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25901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury see 4% GDP growth in 2011 on: December 27, 2010, 02:48:46 PM
Also relevant for cotton prices were the severe floods in Pakistan.  More generally, his point that some price increases are due to a change in the general level of demand and not inflation, is, IMHO, plausible in the current environment.

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Monday Morning Outlook

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First Trust Sees 4% Real GDP Growth in 2011 To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/27/2010


 

Sometime back in 2009, conventional wisdom argued that while the economy would appear to recover from the subprime crisis, the recovery would be tenuous.  A growing chorus argued real GDP would grow at 2% or less, consumption would be lackluster, and any signs of real strength would be ephemeral – based on pent-up demand.
 
Of course, when real GDP grew at an annualized 4.4% over the winter (2009-10) and 3% in the first year of the recovery, the conventional wisdom had an excuse.  “Most of it was inventories,” they said, “and don’t expect this to continue.”  So, when real GDP slowed to 1.7% annualized growth in Q2, they raised the stakes.  They called it a “soft-patch” and argued that a “double-dip” was a real possibility.  At most, they expected a 2% growth rate in the second half of 2010.
 
Instead, we were focused on three things.  First, the economy was not broken.  Once the panic ended, a natural recovery would start.  Second, even without quantitative easing, the Fed was very easy.  And third, productivity would remain robust.  As a result, we predicted 3% growth for the second half (September 20, 2010 MMO).
 
That forecast looks pretty good.  In fact, it may be too low.  Real GDP growth clocked in at a 2.6% annual rate in Q3.  All we need is a 3.4% growth rate in Q4 to get our 3% average, but the data suggest real GDP could expand by more than 4% annualized in Q4, possibly even 5%+.
 
Some of the acceleration in Q4 is because the economy is really picking up speed.  But some of the acceleration in Q4 is also due to a problem the government is having seasonally adjusting oil prices.  This problem artificially boosted growth in late 2009, but reduced growth in mid-2010.  In other words, the soft-patch was never as bad as many thought.  (For further discussion of the problem with oil prices, see our MMO dated November 8, 2010).
 
In 2011, we expect 4% real GDP growth.  The biggest difference between the First Trust forecast and the conventional wisdom is deleveraging.  We do not view the deleveraging process in as negative a light as the conventional wisdom.  Once deleveraging begins to slow, it will not hurt the economy.  If a consumer (or a business) pays down debt but pays down less than she did the prior year, then her spending can go up faster than her income (or profits).  Higher saving is not going to be a negative for the economy.
 
Here are the assumptions behind our forecast for 4% real GDP growth in 2011.
 
Consumption:  Auto sales in October/November were up about 30% from early 2009 levels, and JD Power and Edmunds.com are forecasting even higher sales in December.  Still, the pace of sales remains below the long-term trend in “scrappage,” suggesting further strong gains in sales in the year ahead.  Meanwhile, consumers’ financial obligations are now the smallest share of their after-tax incomes since 1995, and headed lower.  Consumption will grow 3.3% next year, adding 2.3 percentage points to GDP.
 
Business Investment:  Corporate profits and cash on balance sheets are at, or near, record highs.  Meanwhile, capacity utilization has grown from a low of just 68% in mid-2009 to 75% and is on its way to 80% (the long-term average).  Our industrial capacity is depreciating and needs to be updated.  We are on the cusp of a boom in investment in equipment and software.  Business investment should grow about 12% in 2011, adding 1.2 points to GDP growth.
 
Home Building:  Home builders still face the headwind of substantial excess inventories.  However, once those inventories are gone, the pace of housing starts is going to have to be about 150% higher than recent levels.  It may take several years to get there, so we have home building growing 17.5% next year, adding 0.4 points to real GDP growth.
 
Government:  Real government purchases will grow about 2.5% this year.  We assume they will grow at a 1.5% rate next year (below the 30-year average of 2.2%), adding 0.3 percentage points to the GDP growth rate. 
 
Inventories:  Inventories were razor-thin by the end of 2009.  They started to rebound this year and we expect that rebound to continue, but not accelerate significantly.  As a result, we expect the inventory re-build to add only 0.1 point to GDP growth.
 
Trade:  Unless the government fixes its measure of oil prices, expect a wild quarter-by-quarter ride of ups and downs for trade in 2011, just like this year.  Either way, though, trade should, on average, subtract 0.3 points from the GDP growth rate, as the trade deficit expands slightly.   
 
Add ‘em all up and you get a 4% real GDP growth rate for 2011.  Strap in, it’s going to be better than you think.
25902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Mutual fund Retirement investment strategies - is it different this time? on: December 27, 2010, 02:43:02 PM
Canis:

Great subject and great post, but generally we look to minimize thread clutter by using existing threads where one is relevant.  In this case, please lets put this in the "asset protection" thread nearby or the "stock market" thread.

Thank you,
Marc
25903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krugman on: December 27, 2010, 09:34:48 AM
Krugman is usually an ass, but is the main point here a valid one?

Oil is back above $90 a barrel. Copper and cotton have hit record highs. Wheat and corn prices are way up. Over all, world commodity prices have risen by a quarter in the past six months.
 
So what’s the meaning of this surge?

Is it speculation run amok? Is it the result of excessive money creation, a harbinger of runaway inflation just around the corner? No and no.

What the commodity markets are telling us is that we’re living in a finite world, in which the rapid growth of emerging economies is placing pressure on limited supplies of raw materials, pushing up their prices. And America is, for the most part, just a bystander in this story.

Some background: The last time the prices of oil and other commodities were this high, two and a half years ago, many commentators dismissed the price spike as an aberration driven by speculators. And they claimed vindication when commodity prices plunged in the second half of 2008.

But that price collapse coincided with a severe global recession, which led to a sharp fall in demand for raw materials. The big test would come when the world economy recovered. Would raw materials once again become expensive?

Well, it still feels like a recession in America. But thanks to growth in developing nations, world industrial production recently passed its previous peak — and, sure enough, commodity prices are surging again.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that speculation played no role in 2007-2008. Nor should we reject the notion that speculation is playing some role in current prices; for example, who is that mystery investor who has bought up much of the world’s copper supply? But the fact that world economic recovery has also brought a recovery in commodity prices strongly suggests that recent price fluctuations mainly reflect fundamental factors.

What about commodity prices as a harbinger of inflation? Many commentators on the right have been predicting for years that the Federal Reserve, by printing lots of money — it’s not actually doing that, but that’s the accusation — is setting us up for severe inflation. Stagflation is coming, declared Representative Paul Ryan in February 2009; Glenn Beck has been warning about imminent hyperinflation since 2008.

Yet inflation has remained low. What’s an inflation worrier to do?

One response has been a proliferation of conspiracy theories, of claims that the government is suppressing the truth about rising prices. But lately many on the right have seized on rising commodity prices as proof that they were right all along, as a sign of high overall inflation just around the corner.

You do have to wonder what these people were thinking two years ago, when raw material prices were plunging. If the commodity-price rise of the past six months heralds runaway inflation, why didn’t the 50 percent decline in the second half of 2008 herald runaway deflation?

Inconsistency aside, however, the big problem with those blaming the Fed for rising commodity prices is that they’re suffering from delusions of U.S. economic grandeur. For commodity prices are set globally, and what America does just isn’t that important a factor.

In particular, today, as in 2007-2008, the primary driving force behind rising commodity prices isn’t demand from the United States. It’s demand from China and other emerging economies. As more and more people in formerly poor nations are entering the global middle class, they’re beginning to drive cars and eat meat, placing growing pressure on world oil and food supplies.

And those supplies aren’t keeping pace. Conventional oil production has been flat for four years; in that sense, at least, peak oil has arrived. True, alternative sources, like oil from Canada’s tar sands, have continued to grow. But these alternative sources come at relatively high cost, both monetary and environmental.

Also, over the past year, extreme weather — especially severe heat and drought in some important agricultural regions — played an important role in driving up food prices. And, yes, there’s every reason to believe that climate change is making such weather episodes more common.

So what are the implications of the recent rise in commodity prices? It is, as I said, a sign that we’re living in a finite world, one in which resource constraints are becoming increasingly binding. This won’t bring an end to economic growth, let alone a descent into Mad Max-style collapse. It will require that we gradually change the way we live, adapting our economy and our lifestyles to the reality of more expensive resources.

But that’s for the future. Right now, rising commodity prices are basically the result of global recovery. They have no bearing, one way or another, on U.S. monetary policy. For this is a global story; at a fundamental level, it’s not about us.
25904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: The Repeal Amendment on: December 27, 2010, 09:30:45 AM
Pravda on the Hudson struggles to comprehend the Repeal Amendment:

With public attention focused on taxes, the deficit, gays in the military and nuclear arms reduction, little attention has been paid, so far, to the Tea Party’s most far-reaching move to remake American governance. It is contained within a bill, called the repeal amendment, that was introduced in Congress after the election. The bill won the support of the incoming House majority leader, Eric Cantor, and is supported by legislative leaders in 12 states.

The proposal is sweeping, expressing with bold simplicity the view of the Tea Party and others that the federal government’s influence is far too broad. It would give state legislatures the power to veto any federal law or regulation if two-thirds of the legislatures approved.

The chances of the proposal becoming the Constitution’s 28th Amendment are exceedingly low. But it helps explain further the anger-fueled, myth-based politics of the populist new right. It also highlights the absence of a strong counterforce in American politics.

With the Equal Rights Amendment as a model, it demonstrates the scope of the Tea Party’s ambition to drive politics and law far to the right. The E.R.A. failed to win passage, but it influenced Congress and the courts in equalizing the law’s treatment of gender.

Under the Tea Party proposal, the states would have much greater power than the president to veto federal laws. Because the amendment includes no limit on the time in which states could exercise their veto, it would cast a long shadow over any program under federal law.

Because it focuses on giving states power to veto (e.g., taxes) without their shouldering responsibility for asserting it (trimming appropriations because of lost tax revenue), the unintended consequences would likely be at least as important as the intended.

These flaws make the proposed amendment self-defeating, but they are far less significant than the mistaken vision of federalism on which it rests. Its foundation is that the United States defined in the Constitution are a set of decentralized sovereignties where personal responsibility, private property and a laissez-faire economy should reign. In this vision, the federal government is an intrusive parent.

The error that matters most here is about the Constitution’s history. America’s fundamental law holds competing elements, some constraining the national government, others energizing it. But the government the Constitution shaped was founded to create a sum greater than the parts, to promote economic development that would lift the fortunes of the American people.

In past economic crises, populist fervor has been for expanding the power of the national government to address America’s pressing needs. Pleas for making good the nation’s commitment to equality and welfare have been as loud as those for liberty. Now the many who are struggling have no progressive champion. The left have ceded the field to the Tea Party and, in doing so, allowed it to make history. It is building political power by selling the promise of a return to a mythic past.

25905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: Jordan-Iran on: December 27, 2010, 08:21:57 AM


Two weeks ago, Iran scored a massive victory. Jordan, the West's most stable and loyal ally in the Arab world began slouching towards the Iranian Gomorrah.

On December 12, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei met with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman and extended a formal invitation from Ahmadinejad for him to pay a state visit to Iran. Abdullah accepted.

According to Iran's ISNA news agency, Mashei said that Abdullah's visit will begin a new page in bilateral relations and that, "the two countries hold massive potential to work together." Mashei added, "If Islamic states stand united, no country will be threatened."

For his part, Abdullah reportedly said that his country recognizes Iran's nuclear rights and supports its access to peaceful nuclear technology.

Abdullah was one of the first world leaders to sound the alarm on Iran. In 2004 Abdullah warned of a "Shiite crescent" extending from Iran to Iraq, through Syria to Lebanon. His words were well reported at the time. But his warning went unheeded.

In the intervening six years, reality has surpassed Abdullah's worst fears. Not only Lebanon and Syria have fallen under Iranian control. Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, Gaza and increasingly Oman, Yemen and Afghanistan are also either willing or unwilling members of the axis.

In the face of Iran's expanding web of influence and the mullahs' steady progress towards nuclear capability, Washington behaves as though there is no cause for concern. And the likes of Jordan are beside themselves.

In a WikiLeaks leaked cable from April 2009 written by US Ambassador to Jordan R. Stephen Beecroft, Jordan's frustration and concern over the Obama administration's incompetence in handling the Iranian threat was clear.

Beecroft wrote, "Jordan's leaders are careful not to be seen as dictating toward the US, but their comments betray a powerful undercurrent of doubt that the United States knows how to deal effectively with Iran."

On the one hand, Jordanian Senator Zaid Rifai beseeched US to bomb Iran's nuclear installations. Rifai said, "Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won't matter."

But on the other hand, the Jordanians recognized that the Obama administration was committed to appeasing Iran and so tried to convince the Americans to ensure that their appeasement drive didn't come at the Arabs' expense.

Beecroft reported a clear warning from Abdullah. Abdullah cautioned that if the Arabs believe that the US was appeasing Iran at their expense, "that engagement will set off a stampede of Arab states looking to get ahead of the curve and reach their own separate peace with Teheran.

"King Abdullah counseled Special Envoy George Mitchell in February [2009] that direct US engagement with Iran at this time would just deepen intra-Arab schisms and that more 'countries without a backbone' would defect to the Iranian camp."

THAT WAS then. And since then, the Obama administration did nothing after Ahmadinejad and his henchmen stole the presidential election. It did nothing as they repressed the tens of millions of Iranians who demonstrated against the election fraud. The Obama administration did nothing as Iran conducted repeated war games along the Straits of Hormuz, progressed in its nuclear program, deepened its military alliances with Turkey and Venezuela and escalated its proxy war against the US and its allies in Afghanistan.

The Americans said nothing as Iran prevented the pro-US faction that won the Iraqi election from forming a government. They did nothing as Iran forced the reinstallation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki despite his electoral defeat.

As Washington stood idly by in the face of Iran's aggression, Jordan and the other US-allied Arab states watched as Obama harassed Israel, announced his plan to withdraw all US forces from Iraq next year, appointed a new ambassador to Syria and approved more military aid to the Iranian-controlled Lebanese army. And Abdullah and the other Arabs watch now as the US is poised to begin yet a new round of appeasement talks with Iran next month.

Unlike the previous failed rounds of talks, the next failed round of talks will take place in Turkey. Iranian officials are already exulting that Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan will act as Iran's protector in those talks, and so officially end any semblance of Iranian diplomatic isolation on the nuclear issue.

And so, just as Abdullah warned would happen, today he is leading Jordan into the ranks of "countries without a backbone," and making a separate peace with Ahmadinejad.

Jordan is a weak country. Its minority Hashemite regime has failed to dominate its Palestinian majority. And since its inception by the British in 1946, Jordan has depended on Western powers and Israel for its survival.

In acting as he is, Abdullah is following in his father's footsteps. The late King Hussein survived by watching the prevailing winds closely and always siding with the side he believed was strongest at any given time.

When Hussein believed that the West and Israel were weakening, he went with their enemies. He only rejoined the Western alliance after it defeated its foes, and so convinced him that it was stronger. Notable examples of this are his 1967 alliance with Egypt and Syria against Israel and his decision in 1990 to stand with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of Saddam's conquest of Kuwait.

IT IS often erroneously claimed that siding with the metaphorical stronger horse is primarily an Arab practice. In truth, everyone does it.

Take France for instance.

In another diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks, the US embassy in Paris reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy thinks that the Palestinians are stronger than Israel. The report claimed that in Sarkozy's June 2009 meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he told the Israeli leader that he must surrender to all the Palestinian demands because in his view the Palestinians are stronger than Israel is.

Before Sarkozy took office, he was considered a great supporter of Israel and a personal friend of Netanyahu's. But since taking office, he has sided with the Palestinians against Israel. He has been friendly to Syria. Most recently, he agreed to sell one hundred advanced anti-tank missiles to the Hizbullah-controlled Lebanese military.

In light of his comment to Netanyahu it is clear that what motivates Sarkozy to act as he does is his analysis of the power balance between Israel and its enemies. Happily for Israel, Sarkozy is wrong. Israel is stronger than the Palestinians and has the capacity to defend itself effectively against its enemies.

Unhappily for Israel, Sarkozy's analysis is probably based in large part on arguments he has heard from the Israeli Left under Kadima. Over the past several years, Kadima leaders have managed to convince the country's best friends that Israel has no option other than surrender.

This is due to Kadima's obsession with demography and its demented plan for extricating Israel from what it considers predetermined demographic doom.

According to the likes of Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, the fact that there are 6 million Jews and 4 million Arabs west of the Jordan River means that Israel has no option other than surrendering Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to the Palestinians. As far as Livni and her leftist comrades are concerned, it makes no difference that such a move will not decrease the number of Arabs west of the Jordan.

It makes no difference to the Israeli Left that the Palestinian state they hope to build will - with their consent -- bring in millions more Arabs as immigrants into the landmass west of the Jordan River and so quickly render Jews a minority, making war a foregone conclusion.

In short, through their asinine demographic argument - with which they surrender all Israeli claims to the capital city, and to strategically vital land that Israel has valid legal and historical claims to -- Livni and her colleagues tell the likes of Sarkozy that not only is Israel weaker than the Palestinians. They tell these erstwhile friends that Israel is doomed to destruction and there is no reason for them to support it.

Based on these claims, Sarkozy's decision to make a separate peace with Iran through its Palestinian, Syrian and Hizbullah proxies makes sense.

It is important to bear this in mind when one considers the reason that the campaign to delegitimize Israel is gaining momentum. Given the Israeli-fuelled sense among key governments that Israel is a lost cause, as they see it, they have no reason to defend Israel from its detractors. From their perspective, their interests are better served by either standing on the sidelines or turning on Israel the weak horse.

ALL THIS is not to say that the Left is purposely sinking the ship of state. It is simply a victim of its own success. The Left has convinced Europe and the Arabs that it is dedicated to appeasement.

The Left believed that by convincing the Arabs and the Europeans that Israel is serious about appeasing its enemies that they would make an alliance with the Jewish state. And since Europe is stronger than Israel, and the Arabs are a threat to Israel, by winning their favor, the Left believed it would strengthen Israel.

What the Left failed to recognize is that Europe and the Arabs would rather cut a deal with Iran than defend themselves against it. A surrendering Israel is of no use to them. They only like Israel when it wins.

And now that weakness has pushed Jordan over the edge.

The lesson of all of this for Israel is clear. For the past 17 years, in the throes of the Left's strategic blindness, Israel has spent its time emphasizing its weaknesses and its enemies' strengths. This practice must be reversed. Israel must now concentrate on its strengths and its enemies' weaknesses.

For instance, Israel has a stronger claim to the disputed territories that the Palestinians. And Israel is stronger than the Palestinians by every possible measuring rod.

On their side, not only are the Palestinians militarily weak, they have nothing to offer anyone. Because the Palestinian national cause has far more to do with destroying Israel than building a Palestinian state, the Palestinian track record is one of destruction not creation. And this destructive tendency expresses itself on every front.

Iran too is far less powerful than it looks. From the Stuxnet worm, to a faltering economy, from increased domestic sabotage to the continuing opposition bid to overthrow the regime, Iran's soft underbelly is exposed. And it is getting softer all the time.

In contrast, Israel has a stable government. And its economic, technological and military power is constantly growing. Israel is a force to be reckoned with.

Jordan's move into the Iranian camp is not inexorable. Nor is Lebanon's or even Syria's. True, much to the Left's dismay, Israel lacks the option of joining the "countries without a backbone."

But we have a better option. We are strong and we can get stronger. And our enemies have weaknesses and we can weaken them still further.
25906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fed bureaucrats prohibit Xmas in banks? on: December 27, 2010, 08:14:11 AM
It's worth noting not only that the War on Christmas has continued, but now federal regulators have joined the wrong side. Christians should get far more aggressive in fighting back, because the Constitution is on their side.

Various outlets have reported throughout December that regulators from the Federal Reserve told privately-owned banks that they can’t have Christmas displays. It’s illegal for government agents to do that.

The Federal Reserve is a public-private hybrid. In one sense, it’s a private bank with money reserves, and also serves as a clearing house for checks and wire transfers from other banks.

In another sense, it’s a government agency. It was created by Congress and its board members are appointed by the president of the United States. It determines the money supply in the economy and sets interest rates. The Fed has regulatory authority over every bank in the United States. And its regulations and orders carry the force of law.

One such order violates the U.S. Constitution. One Fed regulation, called Regulation B, disallows “words, symbols … and other forms of communication” that “suggest a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion.” That regulation is okay in many circumstances, but not all.

A bank in Oklahoma City displayed Bible verses and had a cross on the tellers’ counter. Some bank workers also wore “Merry Christmas” buttons. Fed regulators visiting the bank said that these displays violated Regulation B, and ordered them removed. A similar situation is unfolding in Nebraska. The American Exchange Bank of Lincoln has also been told to discontinue religious displays.

This is outrageous. Government actors—as that’s what Fed regulators are whenever they give an order to a privately-owned bank—cannot order a private person (and a corporation is a “person”) or the individuals working there not to engage in religious expression. To the extent that Regulation B suggests anything to the contrary, that regulation (and any order based on it) is unconstitutional.

The Constitution is firmly on the side of these banks and private citizens. Bruce Smith is an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), one of the foremost religious-liberty organizations in America, which litigates countless cases nationwide defending religious expressions. About this bank situation involving the Fed, Smith says, “It’s ridiculous that people have to think twice about whether it’s okay to publicly celebrate Christmas. An overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate Christmas and are opposed to any kind of censorship of it.”

It’s unfortunate that the War on Christmas hasn’t gotten much attention this year. With the understandable focus on massive deficit spending and other economic issues, such as the tax-extension deal (loaded with hundreds of billions of dollars in new deficit spending) and the defeated $1.2 trillion omnibus, there hasn’t been a big media appetite for the ongoing secularization of American society.

Yet that’s exactly what we’ve seen. Christmas parades where renamed “holiday parades” this year, despite the fact that Christmas remains a federal holiday officially recognized by this nation. And in the midst of this increasingly anti-Christian bias, we see the inexcusable action of federal regulators telling private banks and citizens that they cannot freely celebrate Christmas.

No federal order or regulation can trump the U.S. Constitution. It’s time for Christians to reengage in this fight for religious liberty. Stop playing defense. Go on offense. Make a New Year’s resolution that next Christmas will see people unapologetically celebrating the birth of Christ, and an uncompromising legal fight against any government officer who tries to stop it.

 
Ken Klukowski
25907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: December 26, 2010, 10:51:16 PM
Generally, but certainly not always, the work women do will tend towards allowing them to express and fulfill the maternal part of their being.  This is sometimes known as "gathering".  Men on the other hand, will tend towards analogs of going out on the hunt.  A society not in overall harmony with the primal rhythms of human life will tend to reproduce little, and educate/transmit its culture poorly.

@GM, that was a fine piece.  Would you post it in the Liberal Fascism thread as well please?

@Doug:  I first ran across those words in a Konrad Lorenz book.  If I remember correctly, "Ontogeny recapitulates philogeny".  After I looked up the words to see what the hell he was talking about, I was left in a state of wonder at the meaning of the thought. 
25908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: December 26, 2010, 04:48:23 PM
"Why are Dads given a free pass when they sacrifice family for their job?"

"Free pass" exaggerates it quite a bit, but yes the standard is, and should be, different.  It is built into both the philogeny and the ontogeny of the human species.
25909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYTimes: Adam Goodheart: The Night Escape on: December 26, 2010, 07:37:22 AM
Charleston Harbor, Dec. 26, 1860

The rowers strained at their oars, gasping with exertion, their breath visible in the chill night air. By good fortune, the water lay almost flat, with just the slightest rolling swell, and each pull drew them several lengths farther on.

None of those men knew that their brief but perilous transit would end up changing American history. Their only thought was of swiftly and silently reaching their destination, barely a mile across the channel: Fort Sumter.
In the second of the three longboats crouched Capt. Abner Doubleday, scanning the moonlit harbor around him. Ahead, in the lead boat, he could make out an unmistakable figure, hawk-like with its beaked nose and enshrouding cloak, clutching something tightly under one arm. This was the garrison’s commander, Maj. Robert Anderson. For weeks, as hostile secessionists drew an ever-tighter cordon around their tiny Union force, Doubleday had speculated endlessly about his close-lipped superior’s intentions. Did Anderson plan to stay put in their pathetically indefensible little citadel at Fort Moultrie, docilely awaiting orders from Washington, until the enemy overwhelmed him? Was the major, a known apologist for slavery, scheming to betray his loyal men to the rebels? Or could he – as Doubleday fervently hoped – be plotting somehow to slip the trap and make a run for the far more secure position that Sumter offered?

The moment of truth had arrived only an hour or so earlier, back at Moultrie. As the sun set over Charleston Harbor, the officers had gathered for their customary late-afternoon tea with the commander. Arriving slightly late, Doubleday greeted his comrades and was met with distracted silence. Then Anderson rose and approached him.

“I have determined to evacuate this post immediately, for the purpose of occupying Fort Sumter,” the major said quietly. “I can only allow you 20 minutes to form your company and be in readiness to start.”

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.Anderson had not previously confided his intentions even to Doubleday, the garrison’s second-ranked officer. He had told only a couple of trusted staff members, whom he’d instructed to charter some vessels, ostensibly to carry the fort’s women and children out of harm’s way. (Many of the men, including Doubleday, still had their families living with them.) On Christmas Day, with Charlestonians distracted by the festivities, crates of essential supplies had been loaded aboard, on the pretext that these were only the noncombatants’ personal effects. A couple of local busybodies showed up at the wharf to supervise the preparations – barring them would have put the secessionist forces on alert – and became suspicious when they saw a crate marked “1,000 ball cartridges” among the cargo. They were quickly assured that this had just been an error, and left after seeing the box offloaded.

As Doubleday realized, the major’s stubborn sense of military honor had trumped his political sympathies. To save his force from ignominious surrender, he would defy the express wishes, if not the explicit commands, of his own superiors in Washington, who wished to do nothing that might offend the aggrieved South. (Anderson, ever the careful West Point academic, had discovered a slight ambiguity of phrasing in the orders that could serve as a loophole.) He would also defy the local secessionist authorities, who had put Moultrie under round-the-clock watch, with armed steamers patrolling the channel between the two forts, under orders to stop or sink any vessel carrying Union soldiers to Sumter.

So now Anderson and his little garrison – barely six dozen officers and men – were crossing just that stretch of water. He had left a small detachment back at Moultrie, manning six heavy cannons. These were loaded, primed and pointed at the channel, ready to fire at any rebel vessel intercepting the troops.

Staying close together, the three boats crossed the broad belt of moonlight, hastening toward the deep shadows cast by Sumter’s hulking walls. As Doubleday peered at the fortress, a strange thought came into his head, one that had occurred to him before: it looked like a prison.

Then, off to one side, he saw a smaller black shape, drawing swiftly closer across the water. Doubleday recognized it: the rebel steamer Nina. An ordinary packet boat in peacetime – a decade earlier, she had borne the body of John C. Calhoun to Charleston – she had recently been pressed into patrol duty. She would be packed with armed militiamen, he knew.

Anderson’s boat and the other one were already veering away, making for the dark shoreline of nearby Sullivan’s Island. Doubleday ordered his own rowers to turn sharply and follow, but the soldiers, inexpert at the oars, bungled the maneuver, leaving their boat flailing in the path of the oncoming steamer.

The Nina drew closer and closer. In an urgent whisper, Doubleday told his men to take off their uniform coats and drape them over their muskets, lest the moonlight reveal the telltale glint of a brass button or polished bayonet. Perhaps, the captain hoped, the rebels might mistake their boat for a civilian vessel. It seemed a desperate, feeble improvisation, but it was now their only hope of escape.

The anxious soldiers saw the Nina’s paddlewheels slow, then stop. Someone aboard seemed to be scrutinizing, pondering. Doubleday’s men, for their part, did not pause; finding their rhythm once more, they pulled hard at the oars, passing within 100 yards of the enemy’s bow. Then the Nina’s engine let off a puff of steam and her wheels turned again, carrying the vessel placidly past.

Minutes later, Doubleday’s boat bumped against the wharf at Sumter. Here his party would have other opponents to contend with. Though the fort was still federal property, not yet seized by the Carolinians, it was superintended by just a single military engineer who oversaw a large team of civilian laborers at work on the fortifications. Many of these men were known to be secessionist sympathizers.


Library of Congress
Entry of Maj. Anderson’s command Into Fort Sumter, published in Harper’s Weekly.And in fact, they were now crowding through the gate toward the wharf. Doubleday saw that many wore blue ribbon cockades, badges of Southern radicalism. “What are these soldiers doing here?” someone shouted angrily.

The captain ordered his small squad into formation. Before his antagonists knew what was happening, they were facing a bristling thicket of bayonets. The startled laborers stumbled back into the fort as Doubleday seized control of the guardhouse. Shortly thereafter, the two boats carrying Major Anderson and the other troops pulled up to the wharf. They placed the disloyal workmen under guard, to be sent ashore to Charleston in the morning. Anderson entered the fort, carrying the bundle he had been holding in the boat: a tightly folded flag.

From the ramparts of Sumter a signal gun rang out, its sharp crack echoing across the water. The detachment back at Moultrie would know that its comrades had arrived at their destination.

As for the secessionists over in Charleston, they would soon awaken to a very unpleasant surprise. “They must have looked upon us as a mouse to play with and eat up at leisure,” one of the Union officers gloated, “but we gave the cat the slip however, and are now safe in our hole.”

At the two forts, men labored through the night, bracing for the fast-approaching moment when that startled cat would unsheath its claws. Midnight passed and dawn approached: one of the last days in a waning year.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
25910  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NY Times: A safer way to tackle on: December 26, 2010, 07:22:39 AM

CARSON, Calif. — They walked through dawn’s thick fog to the practice turf — two dozen boys as old as 17 and as young as 9, giving up a Saturday morning to the coach in the Panama hat.


 Bobby Hosea decries head-first tackling.
“Dip ’n’ rip, baby! Dip ’n’ rip!” the coach said as players ducked under five-foot limbo sticks and exploded out the other side.

“Head up! No! Head up!”

“Not chest up, chest out! Yeah!”

Bobby Hosea, a 55-year-old former defensive back and longtime bit actor, has a singular passion: teaching young football players how to protect their heads while tackling. He has watched too many end up in wheelchairs, even coffins. He sees N.F.L. defenders recklessly diving helmet-first and claiming it is too late to change. He hears youth coaches exhorting tacklers to “lay a hat on him,” a maneuver so neck-crushingly dangerous it could well be called Rushing Roulette.

So Hosea runs camps that focus on one skill — tackling with your head up instead of down, and away from contact — and gives individual instruction to players in and around Los Angeles. As football careens through its dark cloud of head injuries, Hosea sees himself as saving more than the players’ ability to walk and think. He sees it as saving the sport, one youngster at a time.

USA Football, the governing body of Pop Warner and other leagues for players ages 6 to 14, recently hired Hosea as its tackling consultant and placed videos of his technique on its Web site.

“When a kid gets paralyzed or dies, it’s not an accident — the injuries happen because people never teach kids how to tackle the right way,” Hosea told about 20 rapt campers before a session this month. “Everyone’s talking about head injury awareness, awareness, awareness. What are you going to do about it? It drives me absolutely crazy. It’s time for this to stop!”

To lighten things up, Hosea could have amused the youngsters by reading the official definition of tackling, codified at Rule 3, Section 34 of the N.F.L. Rulebook: “The use of hands or arms by a defensive player in his attempt to hold a runner or throw him to the ground.” This quaint approach has evolved into the more gratifying and theatrical act of launching headfirst into a ball carrier’s gut, chest or helmet.

A result has been a steady rise in concussions — estimated at more than 500,000 each season among the 4.4 million children who play tackle football — as well as more rare but catastrophic injuries where vertebrae are crushed or fractured, leaving the player paralyzed.

“A lot of youth coaches have no idea how to teach tackling — they say to just put a helmet in the numbers or light the other guy up,” said Jeff Leets, whose seventh-grade son, Zack, is a defensive end and devoted Hosea pupil from nearby Torrance. “They have the caveman element and don’t want to be told their way is wrong or that their way is unsafe. Or they simply don’t know. It’s sad — you’ve got babies in your hands, man.”

On this Saturday, those babies ranged from a 9-year-old who weighed 70 pounds to a beefy high school senior eyeing junior-college ball. The players did not know Hosea from his playing days at U.C.L.A., in the Canadian Football League or in the United States Football League, nor did they recognize him from recent parts on “24” or “Bones.” To them, he is the tackling guy — equal parts coach, pal and drill sergeant.

Hosea takes a tackler’s most instinctual act — to dive toward a runner, head down and arms extended — and rebuilds it from the turf up. He keeps knees bent, backside out and chest up, bending the spine and forcing the chin and eyes up. Arms remain at the side until just before impact, when the hips and shoulders thrust up into the opponent, only then swinging forward to wrap up the runner and wrestle him down.

Hosea ran drills as unconventional as his method. The players lined up on their knees 10 at a time and flopped forward onto pads with their arms clasped behind their backs, looking like flying fish. In midair, they must call out the number of fingers a coach raises — to prove that their chins are up and eyes are alert. Elsewhere, they must run full speed under horizontal bars only 52 and 60 inches off the ground — Hosea’s so-called Dip-’n’-Rip sticks — before hitting tackling dummies to ensure that they stay low enough with proper form.

Any dropping of the head resulted not just in dozens of push-ups, but also in spirited hooting from fellow students.

“It gives me more confidence on the field — I feel like I’m not going to hurt myself,” said Michael Wilson, an eighth grader from Long Beach. “Before, I didn’t know what I was doing. When I was first taught, all the coach said was to put my head on the ball and knock it out.”

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

Hosea is barely known outside Southern California, where he still collides with traditionalist resistance; several parents at the recent camp said their local coaches disapproved of an outsider teaching their children how to tackle. One mother said she pleaded with local school district officials to use Hosea for their peewee programs but got no response.

Players at Bobby Hosea’s camps are taught to tackle with knees bent, backside out and chests up, bending the spine and forcing the chin and eyes up.
“Bobby’s definitely the real deal — he’s a genius when it comes to this tackling stuff,” said Goldson, noting that teammates occasionally ask him to share the finer points of his tackling style. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know how many concussions I’d have.”
Hosea’s current prodigy is Eric Capacchione, a senior at Torrance South High. Five years ago, Eric said to his father, “Dad, is it normal to see white lights when I tackle?” Bill Capacchione, who played college football and now cannot twist his neck more than a few degrees, knew that those white lights were not good. They were probably concussions.

Bill Capacchione — proudly noting that his surname in Italian means hard head — came upon Hosea’s tackling camps and became a quick convert. Eric has gone to about 100 three-hour sessions over five years, at the standard $40 a session, and this season was Torrance South’s most valuable player, leading the team to the district championship game. His 193 tackles were the second most in the state, according to MaxPreps.com.

“I don’t see the white lights anymore — mainly because I don’t hit my head in there,” said Eric, who will probably receive an N.C.A.A. Division I scholarship. “I don’t have to play afraid.”

This month’s campers certainly let loose. They shuffled and cut, imitated pterodactyls and pummeled foam dummies with a manic verve. At the end, Hosea gathered the group, seated them under a canopy and delivered his strident crescendo.

“Who breaks your neck and damages your brain?” Hosea said, yelling.

“Me,” the youngsters groaned. Dissatisfied, Hosea barked the question to each youngster individually and demanded the same answer.

“Me!”

“Are you ever going to put your head down on a tackle?”

“No, sir.” Not loud enough. “No, sir!”

When the grilling ended, Hosea exhaled. His final words came through a smile warm and hopeful: “You’re the new generation, guys. You’re empowered. You, my friends, are going to change the football world.”

The youngsters rose wearily, gathered their gear and trudged back to the parking lot under what had become a searing California sun. Their heads were up. The fog had lifted.
25911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Tis a rare event, but I am left speechless on: December 26, 2010, 07:11:42 AM
From, surprise!, Pravda on the Hudson:

Bundle up, it is global warming
Judah Cohen

THE earth continues to get warmer, yet it’s feeling a lot colder outside. Over the past few weeks, subzero temperatures in Poland claimed 66 lives; snow arrived in Seattle well before the winter solstice, and fell heavily enough in Minneapolis to make the roof of the Metrodome collapse; and last week blizzards closed Europe’s busiest airports in London and Frankfurt for days, stranding holiday travelers. The snow and record cold have invaded the Eastern United States, with more bad weather predicted.

All of this cold was met with perfect comic timing by the release of a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record, and 2001 through 2010 the warmest decade on record.

How can we reconcile this? The not-so-obvious short answer is that the overall warming of the atmosphere is actually creating cold-weather extremes. Last winter, too, was exceptionally snowy and cold across the Eastern United States and Eurasia, as were seven of the previous nine winters.

For a more detailed explanation, we must turn our attention to the snow in Siberia.

Annual cycles like El Niño/Southern Oscillation, solar variability and global ocean currents cannot account for recent winter cooling. And though it is well documented that the earth’s frozen areas are in retreat, evidence of thinning Arctic sea ice does not explain why the world’s major cities are having colder winters.

But one phenomenon that may be significant is the way in which seasonal snow cover has continued to increase even as other frozen areas are shrinking. In the past two decades, snow cover has expanded across the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Siberia, just north of a series of exceptionally high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, the Tien Shan and the Altai.

The high topography of Asia influences the atmosphere in profound ways. The jet stream, a river of fast-flowing air five to seven miles above sea level, bends around Asia’s mountains in a wavelike pattern, much as water in a stream flows around a rock or boulder. The energy from these atmospheric waves, like the energy from a sound wave, propagates both horizontally and vertically.

As global temperatures have warmed and as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents. So the snow cover across Siberia in the fall has steadily increased.

The sun’s energy reflects off the bright white snow and escapes back out to space. As a result, the temperature cools. When snow cover is more abundant in Siberia, it creates an unusually large dome of cold air next to the mountains, and this amplifies the standing waves in the atmosphere, just as a bigger rock in a stream increases the size of the waves of water flowing by.

The increased wave energy in the air spreads both horizontally, around the Northern Hemisphere, and vertically, up into the stratosphere and down toward the earth’s surface. In response, the jet stream, instead of flowing predominantly west to east as usual, meanders more north and south. In winter, this change in flow sends warm air north from the subtropical oceans into Alaska and Greenland, but it also pushes cold air south from the Arctic on the east side of the Rockies. Meanwhile, across Eurasia, cold air from Siberia spills south into East Asia and even southwestward into Europe.

That is why the Eastern United States, Northern Europe and East Asia have experienced extraordinarily snowy and cold winters since the turn of this century. Most forecasts have failed to predict these colder winters, however, because the primary drivers in their models are the oceans, which have been warming even as winters have grown chillier. They have ignored the snow in Siberia.

Last week, the British government asked its chief science adviser for an explanation. My advice to him is to look to the east.

It’s all a snow job by nature. The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.


Judah Cohen is the director of seasonal forecasting at an atmospheric and environmental research firm.


25912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Palin to AZ? on: December 26, 2010, 12:39:06 AM
http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/7715310-rumors-fly-as-bristol-palin-buys-arizona-home-photos
25913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Last LEO in Juarez Valley, a woman, is kidnapped on: December 26, 2010, 12:36:02 AM
http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/7716583-breaking-lone-female-police-officer-kidnapped-in-juarez-valley-of-mexico
25914  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: December 25, 2010, 04:24:42 PM
FWIW, about once a year I go through a squat cycle.  There is something about squats that is primal and that puts things right.

My squat program is so easy even a dog can do it smiley

When I begin a cycle, I begin at 3 sets of 10x135 (I'm leaving out the tedious details such as set with bar, set of Roman DLs at 95, etc.) The next week again I do 3 sets of 10x135 and 1 set of 5x155. Following week I build up to 1 set of 5x175; then over the following weeks I increase 10 pounds each week until I cease progressing for two weeks. I do this every 7-9 days and in between I make sure to have a day that really pushes the legs athletically.

It may be a mistake or maybe it is due to the injuries I have had, or maybe it is just my temperament, but I really can't stand long distance running.  It bores the hell out of me and tends to irritate my knees and hips. I do think it really important though to develop and maintain peak explosion. 

To that end, I might go to the football field and do 100 yard dashes and a quarter mile or two with some basic football agility drills or I might go to "the Dune" (a monster sand dune in Manhattan Beach) where I do bear crawls up and sprints down and on the last set down I do frog jumps (i.e. plyometrics with big air time and a soft landing). 

That's the essence of my routine in this regard.

Last time I did the cycle (excluding the cycle I tried in the spring that was interrupted by injury) was about 2 years ago. I hit 5x255; I hope to beat that this time. 

Sometimes I do my squats at a gym where the weights are in pounds, and sometimes I do it at a gym where my weights are in kilos, but the bar is the usual 45 pounds. This yields some weird numbers smiley. In the last three weeks my numbers were 5x221, 5x235, and 5x253. This is a faster rate of ascension in the weights than my formula calls for e.g. increase only 7 or let ego chatter drive me to go for an 18 pound jump-- ego won out and I barely made the 5x253 this week. So I think this coming week I will stay at 253 and make sure I nail it with confidence before moving up again.
25915  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: To serve & defend our Constitution; we the unorganized militia; citizenship on: December 25, 2010, 04:15:07 PM
They did not need me.  Certainly it was convenient not to have been called, but the truth is that inside I felt a bit disappointed.
25916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Off the Grid on: December 25, 2010, 12:55:40 PM



KIPTUSURI, Kenya — For Sara Ruto, the desperate yearning for electricity began last year with the purchase of her first cellphone, a lifeline for receiving small money transfers, contacting relatives in the city or checking chicken prices at the nearest market.

Beyond Fossil Fuels


Charging the phone was no simple matter in this farming village far from Kenya’s electric grid.

Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There, she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it behind for three full days before returning.

That wearying routine ended in February when the family sold some animals to buy a small Chinese-made solar power system for about $80. Now balanced precariously atop their tin roof, a lone solar panel provides enough electricity to charge the phone and run four bright overhead lights with switches.

“My main motivation was the phone, but this has changed so many other things,” Ms. Ruto said on a recent evening as she relaxed on a bench in the mud-walled shack she shares with her husband and six children.

As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper, more reliable and more efficient, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people who live far from slow-growing electricity grids and fuel pipelines in developing countries. Although dwarfed by the big renewable energy projects that many industrialized countries are embracing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, these tiny systems are playing an epic, transformative role.

Since Ms. Ruto hooked up the system, her teenagers’ grades have improved because they have light for studying. The toddlers no longer risk burns from the smoky kerosene lamp. And each month, she saves $15 in kerosene and battery costs — and the $20 she used to spend on travel.

In fact, neighbors now pay her 20 cents to charge their phones, although that business may soon evaporate: 63 families in Kiptusuri have recently installed their own solar power systems.

“You leapfrog over the need for fixed lines,” said Adam Kendall, head of the sub-Saharan Africa power practice for McKinsey & Company, the global consulting firm. “Renewable energy becomes more and more important in less and less developed markets.”

The United Nations estimates that 1.5 billion people across the globe still live without electricity, including 85 percent of Kenyans, and that three billion still cook and heat with primitive fuels like wood or charcoal.

There is no reliable data on the spread of off-grid renewable energy on a small scale, in part because the projects are often installed by individuals or tiny nongovernmental organizations.

But Dana Younger, senior renewable energy adviser at the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private lending arm, said there was no question that the trend was accelerating. “It’s a phenomenon that’s sweeping the world; a huge number of these systems are being installed,” Mr. Younger said.

With the advent of cheap solar panels and high-efficiency LED lights, which can light a room with just 4 watts of power instead of 60, these small solar systems now deliver useful electricity at a price that even the poor can afford, he noted. “You’re seeing herders in Inner Mongolia with solar cells on top of their yurts,” Mr. Younger said.

In Africa, nascent markets for the systems have sprung up in Ethiopia, Uganda, Malawi and Ghana as well as in Kenya, said Francis Hillman, an energy entrepreneur who recently shifted his Eritrea-based business, Phaesun Asmara, from large solar projects financed by nongovernmental organizations to a greater emphasis on tiny rooftop systems.

In addition to these small solar projects, renewable energy technologies designed for the poor include simple subterranean biogas chambers that make fuel and electricity from the manure of a few cows, and “mini” hydroelectric dams that can harness the power of a local river for an entire village.

Yet while these off-grid systems have proved their worth, the lack of an effective distribution network or a reliable way of financing the start-up costs has prevented them from becoming more widespread.

“The big problem for us now is there is no business model yet,” said John Maina, executive coordinator of Sustainable Community Development Services, or Scode, a nongovernmental organization based in Nakuru, Kenya, that is devoted to bringing power to rural areas.

Just a few years ago, Mr. Maina said, “solar lights” were merely basic lanterns, dim and unreliable.

“Finally, these products exist, people are asking for them and are willing to pay,” he said. “But we can’t get supply.” He said small African organizations like his do not have the purchasing power or connections to place bulk orders themselves from distant manufacturers, forcing them to scramble for items each time a shipment happens to come into the country.

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

Page 2 of 2)



Part of the problem is that the new systems buck the traditional mold, in which power is generated by a very small number of huge government-owned companies that gradually extend the grid into rural areas. Investors are reluctant to pour money into products that serve a dispersed market of poor rural consumers because they see the risk as too high.

Beyond Fossil Fuels

“There are many small islands of success, but they need to go to scale,” said Minoru Takada, chief of the United Nations Development Program’s sustainable energy program. “Off-grid is the answer for the poor. But people who control funding need to see this as a viable option.”

Even United Nations programs and United States government funds that promote climate-friendly energy in developing countries hew to large projects like giant wind farms or industrial-scale solar plants that feed into the grid. A $300 million solar project is much easier to finance and monitor than 10 million home-scale solar systems in mud huts spread across a continent.

As a result, money does not flow to the poorest areas. Of the $162 billion invested in renewable energy last year, according to the United Nations, experts estimate that $44 billion was spent in China, India and Brazil collectively, and $7.5 billion in the many poorer countries.

Only 6 to 7 percent of solar panels are manufactured to produce electricity that does not feed into the grid; that includes systems like Ms. Ruto’s and solar panels that light American parking lots and football stadiums.

Still, some new models are emerging. Husk Power Systems, a young company supported by a mix of private investment and nonprofit funds, has built 60 village power plants in rural India that make electricity from rice husks for 250 hamlets since 2007.

In Nepal and Indonesia, the United Nations Development Program has helped finance the construction of very small hydroelectric plants that have brought electricity to remote mountain communities. Morocco provides subsidized solar home systems at a cost of $100 each to remote rural areas where expanding the national grid is not cost-effective.

What has most surprised some experts in the field is the recent emergence of a true market in Africa for home-scale renewable energy and for appliances that consume less energy. As the cost of reliable equipment decreases, families have proved ever more willing to buy it by selling a goat or borrowing money from a relative overseas, for example.

The explosion of cellphone use in rural Africa has been an enormous motivating factor. Because rural regions of many African countries lack banks, the cellphone has been embraced as a tool for commercial transactions as well as personal communications, adding an incentive to electrify for the sake of recharging.

M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest mobile phone money transfer service, handles an annual cash flow equivalent to more than 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, most in tiny transactions that rarely exceed $20.

The cheap renewable energy systems also allow the rural poor to save money on candles, charcoal, batteries, wood and kerosene. “So there is an ability to pay and a willingness to pay,” said Mr. Younger of the International Finance Corporation.

In another Kenyan village, Lochorai, Alice Wangui, 45, and Agnes Mwaforo, 35, formerly subsistence farmers, now operate a booming business selling and installing energy-efficient wood-burning cooking stoves made of clay and metal for a cost of $5. Wearing matching bright orange tops and skirts, they walk down rutted dirt paths with cellphones ever at their ears, edging past goats and dogs to visit customers and to calm those on the waiting list.

Hunched over her new stove as she stirred a stew of potatoes and beans, Naomi Muriuki, 58, volunteered that the appliance had more than halved her use of firewood. Wood has become harder to find and expensive to buy as the government tries to limit deforestation, she added.

In Tumsifu, a slightly more prosperous village of dairy farmers, Virginia Wairimu, 35, is benefiting from an underground tank in which the manure from her three cows is converted to biogas, which is then pumped through a rubber tube to a gas burner.

“I can just get up and make breakfast," Ms. Wairimu said. The system was financed with a $400 loan from a demonstration project that has since expired.

In Kiptusuri, the Firefly LED system purchased by Ms. Ruto is this year’s must-have item. The smallest one, which costs $12, consists of a solar panel that can be placed in a window or on a roof and is connected to a desk lamp and a phone charger. Slightly larger units can run radios and black-and-white television sets.

Of course, such systems cannot compare with a grid connection in the industrialized world. A week of rain can mean no lights. And items like refrigerators need more, and more consistent, power than a panel provides.

Still, in Kenya, even grid-based electricity is intermittent and expensive: families must pay more than $350 just to have their homes hooked up.

“With this system, you get a real light for what you spend on kerosene in a few months,” said Mr. Maina, of Sustainable Community Development Services. “When you can light your home and charge your phone, that is very valuable.”
25917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: December 25, 2010, 12:54:50 PM
Freki:  That is fascinating.
25918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: December 25, 2010, 10:28:49 AM
Thank you and to you too Freki-- and thank you very much for keeping the Founding Fathers thread going; it is greatly appreciated.
25919  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 25, 2010, 12:16:00 AM
Rachel:

You are amongst the people for whose presence here I am quite grateful.
25920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 25, 2010, 12:04:26 AM
Go to NoloPress.com 

In my experience they are an excellent legal self-help site.  Indeed, I incorporated Dog Brothers Inc. using the forms from their California Incorporation book.

Again, educate yourself as best you can, then confer with a qualififed attorney.
25921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Frankenstein Health Care on: December 25, 2010, 12:00:51 AM
The historians will long be fighting over the legislative legacy of the 111th Congress. As to its legal legacy, the only real question is whether this just-finished Democratic Congress was the most unserious in decades, or the most unserious in history.

That much is clear from the recent ObamaCare court proceedings. Federal Judge Henry Hudson, responding to a lawsuit by the state of Virginia, last week struck down the core of the law, the individual mandate. His decision came the same week that a coalition of 20 states presented oral arguments against the health law in front of Florida federal Judge Roger Vinson. In October, Judge Vinson ruled against the Obama Justice Department's motion to dismiss the states' lawsuit.

The law professors and think-tankers and media folk who initially ridiculed these lawsuits have now had to dream up sinister reasons for why they are succeeding. Judges Hudson and Vinson, we are told, were both appointed by Republicans and obviously can't be trusted to fairly interpret the law. Some commentators have gone further, suggesting that we are witnessing a cabal of right-wing activists, lawyers and judges conspiring to kill not just ObamaCare, but the entire New Deal. If only.

What the observers seem not to have done is read the briefs, arguments or rulings. Had they done so, they'd see a far simpler explanation for what's going on: Congress earlier this year punched through audacious yet unvetted health legislation, a slapdash political product that is now proving to be an historic embarrassment in its legal shoddiness. The Justice Department is in fact having to play games to defend it, which has only further provoked the courts.

And really, is that such a surprise? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is one of the bigger, more complex pieces of legislation in U.S. history. Yet Democrats never gave it the respect it deserved.

View Full Image

Chad Crowe
 .Look at any other consequential piece of legislation, and the record is brimming with sober congressional investigations into its legal merits and ramifications. ObamaCare? It was a largely unread, 2,700-page fiend—crafted in secret, fed on deal-making, birthed on late-night votes. The Senate and House judiciary committees didn't hold hearings. The record is bereft of letters from congressional chairmen requesting Justice Department legal analyses of the bill. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus actually ruled out of order an amendment that would have required expedited judicial review of the individual mandate. Asked about the bill's constitutionality, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's only retort was: "Are you serious?"

The result is a bill that is "in its design, the most profoundly unconstitutional statute in American history; in its execution, one of the most incompetent ones," says David Rivkin, the lawyer who represents the 20 state plaintiffs in the Florida suit. The best example is the individual mandate, the requirement that all Americans buy insurance or pay a penalty.

Democrats' first drafts of ObamaCare all decisively called this penalty a "tax." Legally, that made sense; few dispute Congress's authority to tax. But as the unpopularity of the bill grew, fewer Democrats wanted to vote for a "tax," and President Obama didn't want to own one.

So Democrats went to plan B. That was to make up an entirely new legal theory—to wit, that the federal government is allowed, under the Commerce Clause, to penalize Americans who do not take part in a specific economic activity (buying insurance).

Put another way, in order to avoid the political inconvenience of a "tax," Democrats based the very core of their bill on a new and untested legal premise—one that is a far bigger affront to the Constitution than New Deal legislation. That's why Judge Hudson struck it down. And since Congress adopted this theory sloppily, in response to political pressure, it has left a record that is killing the Justice Department in court.

Knowing how audacious the commerce-clause theory is, Justice has been trying to argue that the penalty is, in fact . . . a tax. This has only annoyed Judge Vinson, who is well aware of the history, and in fact rapped the Justice Department for the bait-and-switch.

"Congress should not be permitted to secure and cast politically difficult votes on controversial legislation by deliberately calling something one thing," Judge Vinson wrote in October, "after which the defenders of that legislation take an 'Alice-in-Wonderland' tack and argue in court that Congress really meant something else entirely." Ouch.

And yet the Justice Department has continued to put forward wild theories in court—about the Commerce Clause, about the Necessary and Proper Clause—that have no basis in the statutory language of ObamaCare. And it is now playing games with the appeal of Judge Hudson's ruling, arguing against having it go straight to the Supreme Court, where the nation could get some quick clarity. The administration believes its best shot is to drag out the litigation, and hope that time pressures the courts to leave the law alone.

But what else can the Justice Department do? It's stuck defending a steaming pile of a statute. This is the 111th Congress's legacy, one that will last long after its 535 members finish their term.

25922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Tea Partiers and the spirit of giving on: December 24, 2010, 01:04:31 PM
By ARTHUR C. BROOKS
By now everyone knows that the dramatic November election was not an endorsement of Republicanism, but rather a rebellion against expansionist government and an attempt to re-establish America's culture of free enterprise.

The tea party activists behind the wave—and more importantly, the nearly one-third of Americans who classify themselves as "supporters" of the movement, according to Gallup—endure endless abuse from the politicians they have dethroned and the pundits they have challenged. One particular line of attack focuses on their supposed selfishness.

It is common to hear that the popular uprising against the growth of the welfare state, with rising taxes and deficits, is based on a lack of caring toward those who are suffering the most in the current crisis. As soon-to-be ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi puts it, the tea party is working "for the rich instead of for the great middle class." Others have asserted that the backlash against the growth of government is nothing more than an attack on the poor.

Few would disagree that free enterprise is grounded in one's self-interest. But self-interest is not the same thing as selfishness in the sense of unbounded consumption or disregard for the less fortunate. In fact, the millions of Americans who advocate for private entrepreneurship and limited government—whether they are rich or poor—may be stingy when it comes to giving away other people's money through state redistribution, but they are surprisingly generous when it comes to giving away their own money privately.

Americans in general are very charitable, by international standards. Study after study shows that we privately give multiples of what our Social Democratic friends in Europe donate, per capita. But not all Americans are equally generous. One characteristic of givers is especially important in the current debate: the opinion that the government should not redistribute income to achieve greater economic equality.

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 .Consider the answer to the question, "Do you believe the government has a responsibility to reduce income differences between rich and poor?" Many surveys have asked this over the years. In 2006, the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) found that Americans were almost equally divided on this question (52% in favor, 48% against). This is in stark contrast to the Europeans. For example, 94% of the Portuguese in the 2006 ISSP survey were in favor of redistribution; only 6% were against.

When it comes to voluntarily spreading their own wealth around, a distinct "charity gap" opens up between Americans who are for and against government income leveling. Your intuition might tell you that people who favor government redistribution care most about the less fortunate and would give more to charity. Initially, this was my own assumption. But the data tell a different story.

The most recent year that a large, nonpartisan survey asked people about both redistributive beliefs and charitable giving was 1996. That year, the General Social Survey (GSS) found that those who were against higher levels of government redistribution privately gave four times as much money, on average, as people who were in favor of redistribution. This is not all church-related giving; they also gave about 3.5 times as much to nonreligious causes. Anti-redistributionists gave more even after correcting for differences in income, age, religion and education.

Of course, there are other ways to give than with money. Here again the results may be different from what you might expect. The GSS in 2002 showed that those who said the government was "spending too much money on welfare" were more likely to donate blood than those who said the government was "spending too little money on welfare." The anti-redistributionists were also more likely to give someone directions on the street, return change mistakenly handed them by a cashier, and give food (or money) to a homeless person.

So what does all this tell us? Contrary to the liberal stereotype of the hard-hearted right-winger, opposition to income-leveling is not evidence that one does not care about others. Quite the contrary. The millions of Americans who believe in limited government give disproportionately to others. This is in addition to—not instead of—their defense of our free-enterprise system, which gives the most people the most opportunities to earn their own success.

Obviously, not all charity has ideological connotations—nor should it. But for many, especially at this time of year, giving is a cheerful, productive protest vote against the growing state. It is America's quiet tea party.

Mr. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute.

25923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: December 24, 2010, 12:50:44 PM
Uhhh , , , at whom is that directed GM?
25924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hmmm , , , , hum? on: December 24, 2010, 12:20:31 PM
The Claim: Humming Can Ease Sinus Problems
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
Published: December 20, 2010
NYTimes
THE FACTS

Dealing with a cold is bad enough, but when it leads to a sinus infection, the misery can double. Some researchers have proposed a surprising remedy: channeling your inner Sinatra.
Sinus infections — which afflict more than 37 million Americans every year — generally occur when the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed, trapping air and pus and other secretions, and leading to pain, headaches and congestion. Because the inflammation is often caused by upper-respiratory infections, people with asthma and allergies are more vulnerable than others to chronic sinusitis.

Keeping the sinuses healthy and infection-free requires ventilation — keeping air flowing smoothly between the sinus and nasal cavities. And what better way to keep air moving through the sinuses and nasal cavity than by humming a tune?

In a study in The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers examined this by comparing airflow in people when they hummed and when they quietly exhaled. Specifically, they looked to see if humming led to greater levels of exhaled nitric oxide, a gas produced in the sinuses. Ultimately, nitric oxides during humming rose 15-fold.

Another study a year later in The European Respiratory Journal found a similar effect: humming resulted in a large increase in nasal nitric oxide, “caused by a rapid gas exchange in the paranasal sinuses.” Since reduced airflow plays a major role in sinus infections, the researchers suggested that daily periods of humming might help people lower their risk of chronic problems. But further study is needed, they said.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Studies show that humming helps increase airflow between the sinus and nasal cavities, which could potentially help protect against sinus infections.

ANAHAD O’CONNOR scitimes@nytimes.com
25925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: December 24, 2010, 11:57:42 AM
What this woman doesn't know is a lot.
25926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: CIA secrets could surface in Swiss Nuclear Case on: December 24, 2010, 11:49:46 AM
C.I.A. Secrets Could Surface in Swiss Nuclear Case
By WILLIAM J. BROAD and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: December 23, 2010
 
A seven-year effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to hide its relationship with a Swiss family who once acted as moles inside the world’s most successful atomic black market hit a turning point on Thursday when a Swiss magistrate recommended charging the men with trafficking in technology and information for making nuclear arms.

The prospect of a prosecution, and a public trial, threatens to expose some of the C.I.A.’s deepest secrets if defense lawyers try to protect their clients by revealing how they operated on the agency’s behalf. It could also tarnish what the Bush administration once hailed as a resounding victory in breaking up the nuclear arms network by laying bare how much of it remained intact.
“It’s like a puzzle,” Andreas Müller, the Swiss magistrate, said at a news conference in Bern on Thursday. “If you put the puzzle together you get the whole picture.”

The three men — Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, Urs and Marco — helped run the atomic smuggling ring of A. Q. Khan, an architect of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program, officials in several countries have said. In return for millions of dollars, according to former Bush administration officials, the Tinners secretly worked for the C.I.A. as well, not only providing information about the Khan network’s manufacturing and sales efforts, which stretched from Iran to Libya to North Korea, but also helping the agency introduce flaws into the equipment sent to some of those countries.

The Bush administration went to extraordinary lengths to protect the men from prosecution, even persuading Swiss authorities to destroy equipment and information found on their computers and in their homes and businesses — actions that may now imperil efforts to prosecute them.

While it has been clear since 2008 that the Tinners acted as American spies, the announcement by the Swiss magistrate on Thursday, recommending their prosecution for nuclear smuggling, is a turning point in the investigation. A trial would bring to the fore a case that Pakistan has insisted is closed. Prosecuting the case could also expose in court a tale of C.I.A. break-ins in Switzerland, and of a still unexplained decision by the agency not to seize electronic copies of a number of nuclear bomb designs found on the computers of the Tinner family.

One of those blueprints came from an early Chinese atomic bomb; two more advanced designs were from Pakistan’s program, investigators from several countries have said.

Ultimately, copies of those blueprints were found around the globe on the computers of members of the Khan network, leading investigators to suspect that they made their way to Iran, North Korea and perhaps other countries. In 2003, atomic investigators found one of the atomic blueprints in Libya and brought it back to the United States for safekeeping.

Mr. Müller, the Swiss magistrate, investigated the Tinner case for nearly two years. He said Thursday that his 174-page report recommended that the three men face charges for “supporting the development of atomic weapons” in violation of Swiss law.

They are accused of supplying Dr. Khan’s operation with technology used to make centrifuges, the machines that purify uranium into fuel for bombs and reactors. Dr. Khan then sold the centrifuges to Libya, Iran and North Korea and perhaps other countries.

Mr. Müller’s recommendation comes as a new book describes previously unknown details of the C.I.A.’s secret relationship with the Tinners, which appears to have started around 2000.

The book, “Fallout,” by Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz, scheduled to be published next month, tells how the C.I.A. sent the men coded instructions, spied on their family, tried to buy their silence and ultimately had the Bush administration press Switzerland to destroy evidence in an effort to keep the Tinners from being indicted and testifying in open court.

Ms. Collins is a freelance writer and investigator, and her husband, Mr. Frantz, is a former investigations editor for The New York Times and a former managing editor of The Los Angeles Times. He currently works on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The C.I.A. has never commented on its relationship with the Tinners. But the story has leaked out, in bits and pieces, after news reports of Dr. Khan’s illicit atomic sales forced Pakistan’s government to expose the atomic ring and place Dr. Khan under house arrest. But Pakistan never allowed him to be interrogated by the C.I.A. or international nuclear inspectors, perhaps out of fear that he would implicate other Pakistani senior officials.

==========

(Page 2 of 2)



As a result, there has never been a full accounting of his activities, few of his associates have been tried or jailed, and there are strong indications that some of his suppliers are still operating.


But if the Pakistanis were worried about revelations surrounding Dr. Khan and whom he might have worked with in the Pakistani military and political hierarchy, the C.I.A. was worried about the Tinners.
The new book says the Bush administration grew so alarmed at possible disclosures of C.I.A. links to the family that in 2006 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lobbied Swiss officials to drop their investigation.

The book says the C.I.A. broke into a Tinner home in 2003 and found that the family possessed detailed blueprints for several types of nuclear bombs.

Paula Weiss, a spokeswoman for the C.I.A., declined to comment, and lawyers for the Tinners did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Tinners have said that they were not aware that the equipment they supplied was intended for nuclear weapons projects.

Based on Swiss investigators’ findings, the book suggests that the bomb designs may have spread to a half dozen outposts of Dr. Khan’s empire around the globe — including Thailand, Malaysia and South Africa — and sharply criticizes the C.I.A. for leaving those plans in the hands of people suspected of being nuclear traffickers.

In late 2007, the Swiss government, under strong American pressure, decided to drop legal proceedings on espionage charges against the Tinners and other charges against a number of C.I.A. operatives who had operated on Swiss soil in violation of the country’s laws.

In early 2008, the more limited investigation on trafficking charges inched forward with great difficulty because the Swiss government — again at the behest of United States officials — had destroyed an enormous trove of computer files and other material documenting the business dealings of the atomic family. That action led to an uproar in the Swiss Parliament.

But in 2008 Swiss investigators discovered that 39 Tinner files scheduled for destruction had been overlooked, giving the authorities fresh insights into the ring’s operation — and new life for the legal case.

In his news conference on Thursday, Mr. Müller harshly criticized the Swiss government for having “massively interfered in the wheels of justice by destroying almost all the evidence.” He added that the government had also ordered the federal criminal police not to cooperate with his investigation.

If the Tinners are formally charged and their case goes to trial in Switzerland, they face up to 10 years in prison if they are found guilty of breaking laws on the export of atomic goods. All three men spent time in Swiss jails pending the outcome of the espionage and trafficking inquiries. The time they have already spent in jail would count toward any possible sentence.

In early 2009, Marco Tinner was freed after more than three years of investigative detention, and his brother Urs was released in late 2008 after more than four years in jail. Their father, Friedrich, was released in 2006.

Mr. Müller recommended that, in addition to charges of atomic smuggling, Marco Tinner should be accused of money laundering.

The Swiss attorney general is now studying the magistrate’s report and will decide next year whether to file charges against the Swiss family of atomic spies and entrepreneurs.
25927  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 24, 2010, 09:59:51 AM
This thread was originally posted on the Politics and Religion forum and I glitched when I tried moving it to the Science, Culture, & Humanities forum, hence its inadvertent appearance here.  embarassed Finally I have managed to get it on the S,C, & H forum.  Please continue the conversation there.
25928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 24, 2010, 09:57:35 AM
Self-help is good.  The work you do in advance will help you get the most out of your attorney, including the most bang for the buck, but DEFINITELY, HAVE YOUR WORK REVIEWED BY A QUALIFIFIED ATTORNEY.
25929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 24, 2010, 09:54:26 AM
moving Doug's post to here-- my bad for the confusion  embarassed

Canis, good questions. What type of assets are you looking to protect? I looked into Living Trust rules recently to help my parents with their estate planning and realized I should have had one for myself all along.

For real estate, my strategy for limiting liability has been to set up a separate LLC for each property, the idea being to offer some personal protection and limit the damage of one lawsuit to the asset of that property, not a portfolio. The more difficult you can make it look to collect, the less likely you will be sued, at least frivolously. So far I have only done this with new purchases, not gone back and transferred titles yet for earlier holdings. I assume the same strategy would apply for assets other than real estate.  Transferring title though doesn't make all liabilities go away.  Some like environmental liability can pass through the chain of title.

The ownership of each LLC needs to be transferred to the trust.  The Living Trust set up correctly will keep the assets that are in it out of probate, but has no affect of limiting liability.  I don't know of any vehicle that offers both.

I don't know the state you are in, but most people should not need an attorney to set up a Living Trust.  Just start googling and reading; they have fairly straightforward forms.  The key is the followup.  You need to transfer the title legally of each asset to be in the name of the trust, not in the name of you or your wife.  Not just a transfer document in your file, but listed in the name of the trust at the brokerage or at the county records.  There may be reason to set up 2 trusts, one for each of you.  If you have a trust but a property or asset is not transferred to it, that asset goes to probate.  Others can tell you what a nightmare that is.  If the asset is in the trust, then whoever you designate to run it can make decisions, moves, buys, sells immediately without years of court system delays.  The ability to move money around may be necessary just to pay expenses.

I am no expert on this and hope that others jump in with good information or to correct any of mine.
25930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: December 24, 2010, 09:52:51 AM
I think Krauthammer is definitely on to something here, especially with this:

"he had help - Republicans clearing his path and sprinkling it with rose petals." 

Ain't that the Truth!!! angry   
25931  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Quotes of note: on: December 24, 2010, 09:43:35 AM
"Unsustainable developments usually have a longer life than is good for the reputation of the prophet."

internet friend Bob Polhausen
25932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington, Farewell Address 1796 on: December 24, 2010, 09:40:54 AM
"There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favours from Nation to Nation. 'Tis an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard." --George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796


25933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: December 24, 2010, 09:22:18 AM
Finally I just finished the Levison article.  Good to re-examine one's precepts from time to time, but I come down on the particulars pretty much as Doug does.  I would add that we are averaging about one amendment every ten years which counters the notion that our C. is too hard to amend, and that we have the world's longest running constitutional republic.
25934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 24, 2010, 08:58:20 AM
Moving Canislatrans post on this interesting subject to this forum:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm familiar with the rudiments of a Living Trust, but I'm looking for the best source of information on various asset protecting strategies before I go looking to hire a lawyer to set it up.  I'm having a hard time specifically finding info on the Net about lawsuit protection; searches get spammed by estate planning focused sites (which I'm also interested in).

Apparently Joint Tenancy doesn't protect the assets if one partner is suied, although in some states marital real property is protected by Tenants in the Entirety.  An Irrevocable Living trust protects assets (but not distributions) and Revocable Living Trust exposes the assets.  According to one book a Family Partnership discourages collection of a suit, but an Offshore Trust is better.

Looking for something that protects from lawsuits AND avoids Probate.  No fancy asset ownership structure, just husband & wife.
25935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MOVED: Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 24, 2010, 08:57:01 AM
This topic has been moved to the Science, Culture, & Humanities forum.
http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=2129.0
25936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYPD prepares for Mumbai style attack on: December 24, 2010, 08:54:44 AM


DECEMBER 20, 2010
 
By SEAN GARDINER  for The Wall Street Journal
Earlier this month the New York Police Department ran an antiterrorism exercise simulating an attack on the city.
A team of terrorists unleashed a coordinated series of bombings and gun attacks around the city in the simulation. At one point, terrorists attacked New York police officials visiting wounded officers in a hospital. By the time the daylong attacks were over, dozens of people had been killed and many more wounded.
The NYPD simulation was different from any of the terrorist incidents that have actually hit New York, such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks where terrorists hijacked planes to destroy the World Trade Center, or the foiled Times Square car-bombing attempt in May of this year.
Instead, the simulation deliberately mirrored the 2008 massacre in Mumbai. Within minutes of one another on the night of Nov. 26, 2008, 10 gunmen attacked various locations in the Indian city, including two luxury hotels, a hospital and a railway station. The attack stretched on for three days as hostages were taken at several of the locations. Ultimately, 174 people were killed.
Until Mumbai, NYPD counterterrorism officials felt reasonably comfortable that they were prepared for any type of terrorist attack. But that comfort level was built on preparing for a single event, not a series of coordinated attacks that would terrorize a city for days on end.
"The Mumbai attack two years ago was a bit of a game changer," Mitchell Silber, head of the NYPD's intelligence analysis division, said. "It was a model that most counterterrorism practitioners hadn't really considered. The armed gunmen roaming around the city taking hostages, that wasn't something we had seen by any jihadist group. That was a real eye-opener." Mr. Silber said the more NYPD officials learned about the Mumbai attacks "the more similarities we saw between Mumbai city and New York City." Both, he said, are financial centers; both are surrounded by water on three sides; both get intense media attention.
The latest simulation made additional sense, he said, in light of the rumors this past fall that jihadists were planning another "Mumbai-style" attack somewhere in Europe.
So on Dec. 3, the NYPD's top brass gathered inside the department's headquarters in downtown Manhattan, in the Police Academy on East 20th Street and a third location, which police don't want to identify, that will be activated in the event police headquarters is destroyed. More than 40 senior commanders took part, and a facilitator introduced "injects," or new complications, into the exercise.
According to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, the police were given a fictional scenario that began with President Barack Obama visiting New York for a bill signing. At the same time, convicted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was scheduled to appear in federal court. The attacks began with bombings in downtown that resulted in 18 dead and dozens injured. The president went ahead with the bill signing at the World Trade Center site, when another bomb went off nearby. He was whisked away.
The attack wasn't over. Six gunmen piled out of a van at Herald Square and opened fire on shoppers and pedestrians. They then entered the Macy's department store and took 26 hostages.
As in Mumbai, police in the simulation had trouble containing and anticipating the terrorists. At one point, police who tried to rescue hostages were shot by snipers. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Chief of Department Joseph Esposito went to Bellevue Hospital to visit wounded police officers, then both were incapacitated when a bomb exploded inside the emergency room, according to the simulation.
This is the eighth such large-scale tabletop exercise held by the NYPD since Mumbai, according to Paul Browne, the NYPD's spokesman. He said this exercise provided several valuable lessons. For instance, conventional wisdom was that the best way to deal with multiple subway bombings was to shut down all mass transportation and evacuate everyone by foot, Mr. Browne said. But the exercise showed the advantage of continuing to use buses during an attack to shepherd civilians out of lower Manhattan.
The exercise also showed that the first responding officers to Macy's shouldn't have evacuated people and waited for reinforcements, the traditional response in a hostage situation. Instead, the police could have minimized casualties by quickly finding and killing the terrorists who were shooting people.
Mr. Browne said the exercise also served as a reminder that the NYPD needs to obtain or update floor plans of the city's large department stores in case hostage-taking or some other standoff occurs there. Currently, the NYPD keeps floor plan copies for all of the city's major hotels and many popular buildings.
The department has taken other steps to prepare for a similar attack. Since Mumbai, Mr. Browne said, the NYPD has trained and equipped an addition 375 officers to use "heavy weapons" for a prolonged siege situation. The heavy weapons—MP5 submachine guns and Mini-14 semiautomatic carbine rifles—are needed to counteract military-style assault weapons like the ones used in Mumbai.
Lastly, police are preparing for more chaos. They now assume that when they advise civilians to "shelter in place," many will flee the island on foot as they did during the last major power blackout. That means police will need to protect pedestrians leaving Manhattan via the East River bridges or ferries.

sean.gardiner@wsj.com
25937  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Funny you should mention that , , , on: December 23, 2010, 10:36:46 PM
http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=2101.0
25938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good thing fat cat Republicans in bed with Wall Street aren't in charge , , , on: December 23, 2010, 08:15:22 PM

David M Gordon:

The US government enlisted the help of investment bankers this year (2010), as it sold down its stakes in Citigroup, General Motors, AIG, and others. Total fees paid topped an astonishing $3 Billion!


The ugly truth in black and while (and some yellow highlighting)...
http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/GMWorkingforUncleSam.pdf

Scott Grannis:

That's actually not so surprising, considering that the $3 billion in fees represents only 4 bps (0.04%) of the total amount ($7.8 trillion!!!) raised. It's the total that is mind-boggling. Where did that money come from and where did it go??
25939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The clusterfcuk continues , , , on: December 23, 2010, 08:13:29 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thu, December 23, 2010 -- 5:20 PM ET
-----

U.S. Approves Business With Blacklisted Nations

A little-known office of the Treasury Department has
permitted American companies to do billions of dollars in
business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state
sponsors of terrorism.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/24/world/24sanctions.html?emc=na
25940  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Our sales agent answers on: December 23, 2010, 08:12:02 PM


The PPV show is no longer listed on Comcast.  Anyone see it on another network? 

SA:  In Demand played the show initially starting approximately 10/15.  Marc, I think you posted that schedule.  This does not preclude other airings down the line -- we shall have to see -- but this is at PPV's discretion.  The show has yet to play on Directv, which probably won't happen for at least several months.  It may still have more plays on Avail-TVN, and maybe more on DishNetwork....

Crafty, are you planning to distribute this show on DVD?  Comcast's streaming download quality was not very good with lots of video compression artifacts, and it would be fantastic to see this show in broadcast quality.

SA: I have no idea about the downloading or downloading quality.  Actually, I did not know that Comcast was streaming the show, but I am not surprised.
25941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer: Swindle of the year on: December 23, 2010, 08:05:13 PM
Moving CCP's post to this thread:

I wish Charles would stop telling us how smart Obama is.  He isn't.  He was dragged into negotiations kicking and screaming and only because his advisors were telling him to emulate Clinton who has given him the roadmap showing him how to improve his poll numbers.  That doesn't make him smart.  Yet the mainstream media has taken this line of talk up and are running at full speed trying to con us all into buying into the genius of the ONE.  We will see how brilliant he is next year when his super majorities in both houses are gone.

We all knew that Pelosi and Reid were going to ram through their agenda in the lame duck session.  No surprise.  And all Bamster has to do is sit back and take the credit like he did anything.

I do agree with Charles that if the tax cuts stimulate the economy over the next few years Bamster will have a better shot at re election.  He will take all the credit speaking about his bipartisan genius, all the devotees in the MSM will claim he is a centrist "all along" and the dopey swing voters will swoon all over it.  Perish the thought.  But Clinton did just that!:
 
***By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, December 17, 2010

If Barack Obama wins reelection in 2012, as is now more likely than not, historians will mark his comeback as beginning on Dec. 6, the day of the Great Tax Cut Deal of 2010.

This Story
Season's greetings from the Obamas
The new comeback kid
When it comes to politics, Obama's ego keeps getting in the way
Obama had a bad November. Self-confessedly shellacked in the midterm election, he fled the scene to Asia and various unsuccessful meetings, only to return to a sad-sack lame-duck Congress with ghostly dozens of defeated Democrats wandering the halls.

Now, with his stunning tax deal, Obama is back. Holding no high cards, he nonetheless managed to resurface suddenly not just as a player but as orchestrator, dealmaker and central actor in a high $1 trillion drama.


Compare this with Bill Clinton, greatest of all comeback kids, who, at a news conference a full five months after his shellacking in 1994, was reduced to plaintively protesting that "the president is relevant here." He had been so humiliatingly sidelined that he did not really recover until late 1995 when he outmaneuvered Newt Gingrich in the government-shutdown showdown.

And that was Clinton responding nimbly to political opportunity. Obama fashioned out of thin air his return to relevance, an even more impressive achievement.

Remember the question after Election Day: Can Obama move to the center to win back the independents who had abandoned the party in November? And if so, how long would it take? Answer: Five weeks. An indoor record, although an asterisk should denote that he had help - Republicans clearing his path and sprinkling it with rose petals.

Obama's repositioning to the center was first symbolized by his joint appearance with Clinton, the quintessential centrist Democrat, and followed days later by the overwhelming 81 to 19 Senate majority that supported the tax deal. That bipartisan margin will go a long way toward erasing the partisan stigma of Obama's first two years, marked by Stimulus I, which passed without a single House Republican, and a health-care bill that garnered no congressional Republicans at all.

Despite this, some on the right are gloating that Obama had been maneuvered into forfeiting his liberal base. Nonsense. He will never lose his base. Where do they go? Liberals will never have a president as ideologically kindred - and they know it. For the left, Obama is as good as it gets in a country that is barely 20 percent liberal.

The conservative gloaters were simply fooled again by the flapping and squawking that liberals ritually engage in before folding at Obama's feet. House liberals did it with Obamacare; they did it with the tax deal. Their boisterous protests are reminiscent of the floor demonstrations we used to see at party conventions when the losing candidate's partisans would dance and shout in the aisles for a while before settling down to eventually nominate the other guy by acclamation.

And Obama pulled this off at his lowest political ebb. After the shambles of the election and with no bargaining power - the Republicans could have gotten everything they wanted on the Bush tax cuts retroactively in January without fear of an Obama veto - he walks away with what even Paul Ryan admits was $313 billion in superfluous spending.

Including a $6 billion subsidy for ethanol. Why, just a few weeks ago Al Gore, the Earth King, finally confessed that ethanol subsidies were a mistake. There is not a single economic or environmental rationale left for this boondoggle that has induced American farmers to dedicate an amazing 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop - for burning! And the Republicans have just revived it.

Even as they were near unanimously voting for this monstrosity, Republicans began righteously protesting $8.3 billion of earmarks in Harry Reid's omnibus spending bill. They seem not to understand how ridiculous this looks after having agreed to a Stimulus II that even by their own generous reckoning has 38 times as much spending as all these earmarks combined.

The greatest mistake Ronald Reagan's opponents ever made - and they made it over and over again - was to underestimate him. Same with Obama. The difference is that Reagan was so deeply self-assured that he invited underestimation - low expectations are a priceless political asset - whereas Obama's vanity makes him always needing to appear the smartest guy in the room. Hence that display of prickliness in his disastrous post-deal news conference last week.

But don't be fooled by defensive style or thin-skinned temperament. The president is a very smart man. How smart? His comeback is already a year ahead of Clinton's.
25942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GF on Start treaty and on: December 23, 2010, 02:17:20 PM
I almost put this in the nuclear war thread, but it addresses larger issues as well and so I put it here.
===============
Colin: The United States Senate approves the much-debated nuclear treaty with Russia. But is it really a new start? In the end, many Republicans decided to back the treaty and it achieved the required two-thirds majority with a vote of 71 for, 26 against.

Colin: Welcome to Agenda, today with George Friedman. George, in terms of global geopolitics, how important is this Senate vote?

Dr. Friedman: From the point of view of this particular treaty, it’s not very significant at all. The reduction in warheads really doesn’t affect the balance of terror, apart from everything else because there is no balance of terror. This is an issue from 30 years ago. That’s when it mattered. Now, it really doesn’t. However, it did matter from the standpoint of the ability of President Obama to conduct foreign policy. If he couldn’t take this fairly innocuous treaty and get it through the Senate, it would have indicated that really his foreign policy capabilities were crippled. At the same time, as Republicans pointed out, it left open a bunch of questions that weren’t properly part of this treaty but really mattered, such as the Russian relationship to ballistic missile defense, the status of tactical nuclear weapons, and more importantly the general relationship between the United States and Russia.

Colin: Will this essentially Republican decision refresh Obama?

Dr. Friedman: No, what Obama had on this was a near-death experience, which he survived. But there’s very little victory here because in the end what he got was a fairly vanilla treaty, and the other issues between the U.S. and Russia really weren’t expressed. What you really did see was the extent to which rather an uncontroversial treaty — endorsed by Republicans and Democrats, the secretary of state, and all sides and so on, and the shows that Obama put on how — close it came to not passing. I mean I think that’s the most important thing. Obama is back against the wall in making foreign policy and what this entire incident shows is just how weak he is. This should not have been a debate.

Colin: Would it smooth the path of some of those negotiations you’ve just mentioned, such as with Iran and over a European ABM system?

Dr. Friedman: Well, let’s begin with why this treaty emerged and why it became important. After the famous restart button incident with Hillary Clinton, there was a question of how to get relations with Russia better. And the theory was that it was important to have something to build confidence and this treaty was an easy thing to do and get the two sides used to working together. Well, that didn’t happen — it almost fell apart, it didn’t build confidence. Most importantly, the theory that confidence building would change the American or the Russian position on Iran or their position on ballistic missile defense — I think it was basically flawed. Russia and the United States disagree on some really important issues that affect the national security of each country. There’s some overlap in their views, there’s some difference in their views, neither country is going to change their position because they got the warm and fuzzy feeling from getting this passed.

Colin: The treaty still leaves much of nuclear arms reduction still to do, but presumably it will alleviate the fears of European countries like Germany.

Dr. Friedman: The Germans have really serious disagreements with the United States, both over financial matters and over the future of NATO. I doubt that the Germans are going to relax over this because I don’t think they regard it as that significant. It may well have been that if it had failed it would have increased nervousness, and I really think that’s the way this treaty should be viewed. Had Obama not been able to get this passed, there would have been some serious questions, not so much about the United States, but about Obama’s credibility as president. That he got it passed doesn’t solve those problems. It doesn’t alleviate the question of whether or not Obama is capable and in control of his foreign policy because he shouldn’t have had a crisis in the first place over it.

Colin: Is it a given that the treaty will now pass through Russia’s Duma?

Dr. Friedman: Well, I think the Russians will probably pass it and I think they’re going to have a parallel crisis over it to show that the Russians also have a democratic system, they also have to ratify it and it’s not a slam dunk that they will. So the Russians will now posture serious questions, and they’ll posture the serious questions not because Putin and Medvedev don’t control the Duma, but because they don’t want to have been almost embarrassed by the U.S. Senate without almost embarrassing them back.

Colin: Assuming it’s all signed and sealed by, say, March, what will then be the next step in negotiations between the United States and Russia?

Dr. Friedman: Well, I mean it’s the same steps that are in place right now. Russian relations with the former Soviet Union, the status of NATO and EU expansion, the Iranian question, a host of issues. The Russians have shifted their policy somewhat from a singular focus on rebuilding the former Soviet Union — their sphere of influence at least — beyond that. They feel that they’ve achieved the core of what they needed to achieve. And they’re prepared now to be more flexible, both for example in terms of what their prepared to tolerate in Ukraine and in terms of what they’re willing to negotiate with the European and the Americans. So the Russians have entered a new sphere. The Americans, at the same time, are now in a deep debate over every issue on the table, including foreign policy, with clearly a disagreement between the Republicans and the Democrats over core issues such as the relationship with Russia. I think we will see the Russians testing the Americans around the periphery, in places like Georgia, Moldova and the Baltics. They will be trying to test how strong or weak Obama is, how resolute he is. I think what they come away with from this entire affair is the old Russian understanding that where there’s weakness, move. And I think they’re smelling a great deal of weakness.

Colin: George, thank you.

25943  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 23, 2010, 02:11:22 PM
I echo JDN's gratitudes for this forum and all who come to play.  It has taken a lot of doing to bring it to where it is, but thanks to all of us I confess to feeling rather proud of how far we have come and what we do.
25944  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pascal vs. Hopkins on: December 23, 2010, 02:08:27 PM
I thought the boxing light heavyweight title fight between Pascal and Hopkins several days ago quite good.  I wouldn't have scored the first knockdown a knockdown and would have given the decision to Hopkins (45 years old vs. Pascal's 28! Go Hopkins!!!) but of relevance to this thread were the first few rounds of the fight, which were clearly won by Pascal (and kudos to Hopkins for keeping his mind right and turning the fight around).

To my eye, Pascal threw a number of successful zirconias though he began going to the well a bit too often I thought.  Like Rua's knock out of Chuck Liddell, the punch was more of a hook than a straight and there was no cutting of the corner of the diamond to the point of the diamond, but this is a move that was not really seen until , , , sometime after the release of Kali Tudo 1 cheesy  Of course, the move existed before KT1 and I certainly can't say that Rua, Pascal, or their trainers watched KT1, but it is an interesting coincidence.  At the very least, the people who doubted the zirconia when they first saw it in KT1 need to reconsider.  Indeed I know of a few who have reconsidered to the point of their saying it was nothing new and has been there all along.  wink
25945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: December 23, 2010, 01:55:48 PM
Grannis and Wesbury have similar perspectives (both are supply siders btw).  David Gordon, Scott Grannis and I are part of an email group and David is a high level market player with the pay-to-enter blog www.investmentpoetry.com to which I subscribe.  David, who has quite a number of remarkably prescient market calls into an excellent stock picking and timing record, thinks we are about to have a sharp downturn, and that there will be a big downturn sometime in 2011-- currently he suspects it will be around the middle of the year but reserves the right to evolve his views as time goes by.

David is a vast reader.  Here is an article he shared this morning:
============
Where Will the Next Economic Boom Come From?
Derek Thompson

 

If you want to know what industry will power the next U.S. economy, follow the money. Where are investors really looking? And where is research and experimentation really happening?

Abraxas Discala, is CEO of the Broadsmoore Group, a financial advisory and investment firm founded in 2009. He sees the future the same way many urbanists and mayors see it: It's all about alternative energy. "The Internet bubble was the last real boom. The next boom is alternative energy, getting away from our need on OPEC oil," he said. "I think it could be five or six times what the tech boom was."

China's overwhelming investment in solar energy in the last five years has been formidable, Discala said. But solar is a long term bet that isn't guaranteed to take off. "I'm more interested in coal and natural gas, where T. Boone Pickens has a phenomenal plan," he said. "The fact is, if we just turned our 18-wheelers to natural gas right now, we would reduce our dependency on oil by 50 percent."

The other space Discala sees a productivity revolution is in regenerative medicine -- where scientists create living tissue to heal illnesses or replace organs. With enough government investment at its back, technologies like stem cells and soft tissue manufacturers should have breakthroughs in the next decade that will pay off dramatically, not only in the United States, but throughout the world where foreign governments will want to buy and license our innovation.

FOLLOW THE R&D

Innovation is the key to spotting the next boom, says economist Michael Mandel. That's why he focuses on research and development investments. If you follow the R&D money, it's a clear picture. "The truth of the matter is the US in the last 10 years has put its R&D money into information technology and biosciences," he said. "That's really it. We have not really put it into energy."





Source: Mandel.



What would an infotech and bioscience economy look like? First, it could resemble a communications revolution, with telecom providers like Verizon, Internet giants like Google and Facebook, and Web services like Groupon and Mint soaking up legions of software engineers, computer support specialists, web developers and programmers. These highly skilled, highly educated, and highly paid jobs where the United States still has a competitive advantage over the rest of the world.

This would, as a National Journal reporter told me, resemble Tech Boom: Part Two, "but this time, we get it right."

THE FUTURE IS SCIENCE...

Like information technology, bioscience is a term that evokes vague visions (beakers? lab coats? titration? ... titration!). But Mandel sees it more concretely. He sees the ramp up in bioscience investment from the 1990s starting to pay off in real products with vast implications for every industry. Microcellular organism-based technology to produce energy. Bioprocessing to juice productivity on our farms.  And new machines, pills and treatments to make our health care industry more efficient.

"We need a biosciences revolution because it's a direct attack on our biggest problem, which is tremendous amount of resources sucked up by health care," he said.

"Imagine if we had a pill to deal with Alzheimer's patients. Now those bodies are freed up to do other things. And those costs are freed up. That drives growth across the entire economy."

It's a compelling vision, but it raises the question: If biosciences are the future, why aren't they the present? We've been investing in the next big pharmaceutical breakthrough (cancer? AIDS? heart disease?) for two decades with frustratingly little to show for our efforts.

"For a variety of reasons it turned out that bioscience has lots of good science but not a lot of good products," Mandel acknowledged. "If we're looking for what the future looks like, there are two separate futures. One is this record of weakness could continue in which case, in which case, that's all she wrote. The other thing that could happen is it could have turned out to be a pause," he said.

"I'm betting that we'll see this bioscience drought as a pause rather than a stop."

... NOT ENERGY

The most surprising thing about Mandel's vision is his pessimism about alternative energy. At a time when almost every mayor, urbanist and government leader talking about the need to develop clean energy sources, Mandel's says the money just isn't there to build a competitive advantage for the United States.

"We have no investment in green energy R& D," he said. "We have no dynamism there. When your local university invests 70 percent in life sciences and 2 percent in energy, why put your bet on energy?"

25946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New single-family home sales on: December 23, 2010, 01:50:46 PM
New single-family home sales increased 5.5% in November To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/23/2010


New single-family home sales increased 5.5% in November, coming in at a 290,000 annual rate, but still fell short of the consensus expected pace of 300,000.

Sales were up in the South and West but down in the Northeast and Midwest
 
At the current sales pace, the months’ supply of new homes (how long it would take to sell homes in inventory) fell to 8.2 in November from 8.8 in October. The drop in the months’ supply was mainly due to the faster selling pace. The number of homes for sale fell 4,000 to 197,000, down 65.6% versus the peak in 2006. Interestingly, this is the lowest level of new homes in inventory since 1968.
 
The median price of new homes sold was $213,000 in November, down 2.7% from a year ago. The average price of new homes sold was $268,700, down 2.2% versus last year.
 
Implications:  The market for new homes remains sluggish, still suffering from the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit but also from intense competition from the large inventory of foreclosed homes on the market, many of which were built within the past decade. The tax credit, which required buyers to sign a contract by the end of April, moved sales forward into the early part of this year.  New home sales, which are counted at contract, increased to a 414,000 annual pace in April. But sales dropped off almost immediately, and have only averaged 289,000 in the seven months since. It is important to note that, despite the slow pace of sales, inventories are still declining and are already at levels not seen since the late 1960s. As inventories fall, homebuilders will need to start building more homes. Given a growing population and the need for more housing, the pace of new home sales should more than triple over the next several years to roughly 950,000. With lumber prices on the rise in recent months, that process may be underway. On the price front, the median sales price of new homes rose to $213,000 in November, bouncing back after going below $200,000 last month. This price measure is down 2.7% versus a year ago. We expect the new home market to continue to improve, albeit gradually.
25947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / My blackberry is not working on: December 23, 2010, 11:24:19 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAG39jKi0lI
25948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: US Economy on: December 23, 2010, 11:05:12 AM
Well, I haven't a clue  cheesy  That said, there seems to be a lot of bullishness, perhaps too much, out there.  David Gordon, whom I respect and follow, thinks a sharp reversal may be in the wind.  At least my LED play AIXG is up sharply today  cool

@all:

I have been posting Wesbury's stuff on the Political Economics thread, but I think I will begin posting it here on this thread as it really about the US economy, period.

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

Personal income increased 0.3% in November while personal consumption increased 0.4% To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/23/2010


Personal income increased 0.3% in November versus a consensus expected gain of 0.2%. Personal consumption increased 0.4% versus a consensus expected gain of 0.5%. In the past six months, personal income is up at a 2.7% annual rate while spending is up at a 4.4% rate.

Disposable personal income (income after taxes) was up 0.4% in November and is up at a 2.1% annual rate in the past six months. The rise in November was largely due to interest income.
 
The overall PCE deflator (consumer inflation) increased 0.1% in November and is up 1.0% versus a year ago. The “core” PCE deflator, which excludes food and energy, was also up 0.1% in November and is up 0.8% since last year.
 
After adjusting for inflation, “real” consumption was up 0.3% in November (0.5% including upward revisions to prior months), is up at a 3.3% annual rate in the past six months, and at a 4.3% annual rate in the past three months.  
 
Implications: Consumers are buying again and doing it with vigor. “Real” (inflation-adjusted) consumer spending increased 0.3% in November and is up at a 3.3% annual rate in the past six months. This is not an unsustainable or temporary buying binge. Real wages and salaries in the private sector are up at a 2.8% annual rate in the past six months; real profits for small businesses are up at a 4.7% rate. In addition, those touting a “new normal” where the real economy grows 2% or less per year are making a fundamental mistake about deleveraging. Consumer deleveraging may impede spending when the debt reduction begins; deleveraging may also impede spending when the debt reductions accelerate. But deleveraging does not hurt spending when the debt reductions slow down. If a consumer is still paying down debt but is doing so more slowly than last year, her spending increases faster than her income, not slower. On the inflation front, consumption prices are up only 1% versus a year ago but seem to be modestly accelerating, with prices up at a 1.3% annual rate in the past three months. The opposite is true if we exclude food and energy. “Core” prices are up 0.8% versus a year ago but up at only a 0.3% annual rate in the past three months. Low core inflation is the excuse the Federal Reserve is using for quantitative easing. In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment insurance declined 3,000 last week to 420,000. Continuing claims for regular state benefits fell 103,000 to 4.06 million. These figures suggest robust growth in private sector payrolls in December.
===================
New orders for durable goods declined 1.3% in November To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/23/2010


New orders for durable goods declined 1.3% in November, coming in below the consensus expected dip of 0.5%. Excluding transportation, orders increased 2.4%, beating the consensus expected gain of 1.8%. Orders are up 9.4% versus a year ago, 10.6% excluding transportation.

The overall decline in orders in November was entirely due to transportation equipment, specifically civilian aircraft/parts (which are extremely volatile from month to month). All other major categories of orders were up.
 
The government calculates business investment for GDP purposes by using shipments of non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft.  That measure rose 1.0% in November (1.2% including upward revisions to prior months) and is up 10.4% versus a year ago. If these shipments are unchanged in December, they will be up at a 2.3% annual rate in Q4 versus the Q3 average.
 
Unfilled orders increased 0.4% in November and are up at a 10.4% annual rate in the past three months.
 
Implications:  Ignore the headline decline in durable goods orders; the report was very good news for the US economy. All of the overall drop in orders was due to the transportation sector, particularly civilian aircraft, which is extremely volatile from month to month. Outside the transportation sector, every single major category of orders increased in November, with the largest gain in computers and electronics, rebounding from a steep decline last month. Meanwhile, shipments of “core” capital goods (which exclude civilian aircraft and defense) also bounced back in November, rising 1.0% in November after a 1.2% decline in October. These shipments are up 10.4% versus a year ago but the pace of the gains has slowed of late, rising at only a 3.1% annual rate in the past three months. However, we think these shipments are poised to reaccelerate. Unfilled orders for these goods (which can turn into future shipments) have increased seven months in a row. Cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies is at a record high and corporate profits are near a record high. In this environment, business investment is heading up.
25949  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV on: December 23, 2010, 10:48:40 AM
I will check with our sales agent on the deal.
25950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oy vey on: December 23, 2010, 10:46:50 AM
So, we had to sign it by the year's end or they would be upset even though they had not approved it themselves? rolleyes angry
========================

The U.S. Senate ratified the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (known as START) by a 71-26 vote Dec. 22. The agreement reduces the deployed strategic warheads of each country to 1,550. The treaty has received intense attention during the past week, as it was unclear if the Senate could even get enough votes to discuss the issue — though many Republicans in the U.S. government have blasted the agreement since its arrangement between Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama in April.

The START Treaty has been a bellwether of relations between Moscow and Washington. In the spring, it was a sign of warming sentiments between the countries. Since then, Russia and the United States have struck a slew of compromises on issues like sanctions against Iran and U.S. investment in Russia’s modernization efforts. However, Moscow has publicly stated over the past few months that if START was not signed by the end of the year, it would consider relations between Russia and the United States as cooling. Thus, Obama has been trying to pressure those standing in the treaty’s way — mainly Republicans — to sign.

As Russia has watched the Senate debate the treaty, it has been most concerned about the possible addition of amendments that would increase U.S. inspections, lower the cap on nuclear weapons or even add topics not really relevant to the treaty, like the U.S. moving forward on ballistic missile defense. (WTF?!?)This last issue is the most important to Russia, as it would most likely put U.S. defense on Russia’s doorstep. On Dec. 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that any such amendment would be a deal-breaker, since the treaty cannot be opened up to new negotiations. (It shoudl also be quite important to us!!!)

The treaty passed by the Senate does not have any of these non-binding amendments, but it does have addendums regarding the Senate’s concerns. The addendums have no bearing on the treaty itself, but the question remains of how Russia will view the addendums. Since they are not actual amendments to the treaty, Russia likely will sign START within weeks, as the treaty has already been debated in the State Duma. But the Russian Foreign Ministry has already announced that it will have to take a fresh look at what the U.S. Senate actually ratified.



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