the lecture I went to his dressing room and spent an hour and a half with him. He said, 'Jack, you're a walking garbage can."'

Soon after, LaLanne constructed a makeshift gym in his back yard. "I had all these firemen and police working out there and I kind of used them as guinea pigs," he said.

He said his own daily routine usually consisted of two hours of weightlifting and an hour in the swimming pool.

"It's a lifestyle, it's something you do the rest of your life," LaLanne said. "How long are you going to keep breathing? How long do you keep eating? You just do it."

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Dan and Jon, and a daughter, Yvonne.

Read more:

25171  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: January 23, 2011, 08:43:29 PM
That's always a good thing cheesy

Grateful for taking my horse-crazy daughter to see Cavalia today.  Hard to describe, a blend of humans and horses doing ballet is as close as I can get to it-- one of the most beautiful things I've seen.
25172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: January 23, 2011, 12:46:39 PM
Question presented:  This will sound good to many people. How to reply?

1) Good idea!  Lets work together on the details!

2) Bad idea because __________________ !  Instead lets:
                        a) keep things the way the are
                        b) here's a better way, specfically , , ,   
25173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: No Better Southern Man on: January 23, 2011, 12:40:06 PM

 Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.

The featureless flat plains of West Tennessee seemed an unlikely locale to harbor a “Southern Black Republican.” But his political opponents routinely hung this epithet — and worse — on Rep. Emerson Etheridge. That’s because, unlike many Southern antisecessionists in early 1861, Etheridge continued to proclaim unconditional loyalty to the Union. Even worse, he ridiculed the idea that the Republican Party intended to interfere with slavery. Secessionists and Southern Rights supporters sputtered in frustration. Etheridge, they said, had fallen into “the depths of disgrace and infamy.” He appealed only to the “ignorant and blind lick-spittles” rather than to “the slaveholding and enlightened portion of the people.”

A 40-something widower with two young daughters, Etheridge had an easy charisma and a compelling speaking voice. His young colleague, Robert Hatton, newly elected to represent an adjacent district, quickly developed a fast friendship with Etheridge. “If he was a woman,” Hatton gushed to his wife, Sophia Hatton, “you would be certain we were dead in love with each other. . . . We eat together, walk to and from the Capitol together, sit in the House together, room by each other, [and] are alike in politics, in religion, and our feelings and sympathies.” Both stubbornly shunned alcohol and the other vices of Washington life.

Library of Congress
Rep. Emerson Etheridge of TennesseeEtheridge’s personality and oratorical power made him a natural leader of the close to two dozen members of the House of Representatives who called themselves the “Southern Opposition.” All were former Whigs, almost all from the Upper South. The opposition bloc held the balance of power in the House, which was closely divided between Republicans and Democrats. And they used that influence during the first few months of 1861 to keep the Upper South from seceding – a fact that explodes any notion of the white South as a unified region hellbent on leaving the Union.

Etheridge made one of his most important speeches against secession on the floor of the House on Wednesday, Jan. 23. He charged that secessionists had fabricated a mass delusion: “Thousands believe honestly that Lincoln and his cohorts are coming down to apply the torch and the knife to the dwellings and people of the South.” But that was just baseless hysteria, he said; Republicans had already renounced “any desire or any power to interfere with slavery in the States of this Union.” He scorned the idea that the South needed to expand slavery to the territories, or that the North had defaulted on its obligation to return fugitive slaves. The evils that secessionists pretended to fear were flimsy or imaginary.

Just then a thin, reedy voice demanded, “I merely wish to know whether the gentleman is speaking on the side of the North or the South?” The interruption came from Shelton Leake, a Virginia disunionist.

Etheridge shot back immediately: “I am speaking on a side that has few representatives on this floor. I am speaking on the side of my country!” A reporter for the Cincinnati Commercial described Etheridge’s retort as a “clincher”—“The noble, exalted tone and emphasis in which this was uttered, rang through the hall.” A resounding applause rang through the galleries.

The speech struck people outside the Capitol as well: a groundswell of support soon developed in the free states to find a position in Lincoln’s cabinet for Etheridge. His “unswerving patriotism” and his “sterling, practical qualities” stood out, said one such advocate. “No better Southern man could be found.”

Etheridge wasn’t alone. His address opened the floodgates to a torrent of Southern Unionist speeches in late January and early February. Few of his allies in Congress were quite so ready as he to give the Republican Party a clean bill of health, but they heartily agreed that secession was a virulent epidemic that would sicken or kill its host. It threatened to ignite a civil war that would destroy slavery. Rammed through with hot haste, it confronted the Upper South with an outrageous fait accompli. Just as delegates from the Deep South were meeting in Montgomery, Ala., to organize the Confederate government, Robert Hatton charged that disunionists were “practically our enemies, as truly as the most unprincipled fanatics of the North.”

Members of the Southern Opposition bloc pleaded with Republicans to take steps that might reassure nervous white Southerners. Most wanted to see the Crittenden Compromise approved, which promised to protect slavery in territories south of 36° 30´, including those “hereafter acquired.” Rep. John A. Gilmer of North Carolina reasoned that secessionists clamored for protection not because it was “really valuable to the South,” or injurious to the North, but rather in the hope that Republicans “will refuse it, and by your refusal, they hope the South will be inflamed to the extent of breaking up this Government.” The most stringent protection for slavery in the territories would be no more likely to create additional slave states, Gilmer insisted, than “the drying up of the Mississippi could be secured by act of Congress.”

But no Republican could countenance Kentucky Sen. John J. Crittenden’s insidious formula. To do so might open the door to a slave empire in the Caribbean and Central America — and much more immediately, they feared, it would tear apart the Republican party. Conciliatory Republicans instead offered to admit all existing territory south of 36° 30´ into the Union as the slave state of New Mexico, and to amend the Constitution to forbid interference with slavery in the states where it already existed. Abraham Lincoln passed word that he could live with these concessions — and so did some Southern Unionists. Forget about “hereafter acquired,” they suggested. Give us New Mexico and the constitutional amendment, and we can hold the Upper South.

Civil War Timeline

An unfolding history of the Civil War with photos and articles from the Times archive and ongoing commentary from Disunion contributors.

Visit the Timeline »
.Voters in the Upper South had their say in February 1861. In state after state, starting with Virginia on February 4, emphatic popular majorities opposed secession. This outcome resulted in part from a massive mailing of pro-Union speeches. Night after night, Hatton reported to his wife, he and other Southern Unionists in Congress stayed up late franking thousands of copies of their oratory for free postal delivery. When given the opportunity to do so, voters in North Carolina and Tennessee even opposed letting a state convention meet. But Unionist victories were conditional, based on the assumption that Republicans would offer concessions and, most of all, that the incoming administration would not use armed force against the Deep South.

When Lincoln took his oath of office on March 4, eight slave states, home to two-thirds of white Southerners, remained in the Union. An uneasy peace prevailed. Tennessee Congressman Horace Maynard beseeched Republicans to act cautiously. “Believe me,” he pleaded, “the moment you wage war, you array the entire South, as one man, in behalf of the portion that is attacked. It is as when a brother is assailed, all his brethren rush to his rescue, not stopping to inquire whether, in the contest, he be right or wrong.” Maynard exaggerated. His home region of East Tennessee would not follow the secessionist lead once the war started, and Maynard himself ended up an unconditional Unionist and a Republican. But Maynard, on balance, knew much about how the future would unfold.

Library of Congress
Rep. Robert Hatton, in Confederate Army uniformOf course, when push came to shove in the Upper South, and its citizens no longer could avoid the dread matter of choosing sides in a war, slavery did much to determine the outcome. Though Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia all seceded, regions with few slaves resisted. Although Emerson Etheridge owned 10 slaves, most of the voters in his district owned none. He stayed loyal to the Union and many of his constituents volunteered for the Union Army. But regions with more substantial slaveholdings — even Whig-Opposition enclaves that had stoutly resisted secession before mid-April — suddenly gave way and embraced the Confederacy.

On the other hand, Robert Hatton represented part of the fertile Cumberland Basin, where many families held slaves. Seventeen men, women and children were listed as his property on the slave schedule of the 1860 census. Notwithstanding Hatton’s pre-war Unionism, he volunteered to organize a regiment for the Confederate army and was promoted to command a brigade. On the last day of May 1862, at the battle of Seven Pines east of Richmond, Va., General Hatton was instantly killed by enemy fire while leading his troops across an open field.

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Sources: Cincinnati Commercial, Jan. 26 and Jan. 28, 1861; Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, Second Session; James Vaulx Drake, “Life of General Robert Hatton, Including His Most Important Public Speeches; Together, with Much of his Washington and Army Correspondence“; Daniel W. Crofts, “Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis.”

25174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes/POTH: Free Market CIA on: January 23, 2011, 12:25:14 PM
WASHINGTON — Duane R. Clarridge parted company with the Central Intelligence Agency more than two decades ago, but from poolside at his home near San Diego, he still runs a network of spies.

Over the past two years, he has fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan. Since the United States military cut off his funding in May, he has relied on like-minded private donors to pay his agents to continue gathering information about militant fighters, Taliban leaders and the secrets of Kabul’s ruling class.
Hatching schemes that are something of a cross between a Graham Greene novel and Mad Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy,” Mr. Clarridge has sought to discredit Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar power broker who has long been on the C.I.A. payroll, and planned to set spies on his half brother, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in hopes of collecting beard trimmings or other DNA samples that might prove Mr. Clarridge’s suspicions that the Afghan leader was a heroin addict, associates say.

Mr. Clarridge, 78, who was indicted on charges of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra scandal and later pardoned, is described by those who have worked with him as driven by the conviction that Washington is bloated with bureaucrats and lawyers who impede American troops in fighting adversaries and that leaders are overly reliant on mercurial allies.

His dispatches — an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports — have been sent to military officials who, until last spring at least, found some credible enough to be used in planning strikes against militants in Afghanistan. They are also fed to conservative commentators, including Oliver L. North, a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst, and Brad Thor, an author of military thrillers and a frequent guest of Glenn Beck.

For all of the can-you-top-this qualities to Mr. Clarridge’s operation, it is a startling demonstration of how private citizens can exploit the chaos of combat zones and rivalries inside the American government to carry out their own agenda.

It also shows how the outsourcing of military and intelligence operations has spawned legally murky clandestine operations that can be at cross-purposes with America’s foreign policy goals. Despite Mr. Clarridge’s keen interest in undermining Afghanistan’s ruling family, President Obama’s administration appears resigned to working with President Karzai and his half brother, who is widely suspected of having ties to drug traffickers.

Charles E. Allen, a former top intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security who worked with Mr. Clarridge at the C.I.A., termed him an “extraordinary” case officer who had operated on “the edge of his skis” in missions abroad years ago.

But he warned against Mr. Clarridge’s recent activities, saying that private spies operating in war zones “can get both nations in trouble and themselves in trouble.” He added, “We don’t need privateers.”

The private spying operation, which The New York Times disclosed last year, was tapped by a military desperate for information about its enemies and frustrated with the quality of intelligence from the C.I.A., an agency that colleagues say Mr. Clarridge now views largely with contempt. The effort was among a number of secret activities undertaken by the American government in a shadow war around the globe to combat militants and root out terrorists.

The Pentagon official who arranged a contract for Mr. Clarridge in 2009 is under investigation for allegations of violating Defense Department rules in awarding that contract. Because of the continuing inquiry, most of the dozen current and former government officials, private contractors and associates of Mr. Clarridge who were interviewed for this article would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Clarridge declined to be interviewed, but issued a statement that likened his operation, called the Eclipse Group, to the Office of Strategic Services, the C.I.A.’s World War II precursor.

“O.S.S. was a success of the past,” he wrote. “Eclipse may possibly be an effective model for the future, providing information to officers and officials of the United States government who have the sole responsibility of acting on it or not.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Col. David Lapan, declined to comment on Mr. Clarridge’s network, but said the Defense Department “believes that reliance on unvetted and uncorroborated information from private sources may endanger the force and taint information collected during legitimate intelligence operations.”

Whether military officials still listen to Mr. Clarridge or support his efforts to dig up dirt on the Karzai family is unclear. But it is evident that Mr. Clarridge — bespectacled and doughy, with a shock of white hair — is determined to remain a player.

On May 15, according to a classified Pentagon report on the private spying operation, he sent an encrypted e-mail to military officers in Kabul announcing that his network was being shut down because the Pentagon had just terminated his contract. He wrote that he had to “prepare approximately 200 local personnel to cease work.”

In fact, he had no intention of closing his operation. The very next day, he set up a password-protected Web site,, that would allow officers to continue viewing his dispatches.

A Staunch Interventionist

From his days running secret wars for the C.I.A. in Central America to his consulting work in the 1990s on a plan to insert Special Operations troops in Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, Mr. Clarridge has been an unflinching cheerleader for American intervention overseas.

Typical of his pugnacious style are his comments, provided in a 2008 interview for a documentary now on YouTube, defending many of the C.I.A.’s most notorious operations, including undermining the Chilean president Salvador Allende, before a coup ousted him 1973.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, things have to be changed in a rather ugly way,” said Mr. Clarridge, his New England accent becoming more pronounced the angrier he became. “We’ll intervene whenever we decide it’s in our national security interests to intervene.”

“Get used to it, world,” he said. “We’re not going to put up with nonsense.”


He is also stirred by the belief that the C.I.A. has failed to protect American troops in Afghanistan, and that the Obama administration has struck a Faustian bargain with President Karzai, according to four current and former associates. They say Mr. Clarridge thinks that the Afghan president will end up cutting deals with Pakistan or Iran and selling out the United States, making American troops the pawns in the Great Game of power politics in the region.

Mr. Clarridge — known to virtually everyone by his childhood nickname, Dewey — was born into a staunchly Republican family in New Hampshire, attended Brown University and joined the spy agency during its freewheeling early years. He eventually became head of the agency’s Latin America division in 1981 and helped found the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center five years later.
In postings in India, Turkey, Italy and elsewhere, Mr. Clarridge, using pseudonyms that included Dewey Marone and Dax Preston LeBaron, made a career of testing boundaries in the dark space of American foreign policy. In his 1997 memoir, he wrote about trying to engineer pro-American governments in Italy in the late 1970s (the former American ambassador to Rome, Richard N. Gardner, called him “shallow and devious”), and helping run the Reagan administration’s covert wars against Marxist guerrillas in Central America during the 1980s.

He was indicted in 1991 on charges of lying to Congress about his role in the Iran-contra scandal; he had testified that he was unaware of arms shipments to Iran. But he was pardoned the next year by the first President George Bush.

Now, more than two decades after Mr. Clarridge was forced to resign from the intelligence agency, he tries to run his group of spies as a C.I.A. in miniature. Working from his house in a San Diego suburb, he uses e-mail to stay in contact with his “agents” — their code names include Willi and Waco — in Afghanistan and Pakistan, writing up intelligence summaries based on their reports, according to associates.

Mr. Clarridge assembled a team of Westerners, Afghans and Pakistanis not long after a security consulting firm working for The Times subcontracted with him in December 2008 to assist in the release of a reporter, David Rohde, who had been kidnapped by the Taliban. Mr. Rohde escaped on his own seven months later, but Mr. Clarridge used his role in the episode to promote his group to military officials in Afghanistan.

In July 2009, according to the Pentagon report, he set out to prove his worth to the Pentagon by directing his team to gather information in Pakistan’s tribal areas to help find a young American soldier who had been captured by Taliban militants. (The soldier, Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, remains in Taliban hands.)

Four months later, the security firm that Mr. Clarridge was affiliated with, the American International Security Corporation, won a Pentagon contract ultimately worth about $6 million. American officials said the contract was arranged by Michael D. Furlong, a senior Defense Department civilian with a military “information warfare” command in San Antonio.

To get around a Pentagon ban on hiring contractors as spies, the report said, Mr. Furlong’s team simply rebranded their activities as “atmospheric information” rather than “intelligence.”

Mr. Furlong, now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general, was accused in the internal Pentagon report of carrying out “unauthorized” intelligence gathering, and misleading senior military officers about it. He has said that he became a scapegoat for top commanders in Afghanistan who had blessed his activities.

As for Mr. Clarridge, American law prohibits private citizens from actively undermining a foreign government, but prosecutions under the so-called Neutrality Act have historically been limited to people raising private armies against foreign powers. Legal experts said Mr. Clarridge’s plans against the Afghan president fell in a gray area, but would probably not violate the law.

Intelligence of Varying Quality

It is difficult to assess the merits of Mr. Clarridge’s secret intelligence dispatches; a review of some of the documents by The Times shows that some appear to be based on rumors from talk at village bazaars or rehashes of press reports.


Others, though, contain specific details about militant plans to attack American troops, and about Taliban leadership meetings in Pakistan. Mr. Clarridge gave the military an in-depth report about a militant group, the Haqqani Network, in August 2009, a document that officials said helped the military track Haqqani fighters. According to the Pentagon report, Mr. Clarridge told Marine commanders in Afghanistan in June 2010 that his group produced 500 intelligence dispatches before its contract was terminated.

When the military would not listen to him, Mr. Clarridge found other ways to peddle his information. For instance, his private spies in April and May were reporting that Mullah Muhammad Omar, the reclusive cleric who leads the Afghan Taliban, had been captured by Pakistani officials and placed under house arrest. Associates said Mr. Clarridge believed that Pakistan’s spy service was playing a game: keeping Mullah Omar confined but continuing to support the Afghan Taliban.
Both military and intelligence officials said the information could not be corroborated, but Mr. Clarridge used back channels to pass it on to senior Obama administration officials, including Dennis C. Blair, then the director of national intelligence.

And associates said that Mr. Clarridge, determined to make the information public, arranged for it to get to Mr. Thor, a square-jawed writer of thrillers, a blogger and a regular guest on Mr. Beck’s program on Fox News.

Most of Mr. Thor’s books are yarns about the heroic exploits of Special Operations troops. In interviews, he said he was once embedded with a “black special ops team” and helped expose “a Taliban pornography/murder ring.”

On May 10, — a Web site run by the conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart — published an “exclusive” by Mr. Thor, who declined to comment for this article.

“Through key intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Mr. Thor wrote, “I have just learned that reclusive Taliban leader and top Osama bin Laden ally, Mullah Omar, has been taken into custody.”

Just last week, he blogged about another report — unconfirmed by American officials — from Mr. Clarridge’s group: that Mullah Omar had suffered a heart attack and was rushed to a hospital by Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.

“America is being played,” he wrote.

Taking on Afghan Leaders

Mr. Clarridge and his spy network also took sides in an internecine government battle over Ahmed Wali Karzai, head of the Khandahar Provincial Council.

For years, the American military has believed that public anger over government-linked corruption has helped swell the Taliban’s ranks, and that Ahmed Wali Karzai plays a central role in that corruption. He has repeatedly denied any links to the Afghan drug trafficking.

According to three American military officials, in April 2009 Gen. David D. McKiernan, then the top American commander in Afghanistan, told subordinates that he wanted them to gather any evidence that might tie the president’s half brother to the drug trade. “He put the word out that he wanted to ‘burn’ Ahmed Wali Karzai,” said one of the military officials.

In early 2010, after General McKiernan left Afghanistan and Mr. Clarridge was under contract to the military, the former spy helped produce a dossier for commanders detailing allegations about Mr. Karzai’s drug connections, land grabs and even murders in southern Afghanistan. The document, provided to The Times, speculates that Mr. Karzai’s ties to the C.I.A. — which has paid him an undetermined amount of money since 2001 — may be the reason the agency “is the only member of the country team in Kabul not to advocate taking a more active stance against AWK.”

Ultimately, though, the military could not amass enough hard proof to convince other American officials of Mr. Karzai’s supposed crimes, and backed off efforts to remove him from power.

Mr. Clarridge would soon set his sights higher: on President Hamid Karzai himself. Over the summer, after the Pentagon canceled his contract, Mr. Clarridge decided that the United States needed leverage over the Afghan president. So the former spy, running his network with money from unidentified donors, came up with an outlandish scheme that seems to come straight from the C.I.A.’s past playbook of covert operations.

There have long been rumors that Hamid Karzai uses drugs, in part because of his often erratic behavior, but the accusation was aired publicly last year by Peter W. Galbraith, a former United Nations representative in Afghanistan. American officials have said publicly that there is no evidence to support the allegation of drug use.

Mr. Clarridge pushed a plan to prove that the president was a heroin addict, and then confront him with the evidence to ensure that he became a more pliable ally. Mr. Clarridge proposed various ideas, according to several associates, from using his team to track couriers between the presidential palace in Kabul and Ahmed Wali Karzai’s home in Kandahar, to even finding a way to collect Hamid Karzai’s beard clippings and run DNA tests. He eventually dropped his ideas when the Obama administration signaled it was committed to bolstering the Karzai government.

Still, associates said, Mr. Clarridge maneuvered against the Karzais last summer by helping promote videos, available on YouTube, purporting to represent the “Voice of Afghan Youth.” The slick videos disparage the president as the “king of Kabul” who regularly takes money from the Iranians, and Ahmed Wali Karzai as the “prince of Kandahar” who “takes the monthly gold from the American intelligence boss” and makes the Americans “his puppet.”

The videos received almost no attention when they were posted on the Internet, but were featured in July on the Fox News Web site in a column by Mr. North, who declined to comment for this article. Writing that he had “stumbled” on the videos on the Internet, he called them a “treasure trove.”

Mr. Clarridge, his associates say, continues to dream up other operations against the Afghan president and his inner circle. When he was an official spy, Mr. Clarridge recalled in his memoir, he bristled at the C.I.A.’s bureaucracy for thwarting his plans to do maximum harm to America’s enemies. “It’s not like I’m running my own private C.I.A.,” he wrote, “and can do what I want.”
25175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ban people, not guns? on: January 23, 2011, 12:13:14 PM
From today's POTH.  Comments?
WITH the Tucson shootings still in the news, there’s a good chance President Obama will discuss gun control in his speech. How he does it could mean progress or stalemate on the issue.

The President’s Speech
 What Should the President Say?
Politicians, journalists and experts in various fields share what issues they would like addressed in the President’s State of the Union speech.

Read More »
.Over the last few weeks, gun-control advocates have focused on banning the type of high-capacity clips that the police say was used by the man accused in the Tucson shootings, Jared Loughner. But even timely efforts to ban particular kinds of weapons face long odds politically, and historically have less success in reducing crime.

To get something done with a skeptical Congress, the president ought to shift the focus from the instruments of violence to the perpetrators by calling for a substantial increase in the number of people who are listed by the F.B.I. as barred from purchasing guns.

This year, the government will conduct about 14 million background checks on prospective firearm buyers. Only about 200,000, or just over 1 percent, will be denied permission to buy.

What’s more, while the F.B.I. database, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, has nearly 6.5 million records of prohibited buyers, two-thirds are simply the names of undocumented immigrants, who as a group constitute just 1 percent of those who were denied a gun.

In contrast, the entire prohibited-buyer database holds just 2,092 names of drug abusers, and only one of every 5,000 prospective buyers in 2010 was denied for reasons of mental instability.

A big part of the problem is that people who should be on the list, like those diagnosed with severe mental-health problems, are often left off, either because of bureaucratic hurdles or because several states are slow to report them to the federal government. According to a report by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, New Jersey submitted just eight names in 34 months from 2008 to 2010, compared with 60,677 from Texas.

The president should therefore call for several additions to the database: names on the terrorist watch list, military recruits who fail drug tests and patients ordered to undergo mental-health treatment, if their doctor or family requests they be added. He should also demand that reluctant states supply court records on mentally incapacitated residents.

An approach aimed at the person, not the gun, has a real chance of winning bipartisan support.

25176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A big POTH/NYTimes piece on: January 23, 2011, 12:01:22 PM
I've only read the first page of the piece, but it looks to be interesting in a POTH sort of way , , ,
25177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The First Amendment & Free Speech on: January 22, 2011, 11:37:23 PM
I have just added the words "Free Speech" to the name of this thread to make it relevant not only to First Amendment issues (which also fit on the Constutitional Law thread on the SCH forum) but to the efforts to silence speech politically such as we now see coming out of the Left.

This is the thread for discussing such efforts.
25178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: January 22, 2011, 11:31:45 PM
Its me, wearing my Thread Police hat.  smiley  May I ask you to put this at  

I just renamed the thread a bit to dial it in a bit better.
25179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: January 22, 2011, 11:25:02 PM
Thanks for the greater accuracy.
25180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 22, 2011, 09:54:51 PM
Only if we put that choice to them.

Any comments from anyone on the substance of the article?  I always appreciate the Indian POV on Pakistan; the Indians (at least the pieces forwarded to me by my Hindu friend) always seem to have much more knowledge and insight into what is going on there whereas BO (and Bush too for that matter) just seems to be coyote to the various roadrunners of the region.
25181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New fines on: January 22, 2011, 09:54:05 PM
Sent by a not always reliable internet friend, but it sounds plausible:

Drive carefully my friends
California Traffic Tickets Fines Effective 01/06/2011




HUGE California Traffic Tickets Fines Effective 01/06/2011

Please be extremely careful in your driving and car registration & insurance
matters.  State of California is broke and they are trying hard to squeeze
all of us hard to collect money.

Effective immediately, if you do not stop at the red light, be ready to pay
$436 in fines or if you pass a school bus with flashing red signals, you
will be charged $616.  The state of California is going for blood, so be
extra careful in driving, You cannot afford messing with them.  I have been
hearing that Highway Patrols are under pressure to issue a lot more tickets
than last year with at least 30% increase in fines over 2009, so beware of
radar guns, highway and traffic cameras installed everywhere and the tougher
enforcement of parking rules.

Just for your info, the next time you park in the handicapped zone, even for
a minute, you will be looking at almost $ 1000 in parking tickets , so it'd
better be worth it.

California needs money, so pay close attention to the rules of the road!

          Traffic Ticket Fines (Effective 01/06/2011)

VC 12814.6    $214           Failure to obey license provisions.

VC 14600(A)     $214         Failure to notify DMV of address change
within 10 days

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 16028(A)     $796         Failure to provide evidence of financial
responsibility (insurance)

Note: This fine may be reduced with proof of insurance on or after the
violation date.

VC 21453(A)     $436         Failure to stop at a red signal.

VC 22349           $214        Unsafe speed,  1 to 15 miles over the limit.

VC 22350           $328         Unsafe speed, 16 to 25 miles over the limit.

VC 22450           $214         Failure to stop at a stop sign.

VC 22454(A)      $616        Passing a school bus with flashing red signals.

VC 23123(A)      $148        Driving while using a wireless phone not
hands free, first offense .

VC 23123(B)      $256        Driving while using a wireless phone not
hands free, each subsequent offense.

VC 23123.5        $148        Driving while using a wireless device to
send, read or write text.

VC 23124            $148       Minor driving while using a wireless phone.

VC 22500            $976       Parking in a bus loading area.

VC 22507(A)       $976       Violation of disabled parking provisions,
first offense.

VC 22507(B)     $1876       Violation of disabled parking provisions,
second offense.

VC 26708            $178        Unlawful material on vehicle windows.

VC 27150            $178        Adequate muffler required.

VC 27315            $148        Mandatory use of seat belts.

VC 27360            $436        Mandatory use of passenger child restraints.

Note: This fine may be reduced by completing a court authorized child seat
diversion program .

VC 27400            $178        Headsets or Earplugs covering both ears.

VC 27803            $178        Violation of motorcycle safety helmet

VC 34506            $616        Commercial Driver - Log book violation.

VC 4000              $256        No evidence of current registration.

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 4159              $178        Notify DMV of change of address within 10

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 5200             $178         Proper display of license plates.

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 9400             $178         Commercial weight fees due.

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. -- Voltaire
25182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An Indian analysis: Pakistan's Multiple Crises on: January 22, 2011, 06:47:30 PM
Note the interesting comments on Indian Muslims at the end too.
Pakistan Multiple Crises

Two to three years has been the average life span of elected governments in Pakistan ever since Z A Bhutto was PM from 1973 to 1977. His daughter Benazir alternated with her rival Nawaz Sharif from 1988 till 1999 when the Mian Sahib was overthrown by yet another saviour in Khaki, General Pervez Musharraf. And both former Prime Ministers were forced into exile.

Thus, going by past precedents the present combine of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani would now seem to have run out of its allotted time. Several crises confront the PPP led government and there are no easy solutions, quite a few outside the range of the PPP leadership's capabilities to solve them.

The Commissar and the General

Apart from the ongoing turmoil in FATA and the tussle between the US and the Pak Army over North Waziristan is well known. An exasperated US administration finds itself unable to push the Pakistan Army led by Gen Kayani into launching operations in North Waziristan as it prepares for its draw down of forces later in the year. Each time the Americans press this issue or launch their drone attacks they slip in their popularity rating among the Pakistanis and each time Gen Kayani stonewalls he shines as a patriot.

The General has been driving a hard bargain with the Americans successfully as he silently strengthens his hold both on the system and the armed forces. Quite obviously, General Kayani has an agenda that goes beyond just refurbishing the image of the Army with generous assistance from the US. A professional Army does not need three year extensions in service to its Chief beyond the stipulated term unless the agenda is wider and political or ominously, even military and strategic.

Setting aside the economic crisis that engulfs Pakistan, there are two other crises that are brewing a political crisis in Islamabad and an ethnic-religious crisis in Karachi of grave dimensions that no one really wants to talk about.

A Political Crisis Unfolds

Zardari and Gilani are resigned to having to deal with an over bearing Army since this is the way of political life in Pakistan. But they have other disadvantages compared to their main political rival, Mian Nawaz Sharif and his PML (N) or even their ally the MQM led by Altaf Hussain both of who command personal loyalties and have strong cadre based parties.

Nawaz controls the Punjab, while Altaf controls Karachi. Gilani and Zardari are comparative lightweights in the PPP and do not command that kind of respect that these two do within their parties and people. Nawaz is a Punjabi, has close links with the Saudis and the Jamaat Islami, which has a following in the Pak Army. He himself has strong right wing religious leanings, which endears him to a section of the Army and the religious parties. Yes his attempts to manipulate the Army in the past despite being originally a protigi of the Army, and his religious leanings would make him unacceptable to the Army and the US.

In a free and fair election, Nawaz could possibly sweep Punjab and he who wins Punjab rules Pakistan. This is possibly Kayani's threat to the Americans at this juncture a few months before they plan their pull out. In the present crisis, perhaps Nawaz himself would not want to take over the reins of office so it suits him to see the government further weakened. He would rather wait it out unless an election is thrust upon him.

The MQM's Complaints

The MQM crisis is somewhat different. While the world's attention has been focused on the war in FATA against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the NWFP (Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa) ethnic and religious violence has been increasing alarmingly in Karachi. The MQM has for years complained and feared that the ingress of Pushtuns from the frontier many of whom are Talibanised would tilt the balance away from them while the activities of religious parties like the Deobandi parties like Lashkar e Jhangvi would further erode its hold in urban Sindh especially Karachi and Hyderabad. There is another complication in that politically the Mohajirs support the MQM, the Sindhis support the PPP and the Pushtun support the Awami National Party. The latter two invariably combine against the MQM.

Politically motivated targeted killings in Karachi have been increasing alarmingly. The Daily Times of Lahore reported that last year about 780 people were killed in ethnic, religious and political violence in Karachi which is similar to the suicide killings in the NWFP (797) and more than in the rest of the country (427). While the MQM may have its own political objectives in complaining to Gilani about the worsening law and order situation in Karachi the fact is that the metropolis has become a hot bed of rivalries between various competing and conflicting interests with strong overtones of a Talibanised culture and MQM fears it may have to cede ground to Wahhabi-Salafi beliefs brought in by more and more Pushtun leaving their homes for Karachi. Islamabad's failure to redress the MQM's complaints is the real reason for the threat of MQM to walk out although it is camouflaged in economic demands to bring in support from the Sindhis as well. To make matters worse for the MQM, its leaders have been trading insults with the PML (N) leadership. Consequently, the political situation looks very uncertain and the PPP looks extremely weak. And enter General Kayani centre stage?

The Assassination and the Islamic Fundamentalist Fervour

There is another development that could make the Army even more indispensible to the situation in today's Pakistan - the assassination of Salman Taseer the Punjab Governor and a close ally and friend of President Zardari, by one of his own guards for his opposition to Blasphemy Laws. It is not the first time that the religious right has resorted to punish those opposed to its creed. While Pakistan's liberal elite may mourn Taseer's death a wide section of the religious right has actually approved the killing.

The comments that were visible on Twitter and Facebook supporting the assassin were a chilling indicator of the direction Pakistan had taken in recent years. Killing for religion is frightening enough but the reaction that has been visible is even more frightening. The diktat by the Jamaate Ahle Sunnat Pakistan that no Muslim should attend Taseer's funeral sends a chill down every liberal spine.

The JASP is the largest body of the Barelvi group and considerate moderate in comparison to the Deobandhi-Wahhabi-Salafi Sunnis. Gen Zia's dream has become Pakistan's nightmare. The message to the liberal elite is - shut up and put up. The comment by the well known Pakistani commentator Cyril Almeida that, "Conservative forces are not just on a roll in Pakistan, they're pretty dominant. And liberal forces are not just on the back foot, but, really, they are extinguished," sums up the despondency and the gravity.

This is not the first time that a prominent Pakistani leader has been assassinated by suspected Islamic hardliners or attempts have been made. Benazir was killed by three years ago at the second attempt. They almost succeeded in killing Gen Musharraf in 2003 when he turned his back to the Taliban and some religious extremists in response to American demands. Then there were several attacks on the symbols of Pak power since September 11, 2001 including the Army and obviously the rot had set in but all this was swept away in the larger interest of preserving the peace and fighting the larger American war.

Teacher's Pets

In the midst of all this one would continue to have doubts about Pakistani leadership's commitment to fight terror. It is believed that, the well-known senior Pakistani terrorist Qari Saifullah Akhtar from the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami with links to both the ISI and Al Qaeda was released from custody in early in December 2010. He had been taken into custody in August 2010 for trying to recruit five Americans for Al Qaeda when they had visited Pakistan in November 2009.

Qari Akhtar has a colourful jihadi history. Qari and the HUJI have been very close to the Taliban and Al Qaeda; he was involved along with some jihadi Army officers in an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Gen Abdul Waheed Kakkar in 1995 and over throw the government in 1995. Released in 1996, Akhtar fled to Afghanistan and then plotted the assassination of General Musharraf in 2003; he fled again to the UAE, deported in 2004 and released from custody again in 2007; was suspected to have been involved in the abortive attempt on Benazir in October 2007; detained in February 2008 and released in June 2008; and he was one of the main conspirators in the attack on the Marriott hotel in Islamabad in September 2008.

The ease with which Akhtar has been able to change residence only adds to suspicions that when the trail gets too hot the Pakistani establishment pulls in its assets for the trail to go cold and then release them when it is considered safe. This happens ever so often to Lashkar e Tayyaba leader Hafiz Saeed and the Jaish e Mohammed leader Maulana Masood Azhar.

Indian reactions

Some of us worry that this could have an adverse reaction in India. There is an overreaction in some sections about intolerance in India. We must learn to trust the Indian Muslim instead of assuming he will be influenced by events and thought processes or ideologies in Pakistan. In so doing we challenge his intelligence and doubt his loyalties. In Pakistan they demanded the funeral of Taseer be boycotted because he was a liberal, in India the Indian Muslim leaders refused to allow the killers of Mumbai 26/11 be buried on Indian soil because they were terrorists. That is the difference between them and us.

True there is a fringe element in India as in most democratic societies but it does not endanger the state in the manner it has in Pakistan where it is no longer a fringe element but may well have become mainstream. In fact, extreme belief has been state sponsored in Pakistan; not so in India. The trick is to marginalise the extreme fringe but not to frighten the mainstream. Reaction here tends to lose touch with Indian realities and creates more discord. Careless off the cuff remarks are more responsible for this sort of thing and do not make for responsible commentary. By Vikram Sood(ANI)
25183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tea Party in NH on: January 22, 2011, 03:04:05 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Sat, January 22, 2011 -- 3:44 PM ET

Tea Party Supporter Chosen to Lead New Hampshire Republicans

Jack Kimball, a Tea Party activist who ran for governor of
New Hampshire last year, was selected on Saturday to be the
new chairman of the Republican party in the state. He
defeated Juliana Bergeron, who had the backing of John H.
Sununu, the former governor and departing party chairman.

With the state's first-in-the-nation primary just over a year
away, Mr. Kimball's victory could further strengthen the role
of Tea Party members and possibly influence how presidential
candidates approach the state in the coming months.

Traditionally, party chairmen in New Hampshire remain neutral
in presidential primaries. But Mr. Kimball said recently that
the new party chairman should let presidential candidates
know that New Hampshire Republicans want their party to "get
back to its conservative values and stay there."

Read More:
25184  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: January 22, 2011, 02:54:41 PM
Grateful for the two nice young purples I rolled with last night.  Grateful for wonderful times with my children.  Grateful the boss let us rearrange the living room furniture so we have play room-- including playing with Conrad's "Kinect" game (It's like Wii, but much, much better).  Grateful for coming to a difficult decision about someone.
25185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: January 22, 2011, 02:45:14 PM

Not sure why you put that in this thread huh

Anyway, with his permission here are some comments from Dr. Tricky Dog (PhD in Physics):

Indeed a fascinating consequence - I hadn't heard of this result previously.  What is semantically challenging though is the meaning of "reality does not exist when we are not observing it".  Words like "reality", "exist" and "observing" are somewhat misleading when their physics meaning is compared to our lay meaning.  What do we think someone is saying when that is said?  You have to have deep specialists knowledge to attach correct meaning to the words.

The problem with quantum mechanical contexts is that they are so anti-intuitive that it is difficult to talk about them at all (and still
make any sense).  The implications are subtle at best.  Particularly as none of these QM effects have been shown to apply at macroscopic scales - they get washed out on the way to big - observations about grains of sand don't apply to beaches.

And yet tremendously fascinating stuff.  The closer we look at the fabric of reality, the more we come to the conclusion that there are no threads in the fabric.  At least, not in the conventional sense.

25186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Conflict of interest; Roads in the Constitution on: January 22, 2011, 12:25:24 AM
I saw that BD.  I could be wrong but my initial reaction is typical liberal/progressive hypocrisy.  Where are they when the libs meet with the ACLU et al?

Returning to whether the C. grants the Federal Govt the right to build roads, etc. this passage from "A Patriot's History of the United States" by Schweikart and Allen (recommended by Glenn Beck grin ) on page 233 says

"Like Calhoun and other disaffected Jacksonians, Harrison had once stood with the Democrats, and shared their states' rights sentiments.  Also like Calhoun, he thought the federal government well within its constitutional rights to improve harbors, build roads, and otherwise fund internal improvements."
25187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Let us shed a tear on: January 21, 2011, 09:08:28 PM
Updated Keith Olbermann, the highest-rated host on MSNBC, announced abruptly on the air Friday night that he is leaving “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” immediately.

The host, who has had a stormy relationship with the management of the network for some time, especially since he was suspended for two days last November, came to an agreement with NBC’s corporate management late this week to settle his contract and step down.

In a closing statement on his show, Mr. Olbermann said simply that it would be the last edition of the program. He offered no explanation other than on occasion, the show had become too much for him.

Mr. Olbermann thanked his viewers for their enthusiastic support of a show that had “gradually established its position as anti-establishment.”

In a statement, MSNBC said : “MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

MSNBC announced that “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” would replace “Countdown” at 8 p.m., with “The Ed Show” with Ed Schultz taking Mr. O’Donnell’s slot at 10 p.m. Mr. Olbermann did not discuss any future plans, but NBC executives said one term of his settlement will keep him from moving to another network for an extended period of time.

NBC executives said the move had nothing to do with the impending takeover of NBC Universal by Comcast.

Mr. Olbermann had signed a four-year contract extension in 2008 for an estimated $30 million. He hosted “Countdown” at 8 p.m. since 2003 and it became the foundation of the channel’s surge to status as the second-ranked news channel on cable television, after Fox News, surpassing the one-time leader CNN.

Mr. Olbermann’s outspoken, and sometimes controversial, support of liberal positions and Democratic candidates redefined MSNBC from a neutral news channel to one with that openly sought to offer viewers on the left their own voice, much as Fox News has done so successfully for an audience of viewers with conservative opinions.

Mr. Olbermann challenged Fox News publicly on numerous occasions, especially the top-rated cable host Bill O’Reilly, whom he regularly tweaked and frequently placed in the top circle of infamy on a segment Mr. Olbermann called “The Worst Person in the World.”

Ratings for his show grew, though he never really approached the level of popularity Mr. O’Reilly has achieved. But he helped grow the MSNBC liberal brand by his frequent invitations to one guest, Rachel Maddow, who was eventually offered her own show on MSNBC.

Ms. Maddow became the 9 p.m. host following Mr. Olbermann and has built such a successful show that some NBC executives felt less concerned about losing Mr. Olbermann as the signature star of the network.

According to several senior network executives, NBC’s management had been close to firing Mr. Olbermann on previous occasions, most recently in November after he revealed that he had made donations to several Democratic candidates during the 2010 congressional elections — one of them, coincidentally, was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who has been the subject of many of his recent shows after being shot in an assassination attempt in Tucson on Jan. 8.

The top MSNBC executive, Phil Griffin, said the donations had violated NBC News standards and ordered Mr. Olbermann suspended. His fans responded with a petition to reinstate him that attracted over 250,000 signatures. Mr. Olbermann returned two days later. In his response he said the rules on donations had been “inconsistently applied.”

25188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bear Bryant on: January 21, 2011, 05:21:24 PM
It Don't Cost Nuthin'

At a Touchdown Club meeting many years ago, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant told the following story:

I had just been named the new head coach at Alabama and was off in my old car down in South Alabama recruiting a prospect who was supposed to have been a pretty good player, and I was having trouble finding the place.

Getting hungry, I spied an old cinderblock building with a small sign out front that simply said "Restaurant." I pull up, go in, and every head in the place turns to stare at me. Seems I'm the only white fella in the place. But the food smelled good, so I skip a table and go up to a cement bar and sit. A big ole man in a tee shirt and cap comes over and says, "What do you need?"

I told him I needed lunch and what did they have today?

He says, "You probably won't like it here. Today we're having chitlins, collard greens and black-eyed peas with cornbread. I'll bet you don't even know what chitlins are, do you?"(small intestines of hogs prepared as food in the deep South)

I looked him square in the eye and said, "I'm from Arkansas , and I've probably eaten a mile of them. Sounds like I'm in the right place."

They all smiled as he left to serve me up a big plate. When he comes back he says, "You ain't from around here then?"

I explain I'm the new football coach up in Tuscaloosa at the University and I'm here to find whatever that boy's name was, and he says, "Yeah I've heard of him, he's supposed to be pretty good." And he gives me directions to the school so I can meet him and his coach.

As I'm paying up to leave, I remember my manners and leave a tip, not too big to be flashy, but a good one, and he told me lunch was on him, but I told him for a lunch that good, I felt I should pay. The big man asked me if I had a photograph or something he could hang up to show I'd been there. I was so new that I didn't have any yet. It really wasn't that big a thing back then to be asked for, but I took a napkin and wrote his name and address on it and told him I'd get him one.

I met the kid I was looking for later that afternoon and I don't remember his name, but do remember I didn't think much of him when I met him.

I had wasted a day, or so I thought. When I got back to Tuscaloosa late that night, I took that napkin from my shirt pocket and put it under my keys so I wouldn't forget it. Back then I was excited that anybody would want a picture of me. The next day we found a picture and I wrote on it, "Thanks for the best lunch I've ever had."

Now let's go a whole buncha years down the road. Now we have black players at Alabama and I'm back down in that part of the country scouting an offensive lineman we sure needed. Y'all remember, (and I forget the name, but it's not important to the story), well anyway, he's got two friends going to Auburn and he tells me he's got his heart set on Auburn too, so I leave empty handed and go on to see some others while I'm down there.

Two days later, I'm in my office in Tuscaloosa and the phone rings and it's this kid who just turned me down, and he says, "Coach, do you still want me at Alabama ?"

And I said, "Yes I sure do." And he says OK, he'll come.

And I say, "Well son, what changed your mind?"

And he said, "When my grandpa found out that I had a chance to play for you and said no, he pitched a fit and told me I wasn't going nowhere but Alabama, and wasn't playing for nobody but you. He thinks a lot of you and has ever since y'all met."

Well, I didn't know his granddad from Adam's housecat so I asked him who his granddaddy was and he said, "You probably don't remember him, but you ate in his restaurant your first year at Alabama and you sent him a picture that he's had hung in that place ever since. That picture's his pride and joy and he still tells everybody about the day that Bear Bryant came in and had chitlins with him..."

"My grandpa said that when you left there, he never expected you to remember him or to send him that picture, but you kept your word to him and to Grandpa, that's everything. He said you could teach me more than football and I had to play for a man like you, so I guess I'm going to."

I was floored. But I learned that the lessons my mama taught me were always right. It don't cost nuthin' to be nice. It don't cost nuthin' to do the right thing most of the time, and it costs a lot to lose your good name by breaking your word to someone.

When I went back to sign that boy, I looked up his Grandpa and he's still running that place, but it looks a lot better now. And he didn't have chitlins that day, but he had some ribs that would make Dreamland proud. I made sure I posed for a lot of pictures; and don't think I didn't leave some new ones for him, too, along with a signed football.

I made it clear to all my assistants to keep this story and these lessons in mind when they're out on the road. If you remember anything else from me, remember this. It really doesn't cost anything to be nice, and the rewards can be unimaginable.

Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant
25189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 21, 2011, 02:39:42 PM

Thank you for that post.   I confess I do not care for WND as a site, even though many of its biases are similar to some of mine because I think it often careless with inconvenient truths so I greatly appreciate your thorough and fair minded summary and analysis.

25190  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Stratfor: Be prepared! on: January 21, 2011, 02:23:53 PM
Woof All:
   Those of you in the DBMA Association will recognize below in what Stratfor calls "the flyaway pack" what we call the BOB "the Bug Out Bag/Bin" and may remember the vid-clip wherein I show the contents of my BOB for my truck.  I have an everyday Bin in my truck which includes a serious trauma kit as well as a first aid kit, basic tools, rope, duct tape, baby powder (if you have ever been stuck in a stopped LA freeway for a few hours on a hot day you will understand) toothbrush and paste, turkey jerky, a siphon, etc.

Forgive me the moment of advertising but in the coming months you will be seeing a major expansion of what we offer on our website in this regard.


Last week we saw the government collapse in Tunisia, and we’ve seen previous issues of a security nature, such as the earthquake in Haiti as well as the Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon, and we thought it would be a good time to discuss the importance of ex-pats having a plan in the event of a country collapse.

As an ex-pat, when you arrive in the country, the first thing you should do is register with your respective foreign embassy. In essence, the U.S. has a system called the Warden program, which alerts you to local security issues as well as provides a communications network in times of trouble. The notification process for the Warden system is an umbrella notification from the local U.S. Embassy to specific people in the community known as wardens. If you think of this in concept of a spoke and a hub, where the notifications are pushed out to the local warden representative, who in turn makes a broadcast to those individuals that he or she are responsible for.

For emergency notification purposes from a communications standpoint, think about the use of message text capabilities that at times still operate when you’re unable to get a cellular connection, as well as satellite phones. It’s very important to have a flyaway kit or a backpack that you have prepared, that you can grab and go, that’s going to contain U.S. currency, local currency, food, water, a communications device such as a satellite phone, maps, and possibly even a weapon, depending upon your location. These items can be very hopeful in assisting you in getting out of the country.

One other aspect to think about is in event of the airports closing, which happens, you need to have other routes of travel to get out, such as boat, roads or trains perhaps, and that’s going to vary depending upon the geography and the nature of your country that you’re operating in as an ex-pat. At times, your local friends in the community may be able to help you either get out of the contrary or safe haven for periods of time, but again, that’s going to depend upon the country that you’re in and the risk that they may take by safe-having you. What I have seen historically over the years is individuals fail to make a plan and then there’ll be some sort of collapse of government or major terrorist attack, and at that point it’s too late. From your perspective as an ex-pat, you have to have some sort of gauge as to when you think it’s time to grab your kit and go.

25191  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Peyton Quinn on: January 21, 2011, 02:03:24 PM
My friend Peyton Quinn, author of the witty and wise "Bouncer's Guide to Barroom Brawling" is one of the originals of the reality-based self-defense movement (e.g. the developer of the "Bulletman") and the Head of the RMCAT (Rocky Mountain something) based in Colorado.

Here is a recent piece of his-- sorry for the weird formatting:
The Visual Cortex: Why sometimes we see what is not there, and sometimes miss what is there.

I have some cats and occasionally out of the corner of my eye I will think I see one for an instant, but then I turn and see it is just a black t-shirt on the floor. But for that flash of an instant I actually 'saw' an image of my black cat.

If you give it some thought surely all of you have had such an experience. That is where you momentarily identified something visually, often in your peripheral vision, and then an instant later you realized it was not what you thought you saw at first.

We must keep in mind that the act of vision actually occurs exclusively inside the total darkness of the human skull and brain. All the visual data from our eyes, which our only windows to the outside world of sight, are interpreted, identified and defined by our visual cortex. But there is even more to it than this.

As children we begin to develop the "pattern recognition" of things. That is a quick identification of people's faces, other objects, food etc. These patterns are then stored in the neural nets of our visual cortex and this is how we quickly recognize objects and people etc.

It is during this critcal childhood period that we develop right or left eye dominace, or right or left handedness or leggedness etc. I make sure to observe RMCAT attendnats for which is the dominat eye, leg and hand.

To give a good example of how this works there are cases where children (under the age of six especially) lost there vision, but it was restored many years later and in some cases as much as 40 years later.

In these cases the people have to then learn to "see". That is their 'vision is restored' but they can't identify anything or recognize anyone yet. They can't yet organize the images into any meaningful or coherent pattern. This is because their "bank of images" stored in their visual cortex has not had any real and coherent "deposits" made in it because their vision was lost at such an early age

While it is true that we can identify things we have never seen before this is achieved largely through interpolation of things we have already seen before. And sometimes we can get it wrong too.

An experienced homicide detective some years ago allowed me to read his reports of several witnesses testimony to a violent, criminal act they had seen. It was apparent to me that each whiteness told a somewhat different story, and some told a very different story about what they thought they had seen.  The detective then told me:  "Peyton, if 10 people witness an act of violence, then you will get 10 different stories"

Having laid out this basic conceptual foundation of visual perception let's now look at its practical impact on self-defense and environmental awareness.

From a training point of view if you have never seen a person pull a gun or knife on you, then you might not 'see them' pull a gun or knife on you immediately if they do so for real. The same goes for the 'sucker punch'.

In our RMCAT classes I have seen such blatant examples of this and yet it still can truly surprise me!  For example in the scenario based firearms course me and a co-instructor were walking out from behind the Shoji wall for a scenario with an attendant.The course had already gone through the legal module and so they knew the conditions necessary for them to even lawfully present (display) their gun.

  This particular time my co-instructor's blank firing pistol accidentally fell out of his belt where it was concealed in the small of his back. This was not 20 feet from the student. Yet that student did not even see or respond to this and my co-instructor calmly turned around and picked up the pistol and slipped it back into his belt.Now since most shootings occur in dim light we were training in dim light too but even so the video showed it so clearly that the student could not imagine how or why he did not see it when he later watched that video. He was flabbergasted.

In the portal of safety drill in the Hand to Hand fighting course we also see something similar. In this drill the student has a soft bat and he or she is to only produce the bat and strike at the instructor's hand when the instructor produces a large bowie knife for an 'attack'.

 I have seen police and even very well known martial arts people totally miss the large shiny Bowie knife being drawn on them from 10 feet away. Now part of this is because they were adrenalized and thus tended to 'tunnel into the face' of the person who might be verbally threatening them.

But there is also the fact that they have never had an irate person come up to them and draw a big bowie knife on them before either. So they did not immediately 'see it" happen. Their visual cortex may not have an 'instant decode' for this drawing of a bowie knife in this context.



Keep in mind that even 'missing' seeing the knife for a half second can be critical or might I say 'fatal' in real situation.

Let's look at this idea further. A boxer trains under adrenal stress. He learns to 'duck a shot' in training because of being previously hit by some shots.

This is "State Dependent Learning'. His 'non-self-aware' mind sees the preceding cues that indicate the punch is coming and his 'body' ducks reflexively.

Because he is adrenalized to some degree, and more so when he is hit in his early training, his visual cortex has stored the images of what precedes the impact of the blow. This can be a shoulder dip, the footwork of his opponent etc. The boxer might not be able to really articulate all these cues that his body responds to because they are not acted on by his self-aware mind.

But realize this is because these visual cues are no longer need to be processed in the self aware mind at all, they become instant 'reflexes' of the adrenal mind. You don't need to 'think' to jerk your hand of a hot stove. This is how we train at RMCAT,through state dependent leaqrning, you just don't get hit as hard as a boxer!

Now consider professional boxers a bit further for a moment.

Let's ignore the fact that you can't hit somebody in the head with a closed fist and not break the bones in your hands without the protection of tapped hands and a boxing glove. And even then almost all the 'great boxers' have broken bones in their hands in the prize ring.

Putting that aside though, the boxing training method is far superior to the Asian martial arts training methodology. This is largely because of this very dynamic, adrenal stress driven development of full power striking and the automatic reflex evasion of blows.

I think I can safely say that the average Western trained boxer (be it in an actual fight or an athletic contest) will defeat the average Asian methodology trained martial arts person. It isn't the 'techniques" that are important here at all, it is the training methodology.

But let's be frank, how many martial arts people are willing to undergo the rigors of Western boxing training? The answer is some, but not many.

Consequently, adrenal stress, scenario based training has some very significant advantages over any other training methodology for self-defense.

First the reflex is developed through this adrenal stress conditioning. It a real attack it will thus be the adrenal mind that responds and not the self-aware mind. Hence the response is instant like a boxer slipping a blow.

Second, the adrenal stress driven scenarios begin to establish new 'patterns in the visual cortex' of any impending attack or the 'attack in progresses'. Keep in mind a 'verbal woof' imitates the fight.

These cues are mainly visual but they are also auditory. And adrenal stress scenario based training allows these cues to have been 'seen' and heard before and thus 'recognized' and linked to an instant and effective motor response.

You will much more likely spot a 'sucker punch' coming if you have been sucker punched before. Likewise, after adrenal stress scenario based training you will spot the knife, the gun, the stick the 'tire iron attack' and much earlier and thus have a decent chance to avoid it.

Look at this on the very simplest level, 'It is hard to avoid something you have never seen before'.

Yet I know that we can legitimately expand on this concept great too.

Because as we increase our personal awareness, that is both an awareness of our 'external environment' and our 'internal environment' we have also enhance our entire ability and depth of perceptions of the 'world' and the people in it.

Consider that for 22 years now I have seen RMCAT attendants come back after a year or several years (17% of all rmcat attendats do come back in 3 years or less) and they are better, and at times very much better than when they left the course the first time, years ago. Yet they did no training at all in between.

My theory is it takes at least 3 months or more for the new neural nets to form and 'fire fully and properly" that are aquiered during the adrenal stress training. So when they come back, all the new neural pathways are a "go" and fire the needed motor responce (knee strike, a duck of a blow, etc) immediattely and powerfully in the new scenarios. So naturally they fight better and even de-escallte better.

Our external environment might include our noting raised voices signaling a potential physical conflict. Alternatively it might be a particular facial expression of someone we are negotiating with in business that tips us off to something we would otherwise miss perceiving. Or it could be something less subtle that we spot immediately, like the pistol in the hand of the 'determined man' just walking into the fast food place we are at.

Our internal environment is our 'gut feeling'.  With increased awareness we learn to trust our gut feelings too. We can do so partly because we have learned to cultivate and polish those perceptions that we call our 'gut feeling'.  My maxim here is "If there is any doubt, then there is no doubt, something isn't right, now be quite alert for what that is!"

The human brain's operation is almost mystical in its power. All the computer power on the planet harnessed all at once does not match the computational power or speed of the human brain. Yet as we see, the brain can 'get it wrong' sometimes.

Remember our previous article on the size of the moon for example. Our brain sees at as being larger on the horizon, but smaller in the higher night sky. But this is an illusion of the brain's processing. If you measure both moon's appearances, even by holding your finger tip to the width of the apparent image, then you will see that though it looks huge on the horizon or small when high in the sky, your finger measures the same width in either case.

Yet is quite 'obvious" that the moon is apparently much larger and more yellow when on the horizon and yet smaller and whiter in the high night sky right?

Yes, this condition is apparent at once but this is only an illusion and your brain has "got it wrong". Your visual cortex has thus been totally and convincingly 'fooled into seeing what is not there'.

An important part of self-defense training, and in fact, personal self-improvement in general is learning to re-train your brain to immediately see things just as they are. This means forgoing all denial and seeing with a 'non-reactive' mind or as the Japanese call it "mushien' which means 'no mind' or 'one mind'.
25192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 21, 2011, 01:36:05 PM

The (In)Humanity of it all:
25193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Daniel Pearl on: January 21, 2011, 01:27:43 PM
25194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rep. Study Committee: Spending Reduction Act of 2011 on: January 21, 2011, 12:07:57 PM
Members of the conservative Republican Study Committee in Congress have introduced the "Spending Reduction Act of 2011," a plan that lays out specific budget cuts amounting to $2.5 trillion over the next decade. The number sounds big, but it represents less than 10 percent of annual spending. The bill, according to Paul Bedard of US News, "would reduce current spending for non-defense, non-homeland security and non-veterans programs to 2008 levels, eliminate federal control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, cut the federal workforce by 15 percent through attrition, and cut some $80 billion by blocking implementation of Obamacare." It's a good first step, but it's also just that -- a first step
25195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China on: January 21, 2011, 10:47:45 AM
Alright gents, lets take this to the Education thread on the SCH forum please. smiley
25196  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A kidnapping in Mexico on: January 21, 2011, 10:41:36 AM
Oliver Bernard Tschumi, a Swiss citizen, was confirmed kidnapped Jan. 18. Tschumi, a watch salesman and an importer of precious metals, disappeared while walking his dog; a group later demanded $300,000 for his release. The incident is a reminder of the need to practice situational awareness and to take other precautionary measures.

The Swiss Embassy in Mexico City confirmed Jan. 18 that 50-year-old Swiss citizen Oliver Bernard Tschumi was kidnapped Dec. 19, 2010, in the city of Ahuatepec, Morelos state, while he was walking his dogs. The group holding Tschumi reportedly has demanded $300,000 for his return. An initial payment of $10,000 was made on an unspecified date by a business associate of Tschumi, who left a pair of duffel bags containing $5,000 each on an overpass in Ocotepec, Morelos state. According to media reports, the kidnappers have given no proof that Tschumi is still alive.

Tschumi, a businessman, reportedly lived in the Cuernavaca area of Morelos for 20 years, selling Swiss watches throughout Latin America and importing gold and other precious metals. He has a 9-year-old daughter and was reportedly newly married after going through a divorce in 2004. The nature of Tschumi’s business already raised his profile among criminals in the area. That he dealt with jewelry and precious metals lead to the (likely correct) assumption that Tschumi was wealthy or at least had access to large amounts of money.

Media reports also indicate that Tschumi was set in his ways, with a fairly predictable routine — most notably a predetermined, frequently used dog-walking route (along which his eyeglasses were found after his disappearance). This type of behavior can make an individual or his or her family easy targets for enterprising criminals. With knowledge of a target’s route, criminals can analyze and plot particular points along that route where they can gain a quick tactical advantage against the target at predetermined choke points and channels where the victim has very limited options beyond compliance.

In Tschumi’s case, it is clear that his situational awareness was poor. Even amateur criminals conduct at least some form of preoperational surveillance before attacking a target, while professional kidnapping gangs in Mexico can be expected to make even more extensive preparations. A common purse-snatcher may only surveil a target for a few seconds, while kidnapping gangs have been known to surveil potential targets for several months. Tschumi’s daily routine, in particular his dog-walking route, proved to be the weak point his kidnappers chose to exploit, a weak point they determined via pre-operational surveillance.

Practicing proper situational awareness can help one detect criminal surveillance of oneself or one’s family, home or office. This does not mean being a constant state of paranoia, but rather simply being aware of one’s personal surroundings. By paying attention to one’s surroundings, one naturally notices abnormal behavior.

In a place like Mexico, where the risk of being targeted by criminals is much higher than most regions, steps should be taken to identify potential criminal surveillance and prevent becoming the victim of a crime. Part of this includes varying the times and routes used for daily activities such as daily dog walks and commutes to and from the office. Varying times and routes (along with conducting simple route analysis to identify potential choke points and attack sites) is one of several ways to help identify possible criminal pre-operational surveillance, giving one the ability to address potential issues long before any actual attempt and to mitigate future risk.

Kidnapping-for-ransom operations are a real threat to anyone living or working in Mexico, not just the very wealthy. Pressure applied to criminal groups by the Mexican government’s struggle against drug cartels has indirectly led to more and more drug gangs targeting civilians like Tschumi to supplement revenue lost in the government offensive. The general lack of law and order and the focus of security forces on drug-trafficking organizations also has created space for other criminals to operate.

Mexico has overtaken Colombia as the kidnapping capital of the world, with more than 8,000 reported cases in 2009. According some estimates, up to 70 percent of kidnappings never are reported to the authorities. Maintaining proper situational awareness and taking precautionary measures like varying daily routes can help individuals mitigate this risk.

25197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 21, 2011, 10:06:10 AM
Meanwhile BO's poll numbers are up  to 50-53% favorable , , ,
25198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Steyn: Dependence Day 2 on: January 21, 2011, 07:33:12 AM
Not so long ago, Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian and soi-disant Islamophobe, flew into London and promptly got shipped back to the Netherlands as a threat to public order. After the British Government had reconsidered its stupidity, he was permitted to return and give his speech at the House of Lords—and, as foreigners often do, he quoted Winston Churchill, under the touchingly naive assumption that this would endear him to the natives. Whereas, of course, to almost all members of Britain’s governing elite, quoting Churchill approvingly only confirms that you’re an extremist lunatic. I had the honor a couple of years back of visiting President Bush in the White House and seeing the bust of Churchill on display in the Oval Office. When Barack Obama moved in, he ordered Churchill’s bust be removed and returned to the British. Its present whereabouts are unclear. But, given what Sir Winston had to say about Islam in his book on the Sudanese campaign, the bust was almost certainly arrested at Heathrow and deported as a threat to public order.

Somewhere along the way a quintessentially British sense of self-deprecation curdled into a psychologically unhealthy self-loathing. A typical foot-of-the-page news item from The Daily Telegraph:

A leading college at Cambridge University has renamed its controversial colonial-themed Empire Ball after accusations that it was “distasteful.” The £136-a-head Emmanuel College ball was advertised as a celebration of “the Victorian commonwealth and all of its decadences.

 Students were urged to “party like it’s 1899” and organisers promised a trip through the Indian Raj, Australia, the West Indies, and 19th century Hong Kong.

But anti-fascist groups said the theme was “distasteful and insensitive” because of the British Empire’s historical association with slavery, repression and exploitation.  The Empire Ball Committee, led by presidents Richard Hilton and Jenny Unwin, has announced the word “empire” will be removed from all promotional material.

The way things are going in Britain, it would make more sense to remove the word “balls.”

It’s interesting to learn that “anti-fascism” now means attacking the British Empire, which stood alone against fascism in that critical year between the fall of France and Germany’s invasion of Russia. And it’s even sadder to have to point out the most obvious fatuity in those “anti-fascist groups” litany of evil—“the British Empire’s association with slavery.” The British Empire’s principal association with slavery is that it abolished it. Before William Wilberforce, the British Parliament, and the brave men of the Royal Navy took up the issue, slavery was an institution regarded by all cultures around the planet as as permanent a feature of life as the earth and sky. Britain expunged it from most of the globe.

It is pathetic but unsurprising how ignorant all these brave “anti-fascists” are. But there is a lesson here not just for Britain but for the rest of us, too: When a society loses its memory, it descends inevitably into dementia. As I always try to tell my American neighbors, national decline is at least partly psychological—and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline. Thus, Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road to Serfdom, which he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944:

There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought. It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel.

 The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

Within little more than half a century, almost every item on the list had been abandoned, from “independence and self-reliance” (some 40 percent of Britons receive state handouts) to “a healthy suspicion of power and
authority”—the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government “do something.” American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government without a similar descent, in enough of the citizenry, into chronic dependency.

What happened? Britain, in John Foster Dulles’s famous postwar assessment, had lost an empire but not yet found a role. Actually, Britain didn’t so much “lose” the Empire: it evolved peacefully into the modern Commonwealth, which is more agreeable than the way these things usually go. Nor is it clear that modern Britain wants a role, of any kind. Rather than losing an empire, it seems to have lost its point.

This has consequences. To go back to Cambridge University’s now non-imperial Empire Ball, if the cream of British education so willingly prostrates itself before ahistorical balderdash, what then of the school system’s more typical charges? In cutting off two generations of students from their cultural inheritance, the British state has engaged in what we will one day come to see as a form of child abuse, one that puts a huge question mark over the future. Why be surprised that legions of British Muslims sign up for the Taliban? These are young men who went to school in Luton and West Bromwich and learned nothing of their country of nominal citizenship other than that it’s responsible for racism, imperialism, colonialism, and all the other bad -isms of the world. If that’s all you knew of Britain, why would you feel any allegiance to Queen and country? And what if you don’t have Islam to turn to? The transformation of the British people is, in its own malign way, a remarkable achievement. Raised in schools that teach them nothing, they nevertheless pick up the gist of the matter, which is that their society is a racket founded on various historical injustices. The virtues Hayek admired? Ha! Strictly for suckers.

When William Beveridge laid out his blueprint for the modern British welfare state in 1942, his goal was the “abolition of want,” to be accomplished by “cooperation between the State and the individual.” In attempting to insulate the citizenry from the vicissitudes of fate, Sir William succeeded beyond his wildest dreams: Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity. Churchill called his book The History of the English-Speaking Peoples—not the English-Speaking Nations. The extraordinary role played by those nations in the creation and maintenance of the modern world derived from their human capital.

What happens when, as a matter of state policy, you debauch your human capital? The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers; marriage is all but defunct, except for toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what LBJ’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population. One-fifth of British children are raised in homes in which no adult works. Just under 900,000 people have been off sick for over a decade, claiming “sick benefits,” week in, week out, for ten years and counting. “Indolence,” as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a free society, but rarely has any state embraced this oldest temptation as literally as Britain. There is almost nothing you can’t get the government to pay for.

Plucked at random from The Daily Mail: A man of twenty-one with learning disabilities has been granted taxpayers’ money to fly to Amsterdam and have sex with a prostitute. Why not? His social worker says sex is a “human right” and that his client, being a virgin, is entitled to the support of the state in claiming said right. Fortunately, a £520 million program was set up by Her Majesty’s Government to “empower those with disabilities.” “He’s planning to do more than just have his end away,” explained the social worker.

“The girls in Amsterdam are far more protected than those on U.K. streets. Let him have some fun—I’d want to. Wouldn’t you prefer that we can control this, guide him, educate him, support him to understand the process and ultimately end up satisfying his needs in a secure, licensed place where his happiness and growth as a person is the most important thing? Refusing to offer him this service would be a violation of his human rights.”

And so a Dutch prostitute is able to boast that among her clients is the British Government. Talk about outsourcing: given the reputation of English womanhood, you’d have thought this would be the one job that wouldn’t have to be shipped overseas. But, as Dutch hookers no doubt say, lie back and think of England—and the check they’ll be mailing you.

After Big Government, after global retreat, after the loss of liberty, there is only remorseless civic disintegration. The statistics speak for themselves. The number of indictable offences per thousand people was 2.4 in 1900, climbed gradually to 9.7 in 1954, and then rocketed to 109.4 by 1992. And that official increase understates the reality: Many crimes have been decriminalized (shoplifting, for example), and most crime goes unreported, and most reported crime goes uninvestigated, and most investigated crime goes unsolved, and almost all solved crime merits derisory punishment. Yet the law-breaking is merely a symptom of a larger rupture. At a gathering like this one, John O’Sullivan, recalling his own hometown, said that when his grandmother ran a pub in the Liverpool docklands in the years around the First World War, there was only one occasion when someone swore in her presence. And he subsequently apologized.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” But viewed from 2010 England the day before yesterday is an alternative universe—or a lost civilization. Last year, the “Secretary of State for Children” (both an Orwellian and Huxleyite office) announced that 20,000 “problem families” would be put under twenty-four-hour cctv supervision in their homes. As the Daily Express reported, “They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.” Orwell’s government “telescreen” in every home is close to being a reality, although even he would have dismissed as too obviously absurd a nanny state that literally polices your bedtime.

For its worshippers, Big Government becomes a kind of religion: the state as church. After the London Tube bombings, Gordon Brown began mulling over the creation of what he called a “British equivalent of the U.S. Fourth of July,” a new national holiday to bolster British identity. The Labour Party think-tank, the Fabian Society, proposed that the new “British Day” should be July 5th, the day the National Health Service was created. Because the essence of contemporary British identity is waiting two years for a hip operation. A national holiday every July 5th: They can call it Dependence Day.

Does the fate of the other senior Anglophone power hold broader lessons for the United States? It’s not so hard to picture a paternalist technocrat of the Michael Bloomberg school covering New York in cctv ostensibly for terrorism but also to monitor your transfats. Permanence is the illusion of every age. But you cannot wage a sustained ideological assault on your own civilization without profound consequence. Without serious course correction, we will see the end of the Anglo-American era, and the eclipse of the powers that built the modern world. Even as America’s spendaholic government outspends not only America’s ability to pay for itself but, by some measures, the world’s; even as it follows Britain into the dank pit of transgenerational dependency, a failed education system, and unsustainable entitlements; even as it makes less and less and mortgages its future to its rivals for cheap Chinese trinkets, most Americans assume that simply because they’re American they will be insulated from the consequences. There, too, are lessons from the old country. Cecil Rhodes distilled the assumptions of generations when he said that to be born a British subject was to win first prize in the lottery of life. On the eve of the Great War, in his play Heartbreak House, Bernard Shaw turned the thought around to taunt a British ruling class too smug and self-absorbed to see what was coming. “Do you think,” he wrote, “the laws of God will be suspended in favor of England because you were born in it?”

In our time, to be born a citizen of the United States is to win first prize in the lottery of life, and, as Britons did, too many Americans assume it will always be so. Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of America because you were born in it? Great convulsions lie ahead, and at the end of it we may be in a post-Anglosphere world.

Mark Steyn’s most recent book is America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It (Regnery).

25199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Steyn: Dependence Day 1 on: January 21, 2011, 07:28:07 AM
January 2011

Dependence Day
by Mark Steyn

On the erosion of personal liberty. Burke was right!

If I am pessimistic about the future of liberty, it is because I am pessimistic about the strength of the English-speaking nations, which have, in profound ways, surrendered to forces at odds with their inheritance. “Declinism” is in the air, but some of us apocalyptic types are way beyond that. The United States is facing nothing so amiable and genteel as Continental-style “decline,” but something more like sliding off a cliff.

In the days when I used to write for Fleet Street, a lot of readers and several of my editors accused me of being anti-British. I’m not. I’m extremely pro-British and, for that very reason, the present state of the United Kingdom is bound to cause distress. So, before I get to the bad stuff, let me just lay out the good. Insofar as the world functions at all, it’s due to the Britannic inheritance. Three-sevenths of the G7 economies are nations of British descent. Two-fifths of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are—and, by the way, it should be three-fifths: The rap against the Security Council is that it’s the Second World War victory parade preserved in aspic, but, if it were, Canada would have a greater claim to be there than either France or China. The reason Canada isn’t is because a third Anglosphere nation and a second realm of King George VI would have made too obvious a truth usually left unstated—that the Anglosphere was the all but lone defender of civilization and of liberty. In broader geopolitical terms, the key regional powers in almost every corner of the globe are British-derived—from Australia to South Africa to India—and, even among the lesser players, as a general rule you’re better off for having been exposed to British rule than not: Why is Haiti Haiti and Barbados Barbados?

And of course the pre-eminent power of the age derives its political character from eighteenth-century British subjects who took English ideas a little further than the mother country was willing to go. In his
sequel to Churchill’s great work, The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Andrew Roberts writes:

Just as we do not today differentiate between the Roman Republic and the imperial period of the Julio-Claudians when we think of the Roman Empire, so in the future no-one will bother to make a distinction between the British Empire–led and the American Republic–led periods of English-speaking dominance between the late-eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries. It will be recognized that in the majestic sweep of history they had so much in common—and enough that separated them from everyone else—that they ought to be regarded as a single historical entity, which only scholars and pedants will try to describe separately.

If you step back for a moment, this seems obvious. There is a distinction between the “English-speaking peoples” and the rest of “the West,” and at key moments in human history that distinction has proved critical.

Continental Europe has given us plenty of nice paintings and agreeable symphonies, French wine and Italian actresses and whatnot, but, for all our fetishization of multiculturalism, you can’t help noticing that when it comes to the notion of a political West—one with a sustained commitment to liberty and democracy—the historical record looks a lot more unicultural and, indeed (given that most of these liberal democracies other than America share the same head of state), uniregal. The entire political class of Portugal, Spain, and Greece spent their childhoods living under dictatorships. So did Jacques Chirac and Angela Merkel. We forget how rare on this earth is peaceful constitutional evolution, and rarer still outside the Anglosphere.

Decline starts with the money. It always does. As Jonathan Swift put it:

A baited banker thus desponds,
From his own hand foresees his fall,
They have his soul, who have his bonds;
’Tis like the writing on the wall.

Today the people who have America’s bonds are not the people one would wish to have one’s soul. As Madhav Nalapat has suggested, Beijing believes a half-millennium Western interregnum is about to come to an end, and the world will return to Chinese dominance. I think they’re wrong on the latter, but right on the former. Within a decade, the United States will be spending more of the federal budget on its interest payments than on its military.

According to the cbo’s 2010 long-term budget outlook, by 2020 the U.S. government will be paying between 15 and 20 percent of its revenues in debt interest—whereas defense spending will be down to between 14 and 16 percent. America will be spending more on debt interest than China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey, and Israel spend on their militaries combined. The superpower will have advanced from a nation of aircraft carriers to a nation of debt carriers.

What does that mean? In 2009, the United States spent about $665 billion on its military, the Chinese about $99 billion. If Beijing continues to buy American debt at the rate it has in recent years, then within a half-decade or so U.S. interest payments on that debt will be covering the entire cost of the Chinese military. This year, the Pentagon issued an alarming report to Congress on Beijing’s massive military build-up, including new missiles, upgraded bombers, and an aircraft-carrier R&D program intended to challenge American dominance in the Pacific. What the report didn’t mention is who’s paying for it. Answer: Mr. and Mrs. America.

Within the next five years, the People’s Liberation Army, which is the largest employer on the planet, bigger even than the U.S. Department of Community-Organizer Grant Applications, will be entirely funded by U.S. taxpayers. When they take Taiwan, suburban families in Connecticut and small businesses in Idaho will have paid for it. The existential questions for America loom now, not decades hence. What we face is not merely the decline and fall of a powerful nation but the collapse of the highly specific cultural tradition that built the modern world. It starts with the money—it always does. But the money is only the symptom. We wouldn’t be this broke if we hadn’t squandered our inheritance in a more profound sense.

Britain’s decline also began with the money. The U.S. “Lend-Lease” program to the United Kingdom ended with the war in September 1946. London paid off the final installment of its debt in December 2006, and the Economic Secretary, Ed Balls, sent with the check a faintly surreal accompanying note thanking Washington for its support during the war. They have our soul who have our bonds: Britain and the world were more fortunate in who had London’s bonds than America is seventy years later. For that reason, in terms of global order, the transition from Britannia ruling the waves to the American era, from the old lion to its transatlantic progeny, was one of the smoothest transfers of power in history—so smooth that most of us aren’t quite sure when it took place. Andrew Roberts likes to pinpoint it to the middle of 1943: One month, the British had more men under arms than the Americans; the next month, the Americans had more men under arms than the British.

The baton of global leadership had been passed. And, if it didn’t seem that way at the time, that’s because it was as near a seamless transition as could be devised—although it was hardly “devised” at all, at least not by London. Yet we live with the benefits of that transition to this day. To take a minor but not inconsequential example, one of the critical links in the post-9/11 Afghan campaign was the British Indian Ocean Territory. As its name would suggest, it’s a British dependency, but it has a U.S. military base—just one of many pinpricks on the map where the Royal Navy’s Pax Britannica evolved into Washington’s Pax Americana with nary a thought: From U.S. naval bases in Bermuda to the Anzus alliance down under to Norad in Cheyenne Mountain, London’s military ties with its empire were assumed, effortlessly, by the United States, and life and global order went on.

One of my favorite lines from the Declaration of Independence never made it into the final text. They were Thomas Jefferson’s parting words to his fellow British subjects across the ocean: “We might have been a free and great people together.” But in the end, when it mattered, they were a free and great people together. Britain was eclipsed by its transatlantic offspring, by a nation with the same language, the same legal inheritance, and the same commitment to liberty.

It’s not likely to go that way next time round. And “next time round” is already under way. We are coming to the end of a two-century Anglosphere dominance, and of a world whose order and prosperity many people think of as part of a broad, general trend but which, in fact, derive from a very particular cultural inheritance and may well not survive it. To point out how English the world is is, of course, a frightfully un-English thing to do. No true Englishman would ever do such a ghastly and vulgar thing. You need some sinister rootless colonial oik like me to do it. But there’s a difference between genial self-effacement and contempt for one’s own inheritance.

25200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Unresolvable strategic clash? on: January 21, 2011, 07:24:45 AM
The Simmering Strategic Clash of U.S.-China Relations

Chinese President Hu Jintao met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday for the long-awaited bilateral summit and grand state dinner. The night before, Hu met with Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon to discuss strategic issues.

Precious little was novel in Hu’s and Obama’s comments to the press Wednesday, though there were a few points worth noting. Obama stressed that U.S. forward deployment of troops in the Asia-Pacific region brought the stability that was necessary to enable China’s economic rise over the past 30 years — a thinly veiled warning to China against acting as if the United States were an intruder. Obama emphasized, as his generals have, that the United States has a fundamental interest in free and secure passage in international waters in the region, a push against China’s growing military clout in its peripheral seas. But aside from these points, Obama’s tone was relatively meek. Hu, for his part, was also relatively meek. He reiterated the need for ever deepening cooperation — i.e. for the United States not to confront China over disputes — and in particular the need for the United States and China to work multilaterally — i.e. for the United States to not act unilaterally.

“Hence we have an unresolvable strategic clash; tempers are simmering, giving rise to occasional bursts of admonition and threat.”
The lead-up to the summit prepared the world for positivity and good feelings. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in a speech last week, advertised an optimistic estimate of the growth of U.S. exports to China and seemed relatively satisfied with progress on China’s appreciation of the yuan. Obama echoed Geithner’s points, showing optimism about China as a model market for his national export initiative, and raising, but not harping on, the undervalued currency. Strategic disagreements were not allowed to interfere with the pageantry. Though the United States has warned that North Korea’s ballistic missiles pose a threat to the homeland, implying that China’s lack of willingness to restrain North Korea is extremely serious, nevertheless both sides signaled their agreement on moving toward resuming international negotiations to contain the problem.

Beijing and Washington have good reason to avoid confrontation. Both are overburdened with problems entirely separate from each other. The United States is consumed with the search for jobs while attempting to restore balances of power in the Middle East and South Asia so it can withdraw from these regions. China’s rapid economic growth is becoming more and more difficult to manage, and a slowdown could trigger a powder keg of social discontent. The United States could force an economic crisis on China, and China can, if not force the United States into crisis, at least make its strategic quandary far more complex (for instance by emboldening North Korea or helping Iran cope with sanctions). Hence, despite nationalist factions at home, Washington and Beijing continue to court stability and functionality.

To give an appearance of improving relations, all China need do is let the yuan crawl a bit upward, make a gigantic $45 billion purchase of U.S. goods (a reasonable use of surplus dollars timed to fit the meeting), promise to make U.S. products eligible for government procurement (which does not mean they will always be in fact procured), and launch another of its many (mostly ineffective) crackdowns on intellectual property theft. All the United States needs do is allow some relatively high-tech goods to be sold (though without loosening export restrictions in general) and refrain from imposing sweeping trade tariffs (though retaining the ability to do so any time). And to show the talks are candid, both sides can also offer faint words of criticism on topics like U.S. dollar hegemony or human rights violations.

This is, for the most part, the basis that U.S.-China relations have operated on since the 1970s — deepening economic interdependence coinciding with military standoffishness, and political mediation to keep the balance. The balance is getting harder to maintain because the economic sphere in which they have managed to get along so well is suffering worse strains as China becomes a larger force and the U.S. views it as a more serious competitor. But it is still being maintained.

But the strategic distrust is sharpening inevitably as China grows into its own. Beijing is compelled by its economic development to seek military tools to secure its vital supply lines and defend its coasts, the historic weak point where foreign states have invaded. With each Chinese move to push out from its narrow geographical confines, the United States perceives a military force gaining in ability to block or interfere with U.S. commercial and military passage and access in the region. This violates a core American strategic need — command of the seas and global reach. But China cannot simply reverse course — it cannot and will not simply halt its economic ascent, or leave its economic and social stability vulnerable to external events that it cannot control. Hence we have an unresolvable strategic clash; tempers are simmering, giving rise to occasional bursts of admonition and threat. Yet unresolvable does not mean immediate, and both sides continue to find ways to delay the inevitable and inevitably unpleasant, whether economic or military in nature, confrontation.

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