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25151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: CINC AWOL on: October 21, 2009, 10:16:42 AM
By JAMES TARANTO
"The United States cannot wait for problems surrounding the legitimacy of the Afghan government to be resolved before making a decision on troops, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said," Reuters reports from aboard a U.S. military aircraft:

Gates did not say when he expected U.S. President Barack Obama to decide on whether to increase troops, a decision complicated by rising casualties and fading public support for the stalled, eight-year-old war.
But he pointed out that further high-level deliberations would need to wait for the return of cabinet members from foreign travels through part of next week.
"It's just a matter now of getting the time with the president when we can sort through these options and then tee them up for him to make a decision," Gates said.
But Agence France-Presse reports the president hasn't yet chosen whether to choose not to decide:

President Barack Obama has not yet determined whether he will make a decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan before the November 7 election runoff, a US official said Tuesday.
"The UN, NATO, the US stand ready to assist the Afghans in conducting the second round," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.
"Whether or not the president makes a decision before that I don't think has been determined.
"I have continued to say a decision will be made in the coming weeks as the president goes through an examination of our policy," he added.
It really bolsters your confidence in the president's ability to achieve victory in what he used to call a war of necessity, doesn't it?

Podcast
James Taranto on Obama's Afghan dither.
.But we suppose it's easy to sit on the sidelines and snark. Barack Obama is president of the United States, and he is juggling all kinds of urgent responsibilities. Such as this one, reported by the New York Times:

Mr. Obama will fly to New York on Tuesday for a lavish Democratic Party fund-raising dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for about 200 big donors. Each donor is paying the legal maximum of $30,400 and is allowed to take a date.
And hey, if you don't like it, grab a damn mop! As Obama said just last week at . . . uh, another lavish Democratic Party fund-raiser.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports from Washington that "frustrations and anxiety are on the rise within the military" as the president dithers over Afghanistan:

A retired general who served in Iraq said that the military had listened, "perhaps naïvely," to Mr. Obama's campaign promises that the Afghan war was critical. "What's changed, and are we having the rug pulled out from under us?" he asked. Like many of those interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from the military's civilian leadership and the White House.
Shouldn't it be the enemy that fears reprisals?

During the presidential campaign, Obama's opponents mocked him for frequently voting "present" on difficult questions that came before the Illinois Senate. This is even worse. The commander in chief is absent without leave.
25152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mortage Mod Program "HAMP" on: October 21, 2009, 10:12:00 AM
Mortgage Mod Program Causing Havoc on Citi Delinquencies
Posted by JJ Hornblass on October 20, 2009 at 9:30am
View JJ Hornblass's blog
 
The home mortgage modification program espoused by President Obama and affectionately called HAMP is wreaking havoc on loss mitigation at banks. The most glaring example: Citigroup.

Citigroup officials have effectively acknowledged that an outsider cannot get a sense for the bank's mortgage performance because it has so many loan modifications in the works. Citi's 90-to-179-day delinquency bucket is growing in size because of all the loan mods underway, yet the bank said it does not know what the results of these modifications will be. Citi's CFO:


Under HAMP, borrowers make reduced mortgage payments for a trial period, during which they continue to age through our delinquency buckets even if they are current under the new payment terms. This serves to increase our delinquencies. Virtually all of the increase in the 90 to 179 bucket and half of the increase in the 180 plus day bucket are loans in HAMP trial modifications. The rest of the increase in the 180 plus day bucket is attributable to a backlog of foreclosure inventory driven by a slowdown in the foreclosure process in many states. ... The HAMP program right now has got a rather significant impact on our delinquency statistics and really makes it difficult for anyone from the outside to actually have a good view as to the inherent credit profile in our delinquency buckets.

Here's a look at the current state of Citi's mortgage portfolio:





The HAMP dynamic is repeating itself at banks nationwide. BB&T Corp., a Top 20 bank in the US, also said yesterday that loan modifications were skewing its credit-performance metrics.

The upshot of all this is that modifications -- as opposed to collections or foreclosure -- injects a big question mark into mortgage performance and returns. Even beyond the immediate loss allocations for holders of mortgages, subsequent buyers of mortgage paper that has been modified must confront the fact that even the post-charged-off performance of the loans may not perform as expected. HAMP has thrown a big question mark into the mortgage market, and I expect that the collection industry is going to have to figure it out -- eventually.
25153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / part two on: October 21, 2009, 08:34:57 AM
Obviously, if McChrystal drives the Taliban out of secured areas and into uninhabited areas, the United States will have a tremendous opportunity to engage in strategic bombardment both against Taliban militants themselves and against supply lines no longer plugged into populated areas. But this assumes that the Taliban would not reduce its operations from company-level and higher assaults down to guerrilla-level operations in response to being driven out of population centers. If the Taliban did make such a reduction, it would become indistinguishable from the population. This would allow it to engage in attritional warfare against coalition forces and against the protected population to demonstrate that coalition forces can’t protect them. The Taliban already has demonstrated the ability to thrive in both populated and rural areas of Afghanistan, where the terrain favors the insurgent far more than the counterinsurgent.

The strategy of training Afghan soldiers and police to take up the battle and persuading insurgents to change sides faces several realities. The Taliban has an excellent intelligence service built up during the period of its rule and afterward, allowing it to populate the new security forces with its agents and loyalists. And while persuading insurgents to change sides certainly can happen, whether it can happen to the extent of leaving the Taliban materially weakened remains in doubt. In Iraq, this happened not because of individual changes, but because regional ethnic leadership — with their own excellent intelligence capabilities — changed sides and drove out opposing factions. Individual defections were frequently liquidated.

But Taliban leaders have not shown any inclination for changing sides. They do not believe the United States is in Afghanistan to stay. Getting individual Taliban militants to change sides creates an intelligence-security battle. But McChrystal is betting that his forces will form bonds with the local population so deep that the locals will provide intelligence against Taliban forces operating in the region. The coalition must thus demonstrate that the risks of defection are dwarfed by the advantages. To do this, the coalition security and counterintelligence must consistently and effectively block the Taliban’s ability to identify, locate and liquidate defectors. If McChrystal cannot do that, large-scale defection will be impossible, because well before such defection becomes large scale, the first defectors will be dead, as will anyone seen by the Taliban as a collaborator.

Ultimately, the entire strategy depends on how you read Iraq. In Iraq, a political decision was made by an intact Sunni leadership able to enforce its will among its followers. Squeezed between the foreign jihadists who wanted to usurp their position and the Shia, provided with political and financial incentives, and possessing their own forces able to provide a degree of security themselves, the Sunni leadership came to the see the Americans as the lesser evil. They controlled a critical mass, and they shifted. McChrystal has made it clear that the defections he expects are not a Taliban faction whose leadership decides to shift, but Taliban soldiers as individuals or small groups. That isn’t ultimately what turned the Iraq war but something very different — and quite elusive in counterinsurgency. He is looking for retail defections to turn into a strategic event.

Moreover, it seems much too early to speak of the successful strategy in Iraq. First, there is increasing intracommunal violence in anticipation of coming elections early next year. Second, some 120,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq to guarantee the political and security agreements of 2007-2008, and it is far from clear what would happen if those troops left. Finally, where in Afghanistan there is the Pakistan question, in Iraq there remains the Iran question. Instability thus becomes a cross-border issue beyond the scope of existing forces.

The Pakistan situation is particularly problematic. If the strategic objective of the war in Afghanistan is to cut the legs out from under al Qaeda and deny these foreign jihadists sanctuary, then what of the sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal belt where high-value al Qaeda targets are believed to be located? Pakistan is fighting its share of jihadists according to its own rules; the United States cannot realistically expect Islamabad to fulfill its end of the bargain in containing al Qaeda. The primary U.S. targets in this war are on the wrong side of the border, and in areas where U.S. forces are not free to operate. The American interest in Afghanistan is to defeat al Qaeda and prevent the emergence of follow-on jihadist forces. The problem is that regardless of how secure Afghanistan is, jihadist forces can (to varying degrees) train and plan in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia — or even Cleveland for that matter. Securing Afghanistan is thus not necessarily a precondition for defeating al Qaeda.

Iraq is used as the argument in favor of the new strategy in Afghanistan. What happened in Iraq was that a situation that was completely out of hand became substantially less unstable because of a set of political accommodations initially rejected by the Americans and the Sunnis from 2003-2006. Once accepted, a disastrous situation became an unstable situation with many unknowns still in place.

If the goal of Afghanistan is to forge the kind of tenuous political accords that govern Iraq, the factional conflicts that tore Iraq apart are needed. Afghanistan certainly has factional conflicts, but the Taliban, the main adversary, does not seem to be torn by them. It is possible that under sufficient pressure such splits might occur, but the Taliban has been a cohesive force for a generation. When it has experienced divisions, it hasn’t split decisively.

On the other hand, it is not clear that Western forces in Afghanistan can sustain long-term infantry conflict in which the offensive is deliberately ceded to a capable enemy and where airpower’s use is severely circumscribed to avoid civilian casualties, overturning half a century of military doctrine of combined arms operations.

The Bigger Picture

The best argument for fighting in Afghanistan is powerful and similar to the one for fighting in Iraq: credibility. The abandonment of either country will create a powerful tool in the Islamic world for jihadists to argue that the United States is a weak power. Withdrawal from either place without a degree of political success could destabilize other regimes that cooperate with the United States. Given that, staying in either country has little to do with strategy and everything to do with the perception of simply being there.

The best argument against fighting in either country is equally persuasive. The jihadists are right: The United States has neither the interest nor forces for long-term engagements in these countries. American interests go far beyond the Islamic world, and there are many present (to say nothing of future) threats from outside the region that require forces. Overcommitment in any one area of interest at the expense of others could be even more disastrous than the consequences of withdrawal.

In our view, Obama’s decision depends not on choosing between McChrystal’s strategy and others, but on a careful consideration of how to manage the consequences of withdrawal. An excellent case can be made that now is not the time to leave Afghanistan, and we expect Obama to be influenced by that thinking far more than by the details of McChrystal’s strategy. As McChrystal himself points out, there are many unknowns and many risks in his own strategy; he is guaranteeing nothing.

Reducing American national strategy to the Islamic world, or worse, Afghanistan, is the greater threat. Nations find their balance, and the heavy pressures on Obama in this decision basically represent those impersonal forces battering him. The question he must ask himself is simple: In what way is the future of Afghanistan of importance to the United States? The answer that securing it will hobble al Qaeda is simply wrong. U.S. Afghan policy will not stop a global terrorist organization; terrorists will just go elsewhere. The answer that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is important in shaping the Islamic world’s sense of American power is better, but even that must be taken in context of other global interests.

Obama does not want this to be his war. He does not want to be remembered for Afghanistan the way George W. Bush is remembered for Iraq or Lyndon Johnson is for Vietnam. Right now, we suspect Obama plans to demonstrate commitment, and to disengage at a more politically opportune time. Johnson and Bush showed that disengagement after commitment is nice in theory. For our part, we do not think there is an effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan, but that McChrystal has proposed a good one for “hold until relieved.” We suspect that Obama will hold to show that he gave the strategy a chance, but that the decision to leave won’t be too far off.
25154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Serious thought piece on: October 21, 2009, 08:33:33 AM
The Afghanistan challenge
Expecting infantry to bring victory is a radical departure from US fighting doctrine since World War II.
The decision over whether to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan may wait until the contested Afghan election is resolved, U.S. officials said Oct. 18. The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is approaching a decision on the war in Afghanistan. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Obama argued that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time, but Afghanistan was a necessary war. His reasoning went that the threat to the United States came from al Qaeda, Afghanistan had been al Qaeda’s sanctuary, and if the United States were to abandon Afghanistan, al Qaeda would re-establish itself and once again threaten the U.S. homeland. Withdrawal from Afghanistan would hence be dangerous, and prosecution of the war was therefore necessary.

After Obama took office, it became necessary to define a war-fighting strategy in Afghanistan. The most likely model was based on the one used in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, now head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility covers both Afghanistan and Iraq. Paradoxically, the tactical and strategic framework for fighting the so-called “right war” derived from U.S. military successes in executing the so-called “wrong war.” But grand strategy, or selecting the right wars to fight, and war strategy, or how to fight the right wars, are not necessarily linked.

Afghanistan, Iraq and the McChrystal Plan

Making sense of the arguments over Afghanistan requires an understanding of how the Iraq war is read by the strategists fighting it, since a great deal of proposed Afghan strategy involves transferring lessons learned from Iraq. Those strategists see the Iraq war as having had three phases. The first was the short conventional war that saw the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s military. The second was the period from 2003-2006 during which the United States faced a Sunni insurgency and resistance from the Shiite population, as well as a civil war between those two communities. During this phase, the United States sought to destroy the insurgency primarily by military means while simultaneously working to scrape a national unity government together and hold elections. The third phase, which began in late 2006, was primarily a political phase. It consisted of enticing Iraqi Sunni leaders to desert the foreign jihadists in Iraq, splitting the Shiite community among its various factions, and reaching political — and financial — accommodations among the various factions. Military operations focused on supporting political processes, such as pressuring recalcitrant factions and protecting those who aligned with the United States. The troop increase — aka the surge — was designed to facilitate this strategy. Even more, it was meant to convince Iraqi factions (not to mention Iran) that the United States was not going to pull out of Iraq, and that therefore a continuing American presence would back up guarantees made to Iraqis.

It is important to understand this last bit and its effect on Afghanistan. As in Iraq, the idea that the United States will not abandon local allies by withdrawing until Afghan security forces could guarantee the allies’ security lies at the heart of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, e.g., before local allies’ security could be guaranteed, would undermine U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. To a great extent, the process of U.S. security guarantees in Afghanistan depends on the credibility of those guarantees: Withdrawal from Iraq followed by retribution against U.S. allies in Iraq would undermine the core of the Afghan strategy.

U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy in Afghanistan ultimately is built around the principle that the United States and its NATO allies are capable of protecting Afghans prepared to cooperate with Western forces. This explains why the heart of McChrystal’s strategy involves putting U.S. troops as close to the Afghan people as possible. Doing so will entail closing many smaller bases in remote valleys — like the isolated outpost recently attacked in Nuristan province — and opening bases in more densely populated areas.

McChrystal’s strategy therefore has three basic phases. In phase one, his forces would fight their way into regions where a large portion of the population lives and where the Taliban currently operates, namely Kabul, Khost, Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The United States would assume a strategic defensive posture in these populated areas. Because these areas are essential to the Taliban, phase two would see a Taliban counterattack in a bid to drive McChrystal’s forces out, or at least to demonstrate that the U.S. forces cannot provide security for the local population. Paralleling the first two phases, phase three would see McChrystal using his military successes to forge alliances with indigenous leaders and their followers.

It should be noted that while McChrystal’s traditional counterinsurgency strategy would be employed in populated areas, U.S. forces would also rely on traditional counterterrorism tactics in more remote areas where the Taliban have a heavy presence and can be pursued through drone strikes. The hope is that down the road, the strategy would allow the United States to use its military successes to fracture the Taliban, thereby encouraging defections and facilitating political reconciliation with Taliban elements driven more by political power than ideology.

There is a fundamental difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, however. In Iraq, resistance forces rarely operated in sufficient concentrations to block access to the population. By contrast, the Taliban on several occasions have struck with concentrations of forces numbering in the hundreds, essentially at company-size strength. If Iraq was a level one conflict, with irregular forces generally refusing conventional engagement with coalition forces, Afghanistan is beginning to bridge the gap from a level one to a level two conflict, with the Taliban holding territory with forces both able to provide conventional resistance and to mount some offensives at the company level (and perhaps at the battalion level in the future). This means that occupying, securing and defending areas such that the inhabitants see the coalition forces as defenders rather than as magnets for conflict is the key challenge.

Adding to the challenge, elements of McChrystal’s strategy are in tension. First, local inhabitants will experience multilevel conflict as coalition forces move into a given region. Second, McChrystal is hoping that the Taliban goes on the offensive in response. And this means that the first and second steps will collide with the third, which is demonstrating to locals that the presence of coalition forces makes them more secure as conflict increases (which McChrystal acknowledges will happen). To convince locals that Western forces enhance their security, the coalition will thus have to be stunningly successful both at defeating Taliban defenders when they first move in and in repulsing subsequent Taliban attacks.

In its conflict with the Taliban, the coalition’s main advantage is firepower, both in terms of artillery and airpower. The Taliban must concentrate its forces to attack the coalition; to counter such attacks, the weapons of choice are airstrikes and artillery. The problem with both of these weapons is first, a certain degree of inaccuracy is built into their use, and second, the attackers will be moving through population centers (the area held by both sides is important precisely because it has population). This means that air- and ground-fire missions, both important in a defensive strategy, run counter to the doctrine of protecting population.

McChrystal is fully aware of this dilemma, and he has therefore changed the rules of engagement to sharply curtail airstrikes in areas of concentrated population, even in areas where U.S. troops are in danger of being overrun. As McChrystal said in a recent interview, these rules of engagement will hold “Even if it means we are going to step away from a firefight and fight them another day.”

This strategy poses two main challenges. First, it shifts the burden of the fighting onto U.S. infantry forces. Second, by declining combat in populated areas, the strategy runs the risk of making the populated areas where political arrangements might already be in place more vulnerable. In avoiding air and missile strikes, McChrystal avoids alienating the population through civilian casualties. But by declining combat, McChrystal risks alienating populations subject to Taliban offensives. Simply put, while airstrikes can devastate a civilian population, avoiding airstrikes could also devastate Western efforts, as local populations could see declining combat as a betrayal. McChrystal is thus stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place on this one.

One of his efforts at a solution has been to ask for more troops. The point of these troops is not to occupy Afghanistan and impose a new reality through military force, which is impossible (especially given the limited number of troops the United States is willing to dedicate to the problem). Instead, it is to provide infantry forces not only to hold larger areas, but to serve as reinforcements during Taliban attacks so the use of airpower can be avoided. Putting the onus of this counterinsurgency on the infantry, and having the infantry operate without airpower, is a radical departure from U.S. fighting doctrine since World War II.

Seismic Shift in War Doctrine

Geopolitically, the United States fights at the end of a long supply line. Moreover, U.S. forces operate at a demographic disadvantage. Once in Eurasia, U.S. forces are always outnumbered. Infantry-on-infantry warfare is attritional, and the United States runs out of troops before the other side does. Infantry warfare does not provide the United States any advantage, and in fact, it places the United States at a disadvantage. Opponents of the United States thus have larger numbers of fighters; greater familiarity and acclimation to the terrain; and typically, better intelligence from countrymen behind U.S. lines. The U.S. counter always has been force multipliers — normally artillery and airpower — capable of destroying enemy concentrations before they close with U.S. troops. McChrystal’s strategy, if applied rigorously, shifts doctrine toward infantry-on-infantry combat. His plan assumes that superior U.S. training will be the force multiplier in Afghanistan (as it may). But that assumes that the Taliban, a light infantry force with numerous battle-hardened formations optimized for fighting in Afghanistan, is an inferior infantry force. And it assumes that U.S. infantry fighting larger concentrations of Taliban forces will consistently defeat them.
25155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 21, 2009, 08:11:44 AM
America's political class has developed a habit of talking itself into defeat. Yet the predictions of doom in Afghanistan and Pakistan are as misplaced there as they were in Iraq, as events in the last week show. Afghanistan yesterday demonstrated political maturity by moving to resolve a dispute over a fraudulent election. On Sunday, Pakistan's military launched an offensive against the Islamist sanctuary in the mountainous tribal region of South Waziristan.

Since the August 20 poll, the independent Electoral Complaints Commission has reviewed and disqualified fraudulent votes. Enough ballots were thrown out to put President Hamid Karzai's final tally below the 50% threshold required to win. A second round must now be held to determine a winner, which will take place November 7. Mr. Karzai was reluctant, but he did the right thing and accepted a runoff, earning praise as a "statesman" from the U.S.

To Afghanistan's credit, the election tensions never degenerated into violence, which could have pitted the Pashtuns against Tajiks, who back challenger Abdullah Abdullah. Mr. Karzai didn't declare victory when the state-run Independent Electoral Commission initially gave him 54% of the vote. Nor did Mr. Abdullah rile up his supporters to fight outside the system. Few emerging democracies would have shown such restraint.

The runoff won't come off without security or logistical risks, and the resurgent Taliban want to disrupt the poll. But in the first round, the bigger threat to the election's integrity came from Mr. Karzai's supporters in the southern provinces who inflated his tally. Mr. Karzai is still favored to win, but a more successful second round will help with his popular legitimacy—as much in the U.S. as in Afghanistan.

As for Pakistan, this week's offensive goes into tribal areas that Islamabad has never managed to control. About 30,000 Pakistani troops are taking on 10,000 or so Islamist fighters associated with the Mehsud clan. Leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a U.S. drone strike this summer, but his men remain a formidable fighting force.

Pakistani public opinion now backs this costly fight because the Pashtun insurgents in the tribal areas are increasingly viewed as a threat to Pakistan itself. At the same time, anti-Americanism runs deep, Obamamania or not. Many in the military and intelligence service support Islamist terror groups fighting more in Kashmir or Afghanistan. If Pakistan's rulers finally decide to end their role as a leading sanctuary for Islamist terror, the outlook for Afghanistan will brighten as well. The battle in Waziristan is an early litmus test.

All of this progress is being made despite President Obama's all too public second thoughts over the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan. His advisers and generals deserve credit for helping to turn events around in the Afpak theater, but our allies are still waiting to find out what kind of "statesman" the U.S. President will be.
25156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / T. Friedman on: October 21, 2009, 08:02:24 AM

The New Untouchables Sign in to Recommend
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: October 20, 2009

Last summer I attended a talk by Michelle Rhee, the dynamic chancellor of public schools in Washington. Just before the session began, a man came up, introduced himself as Todd Martin and whispered to me that what Rhee was about to speak about — our struggling public schools — was actually a critical, but unspoken, reason for the Great Recession.

There’s something to that. While the subprime mortgage mess involved a huge ethical breakdown on Wall Street, it coincided with an education breakdown on Main Street — precisely when technology and open borders were enabling so many more people to compete with Americans for middle-class jobs.

In our subprime era, we thought we could have the American dream — a house and yard — with nothing down. This version of the American dream was delivered not by improving education, productivity and savings, but by Wall Street alchemy and borrowed money from Asia.

A year ago, it all exploded. Now that we are picking up the pieces, we need to understand that it is not only our financial system that needs a reboot and an upgrade, but also our public school system. Otherwise, the jobless recovery won’t be just a passing phase, but our future.

“Our education failure is the largest contributing factor to the decline of the American worker’s global competitiveness, particularly at the middle and bottom ranges,” argued Martin, a former global executive with PepsiCo and Kraft Europe and now an international investor. “This loss of competitiveness has weakened the American worker’s production of wealth, precisely when technology brought global competition much closer to home. So over a decade, American workers have maintained their standard of living by borrowing and overconsuming vis-à-vis their real income. When the Great Recession wiped out all the credit and asset bubbles that made that overconsumption possible, it left too many American workers not only deeper in debt than ever, but out of a job and lacking the skills to compete globally.”

This problem will be reversed only when the decline in worker competitiveness reverses — when we create enough new jobs and educated workers that are worth, say, $40-an-hour compared with the global alternatives. If we don’t, there’s no telling how “jobless” this recovery will be.

A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

That is the key to understanding our full education challenge today. Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.

As the Harvard University labor expert Lawrence Katz explains it: “If you think about the labor market today, the top half of the college market, those with the high-end analytical and problem-solving skills who can compete on the world market or game the financial system or deal with new government regulations, have done great. But the bottom half of the top, those engineers and programmers working on more routine tasks and not actively engaged in developing new ideas or recombining existing technologies or thinking about what new customers want, have done poorly. They’ve been much more exposed to global competitors that make them easily substitutable.”

Those at the high end of the bottom half — high school grads in construction or manufacturing — have been clobbered by global competition and immigration, added Katz. “But those who have some interpersonal skills — the salesperson who can deal with customers face to face or the home contractor who can help you redesign your kitchen without going to an architect — have done well.”

Just being an average accountant, lawyer, contractor or assembly-line worker is not the ticket it used to be. As Daniel Pink, the author of “A Whole New Mind,” puts it: In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper “and just as well,” vanilla doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s all about what chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry you can put on top. So our schools have a doubly hard task now — not just improving reading, writing and arithmetic but entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.

Bottom line: We’re not going back to the good old days without fixing our schools as well as our banks.
25157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO: Lets do what the Japanese did! on: October 21, 2009, 07:50:27 AM
second post

Rising Debt a Threat to Japanese Economy
By HIROKO TABUCHI
NYT
Published: October 20, 2009
TOKYO — How much debt can an industrialized country carry before the nation’s economy and its currency bow, then break?

A construction site near the Yamba dam project in Naganohara, Japan. Stimulus spending on dams and roads have helped inflate Japan's gross public debt to twice the $5 trillion economy.
The question looms large in the United States, as a surging budget deficit pushes government debt to nearly 98 percent of the gross domestic product. But it looms even larger in Japan.

Here, years of stimulus spending on expensive dams and roads have inflated the country’s gross public debt to twice the size of its $5 trillion economy — by far the highest debt-to-G.D.P. ratio in recent memory.

Just paying the interest on its debt consumed a fifth of Japan’s budget for 2008, compared with debt payments that compose about a tenth of the United States budget.

Yet, the finance minister, Hirohisa Fujii, suggested Tuesday that the government would sell 50 trillion yen, about $550 billion, in new bonds — or more.

“There’s no mistaking the budget deficit stems from the past year’s global recession. Now is the time to be bold and issue more deficit bonds,” Mr. Fujii told reporters at the National Press Club in Tokyo. “Those who may call this pork-barrel spending — that’s a total lie.”

For jittery investors, Japan’s rising sea of debt is the stuff of nightmares: the possibility of an eventual sovereign debt crisis, where the country would be unable to pay some holders of its bonds, or a destabilizing collapse in the value of the yen.

In the immediate term, Mr. Fujii’s remarks prompted concerns of a supply glut in bond markets, sending prices on 10-year Japanese government bonds down 0.087 yen, to 99.56 yen, and yields to their highest point in six weeks.

The Obama administration insists that it understands the risks posed by deficits and ever-increasing debt. Its critics are doubtful. But as Washington runs up a trillion-dollar deficit this year, with trillions in debt for years to come, it need look no farther than Tokyo to see how overspending can ravage an economy.

Tokyo’s new government, which won a landslide victory on an ambitious (and expensive) social agenda, is set to issue a record amount of debt, borrowing more in government bonds than it will receive in tax receipts for the first time since the years after World War II.

“Public sector finances are spinning out of control — fast,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics in a recent note to clients. “We believe a fiscal crisis is imminent.”

One of the lessons of Japan’s experience is that a government saddled with debt can quickly run out of room to maneuver.

“Japan will keep on selling more bonds this year and next, but that won’t work in three to five years,” said Akito Fukunaga, a Tokyo-based fixed-income strategist at Credit Suisse. “If you ask me what Japan can resort to after that, my answer would be ‘not very much.’ ”

How Japan got into such a deep hole, and kept digging, is a tale of reckless spending.

The country poured hundreds of billions of dollars into civil engineering projects in the postwar era, marbling Japan with highways, dams and ports.

The spending initially fueled Japan’s rapid postwar growth and kept the Liberal Democratic Party in power for most of the last half-century. But after a spectacular asset and stock market boom collapsed in 1990, the country fell into a long economic malaise.

The Democratic Party, which swept to victory in August, promises to rein in public works spending. But the party’s generous welfare agenda — like cash support to families with children and free high schools — could ultimately enlarge budget deficits.

“It’s dangerous for the Democrats to push on with all of their policies when tax revenues are so low,” said Chotaro Morita, head of fixed-income strategy at Barclays Capital Japan. “From a global perspective, Japan’s debt ratio is way off the charts,” he said.

Still, officials insist that Japan is better off than the United States by some measures.

One hugely important difference is that Japan is rich in personal savings and assets, and owes less than 10 percent of its debt to foreigners. By comparison, about 46 percent of America’s debt is held overseas by countries such as China and Japan.

Moreover, half of Japan’s government bonds are held by the public sector, while government regulations encourage long-term investors like banks, pension funds and insurance companies to buy up the rest.

All of this makes a sudden sell-off of government bonds unlikely, officials argue.

“The government is just borrowing from one pocket and putting it in the other,” said Toyoo Gyohten, a former top finance ministry official and a special currency adviser to Mr. Fujii. “Although the numbers appear very fearsome, we have some leeway.”

Many analysts agree that during a recession, Japan, like the United States, should worry less about trying to cut debt. But they say Tokyo should at least concentrate on making sure that spending does not get out of hand.

“The government needs to stabilize the debt, first and foremost. Only then can it start setting other targets,” said Randall Jones, chief economist for Japan and Korea at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

A credible plan to pare down spending is important “to maintain public confidence in Japan’s fiscal sustainability,” said the O.E.C.D.’s economic survey of Japan for 2009.

==========



Rising Debt a Threat to Japanese Economy



Published: October 20, 2009
(Page 2 of 2)



In the long run, even Japan’s sizable assets could fall and eventually turn negative. Japan’s rapidly aging population means retirees are starting to dip into their nest eggs — just as government spending increases to cover their rising medical bills and pension payments.


The fall in public and private savings could eventually reverse Japan’s current account surplus, possibly driving up interest rates as the public and private sectors compete for funds. Higher interest rates would increase the cost of servicing the debt, and raise Japan’s risk of default.

In a worst case, Japan’s currency could suffer as more investors switch away from Japan to other assets. And if Japan were to print more money and set off inflation to reduce its debt burden, the supply of yen would shoot up, lowering the currency’s value further.

In recent months, the yen’s surge on major markets as the dollar weakened has sent a false sense of security. The currency recently touched a seven-month high of about 89 yen to the dollar before easing slightly, as near-zero interest rates in the United States prompted investors to take their money elsewhere. Many strategists expect the yen to strengthen further, at least in the short term.

“In 10 or 20 years, Japan’s current-account surplus will fall into deficit, and that will lead to a weaker yen,” said Mr. Morita at Barclays Capital. “But if investors become pessimistic about Japan before that, the yen will weaken earlier than that.”

For all the recent talk of a shift away from the dollar as the reserve currency of choice, it is the yen that is becoming increasingly irrelevant, analysts say. The yen made up 3.08 percent of foreign currency reserves in mid-2009, down from 3.29 percent the same time last year and down from 6.4 percent in 1999. In mid-2009, the dollar still accounted for almost 63 percent of global foreign reserves.

“The yen is set to enter a long decline” in both stature and value as investors lose confidence in Japan, said Hideo Kumano, chief economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo.

Considering the state of Japan’s finances and economy, Mr. Kumano said, the yen’s recent strength against the dollar “isn’t an affirmation of Japan — it’s the yen’s last hurrah.”
25158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: BO blows off Volcker on: October 21, 2009, 07:40:58 AM
When McCain challenged BO about the radicals around him, BO cited Volcker and Warren Buffett as the people to whom he listened on economics.  We're shocked, absolutely shocked, to discover that this may have been a misdirection!

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

Volcker Fails to Sell a Bank Strategy

Published: October 20, 2009
Listen to a top economist in the Obama administration describe Paul A. Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman who endorsed Mr. Obama early in his election campaign and who stood by his side during the financial crisis.

“The guy’s a giant, he’s a genius, he is a great human being,” said Austan D. Goolsbee, counselor to Mr. Obama since their Chicago days. “Whenever he has advice, the administration is very interested.”
Well, not lately. The aging Mr. Volcker (he is 82) has some advice, deeply felt. He has been offering it in speeches and Congressional testimony, and repeating it to those around the president, most of them young enough to be his children.

He wants the nation’s banks to be prohibited from owning and trading risky securities, the very practice that got the biggest ones into deep trouble in 2008. And the administration is saying no, it will not separate commercial banking from investment operations.

“I am not pounding the desk all the time, but I am making my point,” Mr. Volcker said in one of his infrequent on-the-record interviews. “I have talked to some senators who asked me to talk to them, and if people want to talk to me, I talk to them. But I am not going around knocking on doors.”

Still, he does head the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which makes him the administration’s most prominent outside economic adviser. As Fed chairman from 1979 to 1987, he helped the country weather more than one crisis. And in the campaign last year, he appeared occasionally with Mr. Obama, including a town hall meeting in Florida last fall. His towering presence (he is 6-foot-8) offered reassurance that the candidate’s economic policies, in the midst of a crisis, were trustworthy.

More subtly, Mr. Obama has in Mr. Volcker an adviser perceived as standing apart from Wall Street, and critical of its ways, some administration officials say, while Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, and Lawrence H. Summers, chief of the National Economic Council, are seen, rightly or wrongly, as more sympathetic to the concerns of investment bankers.

For all these reasons, Mr. Volcker’s approach to financial regulation cannot be just brushed off — and Mr. Goolsbee, speaking for the administration, is careful not to do so. “We have discussed these issues with Paul Volcker extensively,” he said.

Mr. Volcker’s proposal would roll back the nation’s commercial banks to an earlier era, when they were restricted to commercial banking and prohibited from engaging in risky Wall Street activities.

The Obama team, in contrast, would let the giants survive, but would regulate them extensively, so they could not get themselves and the nation into trouble again. While the administration’s proposal languishes, giants like Goldman Sachs have re-engaged in old trading practices, once again earning big profits and planning big bonuses.

Mr. Volcker argues that regulation by itself will not work. Sooner or later, the giants, in pursuit of profits, will get into trouble. The administration should accept this and shield commercial banking from Wall Street’s wild ways.

“The banks are there to serve the public,” Mr. Volcker said, “and that is what they should concentrate on. These other activities create conflicts of interest. They create risks, and if you try to control the risks with supervision, that just creates friction and difficulties” and ultimately fails.

The only viable solution, in the Volcker view, is to break up the giants. JPMorgan Chase would have to give up the trading operations acquired from Bear Stearns. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch would go back to being separate companies. Goldman Sachs could no longer be a bank holding company. It’s a tall order, and to achieve it Congress would have to enact a modern-day version of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which mandated separation.

Glass-Steagall was watered down over the years and finally revoked in 1999. In the Volcker resurrection, commercial banks would take deposits, manage the nation’s payments system, make standard loans and even trade securities for their customers — just not for themselves. The government, in return, would rescue banks that fail.

On the other side of the wall, investment houses would be free to buy and sell securities for their own accounts, borrowing to leverage these trades and thus multiplying the profits, and the risks.

Being separated from banks, the investment houses would no longer have access to federally insured deposits to finance this trading. If one failed, the government would supervise an orderly liquidation. None would be too big to fail — a designation that could arise for a handful of institutions under the administration’s proposal.

“People say I’m old-fashioned and banks can no longer be separated from nonbank activity,” Mr. Volcker said, acknowledging criticism that he is nostalgic for an earlier era. “That argument,” he added ruefully, “brought us to where we are today.”

He may not be alone in his proposal, but he is nearly so. Most economists and policy makers argue that a global economy requires that America have big financial institutions to compete against others in Europe and Asia. An administration spokesman says the Obama proposal for reform would result in financial institutions that could fail without damaging the system.

Still, a handful side with Mr. Volcker, among them Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics at Columbia and a former official in the Clinton administration. “We would have a cleaner, safer banking system,” Mr. Stiglitz said, adding that while he endorses Mr. Volcker’s proposal, the former Fed chairman is nevertheless embarked on a quixotic journey.

Alan Greenspan, the only other former Fed chairman still living, favored the repeal of Glass-Steagall a decade ago and, unlike Mr. Volcker, would not bring it back now. He declined to be interviewed for this article, but in response to e-mailed questions he cited two recent public statements in which he suggested that the nation’s largest financial institutions become smaller, so that none would be too big to fail, requiring a federal rescue.

Taking issue implicitly with the Volcker proposal to split commercial and investment banking, he has said: “No form of economic organization can fully contain bouts of destructive speculative euphoria.”

For his part, Mr. Volcker is careful to explain that he supports 80 percent of the administration’s detailed plan for financial regulation, including much higher capital requirements and “guidelines” on pay. Wall Street compensation, he said in a recent television interview, “has gotten grotesquely large.”

Before the credit crisis, the big institutions earned most of their profits from proprietary trading, and those profits led to giant bonuses. Mr. Volcker argues that splitting commercial and investment banking would put a damper on both pay and risky trading practices.

His disagreement with the Obama people on whether to restore some version of Glass-Steagall appears to have contributed to published reports that his influence in the administration is fading and that he is rarely if ever in the small Washington office assigned to him.

He operates from his own offices in New York, communicating with administration officials and other members of the advisory board mainly by telephone. (He does not use e-mail, although his support staff does.) He travels infrequently to Washington, he says, and when he does, the visits are too short to bother with the office. The advisory board has been asked to study, amid other issues, the tax law on corporate profits earned overseas, hardly a headline concern.

So Mr. Volcker scoffs at the reports that he is losing clout. “I did not have influence to start with,” he said.
25159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: October 21, 2009, 07:15:28 AM
From the NRA-ILA:

http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Fe...d.aspx?id=5181

Friday, October 16, 2009
On October 13, the Associated Press reported that the so-called Bi-National Task Force on Rethinking the United States-Mexico Border has produced a report, which, among other things, calls for re-imposition of the federal “assault weapon” ban of 1994-2004, saying it would improve security in both countries.

The “border-rethinking” group has been put together by the Pacific Council on International Policy and the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. The group consists mostly of former U.S. and Mexican officials and journalists, none of them currently elected by the people of the U.S. or Mexico to make policy on these issues.

According to the Pacific Council, the report is being released under the auspices of the Mexican CFR on November 13th and is absolutely unavailable until that time. The Brady Campaign, naturally, has a copy of the report anyway, and quotes its executive summary as saying “The United States should intensify efforts to curtail the smuggling of firearms, ammunition, and bulk cash into Mexico by aggressively investigating gun sellers, regulating gun shows, [and] reinstituting the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons.”

Congress finished its hearings on the Mexico situation several months ago, and many members of Congress have declared their line-in-the-sand opposition to re-imposition of the ban. So given that Brady Campaign seems to be the only outfit that has a copy of the embargoed report, it’s safe to conclude that the “task force” is trying to keep the public primed for the next attack on the ownership of firearms like the AR-15 and Remington 11-87, and ammunition magazines designed for defensive purposes.

Whatever the opinions of those who sip tea and nibble biscuits while musing about how to restrict the rest of us, re-imposing the ban would have no effect on Mexico’s historic problem of crime and corruption, for at least three reasons.

First, as has been amply demonstrated, the cartels are not limited to semi-automatic AR-15s and AK-47s. They have hand-held and tripod-mounted, belt-fed machine guns; grenade launchers and grenades; and a variety of other high-end firearms, explosives, and special-purpose optics and communication gear acquired from countries other than the United States. Thanks to some Americans’ insatiable appetite for mind-altering drugs, they have enough money to buy the “task force” 10 times over, along with any weapon that can be found among any infantry platoon on Earth, no matter what kind of gun law gets imposed.

Second, most of the firearms seized from the cartels do not come from the United States. The claim that “90 percent” of Mexican "crime guns" originate in the U.S. is false. It does not relate to all firearms the Mexicans have seized from the cartels, but only to guns that the Mexicans have asked the BATFE to trace. As the Government Accountability Office has explained, “In 2008, of the almost 30,000 firearms that the Mexican Attorney General’s office said were seized, only around 7,200, or approximately a quarter, were submitted to [BATFE] for tracing.” The 6,700 guns that BATFE traced to the U.S. accounted for about 90 percent of the 7,200 guns that BATFE traced, but only 22 percent of all firearms seized by the Mexican government

Third, the ban did not stop the production and sale of any guns, it merely put a one-attachment limit on new guns. For example, before the ban, AR-15s had a pistol-type grip, flash suppressor and bayonet mount. The 750,000 AR-15s made during the ban had only the grip. If the “task force” thinks the fate of Mexico hinges on whether a relatively small number of semi-automatic rifles have flash suppressors and bayonet mounts, its members ought to switch to decaffeinated tea and sugar-free cookies during their get-togethers.

Make no mistake, however. Even if the “task force” doesn’t understand the finer details of the old “assault weapon” ban, leading gun ban advocates like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, the Brady Campaign, the Violence Policy Center, the Joyce Foundation, and the Legal Community Against Violence do. If they have their way, they will eventually drag us into a much larger battle over the right to keep and bear semi-automatic shotguns, M1 Garands, M1 Carbines, and Ruger Mini-14s, in addition to the AR-15s, semi-automatic AK-47s, and other commonly owned firearms that were at issue during the 1994-2004 ban.
25160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sweden on: October 21, 2009, 07:09:10 AM
Sweden Democrat leader reported for 'hate speech'

Published: 20 Oct 09 11:50 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.se/22762/20091020/



An opinion piece by Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson in which he labels Muslims a major threat has been reported to Sweden's highest legal official by the Centre Against Racism (Centrum Mot Rasism). The anti-racism organization called on the Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern - JK) to examine whether claims made by the head of the far-right party were tantamount to agitation against an ethnic group (hets mot folkgrup).

Åkesson's article, published in Aftonbladet on Monday, has provoked a furious reaction following the Sweden Democrat chief's assertion that the spread of Islam represents the country's "greatest external threat since World War II".

"We are of the view that the article agitates against Muslims when it points at Islam as the greatest threat to Sweden," said Mariam Osman Sherifay, head of the organization and Social Democrat politician, to the TT news agency.

Osman Sherifay was also highly critical of Aftonbladet's decision to print the article, a move she said was out of step with established journalistic standards.

"The newspaper is giving the Sweden Democrats space that they don't deserve. The fact that they're racists is not news. Aftonbladet could instead have examined the party's views," she said.

Osman Sherifay's political rivals, the conservative Christian Democrats -- currently the smallest of the four parties in the governing centre-right coalition -- were also quick to shoot down Åkesson's comments.

"My understanding of media reports from the weekend's Sweden Democrat conference was that they wanted to broaden the party and show that they have more strings to their bow than just xenophobia," said party leader Göran Hägglund in a written comment to The Local.

"But when they formulate this opinion piece all we get once again are sweeping accusations portraying an ethnic group as a threat, all of which is based on facts that are dubious to say the very least."

Tempers have flared between the two parties in recent months as the battle heats up for the conservative vote. A number of opinion polls have indicated that the Sweden Democrats are closing in on the four percent threshold necessary for representation in the Riksdag as the Christian Democrats struggle to keep their heads above water.

Relations between the two reached perhaps their lowest ebb during the summer when the Christian Democrat leader accused the Sweden Democrats of failing to shake off their Nazi past. But this didn't stop Åkesson from weighing in recently on Hägglund's side as the latter slammed Sweden's "cultural elite" for their purported antipathy towards "regular people".

But Hägglund, who has called on the established parties to tackle the Sweden Democrats head on, was keen to reiterate his view that the Christian Democrats have little in common with their challengers from the far-right.

"Theirs is a viewpoint that places the value of human life on a scale. Some are worth more than others. The way their party views human life is light years away from both my own view and that of my party," he said.


http://www.thelocal.se/article.php?ID=22762&print=true
25161  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Study: Double killing on Mexico City subway on: October 21, 2009, 06:43:52 AM
Woof Howie:

Such questions and reflections belong well in this thread.

I would offer for your consideration that animals tend NOT to do the sort of thing we see here.  Several years ago I read "The Manufacture of Evil" by Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox who are a team of evolutionary pyschology/biology professor types.  Not their strongest piece of work ("Men in Groups" I thought outstanding) because I thought it would have been better served by being shorter, but the basic premise I thought quite intruguing:  that evil results from the stresses of man being placed in an environment other than the one in which he was evolved.   
   Konrad Lorenz explored similar notions (deeper IMHO, but then he was deeper than just about anyone) of the Darwinian implications of when the darwinian selection process no longer involves interspecies criteria (e.g. hunting, getting hunted) or environmental criteria (out running the forest fire, surviving droughts) but instead the only selection processes are intra-species (man vs. man) , , , but I digress.
   Anyway, seen through the particular filter of Fox and Tiger, it is no surprise that this incident would occur in what Lorenz would call "the Anonymous Horde" of a Mexico City subway.
25162  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty's momentary ruminations on: October 21, 2009, 06:29:16 AM
Woof All: 

Just a thread for my momentary ruminations.  Feel free to jump in.

Guro Crafty
===================

   Every so often (roughly once a year) I go through a squat cycle.  For me I agree with the notion that there is something fundamental and primal about the squat.  My back and hips do better when I am sound from squatting.

   My routine is simple.  First day back I start with a few 10 rep sets at 135 (roughly 60 kilos).  The next couple of weeks I add 20 pounds each week, then I add 10 pounds a week.  Sets above 135 are done at 5 reps.  As long as I can comfortably do 5 reps at the peak weight of the week, the next week I continue to add 10 pounds.

  Essential for me is that I have another day during the week where I challenge the legs vigorously in something athletic modality e.g. 100 yard dashes at at the football field with some basic agility work (e.g. cairocas) or better yet, a day at "The Dune" in Manhattan Beach-- which is close now for several months :*-(

  I never use a weight belt, and prefer to go barefoot.  If the gym doesn't allow that, in the past I used wrestling shoes, but now I have the VFFs.  Fortunately my current place, Boxing Works, is very beach casual and I simply can go barefoot, and take off my shirt (during the day there's hardly anyone there) and work on my tan.

   After squats are done, I do "Running Dog Rows" and put the "hanging ab straps" up one of the the chin bars and do certain waist exercises (both of which can be seen in the "Running Dog Game" DVD).

  The pace is extremely leisurely-- between sets I might do some staff, double stick or knife, or some Kali Tudo punching on this weird looking thing mounted to the wall that is great for hooks and uppercuts.
25163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cash for Clubbers on: October 20, 2009, 07:58:13 PM
Cash for Clubbers
Congress's fabulous golf cart stimulus.
Article
We thought cash for clunkers was the ultimate waste of taxpayer money, but as usual we were too optimistic. Thanks to the federal tax credit to buy high-mileage cars that was part of President Obama's stimulus plan, Uncle Sam is now paying Americans to buy that great necessity of modern life, the golf cart.

The federal credit provides from $4,200 to $5,500 for the purchase of an electric vehicle, and when it is combined with similar incentive plans in many states the tax credits can pay for nearly the entire cost of a golf cart. Even in states that don't have their own tax rebate plans, the federal credit is generous enough to pay for half or even two-thirds of the average sticker price of a cart, which is typically in the range of $8,000 to $10,000. "The purchase of some models could be absolutely free," Roger Gaddis of Ada Electric Cars in Oklahoma said earlier this year. "Is that about the coolest thing you've ever heard?"

The golf-cart boom has followed an IRS ruling that golf carts qualify for the electric-car credit as long as they are also road worthy. These qualifying golf carts are essentially the same as normal golf carts save for adding some safety features, such as side and rearview mirrors and three-point seat belts. They typically can go 15 to 25 miles per hour.

In South Carolina, sales of these carts have been soaring as dealerships alert customers to Uncle Sam's giveaway. "The Golf Cart Man" in the Villages of Lady Lake, Florida is running a banner online ad that declares: "GET A FREE GOLF CART. Or make $2,000 doing absolutely nothing!"

Golf Cart Man is referring to his offer in which you can buy the cart for $8,000, get a $5,300 tax credit off your 2009 income tax, lease it back for $100 a month for 27 months, at which point Golf Cart Man will buy back the cart for $2,000. "This means you own a free Golf Cart or made $2,000 cash doing absolutely nothing!!!" You can't blame a guy for exploiting loopholes that Congress offers.

The IRS has also ruled that there's no limit to how many electric cars an individual can buy, so some enterprising profiteers are stocking up on multiple carts while the federal credit lasts, in order to resell them at a profit later. We should note that some states, such as Oklahoma, have caught on to the giveaway and are debating whether to cancel or limit their state credits. But in Congress they're still on the driving range.

This golf-cart fiasco perfectly illustrates tax policy in the age of Obama, when politicians dole out credits and loopholes for everything from plug-in cars to fuel efficient appliances, home insulation and vitamins. Democrats then insist that to pay for these absurdities they have no choice but to raise tax rates on other things—like work and investment—that aren't politically in vogue. If this keeps up, it'll soon make more sense to retire and play golf than work for living.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A12
25164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Six Imans on: October 20, 2009, 06:44:02 PM
 6 imams removed from Phoenix-bound flight reach settlement

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/hourlyupdate/314003.php

6 imams removed from Phoenix-bound flight reach settlement


By Steve Karnowski
The Associated Press
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.20.2009
MINNEAPOLIS — Six imams who were removed from a US Airways flight in 2006 after passengers reported what they considered suspicious behavior have reached a tentative settlement of their discrimination lawsuit, one of their attorneys said Tuesday.

A one-page court form filed Tuesday said a settlement had been reached at a conference Monday in St. Paul with U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan. The form said the conference lasted seven hours and 20 minutes, and that the terms of the settlement were confidential. It gave few other details.

“It is true,” attorney Omar Mohammedi told The Associated Press. “We’re still trying to finalize the details, but a settlement has been reached.”
Mohammedi declined to give the terms of the settlement, which he said will require approval from the federal judge handling the case, Ann Montgomery. He estimated that might take two weeks or so.

One of the imams, Marwan Sadeddin of Phoenix, said the settlement does not include an apology but he considers it an acknowledgment that a mistake was made. He said he couldn’t divulge the terms because both sides had agreed not to discuss them publicly.

“It’s fine for all parties. It’s been solved. ... There is no need for a trial,” Sadeddin said.

An attorney for US Airways Group Inc., Michael Lindberg, declined to comment.

Authorities in Minneapolis removed the imams from the Phoenix-bound flight in November 2006 while they were returning home from a conference of the North American Imams Federation clerics. Passengers had reported that the imams were saying their evening prayers in Arabic in the airport concourse before boarding the plane and that some of the men made critical comments about the Iraq war while aboard.

The imans were questioned for several hours before they were released. They ultimately returned home via another airline.

Another of the imams, Omar Shahin, who is head of the North American Imams Federation, said the settlement sends “a strong message to the community” that the country values justice.

“It’s a settlement that’s satisfactory for all of us,” Shahin said. Shahin is the former imam of the Islamic Center of Tucson. He was the imam of Tucson's largest mosque from 2000 to June 2003, when he left abruptly.
Their lawsuit named Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways; the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which runs the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and its police department; and the airport police officers and an FBI agent who were involved in the case.

Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, said he had no immediate information on the settlement.

A spokesman for US Airways did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment, nor did attorneys for the airports commission or the FBI agent named in the lawsuit.

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

a poster on another forum writes:

Some background on Shahin.

He was the iman in Tucson, AZ from 2000-2003. The mosque ("Islamic Center") was the one attended by Hani Hanjour as he bummed around the US, taking flying lessons. That was in the late '90s, and no, Shahin wasn't there at the time. The board which selected him, however, was the same board that selected his predecessor.

Shahin's other activities include serving as director for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. That fund was a front for Hamas, and had its funds frozen by the .gov shortly after 9/11. Shahin apparently didn't learn his lesson, since he morphed over into representing "Kind Hearts", another Hamas charity that was shut down. To the best of my knowledge, he was never charged in any of those schemes.

There's more....
25165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iranians yank President Chamberlin's chain again on: October 20, 2009, 05:10:30 PM
Summary
Iran demanded Oct. 20 that France not participate in the talks on Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, claiming that Paris has not honored past agreements with the Islamic republic. The delay is just one of several that Iran has been storing up to use during the negotiations, but comes at a time when Western patience with Iranian obfuscation is wearing thin.

Analysis
Related Special Topic Page
The Iranian Nuclear Game
Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program stalled yet again Oct. 20 in Vienna. This time, the Iranians have demanded that France, one of the parties attending the talks, now be barred because Paris has failed to honor past agreements with Tehran on delivering nuclear material. Though it comes as no surprise that the Iranians are delaying these talks again, such tactics are likely to come at a cost for Tehran this time around.

Tehran had agreed Oct. 1 to meet with France, Russia and the United States at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna from Oct. 19 to Oct. 20 and work toward a compromise on Iran’s uranium enrichment needs.

The deal on the table going into these talks was for Iran to ship most, if not all, of its low-enriched fuel to Russia for further enrichment. From Russia, the additionally enriched fuel would be sent to France for conversion into metal fuel rods and medical isotopes and then shipped back to Tehran for either medical use or installment in a small research reactor in Tehran. The medical isotopes would provide Iran with more highly enriched fuel, but would not be in a volume or form that Iran could exploit easily for weapons use. According to this plan, the bulk of enriched fuel would essentially be taken out of Tehran’s hands, thus assuaging widespread fears that Iran would build up its stockpiles, continue to enrich and potentially achieve high levels of enrichment sufficient for use in a bomb within a year.

However, Tehran is now kicking France out of the talks, claiming that Paris has not fulfilled its commitment in delivering nuclear materials to Iran in the past. Tehran is referring to its 10 percent share in a Eurodif nuclear facility in France that has refrained from delivering enriched uranium to Iran. France, quite reasonably, has withheld the enriched uranium out of its desire to avoid an array of U.N. sanctions that bar countries and companies from trading any material, equipment or technology that could be diverted to an Iranian weapons program.

The complaint against France is part of a large volume of delaying tactics that the Iranians have held in reserve for these negotiations. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Akbar Salehi, played good cop representing Iran on Oct. 1 in Geneva, where he struck a conciliatory tone and gave the P-5+1 group a glimmer of hope in the negotiations. Salehi then decided to stay home Oct. 19 and instead sent Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, who was apparently playing bad cop in stunting the talks.

Iran is now refusing to send its enriched uranium abroad and insisting on continuing uranium enrichment at home. Moreover, Tehran is turning the original deal on its head, saying that even as Iran has the right to hold onto its low-enriched uranium, it also has the right to buy nuclear fuel (for “peaceful purposes”) from countries that have signed the Nonproliferation Treaty.

This is not exactly what the United States and its allies had in mind. Iran allegedly has about 1,400 kilograms of low-enriched uranium in its possession, and the P-5+1 was aiming to have at least 1,200 kilograms shipped abroad to get as much enriched uranium as possible out of Iran. Iran is believed to have been able to enrich its uranium only to about 5 percent — enough for civil nuclear power generation, but below the 20 percent needed to produce medical isotopes and well below the 80-90 percent required for use in a nuclear device.

The 1,400 kilograms of low-enriched uranium Iran is believed to have currently is theoretically more than enough raw material for the country to develop a nuclear device or two within a one-year time frame. However, that estimate assumes that Iran has enough technical centrifuge expertise –- and that is a big assumption -– to enrich its low-enriched uranium to the 80-90 percent threshold. It is no secret that Iran faces significant qualitative challenges in its centrifuge operations, but this is still not a risk that many countries — particularly, Israel — are willing to take. If Iran holds onto to its low-enriched uranium, it will be able to continue building stockpiles and furthering its work on centrifuge enrichment.

Iran evidently is feeling confident enough to blow off the nuclear talks for now, but it also will not be able to disregard Israel’s military maneuvers in the region. Operation Juniper Cobra — the largest-ever U.S.-Israeli biennial military exercise — is scheduled to kick off Oct. 21. The exercise, which will focus on joint ballistic missile defense capabilities, is a clear warning to Tehran that neither the Israelis nor the Americans are going to put their military preparations on hold while Iran performs its nuclear dance in Europe.

Israel will become more aggressive in demanding decisive action against Iran in the weeks ahead. The United States, meanwhile, is still struggling to keep a positive face while the diplomatic phase plays out with Iran. Rumors are circulating in Washington that a revised National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program based on new intelligence gleaned from Iranian defectors will be put together and will reverse the judgment from the 2007 NIE that claimed Iran had halted its work on a nuclear weapons program as early as 2003. Though a reassessment is likely in order, politics in Washington currently dictate that the United States refrain from making any move that would provide Tehran with an excuse to walk away from the negotiating table. If, however, it appears as though Iran is walking anyway, the time may be approaching for the United States to ratchet things up again.
25166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Birthers right? on: October 20, 2009, 04:48:50 PM
Sent to me by a friend.  Any merit to this?

===============
http://thepostnemail.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/googles-archive-shows-obama-birth-story-has-changed/

Google’s archive shows Obama’s birth story has changed

October 15, 2009 by John Charlton

FIRST ONE STORY, THEN ANOTHER — Has Google scrubbed its own News Archive?

by John Charlton
(Oct. 15, 2009) — It’s the world’s largest online repository of Newspaper information, spanning the globe and more than a century of history: the Google News Archive. The Post & Email can attest to its utility and depth of coverage, which enabled it to research the biography of Judge Jerome B. Simandle and publically identify him as an ex-Naider’s Raider. This archive containes scanned images and or digitized text of printed newspapers and electronically available news reports for more than 100 years from papers and news agencies around the globe.

However, its results are skewed when you attempt to search for “Kenyan-born Obama”; results are missing; years prior to 2004 seem scrubbed; and when you click a link to an article in 2000, you get an article in 2004.
Deliberate sabotage of their own news archive?
This article will document what Google has done, for posterity’s sake.
http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&q=kenyan-born+obama

This seems a simply enough query: an attempt to verify the AP story which appeared in the East African Standard, Sunday Edition of June 27, 2004: “Kenyan-born U.S. Senator Obama hopeful….”

The results are not so simple:

The first result is for April 28, 1981: The New York Times — The results say the word Obama should appear: it does not; “Kenyan-born” is found with Leaky.

There is no mention of Obama from 1981 to 2000; despite all his “work with the poor” in Chicago.

Next, the Google Newspaper Archive, the most extensive in the world omits the article in the East African Standard for June 27, 2004, in which Obama is identified as “Kenyan-born”.

The fourth result is supposed to be to a PBS story from July 27, 2000, entitled, “Illinois Candidate for the Senate Barack Obama addresses the DNCC”, but the link leads to a report by Elizabeth Brackett, discussing Obama’s Senatorial race victory on July 27, 2004: in which she says many things about Obama, except where he was born.

The fifth link is to a July 28, 2004 story by Bill Nichols, USA Today; which it states that Obama’s father is Kenyan-born; but says nothing about the son’s birth place.

The sixth likewise, on July 27, 2004, fails to mention birth place; and just says “Kenyan-born father”.

The seventh is to the Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), for Nov. 8, 2004, but which seemingly has nothing to do with Obama.

Then, you would not believe it; but all the newspapers in the world, during the period from Jan. 1, 2005 to April 12, 2006, don’t make one mention of Obama! Not even one.

In April of 2006, all three articles have the same verbiage: “a Kenyan-born father and an American mother”.

In a report from the Kansas City Infozine, on Dec. 17, 2007, a Kenyan student in Washington D.C., says that Obama is not a Kenyan, and has no legal bonds to Kenya.
Analysis: An Administration of Mendacity

It seems that following the AP story on June 27, 2004, Obama’s Campaign went mum about the birth place; and only began speaking about a “Kenyan-born” father. The Google Newspaper Archive has been scrubbed for all of 2005 and the first quarter of 2006. However, The Honolulu Advertiser was aware enough still on Jan. 8, 2006 that he had claimed a foreign birth; but by the summer of 2006 stories begin to appear claiming a Hawaiian birth. The reporter for the Honolulu Advertiser admitted in an email to Phil, the publisher of The Right Side of Life news site, that he had obtained his information from the web. Yet this same paper remained so convinced of Obama’s non-Hawaiian birth, that on Nov. 8, 2008, in a long piece ostensibly covering for Obama, it avoided all mention of the place of the birth. How is it that a newspaper in Hawaii after the election can’t bring itself to name the place of birth? — What did they know, that we don’t?*

What appears to have happened is what the American public has already noticed with Obama: he lies as he goes, and he makes up lies to suit his purpose; so many lies, you don’t know what the truth is; and frankly he does not seem to care.

However, if Obama cannot show documents which prove he is born in the USA; the mere fact that he has claimed to be born overseas and in the U.S.A.; first at one hospital in Hawaii and then at another; means that nothing he says in Court, and no document presented by his campaign could be taken as prima facie evidence of anything.

(snip)

The moral of this story is that scrub history as much as you might try; you will always be found out; because the very act of scrubbing leaves holes; holes which will remain as silent witnesses to your crime and indicate indirectly what kind of information you wanted to suppress.
25167  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: El Fire Hydrant: (Noticias) on: October 20, 2009, 11:19:20 AM
Guau:

Y se me olvido' mencionar que Mauricio esta' autorizado a presentar seminarior en Mexico.  Los interesados deben ponerse en contacto conmigo en Craftydog@dogbrothers.com

La Aventura continua,
Guro Crafty/Marc
25168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Barron' on: October 20, 2009, 10:33:09 AM
BARRON’S COVER STORY OCT 17

C'mon, Ben!

By ANDREW BARY   

We make our case for the Fed to increase short-term interest rates to a more normal 2% -- or risk fostering another financial bubble.

IT'S TIME FOR THE FEDERAL RESERVE TO STOP talking about an "exit strategy" and to start implementing one.

There's no need for short-term rates to remain near zero now that the economy is recovering. The call to action is clear: Gold, oil and other commodities are rising, the dollar is falling and the stock market is surging. The move in the Dow Jones industrial average above 10,000 last week underscores the renewed health of the markets. Super-low short rates are fueling financial speculation, angering our economic partners and foreign creditors, and potentially stoking inflation.

The Fed doesn't seem to be distinguishing between normal accommodative monetary policy and crisis accommodative policy. There's a huge difference.

With the crisis clearly past, the Fed ought to boost short-term rates to a more normal 2% -- still low by historical standards -- to send a signal to the markets that the U.S. is serious about supporting its beleaguered currency and that the worst is over for the global economy. Years of low short rates helped create the housing bubble, and the Fed risks fostering another financial bubble with its current policies.

The Fed also ought to consider scaling back its massive bond purchases, which have totaled more than $1 trillion this year and have artificially depressed mortgage and Treasury interest rates. The Fed has virtually cornered the mortgage-backed market, buying about 75% of newly created government-backed securities this year, and that has forced the usual institutional buyers of mortgage securities into other markets, like corporate and municipal bonds. This has contributed to the sharp rally in munis and corporates.

Better to stop the Fed's bond-buying program sooner rather than later, and end artificially low, sub-5% mortgage rates. The more securities the Fed purchases, the greater the ultimate losses on its holdings when rates do rise. Banks also have bulked up on low-yielding Treasuries, buying over $200 billion in the past year.

It's also time for the Fed to consider the plight of the country's savers, who now are getting less than 1% yields on money market funds and who are being forced to take substantial interest-rate or credit risk if they want higher yields. "The Fed is punishing prudent people and rewarding profligate people," one veteran investor tells Barron's. Many unemployed and underemployed Americans may be deserving of some mortgage relief, but there also are millions of Americans -- most of them elderly -- who diligently saved and now have little income to show for a lifetime of effort.

WHILE SAVERS ARE SUFFERING AND MAIN STREET is hurting from still-tight bank lending policies, Wall Street is having one of its best years ever -- and rock-bottom short-term rates are a key reason. Goldman Sachs (GS) and JP Morgan (JPM) last week reported strong third-quarter profits, stemming in large part from trading activities. A flush Goldman is on course to pay $20 billion to its employees in 2009 -- or nearly $700,000 per person -- just a year after the wobbling firm got a critical government financial safety net. Goldman generated over 80% of its revenues from trading in the third quarter.

A quick move up to 2% -- or even 1% -- in the key Federal funds rate, now at just 0.15%, might shock global markets, where big investors have come to see the dollar, commodities and stocks as one-way bets. Major global equity indexes probably would fall, while commodities likely would fall and the dollar would rally.

Ultimately, higher short-term rates could help by suppressing incipient inflation while doing little to dampen a mending U.S. economy. Real GDP growth could top 3% in the second half of this year.

Our view unquestionably is an outlier. With unemployment near 10%, few see a need for higher rates. And Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, while acknowledging that the Fed will need to pursue an "exit strategy" and tighten monetary policy, clearly wants to act later rather than sooner.

"My colleagues at the Federal Reserve and I believe that accommodative policies will likely be warranted for an extended period," he said recently. Financial markets expect the pace of Fed tightening to be very slow, with short-term rates not hitting 1% until October of 2010.

But some central-bank officials, such as St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, have been warning about inflation. And they have a point: Inflation is back, with prices rising 0.2% in September after increasing 0.4% in August. The CPI index could be up 2% in the next year, versus a 1.3% decline in the 12 months through September.

THE STOCK MARKET HAS BECOME A WEAK-DOLLAR constituency because a declining greenback boosts profits of multinational companies like Coca-Cola (KO) and Intel (INTC). Overall, companies in the S&P 500 get 30% of their revenues from abroad.

But maintaining the status quo could be short-sighted, since overseas investors are likely critical to the long-term health of the U.S. stock market. They've been burned by U.S. stocks in the past decade; the market's decline and a weaker dollar have meant 50% losses for European holders. If the U.S. wants to continue to attract overseas capital, it's going to need to support its currency.

Speculators, meanwhile, have been borrowing in dollars to buy a range of financial assets because of near-zero borrowing costs and the prospect of repaying those loans with a depreciated currency.

Low U.S. interest rates aren't the only problem for the dollar. Many foreign investors have been spooked by the record budget deficit and a perception that the Obama administration wants a lower dollar to boost exports and the economy.

The chances of the Fed moving away soon from a crisis-accommodative stance and near-zero short-term rates probably are small, because doves like Bernanke have the upper hand. There isn't apt to be any political pressure to raise rates.

That's a shame. The Fed and the administration are playing a dangerous financial and fiscal game because ours is a debtor nation that depends on the confidence of overseas creditors. If a resilient U.S. economy can't tolerate 1% or 2% short rates, this country really is in bad shape.

 

25169  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Video-Clips de DBMA en espanol on: October 20, 2009, 09:00:12 AM
!Ya esta'!

Vea el primer post de este hilo.
25170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: October 20, 2009, 07:45:50 AM
Hi Rachel:

As always, a good post.

I would quibble however with the translation "Thou shalt not kill".  The Torah is full of approved killing-- perhaps the better translation is "Thou shalt not murder"?
25171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Samuel Williams of Vermont on Marriage on: October 20, 2009, 07:42:06 AM


"Every thing useful and beneficial to man, seems to be connected with obedience to the laws of his nature, the inclinations, the duties, and the happiness of individuals, resolve themselves into customs and habits, favourable, in the highest degree, to society. In no case is this more apparent, than in the customs of nations respecting marriage." --Samuel Williams, The Natural and Civil History of Vermont, 1794
25172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: October 19, 2009, 11:51:30 PM
This particular piece makes sense, but sometimes Pat gives a pretty good impression of having anti-Jewish tendencies.
25173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives/the American Creed on: October 19, 2009, 11:32:43 AM
"Elected Republicans have had no real, observable tie to limited government for as long as any voter can remember, and no one is out front right now making a persuasive case for common sense conservatism."

Exactly why I don't take them seriously.
25174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Sistan Balochistan on: October 19, 2009, 11:19:53 AM
Summary
Two blasts in Sistan-Balochistan province killed several prominent members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as dozens of others Oct. 18, and Iran has accused Western powers of aiding the rebel group that has claimed responsibility. While there is currently no evidence of outside involvement in the attacks, a number of parties may view the rebel group as a useful proxy against Tehran, and the attacks have the potential to hamper U.S.-Iranian negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program.

Analysis
Two coordinated bombings occurred in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Balochistan province the morning of Oct. 18, killing and injuring dozens of people, including high-level commanders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The first attack was an alleged suicide bombing that targeted a meeting of Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders in Pishin district, close to the Iranian border with Pakistan. Several provincial IRGC commanders were in attendance. When the meeting was about to adjourn, the suicide bomber reportedly detonated his vest. Provincial IRGC commanders Brig. Gen. Nour-Ali Shoushtari, the IRGC’s lieutenant commander of ground forces, and Brig. Gen. Rajab-Ali Mohammadzadeh were among those killed in the attack.

The second bombing went off close to the same time in the same Pishin region along the border. A convoy of IRGC commanders was targeted with a suspected roadside improvised explosive device when the convoy was turning at an intersection between the towns of Sarbaz and Chabahar. The commanders of Sistan-Balochistan province, the Iranshahr Corps, the Sarbaz Corps and the Amiralmomenin Brigade were killed in the blast.

Sistan-Balochistan is a resource-poor, mostly lawless region of Iran that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sunni Baloch tribesmen make up the dominant ethnic group in the province, and are consistently at odds with the Shiite-controlled government in Tehran. Many of these tribesmen make their living off smuggling, drug trafficking and banditry in the lawless border region, making this a particularly troublesome spot for Iran’s security apparatus. Of most concern for Tehran is a Baloch rebel group by the name of Jundallah led by a young man named Abdolmalek Rigi.

According to Iranian state television, Jundallah has claimed responsibility for the attack on the tribal gathering. The group has also claimed responsibility for a series of other bombings, kidnappings and attacks targeting the Iranian security apparatus over the past several years, including a December 2006 kidnapping of seven Iranian soldiers, a February 2007 car bombing that killed 11 IRGC members near Zahedan and more recently, a May suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in Zahedan that killed 25 people. In light of the deteriorating security situation in the province, the Iranian government boosted the IRGC presence in the area in an attempt to clamp down on the low-level insurgency. However, the increased IRGC presence so far appears to have only provided Jundallah with a larger target set.

The Iranians have long accused U.S. and British intelligence of providing military and financial support to Jundallah from positions across the border in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Considering that only about half of Iran’s population is Persian, foreign support to ethnic minorities like the Baloch in the southeast, the Kurds in the northwest and the Ahvazi Arabs in the oil-rich southwest are all obvious levers for foreign intelligence agencies to prod the Iranian regime.

While the United States does not mind applying pressure on Tehran from time to time, the Oct. 18 bombings come at a particularly critical time in U.S.-Iranian negotiations. On Oct. 19, representatives from Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency, France, Russia and the United States are to meet in Vienna to follow up the Oct. 1 negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The aim of the meeting is to reach a compromise among all parties in which Iran would receive the 20 percent enriched uranium it desires for a research reactor in Tehran.

The United States, not wanting to throw these talks off course, has been quick to deny a hand in the latest attacks. In response to Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani’s claim that the bombings were “the result of the U.S. actions,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said such allegations were “completely false” and said that the United States condemns the act of terrorism and mourns the loss of innocent lives.

The United States badly wants the negotiations with Iran to achieve enough tangible results to calm Israeli fears over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and thus stave off a military confrontation in the Persian Gulf. Though it remains unclear whether Jundallah was acting alone in carrying out these attacks, it is not a far stretch to assume that the group has received foreign backing in recent years that has allowed it to significantly escalate its militant campaign against the regime. At the same time, the United States is likely to be more cautious in this delicate stage of negotiations with Tehran. The last thing Washington wants is to give Tehran another excuse to walk away from these talks and Israel an excuse to demand more aggressive action against Iran.

There are, however, a number of third parties that could have an interest in derailing this latest U.S.-Iranian attempt at negotiations. Such parties include groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban, which are trying to divert U.S. attention away from themselves in neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan, Russia, which is engaged in its own complex negotiating game with Washington, and even perhaps Israel, which does not have much faith in the current diplomatic process and would like to push the United States into taking a harder line against Iran. The possibilities are vast, but there is no evidence as of yet to suggest that any one of these players had a role in orchestrating the latest attacks. Still, the Baloch insurgency in Iran provides an opportunity for a number of foreign players to stir the pot according to their interests.

Iran has so far pointed the blame at the United States for the attacks, but has not given any indication yet that it is pulling out of the negotiations. The Iranians are on alert for U.S.-Israeli military maneuvers in the region and thus have an interest in handling these talks cautiously. After all, as long as Iran can appear diplomatically engaged, the better chances it will have in staving off a military crisis.
25175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 19, 2009, 11:09:50 AM
The Foundation

"The construction applied ... to those parts of the Constitution of the United States which delegate Congress a power ... ought not to be construed as themselves to give unlimited powers, nor a part to be so taken as to destroy the whole residue of that instrument." --Thomas Jefferson


Health care at the DMV? Now serving number 33,573,901Government

"The most revelatory passage in the so-called 'plain English' version of the health care bill that the Senate Finance Committee approved on Tuesday (without ever drafting the actual legislative language) says that in the future Americans will be offered the convenience of getting their health insurance at the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is no joke. If this bill becomes law, it will be the duty of the U.S. secretary of health and human services or the state governments overseeing federally mandated health-insurance exchanges to ensure that you can get your health insurance at the DMV. You will also be able to get it at Social Security offices, hospitals, schools and 'other offices' the government will name later. Page 19 of the committee's 'plain English' text says: 'The Secretary and/or states would do the following: ... Enable customers to enroll in health care plans in local hospitals, schools, Departments of Motor Vehicles, local Social Security offices, and other offices designated by the state.' This is the bill's most revelatory passage because it sublimely symbolizes the bill's true aim: a government takeover of the health care system. You do not get food at the DMV. You do not even get auto insurance at the DMV. But under what The Associated Press inaptly calls the Finance Committee's 'middle-of-the-road health care plan,' you will get health insurance at the DMV." --columnist Terence Jeffrey

Opinion in Brief
"The magic number du jour is the number of Americans without health insurance. Apparently getting more people insured is another 'good thing' -- which is to say, it is something whose costs are not to be weighed against the benefits, or whose costs are to be finessed aside with optimistic projections or a claim that these costs can be covered by eliminating 'waste, fraud and abuse.' In real life, people weigh one thing against another. But in politics one declares one thing to be imperative, so the issue then becomes how we do it. In real life, all sorts of desirable things are not done, either because of other desirable things that would have to be sacrificed to do it or because of the dangers incurred in achieving the desired objective are worse than the problem we want to solve. Almost never are the dangers of having uninsured people weighed against the dangers of having government bureaucrats over-ruling doctors and deciding whether money would be better spent saving the life of an elderly person or paying for an abortion for some teenager. The crowning irony is that the problems caused by insurance companies refusing to pay for certain medications or treatment are to be solved by giving government bureaucrats that same power, along with the power to prevent patients from using their own money to pay for those same medications or treatments. More than two centuries ago, Edmund Burke said, 'Nothing is good but in proportion' -- that is, when weighed as a trade-off. But a prudent weighing of trade-offs does not produce the political melodrama of pursuing a 'good thing' measured by some magic number." --economist Thomas Sowell


Liberty
"Under Barack Obama, the United States has not been the friend of democrats around the world. America has responded weakly to the democratic movement in Iran, ended the funding of the largest pro-Iranian human rights groups in America, pressured democratic Israel, made overtures to Hugo Chavez while denying American ally and pro-democratic Colombia a free trade agreement, abandoned Honduran anti-Chavez democrats, and has obsequiously deferred to Vladimir Putin. ... The Oslo committee's view is, tragically, true. Thanks to Barack Obama, America is for the first time is aligning its values with those of 'the majority of the world's population.' If you think the world's population has had better values than America, that it has made societies that are more open, free, and tolerant than American society, and that it has fought for others' liberty more than America has, you should be delighted." --columnist Dennis Prager

The Gipper
"You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, 'The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.' The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing." --Ronald Reagan

Culture
"I am sympathetic to the story told by Joseph Rocha, who claims in a Washington Post opinion column that he was discharged from the Navy because he is gay, though he says he never told anyone. Rocha says his male colleagues concluded he was gay when he wouldn't laugh at their dirty jokes about women or visit prostitutes with them. Gay service members have a point when they claim a double standard exists for heterosexuals and homosexuals regarding sexual behavior. ... But we are beginning in the wrong place. The place to start is whether citizens of this country, through their elected representatives and the military leaders named by them, have a right to determine what type of service members best serve the interests, safety and security of the United States. I contend we do. The military should not be a test lab. Pressure is building to put female sailors on submarines, along with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people presumably. That many heterosexuals find homosexual behavior immoral and not conducive to unit cohesion is of no concern to the social wrecking crew. What gay activists apparently don't care about is the effect reshaping the military in their image would have on our ability to fight and defend the country, which, after all, is the purpose of a military. ... The gays in the military and gay marriage issues are part of a broader attempt by liberals to restructure society. Social activists despise biblical morality (which heterosexuals could use a little more of, too), traditional values that have been proven to work when tried and numerous other cultural mores. This is not an opinion. It is also not a secret." --columnist Cal Thomas

 
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Political Futures
"Here's the joke. As boom- and bust-prone as high finance always has been and remains, the greatest systemic risk to our economy is not Wall Street. It's the growing federal debt (and weakening dollar) being enacted by those Washington politicians -- the ones who want to protect us from Wall Street. ... [T]he same Congress and president who want to stop the banks from taking too much risk cannot stop themselves from ever more deficits. Indeed, so intoxicated -- nay, hypnotized! -- by debt is the current government that it is not even proposing to try to cut back. Last week saw, at the same time: 1) the world shuddering about the debt-driven weakening dollar ('The biggest story in the world economy is the continuing fall of the U.S. dollar, or at least it is everywhere outside of Washington, D.C., the place most responsible for its declining value.' -- The Wall Street Journal) and 2) Washington cheering Sen. Max Baucus' health bill's spending levels ('Health Care Bill Gets Green Light in Cost Analysis' -- The New York Times). That's right. The federal government is giving the 'green light' for the country to drive to the poorhouse -- and drive there, I would argue, by way of the lunatic asylum. Are they nuts?" --columnist Tony Blankley

For the Record
"'What happened to global warming?' read the headline -- on BBC News on Oct. 9, no less. Consider it a cataclysmic event: Mainstream news organizations have begun reporting on scientific research that suggests that global warming may not be caused by man and may not be as dire and eminent as alarmists suggest. Indeed, as the BBC's climate correspondent Paul Hudson reported, the warmest year recorded globally 'was not in 2008 or 2007, but 1998.' It's true, he continued, 'For the last 11 years, we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.' ... Western Washington University geologist Don J. Easterbrook presented research last year that suggests that the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) caused warmer temperatures in the 1980s and 1990s. With Pacific sea surface temperatures cooling, Easterbrook expects 30 years of global cooling. EPA analyst Alan Carlin -- an MIT-trained economist with a degree in physics -- referred to 'solar variability' and Easterbrook's work in a document that warned that politics had prompted the EPA and other countries to pay 'too little attention to the science of global warming' as partisans ignored the lack of global warming over the last 10 years. At first, the EPA buried the paper, then it permitted Carlin to post it on his personal Web site. ... Over the years, global warming alarmists have sought to stifle debate by arguing that there was no debate. They bullied dissenters and ex-communicated non-believers from their panels. ... For a long time, that approach worked. But after 11 years without record temperatures that had the seas spilling over the Statue of Liberty's toes, they are going to have to change tactics. They're going to have to rely on real data, not failed models, scare stories and the Big Lie that everyone who counts agrees with them." --columnist Debra Saunders
25176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan on: October 19, 2009, 10:55:39 AM
"You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, 'The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.' The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing." --Ronald Reagan
25177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for Reps/Conservatives/the American Creed on: October 19, 2009, 10:41:53 AM
Well, I for one no longer take the Republican Party seriously.
25178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 19, 2009, 10:40:00 AM
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009...ws-1925819282/

The White House escalated its offensive against Fox News on Sunday by urging other news organizations to stop "following Fox" and instead join the administration's attempt to marginalize the channel.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told CNN that President Obama does not want "the CNNs and the others in the world [to] basically be led in following Fox."

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod went further by calling on media outlets to join the administration in declaring that Fox is "not a news organization."

"Other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way," Axelrod counseled ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "We're not going to treat them that way."

By urging other news outlets to side with the administration, Obama aides officials dramatically upped the ante in the war of words that began earlier this month, when White House communications director Anita Dunn branded Fox "opinion journalism masquerading as news."

On Sunday, Fox's Chris Wallace retorted: "We wanted to ask Dunn about her criticism, but, as they've done every week since August, the White House refused to make any administration officials available to 'FOX News Sunday' to talk about this or anything else."

The White House stopped providing guests to 'Fox News Sunday' after Wallace fact-checked controversial assertions made by Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in August. Dunn said fact-checking an administration official was "something I've never seen a Sunday show do."

"She criticized 'FOX News Sunday' last week for fact-checking -- fact-checking -- an administration official," Wallace said Sunday. "They didn't say that our fact-checking was wrong. They just said that we had dared to fact-check."

"Let's fact-check Anita Dunn, because last Sunday she said that Fox ignores Republican scandals, and she specifically mentioned the scandal involving Nevada senator John Ensign," Wallace added. "A number of Fox News shows have run stories about Senator Ensign. Anita Dunn's facts were just plain wrong."

Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente said: "Surprisingly, the White House continues to declare war on a news organization instead of focusing on the critical issues that Americans are concerned about like jobs, health care and two wars. The door remains open and we welcome a discussion about the facts behind the issues."

Observers on both sides of the political aisle questioned the White House's decision to continue waging war on a news organization, saying the move carried significant political risks.

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said on CNN: "I don't always agree with the White House. And on this one here I would disagree."

David Gergen, who has worked for Democratic and Republican presidents, said: "I totally agree with Donna Brazile." Gergen added that White House officials have "gotten themselves into a fight they don't necessarily want to be in. I don't think it's in their best interest."

"The faster they can get this behind them, the more they can treat Fox like one other organization, the easier they can get back to governing, and then put some people out on Fox," Gergen said on CNN. "I mean, for goodness sakes -- you know, you engage in the debate.

What Americans want is a robust competition of ideas, and they ought to be willing to go out there and mix it up with some strong conservatives on Fox, just as there are strong conservatives on CNN like Bill Bennett."

Bennett expressed outrage that Dunn told an audience of high school students this year that Mao Tse-tung, the founder of communist China, was one of "my favorite political philosophers."

"Having the spokesman do this, attack Fox, who says that Mao Zedong is one of the most influential figures in her life, was not…a small thing; it's a big thing," Bennett said on CNN. "When she stands up, in a speech to high school kids, says she's deeply influenced by Mao Zedong, that -- I mean, that is crazy."

Fox News contributor Karl Rove, who was the top political strategist to former President George W. Bush, said: "This is an administration that's getting very arrogant and slippery in its dealings with people. And if you dare to oppose them, they're going to come hard at you and they're going to cut your legs off."

"This is a White House engaging in its own version of the media enemies list. And it's unhelpful for the country and undignified for the president of the United States to so do," Rove added. "That is over- the-top language. We heard that before from Richard Nixon."

Media columnist David Carr of the New York Times warned that the White House war on Fox "may present a genuine problem for Mr. Obama, who took great pains during the campaign to depict himself as being above the fray of over-heated partisan squabbling."

"While there is undoubtedly a visceral thrill in finally setting out after your antagonists, the history of administrations that have successfully taken on the media and won is shorter than this sentence," Carr wrote over the weekend. "So far, the only winner in this latest dispute seems to be Fox News. Ratings are up 20 percent this year."

He added: "The administration, by deploying official resources against a troublesome media organization, seems to have brought a knife to a gunfight."
25179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO plans to submit US sovereignty to UN on: October 19, 2009, 10:25:16 AM
BO plans to submit US sovereignty to UN


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMe5dOgbu40
25180  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 19, 2009, 09:21:31 AM
Grateful for my son's lacrosse workout yesterday-- he's really starting to move forward.  Happy dad!
25181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Escape from the Memory Hole! on: October 18, 2009, 08:26:27 PM
Whoa!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMnSp4qEXNM&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usvG-s_Ssb0&NR=1

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ae3_1222100943

The White House released this list of attempts by President Bush to reform
Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac since he took office in 2001.
Unfortunately, Congress did not act on the president's warnings:


** 2001

April: The Administration's FY02 budget declares that the size of Fannie Mae
and Freddie Mac is "a potential problem," because "financial trouble of a
large GSE could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting
Federally insured entities and economic activity."

** 2002

May: The President calls for the disclosure and corporate governance
principles contained in his 10-point plan for corporate responsibility to
apply to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (OMB Prompt Letter to OFHEO, 5/29/02)

** 2003

January: Freddie Mac announces it has to restate financial results for the
previous three years.

February: The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO)
releases a report explaining that "although investors perceive an implicit
Federal guarantee of [GSE] obligations," "the government has provided no
explicit legal backing for them." As a consequence, unexpected problems at a
GSE could immediately spread into financial sectors beyond the housing
market. ("Systemic Risk: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Role of OFHEO,"
OFHEO Report, 2/4/03)

September: Fannie Mae discloses SEC investigation and acknowledges OFHEO's
review found earnings manipulations.

September: Treasury Secretary John Snow testifies before the House Financial
Services Committee to recommend that Congress enact "legislation to create a
new Federal agency to regulate and supervise the financial activities of our
housing-related government sponsored enterprises" and set prudent and
appropriate minimum capital adequacy requirements.

October: Fannie Mae discloses $1.2 billion accounting error.

November: Council of the Economic Advisers (CEA) Chairman Greg Mankiw
explains that any "legislation to reform GSE regulation should empower the
new regulator with sufficient strength and credibility to reduce systemic
risk." To reduce the potential for systemic instability, the regulator would
have "broad authority to set both risk-based and minimum capital standards"
and "receivership powers necessary to wind down the affairs of a troubled
GSE." (N. Gregory Mankiw, Remarks At The Conference Of State Bank
Supervisors State Banking Summit And Leadership, 11/6/03)

** 2004

February: The President's FY05 Budget again highlights the risk posed by the
explosive growth of the GSEs and their low levels of required capital, and
called for creation of a new, world-class regulator: "The Administration has
determined that the safety and soundness regulators of the housing GSEs lack
sufficient power and stature to meet their responsibilities, and
therefore?should be replaced with a new strengthened regulator." (2005
Budget Analytic Perspectives, pg. 83)

February: CEA Chairman Mankiw cautions Congress to "not take [the financial
market's] strength for granted." Again, the call from the Administration was
to reduce this risk by "ensuring that the housing GSEs are overseen by an
effective regulator." (N. Gregory Mankiw, Op-Ed, "Keeping Fannie And
Freddie's House In Order," Financial Times, 2/24/04)

June: Deputy Secretary of Treasury Samuel Bodman spotlights the risk posed
by the GSEs and called for reform, saying "We do not have a world-class
system of supervision of the housing government sponsored enterprises
(GSEs), even though the importance of the housing financial system that the
GSEs serve demands the best in supervision to ensure the long-term vitality
of that system. Therefore, the Administration has called for a new, first
class, regulatory supervisor for the three housing GSEs: Fannie Mae, Freddie
Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banking System." (Samuel Bodman, House
Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Testimony,
6/16/04)

** 2005

April: Treasury Secretary John Snow repeats his call for GSE reform, saying
"Events that have transpired since I testified before this Committee in 2003
reinforce concerns over the systemic risks posed by the GSEs and further
highlight the need for real GSE reform to ensure that our housing finance
system remains a strong and vibrant source of funding for expanding
homeownership opportunities in America? Half-measures will only exacerbate
the risks to our financial system." (Secretary John W. Snow, "Testimony
Before The U.S. House Financial Services Committee," 4/13/05)

** 2007

July: Two Bear Stearns hedge funds invested in mortgage securities collapse.

August: President Bush emphatically calls on Congress to pass a reform
package for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying "first things first when it
comes to those two institutions. Congress needs to get them reformed, get
them streamlined, get them focused, and then I will consider other options."
(President George W. Bush, Press Conference, The White House, 8/9/07)

September: RealtyTrac announces foreclosure filings up 243,000 in August ­
up 115 percent from the year before.

September: Single-family existing home sales decreases 7.5 percent from the
previous month ­ the lowest level in nine years. Median sale price of
existing homes fell six percent from the year before.

December: President Bush again warns Congress of the need to pass
legislation reforming GSEs, saying "These institutions provide liquidity in
the mortgage market that benefits millions of homeowners, and it is vital
they operate safely and operate soundly. So I've called on Congress to pass
legislation that strengthens independent regulation of the GSEs ­ and
ensures they focus on their important housing mission. The GSE reform bill
passed by the House earlier this year is a good start. But the Senate has
not acted. And the United States Senate needs to pass this legislation
soon." (President George W. Bush, Discusses Housing, The White House,
12/6/07)

** 2008

January: Bank of America announces it will buy Countrywide.

January: Citigroup announces mortgage portfolio lost $18.1 billion in value.

February: Assistant Secretary David Nason reiterates the urgency of reforms,
says "A new regulatory structure for the housing GSEs is essential if these
entities are to continue to perform their public mission successfully."
(David Nason, Testimony On Reforming GSE Regulation, Senate Committee On
Banking, Housing And Urban Affairs, 2/7/08)

March: Bear Stearns announces it will sell itself to JPMorgan Chase.

March: President Bush calls on Congress to take action and "move forward
with reforms on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They need to continue to
modernize the FHA, as well as allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free
bonds to homeowners to refinance their mortgages." (President George W.
Bush, Remarks To The Economic Club Of New York, New York, NY, 3/14/08)

April: President Bush urges Congress to pass the much needed legislation and
"modernize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. [There are] constructive things
Congress can do that will encourage the housing market to correct quickly by
? helping people stay in their homes." (President George W. Bush, Meeting
With Cabinet, the White House, 4/14/08)

May: President Bush issues several pleas to Congress to pass legislation
reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the situation deteriorates
further.

"Americans are concerned about making their mortgage payments and keeping
their homes. Yet Congress has failed to pass legislation I have repeatedly
requested to modernize the Federal Housing Administration that will help
more families stay in their homes, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to
ensure they focus on their housing mission, and allow State housing agencies
to issue tax-free bonds to refinance sub-prime loans." (President George W.
Bush, Radio Address, 5/3/08)

"[T]he government ought to be helping creditworthy people stay in their
homes. And one way we can do that ­ and Congress is making progress on this
­ is the reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That reform will come with a
strong, independent regulator." (President George W. Bush, Meeting With The
Secretary Of The Treasury, the White House, 5/19/08)

"Congress needs to pass legislation to modernize the Federal Housing
Administration, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure they focus on
their housing mission, and allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free
bonds to refinance subprime loans." (President George W. Bush, Radio
Address, 5/31/08)

June: As foreclosure rates continued to rise in the first quarter, the
President once again asks Congress to take the necessary measures to address
this challenge, saying "we need to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and
Freddie Mac." (President George W. Bush, Remarks At Swearing In Ceremony For
Secretary Of Housing And Urban Development, Washington, D.C., 6/6/08)

July: Congress heeds the President's call for action and passes reform of
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as it becomes clear that the institutions are
failing.
In 2005-- Senator John McCain partnered with three other Senate Republicans
to reform the government¹s involvement in lending.
Democrats blocked this reform, too.
25182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 18, 2009, 05:13:05 PM
By JAMES TARANTO

Yesterday we received an email from a loyal reader who nonetheless seems to disagree with everything we write--a type of reader for whom we have a special, if slightly perverse, affection. Our correspondent included a quote that he attributed to Aristotle:

If we believe men have any personal rights at all, then they must have an absolute moral right to such a measure of good health as society can provide.
Could an ancient philosopher, a man who lived and died many centuries before the advent of either socialism or modern medicine, really have been in favor of socialized medicine? We were skeptical, to say the least, and decided to do a bit of Web sleuthing.

We punched the quote into Google, and up popped a series of references, mostly from left-liberal outfits like truthout.org and Bill Moyers Journal. This heightened our suspicion that the quote is a "progressive" urban legend, but it didn't prove it.

Podcast
James Taranto on the supposed Aristotle quote.
.Then we tried searching Google Books, figuring that if this appeared anywhere in Aristotle's works, it would turn up there. The only reference to the quote was from Thurston Clarke's 2008 book, "The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America." Clarke reports that RFK, during his 1968 presidential campaign, attributed the quote to Aristotle in a speech at the "University of Indiana Medical School" (presumably he means the Indiana University School of Medicine).

Of course, Aristotle wrote in ancient Greek, not modern English, so it's possible that Kennedy was using his own translation. But a March 2008 paper by Edmund D. Pellegrino, a professor of medicine and philosophy at Georgetown University, suggests that in fact RFK was using a fabricated quote. Here is what Pellegrino, with the assistance of the staff at the National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature, found:

In attempts to establish the provenance of the text in question we have conducted an extensive search for its source and original wording. We have not been able to locate it. Our initial curiosity was aroused by several things, including that rights language did not seem to have the Aristotelian context, and health care, as such, was not included in Aristotle's works. We searched Nicomachean Ethics and Eudemian Ethics, and the Magna Moralia without successfully locating the quote. Nor could we find it in other of works of Aristotle: On Length and Shortness of Life, De Anima, Economics or the Fragments. "Rights" language certainly would stick out in Aristotle's virtue-based ethics.
Curiously, the earliest reference to the purported quote that Pellegrino was able to find was from an article published in 1979, more than a decade after RFK's death, whose author claimed to have translated it himself from a Latin edition of the Nicomachean Ethics. We haven't been able to find a transcript of the RFK speech, or any contemporaneous account of his quoting Aristotle in it.

Maybe he was quoting Aristotle Onassis.

'Futile' Vassals
Whatever Aristotle might or might not have said, the flip side of establishing a "right" to medical care is that it also entails empowering the government to define the limits of that right. An Associated Press story offers a chilling hint of the potential implications:

A surprising number of frail, elderly Americans in nursing homes are suffering from futile care at the end of their lives, two new federally funded studies reveal.
One found that putting nursing home residents with failing kidneys on dialysis didn't improve their quality of life and may even push them into further decline. The other showed many with advanced dementia will die within six months and perhaps should have hospice care instead of aggressive treatment.
Medical experts say the new research emphasizes the need for doctors, caregivers and families to consider making the feeble elderly who are near death comfortable rather than treating them as if a cure were possible--more like the palliative care given to terminally ill cancer patients.
We have no basis on which to quarrel with the findings of the study, and certainly it is true that some treatments are futile and circumstances exist in which palliative care is the least bad of all available options. But when government becomes the decision-maker, you end up with stories like the one we noted Wednesday, in which a British hospital manager tried to persuade a woman to make her grandmother "comfortable" (read dead) when, as it turned out, the old lady's breathing difficulties were easily treatable.

In that same item Wednesday, we called attention to a speech Robert Reich, President Clinton's labor secretary, gave, in which he set forth what he described--approvingly--as the "truth" about so-called health-care reform: that it amounts to telling old people, "We're going to let you die," forcing young people to pay more for insurance, and suppressing medical innovation.

We weren't the only one to notice this Reich speech, and Reich has posted a response on his blog to the commentary that has ensued:

Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Rush, and the right-wing blogosphere seem interested in a talk I gave in September, 2007 to students in a political science class here at Berkeley, in which I played the role of a presidential candidate so politically incorrect and tone-deaf as to pummel every sacred cow in sight--including the notion that our society could afford and would continue forever to pay whatever amount of money was required to keep everyone alive forever. The whole point of the mock exercise was to show that presidential candidates can't state what everyone knows to be the truth because they'll be taken apart by the Right or the Left. I slew many other sacred cows in that mock exercise, some of which are held dearly by the Left. Nonetheless, two years later the Right has exhumed the lecture and taken my words completely out of context purportedly to show that Obama and the Democrats plan death panels.
If their desperation weren't so pathetic it would be funny. After all, they have proven the whole point of my lecture. UC Berkeley maintains an archive of webcasts and my speech is available there verbatim, should you wish to listen to it in its entirety.
This is bizarre. We don't know exactly what Dobbs, Hannity and Rush Limbaugh said, but we were in complete agreement with "the whole point" of Reich's lecture, at least as it applies to President Obama and other politicians currently pushing "health-care reform": that they are not telling the truth about their intentions. Reich almost certainly gave a far more accurate description of how ObamaCare would work in practice than Obama has ever given.
25183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Dollar; Monetary Policy on: October 17, 2009, 08:19:02 PM
Doug et al:

No criticism for having posted that, but that has got to be one of the most specious and stupid pieces I have read in quite some time. cheesy

Marc
25184  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / More on the BC Canada case on: October 17, 2009, 06:10:12 PM
A more thorough article on the BC Canada case:

Parents cannot waive a child's right to sue for injuries: B.C. court
By NEAL HALL
VANCOUVER SUN
October 16, 2009 4:02 PM

METRO VANCOUVER -- A parent cannot sign away a child's right to sue
for injuries caused by negligence, a judge has ruled in what is
believed to be a precedent-setting decision.

Victor Wong of Richmond, now a 20-year-old University of B.C. student,
sued Lok's Martial Arts Centre and owner Michael Lok.

Wong claimed he suffered injuries because of the negligence of the
defendants, including Ramin Asgare Nik, who violently threw Wong to
the ground in the course of a sparring match at a Hapkido school owned
and operated by Lok's.

Wong alleged the defendants were negligent "in failing to take
preventative measures to ensure that injuries did not occur in the
course of sparring matches by taking such measures as screening
participants, instructing participants, requiring suitable protective
gear or carefully supervising matches."

Lok and the martial arts centre went to court to have the lawsuit
dismissed, arguing that Wong's mother, Yen To, signed a release,
agreeing not to make legal claims for injuries when Wong first began
taking lessons in 2001, when he was 12.

The document, titled "Conditions of membership and release," said: "It
is expressly agreed that all exercises and treatments, and use of all
facilities shall be undertaken by the student's sole risk...YOU ARE
RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL INJURIES!"

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Willcock concluded that while the
Infants Act was intended by the legislature to establish the sole
means of creating contractual obligations that bind minors, "the act
does not permit a parent or guardian to bind an infant to an agreement
waiving the infant's right to bring an action in damages in tort."

The judge dismissed the defendant's application to strike the lawsuit,
but has not ruled on whether the defendants were negligent. That
matter now is set to proceed to trial on Nov. 23.

"It appears to be precedent-setting in B.C.," Wong's lawyer, Bonnie
Lepin, said Friday of the ruling. "It may well be the first [ruling of
its kind] in Canada."

She said the ruling will not affect parents signing waivers for their
children involved in sports or skiing who have accidental injuries.

The ruling, she added, only means a parent cannot sign away a child's
right to sue for injuries caused by negligence.

Lepin said her client suffered a fracture of his right arm, which
required surgery and left the young man partially disabled. His right
arm now becomes fatigued and cramped because of the injury, she said.

"He gets more time to write exams," Lepin explained about the UBC
student.

The full judgment is available online at:
http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/09/13/2009BCSC1385.htm
25185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: October 17, 2009, 09:24:05 AM
Unleash the Isrealis?

As a practical matter, Iran is a long reach for them.  There are rumors that the Sauds have cleared use of their airspace, and there are rumors of the capabilities of Israeli subs.    The Iranian program is spread out and dug in.  Will the Israelis be able to access and destroy it?  To ensure success, do nukes become part of the equation?  Have not the Iranians built in populaution centers?
25186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: October 17, 2009, 06:55:31 AM
PETER BERKOWITZ
Professors have a professional interest in—indeed a professional duty to uphold—liberty of thought and discussion. But in recent years, precisely where they should be most engaged and outspoken they have been apathetic and inarticulate.

Consider Yale. On Oct. 1, the university hosted Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. His drawing of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban became the best known of 12 cartoons published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. That led to deadly protests throughout the Muslim world. On the same day, at an unrelated event, Yale hosted Brandeis Prof. Jytte Klausen. Her new book, "The Cartoons that Shook the World," was subject in August to a last minute prepublication decision by Yale President Richard Levin and Yale University Press to remove not only the 12 cartoons but also all representations of Muhammad, including respected works of art.

The Westergaard appearance inspired protests. Muslim students condemned Yale's invitation to the cartoonist as religiously and racially insensitive, compared him to Holocaust deniers and white supremacists, and declared his art and utterances hate speech rather than free speech.

Students will be students. It is to be hoped that those who opposed Mr. Westergaard's invitation will learn at Yale that the aim of liberal education is not to guard their sensitivities but to teach them to listen to diverse opinions and fortify them to respond with better arguments to those with whom they disagree.

Mr. Westergaard's appearance did prompt a small faculty-led panel discussion on Oct. 7. It dealt mainly with Muslim reaction to the cartoons, though Prof. Seyla Benhabib said that in Ms. Klausen's position she would have withdrawn the book. But generally the faculty has been unmoved by Yale's censorship of Ms. Klausen's book, which suggests that lessons in the fundamentals of liberty of thought and discussion may be lacking on campus.

To be sure, Yale's censorship—the right word because Yale suppressed content on moral and political grounds—raised difficult questions. Can't rights, including freedom of speech and press, be limited to accommodate other rights and goods? What if reprinting the cartoons and other depictions gave thugs and extremists a new opportunity to inflame passions and unleash violence? Can't the consequences of the cartoons' original publication be understood without reproducing them? Weren't the cartoons really akin, as Yale Senior Lecturer Charles Hill pointed out in a letter to the Yale Alumni magazine, to the depictions of Jews as grotesque monsters that successive American administrations have sought to persuade Arab newspapers to cease publishing? And isn't it true, as Mr. Hill also observed, that Yale's obligation to defend free speech does not oblige it to subsidize gratuitously offensive or intellectually worthless speech?

These are good questions—to which there are good answers.

Rights are subject to limits, but a right as fundamental to the university and the nation as freedom of speech and press should only be limited in cases of imminent danger and not in deference to speculation about possible violence at an indeterminate future date. One can't properly evaluate Ms. Klausen's contention that the cartoons were cynically manipulated without assessing with one's own eyes whether the images passed beyond mockery and ridicule to the direct incitement of violence.

Even if the cartoons exhibited a kinship to anti-Semitic caricatures, it would cut in favor of publication: a scholar would be derelict in his duties if he published a work on anti-Semitic images without including examples. And finally, if Yale chooses to publish a rigorous analysis of the Danish cartoon controversy, which affected the national interest and roiled world affairs, then the university does incur a scholarly obligation to include all the relevant information and evidence including the cartoons at the center, regardless of whether they are in themselves gratuitously offensive and intellectually worthless.

The wonder is that Yale's censorship has excited so little debate at Yale. The American Association of University Professors condemned Yale for caving in to terrorists' "anticipated demands." And a group of distinguished alumni formed the Yale Committee for a Free Press and published a letter protesting Yale's "surrender to potential unknown billigerents" and calling on the university to correct its error by reprinting Ms. Klausen's book with the cartoons and other images intact. But the Yale faculty has mostly yawned. Even the famously activist Yale Law School has, according to its director of public affairs, sponsored no programs on censorship and the university.

Alas, there is good reason to suppose that in its complacency about threats to freedom on campus the Yale faculty is typical of faculties at our leading universities. In 2006, even as the police had barely begun their investigation, Duke University President Richard Brodhead lent the prestige of his office to faculty members' prosecution and conviction in the court of public opinion of three members of the Duke lacrosse team falsely accused of gang raping an African-American exotic dancer. It turned out they were being pursued by a rogue prosecutor. To be sure, it was only a vocal minority at Duke who led the public rush to judgment. But the vast majority of the faculty stood idly by, never rising to defend the presumption of innocence and the requirements of fair process. Perhaps Duke faculty members did not realize or perhaps they did not care that these formal and fundamental protections against the abuse of power belong among the conditions essential to the lively exchange of ideas at the heart of liberal education.

Similarly, in 2005, Harvard President Lawrence Summers sparked a faculty revolt that ultimately led to his ouster by floating at a closed-door, off-the-record meeting the hypothesis—which he gave reasons for rejecting only a few breaths after posing it—that women were poorly represented among natural science faculties because significantly fewer women than men are born with the extraordinary theoretical intelligence necessary to succeed at the highest scientific levels. Before he was forced to resign, Mr. Summers did his part to set back the cause of unfettered intellectual inquiry by taking the side of his accusers and apologizing repeatedly for having dared to expose an unpopular idea to rational analysis. Apart from a few honorable exceptions, the Harvard faculty could not find a principle worth defending in the controversy over Mr. Summer's remarks.

As the controversies at Yale, Duke and Harvard captured national attention, professors from other universities haven't had much to say in defense of liberty of thought and discussion either. This silence represents a collective failure of America's professors of colossal proportions. What could be a clearer sign of our professors' loss of understanding of the requirements of liberal education than their failure to defend liberty of thought and discussion where it touches them most directly?

Mr. Berkowitz is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
25187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: October 17, 2009, 06:37:17 AM
The US has no sanctions card without the Russians and the Chinese and we have neither of them in favor of sanctions-- so of course the Iranians continue to do what has worked for several years now (which most certainly includes the Bush era)

What are we to do?
25188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 17, 2009, 06:34:36 AM
 Friday, October 16, 2009   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Pakistan and the Kerry-Lugar Bill: Aid, or an Affront to an Alliance?

THURSDAY WAS A PARTICULARLY ROUGH DAY for Pakistan. Suspected Taliban militants carried out a spate of armed assaults and suicide attacks against three security facilities in Lahore, killing 38 people. The violence followed 11 other attacks that occurred in the past week. And with the military gearing up for an offensive against Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan, more attacks designed to demonstrate the militants’ resolve are likely in store.

Also on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Kerry-Lugar bill — legislation that triples the amount of U.S. aid to Pakistan to $7.5 billion over five years. This might seem like a silver lining in the cloud of Pakistan’s terrorism woes. After all, the United States is signaling a deepened commitment to its front-line ally in the war against terrorism, during its most desperate hour, isn’t it?

Not exactly.

“In the eyes of the military — the indisputable power-broker of the Pakistani state — the mere inclusion of these provisions, even if they are non-binding, is a direct affront to the U.S.-Pakistani alliance. An alliance that is already very troubled.”
While that might be the popular viewpoint in Washington, any reaction in Islamabad to mention of the Kerry-Lugar bill likely would have a stream of colorful expletives attached. For many in Islamabad, the aid package represents a deep betrayal because it includes what the Pakistanis call “highly intrusive” provisions — clauses that make the flow of funds contingent upon the U.S. secretary of state’s ability to certify that Pakistan is combating militant groups on its soil and that the Pakistani government wields “effective civilian control over the military.”

In the eyes of the military — the indisputable power broker of the Pakistani state — the mere inclusion of these provisions, even if they are non-binding, is a direct affront to the U.S.-Pakistani alliance. It is an alliance that is already very troubled.

Since Pakistan’s violent inception in 1947, it was clear that the state had gotten the short end of the stick when it was carved out of British-controlled India. Pakistan’s borders deprived it of any significant strategic depth, while its rival India had significantly advantages in size, military prowess, population and wealth. This is a reality that Pakistan cannot escape. Therefore, it is a strategic imperative for Pakistan to acquire an outside power patron, preferably a superpower like the United States.

For decades, Pakistan has been willing to help the United States: It has offered to host U.S. bases along the Baloch coast, facilitated a U.S. rapprochement with China at the height of the Cold War, took the lead in operationalizing the U.S. proxy war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, and it is now on the front line in the war against terrorism. Yet time and again Pakistan has been disappointed.

Islamabad essentially expected the United States to repay it with security guarantees, as well as military and economic assistance that would allow Pakistan to level the playing field with India.

But Washington could never really fulfill Islamabad’s expectations. An alliance with Pakistan offers short-term utility from time to time, but the United States recognizes India as the heavyweight on the Asian subcontinent. India’s location in the Indian Ocean basin provides a strategic advantage, allowing it to hedge against Russia and China and to form a bulwark against radical Islam. Moreover, it can help to either secure or threaten critical sea-lanes running from the Persian Gulf to Asia. As an added bonus to the United States, India is also the world’s largest democracy. Circumstances may not always have permitted a deeper U.S.-Indian strategic partnership, but geopolitical times have changed. No longer bound by Cold War alliances, India and the United States see an opening to work on common interests. Ironically, Pakistan (and its Islamist militancy issues) is now one such common interest.

The idea of a deepening U.S.-Indian strategic partnership is enough to shake Pakistan to its core. In the past, when Islamabad saw that the United States wasn’t prepared to guarantee Pakistan’s territorial integrity, it developed nuclear weapons, but also came up with a back-up insurance policy to use against its rivals: irregular warfare through the development of militant proxies. Pakistan’s irregular warfare doctrine eventually spiraled out of control, and the side effects of that policy now form the glue in its current alliance with the United States in the battle against terrorism. But as the Kerry-Lugar bill symbolizes, an alliance with the United States rarely comes without strings attached. This is especially true as the debate intensifies in Washington over whether the United States should reduce its commitments in battling jihadists and refocus attention on other priorities in the world.

A familiar sense of betrayal is creeping back into Islamabad. Only this time, the irregular warfare policy is broken and militants that Pakistan once nurtured are threatening to shatter its political coherence. Meanwhile, India and the United States are finding a lot more common ground.

25189  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: October 16, 2009, 06:45:03 PM
An oldie but goodie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM
25190  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: El Fire Hydrant: (Noticias) on: October 16, 2009, 05:33:48 PM
Guau a todos:

Yo estaba esperando que el primero Vido-clip llegara a nuestro webmaster para que el lo postari'a (del "splanglish" to post= postear) en su hilo aqui para anunciar lo siguiente aqui, pero parece que el clip este tardando en el correo.

Quiero anunciar que Mauricio sea el "Sargento" de este foro (osea el moderator).

La Aventura continua,
Guro Crafty
25191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: October 16, 2009, 12:01:38 PM
From the Left: The War on Fox News
The Obama administration is clearly not content to have a majority of American news media in its back pocket. It wants total obedience and has now openly declared war on Fox News Channel, which White House Communications Director Anita Dunn recently accused of being "a wing of the Republican Party." She added that from here forward, "We're going to treat [Fox News] the way we would treat an opponent. ... We don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave."

Consider the source, though. Dunn is also on the record saying that one of her "favorite political philosophers" was Mao Tse Tung, who was responsible for more than 70 million deaths in Communist China.

Obamanauts are furious with Fox for being the only major broadcast news outlet that has not toed the party line. Apparently, the administration thinks the way "legitimate news organizations behave" is to out-and-out lie about the opposition, like CBS News with its "fake but accurate" hatchet job on President George W. Bush just prior to the 2004 election, and like the outrageously phony quotes attributed to Rush Limbaugh in recent days (more on that later).

Fox, on the other hand, has recently exposed the corruption of ACORN and the extreme leftism of former Green Jobs Czar Van Jones, but this doesn't make it anti-Obama. Rather, it makes Fox pro-information, as the ACORN exposé and Van Jones's public insults about Republicans were real and noteworthy events, though most of the media chose not to report them.

The White House attack on Fox News goes beyond the simple cowardice of the Obama administration. Not only are they afraid to field tough questions from an aggressive news organization but government appointees in high places like Mark Lloyd, the FCC's Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer, are calling for ways to address the "structural imbalance" of talk radio and, presumably, the manner in which FNC does business. For his part, Lloyd is on record as being enamored of Hugo Chavez's "democratic revolution" and his takeover of the Venezuelan media. All aboard for the "Fairness Doctrine."
25192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: October 16, 2009, 11:58:43 AM
"Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm." --James Madison

Baucus and Pelosi work on their health care potionGovernment & Politics
Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

The headlines triumphantly announced Tuesday that the Senate Finance Committee had passed its version of the health care takeover bill with the help of Republican-In-Name-Only Olympia Snowe of Maine. But as the Heritage Foundation's Brian Darling writes, there is no bill. In fact, Darling says, "The Senate is using a non-transparent and rare -- if not unique -- process to pass Obamacare."

Though Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) gathered Democrats and Republicans to craft a bill, they couldn't do it, even after weeks of meetings. So, Darling continues, "Baucus then scheduled a markup of an outline of his version of health care reform. Many call it a 'Vapor Bill,' because it's only a description of legislation. No member of the Committee has seen actual legislation, just a 262-page description. That Vapor Bill never will be voted on in the Senate, so many detractors are calling this a 'make believe markup.' It's to fool people into thinking the Senate is actually crafting a bill."

Not only that, but Darling adds, "I have called around Capitol Hill to find out who has a copy of the bill and none of my high-level contacts know." Now that's transparency.

Meanwhile, based on what language is actually accessible, the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm performed an analysis commissioned by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a group representing the industry. Warning that the Baucus bill will saddle everyone who has insurance (including the Democrats' beloved middle class) with a load of new taxes in various forms, the report highlights an excise tax on employer-provided high-value health plans, Medicare payment cuts that would result in cost-shifting to the private market, and new taxes on the health industry that will inevitably be passed on to consumers.

According to Investor's Business Daily, "The study estimates that the average family-coverage cost of about $12,300 [per year] could reach $17,200 in 2013 if these provisions were implemented, $21,300 in 2016 and $25,900 in 2019. Meanwhile, average single coverage -- $4,600 today -- could reach nearly $10,000 in 2019." No wonder Democrats are afraid to discuss the details of this witch's brew.

Still, AHIP is no stalwart defender of the Constitution and Rule of Law. As The Wall Street Journal writes, "The irony is that AHIP is now arguing for a more left-wing bill, claiming the Baucus plan isn't 'universal' enough." Obviously, insurance companies are looking out for their own best interests. It's too bad they don't understand that those interests are best served by the free market.

The BIG Lie
"[The AHIP report is a] hatchet job ... bought and paid for by the same health insurance companies that have been gouging too many consumers for too long as they stand in the way of reform yet again." --Sen. Max "The Gouger" Baucus, who predicts that all Democrats and possibly more than one Republican will support his bill

This Week's 'Braying Jenny' Award
"When you think of the campaign that's been launched against the public option by the insurance industry -- because they can't take the competition. Anyone who had any doubts about the need for such an option need only look at the health insurance industry this week." --House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Pelosi is reduced to taunting and threatening anyone opposed to her schemes, saying that it only further makes the case for a government-run "public option" for health insurance. But how could any industry compete with the federal government's ability to run at a deficit forever? She went on to mock the "discredited" AHIP report. No one has actually discredited the report, mind you, Pelosi only says it's been discredited.

Hope 'n' Change: About That Free Lunch
Creative accounting allows Washington to get away with a lot, and the current health care debacle is no exception. Recent analyses of House and Senate proposals by the Congressional Budget Office rely upon static scoring (i.e., not factoring in behavioral changes caused by the legislation,) fantastically optimistic projections and simple omissions of unfavorable facts that trumpet deficit-neutral bills having no basis in reality. The libertarian Cato Institute, for example, took a close look at the CBO's numbers and discovered a variety of unsupportable claims.

For starters, the 10-year projection that measures out the trillion-dollar House bill in itself is misleading. Most of the bill's major provisions don't kick in until 2014, making for a 6-year projection in which costs ramp up slowly. After the first three years of the program, around the time of the 2012 election, costs would accumulate to about $100 billion, relative chump change that will allow Obama's re-election campaign the opportunity to pledge that health care has been a cost-saving success. But four years beyond that, long after the current president passes the threshold of electoral accountability (assuming he wins, perish the thought), costs catch a fever. Cato estimates a $2.4 trillion tab (even Sen. Harry Reid admits as much), double what the House bill and the CBO project. And what happens after 2019 is a true horror story.

The Baucus bill, all the rage on Capitol Hill these days, is another fraud of epic proportions. It claims to have no impact on the deficit by assuming, in part, that growth rate cuts in Medicare's physician payments will help offset its $829 billion price tag. All well and good, but Congress never makes those cuts because no one wants to be on record as cutting an entitlement for one of America's most powerful voting blocs. Just by taking these cuts out of the equation, the bill automatically goes $200 billion into the red. Additionally, there is no reckoning of the built-in costs that will hit consumers, including penalties for high-price insurance plans, penalties for not having insurance and the general rise in cost of various health care procedures over the span of several years.

Obama and his Democrat lackeys have either bullied or beguiled the CBO, once a reliably non-partisan entity, into fabricating analyses concluding that Congress has produced sweeping legislation that does not negatively affect the deficit. If ever the phrase "voodoo economics" applied, it's now.

This Week's 'Alpha Jackass' Award
"I will actually give you a speech made up entirely -- almost at the spur of the moment, of what a candidate for president would say if that candidate did not care about becoming president. In other words, this is what the truth is, and a candidate will never say, but what candidates should say if we were in a kind of democracy where citizens were honored in terms of their practice of citizenship, and they were educated in terms of what the issues were, and they could separate myth from reality in terms of what candidates would tell them:

'Thank you so much for coming this afternoon. I'm so glad to see you, and I would like to be president. Let me tell you a few things on health care. Look, we have the only health care system in the world that is designed to avoid sick people. [laughter] That's true, and what I'm going to do is I am going to try to reorganize it to be more amenable to treating sick people. But that means you -- particularly you young people, particularly you young, healthy people -- you're going to have to pay more. [applause] Thank you.'

'And by the way, we are going to have to -- if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It's too expensive, so we're going to let you die.' [applause]

'Also, I'm going to use the bargaining leverage of the federal government in terms of Medicare, Medicaid -- we already have a lot of bargaining leverage -- to force drug companies and insurance companies and medical suppliers to reduce their costs. But that means less innovation, and that means less new products and less new drugs on the market, which means you are probably not going to live that much longer than your parents. [applause] Thank you.'" --Robert Reich, President Clinton's labor secretary, in a speech at Berkeley in 2007. Democrats, death panels and dying early -- it's all in there, folks.
25193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nyet, not yet? on: October 16, 2009, 11:47:20 AM
This from Statfor:  Who'd a thunk it?

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

Poland: Patriot Missiles From the U.S.
Stratfor Today » October 16, 2009 | 1450 GMT

KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images
A fire unit of a U.S. Patriot missile batteryPolish Deputy Defense Minister Stanislaw Komorowski said Oct. 16 that the United States will deploy a Patriot air defense battery to Poland and that the discussions with Washington about hosting part of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system are ongoing. Komorowski made his remarks after talks with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow. Although there is still no official U.S. response to the Polish announcement, the revelation tracks closely with STRATFOR’s forecast that the U.S. cancellation of the Bush-era BMD program in Poland and the Czech Republic does not constitute a serious break with Washington’s intention to maintain Poland as its key ally in Europe.

It is not yet clear what this deployment might actually entail. On one end of the spectrum is a long-term deployment of a Patriot battery. On the other end is a short joint exercise where a U.S. Patriot unit is in Poland only briefly — and perhaps with inert rather than live missiles. The former is a major step for Washington; the latter is merely a signal to Moscow. In any event, nothing irreversible has been done.

But the bottom line is that the potential of U.S. Patriot missiles in Poland will not please Russia, which is why the United States is floating the idea. Russia opposed the original BMD in Poland not because the system would have posed a direct threat, but because it symbolized increasing U.S. presence in a key Central European state near Russia. In a way, the Patriot missiles in Poland are an even greater threat to Russian interests in the region because they are actually operational and will constitute not only a high-tech operational defense for Poland, but also a deepening symbiotic relationship between Warsaw and Washington.

The United States had hoped that with its initial move to scrap BMD in Central Europe, Russia would reciprocate by toning down its support of Iran. Instead, Moscow stated it would continue its military-technical cooperation.

Washington has since made it clear to Moscow that it has the ability to play in Russia’s backyard. The announcement on Oct. 7 that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit Poland, Czech Republic and Romania from Oct. 20-24 was the opening salvo of the latest U.S. offensive. This was followed by Vershbow’s statement on Oct. 9 that the United States would consider adding Ukraine to its BMD network and that it would look to expand its military cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine.

The latest announcement from Poland suggests that the United States will use Vershbow — a former ambassador to Russia who is well versed on former Soviet Union matters and an important player in the U.S. defense establishment — as a prime tool to keep Russia on its toes in the ongoing confrontation over Iran. The Patriots in Poland, along with support of Ukraine and Georgia militarily, are U.S. proof to Russia that Washington has plenty of options to threaten Russia in its periphery.
25194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chairman Mao in the house on: October 16, 2009, 07:37:36 AM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXJjoruQs0Y
25195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 16, 2009, 06:56:13 AM
I suppose I could put this in the Book Review thread, but I put it here:

By MATTHEW REES
It says something about the precarious state of the global economy that the world's most important economic relationship—between the U.S. and China—has been described by a leading economist as one of "codependency," akin, he has suggested, to that of a drug dealer and an addict.

According to this scenario, China (the dealer) exports low-priced goods to America (the addict), which can't stop consuming them. To keep the cycle going, China uses the dollars it accrues from its exports to buy billions of dollars in U.S. Treasurys. (As of September 2008, China became the largest holder of U.S. debt.) The infusion of foreign money helps to keep U.S. interest rates low, which in turn encourages more consumption. The arrangement worked for a while, but then (the scenario goes) the U.S. overdosed and suffered a breakdown. Now China is wondering about the wisdom of being a supplier. "We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S.," said China's premier, Wen Jiabao, earlier this year. "Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried."

The relationship sounds rather dysfunctional, when put that way. But is it? In "Superfusion," Zachary Karabell notes certain tensions, but his focus is really on how the two economies became so intertwined and on why it is important to strengthen the bonds between them. Mr. Karabell rightly identifies this as "the crucial issue for the 21st century."

China and America are two of the world's three largest economies (alongside Japan). They traded $410 billion worth of goods in 2007, up from just $5 billion in 1980. Together they can sometimes account for more than half of the world's economic growth in a given year. An economic slowdown in either country can affect the entire global economy.

Yet the relationship—something each country should manage with extra care—is fraught with conflicts and misunderstandings and is threatened by domestic pressures. Mr. Karabell is critical of what he sees as the U.S. determination to "contest the rise of China every step of the way." He insightfully shows how fears of China's growing economic might are used as a battering ram against companies like Walmart—China's low labor costs are held to blame for the success of big-box stores, with their low-price goods. And of course China is a perfect villain for any lobbyist or politician who is eager to protect a U.S. manufacturer by curtailing trade.

In the past 18 months, however, the terms of the relationship have shifted dramatically. While the U.S. economy has been in recession, and the U.S. financial sector on the brink of collapse, China has managed to keep its own economy relatively stable. Its growth rate, though lower than usual, still came in at a robust 8% in the second quarter of 2009. And China's banking sector has experienced little of the turmoil of America's.

View Full Image
.Superfusion
By Zachary Karabell
Simon & Schuster, 340 pages, $26
.So who is now the senior partner, so to speak? For years China has been on the receiving end of lectures from U.S. officials—its undervalued currency, inefficient banking system and high saving rate are perennial scolding points. But China is now the one doing the lecturing. Last year, the chairman of the country's banking regulatory commission asked in a speech: "Does money-making or doing business justify the regulators in ignoring their duty for prudential supervision and their job of preventing misbehavior?" Senior Chinese officials have also been chatting up the idea of displacing the dollar as the world's reserve currency. And China has been on a buying spree. Its acquisitions of foreign companies, or investments in them, totaled $56 billion last year. As recently as 2002, the annual total was just $140 million.

Alas, these developments get short shrift in "Superfusion." Instead, there are chapters rehashing how U.S. companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Avon and Federal Express made their inroads into China. There is an odd chapter on the shortcomings of Chinese data collection that only briefly touches on the U.S.-China relationship. Mr. Karabell gives China's banking sector a careful analysis, but he treats many other topics superficially. In a discussion of last year's U.S. market turmoil, he simply speculates about what was said in conversations between the U.S. Treasury secretary and China's premier. Most of the book's material seems to be drawn from secondary sources.

Still, the question at the heart of "Superfusion" is a pressing one: What will happen next? Mr. Karabell says that the U.S. must turn its thinking away from the military and security challenges of the 20th century and focus more on the economic challenges of the 21st. If it does so, one key "metric"—for the U.S. and the rest of the world—will be China's growth rate. Can it be sustained?

That depends. With a meager welfare state, Chinese consumers save and save. The consumption rate is only about 35% of gross domestic product—down from 49% in 1990—and the lowest of any major world economy (the U.S. rate is 70%). At some point China will have to consume more, if only to be less dependent on exports for its prosperity. Other changes are needed, too. A 2007 property-rights law may stimulate the economy, assuming that it is enforced, but China still needs to undo an array of obstacles that face foreign investors and domestic entrepreneurs. In the World Bank's most recent study on the ease of doing business in 183 countries, China scored only 89th—and 151st in the category of "launching a business."

But there is reason for optimism. On a visit to London earlier this year, Wen Jiabao, China's premier, claimed to have brought a copy of Adam Smith's "Theory of Moral Sentiments"—not quite "The Wealth of Nations" but still better than Mao's "Little Red Book."

Mr. Rees is the president of Geonomica, a speech-writing and consulting firm in McLean, Va., and has worked for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
25196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton #71, 1788 on: October 16, 2009, 06:14:24 AM
"The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they intrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion or to every transient impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men, who flatter their prejudices to betray their interests." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 71, 1788
25197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Israel's secret war on Hezbollah on: October 16, 2009, 06:04:20 AM
By RONEN BERGMAN
On Monday, a secret Hezbollah munitions bunker in South Lebanon blew up under mysterious circumstances, injuring a senior official in the organization. This is the second such incident in recent months. The first occurred on July 14, when an explosion destroyed a major Hezbollah munitions dump in the South Lebanese village of Hirbet Salim. Hezbollah immediately pointed fingers at the Mossad. Whether or not Israel was to blame, the explosion caused Hezbollah considerable discomfort by proving that it was in flagrant violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which forbids stockpiling weapons south of the Litani River.

The U.N. issued a strongly worded rebuke and sent representatives to investigate. But their efforts were thwarted by Hezbollah fighters, who, with the assistance of Lebanese troops, prevented the foreigners from examining the site. This caused further embarrassment to Lebanon, as it exposed the army's lack of neutrality and the active aid that it extends to Hezbollah.

The episode also led to heightened tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border. The specter of renewed fighting between Israel and Hezbollah looms as large today as it has at any time since the end of the Lebanon war in August 2006. Yet senior military officers in Israel's Northern Command are confident that the embarrassing outcome of the last round will not be repeated.

"By all means, let the Hezbollah try," one officer told me two weeks ago when I asked if he was concerned about the possibility of warfare. "The welcome party that we are preparing for them is one that they will remember for a very long time." That sentiment is shared by many of his colleagues.

The recent explosions have highlighted the weakened geopolitical status of Hezbollah, a diminishment which no one could have foreseen at the end of the last war. In 2006, on both sides of the border—and elsewhere in the Middle East—Hezbollah was seen as having triumphed. Not only was it able to withstand the vastly superior invading Israeli force, but it also inflicted heavy military casualties and brought civilian life in northern Israel to a standstill with its rockets. At the end of the war, a commission of inquiry was set up in Israel to investigate the military and political failure. A number of senior army officers resigned, and Israel's deterrence power was seen as having sustained a severe blow.

If the 2006 war underlined the military might of Hezbollah—a repeat, in a sense, of Hezbollah's success in driving out the Israeli occupying forces from South Lebanon in May 2000—it also forced Israel to include Hezbollah in any assessment of possible responses to an Israeli attack against Iranian nuclear installations.

As part of its combat doctrine, which eschews reliance on reinforcements and resupply, Hezbollah has stockpiled its weapons throughout Lebanon, but particularly near the Israeli border. According to current Israeli intelligence estimates, Hezbollah has an arsenal of 40,000 rockets, including Iranian-made Zelzal, Fajr-3, Fajr-5, and 122 mm rockets (some of which have cluster warheads) and Syrian-made 302 mm rockets. Some of its rockets can reach greater Tel Aviv. Hezbollah also has a number of highly advanced weapons systems, including antiaircraft missiles, that constitute a threat to Israeli combat aircraft.

But all is not rosy for Hezbollah. After the war, considerable dissatisfaction with the organization was voiced inside Lebanon. Many blamed its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, for Israel's retaliatory bombardments that caused widespread damage. Nasrallah stated that had he known Israel would respond as forcefully as it did, he would have thought twice before ordering the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers—the act that sparked the conflict.

Harsh criticism of Hezbollah also came from an unexpected source: Tehran. The Iranian strategy calls for Hezbollah to play two roles. One is to instigate minor border provocations. The other is to launch, on Tehran's command, a full-scale retaliatory attack should Israel target Iran's nuclear facilities. The 2006 war met neither criterion, and, as the Iranians complained, merely served to reveal the extent of Hezbollah's military capabilities.

Then, in February 2008, Imad Mughniyeh, the organization's military commander and Nasrallah's close associate, was killed in a car bomb in Damascus. The assassination of the man who topped the FBI's most-wanted list prior to Osama bin Laden was a severe blow to morale, as well as to Hezbollah's strategic capabilities. Nasrallah was convinced that the Mossad was responsible, and vowed to take revenge "outside of the Israel-Lebanon arena."

The Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, which is also responsible for protecting the country's legations abroad, has been on high alert ever since. But as of today, Hezbollah has not exacted its revenge. This fact was a topic of discussions at a high-level secret forum of Israel's intelligence services that took place from late July to early September.

Israeli officials raised four possible reasons for Hezbollah's failure to act, all of which reflect its current weakness.

First, no replacement has been found for Mughniyeh, whose strategic brilliance, originality and powers of execution are sorely missed by Hezbollah.

Second, Israel's intelligence coverage of Iran and Hezbollah is far superior today to what it was in the past. Planned attacks, including one targeting the Israeli Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, have all been foiled. The Israeli security services have warned Israeli businessmen abroad of possible abduction attempts by Hezbollah. They also shared information with Egyptian authorities that led to the arrest of members of a Hezbollah network who intended to kill Israeli tourists in Sinai. The arrest of these operatives resulted in sharp public exchanges between Egypt, Hezbollah and its Iranian masters, when Nasrallah admitted that these, in fact, were his men.

Third, Nasrallah cannot afford to be viewed domestically as the cause of yet another retaliation against Lebanon. Any act of revenge that he contemplates needs to be carefully calibrated. On the one hand, it needs to hurt the enemy and be spectacular enough to stoke Hezbollah pride. On the other hand, it cannot be so murderous as to cause Israel to respond with force. To complicate matters further, Israel has made it clear that because Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government, despite the fact that the party that it backed lost in the recent election, any Hezbollah action against Israel would be viewed as an action taken by the Lebanese government. Thus Israel would regard Lebanese infrastructure as a legitimate target for a military response.

Finally, there are the Iranians. Their primary focus is on proceeding with their nuclear program without unnecessary distractions. Tehran's main concern is that a terror attack that can be linked to Iran would result in the arrest of its agents overseas, who are currently procuring equipment for its uranium-enrichment centrifuges.

Tehran has avoided direct involvement in foreign terrorism ever since 1996, when a group of Iranians were convicted in Germany of murdering political opponents of the Iranian regime. And unlike in the past (as, for instance, in the case of the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in retaliation for the assassination of Nasrallah's predecessor), it is now reluctant to place intelligence resources at Hezbollah's disposal. This is a serious blow to Hezbollah, which is not yet able to function as a full-fledged independent operational organization internationally.

Hezbollah is also clearly aware of the severe blow in terms of power and prestige that the Iranian mullahs suffered as a result of the massive protests following June's presidential election. Automatic support from Tehran is no longer a certainty. For now, at least, the Iranian hardliners have troubles of their own.

In short, despite the fact that Hezbollah today is substantially stronger in purely military terms than it was three years ago, its political stature and its autonomy have been significantly reduced. It is clear that Nasrallah is cautious and he will weigh his options very carefully before embarking on any course of action that might lead to all-out war with Israel. There are some experts in Israel who believe that even Hezbollah's retaliatory role in the Iranian game plan is currently in question.

Whether or not this is the case, all of this is being considered in Jerusalem as part of Israel's calculations about whether to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.

Mr. Bergman, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, is the author of the "The Secret War With Iran" (Free Press, 2008).
25198  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 16, 2009, 05:55:44 AM
Grateful that my children have the day off from school today and that I get to spend it with them.  Grateful to see my good friend and djembe teacher today too.
25199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 16, 2009, 05:44:41 AM
Barney Frank, Predatory Lender
Almost two-thirds of all bad mortgages in our financial system were bought by government agencies or required by government regulations.

By PETER J. WALLISON
Recent reports that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will suffer default rates of more than 20% on the 2007 and 2008 loans it guaranteed has raised questions once again about the government's role in the financial crisis and its efforts to achieve social purposes by distorting the financial system.

The FHA's function is to guarantee mortgages of low-income borrowers (the mortgages are then sold through securitizations by Ginnie Mae) and thus to take reasonable credit risks in the interests of making mortgage credit available to the nation's low-income citizens. Accordingly, the larger than normal losses that will result from the 2007 and 2008 cohort could be justified by Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, as "policy"—an effort to ease the housing downturn through the application of government credit. The FHA, he argued, is buying more weak mortgages in order to help put a floor under the housing market. Eventually, the taxpayers will have to judge whether this policy was justified.

Far more interesting than the FHA's prospective losses on its 2007 and 2008 book are the agency's losses on its 2005 and 2006 guarantees, when the housing bubble was inflating at its fastest rate and there was no need for government support. FHA-backed loans during those years also have delinquency rates between 20% and 30%. These adverse results—not the result of a "policy" effort to shore up markets—pose a significant challenge to those who are trying to absolve the U.S. government of responsibility for the financial crisis.



When the crisis first arose, the left's explanation was that it was caused by corporate greed, primarily on Wall Street, and by deregulation of the financial system during the Bush administration. The implicit charge was that the financial system was flawed and required broader regulation to keep it out of trouble. As it became clear that there was no financial deregulation during the Bush administration and that the financial crisis was caused by the meltdown of almost 25 million subprime and other nonprime mortgages—almost half of all U.S. mortgages—the narrative changed. The new villains were the unregulated mortgage brokers who allegedly earned enormous fees through a new form of "predatory" lending—by putting unsuspecting home buyers into subprime mortgages when they could have afforded prime mortgages. This idea underlies the Obama administration's proposal for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The link to the financial crisis—recently emphasized by President Obama—is that these mortgages would not have been made if regulators had been watching those fly-by-night mortgage brokers.

There was always a problem with this theory. Mortgage brokers had to be able to sell their mortgages to someone. They could only produce what those above them in the distribution chain wanted to buy. In other words, they could only respond to demand, not create it themselves. Who wanted these dicey loans? The data shows that the principal buyers were insured banks, government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the FHA—all government agencies or private companies forced to comply with government mandates about mortgage lending. When Fannie and Freddie were finally taken over by the government in 2008, more than 10 million subprime and other weak loans were either on their books or were in mortgage-backed securities they had guaranteed. An additional 4.5 million were guaranteed by the FHA and sold through Ginnie Mae before 2008, and a further 2.5 million loans were made under the rubric of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which required insured banks to provide mortgage credit to home buyers who were at or below 80% of median income. Thus, almost two-thirds of all the bad mortgages in our financial system, many of which are now defaulting at unprecedented rates, were bought by government agencies or required by government regulations.

The role of the FHA is particularly difficult to fit into the narrative that the left has been selling. While it might be argued that Fannie and Freddie and insured banks were profit-seekers because they were shareholder-owned, what can explain the fact that the FHA—a government agency—was guaranteeing the same bad mortgages that the unregulated mortgage brokers were supposedly creating through predatory lending?

The answer, of course, is that it was government policy for these poor quality loans to be made. Since the early 1990s, the government has been attempting to expand home ownership in full disregard of the prudent lending principles that had previously governed the U.S. mortgage market. Now the motives of the GSEs fall into place. Fannie and Freddie were subject to "affordable housing" regulations, issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which required them to buy mortgages made to home buyers who were at or below the median income. This quota began at 30% of all purchases in the early 1990s, and was gradually ratcheted up until it called for 55% of all mortgage purchases to be "affordable" in 2007, including 25% that had to be made to low-income home buyers.

It was not easy to find candidates for traditional mortgages—loans to people with good credit records or the resources for a substantial downpayment—among home buyers who qualified under HUD's guidelines. To meet their affordable housing requirements, therefore, Fannie and Freddie reduced their lending standards and reached into the FHA's turf. The FHA, although it lost market share, continued to guarantee what it could, adding to the demand that the unregulated mortgage brokers filled. If they were engaged in predatory lending, it was ultimately driven by the government's own requirements. The mortgages that resulted are now problem loans for the GSEs, the FHA and the big banks that were required to make them in order to burnish their CRA credentials.

The significance of the FHA's troubles is that this agency had no profit motive. Yet it dipped into the same pool of subprime and other nontraditional mortgages that the GSEs and Wall Street were fishing in. The left cannot have it both ways, blaming the private sector for subprime lending while absolving the government policies that created the demand for subprime loans. If the financial crisis was caused by subprime mortgages and predatory lending, the government's own policies made it happen.

Mr. Walllison is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
25200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia reshpaing nuclear doctrine on: October 16, 2009, 04:09:50 AM
Russia's Message on Reshaping Its Nuclear Doctrine
RUSSIA IS EXPANDING THE SCOPE OF ITS NUCLEAR DOCTRINE to include pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons, Russian Presidential Security Council Chief Nikolai Patrushev said in an interview published Wednesday by Moscow daily Izvestia. The former director of the Federal Security Service (the successor agency to the KGB) emphasized that nuclear weapons might be used in a preventive manner to repel conventional aggression in regional and even local wars. He was talking about the pre-emptive use of tactical nuclear weapons — which is, incidentally, an option the United States retains.

Russia considers its nuclear arsenal to be the pillar of its defensive military capabilities, and tactical nuclear weapons increasingly have taken a central role in its defensive scenarios since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“It is unlikely that the Russians would employ nuclear weapons in any given scenario, but whatever they say publicly has next to no bearing on what they actually would do in an unknowable, future situation.”
The potentially frightful speed of a modern nuclear exchange means there is little time for deliberation: To whatever extent possible, national command authorities seek to explore, understand and balance ahead of time the complexities and options of any given scenario. These scenarios are among the most closely guarded state secrets in the world. When and how they are updated is not generally a matter for public consumption.

And in any event, the fundamental reality remains: A nation’s senior leadership retains exclusive control over the use of nuclear weapons. Such a decision would be taken in a time of crisis, under a specific set of ultimately unknowable circumstances. Paper scenarios might inform that decision, but at the end of the day, the leader is not bound by them any more than he is bound by his country’s public nuclear doctrine.

Indeed, the manner in which a war is fought depends on any number of things — who struck first, who has the initiative, one’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the enemy’s, and so forth. But the first thing that goes out the window is the official, public statement about what that doctrine is or should be.

It is still unlikely that the Russians would employ nuclear weapons in any given scenario, but whatever they say publicly has next to no bearing on what they actually would do in an unknowable, future situation.

In other words, Patrushev’s interview was not an announcement to the Russian military that it is going to fight differently; such an announcement would come through different channels. Rather, Patrushev was telling the world that the Russian military is going to fight differently — whether that is the case or not. What is significant is not the public shift in nuclear doctrine, but the political decision to publicize it, and the timing of that decision.

It was no accident that the interview was published while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting Moscow. Patrushev was speaking to the West, and to the United States. He was attempting to shape Western thinking with three implicit points:

Russia is prepared to think in terms of the Cold War — with all the unpleasantness that could entail for the United States.
Russia has tactical nuclear weapons and a doctrine for using them — pre-emptively, if necessary.
Nuclear weapons are potentially on the table if fundamental Russian national interests are attacked, or even if Russia is threatened.
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