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27301  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: July 12, 2010, 09:34:24 AM

How do you teach this point?
27302  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Women fighters on: July 12, 2010, 09:29:07 AM
Lonely Dog writes:

Today I got the most recent fighters application.  I’m very glad that
this year we have a strong female pool of fighters. 

So far we have:

Monika (52kg), Arianna (53kg), Laetitia (55kg), Lynn (60kg), and Christine

I'm sure you all will have a lot of fun.

see you all soon,
Benjamin/Lonely Dog
27303  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: July 11, 2010, 09:56:37 AM
I stand corrected. smiley
27304  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / retired CIA Russian expert says on: July 11, 2010, 09:56:02 AM
Spy swap was a mistakeBy Gene Coyle, Special to CNNJuly 11, 2010 9:40 a.m. EDT
Ex-CIA Russian expert says the quick spy swap will be seen as sign of U.S. weakness
He says it sends the message that there's no risk for Russia to spy on the U.S.
Coyle: U.S. is right to try to maintain good relations with Moscow
Alleged spies should have spent more time behind bars, he says
Editor's note: Gene Coyle is a retired, Russian-speaking, 30-year veteran of the CIA, who specialized for most of his career on Russian affairs. He is a recipient of the CIA's Intelligence Medal of Merit. He is now an adjunct professor at Indiana University and the author of two spy novels.

(CNN) -- The Obama administration's rush to sweep the recent Russian spy scandal off the table as quickly as possible with this swap is a bad move on several counts.

It is understandable and correct that President Barack Obama values the overall U.S.-Russian relationship above the question of whether a few Russian spies spend years in jail.

The "reset" campaign was an excellent idea; too bad no one in our Department of State knew how to correctly spell the word in Russian when Secretary Hillary Clinton presented the "button" to the Russian Foreign Minister. However, there is a line between seeking a mutually beneficial relationship and delusional pandering.

The history of U.S.-Russian relations shows that dealing respectfully but firmly is what works best. Most importantly, Moscow only agrees to anything that it perceives to be at least 50 percent in its self-interest, not because we've been nice guys. The only thing releasing all of these deep-cover Russian intelligence officers within a matter of days is going to teach Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, an old KGB officer, is that Obama is a pushover -- overly focused on making sure not to offend Russia.

Aside from sending the wrong political message, the quick swap also tells the leadership of the Russian government and the SVR, its intelligence service, that there is really no downside to being caught carrying out espionage in America.

Any intelligence service in the world, including Russia's, when deciding whether to carry out a particular espionage operation looks at the "risk factor." What will be the blow back if this becomes known?

Running "illegals" -- that is, Russians posing as citizens from a third country and who have no overt connection to the Russian embassy or consulates in America -- would usually be considered a high-risk operation by Moscow because those Russian citizens don't have diplomatic immunity if caught. It's bad press and it's bad for morale within the SVR if one, much less 11, of your deep cover officers get caught and are facing decades in prison. But Obama has now just told the SVR, "Hey, there is no penalty for spying in America. If we catch you, we'll just let you go so as not to damage 'big picture' relations."

We did show Russia certain appropriate courtesies in these arrests, which would have indicated we didn't want to harm our political relationship with Russia.

We waited until Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had made his visit to America. We waited until after the G20 meetings in Canada. We haven't even publicly named or expelled the Russian diplomats who were apparently observed being involved in the communications with these illegals. (Hopefully, the Department of State has at least told the Russian ambassador that certain of his diplomats should quietly leave America.) And speaking of morale, what message does this send to the hundreds of FBI special agents who spent thousands of hours working these cases?

According to various press accounts, the number of Russian intelligence officers in America and Western Europe has already returned to Cold War levels. Obama has now told the Russians, there isn't even a problem if we catch you. Try anything you want.

Normally, when any intelligence service has a major flap as this was, it would order an immediate stand down of other operations in that country for perhaps several months while it tried to figure out what had gone wrong. By immediately sending these SVR officers back to Moscow, they will be available to assist in that investigation.

Not knowing what all they were involved in -- it was certainly more than "penetrating the local PTA" -- I don't necessarily advocate having kept these people in prison for decades, but a year or two in prison before offering a swap would have sent a strong message to Putin and the SVR. And if the press accounts are accurate, getting four people out of Russian jails in return for these 10 doesn't seem like much of a bargain either. (An 11th suspect detained in Cyprus remains on the loose after being released on bail.)

Obama is no doubt an intelligent fellow, but he certainly didn't get very good advice from his intelligence community or Russian experts about how to handle this spy caper.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gene Coyle.
27305  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: July 11, 2010, 09:25:22 AM
So, you have changed your mind and now advocate the same approach to marijuana?

27306  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gen. Casey: This may take a while , , , on: July 11, 2010, 09:23:19 AM
27307  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Kristoff: Waiting for Ghandi on: July 11, 2010, 08:49:36 AM
Waiting for Gandhi
Published: July 9, 2010
BILIN, West Bank
Despite being stoned and tear-gassed on this trip, I find a reed of hope here. It’s that some Palestinians are dabbling in a strategy of nonviolent resistance that just might be a game-changer.
The organizers hail the methods of Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., recognizing that nonviolent resistance could be a more powerful tool to achieve a Palestinian state than rockets and missiles. Bilin is one of several West Bank villages experimenting with these methods, so I followed protesters here as they marched to the Israeli security fence.

Most of the marchers were Palestinians, but some were also Israeli Jews and foreigners who support the Palestinian cause. They chanted slogans and waved placards as photographers snapped photos. At first the mood was festive and peaceful, and you could glimpse the potential of this approach.

But then a group of Palestinian youths began to throw rocks at Israeli troops. That’s the biggest challenge: many Palestinians define “nonviolence” to include stone-throwing.

Soon after, the Israeli forces fired volleys of tear gas at us, and then charged. The protesters fled, some throwing rocks backward as they ran. It’s a far cry from the heroism of Gandhi’s followers, who refused even to raise their arms to ward off blows as they were clubbed.

(I brought my family with me on this trip, and my kids experienced the gamut: we were stoned by Palestinian kids in East Jerusalem, and tear-gassed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank.)

Another problem with these protests, aside from the fact that they aren’t truly nonviolent, is they typically don’t much confound the occupation authorities.

But imagine if Palestinians stopped the rock-throwing and put female pacifists in the lead. What if 1,000 women sat down peacefully on a road to block access to an illegal Jewish settlement built on Palestinian farmland? What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown? Those images would be on televisions around the world — particularly if hundreds more women marched in to replace those hauled away.

“This is what Israel is most afraid of,” said Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a prominent Palestinian who is calling for a nonviolent mass movement. He says Palestinians need to create their own version of Gandhi’s famous 1930 salt march.

One genuinely peaceful initiative is a local boycott of goods produced by Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Another is the weekly demonstrations in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah against evictions of Palestinians there. And in Gaza, some farmers have protested Israel’s no-go security zones by publicly marching into those zones, even at the risk of being shot.

So far there is no Palestinian version of Martin Luther King Jr. But one candidate might be Ayed Morrar. A balding, mild-mannered activist, he was the mastermind behind the most successful initiative so far: nonviolent demonstrations a half-dozen years ago in the West Bank village of Budrus against Israel’s construction of a security fence there. More than many other Palestinians, he has a shrewd sense of public relations.

“With nonviolent struggle, we can win the media battle,” Mr. Morrar told me, speaking in English. “They always used to say that Palestinians are killers. With nonviolence, we can show that we are victims, that we are not against Jews but are against occupation.”

Mr. Morrar spent six years in Israeli prisons but seems devoid of bitterness. He says that Israel has a right to protect itself by building a fence — but on its own land, not on the West Bank.

Most Palestinian demonstrations are overwhelmingly male, but in Budrus women played a central role. They were led by Mr. Morrar’s quite amazing daughter, Iltezam Morrar. Then 15, she once blocked an Israeli bulldozer by diving in front of it (the bulldozer retreated, and she was unhurt).

Israeli security forces knew how to deal with bombers but were flummoxed by peaceful Palestinian women. Even when beaten and fired on with rubber bullets, the women persevered. Finally, Israel gave up. It rerouted the security fence to bypass nearly all of Budrus.

The saga is chronicled in this year’s must-see documentary “Budrus,” a riveting window into what might be possible if Palestinians adopted civil disobedience on a huge scale. In a sign of interest in nonviolent strategies, the documentary is scheduled to play in dozens of West Bank villages in the coming months, as well as at international film festivals.

I don’t know whether Palestinians can create a peaceful mass movement that might change history, and their first challenge will be to suppress the stone-throwers and bring women into the forefront. But this grass-roots movement offers a ray of hope for less violence and more change.
27308  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yemen, next Afg?-4 on: July 11, 2010, 08:07:28 AM

Page 10 of 10)

So far the most masterful piece of propaganda by Al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula is still the "Battle of Marib" video. In it, Raymi tells the story
of the Yemeni military's effort to destroy an Al Qaeda cell and capture Aidh
al-Shabwani, a young militant with a lame leg whom one government official
described to me as "a sort of local Robin Hood figure." The raid was a
humiliating failure. The army lost several tanks and armored vehicles to the
guerrillas, who knew the local orange groves and deserts well. The Al Qaeda
men took possession of a weapons convoy and captured seven soldiers, who
were later released.

The video's most striking feature is its anxious plea to tribesmen to resist
payments and pressure from the Yemeni government and its Saudi and American
backers. It starts off with an acknowledgment that the raid took place
because of a "betrayal" by local tribal leaders. Then Raymi intones: "How
shameful it is that some sheiks allow themselves to become soldiers and
slaves of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is himself but a slave to Saudi riyals and
American dollars. I say to these sheiks: be careful that you don't become a
piece of chewing gum that a person enjoys for a short time and then throws
away." After Raymi and another narrator describe the Al Qaeda victory, the
second narrator offers a more refined formulation, noting that the seven
soldiers' lives were spared: "If you don't support the mujahedeen, then at
least don't stand against them." Since then, the group has released a stream
of statements and videos outlining its basic objectives: to recruit more
followers, overthrow Saleh and use Yemen as a base to attack the Saudi
monarchy and build an Islamic caliphate.

AFTER THE DAWN cruise-missile strike on Rafadh, the open-air tribal meeting
reached a conclusion. The elders decided that Quso and his Al Qaeda gang had
become a threat to the tribes. Two deadly missiles had struck in less than a
week; more might be coming. Tribal hospitality was one thing, and it was a
shame that the five young men were killed. But the presence of Quso and his
recruits was endangering everyone. They had to go. The elders deputized
Ahmed and a fellow tribesman to evict them.

Ahmed told me he sat in his pickup truck with Quso and spoke to him firmly:
"Are you satisfied? All of the people here have been living in the
mountains, in the trees, for a week. Now we want you out, and don't come
back unless you're alone." The Al Qaeda man said nothing. He seemed subdued
and appeared to understand that he could not challenge the tribe's decision.

Ahmed drove Quso out of the valley on a bumpy dirt track. As they drove,
Quso contacted other Al Qaeda members in the area, and they picked them up
one by one. Before long there were 11 men piled into the truck. Ahmed said
he left them on the nearest main road and returned to his valley. A few days
later, Quso came back. This time he was alone. As of mid-February, he still
was living alone in his grandfather's house, according to Jifri, who visited
him there.

Not everyone has reacted to the airstrikes this way. In the neighboring
province of Abyan, an airstrike killed dozens of people, most of them women
and children, according to local witnesses. The civilian death toll created
a groundswell of anger at the Yemeni government and the United States that
was a boon to Al Qaeda recruiters, several local people told me. Ali
al-Shal, an opposition member of the Yemeni Parliament who is from a village
close to where the Abyan airstrikes took place, told me it was too dangerous
for him to visit afterward. Ultimately he was able to visit, but only once
and only by drawing on his family connections with local tribal figures.
"There was not much sympathy for Al Qaeda before, but the strike has created
a lot of sympathy," he said.

IN RECENT WEEKS, Al Qaeda has sounded more confident than ever, issuing
threats and calls to arms, along with publishing its Internet magazine and
introducing an English-language online magazine called Inspire. In May, a
botched air raid led to the death of a tribal leader in Marib who was
negotiating on the government's behalf with a local Al Qaeda leader,
infuriating the local tribes and further eroding President Saleh's
credibility. On June 19, four heavily armed men stormed the fortified
headquarters of the Political Security Organization in the southern port
city of Aden, freeing prisoners suspected of being Al Qaeda members and
escaping unharmed.

Before leaving Yemen, I traveled to Aden. Near the dilapidated oil refinery
built by the British, I found the Quso family home, in a row of simple stone
and concrete bungalows. Fahd's father, Muhammad al-Quso, was just walking up
to the door as I arrived. He was an old man with a deeply lined face,
dressed in a red-and-white futa and headdress. He walked with a cane. Inside
the house he sat down heavily in an armchair and told the story of his son's
life. It was a biography that matched many others in Yemen.

Fahd was born in 1975, his father said, and grew up alongside four brothers
and six sisters. He was a happy child and a good student at the local
elementary school, called al-Saafir. But his parents wanted him to have some
religion, so when he was 14 they sent him - along with some of his friends
from the neighborhood - to a school up north called Dar al-Hadith. The
school is famous as one of the first Wahhabi institutions in Yemen; John
Walker Lindh was reportedly among the future jihadists who studied there.
After he came home, he studied welding at the local technical school. But he
decided not to work at the refinery, as his father had. When I asked about
the accusations that his son took part in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in
2000, he winced and said he didn't believe it. He complained that the
authorities had jailed him, and then later, after freeing him, jailed his
brother-in-law for no reason. Finally, I asked Muhammad whether his son was
a member of Al Qaeda, as the authorities claimed.

"No," he said, "I don't believe this." He was silent for a long time,
staring at the closed door of the house, which was illuminated at its edges
by a bright rectangle of afternoon sunlight. Then he spoke again.

"He is a mujahid," he said, or holy warrior. "He is fighting those who
occupy Arab lands. He is fighting unbelievers."

27309  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yemen, next Afg?-3 on: July 11, 2010, 08:06:37 AM
Page 7 of 10)

By 2007, it was clear that a new and more dangerous generation of Al Qaeda
militants was emerging. Unlike their predecessors, these men aimed openly to
overthrow the Yemeni state and refused all dialogue with it. Many later
claimed that they suffered torture in Yemeni prisons during long terms -
usually without formal charges. Some of them had gone to Iraq and returned
with valuable battlefield skills. The attacks grew bloodier and more
frequent: a suicide bombing in July 2007 killed eight Spanish tourists;
there were attacks on oil pipelines. In September 2008, suicide bombers in
two cars struck the U.S. Embassy in Sana in a meticulously planned operation
that left 10 Yemenis and all 6 attackers dead.

Saleh tried to win the militants over through intermediaries. Nasser
al-Bahri, a 35-year-old former driver for bin Laden, told me that he tried
reaching out to the new militants. They refused, and he soon discovered he
was on a "death list" of accused traitors. Several other former jihadists
told me the same thing. "I try to talk to these people," said Ali Muhammad
al-Kurdi, another militant Islamist who fought in Afghanistan. "They tell
me, 'You are an agent.' " Some of the older jihadists advised Saleh to
immunize the state from attacks by Islamizing it. He briefly deployed a
morality-police brigade, modeled on the notorious cane-wielding mutawa in
Saudi Arabia. The attacks continued.

Finally, in January of last year, Tareq al-Fadhli received his late-night
phone call from the president. Saleh said he would release 130 Al Qaeda
sympathizers right away as a good-will gesture and asked Fadhli to arrange
the rest.

Fadhli told me that he formed a committee of former jihadis and began
traveling through the areas where Al Qaeda has found sanctuary - Marib,
Shabwa, Jawf and Abyan provinces. "The tribal sheiks cooperated with us
everywhere," Fadhli told me. "Whenever we found Qaeda members, we told them:
'The government wants you to turn yourself in, but it's O.K. We will
guarantee your safety.' "

In the end, 20 people on the government's 60-most-wanted list agreed to stop
fighting, Fadhli said. But the mediators never made any progress with Nasser
al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda's Yemen-based branch, or his top

A few months after the failed negotiation, in April 2009, Fadhli defected
from the government, joining the southern secessionist movement. He told me
that he was tired of hearing Saleh offer tempting deals to Al Qaeda while
refusing to even talk to the leaders in the south, whose movement - rooted
in claims of economic discrimination - is populist, secular and nonviolent.

Meanwhile, the United States grew increasingly concerned about Al Qaeda's
growth in Yemen and about Saleh's tendency to see it as a family problem,
solvable through dialogue. Veteran jihadists were said to be coming to Yemen
from Afghanistan and Somalia. Last summer, Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the
overall commander of American military forces in the Middle East, visited
Sana, and the number of American military trainers working with Yemen's
counterterrorism forces quietly grew. In the fall, a select group of
American officials met with Saleh and showed him irrefutable evidence that
Al Qaeda was aiming at him and his relatives, who dominate Yemen's military
and intelligence services. That seems to have abruptly changed Saleh's
attitude, American diplomats told me. The Yemenis began to mount more
aggressive ground raids on Al Qaeda targets, in coordination with the
airstrikes that began in December.

But the strikes and raids were a short-term tactic. The real problem was
that Yemen, with its mind-boggling corruption, its multiple insurgencies,
its disappearing oil and water and its deepening poverty, is sure to descend
further into chaos if something does not change. Everyone has acknowledged
this, including President Obama and a growing chorus of terrorism analysts.
So far, the calls for action have yielded nothing. I spoke to a number of
American officials in Washington and to a variety of diplomats at the
embassy in Sana. They all told me the same thing: no one has a real strategy
for Yemen, in part because there are so few people who have any real
expertise about the country. No American diplomats travel to the provinces
where Al Qaeda has found sanctuary. Even the Yemeni government has great
difficulty reaching these places; often they have no idea whether airstrikes
or bombing runs have hit their targets, because they dare not show up to
check until days afterward.

Officially, American policy in Yemen is twofold: using airstrikes and raids
to help the Yemeni military knock out Al Qaeda cells, while increasing
development and humanitarian aid to address the root causes of radicalism.
In late June, the White House announced it was more than tripling its
humanitarian assistance, to $42.5 million. But the numbers are still small
given Yemen's need. And diplomats concede that they have not figured out how
to address the central issues of poor governance, corruption and the
economy. "There is a huge amount of diplomacy that needs to be done and is
not being done," Edmund J. Hull, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen from 2001 to
2004, said when I met him in Washington. "It makes me uneasy to hear that
we're not getting out to those remote areas. One way or another, we have
ceded the initiative to Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda is calling the shots."


Page 8 of 10)

AL QAEDA HAS a clear Yemen strategy. On Jan. 23, 2009, the group released a
high-quality video clip on the Internet showing four men sitting on a floor,
with a clean white curtain and a flag behind them. One of them was Nasser
al-Wuhayshi, the group's leader, wearing a white turban, and one was Qassim
al-Raymi, its military commander, clad in fatigues and a red-and-white
kaffiyeh. Sitting alongside them were two new Qaeda commanders, both former
detainees from the American prison camp at Guantánamo Bay.

The video was a setback for President Obama, who had been inaugurated days
earlier and had made a high-profile pledge to close Guantánamo - where
nearly half the remaining inmates were Yemenis - within a year. But the real
news was Al Qaeda's announcement that same month that it was merging its
Saudi and Yemeni branches into a single unit: Al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula. The new group incorporated a number of fighters from Saudi
Arabia, where the government had cracked down fiercely on terrorist
networks. It proclaimed a broad ambition: to serve as a base for attacks
throughout the region and to replace the infidel governments of Yemen and
Saudi Arabia with a single theocratic state.

At the heart of this new effort was an unlikely leader. Wuhayshi is a tiny
man, less than five feet tall. In videotapes he sits motionless, his pinched
face blank, his small eyes expressionless. Raymi, the group's burly military
commander, speaks passionately, his hands knifing through the air, his eyes
full of righteous anger. By contrast, Wuhayshi seems almost catatonic.

Yet Al Qaeda men treat him with deep veneration. "When they see him, they
kiss him on the forehead, like a great sheik," said Abdulelah Hider Shaea, a
Yemeni journalist who interviewed Wuhayshi and other Al Qaeda leaders before
the video's release. "They all love and respect him." Shaea, who was
blindfolded and driven out to a remote area for his interview, said Wuhayshi
was laconic but quick-witted, with flashes of sarcastic humor and a
remarkable ability to adduce Koranic verses to back up anything he said.
Wuhayshi's authority seems to derive mostly from his long proximity to bin
Laden, whom he served for six years as a private secretary in Afghanistan.
"During bombing raids, everyone else would scatter, but he would stay by bin
Laden's side," Shaea said, echoing a story other Al Qaeda members told him
about their leader. The founders seem to have been impressed: bin Laden's
deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, issued a statement in November 2008 formally
recognizing Wuhayshi as the emir, or prince, of Al Qaeda in the region.

Shaea and others who have studied him say Wuhayshi appears to be modeling
himself on bin Laden, who has always been more cerebral guide than
day-to-day commander. Wuhayshi left Afghanistan in late 2001 and was
arrested by Iranian authorities; they handed him over two years later to
Yemen, which jailed him without charge. Little is known about his early life
in Abyan province in southern Yemen. Personality aside, he seems to have
much in common with Raymi, his fiery military commander. Both men come from
ordinary families, studied at religious schools and fought in Afghanistan,
according to Shaea and other Yemeni journalists. Both served time afterward
in Yemeni prisons. And both were among the 23 militants who escaped from the
central Sana prison in February 2006.

The two men have also followed bin Laden's example in building an
ever-more-sophisticated propaganda arm for Al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula, including frequent video and audio tapes and an Internet
magazine, Sada al-Malahim (The Echo of Battles), that appears every two
months or so. The magazine makes for bizarre reading, by turns chilling and
poignant. The first page of one recent issue showed a colorful 1950s-style
stock image of a hand that was mixing fluid in a chemical beaker, alongside
a hand grenade and the headline "Year of the Assassination." The authors are
clearly familiar with the style of Western magazine journalism, and many
articles are framed as regular features like View From the Inside and The
Leader's Editorial. There are didactic items, with headlines like "Shariah
Is the Solution" and "Practical Steps Toward the Liberation of Palestine."
But some of the articles are almost whimsical ("A Mujahid's Thoughts"), and
there are sharp satires ("The Saudi Media on Mars"). Much of the content has
an earnest, proselytizing tone, a bit like the ads that Western corporations
publish to trumpet their civic responsibility. One recent article, for
example, was titled "Inside View: Why We're Fighting in the Arabian


Page 9 of 10)

Since it first appeared in early 2008, the magazine has grown steadily more
polished, and the quality of its Koranic scholarship has improved, said
Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University who has spent years
tracking Al Qaeda in the region. Its content has mirrored the influx of
Saudi militants into the group, including Said Ali al-Shihri, a former
Guantánamo detainee who is now the deputy emir of Al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula. Perhaps the magazine's most frequent target for abuse is Prince
Muhammad bin Nayef, who directs Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism efforts and
has become heavily involved with Yemen's struggle with Al Qaeda. In August,
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula came close to assassinating bin Nayef when
a Saudi suicide bomber posing as a repentant member of the group was allowed
into the prince's Jedda home and detonated a bomb. Bin Nayef was only
lightly injured. Afterward, Sada al-Malahim published a lengthy defense of
the tactic under the headline "War Is Deception," citing Koranic verses that
approve of deceit as a tool in times of war.

The target audience for all this rhetoric is a bit of a mystery: Internet
access is rare in Yemen, especially in the areas where Al Qaeda operates.
There is evidence that the group may be aiming to win over members of the
military or even the political elite (not an implausible goal, given the
depth of sympathy for jihadism in Yemen). As for the broader public, one
hint came in a video the group released last summer. The 18-minute video,
"The Battle of Marib," about a successful battle with the Yemeni military,
pointedly emphasized the accuracy of Al Qaeda's casualty count. The
narrator, Qassim al-Raymi, mocks the government for failing to acknowledge
that seven soldiers were captured. The video then cuts to a government press
conference, in which a spokesman stumbles badly in response to questions
from journalists and refuses - just as Raymi said- to acknowledge the
soldiers' capture. The video then returns to Raymi, who, facing the camera
almost gloatingly, delivers his message: "I call upon all Muslims to take
their information from clear and correct sources, like the jihadi Web sites
on the Internet."

It is far from clear how Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in remote
and desperately under­developed areas, turns out such a slick product.
Shaea, the Yemeni journalist who interviewed Al Qaeda's top leaders, told me
he also met four members of the group's media arm in a room that was set up
like a studio, with computers and other equipment. "You could tell they were
rich and well educated," he said. "Some did not look like Arabs. They did
not speak, so I wondered if they even spoke Arabic."

If Wuhayshi and Raymi want to recreate the original Al Qaeda in Yemen, they
also seem to have learned from its mistakes. Starting in 2009, the group
used its Internet magazine and intermittent videos to make increasingly
passionate appeals to the people of Yemen - and especially to its tribes.
The magazine echoed populist discontent about government corruption,
unemployment and unfair distribution of revenue from Yemen's oil, much of
which comes from the very areas where Al Qaeda is active. The articles often
show a deep understanding of local concerns; one issue in 2008 included an
anguished complaint about the government's mishandled response to a flood in
the eastern province of Hadramawt.

Al Qaeda's Afghanistan-based leadership reinforced the tribal message in
early 2009, when Zawahiri issued an audiotape addressed to "the noble and
defiant tribes of Yemen," urging them to rise up against Saleh's government.
"Don't be less than your brothers in the defiant Pashtun and Baluch tribes,"
he said. "Don't be helpers of Ali Abdullah Saleh. . . . Support your
brothers the mujahedeen." At the same time, the group strove to marry
members to tribal women and mediate tribal disputes.

The reason for all this was simple: a global reaction was developing against
militants acting in the name of Al Qaeda, largely because of their extreme
and often indiscriminate violence. In Iraq, the local Al Qaeda branch
alienated tribes that provided crucial support for them in Anbar province,
paving the way for the American-backed "awakening movement" that threw them
out. Wuhayshi and his men clearly wanted to prevent that from happening in
27310  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yemen, next Afg? -2 on: July 11, 2010, 08:04:32 AM
Page 4 of 10)

Rafadh, several hundred miles southeast of the capital, is in some ways
typical of the areas where Al Qaeda found refuge in Yemen. It is set among
dry mountains populated by baboons, there are no paved roads and cars must
travel laboriously along dirt tracks that wind among the hills. There is no
public water supply or electricity and no functioning school. The valley was
largely peaceful during the 1970s and '80s, when the socialist government
that ruled South Yemen - a separate country until it united with the north
in 1990 - tried to eradicate tribalism. But since then Yemen's president,
Ali Abdullah Saleh, has encouraged tribal practices, and the feuds have
returned. Rafadh itself has been devastated by a tribal conflict that has
raged for years, killing at least a dozen people and wounding many more in
an area with only a few hundred inhabitants.

Ahmed played a central role in the feud. In 2006, Ahmed's father and older
brother were gunned down by men posing as customers at the father's market
stall. Afterward, he told me, he drove the bullet-riddled bodies to the
nearest police station to ask for justice. The police captain in charge
waved him off dismissively, he said, telling him, "You tribes are always
causing trouble - deal with it yourself."

He did. Ahmed gathered five cousins and together they hunted down and shot
two men they believe were among the killers and three other men who were
sheltering them. The feud briefly threatened to escalate into a broader war.
The government promised to mediate but failed to do so, and the feud grew
with further kidnappings and clumsy army suppression. Many local people felt
the government was largely to blame.

It was then that Fahd al-Quso, the Al Qaeda figure, arrived in the valley.
He had roots in the area but, perhaps more important, he was an outlaw to
the Yemeni authorities, and that alone earned him a welcome in Rafadh. The
United States wanted him in connection with the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole,
which killed 17 American sailors. The Yemeni police arrested his younger
brother, a tactic aimed at pressuring Quso to turn himself in.

"Fahd was a victim in the eyes of the tribes," Ahmed told me. "They accepted
what he said. People distrust the government here, so those who have
problems with it will get sympathy."

Last summer, as Al Qaeda's Arabian branch began setting off alarms in
Washington, Quso became more active, Ahmed told me. "We saw lots of Al Qaeda
guys coming and going from his house," Ahmed said. They tended to keep to
themselves, refusing to give rides to others from the village.

But the tribesmen of Rafadh continued to shelter Quso and his men and not
just because of their shared hatred of the government. Quso had offered to
supply teachers for the village school. Local families knew he was with Al
Qaeda but welcomed the news for a simple reason: there were no teachers in
the school at all. "The people were saying, 'We would rather have our kids
get an Al Qaeda education than be illiterate,' " Jifri told me. After
hearing about Quso's offer, Jifri went to officials in Sana and delivered a
blunt message: "Right now you have one Al Qaeda guy in Rafadh, tomorrow you
will have 700."

Initially, Jifri said, the government refused to provide teachers, saying
any town that was willing to accept help from Al Qaeda was beneath contempt.
Finally, they relented.

"The government agreed to send 6 teachers," Jifri told me. "Fahd brought

WHEN PEOPLE TALK about the government in Yemen, they really mean one man:
Ali Abdullah Saleh. Despite the country's many political parties - Islamist,
Socialist, Arab nationalist - the country is run almost entirely by Saleh,
and he runs it exactly like a sheik: using his own tribe as a power base and
constantly making deals to head off his rivals. Saleh came to power in 1978;
pictures of him at the time show a skinny young man in a military cap that
looks too big for him, his eyes covered by aviator sunglasses.

At the time, most of Yemen was still just emerging from isolation. In 1962 a
group of military officers, inspired and aided by Gamal Abdel Nasser in
Egypt, overthrew the xenophobic religious dynasty that, from its northern
base, ruled much of Yemen for centuries. Some of the young officers hoped to
modernize Yemen and make it more like other Arab countries. In the mid-1970s
one Yemeni president, Ibrahim al-Hamdi, tried to tame the powerful tribal
sheiks, extend the state's power throughout the country and unify with South
Yemen, which emerged from British occupation in 1967. Yemeni intellectuals
still talk about Hamdi with nostalgia. But the sheiks and their Saudi
backers were not pleased. In October 1977, Hamdi was found riddled with
bullets in his Sana home. The killers had thrown the bodies of murdered
French prostitutes beside him to blacken his legacy.


Page 5 of 10)

Saleh was not a man to make such mistakes. He fought in a tribal army as a
teenager and then made his way up through the ranks of the military,
impressing superiors with his ruthlessness and charm. He became a tank
commander - a crucial skill at a time when tanks were a new and essential
weapon. When Hamdi's successor, Ahmad al-Ghashmi, was blown up by a bomb
hidden in a briefcase, Saleh was a compromise replacement. No one expected
him to last long.

Three decades later, Saleh retains a stiff, military bearing, with a strong
jaw and glinting eyes. In person he conveys an impression of fierce pride
and gruffness and the natural defensiveness of a man from a small tribe who
fought his way up with no more than an elementary-school education. When I
interviewed him in 2008, he seemed impatient and almost angry. His eyes
darted around the room as he fired off commands to his aides in a guttural
voice. He bridled at questions about the American role in Yemen. "Arrogant,"
he said, staring at me, then adding disdainfully in English, "Cowboys."

SOME SAY SALEH has lasted so long because, unlike his predecessors, he knew
not to take on the tribes directly. "Saleh survived by mastering the tribal
game as no one else had," Khaled Fattah, the tribal expert, said. He did so
in two ways. First, he coddled the big tribal sheiks, bringing them into the
capital and building them large homes. He created a patronage network that
grew substantially after Yemen began pumping oil in the 1980s, paying large
sums to sheiks, military leaders, political figures and anyone who might
pose a threat to his power. Much of Yemen's budget now goes into corruption
and kickbacks - worth billions of dollars - that fuel this network,
according to diplomats, analysts and oil-industry figures in Sana.

Second, Saleh adopted what some Yemenis call "the policy of management
through conflicts." If a tribe was causing trouble, he would begin building
up its rivals as a counterweight. If a political party became threatening,
he would do the same thing, sometimes even creating a cloned version of the
same party with people on the government payroll. "The government plays
divide and rule with us," Arfaj bin Hadban, a tribal sheik from Jawf
province, north of Sana, said. "If one tribe will not do what he wants, he
gets the neighbors to pressure it. Sometimes it's money, sometimes it's
weapons, sometimes it's employment for the tribesmen."

But in a sense, the key to Saleh's long rule - and to much of Yemen's modern
history - lies just to the north in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom squats atop
Yemen on the map like a domineering older brother with a rebellious sibling.
Starting in 1962, the Saudi royal family viewed Yemenis' democratic
aspirations with alarm and began paying hefty stipends to tribal sheiks
throughout the country to reinforce its influence. Later, the Saudis began
spreading their hard-line strand of Islam throughout the country, with help
from some like-minded Yemenis. Hundreds of religious schools sprang up
teaching Salafism, the puritanical sect that denounces all other sects as
heresy. (The Saudi variant is usually called Wahhabism.) This was bound to
be divisive in Yemen, where a third or more of the population were Zaydis,
an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

As the influence of the Salafists grew, Saleh formed close ties to jihadists
and radical clerics like Abdul Majid al-Zindani, who is listed by the U.S.
Treasury Department as a "specially designated global terrorist." Saleh had
a political motive: Salafists are mostly quiescent and preach obedience to
the ruler (even if they call for violent jihad in other lands). That was an
appealing trait in Yemen's complex social mosaic, where rivalries based on
class, region, religious sect and lineage are endemic. But Saleh also knew
that he needed the Saudis, who are widely believed to have arranged his
accession in the first place.

When I met him, Saleh seemed enraged that anyone should dare to criticize
his methods. "We have unified the country and brought stability," he told
me. That is true. Saleh orchestrated the unification of north and south
Yemen in 1990, and he has remained in power for 32 years. But even as he
spoke, in June 2008, those achievements seemed to be unraveling. Zaydi
rebels from the north - angered by Saleh's support for the Salafists - were
gaining ground. In the south, a groundswell of economic discontent was
rising and later became an open secessionist movement. The fact that Saleh
is now trying to arrange for his son Ahmed Saleh to succeed him as president
has alienated many tribal leaders and other allies, narrowing Saleh's power
base. In the past year, as Al Qaeda began to mount more frequent attacks, he
turned to some old friends for help, only to see them abandon him.


Page 6 of 10)

One night in January 2009, Tareq al-Fadhli, a 42-year-old aristocrat from
south Yemen, received a phone call from Saleh. Fadhli wasn't surprised: the
Yemeni president is famously impulsive and has a habit of calling people
late at night with urgent ideas or demands that are sometimes forgotten by
daylight. But this one was unusual. Saleh wanted to convene all the old
jihadis who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Fadhli told me.

"He wanted us to make a dialogue with the new generation of Al Qaeda,"
Fadhli said. "He said he wanted to arrange to send them abroad to Saudi
Arabia and Somalia, and in return he would release the ones who were in
prison." The released prisoners would stay in Yemen.

It was a bold idea, to put it mildly. Saudi Arabia is Yemen's most important
ally and had waged bloody battles to rid itself of homegrown jihadi
fighters. But Al Qaeda, once a manageable problem, seemed to be running out
of control in Yemen, and America was putting on the pressure. Saleh was
desperate to find a way to rid himself of the militants, preferably without
calling in American airstrikes or doing anything else that would alienate
the radical clerics on whose political support he counted.

Fadhli, who has mournful eyes and a distinguished face, was a natural
intermediary and an old ally. As a young man, he fought for three years in
Afghanistan, leaving only after he was wounded at Jalalabad. He had formed a
close friendship with Osama bin Laden, whom he still remembers fondly.
Later, when the socialists of southern Yemen rebelled in 1994, Fadhli formed
a brigade of jihadists at the central government's request and helped put
down the rebels. His friend bin Laden helped out, providing millions of
dollars' worth of arms and hundreds of fighters who were hungry for another
chance to kill godless socialists.

After that, the former jihadis split. Fadhli, like many others, went back to
civilian life, becoming a landowner in the south and an adviser to Saleh. He
said goodbye to bin Laden in Sudan in 1994 and has not seen him since. But
some veterans continued to preach jihad and to train in Afghanistan with Al
Qaeda, which began to call for the overthrow of secular Arab regimes.

The first real sign that the jihadis were a source of trouble at home came
in 2000 with the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in the Yemeni port town of Aden
on the southern coast. Seventeen American sailors were killed. A year later,
after the Sept. 11 attacks, Saleh recognized that a major shift had taken
place. Fearing that the United States might invade Yemen, he flew to
Washington and pledged his support. At home, his security forces rounded up
hundreds of former jihadists and jailed them en masse without charge. In
November 2002, the C.I.A. used a Predator drone to kill Abu Ali al-Harithi,
then the leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen, as he was driving in the desert east
of Sana.

Saleh knew his collaboration with the United States could make the jihadis
turn on him. He was furious after American officials leaked word of their
role in the Harithi assassination. Later, Saleh repeatedly denied the
Americans permission to kill Al Qaeda leaders during Yemen's 2006
presidential election because he feared the strikes might harm his electoral
prospects, according to one high-ranking Yemeni official. Saleh had
struggled for years to find a compromise between the radicals and the
Americans. He created an Islamic "dialogue" program to bring jihadists under
the umbrella of the state, then abandoned it after several of its graduates
returned to terrorism. Popular sympathy for the jihadist cause was still
high, and in February 2006 Saleh suffered a deep embarrassment when 23
prisoners, many of them in Al Qaeda, escaped from a maximum-security prison
in Sana. The authorities offered a preposterous explanation: the men
tunneled out of their cell with spoons and table legs and emerged in the
bathroom of a neighboring mosque. The truth, the high-ranking official told
me, was that officers in the Political Security Organization arranged the
escape. "You have to remember, these officers used to escort people from
Sana to Pakistan during the Afghan jihad," he said. "People made
relationships, and that doesn't change so easily."

27311  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Yemen, the next Afg? on: July 11, 2010, 08:03:08 AM
Just before dawn on Dec. 24, an American cruise missile soared high over the
southern coast of the Arabian peninsula, arced down toward the dark
mountains above the Rafadh Valley in Yemen's Shabwa province and found its
mark, crashing into a small stone house on a hillside where five young men
were sleeping. Half a mile away, a 27-year-old Yemeni tribesman named Ali
Muhammad Ahmed was awakened by the sound. Stumbling out of bed, he quickly
dressed, slung his AK-47 over his shoulder and climbed down a footpath to
the valley that shelters his village, two hours from the nearest paved road.
He already sensed what had happened. A week earlier, an American airstrike
killed dozens of people in a neighboring province as part of an expanded
campaign against Al Qaeda militants. (Although the U.S. military has
acknowledged playing a role in the airstrikes, it has never publicly
confirmed that it fired the missiles.)

Ahmed soon came upon the shattered house. Mangled bodies were strewn among
the stones; he recognized a fellow tribesman. Scattered near the wreckage
were bits of yellow debris with the words "US Navy" and long serial numbers
written on them. A group of six or seven young men were standing in the dawn
half-light, looking dazed. All were members of Al Qaeda. Among them was Fahd
al-Quso, a longtime militant who is wanted by the F.B.I. for his suspected
role in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000. The missile had struck in
one of the most remote and inaccessible valleys on earth, in a place where
Al Qaeda has been trying to establish a foothold. Quso was the local cell
leader and had been recruiting young men for years. Ahmed knew him well.

I met Ahmed several weeks later in Sana, the Yemeni capital, where he works
part time as a bodyguard. By that time, Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch had claimed
credit for a failed effort to detonate a bomb in a Detroit-bound jetliner on
Christmas Day, igniting a global debate about whether Yemen was the next
front in the war on terror. Yemen's once-obscure vital statistics were
flashing across TV screens everywhere: it is the Arab world's poorest
country, with a fast-growing and deeply conservative Muslim population of 23
million. It is running out of oil and may soon be the first country in the
world to run out of water. The central government is weak and corrupt,
hemmed in by rebellions and powerful tribes. Many fear that Al Qaeda is
gaining a sanctuary in the remote provinces east of Sana, similar to the one
it already has in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the day I met him, Ahmed - a small, rail-thin man with a bony face -
seemed still awed and a bit frightened by what happened in his valley. He
was dressed in a tattered blazer and a futa, the patterned cloth skirt
Yemeni men often wear. He sat on a sofa leaning forward with his hands on
his thighs, glancing occasionally at me. We were in a small, sparely
furnished office belonging to Ahmed's employer and friend Abdulaziz
al-Jifri, who had given him permission to speak. It was evening, and in the
room next door men could be heard laughing and chatting as they drank tea
and chewed khat, the narcotic leaf Yemenis use to relax.

"We took the bodies under the trees," Ahmed continued in a quiet voice. "One
was from my tribe. He had just joined Al Qaeda, and that was his first night
sleeping with them." He paused, and I caught a hint of defensiveness,
perhaps also of anger, in his eyes. He seemed reluctant to stray from his
narrative, but it was clear that he felt the bombing was an injustice. "We
knew they were Qaeda, but they were young, and they hadn't done anything,
and they were locals," he said. "They came and went at checkpoints, and the
government didn't seem to care. So we dealt with them normally.. . .

"Later I took the bodies to the graveyard," he went on to say. "Then I
talked with Fahd's cousin about what we should do about him."

Within an hour, Ahmed said, the discussions expanded, and Ali al-Asowad, the
aging sheik of the Abdullah tribe, was summoned from his house. The sun was
rising over the arid brown hills around Rafadh and soon almost 100 people
were sitting under the spreading boughs of an acacia tree for an emergency
tribal meeting.


(Page 2 of 10)

Dozens of people spoke. Some were angry. Most people in the valley were
related to the dead men or knew them. The victims had scarcely stood out in
Rafadh, where everyone carried weapons and hatred of the Yemeni government
was nothing unusual. What did it matter that they hated America and called
themselves Qaeda? Some of the tribesmen also spoke in defense of Fahd
al-Quso, who moved to the area in 2007. His grandfather had a house there,
so he had a right to the tribe's protection. But others stood up and shouted
angrily that Quso had put the whole tribe in needless danger by basing
himself in their village; more American bombs might be coming soon.

The people of Rafadh had decisions to make, ones that might soon ramify
across all of Yemen's remote mountains and deserts and even half a world
away in the Pentagon. What did Al Qaeda mean to them? Was it worth
protecting? A bargaining chip to be used against a neglectful government? Or
just an invitation to needless violence?
SANA RESEMBLES A FORTRESS, not just in its architecture but in its
geography. It is set on a high plateau, surrounded by arid, craggy
mountains. At its heart is the Old City, a thicket of unearthly medieval
towers and banded spires that stands out sharply in the dry desert air. This
was the entire city until a few decades ago, its high walls locked every
evening at dusk. Today Sana is a far more sprawling place, with Internet
cafes and swarms of beat-up taxis and a sprinkling of adventure tourists.
The Old City gates are mostly gone now, and although men still carry the
traditional daggers known as jambiyas in their belts, they also wear
blazers, often with cheap designer logos on their sleeves. Like other Arab
capitals, it is full of policemen, and there are occasional checkpoints
manned by bored-looking soldiers in camouflage uniforms.

But Yemen is different. Beneath the familiar Arab iconography, like pictures
of the president that hang in every shop, there is a wildness about the
place, a feeling that things might come apart at any moment. A narcotic haze
descends on Yemen every afternoon, as men stuff their mouths with glossy
khat leaves until their cheeks bulge and their eyes glaze over. Police
officers sit down and ignore their posts, a green dribble running down their
chins. Taxi drivers get lost and drive in circles, babbling into their
cellphones. But if not for the opiate of khat, some say, all of Yemen - not
just those areas of the south and north already smoldering with discontent -
would explode into rebellion.

One morning in Sana, I discovered a crowd of people protesting in the stone
courtyard outside the cabinet building. Many had shackle scars on their
wrists and ankles. They came from an area called Jaashin, about 100 miles
south of the capital. But some of them, I found, did not even know that
Jaashin was in the Republic of Yemen. Their only real ruler was the local
sheik, Muhammad Ahmed Mansour, who is, it turns out, a kind of latter-day
Marquis de Sade. Mansour is also a poet, who earns extra license for his
cruelties by writing florid odes to Yemen's president. Some pilgrims from
Jaashin said they were imprisoned, shackled and beaten by the sheik - who
maintains his own army and several prisons - after refusing to relinquish
their property to him. I asked Ahmed Abdu Abdullah al-Haithami, a bent old
farmer in a tattered green jacket, what country he was living in. He looked
up at me with imploring eyes. "All I know is that God rules above, and the
sheik rules here below," he said. All of this, I later learned, was
documented by Yemeni lawyers, who have been working on behalf of the people
of Jaashin for years to little effect. As one lawyer, Khaled al-Alansi, put
it to me, "If you can't fight sheik Mansour, how can you possibly fight Al

Two thousand years ago, the area east of Sana held one of the earth's most
prosperous kingdoms, a lush agricultural region of spices and fruits, fed by
irrigation canals from a vast man-made dam. The Romans called Yemen "Arabia
Felix," or Happy Arabia. Today, the eastern region is an arid wasteland.
Most people scrape by on less than $2 a day, even though they live atop
Yemen's oil and gas fields. There are few ways to make a living other than
smuggling, goat-herding and kidnapping. The region is also, chronically, a
war zone. Tribal feuds have always been part of life here, but in recent
years they have grown so common and so deadly that as much as a quarter of
the population cannot go to school or work for fear of being killed. The
feuds often devolve into battles with bands of raiders mowing down their
rivals with machine-gun fire or launching mortars into a neighboring
village. No one knows how many people die in these wars, but Khaled Fattah,
a sociologist who has studied Yemen's tribes for years, told me that
hundreds of victims a year is a conservative estimate.


Page 3 of 10)

Every time I drive out of Sana I get an ominous sense of going backward in
time to a more lawless era. As the city's towers fade in the distance, the
houses drop away into level desert and occasional piles of construction
rubble. The traffic thins out and consists mostly of pickup trucks carrying
tribesmen with patterned cloth kaffiyehs tied around their heads. You pass
the first of several checkpoints, where skinny soldiers in ill-fitting
uniforms warily circle the car, looking for weapons or kidnapping victims.
You pass towering, desolate mountains of black and brown igneous rock. Once
you're out of Sana province, there are virtually no signs of the Yemeni
state. Every able-bodied man seems to carry an AK-47 rifle over his
shoulder; it's not uncommon to see rocket-propelled-grenade launchers. Only
the oil and gas fields, hidden behind wire fences and vigilantly watched
over by the Yemeni military, seem to merit the government's attention.

Last year I expected to see at least a few government soldiers when I
visited the ancient city of Shibam in Hadramawt, the vast eastern province
where Osama bin Laden's father was born. A few months earlier, four South
Korean tourists were blown up by a suicide bomber as they admired the view
of Shibam from across the valley. I was a little nervous. "Don't worry," my
guide said, patting my shoulder as we walked up to the ridge where the
Koreans died. "Ever since the bombing they have put this place on high
security." But when we got to the top of the ridge there was not a single
soldier or policeman to be seen. We gazed out over the valley in silence. A
sign stood nearby, showing a pair of binoculars and the words in English
"Discover Islam." As we began to leave, my guide smiled broadly and gestured
at the sign. "The Koreans - they discovered Islam," he said, giggling at his

Even in the capital, law and order often mean less than they do in other
Arab countries. One afternoon I was having tea with Abdulaziz al-Jifri when
a shot rang out nearby. I thought nothing of it; it might have been a
firecracker or someone testing a gun. We were in the safest area of the
city, a neighborhood called Hadda, where rich Yemenis and foreign diplomats
have built an enclave in recent decades. But Jifri got up from the cushion
where he was sitting to go see what happened. He came back 15 minutes later
with a look of surprise on his face. A friend of the family, a wealthy
tribal figure, had been shot dead a block away. The victim, Jifri explained,
was walking up to the gate of his home when someone apparently shot him once
in the head. There were no witnesses and no one even bothered to call the
police, who are so corrupt and incompetent that most people view them as

"There is no law in Yemen," Jifri said, shaking his head. We went on
drinking tea and talking politics.

By then, I had spent at least a dozen afternoons at Jifri's house. He was a
unique figure: educated in Britain and Saudi Arabia, he was designated by
his father - a wealthy businessman with political connections - as a liaison
to the tribes in Shabwa and Marib, two of the main areas where Al Qaeda is
said to find sanctuary. He is tall and handsome, with large, mischievous
brown eyes and a knack for setting a room on fire with laughter. His family
are sayyids, or descendants of the prophet Muhammad, and that gave them a
special status in the caste like social hierarchy that prevailed until
Yemen's republican revolution in 1962. Even now, the Jifris are trusted and
respected like few other clans in rural Yemen.

Jifri became my link to rural Yemen. There was no way for me to travel to
Shabwa or Marib undetected, I was told. So day after day I would sit on a
cushion beside him in the family's rectangular living room as various sheiks
and relatives from those provinces arrived to sip tea, chew khat and talk
until dark about what was happening among the tribes. It was there that I
met Ali Muhammad Ahmed, along with others from the area around Rafadh, in
Shabwa province, the valley where the cruise missile struck on Dec. 24. The
Jifris themselves have a house in the Rafadh Valley.
27312  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Banking issues on: July 11, 2010, 07:45:34 AM
This article is from POTH and as such its integrity, particularly on a subject such as this one, is suspect.  That said, I post it because I respect Paul Volcker.

Volcker Pushes for Reform, Regretting Past Silence
Published: July 9, 2010

JUST before the Fourth of July weekend, Paul A. Volcker packed his fishing gear and set off for his annual outing to the Canadian wilds to cast for Atlantic salmon.

He left behind a group of legislators in Washington still trying to nail down a controversial attempt to overhaul the nation’s financial regulations in the wake of the country’s most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression.
A well-regarded lion of the regulatory world, Mr. Volcker had endorsed the legislation before he went fishing, but unenthusiastically. If he were a teacher, and not a senior White House adviser and the towering former chairman of the Federal Reserve, he says, he would have given the new rules just an ordinary B — not even a B-plus.

“There is a certain circularity in all this business,” he concedes. “You have a crisis, followed by some kind of reform, for better or worse, and things go well for a while, and then you have another crisis.”

As the financial overhaul took final shape recently, he worked the phone from his Manhattan office and made periodic visits to Washington, trying to persuade members of Congress to make the legislation more far-reaching. “Constructive advice,” he calls it, emphasizing that he never engaged in lobbying.

For all of what he describes as the overhaul’s strengths — particularly the limits placed on banks’ trading activities — he still feels that the legislation doesn’t go far enough in curbing potentially problematic bank activities like investing in hedge funds.

Like few other policy giants of his generation, Mr. Volcker has been a pivotal figure in the regulatory universe for decades, and as he looks back at his long, storied career he confesses to some regrets, in particular for failing to speak out more forcefully about the dangers of a seismic wave of financial deregulation that began in the 1970s and reached full force in the late 1990s.

Despite his recent efforts to ensure that the financial legislation might correct what he regards as some of the mistakes of the deregulatory years, he’s concerned that it still gives banks too much wiggle room to repeat the behavior that threw the nation into crisis in the first place.

Some analysts share Mr. Volcker’s worries that the proposed changes may ultimately not be enough.

“It could be we will look back in 10 years and say, ‘Wow, Volcker really changed the tone of the debate and the outcome,’ ” says Simon Johnson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a historian of financial crises and regulation. “But I kind of worry that is not going to happen.”

Hear, hear, says Mr. Volcker.

“People are nervous about the long-term outlook, and they should be,” he says.

AMONG the tools that Mr. Volcker has been able to deploy when regulatory debates heat up is the public support he enjoys in financial and political circles.

He earned that esteem over many years, and is famously credited for making tough-minded choices to tame runaway inflation as Fed chairman from 1979 to 1987, when he served under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

At the age of 82, Mr. Volcker is from a generation of Wall Street personalities who accepted strict financial regulation as a fact of life through much of their careers. In his recent push for more stringent financial regulations than he believed Congress — and the Obama administration, for that matter — were inclined to approve, he lined up public support for a tougher crackdown from other well-known financiers who are roughly his age, including George Soros, Nicholas F. Brady, William H. Donaldson and John C. Bogle.

His most visible contribution to the current regulatory overhaul effort is what has come to be known as the Volcker rule, which in its initial form would have banned commercial banks from engaging in what Wall Street calls proprietary trading — that is, risking their own funds to speculate on potentially volatile products like mortgage-backed securities and credit-default swaps.

Such bets added considerable tinder to the financial conflagration that erupted in 2008. Many went horribly awry, and the federal government used taxpayer money to bail out banks, Wall Street firms and even a major insurer.

“I did not realize that the speculative trading by commercial banks had gotten as far out of hand as it had,” says Mr. Volcker, explaining why he first proposed the rule 18 months ago.

Congressional handicappers and Wall Street originally gave the Volcker rule a slim chance of becoming part of the overhaul bill — until, in fact, it got solidly on track to do just that.

Mr. Volcker thinks that Congress has watered down his trading rule — more on that later — but rather than roar in protest, he has resigned himself to the present shape of the Volcker rule as well as the overall legislation.

“The success of this approach is going to be heavily dependent on how aggressively and intelligently it is implemented,” he says, emphasizing that a new, 10-member regulatory council authorized by the bill will have to be vigilant and tough to prevent the nation’s giant banks and investment houses from pulling America into yet another devastating credit crisis. “It is not just a question of defining what needs to be done, but carrying it out in practice, day by day, bank by bank.”

The 2,400-page financial overhaul legislation, already passed by the House, is coming up for a vote in the Senate this week.

The Obama administration says it is now satisfied with the broader legislation, and in particular with the Volcker rule in its amended form.

“The Volcker rule was designed to make sure that banks could not engage in proprietary trading or create risks to the system through their investments in hedge funds or private equity,” says Neal S. Wolin, the deputy Treasury secretary. “We accomplished that.”

Some members of Congress who have backed the bill still say that it is not as restrictive as they would like, but that a more sweeping bill — one that also hewed to Mr. Volcker’s original conception — wouldn’t make it through the Senate, where the vote is expected to be close.

Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, subscribes to that view. He says that there are stronger measures he would have preferred to see in the bill, including the original version of the Volcker rule, but that political reality dictated otherwise.

“I would give the present bill an A-minus,” Mr. Frank says, “when you consider that six months ago people were saying the Volcker rule had no chance.”

Mr. Frank is quick to point out that Mr. Volcker signed off on the compromises that got the Volcker rule into the bill. Mr. Volcker doesn’t dispute that.

“The thing went from what is best to what could be passed,” he says.


Page 2 of 3)

THE financial bill has been routinely described in the news media and on Capitol Hill as the most far-reaching regulatory overhaul since the Great Depression, which in some aspects it may be. But it certainly falls short of re-establishing some of the strict boundaries that the earlier laws put in place.

In Chicago on Nov. 26, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama announced that Mr. Volcker would lead an Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Those laws, most notably the Glass-Steagall Act, forbade commercial banks (what are now, for example, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America) and investment banks (like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) from mingling plain-vanilla products like savings accounts, mortgages and business loans with the more high-octane, high-risk endeavors of trading.

Such rules managed to keep the banks and the Wall Street investment houses — and the broader economy that depended on them — out of a 2008-style crisis for several decades. But the gradual unwinding of those regulations began in the 1970s as Mr. Volcker rose to prominence, first as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 1975, and then as Fed chairman.

Mr. Volcker says that most of the deregulation came after he left the Fed. His reluctance to deregulate contributed in part to his departure under pressure from the Reagan administration. His replacement, Alan Greenspan, openly campaigned to weaken and finally repeal Glass-Steagall, and President Bill Clinton signed the repeal into law in 1999.

Although Mr. Volcker opposed the repeal, he didn’t go public with his concerns. “It is very difficult to take restrictive action when the economy and the financial markets seemed to be doing so well,” he says of his silence at the time. “But eventually things blew up.”

He also says he failed to anticipate just how wild things would become, post-Glass-Steagall: “Those were the days before credit-default swaps, derivatives, securitization. All of that changed the landscape, and now some adjustment must be made.”

There were other, earlier silences. Starting in the 1970s, ceilings came off the interest rates banks could place on most deposits and loans. A rising inflation rate made the ceilings impractical, and competition from unregulated money market funds was siphoning big chunks of deposits from the banks.

“The lifting of interest-rate ceilings was inevitable,” he says. “I was for doing it more gradually, but it got such a momentum that we moved the limits more abruptly than I wanted to.”

In the wake of those changes, banks were suddenly free to charge more for risky loans, and that encouraged risky lending. The subprime mortgage market grew out of this dynamic, as did the panoply of complex, mortgage-backed securities, credit-default swaps and heart-stopping leverage that finally produced the 2008 crisis.

In retrospect, Mr. Volcker regrets not challenging the widely held assumptions that underpinned much of this. “You had an intellectual conviction that you did not need much regulation — that the market could take care of itself,” he says. “I’m happy that illusion has been shattered.”

THE Volcker rule, in its initial, undiluted form, was an attempt to resurrect the spirit of Glass-Steagall.

The administration initially did not want to separate banks and investment houses, and wanted federal regulation and protections in place for both the Banks of America and the Goldman Sachses of the world. Mr. Volcker disagreed. Let Goldman Sachs and others trade to their hearts’ content, he argued in Congressional testimony last fall, and if they fail they can lose their own money, not get a dime in bailouts from taxpayers, and then be dismantled by the government in an orderly fashion.

Old-fashioned commercial banks that made loans to individuals and businesses were much more essential to the financial system, he argued, and deserved broader federal support than pure Wall Street trading shops.

But in exchange for that support, Mr. Volcker said, commercial banks had to agree to a partial resurrection of Glass-Steagall that corralled their trading activities. His hope is that the trading restrictions will make the nation’s banks embrace the business of commercial and consumer lending more fully and move away from speculative trading.

To encourage that shift, Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, and Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, co-sponsored an amendment to the financial bill that would have incorporated the Volcker rule with all of its original restrictions. Mr. Volcker even had a hand in writing the amendment, so much so that Senator Merkley suggested, only half-jokingly, that it should be called the Merkley-Levin-Volcker amendment.

The White House, after resisting, signed on to the proposal, and so did Congress after much internal wrangling — but the legislation now contains what Mr. Volcker considers an annoying and potentially dangerous loophole.

Instead of forbidding banks to make investments in hedge funds and private equity funds, the amendment allows them to invest up to 3 percent of their capital in such funds, so long as the fund is “walled off” from the bank in a separate subsidiary.


Page 3 of 3)

Banks won’t be allowed to leverage their investments by lending to a hedge fund; such a loan, if sizable enough, could endanger the bank if the hedge fund should fail. In addition, if regulators discover that a bank is overexposed to a given fund, they are required to intervene and, in some cases, may even be able to shut down the fund or restrict its activities, in order to preserve a bank’s well-being.

But the lending restriction is not as clear-cut as it should be, cautions Senator Merkley.
“We have to get some clarification on that,” he says.

Nor is it clear that a bank wouldn’t try to come to the aid of a hedge fund or a private equity firm in danger of failing if that failure would also cause financial or reputational problems for the bank.

For all of that, Henry Kaufman, a Wall Street economist and a contemporary of Mr. Volcker, wonders how effectively regulators will enforce any of the bill’s numerous mandates. “The legislation is a Rube Goldberg contraption,” he says, “and there are very long timelines before the Volcker rule is fully implemented.”

Whatever warts exist in the Volcker rule, its author says that other positive elements of the larger bill are still worthy and important.

“Don’t take the Volcker rule out of perspective,” he says. “It is one aspect of a broad reform, and it became a big issue because the administration initially disagreed.”

MR. VOLCKER has had a lukewarm relationship with the Obama White House, where the approach to the economy and financial regulation has been dominated by Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, and Lawrence H. Summers, director of the National Economic Council.

Both men were at the center of the deregulatory whirlwind that swept across Wall Street and Washington over the last decade or so, and analysts have considered them to be friendlier to Wall Street and less inclined to pursue tougher regulations than Mr. Volcker would be.

Mr. Volcker supported Mr. Obama in the 2008 presidential election, and the new president named him to lead his Economic Recovery Advisory Board, a group of distinguished outsiders with little real impact on White House policy — until Mr. Volcker publicly proposed the ban on proprietary trading by commercial banks.

After the proposal gained support outside Washington, the president embraced it and dubbed it the Volcker rule. That gave Mr. Volcker more access to the White House and the Treasury on regulatory policy, but people who work with him say that the White House doesn’t regularly seek his input on other issues.

However complicated his relationship with Washington, Mr. Volcker says his personal life has taken a turn for the better. He had been a widower since 1998, until six months ago when he married Anke Dening, his longtime administrator, executive secretary, adviser and constant companion. Ms. Dening, who is German-born and speaks several languages, travels regularly with her husband and often serves as his interpreter.

When it comes to interpreting the financial legislation, Mr. Volcker says he remains less than impressed. “We have to have a regulatory system that reflects today’s problems and tomorrow’s potential problems,” he says. “This bill attempts to do that. Does it do it perfectly? Obviously it does not go as far as I felt it should go.”
27313  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: K2 on: July 11, 2010, 07:34:45 AM
The Sisyphean futility of it all , , ,
ST. LOUIS — Seated at a hookah lounge in the Tower Grove district, Albert Kuo trained his lighter above a marbleized glass pipe stuffed with synthetic marijuana. Inhaling deeply, Mr. Kuo, an art student at an area college, singed the pipe’s leafy contents, emitting a musky cloud of smoke into the afternoon light.  Mr. Kuo, 25, had gathered here with a small cohort of friends for what could be the last time they legally get high in Missouri on a substance known popularly as K2, a blend of herbs treated with synthetic marijuana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where does a parent go to get answers?” asked Mike Rozga, who said he learned of K2 only after his son’s death. “We talk to our kids about sex. We talk to our kids about drugs, and we talk to our kids about drinking and being responsible. But how can you talk to your kids about something you don’t even know about?”
27314  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Desalinization in Australia on: July 11, 2010, 07:26:01 AM
It is POTH (the NY Times) some some wooly-headedness is to be expected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But since there’s only so much water in the world, and it’s been through somebody’s body or some other place over the past 250 million years, maybe it’s not that bad. At least, it might be better than desalination.”
27315  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 10, 2010, 10:26:36 AM
Grateful for a wonderful night with my family last night.

27316  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Preamble of the Bill of Rights on: July 10, 2010, 10:22:32 AM
Pasting this post by PC on the Well Armed People thread here.  This is an excellent and usually overlooked point.
 Liberal lawyers, judges, professors, and other so called Constitutional experts have for many years been poisoning the well by putting various ideas and interpretations of the Second Amendment out in the public sphere that completely goes against what the amendment was intended to protect. Any course you take in college or book you pick up on the Bill of Rights, will firmly place these ideas in your mind; things like saying the Second Amendment was put in the Bill of Rights to make sure the government had soldiers at the ready and now it is outdated for that purpose. In other words this wasn't about protecting a citizens right to keep and bear arms at all but instead it was about protecting the United States from attack and it was put there as a benefit to the government and the states to have a armed militia.
 This poison pill that they have drilled into our heads and into every lawyer and Constitutional expert that comes out of our finest schools, has been what the enemies of freedom have hung their hat on in order to strip the Second Amendment of its power to protect citizens from tyranny. Of course the latest ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States, has worked as an antidote to lessen the effect of that poisonous idea. However, the poison is still there in every major work on the Bill of Rights and Constitutional law. So here I would like to counter these ideas with some simple facts that you might use to correct the record.
 Let's start with first things first. What was the intended purpose of the Bill of Rights to begin with? For that we can look at the preamble to the Bill of Rights. What? Never heard of that before? I wonder why? Well, here it is:

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

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

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

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

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

Second Amendment

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

 The first part is what the interpreters deem to contain the important meaning and purpose of the amendment and the last half, according to them, is just meaningless drivel. Now, anyone who's thinking hasn't been impaired by the poisonous ideas planted in all the literature about the Second Amendment would immediately recognize the first part as being a supporting statement to what follows, and they would respect the placement of commas that separate the statement from the declaration and restriction clause. What did the Preamble say? " order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that futher declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added." and what does the last half of the Second Amendment say? This is the declaratory part, note the comma: "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, And the restrictive part: shall not be infringed."
 The first part that mentions the Militia as a supporting statement, is just one given reason among many as to why this declaration and restriction had its place in the Bill of Rights and it has no importance or bearing on its meaning at all, at least not if you believe the preamble. Which might explain why it is never mentioned in all those expert opinions.
 Am I really that much smarter than all all those Constitutional experts?  These people are despicable for intentionally misleading the public and undermining our rights by way of academic terrorism. This is intellectual dishonesty at its worse. 
27317  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: July 10, 2010, 10:20:50 AM
Excellent point PC, indeed outstanding!  I will be pasting this on the American Creed thread on the SCH forum too. 
27318  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: July 09, 2010, 09:05:26 PM
Exactly so.  smiley
27319  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: July 09, 2010, 06:38:35 PM
I was thinking more of the eternal dance between central and local power.
27320  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: July 09, 2010, 05:49:04 PM
I sense a circle here.

Perhaps this takes us to the FF's point about what they constructed requiring a moral, spiritual people if it were to work.
27321  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Song of My Youth on: July 09, 2010, 03:34:24 PM
“The Song of my Youth”
By Crafty Dog
(copyright 2010 Marc F. Denny—all rights reserved)


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

One of my favorite songs has this refrain:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

I confess to being rather proud of this.

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

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

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

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


Wat happens when one no longer is fighting? 

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
27322  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on Kagan on: July 09, 2010, 03:10:23 PM
I also posted the following on the Kagan thread but post it here for future reference/research purposes.

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

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

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

27323  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on Kagan on: July 09, 2010, 03:09:03 PM
News From the Swamp: The Kagan Hearings
The Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan this past week were a glimpse into a pretty dim future for American jurisprudence. Kagan offered an obsequious and often glib performance over two days of softball pitches by Democrats and surprisingly light questioning by Republicans. She remained true to her featherweight legal background by deflecting most of the questions she received, and everyone, including the American public, walked away from the hearings just as clueless about her as when the whole charade began. Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee didn't help matters, because they refused to follow up on some important lines of questioning. They also didn't demonstrate any coordinated plan of attack for exposing Kagan as a doctrinaire leftist with no respect for constitutional Rule of Law.

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

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

27324  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: July 09, 2010, 02:59:22 PM
Tangent:  Jane Harman is my Congresswoman.
27325  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: July 09, 2010, 02:57:24 PM
This is very interesting.
27326  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 7/31-8/1 Guro Crafty at Range 37 in Fayetteville, NC on: July 09, 2010, 09:18:50 AM
Looking forward to meeting you in person.

27327  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Kali Tudo 3 on: July 09, 2010, 09:17:15 AM
Night Owl came by yesterday with the fine edit for KT 3.  I'm really liking how this project came together.  With any luck he should have the final version for me on Sunday. 

The Adventure continues!
27328  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Kind words on: July 09, 2010, 09:15:42 AM
I love emails like this:
I just wanted to thank you again for the Kali Tudo material. While I don't have many people here in Maine to work it with me, I do utilize it when I spar. And the strategies certainly seem to allow me, at 36, to keep up with the younger guys. And for some reason, I tend to spar from the philly shell, and this is well wedded to the KT material. The Trigg material seems to emerge almost effortlessly from that structure as well as the Zirconia.
The Kali Tudo tapes really are the best striking tapes I've purchased in ages. Punching and kicking, and standing in the pocket is great when you are young and your attributes grant an edge but dependence on attributes probably represents poor long term planning. Strategy, movement, and selective engagement are much wiser approaches.
Thanks again.
27329  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Towards AIDs vaccine on: July 09, 2010, 09:11:17 AM
HIV research is undergoing a renaissance that could lead to new ways to develop vaccines against the AIDS virus and other viral diseases.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write to Mark Schoofs at
27330  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Lame Duck on: July 09, 2010, 09:06:16 AM
Democratic House members are so worried about the fall elections they're leaving Washington on July 30, a full week earlier than normal—and they won't return until mid-September. Members gulped when National Journal's Charlie Cook, the Beltway's leading political handicapper, predicted last month "the House is gone," meaning a GOP takeover. He thinks Democrats will hold the Senate, but with a significantly reduced majority.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Fund is a columnist for
27331  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Astute friend responds to SG on: July 09, 2010, 08:51:29 AM

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


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


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


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


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


All of this has caused me to question the validity of the entire discipline of macroeconomics.  Maybe it’s all a crock similar to MPT and the risk management models that failed in the credit markets.  Yes, that may be a low probability event.  Of course, in 2003, the housing crash was a low probability event for the Fed.
27332  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knives in the Middle East; jambiya daggers on: July 08, 2010, 08:19:08 PM
Very interesting!
27333  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Grannis responds on: July 08, 2010, 01:20:31 PM
Rick, the economy is not dependent on consumer spending, and consumer spending is not dependent on leverage. You're using Keynesian thinking (demand drives supply) rather than supply side thinking (supply drives demand). The only things that make the economy grow are 1) more work, 2) more efficient work, 3) investment, and 4) risk taking. If you have those, then you have the wherewithal for consumers to spend more. Leverage doesn't create new demand, it only redistributes demand (Peter borrows from Paul; Peter spends more, Paul spends less).
27334  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gun Shy Supremes on: July 08, 2010, 12:40:44 PM
Second post

Gun shy Supreme Court justices

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment applies to states and cities as well as the federal government. Judging from their objections, the four dissenters were still reeling from the court’s landmark 2008 decision recognizing that the amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.
In their dissenting opinions, Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer (joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor) worry that overturning gun control laws undermines democracy. If “the people” want to ban handguns, they say, “the people” should be allowed to implement that desire through their elected representatives.
What if the people want to ban books that offend them, establish an official church or authorize police to conduct warrantless searches at will? Those options are also foreclosed by constitutional provisions that apply to the states by way of the 14th Amendment. The crucial difference between a pure democracy and a constitutional democracy like ours is that sometimes the majority does not decide.
Likewise, Stevens defends “state and local legislatures’ right to experiment,” while Breyer is loath to interfere with “the ability of states to reflect local preferences and conditions — both key virtues of federalism.” Coming from justices who think Congress can disregard state decisions about the medical use of marijuana because a plant on the windowsill of a cancer patient qualifies as interstate commerce, this sudden concern about federalism is hard to take seriously.
Another reason to doubt the dissenters’ sincerity: They would never accept federalism as a rationale for letting states “experiment” with freedom of speech, freedom of religion or due process protections. Much of their job, as they themselves see it, involves overriding “local preferences” that give short shrift to constitutional rights.
Second Amendment rights are different, Breyer says, because “determining the constitutionality of a particular state gun law requires finding answers to complex empirically based questions.” So does weighing the claims in favor of banning child pornography or depictions of animal cruelty, relaxing the Miranda rule, admitting illegally obtained evidence or allowing warrantless pat-downs, dog sniffs or infrared surveillance.
When they decide whether a law or practice violates a constitutional right, courts cannot avoid empirical questions. In cases involving racial discrimination or content-based speech restrictions, for example, they ask whether the challenged law is “narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest” and is the “least restrictive means” of doing so.
But unlike equal protection or freedom of speech, Stevens says, “firearms have a fundamentally ambivalent relationship to liberty.” How so? “Just as they can help homeowners defend their families and property from intruders,” he explains, “they can help thugs and insurrectionists murder innocent victims.”
Every right can be abused, with results that are immoral, illegal or both. Freedom of speech can be used to spread hateful ideas, promote pernicious political philosophies, slander the innocent or engage in criminal conspiracies. If there were no potential for harm from exercising a right, there would be no need to protect it, because no one would try to restrict it.
The dissenters’ most frivolous objection is that making states obey the Second Amendment “invites an avalanche of litigation,” as Stevens puts it. Every day we hear about cases in which people argue that the government has violated their rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth or Eighth amendment. Neither Stevens nor Breyer wants to stop this “avalanche.” Only when the Second Amendment is added to the mix do they recoil in horror at the prospect that Americans will use the courts to vindicate their rights.
Stevens warns that “the practical significance of the proposition that ‘the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the states’ remains to be worked out by this court over many, many years.” But that’s because the court for many, many years ignored the Second Amendment while gradually defining the contours of its neighbors in the Bill of Rights. There is a lot of catching up to do.
27335  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Liberals loving the Second on: July 08, 2010, 12:39:52 PM

Daily Kos
Why liberals should love the Second Amendment
by Kaili Joy Gray aka Angry Mouse
Digg this! Share this on Twitter - Why liberals should love the Second AmendmentTweet this submit to reddit Share This
Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 10:00:03 AM PDT

Liberals love the Constitution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is why:

(Reasons below the fold)

    * ::

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

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

First Amendment:

    ...the right of the people peaceably to assemble

Second Amendment:

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

Fourth Amendment:

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

Ninth Amendment:

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

Tenth Amendment: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The United States Militia Code:

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

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

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

Everyone else. Individuals. The People.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Amendment is obsolete?

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

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

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

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

And you'd be right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 5: The Second Amendment is about revolution.

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

It is the right of revolution.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because we are revolutionaries.
27336  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel exposes intel to warn Hez on: July 08, 2010, 12:32:07 PM
second post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The various declarations do not necessarily mean that war will erupt in the north this summer. Military Intelligence assessments, too, suggest that Syria and Hezbollah are not interested in a confrontation at this time. The Northern Command, however, must prepare as if war will break out any minute, and it must consider that it may not get a head's-up from MI.
27337  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unemployments benefits are not stimulus on: July 08, 2010, 09:56:02 AM
The current debate over extending and increasing federal unemployment benefits encapsulates the disagreement between the Democrats in power in Washington and their Republican opponents. What the consequences will be of raising unemployment benefits in today's depressed economy is at issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Laffer is the chairman of Laffer Associates and co-author of "The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy—If We Let It Happen" (Threshold, 2008).
27338  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bank bailouts profitable on: July 08, 2010, 09:46:02 AM
27339  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ "Perfect Citizen" on: July 08, 2010, 09:42:05 AM
.The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed "Perfect Citizen" to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.

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

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

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

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

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

Raytheon declined to comment on this email.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write to Siobhan Gorman at
27340  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: July 08, 2010, 09:38:55 AM
Federal prosecutors charged a senior al Qaeda leader Wednesday with helping to mastermind last year's attempted bombing of New York City's subway and said the effort was part of a larger plot that included a failed terrorist attempt in the U.K.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Alistair MacDonald and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
27341  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: July 08, 2010, 09:22:21 AM
"The Weimar Republic? Jews were more economically sophiticated than the newly arrising German people.  That caused SERIOUS inequities to appear , , ,"

I do not know this history.  Would you flesh this out please?
27342  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 10 Economic blunders, #5 on: July 08, 2010, 08:52:43 AM
Ten Economic Blunders from History
 5. No Smuggling Allowed
Price controls are stupid anytime, but it takes true idiocy to apply them in the middle of a siege. In 1584 forces controlled by Alexander Farnese, the duke of Parma, were besieging Holland's grandest city, Antwerp, in the Dutch War of Independence. At first the siege was ineffectual because the duke's lines were porous and Antwerp could be supplied by sea, but the duke was in luck because the city decided to blockade itself voluntarily. The magistrates of the city declared a maximum on the price of grain. The smugglers who had been running the blockade up to that point became considerably less enthusiastic about making food deliveries after that. Facing starvation, the city surrendered the next year.

27343  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An astute friend responds on: July 08, 2010, 01:21:19 AM
The arguments for and against a double dip recession are a media-inflamed straw man.  Whether or not it occurs is irrelevant.  The salient issue is whether or not real GDP can resume a consistent growth rate sufficient to cause the millions of unemployed to get hired at compensation packages equivalent to their pre-layoff situation less any decline in their household debt service and discretionary spending costs.  Unless that occurs quickly, there will be more structural changes in the US economy for the worse.


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


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


The pessimists like Roubini forecast growth in real GDP.  They just see annualized growth of <2% in the second half of this year.  So, let’s discuss the real issue in the US.  How does an economy that was 60-70% consumer spending dependent and that grew for the past 10 or more years primarily based upon leverage resume those same growth rates with less leverage, with disposable income concentrated in less people, and with a government taxation and expenditure system that must itself deleverage?  I question whether the traditional macro-economic indicators cited in the article are merely correlations.  And, this time, we are experiencing another low probability economic event.  After all, since Q4 1960, there have been only 5 quarters in which nominal GDP declined on an annualized basis.  Three of those five quarters were Q4 2008, Q1 2009 and Q2 2009.
27344  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2010 is not 2008 on: July 08, 2010, 01:18:58 AM
2010 is Not 2008
by Duncan Frearson, Smith Street Capital

July 6, 2010

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

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

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

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


Source: Federal Reserve


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27345  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: A complicated alliance on: July 08, 2010, 12:55:05 AM
I like Stratfor a lot, but some elements of the following strike me as either glib or lacking in candor.


The United States and Israel: A Complicated Alliance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The United States has to reach an accommodation with Iran, which means Washington can only go so far in isolating Iran. The new sanctions only buy the United States time to sort out its real dispute with the Islamic republic, which has to do with regime security and the future regional balance of power in the wake of a post-American Iraq. In other words, the underlying structural factors that have caused a divergence in U.S. and Israeli interests are bound to complicate relations between the two allies.
27346  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UAE asks US to stop Iran by all means on: July 07, 2010, 09:05:50 PM

UAE asks US to stop Iran by all means

07/07/2010 11:30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otaiba "was thus only speaking the truth from his perspective," Mr. Bolton reportedly said.
27347  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: July 07, 2010, 08:34:52 PM
Prechter has an absolutely horrendous track record.  Alan Reynolds has a really good one.  Here is what he says (btw I disagree quite a bit, but I do respect the man and pay attention to what he says):
Get Real: This Is Not 1932
Brian S. Wesbury and Robert Stein
07.07.10, 6:00 AM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian S. Wesbury is chief economist and Robert Stein senior economist at First Trust Advisors in Wheaton, Ill. They write a weekly column for Forbes. Wesbury is the author of It's Not As Bad As You Think: Why Capitalism Trumps Fear and the Economy Will Thrive.
27348  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Poll going on right now on: July 07, 2010, 11:47:27 AM
27349  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Govt gold sales on: July 07, 2010, 11:39:06 AM

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

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

AFP/Getty Images

Central banks of developed countries have relatively easy access to capital and capital markets, while emerging countries have generally been increasing their foreign reserves.
While the use of swaps has no practical implications for the gold market, the report helped weigh on gold prices, which have already come under pressure since reaching a peak last month.
The prospect that the gold isn't locked up in central-bank vaults as investors thought—and that it may, in an extreme case, be seized and sold on the open market by the BIS—gave some investors pause.
On Tuesday, the most actively traded gold contract, for August delivery, dropped $12.60 per troy ounce, or 1%, to $1,194.80 on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. It is now off 5% from its record high hit on June 18.
The BIS report could change investors' perception of gold as an asset to protect against the impact of global sovereign-debt woes, said Nicholas Johnson, co-manager of Pacific Investment Management Co.'s CommodityRealReturn Strategy Fund, a mutual fund with about $16 billion in assets.
"Originally sovereign financial troubles were taken as unambiguously bullish" for gold, Mr. Johnson said in an email.
"But some are now rethinking this if the gold that sovereigns hold has been pledged as collateral to someone else who has more ability to liquidate those holdings."
If the central bank that lent the gold is for some reason unable to make good on the loan, the BIS could opt to sell the gold in order to get its money back, which would amount to flooding the market with an unexpected boost to the global supply.
The BIS annual report covers the 12-month period through March. April data show that an additional 32 tons of gold were put up as collateral that month, suggesting further loans were taken out with the BIS, said Andy Smith, senior metals strategist at Bache Commodities Group.
At this rate, the BIS holdings represent the "biggest gold swap in history," Mr. Smith said.
Central banks probably chose to swap gold for cash with the BIS—which is known as the central bank for central banks—because it is less visible to the market and probably cheaper than a syndicated loan from commercial banks, Mr. Klapwijk said.
Gold is often regarded as a protection against inflation and is thought to benefit from the inflationary impact of governments' economic stimulus packages. It has also been used as a haven against another financial meltdown.
The news of the swaps comes as the World Gold Council, a trade group backed by miners, is trying to persuade central banks to buy more gold. The group sent a 28-page report to more than 800 central bankers and fiscal policy makers around the world, laying out the argument for increasing their bullion holdings.
Many central banks in rapidly growing countries have less than 2% of their reserves in gold, including China, Brazil, South Korea and Malaysia. By contrast, the U.S. has 72.8% of its reserves in gold.
Many developing countries are reluctant to increase their gold holdings significantly. Gold's volatility and its inability to generate income have long been cited as reason why central banks don't want to enhance their gold holdings. Countries also fear that it could become difficult to liquidate their holdings in a pinch.
27350  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: July 07, 2010, 11:36:59 AM
"IF he believes illegals pay more into our system then they take out than why is he against it?"

Well speaking only for myself, the econ costs vel non of the illegals is not really the point.  The point is that we get to decide who comes here and in what numbers they come.  Even were it to turn out that illegals coming here were a net econ positive, there are cultural and political aspects of the question to consider as well.
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