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27551  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: December 25, 2010, 04:24:42 PM
FWIW, about once a year I go through a squat cycle.  There is something about squats that is primal and that puts things right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes I do my squats at a gym where the weights are in pounds, and sometimes I do it at a gym where my weights are in kilos, but the bar is the usual 45 pounds. This yields some weird numbers smiley. In the last three weeks my numbers were 5x221, 5x235, and 5x253. This is a faster rate of ascension in the weights than my formula calls for e.g. increase only 7 or let ego chatter drive me to go for an 18 pound jump-- ego won out and I barely made the 5x253 this week. So I think this coming week I will stay at 253 and make sure I nail it with confidence before moving up again.
27552  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: To serve & defend our Constitution; we the unorganized militia; citizenship on: December 25, 2010, 04:15:07 PM
They did not need me.  Certainly it was convenient not to have been called, but the truth is that inside I felt a bit disappointed.
27553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Off the Grid on: December 25, 2010, 12:55:40 PM

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

Beyond Fossil Fuels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Page 2 of 2)

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

Beyond Fossil Fuels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With this system, you get a real light for what you spend on kerosene in a few months,” said Mr. Maina, of Sustainable Community Development Services. “When you can light your home and charge your phone, that is very valuable.”
27554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: December 25, 2010, 12:54:50 PM
Freki:  That is fascinating.
27555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: December 25, 2010, 10:28:49 AM
Thank you and to you too Freki-- and thank you very much for keeping the Founding Fathers thread going; it is greatly appreciated.
27556  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 25, 2010, 12:16:00 AM

You are amongst the people for whose presence here I am quite grateful.
27557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 25, 2010, 12:04:26 AM
Go to 

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

Again, educate yourself as best you can, then confer with a qualififed attorney.
27558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Frankenstein Health Care on: December 25, 2010, 12:00:51 AM
The historians will long be fighting over the legislative legacy of the 111th Congress. As to its legal legacy, the only real question is whether this just-finished Democratic Congress was the most unserious in decades, or the most unserious in history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Tea Partiers and the spirit of giving on: December 24, 2010, 01:04:31 PM
By now everyone knows that the dramatic November election was not an endorsement of Republicanism, but rather a rebellion against expansionist government and an attempt to re-establish America's culture of free enterprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute.

27560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: December 24, 2010, 12:50:44 PM
Uhhh , , , at whom is that directed GM?
27561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hmmm , , , , hum? on: December 24, 2010, 12:20:31 PM
The Claim: Humming Can Ease Sinus Problems
Published: December 20, 2010

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

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

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

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


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

27562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: December 24, 2010, 11:57:42 AM
What this woman doesn't know is a lot.
27563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: CIA secrets could surface in Swiss Nuclear Case on: December 24, 2010, 11:49:46 AM
C.I.A. Secrets Could Surface in Swiss Nuclear Case
Published: December 23, 2010
A seven-year effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to hide its relationship with a Swiss family who once acted as moles inside the world’s most successful atomic black market hit a turning point on Thursday when a Swiss magistrate recommended charging the men with trafficking in technology and information for making nuclear arms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Page 2 of 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Swiss attorney general is now studying the magistrate’s report and will decide next year whether to file charges against the Swiss family of atomic spies and entrepreneurs.
27564  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 24, 2010, 09:59:51 AM
This thread was originally posted on the Politics and Religion forum and I glitched when I tried moving it to the Science, Culture, & Humanities forum, hence its inadvertent appearance here.  embarassed Finally I have managed to get it on the S,C, & H forum.  Please continue the conversation there.
27565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 24, 2010, 09:57:35 AM
Self-help is good.  The work you do in advance will help you get the most out of your attorney, including the most bang for the buck, but DEFINITELY, HAVE YOUR WORK REVIEWED BY A QUALIFIFIED ATTORNEY.
27566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 24, 2010, 09:54:26 AM
moving Doug's post to here-- my bad for the confusion  embarassed

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

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

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

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

I am no expert on this and hope that others jump in with good information or to correct any of mine.
27567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: December 24, 2010, 09:52:51 AM
I think Krauthammer is definitely on to something here, especially with this:

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

Ain't that the Truth!!! angry   
27568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Quotes of note: on: December 24, 2010, 09:43:35 AM
"Unsustainable developments usually have a longer life than is good for the reputation of the prophet."

internet friend Bob Polhausen
27569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington, Farewell Address 1796 on: December 24, 2010, 09:40:54 AM
"There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favours from Nation to Nation. 'Tis an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard." --George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

27570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: December 24, 2010, 09:22:18 AM
Finally I just finished the Levison article.  Good to re-examine one's precepts from time to time, but I come down on the particulars pretty much as Doug does.  I would add that we are averaging about one amendment every ten years which counters the notion that our C. is too hard to amend, and that we have the world's longest running constitutional republic.
27571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 24, 2010, 08:58:20 AM
Moving Canislatrans post on this interesting subject to this forum:


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

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

Looking for something that protects from lawsuits AND avoids Probate.  No fancy asset ownership structure, just husband & wife.
27572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MOVED: Asset Protection strategies (Trusts, Family Partnerships, Charitable Trusts etc) on: December 24, 2010, 08:57:01 AM
This topic has been moved to the Science, Culture, & Humanities forum.
27573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYPD prepares for Mumbai style attack on: December 24, 2010, 08:54:44 AM

DECEMBER 20, 2010
By SEAN GARDINER  for The Wall Street Journal
Earlier this month the New York Police Department ran an antiterrorism exercise simulating an attack on the city.
A team of terrorists unleashed a coordinated series of bombings and gun attacks around the city in the simulation. At one point, terrorists attacked New York police officials visiting wounded officers in a hospital. By the time the daylong attacks were over, dozens of people had been killed and many more wounded.
The NYPD simulation was different from any of the terrorist incidents that have actually hit New York, such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks where terrorists hijacked planes to destroy the World Trade Center, or the foiled Times Square car-bombing attempt in May of this year.
Instead, the simulation deliberately mirrored the 2008 massacre in Mumbai. Within minutes of one another on the night of Nov. 26, 2008, 10 gunmen attacked various locations in the Indian city, including two luxury hotels, a hospital and a railway station. The attack stretched on for three days as hostages were taken at several of the locations. Ultimately, 174 people were killed.
Until Mumbai, NYPD counterterrorism officials felt reasonably comfortable that they were prepared for any type of terrorist attack. But that comfort level was built on preparing for a single event, not a series of coordinated attacks that would terrorize a city for days on end.
"The Mumbai attack two years ago was a bit of a game changer," Mitchell Silber, head of the NYPD's intelligence analysis division, said. "It was a model that most counterterrorism practitioners hadn't really considered. The armed gunmen roaming around the city taking hostages, that wasn't something we had seen by any jihadist group. That was a real eye-opener." Mr. Silber said the more NYPD officials learned about the Mumbai attacks "the more similarities we saw between Mumbai city and New York City." Both, he said, are financial centers; both are surrounded by water on three sides; both get intense media attention.
The latest simulation made additional sense, he said, in light of the rumors this past fall that jihadists were planning another "Mumbai-style" attack somewhere in Europe.
So on Dec. 3, the NYPD's top brass gathered inside the department's headquarters in downtown Manhattan, in the Police Academy on East 20th Street and a third location, which police don't want to identify, that will be activated in the event police headquarters is destroyed. More than 40 senior commanders took part, and a facilitator introduced "injects," or new complications, into the exercise.
According to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, the police were given a fictional scenario that began with President Barack Obama visiting New York for a bill signing. At the same time, convicted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was scheduled to appear in federal court. The attacks began with bombings in downtown that resulted in 18 dead and dozens injured. The president went ahead with the bill signing at the World Trade Center site, when another bomb went off nearby. He was whisked away.
The attack wasn't over. Six gunmen piled out of a van at Herald Square and opened fire on shoppers and pedestrians. They then entered the Macy's department store and took 26 hostages.
As in Mumbai, police in the simulation had trouble containing and anticipating the terrorists. At one point, police who tried to rescue hostages were shot by snipers. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Chief of Department Joseph Esposito went to Bellevue Hospital to visit wounded police officers, then both were incapacitated when a bomb exploded inside the emergency room, according to the simulation.
This is the eighth such large-scale tabletop exercise held by the NYPD since Mumbai, according to Paul Browne, the NYPD's spokesman. He said this exercise provided several valuable lessons. For instance, conventional wisdom was that the best way to deal with multiple subway bombings was to shut down all mass transportation and evacuate everyone by foot, Mr. Browne said. But the exercise showed the advantage of continuing to use buses during an attack to shepherd civilians out of lower Manhattan.
The exercise also showed that the first responding officers to Macy's shouldn't have evacuated people and waited for reinforcements, the traditional response in a hostage situation. Instead, the police could have minimized casualties by quickly finding and killing the terrorists who were shooting people.
Mr. Browne said the exercise also served as a reminder that the NYPD needs to obtain or update floor plans of the city's large department stores in case hostage-taking or some other standoff occurs there. Currently, the NYPD keeps floor plan copies for all of the city's major hotels and many popular buildings.
The department has taken other steps to prepare for a similar attack. Since Mumbai, Mr. Browne said, the NYPD has trained and equipped an addition 375 officers to use "heavy weapons" for a prolonged siege situation. The heavy weapons—MP5 submachine guns and Mini-14 semiautomatic carbine rifles—are needed to counteract military-style assault weapons like the ones used in Mumbai.
Lastly, police are preparing for more chaos. They now assume that when they advise civilians to "shelter in place," many will flee the island on foot as they did during the last major power blackout. That means police will need to protect pedestrians leaving Manhattan via the East River bridges or ferries.
27574  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Funny you should mention that , , , on: December 23, 2010, 10:36:46 PM
27575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good thing fat cat Republicans in bed with Wall Street aren't in charge , , , on: December 23, 2010, 08:15:22 PM

David M Gordon:

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

The ugly truth in black and while (and some yellow highlighting)...

Scott Grannis:

That's actually not so surprising, considering that the $3 billion in fees represents only 4 bps (0.04%) of the total amount ($7.8 trillion!!!) raised. It's the total that is mind-boggling. Where did that money come from and where did it go??
27576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The clusterfcuk continues , , , on: December 23, 2010, 08:13:29 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thu, December 23, 2010 -- 5:20 PM ET

U.S. Approves Business With Blacklisted Nations

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

Read More:
27577  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Our sales agent answers on: December 23, 2010, 08:12:02 PM

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

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

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

SA: I have no idea about the downloading or downloading quality.  Actually, I did not know that Comcast was streaming the show, but I am not surprised.
27578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer: Swindle of the year on: December 23, 2010, 08:05:13 PM
Moving CCP's post to this thread:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But don't be fooled by defensive style or thin-skinned temperament. The president is a very smart man. How smart? His comeback is already a year ahead of Clinton's.
27579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GF on Start treaty and on: December 23, 2010, 02:17:20 PM
I almost put this in the nuclear war thread, but it addresses larger issues as well and so I put it here.
Colin: The United States Senate approves the much-debated nuclear treaty with Russia. But is it really a new start? In the end, many Republicans decided to back the treaty and it achieved the required two-thirds majority with a vote of 71 for, 26 against.

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

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

Colin: Will this essentially Republican decision refresh Obama?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin: George, thank you.

27580  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 23, 2010, 02:11:22 PM
I echo JDN's gratitudes for this forum and all who come to play.  It has taken a lot of doing to bring it to where it is, but thanks to all of us I confess to feeling rather proud of how far we have come and what we do.
27581  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pascal vs. Hopkins on: December 23, 2010, 02:08:27 PM
I thought the boxing light heavyweight title fight between Pascal and Hopkins several days ago quite good.  I wouldn't have scored the first knockdown a knockdown and would have given the decision to Hopkins (45 years old vs. Pascal's 28! Go Hopkins!!!) but of relevance to this thread were the first few rounds of the fight, which were clearly won by Pascal (and kudos to Hopkins for keeping his mind right and turning the fight around).

To my eye, Pascal threw a number of successful zirconias though he began going to the well a bit too often I thought.  Like Rua's knock out of Chuck Liddell, the punch was more of a hook than a straight and there was no cutting of the corner of the diamond to the point of the diamond, but this is a move that was not really seen until , , , sometime after the release of Kali Tudo 1 cheesy  Of course, the move existed before KT1 and I certainly can't say that Rua, Pascal, or their trainers watched KT1, but it is an interesting coincidence.  At the very least, the people who doubted the zirconia when they first saw it in KT1 need to reconsider.  Indeed I know of a few who have reconsidered to the point of their saying it was nothing new and has been there all along.  wink
27582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: December 23, 2010, 01:55:48 PM
Grannis and Wesbury have similar perspectives (both are supply siders btw).  David Gordon, Scott Grannis and I are part of an email group and David is a high level market player with the pay-to-enter blog to which I subscribe.  David, who has quite a number of remarkably prescient market calls into an excellent stock picking and timing record, thinks we are about to have a sharp downturn, and that there will be a big downturn sometime in 2011-- currently he suspects it will be around the middle of the year but reserves the right to evolve his views as time goes by.

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


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

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

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

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


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

Source: Mandel.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

27583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New single-family home sales on: December 23, 2010, 01:50:46 PM
New single-family home sales increased 5.5% in November To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/23/2010

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

Sales were up in the South and West but down in the Northeast and Midwest
At the current sales pace, the months’ supply of new homes (how long it would take to sell homes in inventory) fell to 8.2 in November from 8.8 in October. The drop in the months’ supply was mainly due to the faster selling pace. The number of homes for sale fell 4,000 to 197,000, down 65.6% versus the peak in 2006. Interestingly, this is the lowest level of new homes in inventory since 1968.
The median price of new homes sold was $213,000 in November, down 2.7% from a year ago. The average price of new homes sold was $268,700, down 2.2% versus last year.
Implications:  The market for new homes remains sluggish, still suffering from the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit but also from intense competition from the large inventory of foreclosed homes on the market, many of which were built within the past decade. The tax credit, which required buyers to sign a contract by the end of April, moved sales forward into the early part of this year.  New home sales, which are counted at contract, increased to a 414,000 annual pace in April. But sales dropped off almost immediately, and have only averaged 289,000 in the seven months since. It is important to note that, despite the slow pace of sales, inventories are still declining and are already at levels not seen since the late 1960s. As inventories fall, homebuilders will need to start building more homes. Given a growing population and the need for more housing, the pace of new home sales should more than triple over the next several years to roughly 950,000. With lumber prices on the rise in recent months, that process may be underway. On the price front, the median sales price of new homes rose to $213,000 in November, bouncing back after going below $200,000 last month. This price measure is down 2.7% versus a year ago. We expect the new home market to continue to improve, albeit gradually.
27584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / My blackberry is not working on: December 23, 2010, 11:24:19 AM
27585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: US Economy on: December 23, 2010, 11:05:12 AM
Well, I haven't a clue  cheesy  That said, there seems to be a lot of bullishness, perhaps too much, out there.  David Gordon, whom I respect and follow, thinks a sharp reversal may be in the wind.  At least my LED play AIXG is up sharply today  cool


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


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

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

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

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

The overall decline in orders in November was entirely due to transportation equipment, specifically civilian aircraft/parts (which are extremely volatile from month to month). All other major categories of orders were up.
The government calculates business investment for GDP purposes by using shipments of non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft.  That measure rose 1.0% in November (1.2% including upward revisions to prior months) and is up 10.4% versus a year ago. If these shipments are unchanged in December, they will be up at a 2.3% annual rate in Q4 versus the Q3 average.
Unfilled orders increased 0.4% in November and are up at a 10.4% annual rate in the past three months.
Implications:  Ignore the headline decline in durable goods orders; the report was very good news for the US economy. All of the overall drop in orders was due to the transportation sector, particularly civilian aircraft, which is extremely volatile from month to month. Outside the transportation sector, every single major category of orders increased in November, with the largest gain in computers and electronics, rebounding from a steep decline last month. Meanwhile, shipments of “core” capital goods (which exclude civilian aircraft and defense) also bounced back in November, rising 1.0% in November after a 1.2% decline in October. These shipments are up 10.4% versus a year ago but the pace of the gains has slowed of late, rising at only a 3.1% annual rate in the past three months. However, we think these shipments are poised to reaccelerate. Unfilled orders for these goods (which can turn into future shipments) have increased seven months in a row. Cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies is at a record high and corporate profits are near a record high. In this environment, business investment is heading up.
27586  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV on: December 23, 2010, 10:48:40 AM
I will check with our sales agent on the deal.
27587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oy vey on: December 23, 2010, 10:46:50 AM
So, we had to sign it by the year's end or they would be upset even though they had not approved it themselves? rolleyes angry

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

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

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

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

Read more: U.S. Senate Ratifies START Treaty | STRATFOR
27588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And Scott Grannis replies: on: December 22, 2010, 08:24:26 PM
27589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Where's Ben's money? on: December 22, 2010, 08:21:58 PM
Since Jan 2008 bank reserves up from 33 bil to 995.  Fed not printing?  So, where's the money coming from?
December 22, 2010, 4:15 PM ET
Is the Fed Printing Money?
Is the Federal Reserve printing money to finance its bond buying? Or isn’t it? Ben Bernanke has given inconsistent answers, at times saying it is and at times saying it isn’t.
In an exchange with readers on Time magazine’s website this past weekend, a reader asked Mr. Bernanke why the Fed is creating dollars “out of thin air.” Mr. Bernanke said it wasn’t. “These policies are not leading to increases in the amount of currency in circulation,” he said.
He made a similar argument to CBS News’s Scott Pelley earlier this month in defense of the Fed’s plan to purchase $600 billion of U.S. Treasury bonds with money that the Fed creates. “People talk about the printing press. That’s not what this is about. This policy does not increase the amount of currency in circulation. It does not increase in any significant way the amount of money in broader terms, say, as measured by bank deposits,” he said.

  Yet back in March 2009 Mr. Bernanke told Mr. Pelley that the Fed was printing money to fund an earlier bond buying program. “It’s not tax money. The banks have accounts with the Fed, much the same way that you have an account in a commercial bank. So, to lend to a bank, we simply use the computer to mark up the size of the account that they have with the Fed. It’s much more akin to printing money than it is to borrowing,” he said.
Comedian Jon Stewart made much of this obvious contradiction.
Here is an attempt to sort it out:
The Fed has been buying bonds since early 2009. When a private investor buys bonds, the investor uses cash or sells some existing asset to raise cash and uses that money to buy bonds. The investor might also borrow money from a bank and use the borrowed funds to buy securities on margin. The Fed can do something else. It has the power to electronically credit money to the bank accounts of sellers who in turn sell government securities or mortgage backed securities to the Fed. The banks get the money and the Fed gets the securities. The Fed isn’t literally printing $100 dollar bills when it does this. But it is creating money, electronically, that wasn’t in the financial system before. In that sense, it is printing money.
But as Mr. Bernanke has been trying to emphasize lately — perhaps clumsily — most of the money that the Fed has created isn’t circulating much through the financial system. It’s mostly sitting idly, often in deposits — also known as reserves — that banks keep with the Fed itself. Broader measures of the money supply haven’t grown that much because the money isn’t being lent on. Since January 2008, the amount of Federal Reserve notes, i.e. currency, in circulation has increased 18%, to $980 billion. During the same stretch, the reserves banks keep with the Fed has increased more than 30-fold to $995 billion from $33 billion.
Meantime, in the 12 months between November 2009 and November 2010, M2 money supply, a broad measure of money including bank deposits, retail money market fund deposits and other measures of short-term money, are up just 3.3%.
The Fed chairman seems to be trying to emphasize two points: 1) The Fed isn’t literally printing money; and 2) The money that it is creating isn’t flooding through the financial system in a way that would be inflationary.
Mr. Bernanke might be a little sensitive about the first point. Critics have called him “Helicopter Ben” ever since he cited Milton Friedman in a November 2002 speech saying that in a crisis the Fed could flood the economy with money to avoid deflation, as if it were dropping bills from helicopters. Ironically, it was Friedman, not Bernanke, who came up with the helicopter analogy. But Mr. Bernanke is the one who got stuck with the reputation as a serial money dropper.
He’s trying to shoot down the idea by saying, “Hey, I’m not actually printing money.” More broadly, the chairman is trying to dispel the worry that the Fed is sowing the seeds of an inflationary mess by flooding the system with so much cash.
The point is that there’s not as much money out there as you might think. Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues are also confident they can soak it up when needed. One way the Fed plans to do this is by paying banks interest on the reserves they keep with it. It only pays 0.25% now. If the economy heats up, it can increase that rate and keep all of those reserve from being lent too aggressively and overheating the economy. (We’re a long way from that moment.)
Reassuring the public on that point is important because if people begin to expect a lot more inflation, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unfortunately for the Fed chairman, instead of clarifying, he has confused the issue by failing to flesh out the distinction in more detail.

27590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis speaks! on: December 22, 2010, 04:21:04 PM
Word from the man himself in response to this thread!  cool
All the worries about federal state and local budget cuts have been out there for a very long time, and progress is already being made on addressing the issue. Public sector jobs are already shrinking (I'm excluding census workers), down 340K since early last year, marking the first time in decades (or perhaps ever) that we have seen a meaningful decline in the public sector workforce.

Furthermore, it was the huge increase in the public sector that is a problem for the economy. As Milton Friedman always said, the burden of the public sector is best measured by the amount of spending relative to the economy, not by the deficit. Government spends money inefficiently, and thus is a drag on the economy. Cutting back government spending should therefore free up resources for the private sector, thus boosting the economy going forward.

We should not fear budget cutbacks, we should welcome them!

Defaults are very likely to happen, but those are being priced in already. Defaults will only serve to reinforce discipline on the public sector, and that is a good thing.

Finally, I would argue that the self-reinforcing forces of recovery lead to growth, and growth solves all kinds of problems related to debt and budgets. Growth is already boosting federal revenues, which are growing at a 10% annualized rate.

27591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Home Sales on: December 22, 2010, 11:54:16 AM
Existing home sales increased 5.6% in November to an annual rate of 4.68 million To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/22/2010

Existing home sales increased 5.6% in November to an annual rate of 4.68 million, slightly below the consensus expected pace of 4.75 million. Existing home sales are down 27.9% versus a year ago, when sales were artificially high due to the homebuyer credit.

Sales in November were up in all major regions of the country. Sales increased for single-family homes, but declined for condos/coops.
The median price of an existing home increased to $170,600 in November (not seasonally adjusted), and is up 0.4% versus a year ago. Last November, prices were down 5.7% from the prior year.
The months’ supply of existing homes (how long it would take to sell the entire inventory at the current sales rate) fell to 9.5 from 10.5 in October. The decline in the months’ supply was due to both the faster selling pace and a decline in overall inventories.
Implications: Existing home sales rebounded sharply in November, increasing 5.6% after falling 2.2% in October. Some of the rebound may have been due to the end of the moratorium on foreclosures that probably reduced sales in October. Regardless, we believe the underlying trend will be upward over the next year, as sales continue to rebound without artificial government support. Although the data will zig and zag from month to month, we expect sales to get back to about 5.5 million units at an annualized rate. And we expect the rebound even if mortgage rates float back upward.  Housing in November was more affordable than at any time in the past 40 years, and as buyers get more secure about the state of the economy, private-sector job creation accelerates, and purchasers become more confident that their homes will eventually rise in value rather than decline, they will be more willing to buy homes even if interest rates are higher. For example, mortgage rates averaged about 7.5% in the late 1990s and were not an impediment to climbing home sales. In other housing news this morning, the FHFA index, a measure of prices for homes financed with conforming mortgages, increased 0.7% in October (seasonally-adjusted), the first gain since May, although this measure of prices is still down 3.4% versus a year ago.
27592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 22, 2010, 10:55:40 AM
My questions exactly, but I think Scott makes a fair point about the market being a forward looking mechanism.   The market tanked when BO passed McCain in the polls and McCain showed his progressive stripes at the same time-- worth noting is that Palin vigorously participated in some of this too).

I will see if I can get some comments from Scott.
27593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / DADT on: December 22, 2010, 10:36:51 AM
Not having served, my idea is that DADT and related matters are for those who do, not Barney Frank et al in the US Congress.


"The U.S. military, already strained by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, faces transformation from the world's most powerful fighting machine into an organization where political correctness is more important than victory. Saturday's Senate vote cleared the final hurdle for the repeal of President Clinton's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy designed to prevent homosexual conduct in the ranks. Battle lines will now form over how the homosexual advocacy policies will be implemented. Though the repudiated lawmakers who rammed the repeal through this weekend's session pretend they are simply latter-day Rosa Parkses seeking to end discrimination, there is no comparison. Since 2005, a mere 1 percent of Army discharges involved homosexual conduct. This issue isn't about retaining or recruiting qualified personnel for the military. This is part of the Left's larger societal goal of using government to force others to embrace unorthodox personal lifestyle choices. The implications are clear from a look at how the federal government treats issues of homosexuality. ... Troops can look forward to so-called pride parades on military bases and awareness days for the transgendered. Everyone knows the sort of thing that might work in Greenwich Village or a San Francisco neighborhood doesn't go over well in a fighting force drawn largely from red state America -- an area whose residents Mr. Obama once derisively referred to as the type who 'cling to guns or religion.' That's why implementing the New Gay Army means forcing soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to endure 'diversity' training. Those who don't like it will be told to get out, as several senior military leaders have suggested already. Chaplains in particular will face the dilemma that preaching their faith will violate the new pro-homosexual code of conduct. As a result, far more are likely to leave or be thrown out of the military as a result of Mr. Obama's policy than were ever affected by Mr. Clinton's. It's hard to see how that will do anything to strengthen the nation's defenses." --The Washington Times

27594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis on: December 22, 2010, 10:16:49 AM
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Fear subsides, prices rise
I must have shown this chart at least a dozen times since late 2008, but it is so important that repetition is justified. (Here is a post from May '09 as an example) The main message here is that fear was the key driver of the 2008-2009 recession: fear of a global depression, fear of a global banking collapse, fear of deflation, and fear of a huge increase in future tax burdens thanks to an equally huge increase in the size of government. Fear drove us to the brink of what was expected to be an awful depression, and the reduction of fear is putting us back on a growth track.

The correlation between fear (represented by the red line, the Vix index inverted) and equity prices that is evident in this chart speaks for itself. The Vix has now returned to its pre-recession levels, and equity prices are on track to do the same, though the S&P 500 will need to rise another 25% to recover its previous highs.

Fears have been assuaged relentlessly since March '09. Swap spreads narrowed sharply. Credit spreads narrowed sharply. Signs of a recovery displaced expectations of a depression. Public reaction to the stimulus plan was mixed. Obama's popularity began declining, and the implementation of his agenda started facing headwinds. The Fed took strong action to expand the money supply. Financial markets began healing instead of collapsing. Commodity prices and gold prices started rising. Global trade got back in gear. Since the recession ended 18 months ago, the economy has proven the skeptics wrong more than once, and the forces of recovery have been working steadily behind the scenes, albeit slowly. Housing stopped collapsing and started stabilizing. A sea-change in the mood of the electorate resulted in a huge change in the congressional balance of power; the private sector now has a friend in Congress, and capital once again is held in high regard. More recently, a major increase in tax burdens was avoided, and a gargantuan omnibus spending bill went down in flames.

Short-term interest rates have been essentially zero for two years now. Investors, faced with the steep cost of safety (i.e., accepting a zero return for the safety of cash) have been realizing that the risks were not as great as they once feared, and they have been slowly deploying their cash hoards. Fearful investors have climbed countless walls of worry along the way, only to see the prices of risk assets moving higher. Consumers have been slowly drawing down their cash hoards, with the result that retail sales have now made a complete recovery. The next shoe to drop will be when corporations begin deploying their immense cash hoards to fund expansion plans and new hiring.

 It's hard to see how this self-reinforcing process of recovery can be derailed.
27595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strafor: Iran-Pakistan on: December 22, 2010, 08:57:47 AM

The Implications of Iranian Assertiveness Toward Pakistan

The Middle East and South Asia have no shortage of conflicts and on any given day there are developments on multiple issues. Monday, however, was different: Another fault line appeared to emerge. Iranian leaders used some very stern language in demanding that Pakistan act against the Sunni Baluchi Islamist militant group Jundallah, which recently staged suicide attacks against Shiite religious gatherings in the Iranian port city of Chahbahar.

The Islamic republic’s senior-most military leader, Chief of the Joint Staff Command of Iran’s Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, threatened that Tehran would take unilateral action if Islamabad failed to prevent cross-border terrorism. Separately, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, and demanded that Pakistani security forces apprehend “known terrorists” and hand them over to Iranian authorities. This is not the first time that Jundallah has become a source of tension between the two neighbors. However, this time, the Iranian response was different: The apex leadership of Iran threatened to take matters into its own hands.

It’s even more interesting that the latest Jundallah attack was not that significant, especially compared to the attack from a little more than a year ago when as many as half a dozen senior generals from the ground forces of Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, were killed in a Jundallah attack in the border town of Pishin. At the time, however, Iran was much more mild in terms of pressing Pakistan to take action against Jundallah. Over the years, there has also been significant cooperation between Tehran and Islamabad leading to arrests of the group’s leaders and main operatives, including its founders.

“Tehran is likely concerned about how the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan will impact its own security and sees a situation in which it can enhance its influence in its southeastern neighbor.”
Why is Iran now escalating matters with Pakistan? The answer likely has to do with the Iranian government feeling confident in other foreign policy areas. It has been successful in having a Shiite-dominated government of its preference installed in Iraq. Also, for the first time, it appears to be negotiating from a position of relative strength on the nuclear issue.

Iran is also a major regional stakeholder in Afghanistan and a competitor of Pakistan there. It is therefore likely that Iran is now flexing its muscles on its eastern flank to showcase its regional rise. The Iranians have also been watching the fairly rapid destabilization that has taken place in Pakistan in recent years and sense both a threat and an opportunity. Tehran is likely concerned about how the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan will impact its own security and sees a situation in which it can enhance its influence in its southeastern neighbor.

It is too early to say anything about how Iran will go about projecting power across its frontier with Pakistan. However, there are geopolitical implications from this new Iranian assertiveness. The most serious one is obviously for Pakistan, which already has to deal with U.S. forces engaging in cross-border action along the country’s northwestern border with Afghanistan. Islamabad can’t afford pressures from Tehran on the southwestern extension of that border (an area where Pakistan is dealing with its own Baluchi rebellion). Any such move on the part of Iran could encourage India to increase pressure on its border with Pakistan. After all, India is a much bigger target of Pakistani-based militants than Iran, but has thus far not been able to get Pakistan to yield to its demands on cracking down on anti-India militants. New Delhi would love to take advantage of this new dynamic developing between Islamabad and Tehran.

At the very least, Monday’s Iranian statements reinforce perceptions that Pakistan is a state infested by Islamist militants of various stripes that threaten pretty much every country that shares a border with it (including Pakistan’s closest ally, China). Certainly, Pakistan doesn’t want to see problems on a third border and will try to address Iranian concerns. But the Pakistani situation is such that it is unlikely that Islamabad will be able to placate Tehran.

In terms of ramifications, Monday’s developments are actually not limited to only those countries that have a border with Pakistan. Iranian demands on Pakistan have likely set off alarm bells in Saudi Arabia, which is already terrified of Iran’s rise in the Persian Gulf region and the Levant. Pakistan constitutes a major Saudi sphere of influence and Riyadh is not about to let Tehran play in the South Asia country. Pakistan has been a Saudi-Iranian proxy battleground since the 1980s and the latest Iranian statements could intensify the Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict in the country.

Increased sectarian conflict in Pakistan will only exacerbate the jihadist insurgency in the country, thereby further eroding internal stability. Such a situation is extremely problematic for the United States, which is already trying to contain a rising Iran and has a complex love-hate relationship with Pakistan. There is also the problem that the success of America’s Afghan strategy is contingent upon Washington establishing a balance of power between Iran and Pakistan in Afghanistan.

27596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: December 22, 2010, 08:38:07 AM
Just bringing this to the top to remind us that some Consitutional issues have their own thread.

27597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH editorial on Barbour on: December 22, 2010, 08:32:12 AM
Certainly POTH is highly unreliable source, especially with regard to racially-tinged issues, but I must confess that it irks me how many Republicans seem to have a tin ear or worse on some of the history of the civil rights movement.

Gov. Barbour’s Dream World
Published: December 21, 2010               
In Gov. Haley Barbour’s hazy, dream-coated South, the civil-rights era was an easy transition for his Mississippi hometown of Yazoo City. As he told the Weekly Standard recently, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an unmemorable speaker, and notorious White Citizens Councils protected the world from violent racists.

Perhaps Mr. Barbour, one of the most powerful men in the Republican Party and a potential presidential candidate, suffers from the faulty memory all too common among those who stood on the sidelines during one of the greatest social upheavals in history. It is more likely, though, that his recent remarks on the period fit a well-established pattern of racial insensitivity that raises increasing doubts about his fitness for national office.

In the magazine’s profile of the second-term governor, Mr. Barbour suggests that the 1960s — when people lost life and limb battling for equal rights for black citizens — were not a terribly big deal in Yazoo City. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he said. He heard Dr. King speak at the county fairgrounds in 1962 but can’t remember the speech. “We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do,” he said. “We paid more attention to the girls than to King.”

And the Citizens Councils were simply right-minded business leaders trying to achieve integration without violence. Thanks to the councils, he said, “we didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”

The councils, of course, arose in the South for a single and sinister purpose: to fight federal attempts at integration and to maintain the supremacy of white leaders in cities and states. Mississippi’s council, formed in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, was one of the most powerful political forces in the state, and later raised funds for the defense of the murderer of Medgar Evers. The council chapter in Yazoo City, so fondly remembered by Mr. Barbour, published the names of N.A.A.C.P. leaders who dared to demand the town’s schools be integrated in 1955. Those on the list systematically lost their jobs and their livelihoods, boycotted by white citizens.

Mr. Barbour hastily issued a statement on Tuesday describing the councils as “indefensible” and the era as “difficult and painful.” But this is the same man who in 1982 made an indefensible remark to an aide who complained that there would be “coons” at a campaign stop. If the aide persisted in racist remarks, Mr. Barbour said, he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks. His campaign for the governor’s office was also racially tinged.

Memory has long been the mutable clay of the South, changing the meaning of the Civil War and now the civil-rights era. But the memory of Mr. Barbour’s personal history will not soon fade. That should give pause to the Republican Party as it considers his future.

27598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Carbon Dioxide levels continue to rise on: December 22, 2010, 08:18:16 AM
27599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's treaty on: December 22, 2010, 08:14:20 AM
Looks like BO is going to get the treaty passed  angry cry with the help of over ten Republicans  cry  angry and much of the Republican internationalist establishment (Bush 1, Kissinger, Sowcroft, etc)  Madness that such a serious agreement is getting rammed through, virtually unread.  WHY NOT WAIT THREE OR FOUR WEEKS UNTIL CONGRESS RECONVENES?

Apparently the Russians read the deal as meaning we are not allowed to increase our anti-missile capabilities and if we do they will withdraw.  So, if some other threat develops, , , ,   Frank Gaffney, a long-time serious player in this area notes that Russia and Iran are working with Venezuela to capacitate it with missiles and nuclear , , , ahem , , , power.  If Venezuela starts up with missiles similar to those that Iran already has that can reach Europe, then any effort on our part to develop a defensive capability must then be done at the cost of disrupting our agreement with the Russians-- upon whom BO currently relies for allowing transit of supplies to our effort in Afhanistan and whom BO begs not to capacitate Iran with nukes and anti-aircrafty capabilities.

These things deserve serious study and conversation, but as is so often the case Republican defections are our undoing , , , cry

27600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stoessel: Alpacas on: December 22, 2010, 08:03:22 AM
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