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25901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Doug Noland on: November 06, 2010, 08:26:56 PM

The biggest economic problem we have today is that the US Federal Reserve is run by ideologues that will likely never back away from their erroneous recession-fighting ideas. This is a serious problem because QE2 isn't going to do anything positive for the real US economy, so the Fed will likely decide that yet more QE is necessary. As Noland says, below: "The dilemma for the Fed is that the financial and economic environment will dictate that their policies have minimal impact on both U.S. employment and growth, while providing a major impetus for additional global Monetary Disorder."

Even worse than that, most of the central banks in the world are operating according to the same principles. The Bank of Japan must be run by total lunatics ( I now believe that putting an end to loose money policies is a political impossibility, because the bust side of the cycle will be so severe that politicians and the monetary cranks in central banks will reverse themselves whenever they get the first glimpse of reality. Continued insanity will seem comfortable to these fools until a crisis completely beyond their control intervenes.


The late-July arrival of St. Louis Federal Reserve President Bullard’s monetary policy white paper commenced serious discussion regarding “QE2.” From August lows, the S&P500 has gained almost 18%, the S&P400 Mid-Caps 21%, and the small cap Russell 2000 25%.  Notably, many global market prices have enjoyed even more robust inflation.  Gold is up 19% and silver has surged 50%.  The Shanghai Composite has rallied 22%.  India’s Sensex index rose 18% to a record high.  Copper is up 23% from August lows.  Cotton has surged 80%, sugar 82%, and corn 46%.  The Goldman Sachs Commodities index has gained 21% from mid-August lows.    

In Bill Gross’s latest, he posits that the Fed is “pushing on a string.”  This is not the case.  The current backdrop has little-to-no similarity to the 1930’s; the world is definitely not today stuck in a Credit collapse and deflationary quagmire.  Instead, much of the globe is facing an unrelenting onslaught of financial inflows and heightened inflationary pressures.  Faltering dollar confidence is the prevailing force behind troubling inflationary pressures and strengthening Bubble Dynamics.

Increasingly, “emerging” economy Credit systems have succumbed to overheating, while key developed economies are locked into a perilous cycle of massive non-productive government debt expansion.  Our unsound debt, liquidity and currency dynamics ensure that excess flourishes throughout global Credit systems.   Bubbles are today left to run uncontrolled and undisciplined by a market hopelessly distorted by liquidity overabundance.  Fed policies seemingly ensure that global liquidity goes from extraordinary to extreme overabundance.

The Fed may today be alone in “quantitative easing” through the purchase of domestic government obligations.  Our central bank, however, has considerable global company when it comes to monetization and liquidity creation.  From Bloomberg’s tally we know that global central bank international reserve positions have inflated $1.5 TN over the past 12 months.  That last thing the global financial system needs is an additional shot of liquidity and reason to believe that dollar devaluation will be accelerated.  

In post-announcement analysis of the Fed’s commitment to another $600bn of Treasury purchases, Bill Gross commented on CNBC that “the biggest risk is inflation down the road.”  I again disagree with Mr. Gross.  The greatest risk is a destabilizing crisis of confidence for our nation’s debt obligations.  Our system doubled total mortgage debt in just over six years during the mortgage/Wall Street finance Bubble.  Washington is now on track to double the federal debt load in just over 4 years.  Federal Reserve policy remains instrumental in accommodating a precarious Credit Bubble at the heart of our monetary system.

It seems again worth highlighting a couple key sentences from ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet’s July 22, 2010 op-ed piece in the Financial Times, “Stimulate no more – it is now time for all to tighten”:  “…Given the magnitude of annual budget deficits and the ballooning of outstanding public debt, the standard linear economic models used to project the impact of fiscal restraint or fiscal stimuli may no longer be reliable. In extraordinary times, the economy may be close to non-linear phenomena such as a rapid deterioration of confidence among broad constituencies of households, enterprises, savers and investors.”

The Bernanke Fed is playing with fire here.  QE1 was implemented in an environment of deleveraging, impaired global financial systems and acute economic contraction.  And, importantly, the dollar was enjoying strong performance in the marketplace as global risk markets suffered from de-risking and general outflows.  QE1 had a stabilizing influence, as it worked to accommodate financial sector de-leveraging.  

The QE2 backdrop is altogether different.  Global markets are these days demonstrating robust inflationary biases.  Risk embracement is back in vogue – speculation is rife.  The “emerging economies” and global risk markets have been on the receiving end of massive financial (“hot money”) flows.  Meanwhile, the dollar has been under heavy selling pressure with heightened risk of a crisis of confidence.  This week’s market activity supported my view that the environment would seem to dictate that QE2 will only exacerbate increasingly unwieldy financial flows and unstable global markets.

It has been critical to my analysis that current reflation dynamics are different in kind from those that for the past two decades provided the Federal Reserve the most potent mechanism for domestic monetary stimulus.  In today’s post-mortgage finance Bubble and housing mania backdrop, the Fed has lost much of its capacity to inflate household net worth and spending.  The robust inflationary biases – and fledgling Bubbles – are now in global markets and economies.  The “Core to Periphery” financial flow dynamic has become deeply embedded.

The key dynamic today is one where deep structural U.S. impairment elicits an unprecedented monetary response from our central bank.  Yet the markets anticipate that this liquidity will seek out the inflating asset classes and most robust global economies.  This week, gold climbed to a record high, crude oil to a two-year high, and copper to a 28-month high.  The Shanghai Composite jumped 5.1% this week and India’s Sensex was up 4.9%.  So far, indications support the view that the Fed’s move will further stimulate unfolding global booms.  

Whether it is Asia or the commodities/natural resources economies, QE2 will exacerbate the already powerful financial flows and Bubble fuel.  The U.S. economy is poorly structured to benefit from these new global financial flows, inflation and growth dynamics.  There may be some gain from inflating U.S. stock prices.  Yet the struggling consumer sector is going to get smacked with higher food and energy prices.

In his Thursday op-ed in the Washington Post – “What the Fed did and why: supporting the recovery and sustaining price stability” – Chairman Bernanke argued that “the Federal Reserve has a particular obligation to help promote increased employment and sustain price stability.”  The dilemma for the Fed is that the financial and economic environment will dictate that their policies have minimal impact on both U.S. employment and growth, while providing a major impetus for additional global Monetary Disorder.  A strong case can be made that QE2 will only worsen already unprecedented global imbalances.  Global policymakers must be at their wits’ end.

25902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Rubbing chicken bones together as effective as antibiotics on: November 06, 2010, 08:59:39 AM

Worried about an impending public health crisis, government officials are considering offering financial incentives to the pharmaceutical industry, like tax breaks and patent extensions, to spur the development of vitally needed antibiotics.

While the proposals are still nascent, they have taken on more urgency as bacteria steadily become resistant to virtually all existing drugs at the same time that a considerable number of pharmaceutical giants have abandoned this field in search of more lucrative medicines. The number of new antibiotics in development is “distressingly low,” Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said at a news conference last month. The world’s weakening arsenal against “superbugs” has prompted scientists to warn that everyday infections could again become a major cause of death just as they were before the advent of penicillin around 1940.

“For these infections, we’re back to dancing around a bubbling cauldron while rubbing two chicken bones together,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, an infectious disease specialist at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center in Torrance, Calif.

For example, scientists have become alarmed by the spread from India of a newly discovered mutation called NDM-1, which renders certain germs like E. coli invulnerable to nearly all modern antibiotics. About 100,000 Americans a year are killed by infections acquired in hospitals, many resistant to multiple antibiotics. Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the best known superbug, now kills more Americans each year than AIDS.

While the notion of directly subsidizing drug companies may be politically unpopular in many quarters, proponents say it is necessary to bridge the gap between the high value that new antibiotics have for society and the low returns they provide to drug companies.

“There is a market failure,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat and the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who said he was considering introducing legislation. “We need to look at ways to spur development of this market.”

Mr. Waxman will lose his committee chairmanship with the Republicans having won control of the House this week. But the idea of spurring antibiotic development appears to have some bipartisan support. Representative Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican and a physician, recently introduced the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now bill, which would provide certain antibiotics with five extra years of protection from generic competition and speed the reviews of new antibiotics by the Food and Drug Administration.

Besides tax breaks and extra protection from competition, other ideas policy makers are considering include additional federal funding of research and guaranteed purchases by the government of new antibiotics. Measures like these are already used to encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases, through the Orphan Drug Act, and for illnesses like malaria that primarily afflict poor countries.

The Obama administration is also taking some steps. The federal agency that oversees development of treatments for bioterrorism agents like anthrax is broadening its scope to encompass more common infections. In August, the agency, known as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, awarded its first such “multi-use” contract, giving an initial $27 million to a company called Achaogen to develop an antibiotic that could be used for plague and tularemia as well as antibiotic-resistant infections.

The Department of Health and Human Services is considering creating an independent fund that would invest in small bio-defense companies. Antibiotic-resistant germs would be one priority, according to a report that the department issued in August.

The European Union is also working on a plan, based on proposals from the London School of Economics. A year ago, the United States and the European Union formed a task force on antibiotic resistance.

Despite the activity, there is no consensus on what would work best and little discussion of how much such measures would cost.

A paper issued last month by the Office of Health Economics, a consulting firm owned by the British pharmaceutical industry’s trade group, suggested that incentives exceeding $1 billion per drug would be required.

Some critics say the case for incentives is not yet persuasive. There are signs that the drug industry is picking up its efforts on its own, in response to perceived need. The number of antibiotics in clinical trials has climbed sharply in the last three years, reversing a steady decline that began in the 1980s, according to figures from the F.D.A. The efforts are being led by small companies, which can be satisfied with smaller sales.

Ramanan Laxminarayan, who directs the Extending the Cure project on antibiotic resistance at Resources for the Future, a policy organization, said the government should focus on conserving the effectiveness of existing antibiotics. That could be done by preventing unnecessary use in people and farm animals and requiring better infection control measures in hospitals.

“There’s not a recognition yet that we should think about antibiotics as a natural resource and we should conserve them like we do fish,” Mr. Laxminarayan, an economist, said. Kevin Outterson, an associate professor of law at Boston University, said one way to encourage both new development and conservation would be to pay drug companies to develop new antibiotics but not to aggressively market them. Incentives, he said, “must be conditioned on the companies’ changing their behavior.”

Only five new antibiotics were approved by the F.D.A. from 2003 through 2007, down from 16 in the period from 1983 to 1987. A survey last year by European health authorities found only 15 antibiotics in clinical trials that offered some promise of going beyond what is available today.

Only five of the 13 biggest pharmaceutical companies still try to discover new antibiotics, said Dr. David M. Shlaes, a consultant to the industry and the author of a new book “Antibiotics: The Perfect Storm.”

One reason is that antibiotics are typically taken for a week or two and usually cure the patient. While that makes them cost-effective for the health system, it also makes them less lucrative to drug companies than medicines for diseases like cancer or diabetes, which might be taken for months, or even for life, because they do not cure the patient.

“There’s this perverse disincentive against antibiotics because they work so well,” said J. Kevin Judice, chief executive of Achaogen.

Another factor is that new antibiotics are likely to be used only sparingly at first, to stave off the emergence of resistance. While that might be medically appropriate, it reduces the ability of a drug company to recoup its investment, said Dr. Barry I. Eisenstein, a senior vice president at the antibiotic maker Cubist Pharmaceuticals. Another factor discouraging investment, some experts say, is that the F.D.A. recently made it harder for new antibacterial drugs to win approval.

Leading the call for incentives has been the Infectious Diseases Society of America, whose members are infectious disease specialists. It is calling for a “10 by ‘20” initiative to develop 10 new antibiotics by 2020. The initiative, which is more an aspiration than a plan, has been endorsed by numerous other medical societies.

But so far there is little consumer support. “We don’t have any patient groups for Acinetobacter,” said Robert J. Guidos, the society’s vice president for public policy and government relations, referring to a drug-resistant bacterium. Patient groups concerned about superbugs tend to focus on reducing the spread of infections in hospitals.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main trade group for big drug companies, has not taken a position on incentives because not all members are in the antibiotic business, said David R. Brennan, the chief executive of AstraZeneca and former chairman of the trade group.

Mr. Brennan, whose company is still in the antibiotic business, said that at a minimum, new antibiotics should be given longer protection from generic competition to make up for the fact that they are used sparingly when they go on sale. “Give us more time at the back end,” he said.

25903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: November 06, 2010, 08:36:17 AM
GM:  I've tried doing the "free registration" thing, but the program is being annoying.  Would you be so kind as to post the whole thing please?  TIA.
25904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India and India-afpakia (and China?) on: November 06, 2010, 08:28:05 AM
India knows the players of Afpakia and details of their histories and interactions far better than we do.   I have posted some Indian intel pieces here along the way and they always seem to me to have insight and big picture perspective that we would do well to add to our mix.
25905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: November 06, 2010, 08:22:21 AM
Doug, anyone:

Any thing else at the federal level?

And what about at the state level?
25906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-9 on: November 06, 2010, 08:17:35 AM
I just spent 5-minutes hiding under my desk while 2-4 mortars landed not too awful far away (echoes can make it hard to tell).  They sure didn't seem too far off.....

It never ceases to amaze me how many security "experts" here don't even have the talent or skills that a switched on mall cop might have in the USA....


Well, several ________ (guys from the office) just came into my office because they heard I had a "complaint."  (How does a serious question on matters of life and death become a "complaint?").
Anyway, the bottom line is that at this moment in time and space there is no procedure for ensuring that "convicts" (in other words cooperating witnesses no matter their custody status) are searched prior to entry onto the compound.
Despite the incident in Khost on 12/30/2009, I guess there are still those who believe such could never happen to them.
Urgent - Two Katyusha rockets hit Baghad’s fortified “Green Zone”
November 6, 2010 - 09:50:37

BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Two Katyusha rockets fell Saturday on west Baghdad’s fortified “Green Zone,” where the main offices of the Iraqi government, U.S., British and other Western embassies exist, a security source said.
“The rockets fell on Baghdad’s Green Zone, but the human and material losses were not known,” he said, adding that police forces have managed to discover the area, where the rockets were fire from, on a building in Aqaba bin-Naf’i'e square in central Baghdad.
Apparently several more fell just outside the Green Zone, which since it's rather small would actually make sense as to why they all sounded so close.

25907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: November 06, 2010, 12:11:46 AM

If it is anatomically correct, one suspects that for ordinarily endowed men the anus may be a bit large for sufficient friction.
25908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: November 05, 2010, 08:23:03 PM
Save me the search please  smiley what is the URL for the material on Reid?
25909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sneak and peek on: November 05, 2010, 06:12:10 PM
Aha!  Found this:
25910  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: November 05, 2010, 05:35:55 PM
It would not surprise me , , ,
25911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stpehen Field on: November 05, 2010, 05:18:45 PM
Hat tip to BBG for this very nice little piece which I paste here:

Happy birthday, Stephen J. Field!
Today is the birthday of one of the great figures in the history of American liberty—Stephen Johnson Field, who was born on this day in 1816.

Field was born into an illustrious family; his brother, Cyrus, laid the first transatlantic telegraph cable (and is mentioned in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea), and his other brother, David Dudley Field, was perhaps the most famous and influential lawyer in his day. But unlike his brothers, Stephen came west to California in 1849, arriving in San Francisco, where he started a law firm. It failed quickly, and he moved to Marysville, where he was soon elected alcalde—something similar to mayor. After serving in the state legislature, Field was elected to the California Supreme Court in 1857, and soon achieved wide respect, although he clashed with his colleague, Chief Justice David S. Terry. When Terry shot and killed California Senator David Broderick in a duel two years later, Field replaced him as Chief Justice of California.

In 1863, needing a western Democrat for the Supreme Court, Abraham Lincoln appointed Stephen Field to the new 10th seat, making him the first Californian on the Supreme Court. Field soon distinguished himself as a defender of economic freedom and a friend to the Chinese immigrants who were so severely persecuted in California at the time. While riding circuit in the state, for instance, Field struck down the San Francisco “queue ordinance.” This was a law requiring any person who was thrown in jail to first have his head shaved. Although the government claimed this was a health measure intended to prevent lice infestation, Field recognized that it was really an attempt to allow the cutting off of the Chinese workers’ long hair braids, or queues, that they prized for traditional reasons: “we cannot shut our eyes to matters of public notoriety and general cognizance,” Field wrote. “When we take our seats on the bench we are not struck with blindness, and forbidden to know as judges what we see as men.” Ho Ah Kow v. Nunan, 12 F. Cas. 252, 255 (C.C.D. Cal. 1879).

Field was a champion of the individual’s right to earn a living without unreasonble interference by the government. (Which is why I dedicated my book to him.) In a persuasive dissenting opinion in Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. (4 Otto.) 113 (1877), Field argued that a law limiting how much the owners of grain silos could charge for storing grain was a violation of the due process clause, because it violated the owners’ right to do with their property as they pleased—not to protect the general public, but simply to benefit a group that managed to exercise greater political influence than their rivals. The Court majority devised a new test, saying that any business “affected with a public interest” could be regulated by the government in this way, but Field pointed out that the storage of grain was simply “a private business,” and if the legislature could dictate the prices owners could charge simply by declaring that the business is “affected with a public interest,” then “all property and all business in the State are held at the mercy of a majority of its legislature,” which might just as easily

fix the rent of all tenements used for residences, without reference to the cost...[or set prices for] cotton, woollen, and silken fabrics, in the construction of machinery, in the printing and publication of books and periodicals, and in the making of utensils of every variety, useful and ornamental; indeed, there is hardly an enterprise or which the public has not an interest in the sense in which that term is used by the court...and the doctrine which allows the legislature to interfere with and regulate the charges which the owners of property thus employed shall make for its use...has never before been asserted, so far as I am aware, by any judicial tribunal in the United States.

Field rightly saw that Munn would open the door to a flood of government control over businesses, and in the decade that followed (virtually every state held a constitutional convention in the 1870s) legislatures declared industries willy-nilly to be affected with a public interest so that bureaucrats could control large segments of industry. Likewise, in what is probably his most famous opinion—his dissent in The Slaughterhouse Cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36 (1873)—Field insisted that the privileges or immunities clause protected, among other rights, the right to engage in a business without unreasonable government interference—a right protected by the common law for more than two and a half centuries at that time.

It’s ironic that Progressive legal theorists like Roscoe Pound later accused the pro-free market judges like Field of being “formalists.” Field was anything but a formalist, as the quote from the queue case suggests. In Cummings v. Missouri, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 277 (1867), he struck down a Missouri law that required people to swear they’d never been a supporter of secession before they could take certain jobs. This scheme was just a clever attempt at double-punishment for the same offense, Field wrote, and

what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. The Constitution deals with substance, not shadows. Its inhibition was levelled at the thing, not the name. It intended that the rights of the citizen should be secure against deprivation for past conduct by legislative enactment, under any form, however disguised. If the inhibition can be evaded by the form of the enactment, its insertion in the fundamental law was a vain and futile proceeding.

Field ended up serving on the Court longer than any other justice except John Marshall. (William O. Douglas later surpassed him.) During that time, his influence on American law was profound—far greater than is usually recognized by legal historians. Upon his retirement from the bench, Field explained that in his view, the Supreme Court was actually the most democratic of the branches of the government, because while the legislature represents the will of temporary majorities that change over time, the Supreme Court’s job is to preserve the Constitution—the true will of the people—and protect it from legislatures that often abuse their constituents and ignore their constitutional limits.

Field also had a very colorful personal life. He ran for President several times while serving on the Supreme Court, and he’s the only Supreme Court justice ever arrested for murder. David Terry—the Chief Justice of California who had resigned after killing Senator Broderick—threatened Field’s life after Field ruled against Terry’s girlfriend in a divorce case. Field was then assigned a bodyguard, a U.S. Marshal named David Neagle. Not long afterwards, when Field was traveling through Lathrop, California, on judicial business, he happened upon David Terry, who walked up to Field and slapped him in the face. Marshal Neagle immediately pulled out his revolver and shot Terry dead. Although the sheriff arrested both Field and Neagle on murder charges, Field was immediately released and never charged. Neagle, however, was charged, and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that the Marshal could not be tried under state law.

For more on this remarkable figure, check out Paul Kens’ book Stephen Field: Shaping Liberty from The Gold Rush to The Gilded Age, or Carl Brent Swisher’s book Stephen Field: Craftsman of The Law. Field also wrote a memoir of his early days in California. And not long ago I visited his gravesite.
25912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: November 05, 2010, 05:11:37 PM
So, if someone were to tap a phone line without permission, what would happen?  Certainly any intel obtained or evidence derived therefrom would be inadmissable as evidence, but what else would actually happen?
25913  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV on: November 05, 2010, 05:01:17 PM
Thank you for that Sting/Baltic Dog!
25914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 05, 2010, 05:00:20 PM
"not to be the party of do nothings but the party of better ideas and plans and policies.  They can set their agenda and make Bamster say no."


25915  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: November 05, 2010, 04:56:29 PM
She polled even amongst non-union households, but was badly behind with union households.  The unions bussed their people in and now their hooks are deeper into Reid than ever.
25916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: November 05, 2010, 04:55:12 PM
Now that is a very interesting question.   I don't think they made a point of it, but I can't remember any VWs, BMWs, or Mercedes in the garage of any of my extended family-- some of whom were well-to-do.

I remember the first time I did a seminar in Switzerland.  The dominant language was German (and Swiss German which is quite different.  I am told a German usually does not understand Swiss German, but the Swiss Germans also speak German) which naturally served as an NLP anchor to every WW2 Euro theater movie memory that I ever had (and remember I am a born and raised New York City Jew).  The specific trigger for my emotions was one particular man who was the viusal archetype of a death camp guard. A moment of deep introspection was triggered.  Of course he actually was a very nice person!-- as was everyone there and I had a wonderful time.  

While I think the DBMA/Dog Brothers message attracts the kind of people for whom this most certainly is NOT an issue, I think on a continent wide level anti-semitism never died ouot.  In part out of fear of the Muslims within Europe and in part out of desire to model modern multi-culteralism, the Pravdas of mainstream Euro media have fed a stream of poppycock about Israel and Jews which has been imbibed as naturally and thoughtlessly as a fish breathes water.  

Tragically, I think it is ready to be sparked in the fertile fields of human nature for scapegoating when times are bad the old hatred lurks.

25917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: November 05, 2010, 04:39:34 PM
""Who do you think all these maids, grass cutters, nail hammerers, housekeepers, apple pickers are going to vote for?"  - They sound like very dedicated, principled, hard working people in a country where people can jump classes and quintiles in less than a generation.  I would think they would support economic freedoms but one good leader or candidate can not always cut through the rest of the noise they are hearing, and no one is really trying."


In the big picture we can say "We will unleash you to succeed!" but THEN we must be able to specifically name the leashes that hold them back and what we are going to do to cut them.

25918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: November 05, 2010, 04:34:38 PM
Lets be fair here.   As much as I liked Angle for unabashedly speaking Tea Party truths, IMHO we need to remember she was also a pretty awful candidate and not-ready-for-prime-time in many ways.
25919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: In search of stability in Somalia on: November 05, 2010, 11:58:56 AM

Recognizing the continuing limitations of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia, the international community is exerting pressure on the government to reach some level of basic functionality. To do this requires a new approach to stability in the chaotic country, where political infighting has rendered the TFG dysfunctional and the leading Islamist insurgent group is capitalizing on the government’s misfortune. The two-pronged approach involves both political and military maneuvering, while the immediate task at hand is to reduce political tensions in Mogadishu.

On Oct. 31, the Somali parliament approved the appointment of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as the new prime minister of the struggling Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu. A response to pressure from the international community, the move is part of a new multi-pronged approach to stabilizing Somalia by creating space for Somali politicians and technocrats to deliver essential services in Mogadishu and reducing space for leading Islamist insurgent group al Shabaab, essentially isolating it in a geographic triangle in southern Somalia. The approach is a work in progress, however, and it is rife with spoilers.

Recognizing the continuing limitations of the TFG, the United States, Ethiopia and United Kingdom (among other European countries) are exerting pressure on the government to reach some level of basic functionality. Under the current administration of TFG President Sharif Ahmed, political infighting over patronage and job security has rendered the government unable to provide security or deliver jobs and public services. Al Shabaab has taken full advantage of the TFG’s failures by waging a propaganda campaign, trying to show that areas under its control have some basic level of security — however brutal it may be — while anarchy reigns in TFG-controlled areas.

The immediate task at hand for the United States and other countries with a vested interest in a stable Somalia is to bring at least a temporary end to TFG political infighting. The parliamentary approval of the new TFG prime minister is a move in this direction, at least within the Ahmed administration and between the administration and the rival TFG bloc led by parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan. Mohamed will now be expected to form a new Cabinet, and outside pressure is being applied to reduce the size of the TFG Cabinet to fewer than 30 seats, with each presenting planning documents and basic budgets. Expectations for TFG performance are low; wanted at the very least is some progress in delivering basic services in Mogadishu.

Turf battles between the president and speaker are only part of the tensions within the TFG. Always a primary source of conflict is the distribution of power and patronage — the chief means of sustenance in the country — among the dominant and minor clans that make up Somali society. Another point of contention is the relationship between the TFG and its regional and international backers, without which the TFG would not exist. While some Somali politicians in Mogadishu want to achieve Somali objectives, this must be done in concert with outside stakeholders — neighboring countries as well as the United States — which are the driving force behind the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), a regional U.N.-approved peacekeeping initiative.

In the event the Ahmed-led TFG fails to make even minimal gains in creating jobs and providing services, the United States and other outside stakeholders are considering an alternative administrative structure to the TFG, which has a mandate that expires in August 2011. This alternative structure is not yet worked out, but it may involve installing in Mogadishu a technocratic template that would have no political component and would be responsible only for delivering public services. (More about the security component below.) Instead of having a presidential administration and parliament that seem more interested in political perks than in governing, the government in Mogadishu would consist of administrative agencies with such duties as running schools and clinics and operating the seaport and airport. Distinguishing this structure from the TFG, however, will be difficult, since the successful delivery of jobs and services, not to mention security, will certainly have political ramifications.

To counter Somali critics who will complain that not having an arena for political debate would be unjust, the international community will emphasize the importance of political cooperation with the semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland, which have political systems that are functioning and could be someday considered a model for southern Somalia. Political debate will not be taken away, just separated from the task of governance until Mogadishu can show some semblance of stability.

The Military Approach

While political and economic solutions in Mogadishu are being pursued, a military approach is also in play to provide the necessary security. There are several components to this, and U.S. restraint is being applied so the military strategy does not outrun the political strategy, which would risk a popular backlash against the notion that Somalia is being occupied by foreign aggressors. Al Shabaab and other Somali nationalists would be all too happy to take advantage of such a backlash to gain greater grassroots support for their insurgencies.

(click here to view interactive graphic)
The new military approach is similar to an offensive strategy floated in late 2009 that involved the same constellation of forces operating essentially in the same areas, although this time the idea is not to defeat al Shabaab, only to isolate the group in a triangular area of southern Somalia bounded by the towns of Kismayo, Baidoa and Marka. Currently, most of the peacekeepers in Somalia are AMISOM forces, numbering around 8,000 troops, drawn from Uganda and Burundi and deployed in Mogadishu. There is talk of boosting the force level to 20,000 troops, although STRATFOR sources say the true aim is to deploy a total of 12,000 to 13,000 troops and only in Mogadishu (AMISOM has dropped any pretense of planning to deploy troops to other towns and cities in central and southern Somalia). AMISOM calculates that such a force would be sufficient to displace al Shabaab from Mogadishu and confine it to its triangular stronghold in the south.

To help keep al Shabaab contained, Kenya would maintain a blocking position along its border with Somalia. There are still an estimated 3,000 ethnic-Somali Kenyans trained by the Kenyan army deployed on the Kenyan side of the border, fighters who are not expected to invade Somalia. In addition, there is the 1,500-strong Kenya Wildlife Service that was trained by the British, making it a special operations-capable force with expertise in “bush tracking” and the ability to capture any fleeing high-value targets.

Ethiopia also maintains its own forces and allied Somali militias along its border with Somalia. Operations by the Ahlu Sunnah Waljamaah militia and other district-level militias in central Somalia are meant to maintain a buffer that will contain al Shabaab in the area. At this point, neither the Ethiopians nor their proxies in central Somalia have pushed beyond this buffer zone to deploy deeper into al Shabaab territory. Ethiopian and U.S. political and security cooperation with Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug is meant to constrain any al Shabaab movements north from Mogadishu.

U.S. military support in the region is meant to interdict al Shabaab’s supply chain by obtaining and sharing actionable intelligence with Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian allies and striking high-value al Shabaab targets. U.S. forces operate mainly out of Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, with forward operating bases in Ethiopia and Kenya.

There is also a proposal by the African Union to establish an air and sea blockade against Somalia, specifically al Shabaab installations and most notably the port at Kismayo. However, no country has volunteered to participate in such a blockade, including South Africa, which has the largest and most capable navy on the continent and has been looked to for leadership in the proposed effort. STRATFOR sources report an overall lack of political will for what would surely be a difficult and complicated operation.

The Spoilers

Spoilers to this dual-track political and military approach include Somali and regional actors. Somali politicians, including top TFG leaders, are driven now by a need for immediate survival. Knowing that their political careers could end by next August (once Somali politicians leave office their career prospects are essentially over), members of the TFG, including President Ahmed, are playing multiple sides against each other. Ahmed refuses to be beholden exclusively to Ethiopian paymasters and instead is accepting payoffs from regional interests, including Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. His recent power play to force the resignation of former Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, an ally of Speaker Hassan, was a move to reduce the influence of Ethiopia in the TFG (Hassan is an Ethiopian client).

While the approval of Mohamed as the new TFG prime minister created a temporary truce in the Mogadishu government, it also strengthened Ahmed’s hand at the expense of Ethiopia. Ahmed now relies more on a small group of Somali training clerics called the Ahlu Sheikhs, whose origin goes back to the Islamic Courts Union. Aware that Ahmed is not the client it thought he was, Ethiopia must now rely more on its proxy militias in central Somalia. This is not to say that Ethiopian influence in Mogadishu has waned. Ahmed (along with all other Somali politicians) knows his political and physical survival depends on a working accommodation with Ethiopia, which will never stop trying to protect its national security interests in Somalia, unlike other countries like Uganda that have only secondary interests in the country. Likewise, Addis Ababa cannot declare war on the TFG, even if it has little confidence in whoever occupies Villa Somalia. Ethiopia unilaterally occupied much of central and southern Somalia from late 2006 to early 2009 and engendered much grassroots opposition in the process. It would be futile for Ethiopia to repeat this exercise and much easier for it to work through proxies, although such a strategy is not foolproof.

Weakness is inherent in Somalia’s TFG, as is difficulty in selecting and implementing the right policies. In fact, there is no perfectly right policy that can be implemented in Somalia. There must always be compromise among groups of seemingly opposing political interests. The prime-ministerial reshuffle is meant to end the TFG infighting for the time being and is seen as only a temporary setback for Ethiopia. It also means Ahmed now has some breathing room — and no excuses — to deliver much-needed government services to the people of Mogadishu and deny the TFG’s growing grassroots public relations value to al Shabaab.

Read more: A Multi-pronged Approach to Stability in Somalia | STRATFOR
25920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Auschwitz on: November 05, 2010, 11:15:57 AM
Hat tip to CCP:
25921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UN Human Rights Council on the US on: November 05, 2010, 11:14:50 AM
U.N. Human Rights Council Takes Aim at New Target: United States
By George Russell

Published November 05, 2010

The United Nations Human Rights Council, a conclave of 47 nations that includes such notorious human rights violators as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia, met in Geneva on Friday, to question the United States about its human rights failings.

It heard, among other things, that the U.S. discriminates against Muslims, that its police are barbaric and that it has been holding political prisoners behind bars for years.

Russia urged the U.S. to abolish the death penalty. Cuba and Iran called on Washington to close Guantanamo prison and investigate alleged torture by its troops abroad. Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, told it must better promote religious tolerance. Mexico complained that racial profiling had become a common practice in some U.S. states.

Some of these allegations, and many more, come from Americans themselves — especially from a stridently critical network of U.S. organizations whose input dominates the U.N. digest of submissions from “civil society” that are part of the council’s background reading.

For the first time ever, the U.S. came under the Human Rights Council’s microscope as part of the its centerpiece activity, the “Universal Periodic Review,” a rotating examination of the human rights failings and strong points of every country in the world, from North Korea to Norway, by the council's members.

For two hours, council members got to say whatever they wish, good and ill, about the country that has done the most in the past 40 years to establish human rights as a global theme.

The anticipation was that that ill-wishers were planning to pack the line to the speaker’s podium, with complaints from some Western human rights organizations that Cuba, Venezuela and Iran were seeking to “hijack” the microphone and stack the speaker’s list with U.S. critics.

But what really is under review is the gamble by the Obama administration to join the council in the first place, rather than shun it in disdain, as the Bush administration did, along with its predecessor, the U.N. Human Rights Commission, because of its roster of despotic members and unbridled antagonism toward Israel.

The Universal Periodic Review, in which all countries great and small submit to human rights commentary by their peers, is supposed to help install the principle of observing human rights in the farthest reaches of the international community.

But it was also a one-sided fiasco, along the lines of such previous toxic human rights extravaganzas as the U.N.’s 2001 “World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance,” and its 2006 follow-up, which turned into orgies of anti-Israeli posturing and helped to lead to the previous U.N. Human Rights Commission crackup.

So who is supposed to benefit from the U.S. submission to the UPR process?

According to Jim Kelly, director of international affairs for the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies and founder of a blog called Global Governance Watch, the main beneficiaries are likely to be the interest groups that take part in the exercise. “The fact is, they are demanding that the U.S. comply with rights that are already addressed by our own democratic system and laws,” he argues. “They are simply trying to get us to adopt U.N. standards instead of our own. It’s not as if by our participating in the human rights process Cuba is going to clean up its act.”

But according to the U.S. State Department, which led a delegation of high-level American diplomats and government officials to Geneva, the Periodic Review is a major opportunity for Washington to lead the rest of the world by example.

“Our taking the process seriously contributes to the universality” of the human rights process, one State Department official told Fox News. “It’s an important opportunity for us to showcase our willingness to expose ourselves in a transparent way” to human rights criticism.

“For us, upholding the process is very important.”

The same official, however, declared that the “most important” part of the process is “the dialogue with our own citizens.”

That was a reference to the important—and often harshly critical—role being played in the U.S. Universal Periodical Review by American human rights interest groups, or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), also known in U.N. parlance as “stakeholders.”

The Obama administration  has gone to elaborate lengths to consult with such groups in advance of the Geneva meeting. The State Department, has led delegations from a variety of government departments (including Labor, Homeland Security, Education and Justice) to consult with such groups in Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Harlem, and Albuquerque, according to an official at State.

Those NGOs will also get a chance to “engage” with the U.S. delegation in Geneva at what the State Department calls a “first ever town hall meeting,” after the Human Rights Council, composed of national governments, makes its views known. “Many countries stack the room with NGOs that are government controlled,” the State Department official told Fox News, adding that the U.S. obviously doesn’t.

“We hope that the Periodic Review process will be one that sheds new light on issues,” the official added, including “what we learn from our own NGOs, which we take seriously.”

How seriously the NGOs should be taken is indeed, an important part of the question surrounding the human rights tableau in Geneva. For one thing, 103 submissions by those NGOS about U.S. human rights practices—very broadly defined—are already included in the official documentation of the Universal Periodic Review itself.

In that sense, their contents provide a kind of rough road map to the rhetoric that the U.S. may face in the days—and even years—ahead, because the Universal Periodic Review process will be repeated indefinitely into the future, and is supposed to analyze progress from session to session.

According to a dense summary of the submissions circulated by the U.N. in advance of Friday's meeting, the NGOs offering briefs for this Review run a familiar gamut from the American Bar Association and British-based Amnesty International to such specialized groups as the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.

They also include an array of submissions from college legal faculties and their advocacy offshoots; environmental coalitions; and a smattering of other non-American organizations such as the Federation of Cuban Women, based in the Castro dictatorship. (The women’s group objects on human rights grounds to the U.S. embargo against Cuba.)

Even relatively conservative and centrist organizations are represented in submissions by the Heritage Foundation, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, and the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty.


Yet despite their apparent diversity, many of the submissions, as summarized briefly in the U.N. document, point to a number of common themes:

--The U.S. needs to sign, ratify and implement a wide number of United Nations-sponsored human rights conventions, whatever reservations various U.S. governments or courts have had to them;

-- All these treaties and conventions should be “self-executing,” meaning that no subsequent U.S. government action should be required for them to go into effect—regardless of the U.S. constitutional separation of powers, and the separation of powers between federal and state governments;

--the U.S. should have national human rights institutions to coordinate and enforce human rights compliance;

--racial, economic and social disparities are still endemic in the U.S. despite its own civil rights laws, and need to be eliminated to meet “international standards” embodied in U.N. treaties. Amnesty International, for example, charges that “racial disparities continue to exist at every stage [U.S.] in the criminal justice system,” and calls for laws to bar “racial profiling in law enforcement.”

The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, an offshoot of New York University’s law school, goes further, and argues that since 9/11, “the U.S. has institutionalized discriminatory profiling against members of Muslim, Arab, South Asian and Middle-Eastern communities.” The organization calls for federal laws against profiling “on all grounds, with no exceptions for national security and an in-depth audit of government databases/watchlists.”

--barbaric treatment of citizens by U.S. police is allegedly rife. Again according to Amnesty, U.S. police and custody officials “are rarely prosecuted for abuses,” prison conditions “remain harsh in many states,” and “electroshock weapons are widely used against individuals who do not pose a serious threat, including children, the elderly and people under the influence of drink or drugs.”

--U.S. social conditions are dismal. One submission claims, according to the U.N. summary, that 30% of the U.S. population “lacks an adequate income to meet basic needs,” while another notes that “there is an unequal access in the U.S. to basic amenities such as adequate food, shelter, work, healthcare and education. There is also a lack of affordable housing, job shortages and income insecurity, particularly among minorities and women.”

-- native peoples on American soil are badly neglected and need the protection of international treaties, and the U.S. treats immigrants and asylum-seekers badly. At least one organization recommends a ban on deporting indigenous peoples from anywhere in the Americas.

The sheer welter and volume of accusations, recriminations and prescriptions aimed at the U.S. that are embedded in the U.N. summary, however, obscures one important fact—an extraordinary number of them, Fox News has discovered, come from just a single source out of the 103 submissions cited in the U.N. document.

Indeed, no fewer than 60 of 162 footnote citations in the summary—37 percent of the entire total-- refer to a back-up document from a single organization, known as the U.S. Human Rights Network, or USHRN.

The 60 footnotes often cite other submissions as well, but no other organization contributing in the Human Rights Council summary comes close to USHRN as a source for accusations against U.S. behavior. (The energetic Amnesty International, by contrast, finishes in second place with just 23 footnote citations.)

Which raises the question: what, exactly, is the U.S. Human Rights Network?

According to its 423-page submission to the Geneva meeting—actually, 23 separate position papers bound together with a 15 page “overarching report,” or executive summary, USHRN was formed in 2003 as a “new model for U.S.-based human rights advocacy.”

Its intention is to “raise awareness of the human rights network within the broader social justice movement, to create linkages between traditional human rights and social justice organizations, and to facilitate sharing of information and resources among a broader network of activists.”

USHNR’s website is a little more specific: it is an agglomeration of nearly 300 activist organizations whose ultimate aim, “full U.S. compliance with universal human rights standards—will require the development of a broad-based, democratic movement that is dedicated to the long-term goal of transforming U.S. political culture.”

Funding for the network and its Geneva submission apparently comes from the Human Rights Fund, an umbrella group whose steering committee of philanthropies include the Ford Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute, the Overbrook Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Among the network’s membership are some prominent and familiar organizations: the American Friends Service Committee, Fordham University Law Center, the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.

But most of USHNR’s members are a hodge-podge of relatively unknown and local organizations, like the St. Louis-based Organization for Black Struggle, the Progressive Action Alliance (“a group of progressives in the southeast Texas area”), the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and many more.

Some of them are also apparently non-American, like Rebuild Green, whose own website is entirely in German.

What they apparently share, according to their mammoth Human Rights Council submission, is a militant vision of the U.S. as a malignant force. “In the years since UNHRN’s inception,” the document declares, “constitutional protections for U.S. citizens and non-citizens have diminished, economic conditions for working and poor people in the U.S. have deteriorated, and repression has increased.”

Several of the position papers included in the submission are a lot more militant than that, and also seem to emerge from some radical left-wing time tunnel. One of the papers, entitled “Political Repression—Political Prisoners,” harks back to the 1970s to indict the FBI through Operation COINTELPRO for “maiming, murdering, false prosecutions and frame-ups, destruction and mayhem throughout the country.”

It cites the Feds for targeting such far-left organizations as the Puerto Rican Independence Front, the Black Panther Party, the Weather Underground, the American Indian Movement, the Black Liberation Army, as well as “peace activists and everyone in between,” and says that “many of today’s political prisoners” in the U.S. were jailed indefinitely as a result. That repression has increased, the paper argues since 9/11.

The political repression paper demands an “immediate criminal investigation into the conspiracy,” and also new trials for two now-aged left-wing activists jailed on murder charges, Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier.

The repression paper was authored by the National Conference of Black Lawyers and the Malcolm X Center for Self Determination, neither of which are listed among USHRN’s member organizations. It is endorsed by a host of other organizations, however, including at least that is not only a USHRN member, but is also cited in the U.N. summary as the author of a separate submission to the Periodic Review. This seems to indicate that USHRN’s collective viewpoint is being augmented by other, nominally independent contributors to the Review.

Yet another position paper, on “The Continuum of Domestic Repression” in the U.S., asserts that “today, police still routinely make unfounded mass arrests and detentions to keep people off the streets and out of the eye of the media which tends to be accommodating.” It further condemns the use of high-security detention measures against terrorists such as Sayed Fahad Hashmi , a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen who pled guilty this year to conspiracy for providing support to Al Qaeda. Hashmi, the paper says, was held in high-security custody for three years. The paper says such treatment is “typical of how terrorism suspects are being treated in U.S. prisons and courts.”

The “Continuum” paper was submitted by the African American Institute for Policy Studies & Planning, the October 22 Coalition, and the Ida B. Wells Media Institute. None of them are listed on the USHRN website as member organizations.

However, an organization called the Afrikan Amerikan Institute for Policy Studies and Planning, Inc., which calls itself “a volunteer Grassroots, community based think tank created more than 10 years ago,” and is based in Greenville, South Carolina, claims on its website that the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination, co-author of the other repression paper in the USHRN portfolio, is one of its projects. The Coordinator/President-CEO of the Afrikan Amerikan Institute is Efia Nwangaza, a onetime Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate.

On its website, the Oct. 22 Coalition gives its full name as “The October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.” According to its website, its birth “came out of conversations” among a group of radical activists, including a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Since 1996, the Coalition has organized national days of protest annually on its name day, and uses a post office box in New York’s East Village as a focal point for organizing. (The October 22 date, the website says, does not have a “significance in its own right.” The protesters wanted a day when “students would be back in school, and before the elections.”)

The USHRN position paper on U.S. labor relations, however, was submitted by much better-known mainstream organizations. Among them: the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the United Steelworkers and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). None are listed as USHRN members.

Among other things, the labor paper points to declining U.S. union membership as a function of discriminatory U.S. labor laws, including the National Labor Relations Act, and declares that “core internationally established labor rights are not adequately protected by state and federal laws that govern the American workplace” and adds that “workers have resorted to international fora to seek redress.”

It says that corporate harassment, threats, unlawful interrogations and retaliatory firings are “standard practice” in U.S. union organizing, and calls on the U.S. to obey “pertinent international instruments” to, among other things, adopt the Employee Free Choice Act, commonly known as “card check,” to ensure all workers get full federal and state labor law protection “regardless of migration status.” It also calls on U.S. governments give broader latitude to allowing public sector labor strikes.

The sheer expanse of the USHRN effort virtually guaranteed it would have a major impact on the U.N.’s summary documentation for the November 5 Periodic Review—and so, apparently, did the Network’s heavy participation in the State Department’s cross-country “consultations” in the lead-up to the review.

In an acknowledgement at the front of the document USHRN executive director Ajamu Baraka, lauds two of his workers for efforts across the country where they “continually held the State Department to its commitments even though corralling federal officials was not part of their job description.”

Baraka himself is no stranger to strenuous efforts on behalf of his causes. A onetime director of Amnesty International USA’s southern regional director and head of its anti-death penalty campaign, he has been described as “a veteran grassroots organizer with roots in the Black Liberation movement, anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity struggles.”

Personally hailed, according to various reports, by then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, as a human rights activist, Baraka was also listed in May 2000 as an attendee of the first U.N. preparatory committee meeting to lay the groundwork for the Durban World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. He apparently attended as a delegate of the World Peace Council, an organization created in the early days of the Cold War, and which now describes itself as “an anti-imperialist, democratic, independent and non-aligned international movement of mass action.”

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News

25922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: November 05, 2010, 10:55:00 AM
I thought it a recognized phrase, but the gist of it is the idea that they can take a look but cannot use what they find as evidence because there was no warrant.
25923  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Nice Article on improvised weaponry on: November 05, 2010, 12:52:01 AM
25924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-8 on: November 05, 2010, 12:10:26 AM

The job description for many of the existing Police Advisor/Police Trainer positions is written such that somebody who has experience as a deputy sheriff in a podunk county in the USA, somebody who barely ever sees anything more than a medium sized city (if that) and patrols hundreds of square miles by himself, suddenly has some expertise in training and advising police officers in large cities in war torn zones.  Maybe it's just me but simply don't see the connection between experince possessed and skills required.
Now if a lawman has spent time over here (e.g. Reserve duty), then I would probably feel differently.  But absent that I just don't see how 20-years service patrolling Podunk, TN, gives you the experience and knowledge to train and advise the Baghdad police force.
25925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: November 05, 2010, 12:06:28 AM
Ugh.  Murray wins in WA  cry
25926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another on Ron Paul's subcommittee assignment on: November 05, 2010, 12:04:54 AM
by Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON | Thu Nov 4, 2010 6:14pm EDT
(Reuters) - Republican Representative Ron Paul on Thursday said he will push to examine the Federal Reserve's monetary policy decisions if he takes control of the congressional subcommittee that oversees the central bank as expected in January.

"I think they're way too independent. They just shouldn't have this power," Paul, a longtime Fed critic, said in an interview with Reuters. "Up until recently it has been modest but now it's totally out of control."

Paul is currently the top Republican on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees domestic monetary policy, and is likely to head the panel when Republicans take control of the chamber in January.

That could create a giant headache for the Fed, which earlier this year fended off an effort headed by Paul to open up its internal deliberations on interest rates and monetary easing to congressional scrutiny.

Paul, who has written a book called "End the Fed," has been a fierce critic of the central bank's efforts to boost the economy through monetary policy.

"It's an outrage, what is happening, and the Congress more or less has not said much about it," he said.

Paul said his subcommittee would also push to examine the country's gold reserves and highlight the views of economists who believe that economic downturns are caused by bad monetary policy, not the vagaries of the free market.

Global organizations like the International Monetary Fund also will come under scrutiny, he said.

"Eventually we're going to have monetary reform. I do not believe the dollar can be the reserve standard of the world," said Paul, who has called for returning the United States to a currency backed by gold or silver.

Many economists say that the Fed's decisive actions during the 2008 financial crisis prevented the deep recession that followed from turning into a depression. But grassroots outrage over the bank bailouts and other Fed actions helped propel many Republican candidates to victory in Tuesday's congressional elections -- including Paul's son, Rand Paul, who will represent Kentucky in the Senate.

"With a lot of new members coming and the problems getting worse rather better, there's going to be a lot more people who are going to be looking for answers," Paul said.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
25927  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: November 04, 2010, 07:57:52 PM
Anybody have a feel for whether Miller in Alaska has a chance on his legal challenges or not?
25928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The FMs black hole on: November 04, 2010, 12:35:02 PM
The total cost to rescue and then overhaul mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could reach $685 billion, according to estimates published Thursday by Standard & Poor's.

Fannie and Freddie have already cost taxpayers nearly $134 billion, but S&P analysts said Thursday that the government could ultimately be forced to inject $280 billion into the firms because of a slowdown in the housing market.

Any entities that might replace Fannie and Freddie would need new start-up funding that would go beyond the money already committed.

A consensus of academics, industry officials and investors has coalesced around the idea of using the government to provide explicit guarantees for securities backed by mortgages that meet certain standards. Tough questions loom over how those guarantees would be structured and priced and what entities would provide them.

Analysts estimate that it would cost an additional $400 billion to sufficiently capitalize any entities that would take the place of Fannie and Freddie. Those capital levels could be lower, at around $225 billion, if the government were to retain ownership in any surviving entity.

"As it stands now, we believe that addressing the [companies'] problems is likely to be an expensive repair job for U.S. taxpayers," wrote S&P analysts Daniel Teclaw and Vandana Sharma.

While mortgage delinquencies have eased in recent quarters, analysts warned that high unemployment, a weak economy, and a sluggish housing market could prompt costs to rise "substantially" over the next year. "It's no secret that a better economy would help ease the [firms'] predicament," the report said.

The S&P loss estimates are higher than those made last month by the firms' federal regulator. The Federal Housing Finance Agency said that the taxpayer tab for the companies is on pace to reach $154 billion under the current home-price forecast. If the economy enters a double-dip recession and home prices fall more than 20%, the cost to taxpayers could reach $259 billion.

The government took over the troubled housing-finance giants two years ago through a legal process known as conservatorship. The Treasury has promised to inject unlimited sums through 2012 and nearly $300 billion after that in order to maintain a positive net worth and to avoid triggering liquidation.

25929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post 11/4/10 on: November 04, 2010, 11:39:36 AM
Alexander's Essay – November 4, 2010

The Cause of Liberty
"Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions. The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings, and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the tyranny mediated against them." --George Washington

2012 Battle PlanHaving taken a moment to account for the considerable battleground gained in the most significant political offensive between Liberty and tyranny in three decades -- the fight being led by the Tea Party movement against the institution of statism headed by Barack Hussein Obama and his Socialist Bourgeoisie -- we must now press on, as there is no time for rest.

The ranks of conservatives in our national Congress, and in our state executive and legislative branches across the nation, were greatly strengthened in Tuesday's midterm election, but those campaigns were just the beginning of a movement to restore Liberty.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Excessive taxation ... will carry reason and reflection to every man's door, and particularly in the hour of election."

Indeed, taxation was a factor in the seating of House and Senate conservatives, but as was the case with the original Tea Party in December of 1773, these victories were driven by a renewed concern for not just taxation, but taxation without representation.

The new Tea Party movement is much more than a coalition of fiscally conservative Independents and those still under the banner of the Republican Party. This movement is, at its foundation, a philosophical federation of American Patriots who are, first and foremost, bound together by a devotion to the Essential Liberty defined in our Declaration of Independence and the Rule of Law enshrined in our Constitution.

The renewal of this timeless battle between Liberty and tyranny has reanimated the political contests of our era, yet the conventional spin from pundits and news-cycle talkingheads indicates that they have yet to realize that there is much more than "a political pendulum swing" afoot with the legions of American Patriots who now identify with the organic Tea Party movement.

Of course, Obama and his Leftist cadres can't comprehend it either. He insists, "The reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument do not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we're hard-wired not to always think clearly when we're scared. And the country is scared." He says further that those who do not support statism have an inability to "think clearly," and that his detractors' "basic political strategy has been to count on you having amnesia."

May Obama and his ilk continue to cling to those delusions...

Likewise, there are some so-called "moderate" House and Senate Republicans who are nearly as delusional -- those who think they'll be able to return to "business as usual" with a restored Republican majority. If they try to do just that, they'll face the same formidable challenge Democrats now face, because the ranks of conservatives in the House and Senate have been refortified with outspoken constitutional constructionists like Allen West, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and dozens of others. Some of these Patriots unseated Democrats who had held office for decades, and others tossed Republican moderates onto the trash heap of mediocrity.

Establishment Republicans in the GOP are poised to declare "Mission Accomplished" and insist that the "New and Improved GOP" will hold to its stated principles this time around. Patriots won't adopt a "wait and see" strategy, however. Establishment Republicans had their opportunity when they held both the House and Senate under George W. Bush -- and they failed miserably. Instead, we'll insist that they revitalize the Reagan Model for Restoration now.

The re-energized movement for Liberty demands that our elected representatives, regardless of their political affiliation, act in accordance with their sacred oaths to "Support and Defend" our Constitution, and that they reduce the bloated size, function and cost of the central government to comport with its limited constitutional mandate and limited authority.

In the 2012 election and those which follow, we will root up and toss out Democrats and Republicans who fail to honor their oaths. There can be no doubt, though, that Obama and his party will do everything in their power to prevent the decentralization of the Socialist regime they have created.

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25930  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: November 04, 2010, 10:41:54 AM

Exactly so. 

By billing himself as a Mexican champ and tatooing himself with "Brown Power" Cain elevates race to the highest loyalty.
25931  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: November 04, 2010, 10:38:03 AM
As was noted in the China thread, China's claims to the islands in question appear to have genuine legitimacy.  As I see it, the true point was not the posturing of hosting three party talks, the true point/question was whether the US would consider itself treaty bound to defend Japan if these islands were attacked.
25932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: November 04, 2010, 10:27:46 AM
1) Lets keep the OK Sharia C'l amendment issue on the Sharia thread or the C'l issues thread on the SCH forum.

2) Doug:  My intended point was not that AGW is an externality, rather that the structure of the analysis needs to be based around that concept.  As I noted

"a) the science of the purported injury is quite dubious,
b) the proffered solution won't have any effect on the problem, "

I think we are on the same page here.
25933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The world looks at BO after the elections on: November 04, 2010, 10:18:28 AM
The World Looks at Obama After the U.S. Midterm Election
November 4, 2010

By George Friedman

The 2010 U.S. midterm elections were held, and the results were as expected: The Republicans took the House but did not take the Senate. The Democrats have such a small margin in the Senate, however, that they cannot impose cloture, which means the Republicans can block Obama administration initiatives in both houses of Congress. At the same time, the Republicans cannot override presidential vetoes alone, so they cannot legislate, either. The possible legislative outcomes are thus gridlock or significant compromises.

U.S. President Barack Obama hopes that the Republicans prove rigidly ideological. In 1994, after the Republicans won a similar victory over Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich attempted to use the speakership to craft national policy. Clinton ran for re-election in 1996 against Gingrich rather than the actual Republican candidate, Bob Dole; Clinton made Gingrich the issue, and he won. Obama hopes for the same opportunity to recoup. The new speaker, John Boehner, already has indicated that he does not intend to play Gingrich but rather is prepared to find compromises. Since Tea Party members are not close to forming a majority of the Republican Party in the House, Boehner is likely to get his way.

Another way to look at this is that the United States remains a predominantly right-of-center country. Obama won a substantial victory in 2008, but he did not change the architecture of American politics. Almost 48 percent of voters voted against him. Though he won a larger percentage than anyone since Ronald Reagan, he was not even close to the magnitude of Reagan’s victory. Reagan transformed the way American politics worked. Obama did not. In spite of his supporters’ excitement, his election did not signify a permanent national shift to the left. His attempt to govern from the left accordingly brought a predictable result: The public took away his ability to legislate on domestic affairs. Instead, they moved the country to a position where no one can legislate anything beyond the most carefully negotiated and neutral legislation.

Foreign Policy and Obama’s Campaign Position

That leaves foreign policy. Last week, I speculated on what Obama might do in foreign affairs, exploring his options with regard to Iran. This week, I’d like to consider the opposite side of the coin, namely, how foreign governments view Obama after this defeat. Let’s begin by considering how he positioned himself during his campaign.

The most important thing about his campaign was the difference between what he said he would do and what his supporters heard him saying he would do. There were several major elements to his foreign policy. First, he campaigned intensely against the Bush policy in Iraq, arguing that it was the wrong war in the wrong place. Second, he argued that the important war was in Afghanistan, where he pledged to switch his attention to face the real challenge of al Qaeda. Third, he argued against Bush administration policy on detention, military tribunals and torture, in his view symbolized by the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

In a fourth element, he argued that Bush had alienated the world by his unilateralism, by which he meant lack of consultation with allies — in particular the European allies who had been so important during the Cold War. Obama argued that global hostility toward the Bush administration arose from the Iraq war and the manner in which Bush waged the war on terror. He also made clear that the United States under Bush had an indifference to world opinion that cost it moral force. Obama wanted to change global perceptions of the United States as a unilateral global power to one that would participate as an equal partner with the rest of the world.

The Europeans were particularly jubilant at his election. They had in fact seen Bush as unwilling to take their counsel, and more to the point, as demanding that they participate in U.S. wars that they had no interest in participating in. The European view — or more precisely, the French and German view — was that allies should have a significant degree of control over what Americans do. Thus, the United States should not merely have consulted the Europeans, but should have shaped its policy with their wishes in mind. The Europeans saw Bush as bullying, unsophisticated and dangerous. Bush in turn saw allies’ unwillingness to share the burdens of a war as meaning they were not in fact allies. He considered so-called “Old Europe” as uncooperative and unwilling to repay past debts.

The European Misunderstanding of Obama

The Europeans’ pleasure in Obama’s election, however, represented a massive misunderstanding. Though they thought Obama would allow them a greater say in U.S. policy — and, above all, ask them for less — Obama in fact argued that the Europeans would be more likely to provide assistance to the United States if Washington was more collaborative with the Europeans.

Thus, in spite of the Nobel Peace Prize in the early days of the romance, the bloom wore off as the Europeans discovered that Obama was simply another U.S. president. More precisely, they learned that instead of being able to act according to his or her own wishes, circumstances constrain occupants of the U.S. presidency into acting like any other president would.

Campaign rhetoric notwithstanding, Obama’s position on Iraq consisted of slightly changing Bush’s withdrawal timetable. In Afghanistan, his strategy was to increase troop levels beyond what Bush would consider. Toward Iran, his policy has been the same as Bush’s: sanctions with a hint of something later.

The Europeans quickly became disappointed in Obama, especially when he escalated the Afghan war and asked them to increase forces when they wanted to withdraw. Perhaps most telling was his speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, where he tried to reach out to, and create a new relationship with, Muslims. The problem with this approach was that that in the speech, Obama warned that the United States would not abandon Israel — the same stance other U.S. presidents had adopted. It is hard to know what Obama was thinking. Perhaps he thought that by having reached out to the Muslim world, they should in turn understand the American commitment to Israel. Instead, Muslims understood the speech as saying that while Obama was prepared to adopt a different tone with Muslims, the basic structure of American policy in the region would not be different.

Why Obama Believed in a Reset Button

In both the European and Muslim case, the same question must be asked: Why did Obama believe that he was changing relations when in fact his policies were not significantly different from Bush’s policies? The answer is that Obama seemed to believe the essential U.S. problem with the world was rhetorical. The United States had not carefully explained itself, and in not explaining itself, the United States appeared arrogant.

Obama seemed to believe that the policies did not matter as much as the sensibility that surrounded the policies. It was not so much that he believed he could be charming — although he seemed to believe that with reason — but rather that foreign policy is personal, built around trust and familiarity rather than around interests. The idea that nations weren’t designed to trust or like one another, but rather pursued their interests with impersonal force, was alien to him. And so he thought he could explain the United States to the Muslims without changing U.S. policy and win the day.

U.S. policies in the Middle East remain intact, Guantanamo is still open, and most of the policies Obama opposed in his campaign are still there, offending the world much as they did under Bush. Moreover, the U.S. relationship with China has worsened, and while the U.S. relationship with Russia has appeared to improve, this is mostly atmospherics. This is not to criticize Obama, as these are reasonable policies for an American to pursue. Still, the substantial change in America’s place in the world that Europeans and his supporters entertained has not materialized. That it couldn’t may be true, but the gulf between what Obama said and what has happened is so deep that it shapes global perceptions.

Global Expectations and Obama’s Challenge

Having traveled a great deal in the last year and met a number of leaders and individuals with insight into the predominant thinking in their country, I can say with some confidence that the global perception of Obama today is as a leader given to rhetoric that doesn’t live up to its promise. It is not that anyone expected his rhetoric to live up to its promise, since no politician can pull that off, but that they see Obama as someone who thought rhetoric would change things. In that sense, he is seen as naive and, worse, as indecisive and unimaginative.

No one expected him to turn rhetoric into reality. But they did expect some significant shifts in foreign policy and a forceful presence in the world. Whatever the criticisms leveled against the United States, the expectation remains that the United States will remain at the center of events, acting decisively. This may be a contradiction in the global view of things, but it is the reality.

A foreign minister of a small — but not insignificant — country put it this way to me: Obama doesn’t seem to be there. By that he meant that Obama does not seem to occupy the American presidency and that the United States he governs does not seem like a force to be reckoned with. Decisions that other leaders wait for the United States to make don’t get made, the authority of U.S. emissaries is uncertain, the U.S. defense and state departments say different things, and serious issues are left unaddressed.

While it may seem an odd thing to say, it is true: The American president also presides over the world. U.S. power is such that there is an expectation that the president will attend to matters around the globe not out of charity, but because of American interest. The questions I have heard most often on many different issues are simple: What is the American position, what is the American interest, what will the Americans do? (As an American, I frequently find my hosts appointing me to be the representative of the United States.)

I have answered that the United States is off balance trying to place the U.S.-jihadist war in context, that it must be understood that the president is preoccupied but will attend to their region shortly. That is not a bad answer, since it is true. But the issue now is simple: Obama has spent two years on the trajectory in place when he was elected, having made few if any significant shifts. Inertia is not a bad thing in policy, as change for its own sake is dangerous. Yet a range of issues must be attended to, including China, Russia and the countries that border each of them.

Obama comes out of this election severely weakened domestically. If he continues his trajectory, the rest of the world will perceive him as a crippled president, something he needn’t be in foreign policy matters. Obama can no longer control Congress, but he still controls foreign policy. He could emerge from this defeat as a powerful foreign policy president, acting decisively in Afghanistan and beyond. It’s not a question of what he should do, but whether he will choose to act in a significant way at all.

This is Obama’s great test. Reagan accelerated his presence in the world after his defeat in 1982. It is an option, and the most important question is whether he takes it. We will know in a few months. If he doesn’t, global events will begin unfolding without recourse to the United States, and issues held in check will no longer remain quiet.

25934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: November 03, 2010, 11:20:02 PM
Not quite sure I see it that way in this case.  In my analytical framework, pollution is an external diseconomy and as such is a violation of the natural laws of the free market, hence an area where government action is permissable.

The problem here is:

a) the science of the purported injury is quite dubious,
b) the proffered solution won't have any effect on the problem, and
c) it will destroy a lot of economic activity.
25935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: November 03, 2010, 11:16:59 PM
Well, completely apart from whatever I may think on the merits FWIW I think the law will be strongly challenged.  The level of scrutiny required will probably be strict scrutiny and that is a tough standard to meet when the judge is inclined for you to fail. 

Look at how the courts have intervened in gay marriage, gays in the military, etc in contravention of longstanding tradition, state law, initiatives by the people (didn't Prop 8 in CA modify the State Constitution?  I'm not sure, , ,) etc etc I really don't see how a challenge to this law will not get serious consideration.
25936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: November 03, 2010, 10:07:40 PM
This area I think well-suited to his talents.  Hopefully it will keep him too busy for too much foreign affairs.
25937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: November 03, 2010, 04:40:43 PM
"Is the "barfed up" speech a response to my post?"

Goodness no!!!  Just riffing on a theme  smiley

@Doug:  Good post!

GM:  That's a hard to handle political ad!
 cheesy cool cool

25938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This could be awesome , , , on: November 03, 2010, 04:31:17 PM
Senator-elect Ron Paul will be where he may be able to do some serious damage afro
25939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: November 03, 2010, 11:55:37 AM

PLEASE tell me Allen West won!
25940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california on: November 03, 2010, 11:43:05 AM
Whitman didn't vote for much of her adult life, and her schpiel was pretty much identical to our current disastrous governor-- and delivered as robotically as he read his lines as an actor.  No substance there that I could discern, nor much ideological integrity-- just like our current governor.

Fiorina let Boxer paint her with the job-offshoring and the profiteering labels; very stupid.  Also she looked pathetic about 10 days before the election when she was repeatedly asked by a FOX interviewer to name ONE spending cut and could not do so.

Amongst the many of our stupidities yesterday was to reject the postponement of our unilateral global warming law.
25941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The dash for the exits accelerates on: November 03, 2010, 11:35:19 AM

The United States placed Jundallah, a Sunni-Balochi Islamist group active in Iran, on its list of international terrorist entities Nov. 3. In its statement, the U.S. State Department said Jundallah was engaged in a variety of terrorist activities confirmed by the group’s leadership. In recent years, Jundallah has emerged as the most lethal rebel group fighting Iran via its use of suicide attacks targeting Shiite mosques and even the leadership of the country’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Washington’s apparently sudden move to declare Jundallah a terrorist organization, which Tehran previously has accused Washington and its European and Arab allies of backing, represents a huge gesture toward Iran. Washington likely made the move in hopes of reaching an understanding on the balance of power in the Persian Gulf region after U.S. forces exit Iraq. The step follows a number of recent events. These included a preliminary understanding between Iran and the United States regarding a new power-sharing formula in Iraq in the form of a government led by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Washington seeking Iranian input in the process toward a settlement in Iraq, Iranian cooperation in Afghanistan, and Iran not creating instability in Lebanon.

Declaring Jundallah a terrorist organization is also part of the Obama administration’s efforts to reach an overall bilateral understanding with Tehran. This has become especially urgent given the new Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives, which will force Obama to show progress on the foreign policy front if he wants to be re-elected. All eyes will now be on Iran for its reaction and/or a reciprocal gesture, particularly on the nuclear issue — for which talks are scheduled for this month — and on the Sunni share of power in the Iraqi government.

Read more: The U.S. Reaches Out to Iran on Jundallah | STRATFOR
25942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A tentative handover on: November 03, 2010, 10:50:38 AM
second post of the morning

The indeterminate state of the war in Afghanistan continues, with reports of progress by the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the south and southwest and Taliban reversals elsewhere in the country.

In Helmand province, U.S. Marines have reportedly begun to hand over control of small outposts in Nawa-i-Barakzayi district to Afghan security forces. The U.S. Marines have been operating in Helmand for several years now, reinforcing British, Canadian, Danish and Dutch troops who have been holding the line in some of the territory held most tenaciously by the Taliban. Yet despite an influx of combat troops into the province, ISAF units are still spread extremely thin.

(click here to enlarge image)
Despite this dispersal of forces, some important gains appear to have been achieved in denying key bases of support and income to the Taliban. The handing over of outposts to Afghan security forces is the next step toward what amounts to the exit strategy of “Vietnamization.” By any measure, however, this is a small and isolated step. As the winter takes hold and the White House begins to review the efficacy of the current counterinsurgency focus for a report that will be issued next month, the pace and scale of these handovers will be important in gauging their effect. The United States has set a very tight timetable for itself in Afghanistan, and the only way it can stick to it is for Afghan security forces to rapidly step up and take the point in providing day-to-day security district by district. This not only will free up ISAF troops to concentrate their focus and attempt to achieve faster results elsewhere but it will also set the stage for Afghan security forces to operate and function independently, thereby reducing the overall demand for ISAF forces in the country.

Handing over smaller, isolated outposts can reduce the vulnerability of ISAF troops as well as the logistical requirements of sustaining Western forces as opposed to indigenous forces. In many cases, this means the transition could free up forces disproportionate to the size and significance of the outpost itself. The transition could also reflect local understandings being reached that are far more important to the security of the area than the makeup and nationality of forces that occupy the position.

And the most critical part of the handover is not the physical transition but what happens afterward. Obviously, military positions are not turned over to new units without due consideration. And one important consideration in the localized landscape of Afghanistan can be the makeup of an “indigenous” unit, whether it consists mainly of outsiders recruited and trained elsewhere and then shipped in or reflects the area’s distinct demographics and loyalties. This dynamic can either consolidate or undermine the conditions that led to the ISAF handover in the first place.

Going to the Other Side

Farther north, in Ghazni province, as many as 19 Afghan police officers — essentially the entire unit in Khogyani district — apparently defected to the Taliban earlier this week. The local police chief does not appear to have been involved, but the police station reportedly broke radio contact with the provincial government early Nov. 1. When Afghan security forces arrived hours later, the officers and their vehicles, weapons, uniforms and supplies had all disappeared and the police station was burned to the ground. The Taliban claimed all the officers had joined their cause.

The factors leading up to this incident are unclear, but the story is hardly an unprecedented one. For every Taliban contingent that comes over to the government/ ISAF side there is an example of a government contingent going the other way. Police units are particularly vulnerable to acts of coercion and intimidation by the Taliban — particularly in isolated areas far from reinforcements — and are all too often poorly equipped and supported. That, coupled with the perception that the ISAF is on its way out, forces Afghan security personnel to fend for themselves day-to-day and to think very seriously about the long-term implications of loyalty.

The modern history of conflict in Afghanistan is rife with the changing of sides. Hizb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a notorious case in point. He fought against the Soviets and even served as the country’s prime minister after the overthrow of the Marxist regime, but he was also quick to change loyalties when it is to his advantage. The ongoing fragility of security in Iraq is a reminder of how tenuous even significant security gains can be. And in Iraq, the demographics are far less complex than they are in Afghanistan, where tribal and ethno-sectarian conflict are not so cut and dry. The Taliban “movement” is a diffuse and diverse phenomenon that finds its support at the grassroots level, and though they practice and enforce a particularly severe form of Islamism, the Taliban are more naturally attuned to local sensitivities and issues.

Durability of the Transition

And this is where the durability of the transition from ISAF to Afghan security forces really comes into question. The Taliban represent a strong and enduring reality in Afghanistan — one that perceives itself as winning. In a world where locals cannot trust either the ISAF or Kabul to guarantee their security, Afghan troops in isolated areas as well as local residents must be concerned about their safety where there is no meaningful ISAF or Afghan security presence day-to-day.

The ISAF is hindered by its alliance with the regime of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is widely perceived as being not only corrupt but also distant and uninterested in providing for local needs (or unable to do so). Indeed, some of Kabul’s successes (including recent operations in the city of Kandahar and the surrounding districts of Argandab, Panjwai and Zhari) reportedly have involved local warlord militias that exist outside the aegis of the Afghan security apparatus and beyond Kabul’s control. These forces are often more capable and aggressive than official government units, but the question of their loyalty remains an issue, and there are long-term implications in creating, supporting and strengthening independent militias in a country that already has too many of them.

The overarching U.S. strategy of crafting the conditions for a withdrawal make near-term and even potentially short-lived gains important. But the long-term gains are what count, and the United States continues to suffer from its alliance with an artificial, weak and compromised central government in a country where all politics really is local.

Just as the Vietnamization strategy hangs on wider regional arrangements with countries like Pakistan and Iran, the successful handover of an isolated outpost depends on local political accommodations. And the durability of the security transition just beginning in southern and southwestern Afghanistan will be an important gauge of the time and space that actually has been created by the surge of forces into Afghanistan.

Read more: A Week in the War: Afghanistan, Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2010 | STRATFOR
25943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Chronicle 11/03/10 on: November 03, 2010, 10:46:23 AM
Chronicle · November 3, 2010

The Foundation
"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree." --James Madison

Editorial Exegesis
"Republicans celebrating yesterday's ballot-box drubbing of Democrats should not be lulled into thinking their virtues carried the day. The election was first and foremost a referendum on the policies of President Obama and congressional Democrats. That verdict was clear: The American people want change. Not the empty phrases promising 'change' that scrolled across Mr. Obama's teleprompter during the 2008 campaign. By now, voters have realized there is no difference between the statist policies of FDR and LBJ and those on offer from BHO. The public is demanding an immediate change away from the big-government direction of Congress and this administration. That's why California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi's brief four-year grasp on the speaker's gavel will come to an end in January. ... Newly elected Tea Partiers are likely to remain true to their platform of reducing taxation and regulation so that the economy might have room to grow. But if history is any guide, establishment Republicans will need to be continually reminded why they were given a governing majority. The Republican congressional sweep in 1994 promised to shake up the way things had been done for decades, and the new majority delivered in the early years. By 2006, Republicans lost their way. Instead of standing on principle, most devolved into business-as-usual politicians desperate to retain office by spreading around the public's money in earmarks and other pork. They lost sight of why they went to Washington in the first place, and their fall was inevitable. When the contest is over who can spend the most, Democrats are going to win every time. Republicans who run on a message of fiscal restraint have a chance because Americans realize families and individuals will be the ones paying for the government's spending spree for decades to come. That's why fiscal conservatism has now carried the day. Should the new Congress hold true to the principles of limited government, Republicans will build upon a lasting majority as future ballots are cast for them, rather than against their opponents." --The Washington Times

It's Morning in America
"Well, the big difference here and in '94 was you've got me." So said Barack Obama earlier this year on the campaign trail. He made a difference alright, just not the one Democrats were hoping to see.

As of this writing, Republicans are expected to pick up between 60 and 70 House seats. They needed 39 to gain control of the chamber and oust Nancy Pelosi from the speakership. In the Senate, the GOP picked up at least six seats, with three races too close to call. Democrats will hold onto the Senate, however, with at least 51 seats.

Republicans also picked up at least 10 governorships from Democrat control: Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Along with numerous state house pickups, Republicans are now in position to control redistricting after the 2010 census.

Here are a few highlights (and lowlights) from congressional races. Republicans picked up Barack Obama's former Senate seat in Illinois, but lost Joe Biden's in Delaware. Marco Rubio easily won Florida's Senate seat over two challengers, while Republicans ousted Democrat incumbents in Wisconsin (Russ Feingold) and Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln).

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the night was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid beat Tea Party-backed challenger Sharron Angle. Then again, on the bright side, inept Harry Reid is still the Democrat leader.

On the House side, half of the Blue-Dog caucus of so-called "conservative" Democrats lost, dropping their numbers from 54 to 26. Of course, only 24 of those 54 voted against ObamaCare, which gives us an idea of just how "conservative" the caucus is. Numerous other Democrats went down in defeat, including longtime incumbents and even some committee chairmen.

We'll have more as the week unfolds, but to be clear, yesterday was not an embrace of the Republican Party. Far from it. But it was certainly a repudiation of Barack Obama, who personalized the election around his cult of personality. He even told Latinos that they should be inspired to "punish" their "enemies" on Election Day. More important, it was a rebuke of Democrats' hard push to the left with ObamaCare, cap and trade, financial regulation, looming tax increases for all Americans and massive deficit spending.

Yesterday, voters stood athwart history and yelled, "Stop!"

(To submit reader comments click here.)

"I think that the message is unmistakable that the Obama agenda is dead. ... [N]ow it will depend on how Obama proceeds. He has now tried a two-year experiment in hyper-liberalism, and the country has said no." --columnist Charles Krauthammer

"Democrats will spin Harry Reid's victory and cling to it like the American people allegedly cling to their Bibles and guns, but I see a huge silver lining here for conservatives. ... Yes, Reid would have made a great trophy on the GOP's mantle. But cheer up: He's even better as a leader of Senate Democrats -- depending on your point of view." --columnist Stephen Spruiell

"I so want to believe that the tea party marks the beginning of a comeback for small government. But I'm probably deluding myself. I know that big government usually wins. Remember the last time the Republicans took power? They promised fiscal responsibility, and for six of George W. Bush's eight years, his party controlled Congress. What did we have to show for it? Federal spending increased by 54 percent. That's more than any president in the last 50 years." --columnist John Stossel

"[T]he GOP still faces significant challenges. Heck, an electoral bonanza notwithstanding, Republicans are still fairly unpopular. But if the first half of the Obama presidency proves anything, it is that straight-line predictions lead to political hubris. Events change and attitudes change with them, for every demographic." --columnist Jonah Goldberg

"The Constitution cannot protect us and our freedoms as a self-governing people unless we protect the Constitution. That means zero tolerance at election time for people who circumvent the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. Freedom is too precious to give it up in exchange for brassy words from arrogant elites." --economist Thomas Sowell

"America, its founding principles, its Constitution, its robust liberty tradition and its strength are being stolen out from under us by a man who has no appreciation for America's greatness and who has contempt for ordinary Americans (we're 'enemies'), whom he considers beneath him and unworthy of their sovereign prerogative to preserve this nation. The people have had enough. Consequently, absent unimaginable, comprehensive voter fraud ... we're going to see an unprecedented housecleaning." --columnist David Limbaugh

The Demo-gogues
Clinging to "hope": "Across the board, things have gotten better over the last two years. The question is can we keep that up. We can only keep it up if I've got the friends and allies in Congress, in statehouses. So even though my name is not on the ballot, my agenda -- our agenda -- is going to be dependent on whether folks turn out to vote today." --Barack Obama

Delusional: "The early returns show so far that a number of Democrats are coming out and we are on pace to maintain the majority in the House of Representatives." --soon to be former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Nial) early on election night

"We see high levels of energy on the Democratic side, we saw this early on in the early vote that were submitted, the Democratic votes, the early projections and now you are seeing strong turnouts by Democrats across the country in voting today. All this talk we heard from Washington trying to project the outcome of this election was so obviously immature. This is not over. Voters are sending the opposite message." --Democrat Congressional Committee Chairman Chris VanHollen (D-MD)

Huh? "I still carry this missionary zeal to transform the world." --California Governor-elect Jerry Brown, who seemed to be smoking something that didn't end up being legalized

Bitterly clinging to elitist thinking: "It's absurd. We've lost our minds. We're in a period of know-nothingism in the country, where truth and science and facts don't weigh in. It's all short-order, lowest common denominator, cheap-seat politics." --Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)

Faith in government: "Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive." --Joe Biden

Believable ... and scary: "We have done things that people don't even know about." --Barack Obama

Unfortunately, no: "Am I the last person in America who still adores President Obama?" --Slate columnist Curtis Sittenfeld

Who said it is? "A right-wing Republican takeover of Congress and state capitals isn't something to accept with indifference." --Newsweek's Jonathan Alter

Taxes are just great: "No one will talk about taxes. They are terrified. Somehow the religion, the anti-tax religion has gotten so bad that if you -- if anybody says, 'We're just going to have to [raise taxes],' I mean, it's as if, you know, you killed a baby or something." --CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl (That shouldn't be a problem for your side, which advocates killing babies every day.)

Inevitable Nazi reference: "I mean it isn't far from what we saw in the '30s, where all of a sudden, political parties started showing up in uniform." --MSNBC's Chris Matthews

25944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: November 03, 2010, 10:36:02 AM
Is that only if the "evidence" is to be usable in a prosecution, or does that cover "sneak a peek" stuff too?
25945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Whoops! POTH forgot to mention this , , , on: November 03, 2010, 08:14:17 AM
second post of the morning

General Motors Co. will drive away from its U.S.-government-financed restructuring with a final gift in its trunk: a tax break that could be worth as much as $45 billion.

GM, which plans to begin promoting its relisting on the stock exchange to investors this week, wiped out billions of dollars in debt, laid off thousands of employees and jettisoned money-losing brands during its U.S.-funded reorganization last year.

Now it turns out, according to documents filed with federal regulators, the revamping left the car maker with another boost as it prepares to return to the stock market. It won't have to pay $45.4 billion in taxes on future profits.

The tax benefit stems from so-called tax-loss carry-forwards and other provisions, which allow companies to use losses in prior years and costs related to pensions and other expenses to shield profits from U.S. taxes for up to 20 years. In GM's case, the losses stem from years prior to when GM entered bankruptcy.

Usually, companies that undergo a significant change in ownership risk having major restrictions put on their tax benefits. The U.S. bailout of GM, in which the Treasury took a 61% stake in the company, ordinarily would have resulted in GM having such limits put on its tax benefits, according to tax experts.

But the federal government, in a little-noticed ruling last year, decided that companies that received U.S. bailout money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program won't fall under that rule.

 Neal Boudette discusses GM's IPO plans, which will raise up to $10 billion and cut the government's stake to below 50%.
."The Internal Revenue Service has decided that the government's involvement with these companies, both its acquisitions plus its disposals of their stock, means they should be exempt" from the rule, said Robert Willens, a New York tax consultant who advises investment banks and hedge funds.

The government's rationale, said people familiar with the situation, is that the profit-shielding tax credit makes the bailed-out companies more attractive to investors, and that the value of the benefit is greater than the lost tax payments, especially since the tax payments would not exist if the companies fail.

GM declined to comment.

The $45.4 billion in future tax savings consist of $18.9 billion in carry-forwards based on past losses, according to GM's pre-IPO public disclosure. The other tax savings are related to costs such as pensions and other post-retirement benefits, and property, plants and equipment.

GM may avoid paying up to $45 billion in taxes for up to 20 years, according to people familiar with the situation. Above,GM's Cadillac logo is displayed on the grill of a Cadillac SRX.
.The losses were incurred by "Old GM," the company that remained in bankruptcy after the current "New GM" resulted from the reorganization last June.

.Investors typically view tax-loss carry-forwards losses as important assets in bolstering a company's balance sheet.

GM's chief domestic rival, Ford Motor Co., last year adopted a plan to preserve deferred "tax assets" which stood at $17 billion at the end of 2009. Ford can use the tax attributes in certain circumstances to reduce its federal tax liability. Ford declined to comment on the GM tax ruling.

Write to Randall Smith at and Sharon Terlep at

25946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, corruption etc. on: November 03, 2010, 08:09:08 AM
"I do believe the decisions made need to be reexamined and maybe some arrests made"

Do you believe there is the slightest chance of that actually happening?  The BO DOJ actually undid a successful prosecution brought by the Bush DOJ against the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia wherein the acts in question were fully caught on video (go back in this thread to find all this)

As has already been covered, the current DOJ believes that the voting rights laws are not for the benefit of white people-- but the larger point is that the very legitimacy of the electoral process in many parts of America is under serious attack.
25947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who could have seen this coming? on: November 03, 2010, 07:46:05 AM
Solar-Panel Maker to Close a Factory and Delay ExpansionBy TODD WOODY
Published: November 3, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO — Solyndra, a Silicon Valley solar-panel maker that won half a billion dollars in federal aid to build a state-of-the-art robotic factory, plans to announce on Wednesday that it will shut down an older plant and lay off workers.

Solyndra opened Fab 2, a $733 million factory to make its high-tech solar panels. It plans to close an older facility, shown here.

The cost-cutting move, which will reduce the company’s previously announced production capacity, is a sign of the notable shift in the prospects for cutting-edge American solar companies, which now face intense price competition from Chinese manufacturers that use more established photovoltaic technologies.

Just seven weeks ago, Solyndra opened Fab 2, a $733 million factory in Fremont, Calif., to make its high-tech solar panels. The new plant was supposed to be the first phase of a rapid expansion of the company.

Instead, Solyndra has decided to shutter the old plant and postpone plans to expand Fab 2, which was built with a $535 million federal loan guarantee.

“Fab 2 is much more efficient and cost-effective than our existing facility,” Brian Harrison, Solyndra’s chief executive, said in an interview. “We’re adjusting our plans to be more in line with where the market is and where our business is at the moment.”

When Solyndra filed for an initial public stock offering in December, it estimated it would have a total production capacity of 610 megawatts by 2013 if its two plants were fully built out. The company now expects it have capacity of 285 to 300 megawatts by 2013.

Solyndra abandoned plans for the stock offering in June, citing market conditions.

The company is the most prominent of a wave of Silicon Valley solar start-ups that hoped to transform the economics of the industry. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Energy Secretary Steven Chu helped break ground on Fab 2 last year, and President Obama made an appearance at the unfinished factory in May to extol Solyndra’s innovative technology.

Mr. Harrison noted that the market had undergone a significant shift since Solyndra filed for the stock offering, with solar module prices plummeting as low-cost Chinese manufacturers like Suntech and Yingli ramped up production.

That has put pressure on companies like Solyndra, which makes advanced thin-film solar modules that are less efficient than conventional photovoltaic modules but had been cheaper to install until prices began to fall sharply last year.

Solyndra said it would lay off around 40 employees and not renew contracts for about 150 temporary workers as a result of the consolidation. The closing of the old factory, called Fab 1, will save the company more than $60 million in capital expenditures, executives said.

Mr. Harrison, who became Solyndra’s chief executive in July, said that despite the cutbacks, the company’s production of solar panels for commercial rooftops would double in 2011 from the previous year. He said Solyndra continued to receive large orders from customers.

Depending on how the market evolves, Solyndra could reopen Fab 1 or expand its new factory, Mr. Harrison said.

25948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Kurram Agency and divergent interests on: November 03, 2010, 07:43:40 AM

Two of prominent militant leader Jalauddin Haqqani’s sons have been meeting with tribal elders from Kurram agency in Peshawar and Islamabad in a bid to end Sunni-Shiite violence in northwestern Pakistan’s Kurram agency. Many outside parties have an interest in what happens in the strategic region, including the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, Islamabad and Washington. While having the Haqqanis negotiate a settlement may be a boon to Islamabad and the Afghan Taliban, it will create challenges for the Pakistani Taliban and Washington.

Media reports have emerged that two of important Taliban leader Jalauddin Haqqani’s sons, Khalil and Ibrahim, are involved in peace talks in Pakistan’s tribal belt between Sunni and Shiite leaders from Kurram agency. The talks, which have been held in Peshawar and Islamabad, represent an attempt to settle the long-running sectarian dispute in Kurram agency.

This dispute has expanded beyond localized sectarian violence into one with much further-reaching consequences involving the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban. The implications of the wider struggle encapsulate divergent U.S. and Pakistani interests in the wider region.

A Strategic Area

Kurram agency is one of seven districts in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). With an area of 3,380 square kilometers (about 1,300 square miles), it is the third-largest agency of the FATA after South and North Waziristan. The only area in the tribal badlands with a significant Shiite population, Kurram has a long history of sectarian violence predating the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

The area became the main staging ground for joint U.S.-Saudi-Pakistani intelligence aid for the multinational force of Islamist insurgents battling Soviet forces and the pro-Moscow regime in Kabul during the 1980s, during which time Kurram’s capital, Parachinar, frequently came under attack by Soviet and Afghan aircraft. The influx of predominantly Sunni Afghan and other Islamist fighters altered the sectarian demographic balance to some extent. The Shia bitterly resisted, but Islamabad’s support of Sunni locals overcame their efforts.

Kurram saw its most intense sectarian clashes only after the rise of the Pakistani Taliban phenomenon in 2006-07, however. The agency saw two weeks of violence in April 2007 as sectarian attacks spiraled out of control after a gunman opened fire on a Shiite procession in Parachinar. The violence spread all the way southeast to Sadda before the Pakistani military went in to restore order. Despite a peace agreement between the two sides that officially ended the conflict in October 2008, antagonism between the communities continued to simmer. Violence comes mostly in the form of tit-for-tat small-arms attacks carried out by tribal militias on their Sunni or Shiite neighbors.

(click here to enlarge image)
Tribal and geographic differences reinforce the sectarian conflict. The Shia break down into three major tribes, the Turi, Bangash and Hazara. Meanwhile, eight major Sunni tribes populate most of central and lower Kurram. Sunni and Shia live in close proximity to each other throughout Kurram, which has a population of around 500,000 consisting of roughly 58 percent Sunni and 42 percent Shia.

The Sunnis’ main advantage lies in control of lower Kurram. They have exploited this to close off the only major road from Parachinar, which lies on the edge of the mountains of Upper Kurram, to Thal in lower Kurram — where connections to larger markets of Peshawar and Karachi can be made. Without access to this highway, supplies have become scarce in upper Kurram.

The Shia’s main advantage is control of a strategic piece of high ground that forms a peninsula of Pakistani territory jutting into Afghanistan, territory that has shifted over the centuries between Mughal, Afghan, British and Pakistani control. Upper Kurram provides powers from the east easy access to Kabul, which lies just under 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) from the border between Kurram agency and Paktia province, Afghanistan. This geographic advantage is why the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate decided on it as the location for training and deploying Mujahideen fighters into Afghanistan to fight the Soviets during the 1980s. It is thus key territory for anyone who wants access into eastern Afghanistan — Islamabad and the Taliban included.

The sectarian violence simmering in Kurram complicates Islamabad’s efforts to defeat the Pakistani Taliban while maintaining ties with the Afghan Taliban. The violence has become a more serious threat to Islamabad’s efforts in recent years, as outside forces reportedly have begun to exploit the sectarian violence. Sunni leaders in Kurram have blamed Iran for supplying weapons and cash to their Shiite rivals. While there is little evidence to back up this claim, it would make sense that Iran would want to establish a bridgehead in the Shiite population allowing it to operate in eastern Afghanistan.

The Sunni Militant Landscape in Kurram and the Afghan Angle

Well-known Pakistani jihadist Baitullah Mehsud used the base of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Orakzai to expand TTP influence in Kurram. Following Baitullah’s death, Mullah Toofan (aka Maulana Noor Jamal) emerged as the main TTP leader in the central rim of the FATA. Mullah Toofan now leads efforts targeting Kurram from Orakzai, which has become the main TTP hub since the Pakistani army evicted the group from South Waziristan in a late 2009-early 2010 ground offensive. Many militants subsequently resettled in Kurram.

The TTP formed alliances with the Sunni tribes in Kurram in its bid to establish a sanctuary there. The TTP later began using the sanctuary provided by allied Sunni tribes in Kurram in coordination with Orakzai and South Waziristan to conduct attacks in the core of Pakistan.

For their part, the Haqqanis want a more stable environment in Kurram. Kurram is a key piece of territory for the Haqqani network, which organizes and has sanctuaries in Pakistan’s northwest from which it engages U.S., NATO and Afghan government military forces in eastern Afghanistan as part of the Afghan Taliban’s eastern front.

Islamabad is very open to cooperation with the Haqqanis. They pose no direct threat to Islamabad but have the military and political clout to shape conditions on the ground in northwestern Pakistan — to say nothing of Afghanistan, where Pakistan is trying to rebuild its influence. The Haqqanis are best positioned to convince Sunnis in lower Kurram to open up the road to Parachinar and to restrain Shiite forces from attacking Sunnis (and vice versa). The easing of sectarian tensions, likely if this happens, would hamper the TTP’s ability to grow in Kurram, satisfying Islamabad’s goal in the agency.

If the Haqqanis can successfully negotiate a peace in Kurram (or at least a cease-fire — Kurram’s geopolitical and sectarian rivalries will not simply vanish) it would give them a stronger foothold in an area close to Kabul and eastern Afghanistan. This arrangement would not bode well for security in eastern Afghanistan, where U.S. and coalition forces are concentrating much of their efforts in their current offensive against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

This would come at a bad time for Washington, which is looking to contain the Afghan Taliban as it seeks to bolster the U.S. negotiating position ahead of eventual talks regarding a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Kurram sectarian conflict is also the most prominent example of Islamabad trying to eliminate “bad” Taliban while supporting “good” Taliban. Preventing sectarian violence in Kurram from spiraling out of control and benefiting the TTP requires that Islamabad seek the services of the Haqqanis. This also will help Pakistan’s longer-term efforts to re-establish its influence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces. Kurram thus encapsulates the larger challenges Washington faces in containing a militant movement that enjoys Islamabad’s tacit support.

Read more: Kurram Agency and the U.S. and Pakistan's Divergent Interests | STRATFOR
25949  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Not our GM LOL on: November 03, 2010, 07:24:00 AM
Its from POTH, so caveat lector:

DETROIT — When executives from General Motors begin pitching its public stock offering to investors this week, they will extol the company’s financial turnaround, its snazzy new car lineup led by the plug-in Chevrolet Volt, and its growing operations in China and other international markets.

Ron Bloom, the administration’s point man in dealing with G.M., has kept in close touch with the top company executives.
Absent from the pitch? The extraordinary role that the federal government has played in fixing the nation’s biggest automaker.

While the government’s $50 billion bailout last year saved G.M. from liquidation, the Obama administration has taken great pains to distance itself from any appearance of running the company. Even a hint of government meddling, administration officials say, could have a negative effect on the value of the American taxpayers’ stake in a publicly traded company.

Yet interviews with G.M. and federal officials show decisions by the government have played a pivotal role in shaping the automaker’s leadership, its business strategies, and now its initial stock offering, which will raise an estimated $10.6 billion at the same time that it reduces the taxpayers’ stake in the company from 61 percent to below 40 percent.

People familiar with the contact between G.M. and the Treasury Department say Ron Bloom, a senior adviser to the Treasury secretary Timothy F. Geithner, is told about actions that G.M. management and the board are contemplating before they occur.

In April, for example, Edward E. Whitacre Jr., the chairman of the G.M. board who also served until recently as its chief executive, discussed a number of possible moves at a meeting in Washington with Mr. Geithner and Mr. Bloom, including G.M.’s plan to buy a finance company.

Similarly, Mr. Bloom was informed beforehand of Mr. Whitacre’s decision to resign as chief executive and the board’s decision to name Daniel F. Akerson — who was one of the government’s hand-picked directors — to succeed him.

Large private investors, like Kirk Kerkorian or Warren E. Buffett, rarely involve themselves in the day-to-day running of companies they hold major stakes in. Instead, they tend to recommend broad strategic parameters and appoint directors to oversee the execution. The Obama administration has taken a similar tack with G.M., the interviews show.

To ensure a fresh start for the company, the government chose a new chairman and several new directors for its board, which in turn picked two of its members to serve as successive chiefs of the company.

The government also set parameters for G.M.’s strategic direction — fewer brands and models, a leaner organization, and a sweeping overhaul of its plodding corporate culture.

And now the government is playing an integral role in the stock sale by deciding how many of its 304 million shares it will sell off and at what price.

“The government has not abdicated control, they have exercised it through the board of directors,” said M. P. Narayanan, a finance professor at the University of Michigan. “If you own 60 percent of the company, you set the direction and let your board carry it out.”

Publicly, the Treasury Department has taken a hands-off approach to current management at G.M. and says it is eager to sell off its shares as soon as possible. It has been a delicate balancing act; while the government avoids direct involvement in decisions at G.M., it still requires management to keep it informed of any major move.

“Demonstrating our discipline on two fronts is integral to protecting the American taxpayer,” said Brian Deese, a member of the president’s auto task force that shepherded G.M. through bankruptcy. “One is letting G.M. make its own decisions and run the business. The other is making good on our commitment to exit as quickly as practicable.”

The point man for the Obama administration has been Mr. Bloom, a central member of the auto task force. Since G.M.’s emergence from bankruptcy in July 2009, Mr. Bloom has kept in regular contact with Mr. Whitacre and Mr. Akerson, who succeeded Mr. Whitacre as chief executive in September.

Otherwise, the revamped board has carried out much of the agenda that the administration’s task force laid out for G.M. after bankruptcy. With Mr. Whitacre taking the lead role, the board hired a new chief financial officer and replaced a number of longtime G.M. executives with younger people and outside hires.

“The government wanted to see new faces in senior management, and the board took care of that,” said David Cole, a founder of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Mr. Cole, whose father was once the president of G.M., said the government had “behaved prudently” in allowing the new management team sufficient latitude to make day-to-day business decisions.

“It’s certainly easier for the administration to take that point of view given how G.M. has performed,” he said. “They can afford to stay out of the details because the company is making money again and is positioned well in the marketplace.”

G.M. was profitable in the first six months of this year, and is expected to report a third-quarter profit as well. The company is also investing in new products, adding jobs, and making moves to cut its debt and fund pension obligations in advance of the stock offering.

The Treasury Department has taken a more direct role in influencing the stock sale at G.M.

Regarding the size of the offering, Washington has been somewhat at odds with G.M. and the Wall Street underwriters.

Whereas G.M. and its bankers wanted the largest offering possible, the Treasury was more interested in getting the best price for the taxpayers’ shares. The government ultimately agreed to sell about one-third of its holdings for a price ranging from $26 to $29 a share after a three-for-one stock split, which it hoped would give the stock room to appreciate in value and bring bigger returns on future divesting.

Mr. Whitacre said in August that he hoped the government would sell all of its shares in the offering and remove the “government motors” label for good.

But that notion ran counter to the Treasury’s goals, and G.M. abruptly stopped commenting on what the government might do with its shares. Even with a sale of a third of its stock, the government will still be the largest shareholder in G.M. for some time to come, perhaps years.

25950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Who could have seen this coming? on: November 03, 2010, 07:16:24 AM
Solar-Panel Maker to Close a Factory and Delay ExpansionBy TODD WOODY
Published: November 3, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO — Solyndra, a Silicon Valley solar-panel maker that won half a billion dollars in federal aid to build a state-of-the-art robotic factory, plans to announce on Wednesday that it will shut down an older plant and lay off workers.

Solyndra opened Fab 2, a $733 million factory to make its high-tech solar panels. It plans to close an older facility, shown here.

The cost-cutting move, which will reduce the company’s previously announced production capacity, is a sign of the notable shift in the prospects for cutting-edge American solar companies, which now face intense price competition from Chinese manufacturers that use more established photovoltaic technologies.

Just seven weeks ago, Solyndra opened Fab 2, a $733 million factory in Fremont, Calif., to make its high-tech solar panels. The new plant was supposed to be the first phase of a rapid expansion of the company.

Instead, Solyndra has decided to shutter the old plant and postpone plans to expand Fab 2, which was built with a $535 million federal loan guarantee.

“Fab 2 is much more efficient and cost-effective than our existing facility,” Brian Harrison, Solyndra’s chief executive, said in an interview. “We’re adjusting our plans to be more in line with where the market is and where our business is at the moment.”

When Solyndra filed for an initial public stock offering in December, it estimated it would have a total production capacity of 610 megawatts by 2013 if its two plants were fully built out. The company now expects it have capacity of 285 to 300 megawatts by 2013.

Solyndra abandoned plans for the stock offering in June, citing market conditions.

The company is the most prominent of a wave of Silicon Valley solar start-ups that hoped to transform the economics of the industry. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Energy Secretary Steven Chu helped break ground on Fab 2 last year, and President Obama made an appearance at the unfinished factory in May to extol Solyndra’s innovative technology.

Mr. Harrison noted that the market had undergone a significant shift since Solyndra filed for the stock offering, with solar module prices plummeting as low-cost Chinese manufacturers like Suntech and Yingli ramped up production.

That has put pressure on companies like Solyndra, which makes advanced thin-film solar modules that are less efficient than conventional photovoltaic modules but had been cheaper to install until prices began to fall sharply last year.

Solyndra said it would lay off around 40 employees and not renew contracts for about 150 temporary workers as a result of the consolidation. The closing of the old factory, called Fab 1, will save the company more than $60 million in capital expenditures, executives said.

Mr. Harrison, who became Solyndra’s chief executive in July, said that despite the cutbacks, the company’s production of solar panels for commercial rooftops would double in 2011 from the previous year. He said Solyndra continued to receive large orders from customers.

Depending on how the market evolves, Solyndra could reopen Fab 1 or expand its new factory, Mr. Harrison said.

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