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25551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: K2 on: July 11, 2010, 07:34:45 AM
The Sisyphean futility of it all , , ,
ST. LOUIS — Seated at a hookah lounge in the Tower Grove district, Albert Kuo trained his lighter above a marbleized glass pipe stuffed with synthetic marijuana. Inhaling deeply, Mr. Kuo, an art student at an area college, singed the pipe’s leafy contents, emitting a musky cloud of smoke into the afternoon light.  Mr. Kuo, 25, had gathered here with a small cohort of friends for what could be the last time they legally get high in Missouri on a substance known popularly as K2, a blend of herbs treated with synthetic marijuana.

“I know it’s not going to kill me,” said Mr. Kuo, who likened the drug’s effects to clove cigarettes. “It’s a waste of time, effort and money to ban something like this.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, signed a bill prohibiting possession of K2. Missouri is the nation’s eighth state this year to ban the substance, which has sent users to emergency rooms across the country complaining of everything from elevated heart rates and paranoia to vomiting and hallucinations.

Investigators blame the drug in at least one death, and this month, Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas, a Democrat, signed an emergency order banning the substance. Similar prohibitions are pending in at least six other states, including Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Ohio, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“It’s like a tidal wave,” said Ward Franz, the state representative who sponsored Missouri’s legislation. “It’s almost an epidemic. We’re seeing middle-school kids walking into stores and buying it.”

Often marketed as incense, K2 — which is also known as Spice, Demon or Genie — is sold openly in gas stations, head shops and, of course, online. It can sell for as much as $40 per gram. The substance is banned in many European countries, but by marketing it as incense and clearly stating that it is not for human consumption, domestic sellers have managed to evade federal regulation.

“Everybody knows it’s not incense,” said Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. “That’s done with a wink and a nod.”

First developed in the lab of a Clemson University chemist, John W. Huffman, K2’s active ingredients are synthetic cannabinoids — research-grade chemicals that were created for therapeutic purposes but can also mimic the narcotic effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. In a statement, Mr. Huffman said the chemicals were not intended for human use. He added that his lab had developed them for research purposes only, and that “their effects in humans have not been studied and they could very well have toxic effects.”

Nevertheless, pure forms of the chemical are available online, and investigators believe that many sellers are buying bulk quantities, mixing them with a potpourrilike blend of herbs and labeling the substance K2.

“It’s not like there’s one K2 distributor — everybody is making their own stuff, calling it K2 and selling it, which is the most unnerving aspect,” said Dr. Christopher Rosenbaum, an assistant professor of toxicology at the University of Massachusetts who is studying the effects of K2 in emergency room patients.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that so far this year there have been 567 K2-related calls, up from 13 in 2009. But investigators add that no one is really certain what is in K2, and people are arriving at emergency rooms with symptoms that would not normally be associated with marijuana or a synthetic form of the drug.

“I don’t know how many people are going for a box of doughnuts after smoking K2, but they’re sure getting some other symptoms,” said Dr. Anthony Scalzo, a professor of emergency medicine at the St. Louis University who first reported a rise in K2-related cases and is collaborating with Dr. Rosenbaum in researching K2’s effects. “These are very anxious, agitated people that are requiring several doses of sedatives.”

Dr. Scalzo, who is also the medical director for the Missouri Poison Control Center, added that although tests had found cannabinoids in K2, it was unclear “whether the reaction we’re seeing is just because of dose effect, or if there’s something in there we haven’t found yet.”

That question remains at the center of an investigation into the death of David Rozga, an Iowa teenager who last month committed suicide shortly after smoking K2. Mr. Rozga, 18, had graduated from high school one week earlier and was planning to attend college in the fall.

According to the police report, Mr. Rozga smoked the substance with friends and then began “freaking out,” saying he was “going to hell.” He then returned to his parents’ house, grabbed a rifle from the family’s gun room and shot himself in the head.

“There was nothing in the investigation to show he was depressed or sad or anything,” said Detective Sgt. Brian Sher of the Indianola Police Department, who led the investigation. “I’ve seen it all. I don’t know what else to attribute it to. It has to be K2.”

But many users say they are undaunted by reports of negative reactions to the drug. K2 does not show up on drug tests, and users say that while they would like to know what is in it, they would take their chances if it means a clean urine test.

The Missouri ban, which goes into effect Aug. 28, prohibits several cannabinoids that investigators have found in K2 and related products. Nevertheless, investigators and researchers say that bans like the one in Missouri are little more than “Band-Aids” that street chemists can sidestep with a slight alteration to a chemical’s molecular structure.

“Once it goes illegal, I already have something to replace it with,” said Micah Riggs, who sells the product at his coffee shop in Kansas City. “There are hundreds of these synthetics, and we just go about it a couple of them at a time.”

Investigators say that a more effective ban might arise once the Drug Enforcement Administration completes its review of cannabinoids, placing them under the Controlled Substances Act. Currently, however, only one such substance is controlled under the act, though the agency has listed four others as “chemicals of concern.”

“It’s hard to keep up with everything,” said Ms. Carreno of the D.E.A., adding, “The process of scheduling something is thorough and time consuming, and there are a lot of gifted chemists out there.”

Meanwhile, states are largely on their own when it comes to controlling this new breed of synthetic cannabis, which often comes down to a game of cat-and-mouse where law enforcement agents, politicians, users and their families must formulate new responses as each iteration of a drug comes to market.

“Where does a parent go to get answers?” asked Mike Rozga, who said he learned of K2 only after his son’s death. “We talk to our kids about sex. We talk to our kids about drugs, and we talk to our kids about drinking and being responsible. But how can you talk to your kids about something you don’t even know about?”
25552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Desalinization in Australia on: July 11, 2010, 07:26:01 AM
It is POTH (the NY Times) some some wooly-headedness is to be expected.

BRISBANE, Australia — In Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent, early British explorers searching for a source of drinking water scoured the bone-dry interior for a fabled inland sea. One overeager believer even carted a whaleboat hundreds of miles from the coast, but found mostly desert inside. Today, Australians are turning in the opposite direction: the sea.

In one of the country’s biggest infrastructure projects in its history, Australia’s five largest cities are spending $13.2 billion on desalination plants capable of sucking millions of gallons of seawater from the surrounding oceans every day, removing the salt and yielding potable water. In two years, when the last plant is scheduled to be up and running, Australia’s major cities will draw up to 30 percent of their water from the sea.

The country is still recovering from its worst drought ever, a decade-long parching that the government says was deepened by climate change. With water shortages looming, other countries, including the United States and China, are also looking to the sea.

“We consider ourselves the canary in the coal mine for climate change-induced changes to water supply systems,” said Ross Young, executive director of the Water Services Association of Australia, an umbrella group of the country’s urban water utilities. He described the $13.2 billion as “the cost of adapting to climate change.”

But desalination is also drawing fierce criticism and civic protests. Many homeowners, angry about rising water bills, and environmentalists, wary of the plants’ effect on the climate, call the projects energy-hungry white elephants. Stricter conservation measures, like mandating more efficient washing machines, would easily wring more water from existing supplies, critics say.

Desalination has also helped dampen the enthusiasm for a “big Australia,” the previous, immigration-friendly government’s projection that the country’s population will rise to 36 million in 2050, from 22 million now.

“Big waste of money,” said Helen Meyer, 65, a retired midwife in Tugun, the town where the northeastern state of Queensland opened a $1 billion desalination plant last year. “It cost a lot of money to build, and it uses a lot of power. Australia is a dry country. I think we just have enough water for 22 million people. What are we going to do when we’re up to 36 million?”

The plant, sprawling across 15 acres next to an airport and near residential neighborhoods, provides water to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, and other areas of southeastern Queensland, the nation’s fastest-growing region. Despite technical problems that temporarily shut down the plant recently, it has been supplying 6 percent of the region’s water needs and has the capacity to deliver 20 percent, said Barry Dennien, chief executive of the SEQ Water Grid Manager, the utility that oversees this region’s water supply.

The drought in this region lasted from 2000 to 2009, as the reservoir behind the largest dam, Wivenhoe, dropped to only 16 percent of capacity at one point. (On a recent visit, it was at 98 percent.) While it took the state authorities until 2005 to grasp the magnitude of the crisis, Mr. Dennien said, they moved quickly after that.

Besides restricting water use and subsidizing the purchase of home water tanks to capture rainwater, the state spent nearly $8 billion to create the country’s most sophisticated water supply network. It fashioned dams and a web of pipelines to connect 18 independent water utilities in a single grid. To “drought proof” the region, it built facilities for manufacturing water, by recycling wastewater, to use for industrial purposes, and by desalinating seawater. Production of desalinated water can be adjusted according to rain levels.

“When the last of the assets were coming online, it rained, as it always does,” Mr. Dennien said, adding that the region now has enough water for the next 20 years.

“We’ve got a method of operating the grid that the next time any sign of drought occurs, we can just,” he snapped his fingers, “build something else or turn something else on, and we’ve got enough water supply.”

Other cities are making the same bet. Perth, which opened the nation’s first desalination plant in 2006, is building a second one. Sydney’s plant started operating early this year, and plants near Melbourne and Adelaide are under construction.

Until a few years ago, most of the world’s large-scale desalination plants were in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, though water scarcity is changing that. In the United States, where only one major plant is running, in Tampa Bay, officials are moving forward on proposed facilities in California and Texas, said Tom Pankratz, a director of the International Desalination Association, based in Topsfield, Mass. China, which recently opened its biggest desalination plant, in Tianjin, could eventually overtake Saudi Arabia as the world leader, he said.

Many environmentalists and economists oppose any further expansion of desalination because of its price and contribution to global warming. The power needed to remove the salt from seawater accounts for up to 50 percent of the cost of desalination, and Australia relies on coal, a major emitter of greenhouse gases, to generate most of its electricity.

Critics say desalination will add to the very climate change that is aggravating the country’s water shortage. To make desalination politically palatable, Australia’s plants are using power from newly built wind farms or higher-priced energy classified as clean. For households in cities with the new plants, water bills are expected to double over the next four years, according to the Water Services Association.

But critics say there are cheaper alternatives. They advocate conservation measures, as well as better management of groundwater reserves and water catchments. “Almost every city which has implemented a desalination plant has nowhere near maxed out or used up their conservation potential,” said Stuart White, director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney. Even without restrictions, cities could easily save 20 percent of their water, Mr. White said.

He said cities should practice “desalination readiness” by drawing plans to build a plant, but should carry them out only as a last resort in the event of a severe drought.

Mr. Young of the Water Services Association said desalination in Australia costs $1.75 to $2 per cubic meter, including the costs of construction, clean energy and production. The prices are probably the world’s highest, said Mr. Pankratz of the International Desalination Association, adding that desalination was cheaper in countries with less strict environmental standards. He said the cost at a typical new plant in the world today would be about $1 per cubic meter.

Opponents of desalination say that a cheaper and environmentally friendlier alternative is recycling wastewater, though persuading people to drink it remains difficult and politically delicate. The SEQ Water Grid Manager, for instance, retreated from its initial plan to introduce recycled wastewater into its drinking reservoirs after it began raining.

“There’s a stigma against recycled water,” said David Mason, 40, a resident of Tugun.

“But since there’s only so much water in the world, and it’s been through somebody’s body or some other place over the past 250 million years, maybe it’s not that bad. At least, it might be better than desalination.”
25553  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 10, 2010, 10:26:36 AM
Grateful for a wonderful night with my family last night.

25554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Preamble of the Bill of Rights on: July 10, 2010, 10:22:32 AM
Pasting this post by PC on the Well Armed People thread here.  This is an excellent and usually overlooked point.
 Liberal lawyers, judges, professors, and other so called Constitutional experts have for many years been poisoning the well by putting various ideas and interpretations of the Second Amendment out in the public sphere that completely goes against what the amendment was intended to protect. Any course you take in college or book you pick up on the Bill of Rights, will firmly place these ideas in your mind; things like saying the Second Amendment was put in the Bill of Rights to make sure the government had soldiers at the ready and now it is outdated for that purpose. In other words this wasn't about protecting a citizens right to keep and bear arms at all but instead it was about protecting the United States from attack and it was put there as a benefit to the government and the states to have a armed militia.
 This poison pill that they have drilled into our heads and into every lawyer and Constitutional expert that comes out of our finest schools, has been what the enemies of freedom have hung their hat on in order to strip the Second Amendment of its power to protect citizens from tyranny. Of course the latest ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States, has worked as an antidote to lessen the effect of that poisonous idea. However, the poison is still there in every major work on the Bill of Rights and Constitutional law. So here I would like to counter these ideas with some simple facts that you might use to correct the record.
 Let's start with first things first. What was the intended purpose of the Bill of Rights to begin with? For that we can look at the preamble to the Bill of Rights. What? Never heard of that before? I wonder why? Well, here it is:

Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine

THE Conventions of a number of States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that futher declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent starts of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

 The second paragraph states the reason and purpose for the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment by the way, very plainly..."in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent starts of its institution."
 It makes it very clear that these amendments are intended to restrict the government and not to give it protections, but instead to ensure public confidence. Next, what the Second Amendment actually said before it was misconstructed and abused and rewritten by the poisonous pen of interpretation.

Second Amendment

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

 The first part is what the interpreters deem to contain the important meaning and purpose of the amendment and the last half, according to them, is just meaningless drivel. Now, anyone who's thinking hasn't been impaired by the poisonous ideas planted in all the literature about the Second Amendment would immediately recognize the first part as being a supporting statement to what follows, and they would respect the placement of commas that separate the statement from the declaration and restriction clause. What did the Preamble say? " order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that futher declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added." and what does the last half of the Second Amendment say? This is the declaratory part, note the comma: "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, And the restrictive part: shall not be infringed."
 The first part that mentions the Militia as a supporting statement, is just one given reason among many as to why this declaration and restriction had its place in the Bill of Rights and it has no importance or bearing on its meaning at all, at least not if you believe the preamble. Which might explain why it is never mentioned in all those expert opinions.
 Am I really that much smarter than all all those Constitutional experts?  These people are despicable for intentionally misleading the public and undermining our rights by way of academic terrorism. This is intellectual dishonesty at its worse. 
25555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: July 10, 2010, 10:20:50 AM
Excellent point PC, indeed outstanding!  I will be pasting this on the American Creed thread on the SCH forum too. 
25556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: July 09, 2010, 09:05:26 PM
Exactly so.  smiley
25557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: July 09, 2010, 06:38:35 PM
I was thinking more of the eternal dance between central and local power.
25558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: July 09, 2010, 05:49:04 PM
I sense a circle here.

Perhaps this takes us to the FF's point about what they constructed requiring a moral, spiritual people if it were to work.
25559  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Song of My Youth on: July 09, 2010, 03:34:24 PM
“The Song of my Youth”
By Crafty Dog
(copyright 2010 Marc F. Denny—all rights reserved)


When I was a young man, I thought country music was rather awful, but as it and I have grown up, through my exposure to it through my wife I have come to discover that there is a lot there now that I like a lot-- to the point that occasionally my wife is shocked to discover me listening to country music on my own.

One of my favorite songs has this refrain:

“I ain’t as young as I once was, but I am as young once as I ever was.”

What a perfect battle cry for those of us past our prime! 

Amongst the reasons that it is such is that it sings mightily to the eternal internal battle to distinguish quitting, accepting the inevitable consequences of living past one’s prime, and discovering just how much more one can grow.  Perhaps more importantly, it is a good anchor for summoning up our fighting spirit when fight we must against those younger, stronger, more agile, more fit, and more durable.


I remember my teacher speaking from time to time of a student whom he had back in the days at the legendary Kali Academy of the 1970s and early ‘80s.  The man was a spectacular athlete with, as the saying goes, “a body envied by men and desired by women”.    As the Sticks of Life Twirled On as they are wont to do, this young man moved on until a chance meeting some ten years later.   My teacher did not recognize the now not-so-young man for in front of him stood some thick-waisted slouching man of little athletic appearance.

From there he spoke of how some young men train in a great frenzy and sharpen their edge to extraordinary levels of sharpness, but that after they peak, so too does their motivation and subtly and slowly, or perhaps not so subtly and slowly, they find themselves in a spiral into the death of mediocrity from which they never recover.

For him he said, the idea was to stay on the path for the long haul.  This caught my attention on a deep level.

No surprise this, for it was the essays on the manongs in the beginning of Guro Inosanto’s now out-of-print “The Filipino Martial Arts” that had drawn me to the FMA and Guro Inosanto, particularly the essay about Manong John Lacoste.  This is why the mission statement for Dog Brothers Martial Arts is “Walk as a warrior for all your days.”

C:    When I was 48 I had a really nice Dog Brothers stickfight which really manifested most everything upon which I had been working for many years and it came to me that it would be a good fight on which to retire. 

With about 140 fights to my credit, along with Top Dog and Salty Dog I had been one of the “Big Three”.  In Gatherings when neither of them was there I had been the man to whom people ultimately looked to represent the Dog Brother name—and during those years the Dog Brother name continued to grow.  This I did while running the Gatherings, ring mastering the fights, and coaching my students who were fighting—these being part of my responsibilities as “the Guiding Force”. 

I confess to being rather proud of this.

During these years my annual training cycle consisted of getting into fighting shape for the two Gatherings of each year which were held  in early May and late September.    Thus there was less than five months between the May and September Gatherings, and more than seven months between September and May.

This flowed very nicely with the rhythms of the seasons.  For the early May Gathering the weather had been nice for long enough to get into good fighting shape, and the for the September Gathering (held on the Saturday closest to the Autumnal Equinox) we had had all summer long to get into peak fighting shape.   

With the seven and a half month winter break (not a brutal winter here in SoCal it is true, but wimps that we here are, it is winter for us) between the September Gathering and the May Gathering, it was time to work on the lessons learned and develop one’s game to the next level, whereas the summer break was more about taking one’s physicality to the next level.

But with my retirement from active fighting, in a subtle way my inner rhythms began to lose their propulsive power.  For a few years I trained “as if” I were going to fight and this worked somewhat, but as time went by each year my efforts became a bit less.  Fighting students were becoming more “respectful” as I sparred with them to help them get ready. 


Wat happens when one no longer is fighting? 

Of course, we continue to train.  After all in DBMA our mission statement is to “Walk as a warrior for all your days”!  But less us be candid, motivation is easy when one knows that one will fight at time and place certain in the not-too-distant future.  It is not so easy when one knows one may never be actually touched by the flying fickle finger of fate—and it is all too easy to remember oneself as one once was. 

A good training cycle includes peaking, but if one is past fighting age what is one to do? 

I am reminded of something Guro Inosanto (around 65 years old at the time if I remember correctly) said to me one time after going an amazing forty-five non-stop minutes on the Thai bag “From time to time, we should test ourselves to see where we truly are.”


Recently I was invited to join a tactical tracking course.  The course description said to show up in shape to do four to twelve hilly miles a day in Arizona’s Sonora Desert for 5 days while carrying 45 pounds.   In that the area in question is quite near the Mexican border, a bit of danger and adrenaline are in the air.  (I want to make perfectly clear that this is NOT a militia thing and is 100% legit.  It is done with full knowledge of the US Border Patrol.  We look to track only and avoid all engagement!

How perfect!  Although different than the peaking required for a series of three minute explosions as in a Dog Brothers Gathering, the physicality required here is no less.  As the oldest man on the team my motivation is to keep up with fit young men of elite military background—and so for the first time in nearly ten years I have a particular mission of being ready at time and place certain.  What a gift this is!


I do much of my training at Boxing/Muay Thai Works in Hermosa Beach.  Those of you who have seen our “Bolo Game” and/or “Combining Stick & Footwork” DVDs have seen it.  I have a key and during the day I pretty much have the place all to myself save for an occasional trainer and client; and so it came to pass that there I was  on the rowing machine with the music system playing my CD of “The Jefferson Airplane live at Woodstock” REALLY LOUD.

A few words about the Jefferson Airplane.  For me, they were THE band and the music they played was, and is, the song of my youth.  As a young man I saw them 23 times.  They would play the Fillmore East in the Spring, in August, and over Thanksgiving.   Though I had a midnight curfew, I would catch the early show, and go home (the Lexington Ave IRT subway line) in time for my curfew.  My folks would then go to bed and I would sneak out the backdoor and take the subway back down to the East Village and catch the late show.  This meant I usually missed the opening band and some of the second band, but the Airplane usually did not come on stage until about 01:30.  Typically they then played until 04:30 or more.  Then I would go home and sneak in the backdoor and to bed before my folks awoke.

The Airplane was an incredibly talented (and erratic) jamming band.  Its bass player, Jack Casady, was my guitar hero. Jimi Hendrix’s drummer Mitch Mitchell wrote in his book that Jimi invited Jack to join the Jimi Hendrix Experience but that Jack passed to stay with the Airplane.  Still, the two bands were close.  Often Mitchell, who was a truly great drummer, would sit in with the Airplane and Jack sometimes sat in with Jimi (see e.g. Voodoo Chile on “Electric Ladyland” and on “Hendrix Live at Winterland”) Jack was a musician’s musician.   His technique and rhythm was unique and his expression at a level beyond description.  Often his bass was as much a lead instrument Jorma Kaukonen’s guitar (the two later formed Hot Tuna). 

When Jack would take the lead typically he would stand behind drummer Spencer Dryden turned sideways to the audience.  The music was not a vehicle for him to demand attention, the music simply was what mattered, and what he played took us in the audience to places impossible to describe.  The sounds, the vision of his eyebrows dancing in counterpoint to his rhythms, the band’s women dancing (typically, nearly naked) around the band, drummer Dryden propelling and supporting on the floor tom toms, rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner texturing on his Rickenbacker 12 string guitar, Grace Slick in a trance (we too in the audience) as she absorbed Jack’s playing, the psychedelic light show in the background, all this and more is the song of my youth.

And so as I have Boxing/Muay Thai Works to myself and train to prepare myself to be ready to go into what is as close as my middle-aged life gets to “in harm’s way” and I put on “The Jefferson Airplane live at Woodstock” (I was at Woodstock by the way, and the Airplane was the headline act for Saturday night by the way though due to the vagaries of the event they did not get to play until dawn on Sunday) the music takes my spirit to the song of my youth, to the place where I am, in the words of that country music song, “as young once as I ever was”.  My spirit soars, the words of my mind cease, and I am filled with unfettered joy.  I am the Crafty Dog.

Postscript:  With about one month to go until the tactical tracking course,  I was at 8 miles of hilly terrain (the clip of me along the bluffs overlooking the ocean) with 50 pounds when word came in that the course had been postponed until October.   Such a moment offers a tempting invitation to feel let down, but I think I would rather focus on the fact that my resting pulse on a good day is now 48 and I have put on several pounds of muscle. 

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
25560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on Kagan on: July 09, 2010, 03:10:23 PM
I also posted the following on the Kagan thread but post it here for future reference/research purposes.

News From the Swamp: The Kagan Hearings
The Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan this past week were a glimpse into a pretty dim future for American jurisprudence. Kagan offered an obsequious and often glib performance over two days of softball pitches by Democrats and surprisingly light questioning by Republicans. She remained true to her featherweight legal background by deflecting most of the questions she received, and everyone, including the American public, walked away from the hearings just as clueless about her as when the whole charade began. Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee didn't help matters, because they refused to follow up on some important lines of questioning. They also didn't demonstrate any coordinated plan of attack for exposing Kagan as a doctrinaire leftist with no respect for constitutional Rule of Law.

Still, the clues about the real Elena Kagan are evident in her prior record, scant though it may be. She advised Bill Clinton to veto the partial-birth abortion ban, a bill that later became law and was upheld by the Supreme Court. In doing so, she even went as far as to manipulate the medical language of a statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to help protect the barbaric practice. Kagan also suggested that the Court should overturn the Solomon Amendment, which provides for the removal of federal funds for schools that deny recruiting opportunities to the military. The Amendment has since been upheld unanimously by the High Court. These two instances are indicative of just how out of step Kagan is with the jurisprudential requirements of the position to which she has aspired since her college days.

More troubling, though, is Kagan's embrace of trans-nationalism, the trend among lawyers and judges who believe that the U.S. Constitution and legal system should incorporate international and foreign laws and legal rulings. On Constitution Day 2007, when most of the nation's educational institutions were embracing an educational program on the U.S. Constitution, Kagan hired noted trans-nationalist Noah Feldman to speak to the Harvard faculty. Feldman has been a constant and vocal critic of the American legal system because it has not fully embraced international law to guide its jurisprudence. Because Democrats control 58 Senate seats, Kagan is likely to win confirmation with a couple of turncoat Republicans, but the Constitution, the Rule of Law, and the American public will pay heavily later.

25561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on Kagan on: July 09, 2010, 03:09:03 PM
News From the Swamp: The Kagan Hearings
The Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan this past week were a glimpse into a pretty dim future for American jurisprudence. Kagan offered an obsequious and often glib performance over two days of softball pitches by Democrats and surprisingly light questioning by Republicans. She remained true to her featherweight legal background by deflecting most of the questions she received, and everyone, including the American public, walked away from the hearings just as clueless about her as when the whole charade began. Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee didn't help matters, because they refused to follow up on some important lines of questioning. They also didn't demonstrate any coordinated plan of attack for exposing Kagan as a doctrinaire leftist with no respect for constitutional Rule of Law.

Still, the clues about the real Elena Kagan are evident in her prior record, scant though it may be. She advised Bill Clinton to veto the partial-birth abortion ban, a bill that later became law and was upheld by the Supreme Court. In doing so, she even went as far as to manipulate the medical language of a statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to help protect the barbaric practice. Kagan also suggested that the Court should overturn the Solomon Amendment, which provides for the removal of federal funds for schools that deny recruiting opportunities to the military. The Amendment has since been upheld unanimously by the High Court. These two instances are indicative of just how out of step Kagan is with the jurisprudential requirements of the position to which she has aspired since her college days.

More troubling, though, is Kagan's embrace of trans-nationalism, the trend among lawyers and judges who believe that the U.S. Constitution and legal system should incorporate international and foreign laws and legal rulings. On Constitution Day 2007, when most of the nation's educational institutions were embracing an educational program on the U.S. Constitution, Kagan hired noted trans-nationalist Noah Feldman to speak to the Harvard faculty. Feldman has been a constant and vocal critic of the American legal system because it has not fully embraced international law to guide its jurisprudence. Because Democrats control 58 Senate seats, Kagan is likely to win confirmation with a couple of turncoat Republicans, but the Constitution, the Rule of Law, and the American public will pay heavily later.

25562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: July 09, 2010, 02:59:22 PM
Tangent:  Jane Harman is my Congresswoman.
25563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: July 09, 2010, 02:57:24 PM
This is very interesting.
25564  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 7/31-8/1 Guro Crafty at Range 37 in Fayetteville, NC on: July 09, 2010, 09:18:50 AM
Looking forward to meeting you in person.

25565  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo 3 on: July 09, 2010, 09:17:15 AM
Night Owl came by yesterday with the fine edit for KT 3.  I'm really liking how this project came together.  With any luck he should have the final version for me on Sunday. 

The Adventure continues!
25566  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Kind words on: July 09, 2010, 09:15:42 AM
I love emails like this:
I just wanted to thank you again for the Kali Tudo material. While I don't have many people here in Maine to work it with me, I do utilize it when I spar. And the strategies certainly seem to allow me, at 36, to keep up with the younger guys. And for some reason, I tend to spar from the philly shell, and this is well wedded to the KT material. The Trigg material seems to emerge almost effortlessly from that structure as well as the Zirconia.
The Kali Tudo tapes really are the best striking tapes I've purchased in ages. Punching and kicking, and standing in the pocket is great when you are young and your attributes grant an edge but dependence on attributes probably represents poor long term planning. Strategy, movement, and selective engagement are much wiser approaches.
Thanks again.
25567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Towards AIDs vaccine on: July 09, 2010, 09:11:17 AM
HIV research is undergoing a renaissance that could lead to new ways to develop vaccines against the AIDS virus and other viral diseases.

In the latest development, U.S. government scientists say they have discovered three powerful antibodies, the strongest of which neutralizes 91% of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody yet discovered. They are now deploying the technique used to find those antibodies to identify antibodies to influenza viruses.

Mark Schoofs discusses a significant step toward an AIDS vaccine, U.S. government scientists have discovered three powerful antibodies, the strongest of which neutralizes 91% of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody yet discovered.
The HIV antibodies were discovered in the cells of a 60-year-old African-American gay man, known in the scientific literature as Donor 45, whose body made the antibodies naturally. The trick for scientists now is to develop a vaccine or other methods to make anyone's body produce them as well.

That effort "will require work," said Gary Nabel, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was a leader of the research. "We're going to be at this for a while" before any benefit is seen in the clinic, he said.

The research was published Thursday in two papers in the online edition of the journal Science, 10 days before the opening of a large International AIDS Conference in Vienna, where prevention science is expected to take center stage. More than 33 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2008, and about 2.7 million contracted the virus that year, according to United Nations estimates.

Vaccines, which are believed to work by activating the body's ability to produce antibodies, eliminated or curtailed smallpox, polio and other feared viral diseases, so they have been the holy grail of AIDS research.

Last year, following a trial in Thailand, results of the first HIV vaccine to show any efficacy were announced. But that vaccine reduced the chances of infection only by about 30%, and controversy erupted because in one common analysis the results weren't statistically significant. That vaccine wasn't designed to elicit the new antibodies.

The new discovery is part of what Wayne Koff, head of research and development at the nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, calls a "renaissance" in HIV vaccine research.

Antibodies that are utterly ineffective, or that disable just one or two HIV strains, are common. Until last year, only a handful of "broadly neutralizing antibodies," those that efficiently disable a large swath of HIV strains, had been discovered. And none of them neutralized more than about 40% of known HIV variants.

But in the past year, thanks to efficient new detection methods, at least a half dozen broadly neutralizing antibodies, including the three latest ones, have been identified in peer-reviewed journals. Dennis Burton of the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, Calif., led a team that discovered two broadly neutralizing antibodies last year; he says his team has identified additional, unpublished ones. Most of the new antibodies are more potent, able to knock out HIV at far lower concentrations than their previously known counterparts.

HIV is a highly mutable virus, but one place where the virus doesn't mutate much is where it attaches to a particular molecule on the surface of cells it infects. Building on previous research, researchers created a probe, shaped exactly like that critical site, and used it to attract only those antibodies that efficiently attack it. That is how they fished out of Donor 45 the special antibodies: They screened 25 million of his cells to find 12 that produced the antibodies.

Donor 45's antibodies didn't protect him from contracting HIV. That is likely because the virus had already taken hold before his body produced the antibodies. He is still alive, and when his blood was drawn, he had been living with HIV for 20 years.
While he has produced the most powerful HIV antibody yet discovered, researchers say they don't know of anything special about his genes that would make him unique. They expect that most people would be capable of producing the antibodies, if scientists could find the right way to stimulate their production.

Dr. Nabel said his team is applying the new technique to the influenza virus. Like HIV, influenza is a highly mutable virus—the reason a new vaccine is required every year.

"We want to go after a universal vaccine" by using the new technique to find antibodies to a "component of the influenza virus that doesn't change," said NIAID director Anthony Fauci. In principle, Dr. Fauci said, the technique could be used for any viral disease and possibly even for cancer vaccines.

Some of the new HIV antibodies discovered over the past year attack different points on the virus, raising hopes that they could work synergistically.

In unpublished research, John Mascola, deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center, has shown that one of Dr. Burton's antibodies neutralizes virtually all the strains that are resistant to the antibody from Donor 45. He also found the reverse: The antibody from Donor 45 disables HIV strains resistant to one of Dr. Burton's best antibodies. Only one strain out of 95 tested was resistant to both antibodies, he said. Dr. Mascola is one of the authors of Thursday's papers.

Researchers say they plan to test the new antibodies, likely blended together in a potent cocktail, in three broad ways.

First, the antibodies could be given to people in their raw form, somewhat like a drug, to prevent transmission of the virus. But they would likely be expensive and last in the body for a limited time, perhaps weeks, making that method impractical for all but specialized cases, such as to prevent mother-to-child transmission in childbirth.

The antibodies could also be tested in a "microbicide," a gel that women or gay men could apply before sex to prevent infection.

The antibodies might even be tried as a treatment for people already infected. While the antibodies are unlikely to completely suppress HIV on their own, say scientists, they might boost the efficacy of current antiretroviral drugs.

Dr. Nabel said that the Vaccine Research Center has contracted with a company to produce an antibody suitable for use in humans so that testing in people could begin.

A second way to use the new research is to stimulate the immune system to produce the antibodies. Jonas Salk injected people with a whole killed polio virus, and virtually everyone's immune system easily made antibodies that disabled the polio virus. But for HIV, the vast majority of antibodies are ineffective. Now, scientists know the exact antibodies that must be made—those found in Donor 45 and in Dr. Burton's lab, for example. So researchers need "a reverse engineering technology" to find a way to get everyone to produce them, said Greg Poland, director of vaccine research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

That's what scientists at Merck & Co. have done. In a study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Merck Scientists knew that an old antibody, weaker than the newly discovered ones, attaches to a particularly vulnerable part of HIV. They created a replica of that piece of the virus to train the immune system to produce antibodies aimed at that exact spot. It was a painstaking process, requiring researchers to add chemical bonds to stabilize the replica so that it wouldn't collapse and lose its shape. Eventually, Merck was able to make experimental vaccine candidates capable of spurring guinea pigs and rabbits to produce antibodies that home in on the target site and neutralize HIV. Those vaccines weren't nearly powerful enough, but, said Dr. Koff, Merck's research provides a "proof of principle" that reverse engineering can work for the much stronger new antibodies.

There are other potential pitfalls. There is evidence that Donor 45's cells took months or possibly even years to create the powerful antibodies. That means scientists might have to give repeated booster shots or devise other ways to speed up this process.

Finally, there are experimental methods that employ tactics such as gene therapy. Nobel laureate David Baltimore is working on one such approach.
His team at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., has stitched genes that code for antibodies into a harmless virus, which they then inject into mice. The virus infects mouse cells, turning them into factories that produce the antibodies.

Write to Mark Schoofs at
25568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Lame Duck on: July 09, 2010, 09:06:16 AM
Democratic House members are so worried about the fall elections they're leaving Washington on July 30, a full week earlier than normal—and they won't return until mid-September. Members gulped when National Journal's Charlie Cook, the Beltway's leading political handicapper, predicted last month "the House is gone," meaning a GOP takeover. He thinks Democrats will hold the Senate, but with a significantly reduced majority.

The rush to recess gives Democrats little time to pass any major laws. That's why there have been signs in recent weeks that party leaders are planning an ambitious, lame-duck session to muscle through bills in December they don't want to defend before November. Retiring or defeated members of Congress would then be able to vote for sweeping legislation without any fear of voter retaliation.

"I've got lots of things I want to do" in a lame duck, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W. Va.) told reporters in mid June. North Dakota's Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, wants a lame-duck session to act on the recommendations of President Obama's deficit commission, which is due to report on Dec. 1. "It could be a huge deal," he told Roll Call last month. "We could get the country on a sound long-term fiscal path." By which he undoubtedly means new taxes in exchange for extending some, but not all, of the Bush-era tax reductions that will expire at the end of the year.

In the House, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters last month that for bills like "card check"—the measure to curb secret-ballot union elections—"the lame duck would be the last chance, quite honestly, for the foreseeable future."

.Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chair of the Senate committee overseeing labor issues, told the Bill Press radio show in June that "to those who think [card check] is dead, I say think again." He told Mr. Press "we're still trying to maneuver" a way to pass some parts of the bill before the next Congress is sworn in.

Other lame-duck possibilities? Senate ratification of the New Start nuclear treaty, a federally mandated universal voter registration system to override state laws, and a budget resolution to lock in increased agency spending.

Then there is pork. A Senate aide told me that "some of the biggest porkers on both sides of the aisle are leaving office this year, and a lame-duck session would be their last hurrah for spending." Likely suspects include key members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Congress's "favor factory," such as Pennsylvania Democrat Arlen Specter and Utah Republican Bob Bennett.

Conservative groups such as FreedomWorks are alarmed at the potential damage, and they are demanding that everyone in Congress pledge not to take up substantive legislation in a post-election session. "Members of Congress are supposed to represent their constituents, not override them like sore losers in a lame-duck session," Rep. Tom Price, head of the Republican Study Committee, told me.

It's been almost 30 years since anything remotely contentious was handled in a lame-duck session, but that doesn't faze Democrats who have jammed through ObamaCare and are determined to bring the financial system under greater federal control.

Mike Allen of reports one reason President Obama failed to mention climate change legislation during his recent, Oval Office speech on the Gulf oil spill was that he wants to pass a modest energy bill this summer, then add carbon taxes or regulations in a conference committee with the House, most likely during a lame-duck session. The result would be a climate bill vastly more ambitious, and costly for American consumers and taxpayers, than moderate "Blue Dogs" in the House would support on the campaign trail. "We have a lot of wiggle room in conference," a House Democratic aide told the trade publication Environment & Energy Daily last month.

Many Democrats insist there will be no dramatic lame-duck agenda. But a few months ago they also insisted the extraordinary maneuvers used to pass health care wouldn't be used. Desperate times may be seen as calling for desperate measures, and this November the election results may well make Democrats desperate.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for
25569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Astute friend responds to SG on: July 09, 2010, 08:51:29 AM

I apologize if I have misused any economics jargon.  When I use the term “consumer spending”, I mean those personal consumption expenditures on goods and services that comprised about 70% of nominal GDP in the final revision for Q1-2010.  Those numbers tell a story of survival on a personal level unique to every household affected by this recession.


The three largest categories of increased personal consumption spending between 12/31/08 and 3/31/10 occurred in the categories of gasoline (+$59 billion), health care (+$42 billion) and financial services/insurance (+$21 billion).  Federal government consumption expenditures increased $42 billion during the same period.  The difference between total federal consumption expenditures plus investment of $1.2 trillion and actual amount of federal expenditures of nearly $4 trillion during the same 15 month period is very sobering.  Therefore, about $2.8 trillion of federal transfer payments occurred during a time that nominal GDP rose $236 billion.  A tad more than 50% of that nominal GDP increase occurred in the three PCE categories of gas, healthcare and financial services/insurance.  However, the real value of those expenditures only increased $15.9 billion – all but $100 million was in health care.  So, people were mostly paying more to keep the same level of necessary expenses while their health issues increased.


As to employment and the corporate hoarding of cash, I believe that my argument is very supply-side with a slight Austrian twinge.  The longer people remain unemployed, the more they rely upon government transfers and their savings.  With interest rates low to “stimulate” the economy, people do not receive any meaningful returns on their savings.  Eventually, they must sell assets whether in the form of retirement account withdrawals, housing or other assets.


As to leverage, it is often needed for liquidity.  It can be in the form of a credit card, home equity loan, business credit line or even a pay day loan.  Most people use leverage to buy homes, cars, vacations and other big ticket items.


As to the money supply, if most of the money sits on bank balance sheets as capital and in corporate bank accounts as cash, then your four factors of economic growth stagnate.  There is not more work.  Employable people lose their skills so that they become less productive.  Employed people work longer hours to the point that they become less productive.  Corporations don’t invest in growing their outputs.  Risk taking declines because the people with the cash are less willing to take the risk and the people willing to take the risk don’t have the cash.  Sam’s Club can’t finance every risk taker with vendor financing.


All of this has caused me to question the validity of the entire discipline of macroeconomics.  Maybe it’s all a crock similar to MPT and the risk management models that failed in the credit markets.  Yes, that may be a low probability event.  Of course, in 2003, the housing crash was a low probability event for the Fed.
25570  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knives in the Middle East; jambiya daggers on: July 08, 2010, 08:19:08 PM
Very interesting!
25571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Grannis responds on: July 08, 2010, 01:20:31 PM
Rick, the economy is not dependent on consumer spending, and consumer spending is not dependent on leverage. You're using Keynesian thinking (demand drives supply) rather than supply side thinking (supply drives demand). The only things that make the economy grow are 1) more work, 2) more efficient work, 3) investment, and 4) risk taking. If you have those, then you have the wherewithal for consumers to spend more. Leverage doesn't create new demand, it only redistributes demand (Peter borrows from Paul; Peter spends more, Paul spends less).
25572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gun Shy Supremes on: July 08, 2010, 12:40:44 PM
Second post

Gun shy Supreme Court justices

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment applies to states and cities as well as the federal government. Judging from their objections, the four dissenters were still reeling from the court’s landmark 2008 decision recognizing that the amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.
In their dissenting opinions, Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer (joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor) worry that overturning gun control laws undermines democracy. If “the people” want to ban handguns, they say, “the people” should be allowed to implement that desire through their elected representatives.
What if the people want to ban books that offend them, establish an official church or authorize police to conduct warrantless searches at will? Those options are also foreclosed by constitutional provisions that apply to the states by way of the 14th Amendment. The crucial difference between a pure democracy and a constitutional democracy like ours is that sometimes the majority does not decide.
Likewise, Stevens defends “state and local legislatures’ right to experiment,” while Breyer is loath to interfere with “the ability of states to reflect local preferences and conditions — both key virtues of federalism.” Coming from justices who think Congress can disregard state decisions about the medical use of marijuana because a plant on the windowsill of a cancer patient qualifies as interstate commerce, this sudden concern about federalism is hard to take seriously.
Another reason to doubt the dissenters’ sincerity: They would never accept federalism as a rationale for letting states “experiment” with freedom of speech, freedom of religion or due process protections. Much of their job, as they themselves see it, involves overriding “local preferences” that give short shrift to constitutional rights.
Second Amendment rights are different, Breyer says, because “determining the constitutionality of a particular state gun law requires finding answers to complex empirically based questions.” So does weighing the claims in favor of banning child pornography or depictions of animal cruelty, relaxing the Miranda rule, admitting illegally obtained evidence or allowing warrantless pat-downs, dog sniffs or infrared surveillance.
When they decide whether a law or practice violates a constitutional right, courts cannot avoid empirical questions. In cases involving racial discrimination or content-based speech restrictions, for example, they ask whether the challenged law is “narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest” and is the “least restrictive means” of doing so.
But unlike equal protection or freedom of speech, Stevens says, “firearms have a fundamentally ambivalent relationship to liberty.” How so? “Just as they can help homeowners defend their families and property from intruders,” he explains, “they can help thugs and insurrectionists murder innocent victims.”
Every right can be abused, with results that are immoral, illegal or both. Freedom of speech can be used to spread hateful ideas, promote pernicious political philosophies, slander the innocent or engage in criminal conspiracies. If there were no potential for harm from exercising a right, there would be no need to protect it, because no one would try to restrict it.
The dissenters’ most frivolous objection is that making states obey the Second Amendment “invites an avalanche of litigation,” as Stevens puts it. Every day we hear about cases in which people argue that the government has violated their rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth or Eighth amendment. Neither Stevens nor Breyer wants to stop this “avalanche.” Only when the Second Amendment is added to the mix do they recoil in horror at the prospect that Americans will use the courts to vindicate their rights.
Stevens warns that “the practical significance of the proposition that ‘the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the states’ remains to be worked out by this court over many, many years.” But that’s because the court for many, many years ignored the Second Amendment while gradually defining the contours of its neighbors in the Bill of Rights. There is a lot of catching up to do.
25573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Liberals loving the Second on: July 08, 2010, 12:39:52 PM

Daily Kos
Why liberals should love the Second Amendment
by Kaili Joy Gray aka Angry Mouse
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Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 10:00:03 AM PDT

Liberals love the Constitution.

Ask anyone on the street. They'll tell you the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a liberal organization. During the dark days of the Bush Administration, membership doubled because so many Americans feared increasing restrictions on their civil liberties. If you were to ask liberals to list their top five complaints about the Bush Administration, and they would invariably say the words "shredding" and "Constitution" in the same sentence. They might also add "Fourth Amendment" and "due process."  It's possible they'll talk about "free speech zones" and "habeus corpus."

There's a good chance they will mention, probably in combination with several FCC-prohibited adjectives, former Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales.

And while liberals certainly do not argue for lawlessness, and will acknowledge the necessity of certain restrictions, it is generally understood that liberals fight to broadly interpret and expand our rights and to question the necessity and wisdom of any restrictions of them. 

Liberals can quote legal precedent, news reports, and exhaustive studies. They can talk about the intentions of the Founders. They can argue at length against the tyranny of the government. And they will, almost without exception, conclude the necessity of respecting, and not restricting, civil liberties.

Except for one: the right to keep and bear arms.

When it comes to discussing the Second Amendment, liberals check rational thought at the door. They dismiss approximately 40% of American households that own one or more guns, and those who fight to protect the Second Amendment, as "gun nuts." They argue for greater restrictions. And they pursue these policies at the risk of alienating voters who might otherwise vote for Democrats.

And they do so in a way that is wholly inconsistent with their approach to all of our other civil liberties.

Those who fight against Second Amendment rights cite statistics about gun violence, as if such numbers are evidence enough that our rights should be restricted. But Chicago and Washington DC, the two cities from which came the most recent Supreme Court decisions on Second Amendment rights, had some of the most restrictive laws in the nation, and also some of the highest rates of violent crime. Clearly, such restrictions do not correlate with preventing crime.

So rather than continuing to fight for greater restrictions on Second Amendment rights, it is time for liberals to defend Second Amendment rights as vigorously as they fight to protect all of our other rights. Because it is by fighting to protect each right that we protect all rights.

And this is why:

(Reasons below the fold)

    * ::

No. 1:  The Bill of Rights protects individual rights.

If you've read the Bill of Rights -- and who among us hasn't? -- you will notice a phrase that appears in nearly all of them:  "the people."

First Amendment:

    ...the right of the people peaceably to assemble

Second Amendment:

    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Fourth Amendment:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects...

Ninth Amendment:

    ...shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people

Tenth Amendment: 

    ...are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Certainly, no good liberal would argue that any of these rights are collective rights, and not individual rights. We believe that the First Amendment is an individual right to criticize our government.

We would not condone a state-regulated news organization. We certainly would not condone state regulation of religion. We talk about "separation of church and state," although there is no mention of "separation of church and state" in the First Amendment.

But we know what they meant. The anti-Federalists refused to ratify the Constitution without a Bill of Rights; they intended for our rights to be interpreted expansively.

We believe the Founders intended for us to be able to say damn near anything we want, protest damn near anything we want, print damn near anything we want, and believe damn near anything we want. Individually, without the interference or regulation of government.

And yet, despite the recent Heller and McDonald decisions, liberals stumble at the idea of the Second Amendment as an individual right. They take the position that the Founders intended an entirely different meaning by the phrase "the right of the people" in the Second Amendment, even though they are so positively clear about what that phrase means in the First Amendment.

If we can agree that the First Amendment protects not only powerful organizations such as the New York Times or MSNBC, but also the individual commenter on the internet, the individual at the anti-war rally, the individual driving the car with the "Fuck Bush" bumper sticker, can we not also agree that the Second Amendment's use of "the people" has the same meaning?

But it's different! The Second Amendment is talking about the militia! If you want to "bear arms," join the National Guard! 



The United States Militia Code:

    (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

    (b) The classes of the militia are—
    (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
    (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

Aside from the fact that the National Guard did not exist in the 1700s, the term "militia" does not mean "National Guard," even today. The code clearly states that two classes comprise the militia: the National Guard and Naval Militia, and everyone else.

Everyone else. Individuals. The People.

The Founders well understood that the militia is the people, for it was not only the right but the obligation of all citizens to protect and preserve their liberty and to defend themselves from the tyranny of the government.

And fighting against the tyranny of the government is certainly a liberal value.

No. 2: We oppose restrictions to our civil liberties.

All of our rights, even the ones enumerated in the Bill of Rights, are restricted. You can't shout "Fire!" in a crowd. You can't threaten to kill the president. You can't publish someone else's words as your own. We have copyright laws and libel laws and slander laws. We have the FCC to regulate our radio and television content. We have plenty of restrictions on our First Amendment rights.

But we don't like them. We fight them. Any card-carrying member of the ACLU will tell you that while we might agree that certain restrictions are reasonable, we keep a close eye whenever anyone in government gets an itch to pass a new law that restricts our First Amendment rights. Or our Fourth. Or our Fifth, Sixth, or Eighth.

We complain about free speech zones. The whole country is supposed to be a free speech zone, after all. It says so right in the First Amendment.

But when it comes further restrictions on the manufacture, sale, or possession of firearms, liberals are not even silent; they are vociferously in favor of such restrictions.

Suddenly, overly broad restrictions are "reasonable." The Chicago and Washington D.C. bans on handguns -- all handguns -- is reasonable, even though the Supreme Court has now said otherwise.

Would we tolerate such a sweeping regulation of, say, the Thirteenth Amendment?

    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

What if a member of Congress -- say, a Republican from a red state in the south -- were to introduce a bill that permits enslaving black women? Would we consider that reasonable? It's not like the law would enslave all people, or even all black people. Just the women. There's no mention of enslaving women in the Thirteenth Amendment. Clearly, when Lincoln wanted to free the slaves, he didn't intend to free all the slaves. And we restrict all the other Amendments, so obviously the Thirteenth Amendment is not supposed to be absolute. What's the big deal?

Except that such an argument is ridiculous, of course. Liberals would take to the streets, send angry letters to their representatives in Washington, organize marches, call progressive radio programs to quote, verbatim, the Thirteenth Amendment. Quite bluntly, although not literally, liberals would be up in arms.

And yet...A ban on all handguns seems reasonable to many liberals. Never mind that of 192 million firearms in America, 65 million -- about one third -- are handguns.

Such a narrow interpretation of this particular right is inconsistent with the otherwise broad interpretation of the Bill of Rights. And just as conservatives weaken their own arguments about protecting the Second Amendment when they will not fight as vigilantly for protecting all the others, so too do liberals weaken their arguments for civil liberties, when they pick and choose which civil liberties they deem worthy of defense.

No. 3:  It doesn't matter that it's not 1776 anymore.

When the Founders drafted the Bill of Rights, they could not have imagined machine guns. Or armor-piercing bullets (which are not available to the public anyway, and are actually less lethal than conventional ammunition). Or handguns that hold 18 rounds. A drive-by shooting, back in 1776, would have been a guy on a horse with a musket.

Of course, they couldn't have imagined the internet, either. Or 24-hour cable news networks. Or talk radio. When they drafted the First Amendment, did they really mean to protect the rights of Bill O'Reilly to make incredibly stupid, and frequently inaccurate, statements for an entire hour, five nights a week?

Actually, yes. They did. Bill O'Reilly bilious ravings, and Keith Olbermann's Special Comments, and the insipid chatter of the entire cast of the Today show are, and were intended to be, protected by the First Amendment.

Liberals are supposed to understand that just because we don't agree with something doesn't mean it is not protected. At least when it comes to the First Amendment. And one's personal dislike of guns should be no better a reason for fighting against the Second Amendment than should one's personal dislike of Bill O'Reilly justify fighting against the First Amendment.

And yet, when discussing the Second Amendment, liberals become obtuse in their literalism. The Second Amendment does not protect the right to own all guns. Or all ammunition. It doesn't protect the right of the people as individuals.

Liberals will defend the right of Cindy Sheehan to wear an anti-war T-shirt, even though the First Amendment says nothing about T-shirts.

They will defend the rights of alleged terrorists to a public trial, even though the Founders certainly could not have imagined a world in which terrorists would plot to blow up building with airplanes.

But we do not quibble about the methods by which we practice our First Amendment rights because methodology is not the point. Red herring arguments about types of ammunition or magazine capacity or handguns versus rifles are just that -- red herrings. They distract us from the underlying purpose of that right -- to ensure a free society that can hold its government accountable. The Second Amendment is no more about guns than the First Amendment is about quill pens.

No. 4: It doesn't matter if you can use it.

Fine, you say. Have your big, scary guns. It's not like you actually stand a chance in fighting against the United States government. The Army has bigger, badder weapons than any private citizen. Your most deadly gun is no match for their tanks, their helicopters, their atom bombs. Maybe two hundred years ago, citizens stood a chance in a fight against government, but not today. The Second Amendment is obsolete.

Tell that to the Iraqi "insurgents" who are putting up a pretty good fight against our military might with fairly primitive weapons.

The Second Amendment is obsolete?

What other rights might be considered obsolete in today's day and age?

    No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

When was the last time a soldier showed up at your door and said, "I'll be staying with you for the indefinite future"?

It's probably been a while. But of course, were it to happen, you'd dust off your Third Amendment and say, "I don't think so, pal."

And you'd be right.

What about the Twenty-Sixth Amendment? How much use does that get?

    The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

We all know the youth vote is typically pretty abysmal. Those lazy kids can barely get out of bed before noon, let alone get themselves to the voting booth. If they're not going to use their Twenty-Sixth Amendment rights, shouldn't we just delete the damn thing altogether?

Hell no. And this is why liberals work so hard to get out and rock the vote -- to encourage citizens to exercise their rights. That is our obligation as citizens, to protect against the government infringing upon our rights by making full use of them.

And yet, when it comes to the Second Amendment, liberals do not fight to protect that right. Instead them demand more laws. Regulate, regulate, regulate -- until the Second Amendment is nearly regulated out of existence because no one needs to have a gun anyway.

And that, sadly, is the biggest mistake of all.

No. 5: The Second Amendment is about revolution.

In no other country, at no other time, has such a right existed. It is not the right to hunt. It is not the right to shoot at soda cans in an empty field. It is not even the right to shoot at a home invader in the middle of the night.

It is the right of revolution.

Let me say that again:  It is the right of revolution.

    Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government.

To alter or abolish the government. These are not mild words; they are powerful. They are revolutionary.

The Founders might never have imagined automatic weapons. But they probably also never imagined a total ban on handguns either.

We talk about the First Amendment as a unique and revolutionary concept -- that we have the right to criticize our government. Does it matter whether we do so while standing on a soapbox on the corner of the street or on a blog? No. Because the concept, not the methodology, is what matters.

And the Second Amendment is no different. It is not about how much ammunition is "excessive" or what types of guns are and are not permissible. Liberals cling to such minutia at the expense of understanding and appreciating the larger concept that underlies this right.


What is the point? Is this a rallying cry for liberals to rush right out and purchase a gun? Absolutely not. Guns are dangerous when used by people who are not trained to use them, just as cars are dangerous when driven by people who have not been taught how to drive.

No, this is a rallying cry for the Bill of Rights -- for all of our rights.

This is an appeal to every liberal who says, "I just don't like guns."

This is an appeal to every liberal who says, "No one needs that much ammunition."

This is an appeal to every liberal who says, "That's not what the Founders meant."

This is an appeal to every liberal who supports the ACLU.

This is an appeal to every liberal who has complained about the Bush Administration's trading of our civil liberties for the illusion of greater security. (I believe I’ve seen a T-shirt or two about Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts on that.)

This is an appeal to every liberal who believes in fighting against the abuses of government, against the infringement of our civil liberties, and for the greater expansion of our rights.

This is an appeal to every liberal who never wants to lose another election to Republicans because they have successfully persuaded the voters that Democrats will not protect their Second Amendment rights.

This is an appeal to liberals, not merely to tolerate the Second Amendment, but to embrace it. To love it and defend it and guard it as carefully as you do all the others.

Because we are liberals. And fighting for our rights -- for all of our rights, for all people -- is what we do.

Because we are revolutionaries.
25574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel exposes intel to warn Hez on: July 08, 2010, 12:32:07 PM
second post:

Israel exposes valuable intelligence to warn Hezbollah
Israel is planning for the next round of fighting in the north by publicizing that Hezbollah has moved most of its facilities into southern Lebanon's Shi'ite villages.
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
Tags: Israel news Lebanon Hezbollah IDF Four years after the end of the Second Lebanon War, the Northern Command of the Israel Defense Forces did something unusual on Wednesday: A great deal of valuable intelligence information about the Lebanese town of al-Hiyam, presumably gathered over a long period of time, was sacrificed for a much greater purpose. The command presented to the media, in great detail, Hezbollah military preparations in the southeast Lebanon town, including accurate maps, photographs and information about Hezbollah military installations situated near civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals.

  A UN patrol in southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah clashed with Israel in 2006
Photo by: (Archive) 

The move was not solely in the service of Israel's public relations. The head of the Strategic Division of the IDF Planning Branch, Brig. Gen. Yossi Hayman, presented it in June at United Nations headquarters. This is a battle for political legitimacy and credibility. Israel is planning for the next round of fighting in the north and assumes that it will involve hard combat with Hezbollah, which has moved most of its bunkers, command centers and rocket stores in southern Lebanon out of fields and into the 160 Shi'ite villages and towns in the area. In doing so the organization is implementing lessons that came out of combat in Lebanon in 2006 and the Gaza Strip in 2008.

The publication of detailed information about Hezbollah's intentions sends the organization a clear warning of what it can expect to face if it starts a war while preparing the international community for the measures the IDF is likely to take. The optimists believe that Hezbollah will think twice before starting a provocation (in part because it is now aware of the extent of Israeli intelligence penetration of its ranks ).

The pessimists assume that at the very least the international community will have a head's-up about what Israel is confronting and its need to act forcefully against an enemy that operates from within civilian population centers while targeting Israel's own civilian population.

The disclosures could expose Israeli intelligence-gathering techniques. They will also cause Hezbollah to change its preparations, at least in al-Hiyam. The IDF apparently concluded that in view of what is at stake, the price was one worth paying. The issue is directly linked to statements during a recent lecture by GOC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot. He said that Israel's enemies have come to believe that Israel's rear bases and its civilian population are the weak point that balances out its military superiority.

One could draw an indirect connection with the recent report of the Military Advocate General of investigations into alleged violations of the laws of war during Operation Cast Lead. The IDF is investigating itself and trying individual soldiers and officers for violating combat doctrine, insisting all the while that its combat methods are legitimate.

At that same lecture, Eizenkot presented the IDF's program for countering the Hezbollah threat: warning civilian populations in accordance with international law and giving them time to leave the war zone, followed by a broad, massive attack on Hezbollah targets together with precision targeting of the organization's rocket and missile launch sites.

The various declarations do not necessarily mean that war will erupt in the north this summer. Military Intelligence assessments, too, suggest that Syria and Hezbollah are not interested in a confrontation at this time. The Northern Command, however, must prepare as if war will break out any minute, and it must consider that it may not get a head's-up from MI.
25575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unemployments benefits are not stimulus on: July 08, 2010, 09:56:02 AM
The current debate over extending and increasing federal unemployment benefits encapsulates the disagreement between the Democrats in power in Washington and their Republican opponents. What the consequences will be of raising unemployment benefits in today's depressed economy is at issue.

The most obvious argument against extending or raising unemployment benefits is that it will make being unemployed either more attractive or less unattractive, and thereby lead to higher unemployment. Empirical research supports this view.

The Democratic retort is that the economy today is so different from the past that we have to suspend our traditional understanding of economics. With five job seekers for every job opening, the unemployed are desperate for work and increasing unemployment benefits will have very little if any disincentive effect. This view hinges on a total change in employee behavior from "normal" times to the current period of "the Great Recession."

On the face of it, the idea that higher unemployment benefits won't lead to more unemployment doesn't make much sense. Imagine what the unemployment rate would look like if unemployment benefits were universally $150,000 per year. My guess is we'd have a heck of a lot more unemployment. Common sense and personal experience indicate higher unemployment benefits will make unemployment less unattractive and thereby increase unemployment even in the Great Recession. As the chart nearby clearly shows, since the 1970s there's been a close correlation between increased unemployment benefits and an increase in the unemployment rate. Those who argue that things are different today don't have the data to back up their claims.

. ..The Democratic argument also ignores the impact of unemployment benefits on employer costs. Employers don't usually hire people to assuage their consciences. They hire people to make after-tax profits. And if workers require more pay because of higher unemployment benefits, employers will hire fewer employees. Whether increased unemployment benefits incentivize workers to work less or disincentivize employers from hiring more workers, the effect will be the same—higher unemployment.

The second point made by the Obama administration is that unemployment benefits are a great way to stimulate demand. Increased unemployment benefits operate quickly and the recipients spend what they get, which makes these stimulus funds the best bang for the buck.

Here again the facts are in dispute. Studies have shown that previous stimulus spending—much of which was also targeted for the poor and unemployed—was to a large extent saved and not spent. But I'm not going to rest my case on the obvious failure of Washington's prior stimulus packages. Based upon the above logic (as described in the January 2009 white paper co-authored by White House economists Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein) the administration forecast that the unemployment rate would be a little above 7.3% in the third quarter of this year. That isn't going to happen.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 .The flaw in their logic is that when it comes to higher unemployment benefits or any other stimulus spending, the resources given to the unemployed have to be taken from someone else. There isn't a "tooth fairy," or as my former colleague Milton Friedman repeated time and again, "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch." The government doesn't create resources. It redistributes them. For everyone who is given something there is someone who has that something taken away.

While the unemployed may spend more as a result of higher unemployment benefits, those people from whom the resources are taken will spend less. In an economy, the income effects from a transfer payment always sum to zero. Quite simply, there is no stimulus from higher unemployment benefits.

To see this, imagine an economy that produces 100 apples. If 10 of those apples are given to the unemployed, then people who otherwise would have had those 10 apples now won't. The stimulus of 10 apples for the unemployed is exactly offset by the destimulus of 10 apples for those people from whom the 10 apples were taken.

Given the massive inefficiencies the government creates in securing resources from the private sector, there may also be a large negative income effect over wide ranges of stimulus spending. This is the proverbial "toll for the troll." These massive inefficiencies could lead to lower output.

To see these effects clearly, imagine a two person economy in which one of the two people is paid for being unemployed. From whom do you think the unemployment benefits are taken? The other person obviously. While the one person who is unemployed may "buy" more as a result of unemployment benefits, the other person from whom the unemployment sums are taken will "buy" less. There is no stimulus for the economy.

But it doesn't stop there. While the income effects sum to zero, the substitution effects aggregate. The person from whom the unemployment funds are taken will find work less rewarding and will work less. The person who is given the unemployment benefits will also find work relatively less rewarding and will therefore work less. Both people in this two-person economy will be incentivized to work less. There will be less work and more unemployment.

Not only will increased unemployment benefits not stimulate the economy, they will at the same time lower the incentives for people to work by reducing the amount people are paid for working and increasing the amount people are paid for not working. It's pretty basic economics.

No one opposes unemployment benefits as a transition aid for people to get back on their feet and find a new job. Unemployment benefits are a safeguard for individuals down on their luck. But to argue that unemployment benefits actually reduce unemployment is disingenuous at best, and could induce our government to enact policies that have the effect of destroying our nation's production base from whence all benefits ultimately flow.

Obama Shifts to Export-Led Jobs Push
Long Recession Ignites Debate on Jobless Benefits

.Any government program that would reduce unemployment has to make working more attractive for both employer and employee. Since late 2007 the federal government has spent somewhere around $3.6 trillion to stimulate the economy. That is a lot of money.

My suggestion would have been to take all $3.6 trillion and declare a federal tax holiday for 18 months. No income tax, no corporate profits tax, no capital gains tax, no estate tax, no payroll tax (FICA) either employee or employer, no Medicare or Medicaid taxes, no federal excise taxes, no tariffs, no federal taxes at all, which would have reduced federal revenues by $2.4 trillion annually. Can you imagine where employment would be today? How does a 2.5% unemployment rate sound?

Mr. Laffer is the chairman of Laffer Associates and co-author of "The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy—If We Let It Happen" (Threshold, 2008).
25576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bank bailouts profitable on: July 08, 2010, 09:46:02 AM
25577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ "Perfect Citizen" on: July 08, 2010, 09:42:05 AM
.The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed "Perfect Citizen" to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.

The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government's chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn't persistently monitor the whole system, these people said.

Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million, said a person familiar with the project.

An NSA spokeswoman said the agency had no information to provide on the program. A Raytheon spokesman declined to comment.

Some industry and government officials familiar with the program see Perfect Citizen as an intrusion by the NSA into domestic affairs, while others say it is an important program to combat an emerging security threat that only the NSA is equipped to provide.

"The overall purpose of the [program] is our Government...feel that they need to insure the Public Sector is doing all they can to secure Infrastructure critical to our National Security," said one internal Raytheon email, the text of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal. "Perfect Citizen is Big Brother."

Raytheon declined to comment on this email.

A U.S. military official called the program long overdue and said any intrusion into privacy is no greater than what the public already endures from traffic cameras. It's a logical extension of the work federal agencies have done in the past to protect physical attacks on critical infrastructure that could sabotage the government or key parts of the country, the official said.

U.S. intelligence officials have grown increasingly alarmed about what they believe to be Chinese and Russian surveillance of computer systems that control the electric grid and other U.S. infrastructure. Officials are unable to describe the full scope of the problem, however, because they have had limited ability to pull together all the private data.

Perfect Citizen will look at large, typically older computer control systems that were often designed without Internet connectivity or security in mind. Many of those systems—which run everything from subway systems to air-traffic control networks—have since been linked to the Internet, making them more efficient but also exposing them to cyber attack.

The goal is to close the "big, glaring holes" in the U.S.'s understanding of the nature of the cyber threat against its infrastructure, said one industry specialist familiar with the program. "We don't have a dedicated way to understand the problem."

The information gathered by Perfect Citizen could also have applications beyond the critical infrastructure sector, officials said, serving as a data bank that would also help companies and agencies who call upon NSA for help with investigations of cyber attacks, as Google did when it sustained a major attack late last year.

The U.S. government has for more than a decade claimed a national-security interest in privately owned critical infrastructure that, if attacked, could cause significant damage to the government or the economy. Initially, it established relationships with utility companies so it could, for instance, request that a power company seal a manhole that provides access to a key power line for a government agency.

With the growth in concern about cyber attacks, these relationships began to extend into the electronic arena, and the only U.S. agency equipped to manage electronic assessments of critical-infrastructure vulnerabilities is the NSA, government and industry officials said.

The NSA years ago began a small-scale effort to address this problem code-named April Strawberry, the military official said. The program researched vulnerabilities in computer networks running critical infrastructure and sought ways to close security holes.

That led to initial work on Perfect Citizen, which was a piecemeal effort to forge relationships with some companies, particularly energy companies, whose infrastructure is widely used across the country.

The classified program is now being expanded with funding from the multibillion-dollar Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, which started at the end of the Bush administration and has been continued by the Obama administration, officials said. With that infusion of money, the NSA is now seeking to map out intrusions into critical infrastructure across the country.

Because the program is still in the early stages, much remains to be worked out, such as which computer control systems will be monitored and how the data will be collected. NSA would likely start with the systems that have the most important security implications if attacked, such as electric, nuclear, and air-traffic-control systems, they said.

Intelligence officials have met with utilities' CEOs and those discussions convinced them of the gravity of the threat against U.S. infrastructure, an industry specialist said, but the CEOs concluded they needed better threat information and guidance on what to do in the event of a major cyber attack.

Experience WSJ professional Editors' Deep Dive: Cybercrime Risks Still GrowingSC MAGAZINE
Anti-Hack: Retaliatory Action Against Digital Attacks
.Information Technology Newsweekly
Many Professionals Leave Mobile Data Security to Chance
.The New York Times
Credit Card Hackers Visit Hotels All Too Often. Access thousands of business sources not available on the free web. Learn More .Some companies may agree to have the NSA put its own sensors on and others may ask for direction on what sensors to buy and come to an agreement about what data they will then share with the government, industry and government officials said.

While the government can't force companies to work with it, it can provide incentives to urge them to cooperate, particularly if the government already buys services from that company, officials said.

Raytheon, which has built up a large cyber-security practice through acquisitions in recent years, is expected to subcontract out some of the work to smaller specialty companies, according to a person familiar with the project.

Write to Siobhan Gorman at
25578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: July 08, 2010, 09:38:55 AM
Federal prosecutors charged a senior al Qaeda leader Wednesday with helping to mastermind last year's attempted bombing of New York City's subway and said the effort was part of a larger plot that included a failed terrorist attempt in the U.K.

Three suspected al Qaeda members were arrested in Europe Thursday morning in what Norwegian and U.S. officials said was a bombing plot linked to the New York and U.K. plans.

In an indictment unveiled in federal court in Brooklyn Wednesday, prosecutors said 34-year-old Adnan el Shukrijumah, described as a leader of an al Qaeda program dedicated to terrorist attacks in the U.S. and other Western countries, "recruited and directed" three U.S. citizens to carry out suicide bombings in Manhattan in September 2009.

  PM Report: NY Subway Bomb Plot Widens
Federal prosecutors claim senior al Qaeda leaders directed a failed plot to detonate homemade explosives in New York's subway last year. John Bussey and Michael Rothfeld discuss. Also, David Biderman and Jon Friedman on LeBron's next move.
.The indictment also charged Abid Naseer and Tariq ur Rehman, who were previously arrested by authorities in the U.K. as part of a raid in relation to suspected terrorist activity there. Prosecutors said the two cases were "directly related." The charges underscored "the global nature of the terrorist threat we face," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.

On Wednesday, U.K. police again arrested Mr. Naseer, who is 24 years old and of Pakistani descent, in Middlesbrough, in the northeast of England, according to a police spokesman. Mr. Rehman isn't in custody and is believed to be in Pakistan. The last known lawyer for Mr. Naseer didn't respond to requests for comment. Mr. Rehman, 39, reached in Peshawar, North East Pakistan, said: "Of course I deny all these charges. Of course I will fight my case."

A day later, three men were arrested on suspicion of "preparing terror activities," the Norwegian Police Security Service said. Two of the men were arrested in Norway and one in Germany, said Janne Kristiansen, the head of Police Security Service. She said one of the men was a 39-year-old Norwegian of Uighur origin, who had lived in Norway since 1999. The other suspects were a 37-year-old Iraqi and a 31-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan, both of whom have permanent residency permits in Norway. The three had been under surveillance for more than a year.

Officials told the Associated Press that the men were attempting to make portable but powerful peroxide bombs, but it wasn't clear whether they had selected a target for the attacks. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believe the plan was organized by Salah al-Somali, al Qaeda's former chief of external operations who was charge of plotting attacks world-wide but is believed to have been killed in a CIA drone airstrike last year.

Court Halts U.K. Terror Extraditions
EU Approves U.S. Data-Sharing Deal
.U.S. prosecutors, meanwhile, said the New York and U.K. plots were directly linked by a man identified in court documents as "Ahmad," who was also charged on Wednesday, though he wasn't in custody and prosecutors said his identity was unknown. Prosecutors said Ahmad transported Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan native who worked as an airport shuttle driver in Colorado, and two others to Waziristan, Pakistan, so they could receive training. Mr. Shukrijumah recruited them at a camp there, prosecutors said.

The indictment, unveiled on the fifth anniversary of bombings in London's transport network, said that Mr. Shukrijumah, together with others, including Mr. al-Somali recruited individuals to conduct a terrorist attack in the U.S.

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Associated Press
A police officer aboard a New York City subway train earlier this year.
.Authorities in the U.S. have been searching for Mr. Shukrijumah, a Saudi Arabia native, for several years and are offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. They are planning to put him on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most-wanted list as early as Thursday.

Prosecutors described Ahmad as an "al Qaeda facilitator" and said he communicated separately with Mr. Naseer and Mr. Zazi, who were in Pakistan in the same period in 2008, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said Mr. Naseer sent emails to the same account that Ahmad allegedly used to communicate with Mr. Zazi. Mr. Naseer referred to different explosives in coded language and spoke of planning a large "wedding" for numerous guests in April 2009, and said Ahmad should be ready, prosecutors alleged. A similar code, meaning an attack was ready to be executed, was used by Mr. Zazi when he discussed the planned New York attack with Ahmad, prosecutors said.

When Mr. Naseer and Mr. Rehman were arrested in the U.K. last year as part of a bigger raid that also led to the arrests of 10 others, U.K. authorities found large quantities of flour and oil, as well as surveillance photographs of public areas in Manchester, according to U.S. authorities.

But "Operation Pathway," which led to the arrests, was carried out prematurely after the U.K.'s top counterterrorism official at the time, Bob Quick, was photographed entering No. 10 Downing Street carrying documents that clearly identified key aspects of the operation. All of the men who were arrested were released without charge due to what U.K. prosecutors believed had been insufficient evidence.

British authorities tried to deport 11 of the men arrested, saying they posed a threat to national security. Mr. Naseer won an appeal in May in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that stopped his deportation back to Pakistan. The U.S. government is seeking to extradite Mr. Naseer, according to London's Metropolitan police service.

In February, Mr. Zazi pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and other charges. He admitted that he drove to New York last September with explosives and other bomb-making materials and intended to carry out an attack on Manhattan subway lines.

Two other men, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, allegedly traveled to Pakistan with Mr. Zazi. In April, Mr, Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to conspiracy and providing material support to al Qaeda.

Mr. Medunjanin, a part-time building superintendent in Queens, N.Y., has denied wrongdoing and is fighting the charges. Wednesday's indictment adds additional terrorism charges against Mr. Medunjanin, who was arrested in January after allegedly attempting to crash his car into another car on the Whitestone Expressway in Queens as a last attempt to carry out a suicide attack on American soil.

"There's nothing new in the indictment as it pertains to Mr. Medunjanin," said his lawyer, Robert C. Gottlieb. "The government from Day One threatened to add charges as well as defendants." He said his client isn't guilty and intends to proceed to trial.

—Alistair MacDonald and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
25579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: July 08, 2010, 09:22:21 AM
"The Weimar Republic? Jews were more economically sophiticated than the newly arrising German people.  That caused SERIOUS inequities to appear , , ,"

I do not know this history.  Would you flesh this out please?
25580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 10 Economic blunders, #5 on: July 08, 2010, 08:52:43 AM
Ten Economic Blunders from History
 5. No Smuggling Allowed
Price controls are stupid anytime, but it takes true idiocy to apply them in the middle of a siege. In 1584 forces controlled by Alexander Farnese, the duke of Parma, were besieging Holland's grandest city, Antwerp, in the Dutch War of Independence. At first the siege was ineffectual because the duke's lines were porous and Antwerp could be supplied by sea, but the duke was in luck because the city decided to blockade itself voluntarily. The magistrates of the city declared a maximum on the price of grain. The smugglers who had been running the blockade up to that point became considerably less enthusiastic about making food deliveries after that. Facing starvation, the city surrendered the next year.

25581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An astute friend responds on: July 08, 2010, 01:21:19 AM
The arguments for and against a double dip recession are a media-inflamed straw man.  Whether or not it occurs is irrelevant.  The salient issue is whether or not real GDP can resume a consistent growth rate sufficient to cause the millions of unemployed to get hired at compensation packages equivalent to their pre-layoff situation less any decline in their household debt service and discretionary spending costs.  Unless that occurs quickly, there will be more structural changes in the US economy for the worse.


On his blog, Scott Grannis (Marc: SG has been recommended here many times) notes that corporate profits are rising but corporations are not reinvesting most of those profits into their businesses with hiring.  That’s because anyone in this email circular who has ever operated his or her own business knows that you don’t hire new people until you need to hire them.  Businesses are finding that they don’t need to hire more people yet, because they can make do at current staffing levels and bring in temps when needed.  In fact, businesses are still laying off temporary and full time workers.  That’s why weekly jobless claims still exceed 450,000.


The other issue is demographic.  A lot of private sector layoffs occurred to higher income baby boomers in what would normally be their peak earnings years.  Also, a lot of them have seen their retirement nest eggs destroyed twice in the past decade.  Wages are the best way a person has to recoup lost investment funds.  However, the older baby boomers now must compete with younger workers and entry level workers for the same jobs.  Right now, they are losing most of those battles.  The result will be a greater demand for social security benefits by age 62-66 boomers.  This will destroy the current actuarial assumptions of social security.


The pessimists like Roubini forecast growth in real GDP.  They just see annualized growth of <2% in the second half of this year.  So, let’s discuss the real issue in the US.  How does an economy that was 60-70% consumer spending dependent and that grew for the past 10 or more years primarily based upon leverage resume those same growth rates with less leverage, with disposable income concentrated in less people, and with a government taxation and expenditure system that must itself deleverage?  I question whether the traditional macro-economic indicators cited in the article are merely correlations.  And, this time, we are experiencing another low probability economic event.  After all, since Q4 1960, there have been only 5 quarters in which nominal GDP declined on an annualized basis.  Three of those five quarters were Q4 2008, Q1 2009 and Q2 2009.
25582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2010 is not 2008 on: July 08, 2010, 01:18:58 AM
2010 is Not 2008
by Duncan Frearson, Smith Street Capital

July 6, 2010

"Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." This saying appears to be governing market behavior lately. Soft economic data has become the calling card for a market rout. Managers, fearful of another unforeseen collapse, have been selling down positions and de-risking their portfolios.

Why then should an investor buy what seemingly smart managers are selling? I believe the “rottenness” has already been purged from the system, to paraphrase Andrew Mellon, and the healing has begun.

Anyone who has kids knows when the lights go out, the boogey man appears. We are in the unfortunate position where problems in Europe, the end of some government stimulus programs, some large budget gaps and a growing oil leak have turned off the market’s lights. The boogey man has entered the mind of the market causing some fearful behavior.

At the end of day the earnings power of a company is all that matters and thus understanding customer behavior is paramount. For the economy as a whole we should ask ourselves: are we currently spending beyond our means? Individuals are earning at record levels – around $10,103 billion for real disposable personal income in Q2 and we are only just beginning to push real spending beyond Q4 2007 levels leading to a savings rate in the 3.5% range, according to government data. The debt service coverage ratio and the financial obligations ratio both indicate the consumer is de-leveraging into a more stable financial foundation.


Source: Federal Reserve


The only real historical precedent for a double dip that is relevant happened in the early 1980s. A look at this prior period indicates a double dip recession is possible, but it requires action to make it happen.

The 1980s double dip came courtesy of a Federal Reserve that began to fear a pick up in inflation after the economy began to recover.

Of course their fear was warranted given inflation was the main reason for the prior economic malaise, but it would seem unlikely that the Federal Reserve will put any brakes on this time around (in fact they have stated they will not) and thus with a more stable consumer in the mix a collapse back to the late 2008/early 2009 level of economic activity appears highly unlikely.

On the corporate front, cash positions are at record levels for S&P 500 companies giving these firms confidence in their current operations and reducing the risk of sharp resource reductions.

U.S. states and EU nations are reducing budget gaps. They have provided liquidity and spending as the private sector reduced activity.

In the EU, the reduction in spending of the core nations will be slow allowing fears to eventually subside and any funding problems will be offset by ECB bond buying and the emergency SPE fund.

In the 1930s, U.S. government spending virtually doubled as a percentage of GDP creating an enormous economic dependence on this stimulus and thus a significant dip in activity when it was turned off. In the core EU nations no such boost has occurred and thus a reduction in economic activity from a cut in spending will be muted, at best, given their stable employment picture.

The longer the reductions are strung out and the longer stability is maintained, the more consumers will feel comfortable about increasing their spending. Ironically, U.S. states are increasing general fund expenditures in their FY 2011 budgets to $635.3 billion from $612.9 billion in FY 2010, according to the National Governors Association. Increased tax revenue from improving economic activity, the usage of remaining American Recovery Act Funds and “rainy day” funds will help stabilize a recovery.

Clearly, the U.S. received an initial boost from exports and government spending but this has provided a pathway for private sector restructuring. The Chinese have begun to talk down their economic activity somewhat but we should look to what they do as opposed to what they say.

Their interests are aligned with our interests, and their export sector needs a healthy global economy to continue to bring a few hundred million people out of the countryside. They maintain adequate gold reserves under the ground domestically and their willingness to backstop the U.S. dollar and their aid in keeping U.S. stimulus spending virtually interest free is a testament to their desire to move the global economy out of recession.

Confidence is slowly returning as employment stabilizes. Gallup polls suggest higher income consumers are beginning to spend more and this will filter down to middle income and eventually to lower income consumers even in light of the declining equity markets due to restructured personal balance sheets. Companies, in turn, will respond with increased production, inventory rebuilding and increased hiring.

Given this, I expect to see buyers enter the marketplace as interest rates drop and affordability increases. It is very unlikely we will have the same situation in 2010 that occurred in 2008 where no financing was available for purchasing activity.

We need to be patient as the healing occurs after such an economic downturn. The larger macro economic picture has improved and with global coordination among central bankers of the world we can get back to business as usual, albeit with a little less leverage this time around.

Duncan Frearson, CFA, is a co-managing partner at Smith Street Capital.

25583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: A complicated alliance on: July 08, 2010, 12:55:05 AM
I like Stratfor a lot, but some elements of the following strike me as either glib or lacking in candor.


The United States and Israel: A Complicated Alliance

U.S. President Barack Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on Tuesday. In sharp contrast with the Israeli premier’s last visit to the White House in March, this meeting took place in a very cordial atmosphere with both leaders going out of their way to show that recent tensions between the two sides were a thing of the past. Obama said he hoped direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) would resume, while Netanyahu said he was willing to meet with PNA President Mahmoud Abbas at any time.

These comments from both leaders represent a marked difference in the relations between the two allies, who have for months been at odds over the Palestinian issue. The Obama administration had been pressing the Netanyahu government to make concessions to the Palestinians, which Washington needs as part of its strategy for the region and the wider Islamic world. Netanyahu and his conservative allies had been resisting the American demand.

What has changed and how did it lead to the rebalancing of U.S.-Israeli relations? It should be noted that even before the Americans and the Israelis clashed on the Palestinian issue they were at odds over how to deal with an increasingly assertive Iran, which from the Israeli point of view is a far more significant national security issue than the Palestinian problem. Consequently, Israel was demanding that the United States engage in action that would actually force Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons and limit the extent to which Iran could increase its influence in the region.

“Before the Americans and the Israelis clashed on the Palestinian issue they were at odds over how to deal with an increasingly assertive Iran.”
The United States needs to withdraw its forces from Iraq. To do so, it needs to reach an understanding with Tehran that will ensure a withdrawal that doesn’t create a vacuum that the Iranians could exploit to their advantage. After months of trying to create a consensus among key world players (especially the Russians), the United States has been able to put a sanctions regime in place, which falls short of Israeli expectations, even though the sanctions are not altogether toothless. This move has helped the United States obtain concessions from the Israelis on the Palestinian issue.

It is therefore not a coincidence that on the same day Obama and Netanyahu met, Israeli press carried reports that the Israeli military was taking action against a number of its soldiers who were involved in the killing of Palestinian civilians during the 2008 offensive in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli gesture will allow the United States to go to the Palestinians and seek reciprocity in an effort to try to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But the United States knows that the Palestinians — due to their deep internal divisions — will not be able to make any meaningful progress toward a settlement.

But as far as Washington is concerned, that is not a problem. The United States’ goal here is not to achieve a settlement, as it will remain elusive as long as the Palestinians remain divided. Instead, the Obama administration wants to let the Arab/Muslim world know that it has tried hard to resolve the matter, but that the problem lies with the Palestinians and their state of affairs. This way Washington can try to better position itself between Israel and the Arab/Muslim countries in an effort to realize its strategic objectives in the region.

The problem with this approach is that it provides only temporary respite for the United States. Despite the fact that Palestinian disunity is a key reason preventing any movement toward the creation of a sovereign Palestinian entity, many Arab/Muslim states will not stop demanding that Washington pressure Israel. Likewise, the United States cannot change the reality that its interests in the region do not converge with Israel’s.

The United States has to reach an accommodation with Iran, which means Washington can only go so far in isolating Iran. The new sanctions only buy the United States time to sort out its real dispute with the Islamic republic, which has to do with regime security and the future regional balance of power in the wake of a post-American Iraq. In other words, the underlying structural factors that have caused a divergence in U.S. and Israeli interests are bound to complicate relations between the two allies.
25584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UAE asks US to stop Iran by all means on: July 07, 2010, 09:05:50 PM

UAE asks US to stop Iran by all means

07/07/2010 11:30

Ambassador to US reportedly says "we cannot live with a nuclear Iran."

The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that it would be difficult to co-exist with a nuclear Iran and that it would support any actions the US took to prevent such a possibility The Washington Times reported.

Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba reportedly endorsed the military option if sanctions do not stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

"I think it's a cost-benefit analysis," Otaiba said to an audience in Aspen, Colorado. "I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion … there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what."

"If you are asking me, 'Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?,' my answer is still the same: 'We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.' I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the UAE," Otaiba reportedly said, in response to a question after a public interview with the Atlantic magazine. His remarks surprised many in the audience, The Washington Times reported.

John R. Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations, told The Washington Times that Otaiba's comments reflect the views of many Arab states that "recognize the threat posed by a nuclear Iran."

"They also know — and worry — that the Obama administration's policies will not stop Iran," he told The Times. Arab leaders, Mr. Bolton said, regard a pre-emptive strike as "the only alternative."

Otaiba "was thus only speaking the truth from his perspective," Mr. Bolton reportedly said.
25585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: July 07, 2010, 08:34:52 PM
Prechter has an absolutely horrendous track record.  Alan Reynolds has a really good one.  Here is what he says (btw I disagree quite a bit, but I do respect the man and pay attention to what he says):
Get Real: This Is Not 1932
Brian S. Wesbury and Robert Stein
07.07.10, 6:00 AM ET

Want to be invited to A-list parties? Want people to think you are smart? Then don't smile and don't say anything positive--especially about the economy. Pessimism has become so pervasive that people will believe just about anything, as long as it is negative.

Over the July 4 weekend, after a jobs report that showed 83,000 new private-sector jobs were created in June, the Drudge Report had not one but two headlines that compared the U.S. economy of 2010 to that of 1932. In other words, the U.S. is back in Depression. This is a complete overreaction and is indicative of the severe case of economic hypochondria that seems to have gripped the nation and the world.

One symptom of this disease is that common sense is suspended. The simple explanation is tossed aside and data releases are dredged and sifted to find the most dire possible explanation for any economic information.

For example, every 10 years the United States Government conducts a census, and every 10 years the government hires hundreds of thousands of very temporary workers to help in the effort. Some time between April and June total employment goes up and down by an amount that often swamps the underlying trends of employment.

In May total payrolls increased 433,000, but then fell by 125,000 in June. So rather than explain this to people, the Pouting Pundits of Pessimism said things like, "All the jobs in May were government jobs." And then last Friday, after the June jobs report, they said, "Jobs fell for the first time in seven months." Both of these reactions were misleading.

They could have said, "Once we adjust for the Census, private-sector payrolls increased by 33,000 in May, and then accelerated in June to 83,000." While both months were disappointing when compared with previous recoveries, the data shows six consecutive months of private-sector job creation.

Another interpretation that defies common sense involves labor force data. When 805,000 more people said they were looking for a job in April, the pessimists said, "See how many people had been discouraged ... the unemployment rate will never fall as they start looking again." And in June, when the labor force fell by 652,000, they said, "This is the only reason that the unemployment rate fell."

This is crazy. It defies common sense. Economic data is volatile, so quarterly data might be better. And in the second quarter the U.S. added 357,000 private-sector jobs--more than 50% greater than the 236,000 added during the first quarter.

New orders for durable goods, a leading indicator, are up 10% at an annual rate in the past three months. Excluding transportation, they are up 25%. If we look at just machinery orders, they are up 63% in the past three months and 23% in the past 12 months. This is not a depression.

Yes, housing has fallen. But what should we expect after a huge government program to support housing activity ends? Remember Cash for Clunkers? Activity was artificially boosted by the program, then it fell, then it recovered as the normal forces of economic activity kicked in again. The same thing will happen with housing in the months ahead.

So could we be repeating 1932? We suppose anything is possible, but these fears are based on a faulty comparison with history. In 1932 the M2 measure of the money supply fell by 16.5% -- the third of four consecutive yearly declines between 1929 and 1933. Meanwhile Herbert Hoover pushed through the largest tax hike in American history. The lowest tax rate rose from 1.5% to 4% (at $1 dollar of taxable income), the 6% rate (which kicked in at $10,000) rose to 10%, and the top rate more than doubled from 25% to 63%.

Today the M2 measure of money is growing, and tax rates, while scheduled to go higher in 2011, are nowhere near the levels of the 1930s. And there is no Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.

None of this is to say that the government is not making it more difficult for business. Clearly the uncertainty of new laws, spending, taxes and regulations is throwing a wet blanket over the entrepreneurial side of the American economy.

But two things are true. First, productivity is so strong that the economy is growing despite massive increases in the size of government. The U.S. is creating jobs, even if the rate of growth is less than previous recoveries. Profits are still rising. In fact, analysts are still raising earnings estimates.

Second, the market has so much negativity priced in that it is cheap on just about any basis. Based on forward earnings, the PE ratio for the S&P 500 is under 12. And our capitalized profits model shows that stocks are severely undervalued. Based on very conservative inputs, we continue to believe the fair value for the Dow Jones industrial average is 14,500.

Pessimism creates value. Optimism has traditionally been rewarded. We remain optimistic.

Brian S. Wesbury is chief economist and Robert Stein senior economist at First Trust Advisors in Wheaton, Ill. They write a weekly column for Forbes. Wesbury is the author of It's Not As Bad As You Think: Why Capitalism Trumps Fear and the Economy Will Thrive.
25586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Poll going on right now on: July 07, 2010, 11:47:27 AM
25587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Govt gold sales on: July 07, 2010, 11:39:06 AM

JULY 7, 2010
Central Banks Swap Tons of Gold to Raise Cash, Surprising Market
Central banks are pawning their gold to the Bank for International Settlements at a record rate, taking advantage of the precious metal's historically high value to raise cash.
A little-noticed data point at the back of a 216-page report released last week by the BIS shows the international agency has taken 349 metric tons of gold since December—allowing central banks to raise a record $14 billion.
The number surprised the market, which had assumed most central banks had retained their holdings of gold. Instead, the BIS data show that they have been entering these gold swaps—exchanging their gold with the BIS in return for cash, agreeing to repurchase the gold at a later date.

The sharp increase in January, when most of the borrowing took place, coincides with a flare-up in worries about a sovereign-debt crisis in Greece spreading throughout Europe. At that time, borrowing costs soared and liquidity tightened.
Some central banks may have begun to fret, and chose to turn some of their holdings to cash as a standby, said Philip Klapwijk, executive chairman of GFMS Ltd., a London-based metals consultant.
"It suggests a bit of a last-resort measure," Mr. Klapwijk said.
The increase in the use of gold swaps is particularly surprising because central banks have rarely used them for decades, and the amount of gold at the BIS has remained stable for years.

AFP/Getty Images

Central banks of developed countries have relatively easy access to capital and capital markets, while emerging countries have generally been increasing their foreign reserves.
While the use of swaps has no practical implications for the gold market, the report helped weigh on gold prices, which have already come under pressure since reaching a peak last month.
The prospect that the gold isn't locked up in central-bank vaults as investors thought—and that it may, in an extreme case, be seized and sold on the open market by the BIS—gave some investors pause.
On Tuesday, the most actively traded gold contract, for August delivery, dropped $12.60 per troy ounce, or 1%, to $1,194.80 on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. It is now off 5% from its record high hit on June 18.
The BIS report could change investors' perception of gold as an asset to protect against the impact of global sovereign-debt woes, said Nicholas Johnson, co-manager of Pacific Investment Management Co.'s CommodityRealReturn Strategy Fund, a mutual fund with about $16 billion in assets.
"Originally sovereign financial troubles were taken as unambiguously bullish" for gold, Mr. Johnson said in an email.
"But some are now rethinking this if the gold that sovereigns hold has been pledged as collateral to someone else who has more ability to liquidate those holdings."
If the central bank that lent the gold is for some reason unable to make good on the loan, the BIS could opt to sell the gold in order to get its money back, which would amount to flooding the market with an unexpected boost to the global supply.
The BIS annual report covers the 12-month period through March. April data show that an additional 32 tons of gold were put up as collateral that month, suggesting further loans were taken out with the BIS, said Andy Smith, senior metals strategist at Bache Commodities Group.
At this rate, the BIS holdings represent the "biggest gold swap in history," Mr. Smith said.
Central banks probably chose to swap gold for cash with the BIS—which is known as the central bank for central banks—because it is less visible to the market and probably cheaper than a syndicated loan from commercial banks, Mr. Klapwijk said.
Gold is often regarded as a protection against inflation and is thought to benefit from the inflationary impact of governments' economic stimulus packages. It has also been used as a haven against another financial meltdown.
The news of the swaps comes as the World Gold Council, a trade group backed by miners, is trying to persuade central banks to buy more gold. The group sent a 28-page report to more than 800 central bankers and fiscal policy makers around the world, laying out the argument for increasing their bullion holdings.
Many central banks in rapidly growing countries have less than 2% of their reserves in gold, including China, Brazil, South Korea and Malaysia. By contrast, the U.S. has 72.8% of its reserves in gold.
Many developing countries are reluctant to increase their gold holdings significantly. Gold's volatility and its inability to generate income have long been cited as reason why central banks don't want to enhance their gold holdings. Countries also fear that it could become difficult to liquidate their holdings in a pinch.
25588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: July 07, 2010, 11:36:59 AM
"IF he believes illegals pay more into our system then they take out than why is he against it?"

Well speaking only for myself, the econ costs vel non of the illegals is not really the point.  The point is that we get to decide who comes here and in what numbers they come.  Even were it to turn out that illegals coming here were a net econ positive, there are cultural and political aspects of the question to consider as well.
25589  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Tolmin, Slovenia 6/26-27 on: July 07, 2010, 08:28:04 AM
I just noticed that I have not yet filed an AAR on this.

Although Slovenia is 9 times zones east of my home in Los Angeles, a seminar the weekend before in NYC broke the trip and the time zone changes into smaller pieces-- this made things much easier on my body.

110 people attended-- a very nice group with a very good attitude. Lots of very agreeable socializing in the evenings-- sometimes well lubricated by a local moonshine known as "snake spit".

People from this part of the world are very tall. Lots of people were 6'3" to 6'6".

Some of the other instructors were Israeli and Lightning Scientific Arnis's John Escudero, a Filipino, lives in Israel. (LSA is a system of interest to me ever since I saw GM Ben Luna Lema teach one night at the Inosanto Academy) so it was particulary nice for me to get another look at it.)

Assisting me was Cro Dog, an LEO of Croatian descent who lives in Germany. (Tangent: I was surprised to see how little rancor there seemed to be left over from the war(s) of the early 1990s) It was a great help to have someone who understands the real fight and DBMA on the assist.

Sunday afternoon we went white water rafting on the bluest river I have ever seen. A fine finish to a wonderful trip!

25 hours door-to-door to get home. Wonderful to be with my family again.
25590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: on: July 07, 2010, 07:43:29 AM
"And as to the Cares, they are chiefly what attend the bringing up of Children; and I would ask any Man who has experienced it, if they are  not the most delightful Cares in the World; and if from that Particular alone, he does not find the Bliss of a double State much greater, instead of being less than he expected." --Benjamin Franklin, Reply to a Piece of Advice
25591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Different from other Victims? on: July 07, 2010, 06:55:27 AM
Are Jews Different from History’s Other Victims?

Posted By David Solway On July 6, 2010  In FrontPage

Hatred and revulsion for distinct ethnic and tribal groups, and the cleansing operations and genocides that accompany these obsessions, are obviously all-too commonplace phenomena. In recent historical times alone we have seen the Turkish genocide of its Armenian population, the Cambodian hecatomb, the Hutu massacre of nearly one million Tutsis, the Serbian slaughter of Bosnian Muslims, the Sudanese carnage in Darfur and other parts of the country, the ongoing bloodbath in the Congo and, of course, the still unassimilable abomination of the Holocaust.

The question that often arises among those who want to diminish the scale of Jewish suffering involves orders of magnitude and, so to speak, degrees of unimaginableness. What makes the Holocaust different in “the roll-call of genocides” (to use Theodore Dalrymple’s phrase [1]) and assures it a signal place in the history of human evil? Have not other peoples beside the Jews suffered persecution, segregation, pogroms and official campaigns of extermination? Are six to seven million Ukrainians starved to death by Josef Stalin in the forced collectivization program known as the Black Famine [2] any less to be mourned than six million dead Jews at the hands of Adolf Hitler? Do Jews have a monopoly on affliction?

Trading in such mass obituaries is always grotesque, but the issue comes up again and again whenever Jews, or those who sympathize with their trials, define the Holocaust as an unprecedented atrocity in the annals of collective suffering. Historian Peter Novick, for example, regards [3] the Jewish focus on the Holocaust as a form of cultural pathology, an aspect of Jewish narcissism and an attempt to acquire the cachet of victimhood. Have not other minority groups endured equivalent or near-equivalent tragedies? The late Nobel laureate José Saramago, a diehard communist and one of the world’s most notable antisemites, wrote [4] in the Spain’s leading newspaper El Pais, “educated and trained in the idea that any suffering that has been inflicted…will always be inferior to that which they themselves suffered in the Holocaust, the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner… Israel wants all of us to feel guilty, directly or indirectly, for the horrors of the Holocaust.” Philosopher Pascal Bruckner recognizes [5] the seductiveness of this argument; however, unlike Novick and Saramago, he deplores the growing propensity to cheapen the Holocaust among those who deem Jewish memory as “the potential for winning an inalienable immunity or irresponsibility,” and as “purloining the maximum misfortune and declaring yourself its only legitimate owner.”

This anti-Jewish proclivity and “envious hatred,” Bruckner contends, is really a movement to confiscate the Holocaust for disreputable purposes, to open “a kind of perpetual line of credit for immorality.” It is the gambit practiced by the “Serbian extremists” and, for that matter, by the Palestinians and their supporters, who claim a “Holocaust” of their own as a “source of unlimited moral and political advantages” that gives them “permission for all forms of abuse.” The abuse, we might say, is a double one for it leads not only to the “ambiguity of the ethnic theology” predicated on a false identification to advance a political or religious cause, but deprives Jews of the density and meaning of their own history and expropriates their suffering. In this way, the Holocaust is, once again, relativized and debased.

If we assume that Novick, Saramago and their congeners are right, what, then, would distinguish Jews from their fellow victims of unparalleled barbarism? Are there really no gradations of evil? One answer to this question that is frequently met with has to do with the bureaucratic and industrialized nature of the monstrosity perpetrated against the Jewish people. The Shoah was meticulously planned at the highest levels of government, a blueprint for infamy carefully prepared and a complex technology devised to carry it out. This is certainly true, for even Stalin’s Black Famine relied upon a comparatively simpler process. Stalin merely increased grain quotas for State procurement, thus depriving Ukrainian farmers of the means of subsistence. Though savagery is what it is, there is something incommensurable about the closely meditated intricacies of the Nazi Endlösung, or Final Solution. Stalin did not wish to depopulate Ukraine; Hitler’s consuming passion was to destroy an entire people, and he developed a detailed and methodical strategy to accomplish his purpose.

And yet there is much more to the matter than scientific malice and administrative elaboration. Unlike the Ukrainians who succumbed to a political calculation, Jews were targeted for who and what they were or believed to be, decimated on racial grounds as a people of impure blood contaminating the racial purity of a “superior” nation, much like the gypsies and the “defectives.” “And still there is a difference,” writes Norman Cohn in Warrant for Genocide[6]. “The Jews were hunted down with a fanatical hatred reserved for them alone,” the killed amounting “probably to more than two-thirds of all European Jews.”  But it is not only a matter of brute numbers—the tally of Mao Zedong’s murdered innocents far eclipses that of Hitler’s or Stalin’s victims. Yet, as with Stalin’s policy concerning the Ukrainians, Mao did not set out to liquidate the Chinese people. Neither wanted to erase a “nation.” Hitler did. This is a fact that cannot be scanted and casts its lurid shadow over the Holocaust. And still there is a difference. Nor, as I have suggested, is it exclusively a question of cold, administrative calibrations in which human beings are transformed into abstract ciphers.

The dimension of Time must also be taken into account.

For the campaign against the Israelite has an inordinately long pedigree, going back to the Egyptian captivity, the Babylonian exile, the Roman wars and dispossession, the mass killings of Jews during the First Crusade, the Edict of Expulsion from England during the reign of Edward I, the Alhambra Decree in Spain ordering the expulsion of the Jews, the Chmielnicki massacre in 17th century Ukraine, and the innumerable purges in between and since, in both Christian and Muslim lands, leading to its culmination in the Holocaust.

In other words, Jews have the unique status of being singled out for millennial execration, malevolence, hostility and extirpation. It is a prejudice that knows no surcease. The spectre of discrimination, xenophobia, pogroms and even annihilation never disappears and always threatens to re-emerge, as it has once again today with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran vowing to “wipe Israel off the map” in a second Holocaust. As I have written before [7], the destiny of the Jews, unlike other minorities, “is to be eternally unsafe in this world,” which is precisely the factor that differentiates the Jewish people from other peoples on the historical continuum of human ignominy. It keeps happening.

There is yet another element to reflect upon. The religious wars that drenched the European continent in blood for centuries are now, for the most part, a thing of the past and have been superseded in the West by secular antagonisms expressed as an ideological conflict. The Cold War is over, presumably, but the culture wars persist. The battle between socialism and conservatism, the left and the right, Democrat and Republican, transnationalism and nationalism, statism and individualism, and, yes, between Europe and Israel, as well as between a left-oriented, terror-appeasing American presidency and Israel, is gathering momentum with every passing hour. Religious violence still exists, of course, but this is largely a prerogative of the Islamic world, manifest in the divide between Sunni and Shi’ite and the ubiquitous desire to exterminate the Jews. As Jonathan Kellerman writes in a symposium hosted by Commentary magazine (June, 2010), “the war being waged against Israel by the Muslim world is, at the core, a religious dispute. Radical Islamists no longer talk about Zionists, they come right out and broadcast their goal of eradicating worldwide Jewry.”

Thus, the forces at work in the contemporary world render Jews even more vulnerable than is usually the case, for they are now assaulted on two fronts: by secularists on the left who regard Israel as a colonial implant in the Middle East and by Muslims commanded by the Koran and the Ahadith to kill Jews wherever they may be found. Jews are perhaps the only people in the world who live in the crosshairs of two implacable enemies, one avowedly secular and the other driven by a theological mandate. The paradox is as mordant as it gets. Coming or going, for the Jew there is no acquittal, no peace and no relenting. If the secular left doesn’t get him, the Islamic right will—or devote itself to trying. It is a vise of world-historical proportions. And this means, clearly, that the menace Jews have always had to face will continue to flourish and quite possibly to augment.

I believe that most Jews are instinctively aware of the world’s undying hatred and misprision, but few are willing or capable of consciously acknowledging the scope of so unpalatable a truth. As Sarah Honig astutely writes [8], it is “disagreeable to realize that de rigueur Israel-bashing has unleashed latent predilections which, despite their transitory abeyance, festered beneath the floorboards of human decency.” The allusion to the great but antisemitic Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky is apt. In Notes from Under the Floorboards [9], Dostoevsky depicted in the novel’s protagonist an insectal longing for abasement and a contempt for all that is good, decent and noble in life, an embodiment of moral catastrophe. “I am angry,” the character says, “my irritability keeps me alive and kicking.” This tendency is, to use Dostoevsky’s term, “representative.” It appears to be inherent in the human psyche, and the Jew has ever been its most reliable outlet.

Norman Cohn refines the diagnosis for the modern age. “The drive to exterminate the Jews,” he writes, springs from “a quasi-demonological superstition,” namely, “the myth of the Jewish world-conspiracy…set on ruining and then dominating the rest of mankind.” The myth, whose chief repository is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery dating back to the early 20th century, is “designed to appeal to all the paranoid and destructive potentialities in human beings.” And myths, as we know, guarantee longevity of belief, precisely because of human credulity and innate aggression.

But we can go further and posit that Jews have ever been the casualties of one or another myth, which are constantly pupating from one form into another, whether of plotting world conquest, or of poisoning wells, or of baking the blood of Christian children into Passover matzot, or of being the carriers of diseases—or of robbing the Palestinians of their land irrespective of the fact that, as Joan Peters, among other respectable scholars, has convincingly shown in her seminal study, From Time Immemorial [10], a substantial influx of Arab migrants, late arrivals to the region from the surrounding Arab countries, appropriated the identity of “Palestinians.” One myth will replace another to ensure that the engine of hatred keeps running and that a destination for bigotry and delirium remains always attainable.

The current myth, as we have noted, is that Jews are usurpers—in the very land in which they have maintained a continuous presence for 3,500 years and which, despite the vicissitudes of history, bears archeological, textual and demographic witness to their tenure from antiquity to the present moment. As the Reverend James Parkes spells out for us in his scrupulously researched Whose Land? A History of the Peoples of Palestine [11], the Jewish connection with the land “has been continuous from the 2nd millennium B.C.E. up to modern times.” Recent genetic findings [12] have reinforced the evidence for geographical origins. But myths are insidiously potent. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” as notorious Press Corps reporter Helen Thomas [13] recently demanded [13]. Not to be undone, deputy leader of Canada’s National Democratic Party Libby Davies [14] parroted Thomas’ ultimatum a few days later, asserting [15] that Israel’s “occupation of Palestinian lands” began in 1948 with its formal recognition as a legitimate state—a tirelessly reiterated jihadist theme. We cannot predict what the next such myth will be. We can only be sure that anti-Jewish myths, bordering on caricature, multiply like rabbits on aphrodisiacs.

This is what makes Jews, wherever they may find themselves, different from history’s other genocidal victims: they must always prepare for yet another round of social resentment, another irruption of ostracism and rejection, another flotilla (really an armada) of bogus “peace activists” aimed at dislodging them from their toehold on the Mediterranean, another barrage of denunciations from the so-called “international community,” and another calamity waiting in the offing. For what sets Jews apart from other victims of human malignancy is that the hatred and violence, the demonising, never go away.

Such is the nature of antisemitism: it is not a singular event but a perpetual sentence of condemnation. It is what we might call an ontological compulsion, an antipathy that has been reified. Regardless of the effort of Jews to assimilate, to forget the past, to deny their heritage or even to work against the very existence of the Jewish state and to trivialize the Holocaust, and despite the protestations of Western intellectuals and scions of the Enlightenment, who disingenuously claim they are not anti-Jewish but only anti-Zionist, the return of the same, or the will to re-enact it, is preordained.

And this is what makes numbers, methods, reasons and intentions as a medium of comparative judgment—albeit factors by no means insignificant in themselves—in the deepest sense irrelevant in determining the relative weights of the ordeals of peoples. For others who have suffered the saturnalia of blood, what happened once is always remembered; for Jews, what is remembered has occurred not once but many times before, in greater or lesser measure, and always threatens to recur. The essential difference resides in the unbroken cycle, the periodicity of the world’s “longest hatred [16],” the irresistible urge toward the replication of the unthinkable. What happened in the Treblinka of God’s eye was prepared in the crucible of time by hideous increments and may conceivably happen again.

Saramago, like so many others, lashes out at the Jews as “contaminated by the monstrous and rooted ‘certitude’…that there exists a people chosen by God.” Deeply religious Jews certainly believe they have a special relationship with God, which is exactly why the Holocaust continues to defeat their understanding, no matter how they struggle to explain it. Secular, Reform,  Reconstructionist and Sabra Jews, by far the majority (I am not speaking of the apostates), do not place particular emphasis on this biblical tenet. They do not regard themselves as better or worse than anyone else but as a coherent people upholding a cultural tradition and a ritual sense of patrimony. They are not so much baffled by the Holocaust—human evil, after all, is pandemic—but horrified by both its occurrence and its possible imminence. This is what makes the Jew different and constitutes the real meaning of “chosenness.”

In other words, unlike other peoples, Jews have been selected for vilification, injury and even destruction from time immemorial. Or to put succinctly, the Jewish people bleeds history.

25592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Kagan on: July 07, 2010, 06:47:06 AM
That sounds like a good and worthy idea to me.
25593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / STratfor: The Caucasus Caldron on: July 07, 2010, 06:45:53 AM

By George Friedman

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited some interesting spots over the July 4 weekend. Her itinerary included Poland and Ukraine, both intriguing choices in light of the recent Obama-Medvedev talks in Washington. But she also traveled to a region that has not been on the American radar screen much in the last two years — namely, the Caucasus — visiting Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The stop in Poland coincided with the signing of a new agreement on ballistic missile defense and was designed to sustain U.S.-Polish relations in the face of the German-Russian discussions we have discussed. The stop in Ukraine was meant simply to show the flag in a country rapidly moving into the Russian orbit. In both cases, the trip was about the Russians. Regardless of how warm the atmospherics are between the United States and Russia, the fact is that the Russians are continuing to rebuild their regional influence and are taking advantage of European disequilibrium to build new relationships there, too. The United States, still focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, has limited surplus capacity to apply to resisting the Russians. No amount of atmospherics can hide that fact, certainly not from the Poles or the Ukrainians. Therefore, if not a substantial contribution, the secretary of state’s visit was a symbolic one. But when there is little of substance, symbols matter.

That the Poland and Ukraine stops so obviously were about the Russians makes the stops in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia all the more interesting. Clinton’s statements during the Caucasian leg of her visit were positive, as one would expect. She expressed her support for Georgia without committing the United States to any arms shipments for Georgia to resist the Russians, who currently are stationed inside Georgia’s northern secessionist regions. In Azerbaijan and Armenia, she called on both countries to settle the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed region within western Azerbaijan proper. Armenia took control of the region by force following the Soviet collapse. For Azerbaijan, the return of Nagorno-Karabakh under a U.N. resolution is fundamental to its national security and political strategy. For Armenia, retreat is not politically possible.

This means Clinton’s call for negotiations and her offer of U.S. help are not particularly significant, especially since the call was for Washington to help under the guise of international, not bilateral, negotiations. This is particularly true after Clinton seemed to indicate that the collapse in Turkish-Armenian talks was Turkey’s responsibility and that it was up to Turkey to make the next move. Given that her visit to the region seems on the surface to have achieved little — and indeed, little seems to have been intended — it is worth taking time to understand why she went there in the first place, and the region’s strategic significance.

The Strategic Significance of the Caucasus
The Caucasus is the point where Russia, Iran and Turkey meet. For most of the 19th century, the three powers dueled for dominance of the region. This dispute froze during the Soviet period but is certainly in motion again. With none of these primary powers directly controlling the region, there are secondary competitions involving Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, both among these secondary powers and between the secondary powers and the major powers. And given that the region involves the Russians, Iranians and Turks, it is inevitable that the global power would have an interest as well — hence, Hillary Clinton’s visit.

Of all the regions of the world, this one is among the most potentially explosive. It is the most likely to draw in major powers and the most likely to involve the United States. It is quiet now — but like the Balkans in 1990, quiet does not necessarily reassure any of the players. Therefore, seven players are involved in a very small space. Think of it as a cauldron framed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, occasionally stirred by Washington, for whom each of the other three major powers poses special challenges of varying degrees.

The Caucasus region dominates a land bridge between the Black and Caspian seas. The bridge connects Turkey and Iran to the south with Russia in the north. The region is divided between two mountain ranges, the Greater Caucasus to the north and the Lesser Caucasus in the south; and two plains divided from one another, one in Western Georgia on the Black Sea and another, larger plain in the east in Azerbaijan along the Kura River. A narrow river valley cuts through Georgia, connecting the two plains.

The Greater Caucasus Mountains serve as the southern frontier of Russia. To the north of these mountains, running east to west, lies the Russian agricultural heartland, flat and without any natural barriers. Thus, ever since the beginning of the 19th century, Russia has fought for a significant portion of the Caucasus to block any ambitions by the Turkish or Persian empires. The Caucasus mountains are so difficult to traverse by major military forces that as long as Russia maintains a hold somewhere in the Caucasus, its southern frontier is secure. During the latter part of the 19th century and for most of the Soviet period (except a brief time at the beginning of the era), the Soviet position in the Caucasus ran along the frontier with Turkey and Persia (later Iran). Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia were incorporated into the Soviet Union, giving the Soviets a deep penetration of the Caucasus and, along with this, security.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the three Caucasian republics broke free of Moscow, pushing Russia’s frontier north by between about 160 to 320 kilometers (100-200 miles). The Russians still maintained a position in the Caucasus, but their position was not secure. The northern portion of the Caucasus consisted of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan and others, all of which had significant Islamist insurgencies under way. If the Russians abandoned the northeastern Caucasus, their position was breached. But if they stood, they faced an interminable fight.

Georgia borders most of the Russian frontier. In the chaos of the fall of the Soviet Union, various Georgian regions attempted to secede from Georgia with Russian encouragement. From the Georgian point of view, Russia represented a threat. But from the Russian point of view, Georgia represented a double threat. First, the Russians suspected the Georgians of supporting Chechen rebels in the 1990s — a charge the Georgians deny. The more important threat was that the United States selected Georgia as its main ally in the region. The choice made sense if the United States was conducting an encirclement strategy of Russia, which Washington was doing in the 1990s (though it became somewhat distracted from this strategy after 2001). In response to what it saw as U.S. pressure around its periphery, the Russians countered in Georgia in 2008 to demonstrate U.S. impotence in the region.

The Russians also maintained a close relationship with Armenia, where they continue to station more than 3,000 troops. The Armenians are deeply hostile to the Turks over demands that Turkey admit to massacres of large number of Armenians in 1915-16. The Armenians and Turks were recently involved in negotiations over the normalization of relations, but these talks collapsed — in our view, because of Russian interference. The issue was further complicated when a U.S. congressional committee passed a resolution in March condemning Turkey for committing genocide, infuriating the Turks.

One of the countercharges against Armenia is that it has conducted its own massacres of Azerbaijanis. Around the time of the Soviet breakup, it conducted a war against Azerbaijan, replete with the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis in a region known as Nagorno-Karabakh in western Azerbaijan, leaving Azerbaijan with a massive refugee problem. While the U.N. Security Council condemned the invasion, the conflict has been frozen, to use the jargon of diplomats.

The Importance of Azerbaijan
For its part, Azerbaijan cannot afford to fight a war against Russian troops in Armenia while it also shares a northern border with Russia. Azerbaijan also faces a significant Iranian problem. There are more Azerbaijanis living in Iran than in Azerbaijan; Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is a prominent Azerbaijani-Iranian. The Soviets occupied all of Azerbaijan during World War II but were forced to retreat under British and American pressure after the war, leaving most of Azerbaijan inside Iran. The remainder became a Soviet republic and then an independent state.

The Azerbaijanis are deeply concerned about the Iranians. Azerbaijan is profoundly different from Iran. It is Muslim but heavily secular. It maintains close and formal relations with Israel. It has supported the war in Afghanistan and made logistical facilities available to the United States. The Azerbaijanis claim that Iran is sending clerics north to build Shiite schools that threaten the regime. Obviously, Iran also operates an intelligence network there.

Adding to the complexity, Azerbaijan has long been a major producer of oil and has recently become an exporter of natural gas near the capital of Baku, exporting it to Turkey via a pipeline passing through Georgia. From the Turkish point of view, this provides alternative sources of energy to Russia and Iran, something that obviously pleases the United States. It is also an obvious reason why Russia sees Azerbaijan as undermining its position as the region’s dominant energy exporter.

The Russians have an interest, demonstrated in 2008, to move southward into Georgia. Obviously, if they were able to do this — preferably by a change in government and policy in Tbilisi — they would link up with their position in Armenia, becoming a force both on the Turkish border and facing Azerbaijan. The Russians would like to be able to integrate Azerbaijan’s exports into its broader energy policy, which would concentrate power in Russian hands and increase Russian influence on Russia’s periphery. This was made clear by Russia’s recent offer to buy all of Azerbaijan’s natural gas at European-level prices. The Turks would obviously oppose this for the same reason the Russians would want it. Hence, the Turks must support Georgia.

Iran, which should be viewed as an Azerbaijani country as well as a Persian one, has two reasons to want to dominate Azerbaijan. First, it would give Tehran access to Baku oil, and second, it would give Tehran strategic bargaining power with the Russians, something it does not currently have. In addition, talk of present unrest in Iran notwithstanding, Iran’s single most vulnerable point in the long term is the potential for Azerbaijanis living in Iran to want to unite with an independent Azerbaijani state. This is not in the offing, but if any critical vulnerability exists in the Iranian polity, this is it.

Consider this from the American side. When we look at the map, we notice that Azerbaijan borders both Russia and Iran. That strategic position alone makes it a major asset to the United States. Add to it oil in Baku and investment by U.S. companies, and Azerbaijan becomes even more attractive. Add to this that its oil exports support Turkey and weaken Russian influence, and its value goes up again. Finally, add to it that Turkey infuriated Azerbaijan by negotiating with Armenia without tying the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh to any Turkish-Armenian settlement. Altogether, the United States has the opportunity to forge a beneficial relationship with Azerbaijan that would put U.S. hands on one of Turkey’s sources of oil. At a time when the Turks recognize a declining dependence on the United States, anything that could increase that dependence helps Washington. Moreover, Azerbaijan is a platform from which Washington could make the Iranians uncomfortable, or from which to conduct negotiations with Iran.

An American strategy should include Georgia, but Georgia is always going to be weaker than Russia, and unless the United States is prepared to commit major forces there, the Russians can act, overtly and covertly, at their discretion. A Georgian strategy requires a strong rear base, which Azerbaijan provides, not only strategically but also as a source of capital for Georgia. Georgian-Azerbaijani relations are good, and in the long run so is Turkey’s relation with these two countries.

For Azerbaijan, the burning issue is Nagorno-Karabakh. This is not a burning issue for the United States, but the creation of a stable platform in the region is. Armenia, by far the weakest country economically, is allied with the Russians, and it has Russian troops on its territory. Given that the United States has no interest in who governs Nagorno-Karabakh and there is a U.N. resolution on the table favoring Azerbaijan that serves as cover, it is difficult to understand why the United States is effectively neutral. If the United States is committed to Georgia, which is official policy, then it follows that satisfying Azerbaijan and bringing it into a close relationship to the United States would be beneficial to Washington’s ability to manage relations with Russia, Iran and Turkey.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Azerbaijan a month ago and Clinton visited this weekend. As complex as the politics of this region are to outsiders, they are clearly increasing in importance to the United States. We could put it this way: Bosnia and Kosovo were obscure concepts to the world until they blew up. Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are equally obscure now. They will not remain obscure unless strategic measures are taken. It is not clear to us that Clinton was simply making a courtesy call or had strategy on her mind. But the logic of the American position is that it should think strategically about the Caucasus, and in doing so, logic and regional dynamics point to a strong relationship with Azerbaijan.
25594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 07, 2010, 12:56:57 AM
When they belong to Big Brother that is a very distinct question from the one presented here GM.
25595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: July 06, 2010, 09:55:15 PM
A Hatred That Resists Exorcism
Published: July 5, 2010
Is there anything left to be said about anti-Semitism? By now surely the outline is clear: how hatred of Jews grew out of early Christianity’s attempts to supplant Judaism; how the demonization of Jews in the Middle Ages turned violent; how the hatred was given its name by a 19th-century German journalist; and how it reached cataclysmic fulfillment in the Holocaust.

Enlarge This Image

Special Collection and Rare Books/Mu Libraries, University of Missouri
A George Cruikshank illustration of Fagin for “Oliver Twist.”

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Al-Dustour, Jordan
“The Blood of a Palestinian Child, a Gift for Mother’s Day,” a 1994 cartoon in a Jordanian newspaper.

There are other landmarks: the expulsion of the Jews from England, Spain and Portugal; intermittent massacres in Muslim lands; the construction of European ghettos; the pogroms of Russia and Eastern Europe; the Dreyfus Affair; the Nazification of Europe; Stalin’s purges and show trials.

And then, of course, there are the triumphs that act as a kind of remonstrance: the Enlightenment success of Jews in secular European societies, the myriad opportunities in the United States, the birth of modern Hebrew and, after a half-century of settlement, land purchases and institution building, the creation of Israel, whose founding principles incorporated both democratic and Judaic ideals.

Why then during the last six months have new tomes been published devoted to the hatred of Jews? “A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism From Antiquity to the Global Jihad” (Random House) weighs in at about 1,200 pages, a compendium of a career’s research by Robert S. Wistrich, professor of modern Jewish history at Hebrew University in Israel. And more than 800 pages are devoted just to British anti-Semitic history in “Trials of the Diaspora” (Oxford) by Anthony Julius, a learned British lawyer whose clients included Diana, Princess of Wales, and whose book on T.S. Eliot’s anti-Semitism was widely praised for its supple understanding.

Surely this attention is a bit overwrought? Aren’t we in an age that must be “post” all such sentiments — postmodern, post-Auschwitz and post-anti-Semitic? Haven’t many anti-Semitic doctrines (or their consequences) been largely overturned? How many people today would advocate ghettos or extermination? Who still believes that Jews bake Christian children’s blood into matzo? Many countries have forbidden hate speech; hasn’t that enforced a decorous social tact? And while it is difficult to ignore the vulgar hatreds expressed by Muslim protestors or in the newspapers of the Arab world or even among Westerners, aren’t those just frustrated expressions of justifiable political grievances?

Besides, anti-Semitism, we now understand, is a form of racism. Like all forms of group hatred, it is subject to reform and to the modern cure of sensitivity training. We learn about such hatreds in order to exorcise them. It seems every museum exhibition, textbook and children’s story about racism provides a similar moral prescription: tolerance.

So isn’t there something a little tasteless about bringing up anti-Semitism all the time, let alone drumming its theme page after page? Sure, racism may still flourish, but given the modern success of Jews, hasn’t this particular form of it become an anomaly? Or worse, hasn’t the term become a manipulative attempt to deflect judgment? As is often pointed out, criticism of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic any more than criticism of any particular Jew is.

But spend some time submerged in these books — by no means a pleasant or an easy task — and these notions recede into irrelevance. Mr. Wistrich’s volume presents itself as an encyclopedic history, and is so full of details and citations, it overwhelms. We hear from a 17th-century Viennese preacher (“After Satan Christians have no greater enemies than the Jews”), Karl Marx (“What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money”) and the Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah (“If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew”).

Mr. Wistrich offers less a history, though, than a contemporary indictment with historical background. This makes his book difficult to read. Its approach is one of cumulative examples culminating in jihadists and their apologists. Its rosterlike style can become tedious but the examples are powerfully dispiriting.

“Trials of the Diaspora” has a similar effect, though Mr. Julius is more focused and analytical, dissecting types of enmity, the nature of anti-Semitic myth and its influence on the greatest examples of English literature. From his analysis, we begin to see too just how different anti-Semitism is from other forms of racism.

Racism attaches negative attributes onto people bearing a particular biological heritage. Such characteristics are passed on; they are inherited. The hatred is focused; the perceived threat can be excised. In a way, racism is a materialist or physical passion: the problem and the solution are concrete.

While anti-Semitism has tapped into racial hatreds in modern times, Mr. Julius and Mr. Wistrich highlight its traditional reliance on conspiracy: the hidden plot. Anti-Semitism isn’t just a matter of asserting unpleasant or reprehensible attributes. It sees the Jew as an antinomian threat, overturning all ethical laws. The Jew works in secret, creating invisible alliances, pulling elaborate strings, undermining society’s foundations. This is why the Protocols of the Elders of Zion has found such a fertile international ground. That 19th-century document purports to be the secret minutes of such a plotting ensemble of Jews. It is the counterfeit confirmation of a long-held belief.

Anti-Semitism is a metaphysical passion, not a materialist one. It doesn’t even require a Jewish presence.

One reason anti-Semites have been so obsessed with the issue of finance in the modern world is that money is the circulatory system of capitalist society. It is mysterious, manipulable: the Jew’s perfect instrument. The Jew, first seen as a theological spoiler, becomes a metaphysical and monetary spoiler. The medieval image of the Jew was related to the vampire, Mr. Julius shows; the modern anti-Semitic vision sees the Jew as a guzzler of a society’s lifeblood.

This amplifies virulence as well: the Jew, for the anti-Semite, is not just a danger, but the greatest danger exerting the greatest powers. In current paradoxical parlance, the Jew is, in essence, a Nazi. The Jew does not just devour a Christian child’s blood, but the blood of all innocent children, and more completely, the blood of all innocents.

Is any evidence needed? Appearances are irrelevant; argument is illusion. What use is visible fact when the power of the Jew is in the web woven below the surface? Jewish autonomy is itself evidence of Jewish threat. Moreover, confrontation requires courage. Anti-Semitism never sees itself as a hatred; it views itself as a revelation. An attack on the Jew is never offensive; it is always defensive. This is precisely how the Nazis portrayed it. It is precisely how Islamist ideology does as well, evident, for example, in the principles and founding documents of Hamas and Hezbollah.

In a recent book, “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World” (Yale), the historian Jeffrey Herf shows how Nazi propagandists literally taught Arab audiences the language of anti-Semitism through popular radio programs in Arabic. Nazi ideology bears many resemblances to that of contemporary Islamic extremism, some the consequence of careful teaching. That teaching is still present in the Arab world, amplified by political leaders and imams, often annexed to denigrations of Jews taken from Islamic sources

The result, Mr. Julius and Mr. Wistrich recognize, has been one of the most historically noxious forms of anti-Semitic mythology, which has also fed into political debates in the West and cannot be overlooked or easily dismissed. It is easy enough to discern when responsible criticisms of Israel veer into something reprehensible: the structure of anti-Semitic belief is not subtle. There is a wildly exaggerated scale of condemnation, in which extremes of contempt confront a country caricatured as the world’s worst enemy of peace; such attacks (and the use of Nazi analogies) are beyond evidence and beyond pragmatic political debate or protest. Israel’s autonomy — it’s very presence — is the problem. Mr. Julius writes, “Israel is the only state in the world whose legitimacy is widely denied and whose destruction is publicly advocated and threatened; Israelis are the only citizens of a state whose indiscriminate murder is widely considered justifiable.”

But even if we leave aside such manifestations, it is clear enough that anti-Semitism requires much deeper understanding than it usually gets. Last week, for example, Hannah Rosenthal, the United States’ special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, spoke in Kazakhstan, asserting the similarity of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

This is not an uncommon assertion (and cases of unwarranted discrimination are always similar) but Islamophobia is a concept developed within the last two decades by those who wish to elevate Islam’s reputation in the West; anti-Semitism was a concept eagerly embraced and expanded by haters of Jews. One was constructed by a group’s supporters, the other by a group’s enemies.

Moreover, much of what is characterized as Islamophobia today arises out of taking seriously the impassioned claims of doctrinal allegiance made by Islamic terrorist groups and their supporters. Anti-Semitism, though, has nothing to do with any claims at all.

Connections is a critic’s perspective on arts and ideas.
25596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CCN reporter mourns Hezzie death on: July 06, 2010, 09:09:11 PM
Recently some big mucky muck of Hezbollah died.  I gather some twit reporter at CNN tweeted about her sadness at his death.
25597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 06, 2010, 09:02:24 PM
Steele is proving to be an ass on many levels, one of which is exhibited here, and should resign.

GM is right.  BO ran on Afpakia being the right war and that we had to get out of Iraq so we would have the bandwidth to focus on Afpakia.  Instead , , , well you already know the story.
25598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Left Fascist Axis on: July 06, 2010, 03:54:55 PM
July 06, 2010
The Left-Fascist Axis. Again
By James Lewis

We are seeing another Left-fascist axis in our time, recapitulating Stalin's (and worldwide communism's) embrace of Hitler's Germany. The Gaza flotilla crisis was set up by the radical Left (Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Jodie Evans and other Obama buds), in collusion with Hamas, which is about as fascist as they get. If you doubt it, watch Hamas TV on the MEMRI website. They are the worst. They teach toddlers about the glories of dying for Allah.  Even Fatah thinks Hamas is a throwback to the Dark Ages.

In the Gaza flotilla, the Turks who yelled out "Khaibar! Khaibar!" as they were trying to kill Israeli soldiers, were members of the Turkish branch of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood. They yelled out "Khaibar!" because that massacre of Jews was Mohammed's own Auschwitz. That doesn't leave any doubt about who they are. Martyrdom is just a means to an end, and that end is "Khaibar." The media always forget to tell us that part.

Words matter, which is why the Left is always making up new words for themselves, to disguise who they really are.  The Left isn't  Communist any more, they are "progressive" -- which leaves the rest of us  back in 1776. "Progressives" always know which way to find "progress," and it always comes down to stomping on the rest of us. Because if you're not "progressive" you must be an enemy of  "progress."   

The radical Left  hasn't changed one smidgen since Stalin. The Left still believes in global totalitarianism. Stalin is dead, but Stalinism is on the march. Listen to the stomping of their boots.

The Left is a throwback to all the ancient utopian cults, the Mayans, Genghis Khan and the Yellow Emperor of China, Idi Amin Dada and Robert Mugabe. It's the ancient Egyptian priesthood, which was also a cult run by a totalitarian clique. In ancient Egypt you had to die to get to utopia, but the psychology is always the same.  Utopian cults always appeal to suckers. They are a very nasty part of the human condition. But there's nothing new there, and they are certainly not "progressive." They are a throwback.

Obama doesn't look like a normal American because he is a High Priest. Harry Truman wouldn't recognize him, but King Tut would. Obama has all the arrogance and ignorance of a Pharaoh.

So here are two ways to simplify the daily media circus. First, the media are the cult of the Left, trying to twist your mind. The "Left" equals global totalitarianism, which is Stalinism, which is Leninism, which is radical feminism, which is the hateful racism of the Reverend Wright and Louis Farrakhan.  Same story, different labels. Keep it simple.

Whatever mask they try on, radical leftists are internationalists -- meaning that they are against America as a sovereign nation. That's Obama's real beef against us, and it's why he will never enforce our borders. Sure, leftists are all "patriots" in their own minds, because they worship the prairie flowers and the pretty mountains.  And they all despise MacDonald's hamburgers and eat arugula, because at bottom they are the most amazing snobs.  America is just one little piece of Planet Gaia, where everybody will live in peace and harmony because Obama or Algore will rule us with an iron fist. It's all for our own good.

So, the Left hasn't changed since ancient times. That's why Harvard has a "speech code," courtesy of the likes of Elena Kagan and the PC Commissars. People can't be trusted to say what's on their minds.  They might hurt somebody's feelings. Speech codes are ancient ways to control people.  All the prehistoric little Hitlers had speech taboos.

The second useful word is "fascist." Academics spend their lives trying to define that word. But if  you believe in killing people until they surrender to your totalitarian hokum; if you want to enslave women, kids, Jews, Christians, nonconformist Muslims (like the Bahai'is), gays, Africans in the Sudan, Marxists (yes), Trotskyites, liberals, and anybody who thinks the US Constitution is a good idea, you're a fascist. Simple, reasonable definition.

So we are seeing the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Take 2. The motivation is identical. These people  hate the modern world, just like the Nazis and Lenin did.  Hitler wanted to go back to the Nordic gods. His utopia was in a fantasy past. Lenin placed his utopia in the distant future. If you're a coercive utopian you have to dream of  a long-ago  past or a misty future, as long as it's impossible to see what it's really like.

Today the Saudis want to go back to Mohammed in the 7th century, and the Twelvers in Iran want to go back to the Hidden Mahdi in the 11th century. They all want to make utopia by force and terror. 

The Left-fascists are intolerant of individualism, liberty, free speech and electoral legitimacy, which is why they always try to sabotage constitutional government. Kagan on the Supreme Court. Obama as Pharaoh in the Oval. Why bow down to the King of Saudi and the Emperor of Japan? They are both medieval reactionaries. Obama bowed down to them, but he was really giving the high sign to America. That's Obama's schtick.

We are seeing a re-run of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1938. That Left-Fascist alliance fell apart when Hitler flipped and decided to send tanks into Poland and Russia instead.

It is what Freud called a "repetition compulsion." It happens over and over again, because these people don't live in reality. That's why they are dangerous. They can never figure out what went wrong last time, so they keep trying it again.  They live in egomaniacal fantasies, and real people keep getting in their way. Off with their heads!

The last time a Left-Fascist Axis rose to power it led to World War Two and the Cold War. Maybe the only way to win is to make them fight each other. That's how we came out of it before.

I don't know how decent people will prevail this time. I think we will, because we have done so over the centuries. But we are in another Long War with some real bad hot spots. The enemy today is both the Left and the fascists.

Read the news and you'll see it every day.

They're baaaaack!

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25599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Hall of Shame on: July 06, 2010, 12:18:22 PM
I suspect this was part of a governmental deal for oil.
25600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Southern Pulse on: July 06, 2010, 12:17:35 PM

Mexican State and Ministerial Police raided a safe house that allegedly belonged to Los Zetas in Las Hortensias neighborhood of Tapachula, Chiapas, on 30 June 2010. Authorities seized two armored vehicles, fragmentation grenades, and multiple high caliber weapons. An explosive device was dismantled.  (Clearly these were bought in some Texas gun store , , ,)


Narco banners signed by Carteles Unidos (United Cartels) were posted on 27 June 2010 in select areas of Guadalajara, Jalisco. These messages, directed to the Governor of Jalisco, read: "With all due respect Mr. Governor, this information is true, let us kill all these criminals that have dismembered innocent people in our State.”
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