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27701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China's challenge on: March 09, 2010, 06:49:03 AM
By Jennifer Richmond and Rodger Baker

China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) remains in session. As usual, the meeting has provided Beijing an opportunity to highlight the past year’s successes and lay out the problems that lie ahead. On the surface at least, China has shown remarkable resilience in the face of global economic crisis. It has posted enviable gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates while keeping factories running (if at a loss) and workers employed. But the economic crisis has exposed the inefficiencies of China’s export-dependent economic model, and the government has had to pump money into a major investment stimulus package to make up for the net drain the export sector currently is exacting on the economy.

Related Special Topic Page
China’s Economic Imbalance
For years, China’s leaders have recognized the risks of the current economic model. They have debated policy ideas to shift from the current model to one that is more sustainable in the long run and incorporates a more geographically equitable growth and a hefty rise in domestic consumption. While there is general agreement on the need for change, top leaders disagree on the timing and method of transition. This has stirred internal debates, which can lead to factionalization as varying interests align to promote their preferred policy proscription. Entrenched interests in urban areas and the export industry — along with constant fears of triggering major social upheaval — have left the government year after year making only slight changes around the margins. Often, Beijing has taken one step forward only to take two back when social instability and/or institutional resistance emerge.

And this debate becomes even more significant now, as China deals simultaneously with the aftermath of the global economic slowdown and preparations for a leadership transition in 2012.

The Hu Agenda
Chinese President Hu Jintao came into office eight years ago with the ambitious goal of closing a widening wealth gap by equalizing economic growth between the rural interior and coastal cities. Hu inherited the results of Deng Xiaoping’s opening and reform, which focused on the rapid development of the coastal areas, which were better geographically positioned for international trade. The vast interior took second billing, being kept in line with the promise that in time the rising tide of economic wealth would float all ships. Eventually it did, somewhat. But while the interior saw significant improvements over the early Mao period, the growth and rise in living standards and disposable income in the urban coastal areas far outstripped rural growth. Some coastal urban areas are now approaching Western standards of living, while much of the interior remains mired in Third World conditions. And the faster the coast grows, the more dependent China becomes on the money from that growth to facilitate employment and subsidize the rural population.

Hu’s predecessor, Jiang Zemin, also recognized these problems. To address them, he promoted a “Go West” economic policy designed to shift investment further inland. But Jiang faced the same entrenched interests that have opposed Hu’s efforts at significant change. While Jiang was able to begin reform of the bloated state-owned enterprises, he softened his Westward economic drive. Amid cyclical global economic downturns, China fell back on the subsidized export model to keep employment levels up and keep money flowing in. Concern over social instability held radical reform in check, and the closer Jiang got to the end of his term in power, the less likely he was to make significant changes that could undermine social cohesion. No Chinese leader wants to preside over a major economic policy that fails out of fear of being the Chinese Mikhail Gorbachev.

For those like Hu who have argued that rapid reform is worth the risk of potential short-term social dislocation, the global downturn was seen as validating their policies — and as confirming that the risks to China of not changing far outweigh the risks of changing now. The export industry’s drag on GDP has forced Beijing to enact a massive investment and loan program. By some accounts, fixed investments in 2009 accounted for more than 90 percent of GDP. Those arguing for faster reform have noted that the pace of investment growth is unsustainable in the long run, and that the flood of money into the system has created new inflationary pressures.

Much of this investment came in the form of bank loans that need to be serviced and repaid. But as the government tries to cool the economy, the risk of companies defaulting on their loans looms. Cooling the economy also threatens to burst China’s real estate bubble. This not only compounds problems in related industry sectors, it could also trigger massive social discord in the urban areas, where housing has taken the place of the stock market as the investment of choice.

Beijing’s Ongoing Dilemma
Chinese leaders face the constant dilemma of needing to allow the economy to maintain its three-decade long export-oriented growth pattern even though this builds in long-term weaknesses, but shifting the economy is not something that can be done without its own consequences. Social pressures are convincing the government of the need to raise the minimum wage to keep up with economic pressures. At the same time, misallocation of labor and new job formation incentives in the interior are causing shortages of labor in some sectors in major coastal export zones. If coastal factories increase wages to attract labor or appease workers, they run the risk of going under due to the already razor-thin margins. But if they don’t, the labor fueling these industries at best may riot and at worst might simply move back home, leaving exporters with little option but to close shop.

Looming demographic changes around the globe also impact the Chinese situation, and the government can no longer rely on an ever-increasing export market to drive the Chinese economy. Some international companies operating in China already are beginning to consider relocating manufacturing operations to places with cheaper labor or back to their home countries to save on transportation costs Chinese wages are no longer mitigating.

With its export markets unlikely to recover to pre-crisis levels any time soon, competition and protectionism are on the rise. The United States is growing bolder in its restrictions on Chinese exports, and China may no longer avoid having the U.S. government label it a currency manipulator. While this may be an extreme measure in 2010, the pressures for such a scenario are rising.

Amid its domestic and global challenges, Chinese leaders are engaged in economic policy debates. It appears that internal criticism is being directed against Hu as social tensions over issues like rising housing prices and inflation grow. In some ways, this is not unusual. National presidents often bear the brunt of dissatisfaction with economic downturns no matter whether their policies were to blame. In China, however, criticism against economic policy falls on the premier, who is responsible for setting the country’s economic direction. The focus on Hu reflects both the depth of the current crisis and the underlying political tensions over economic policy in a time of both global economic unpredictability and preparations for the end of Hu’s presidency in 2012.

To bridge the gulf between the urban coast and the rural interior, Hu and his supporters have pursued a multiphased plan. First, they sought to rein in some of the most independent of the coastal areas — Shanghai in particular, which served as a center of power and influence not only in promoting the continuation of unfettered coastal growth but also of Hu’s predecessor, Jiang. Second, a plan was put in motion to consolidate redundancies in China’s economy and to shift light- and low-skilled industry inland by increasing wages in the key coastal export manufacturing areas, reducing their cost competitiveness. And Beijing added an urbanization drive in traditionally rural and inland areas. Together, this represented a joint attempt to bring the jobs to the interior rather than continue the pattern of migrant workers moving to the coast.

The core of the Hu policies was an overall attempt to re-centralize economic control. This would allow the central government to begin weeding out redundancies left over from Mao’s era of provincial self-sufficiency, which the Deng and Jiang eras of uncoordinated and locally-directed economic growth often driven by corruption and nepotism exacerbated. In short, Hu planned to centralize the economy to consolidate industry, redistribute wealth and urbanize the interior to create a more balanced economy that emphasized domestic consumption over exports. However, Hu’s push, under the epithet “harmonious society,” has been anything but smooth and its successes have been limited at best.

Hu Meets Resistance
Institutional and local government resistance to re-centralization has hounded the policy from its inception, and resistance has grown with the economic crisis. Money is now pouring into the economy via massive government-mandated bank lending to stimulate growth through investments as exports wane. Consequently, housing prices and inflation fears now plague the government — two issues that could lead to increased social tensions and are already leading to louder questioning of Hu’s policies. With just two years to go in his administration, Hu already is looking to his legacy, weighing the risks and rewards between promoting long-term economic sustainability or short-term economic survival. The next two years will witness seemingly incongruent policy pronouncements as the two opposing directions and their proponents battle over China’s economic and political landscape.

Hu’s rise to the presidency was all but assured long before he took office. From a somewhat simplified perspective, the PRC has had only four leaders: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. When Mao died, his appointed successor, Hua Guofeng (who was settled upon after several other candidates fell out of favor), lasted only a short time. Amid the political chaos of the post-Cultural Revolution era, Deng rose to the top. Both Mao and Deng were strong leaders who, although contending with rivals, could rule almost single-handedly when the need arose.

To avoid the confusion of the post-Mao transition, Deng created a long-term succession plan. He ultimately settled on Shanghai Mayor Jiang Zemin as his successor. But in an effort to preserve his vision and legacy, Deng also chose Jiang’s successor, Hu Jintao. Barring some terrible breach of office, Hu was more or less guaranteed the presidency a decade before he took office, and there was little Jiang could do to alter this outcome. Jiang, however, made sure that he left his mark by lining up Hu’s successor, Xi Jinping. Despite Jiang’s support, Xi has not risen through the ranks in the same manner as Hu did, raising speculation of internal disagreements on the succession plan.

Vice President Xi is considered one of the “princelings,” leaders whose parents were part of the revolutionary-era governments under Mao and Deng who mainly have cut their teeth through business ventures concentrated in the coastal regions. Hu, on the other hand, is considered among the “tuanpai” or “tuanxi,” leaders who come primarily from the ranks of the Communist Youth League and interior provinces. While these “groups” are not in and of themselves cohesive factions, and China’s political networks are complex, Hu’s and Xi’s backgrounds reflect their differing policy approaches. As such, the question of the next Chinese leader is shaped by opposing economic plans.

On one hand are those like Hu who support a more rapid and immediate refocusing on rural and interior economic growth, even at the cost of reduced coastal and urban power. On the other hand, those like Jiang and his protege Xi have an interest in maintaining the status quo of regionalized semi-independence in economic matters and continued strong coastal growth. They are proceeding on the assumption that a strong coastal-led economy will both provide more immediate rewards for themselves and strengthen China’s international position and its national defense.

It is important not to overstress the differences. Each has the same ultimate goal, namely, maintaining the CPC as the central authority and building a strong China; it is just their paths to these ends that differ. But the economic policy differences are now becoming key questions of Party survival and Chinese stability and strength. Factional struggles that in normal circumstances can be largely controlled, or at least would not get out of hand, are now shaping up in an environment where China’s three-decade economic growth spurt may be reaching its climax. Meanwhile, social pressures are rising amid uncertainties and instabilities in Chinese economic structures.

Beijing has emerged from the economic crisis bolder and more self-confident than ever. But this is driven more by a recognition of weakness than a false assessment of strength. China’s leadership is in crisis mode, and at this time of economic instability and uncertainty, the leadership must also manage a transition that is bringing competing economic policies into stark contrast. And this is the sort of pressure that can cause the gloves to come off and throw expectations of unity and smooth transitions out the window.

Everything may pass smoothly; two years is a long time, after all. But if there is one thing certain about the upcoming change of presidents, it is that nothing is certain.
27702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FDIC auctions on: March 09, 2010, 06:36:57 AM

Just flagging the issue, NOT agreeing with the analysis herein.
On the Edge’ Banks Face Writedowns on FDIC Auctions (Update1)

By James Sterngold

March 8 (Bloomberg) -- A Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. plan to auction more than $1 billion in assets seized from failed banks next month, including a loan to build a W Hotel in Atlanta, may trigger writedowns that weaken lenders nationwide.

Almost half of the loans were originated by Silverton Bank N.A., whose collapse last May was the biggest in Georgia history. Community banks that joined Silverton in providing $80 million for the 237-room hotel and condominium complex, as well as backing for 39 other projects, could be forced to write down their stakes to reflect sale prices.

The auctions may have wider repercussions. Of the $41 billion in assets seized from failed banks held by the FDIC as of the end of January, $15.6 billion are real estate loans and about 4 percent of those involve participations by other lenders, according to agency spokesman Andrew Gray.

“These banks can’t believe that the regulator they pay to protect them is going to sell these loans to someone who can flip them and cause them serious losses,” said Robert Reynolds, a lawyer at Reynolds Reynolds & Duncan LLC in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who represents 25 lenders that took part in financing the W Hotel. “Our banks just cannot believe they’re being treated in a way that ultimately hurts the FDIC’s insurance fund, because some of them are right on the edge.”

Bank Failures

A total of 140 banks failed last year, and FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said the number may be higher this year. It stands at 26 as of March 6. The agency said on Feb. 23 that 702 banks were on its “problem” list as of Dec. 31, up from 552 at the end of the third quarter. The FDIC’s insurance fund had a deficit of $20.9 billion at the end of the year.

“This whole thing is a mess waiting to happen across the country,” said Geoffrey Miller, a professor of securities law at New York University and director of the Center for the Study of Central Banks and Financial Institutions.

“Unlike the subprime mortgage problems, which hit mostly bigger financial institutions, the commercial real estate crisis is going to hit mostly smaller and regional banks,” Miller said. “It was common for them to make these loans and buy participations. It’s a systemic problem that the FDIC has to deal with.”

‘Maximize’ Recovery

That view was echoed by John J. Collins, president of Community Bankers of Washington in Lakewood, Washington. Some banks in his state have expressed concern that they may have to take writedowns as a result of the FDIC sale of seized loans in which they participated, he said.

“We have a number of banks teetering on the edge, and we don’t need this problem,” Collins said in an interview.

The FDIC is “required by statute to maximize its recovery on receivership assets,” Greg Hernandez, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mail. “This is achieved through a broad, competitive bid process.”

The agency is also trying to encourage public retirement funds that control more than $2 trillion to buy all or part of failed lenders, according to people briefed on the matter.

A $416 million package of Silverton assets being auctioned for the FDIC by Deutsche Bank AG includes $254 million of loans for commercial real estate projects such as the W Hotel in which the bank sold participations, according to Deutsche Bank’s announcement of the sale. They range from providing $752,000 in financing for convenience stores in Los Angeles to $46 million for a Le Meridien Hotel in Philadelphia. Bids are due April 12.

The FDIC will entertain offers for individual loans or the entire Silverton portfolio, retaining a 60 percent interest to benefit from future profits, Hernandez said.

W Hotel

The agency is separately auctioning $610.5 million of overdue loans seized from failed U.S. lenders, including $85.3 million in Silverton assets and $220.2 million issued by New Frontier Bank in Greeley, Colorado. That sale is being handled by New York-based Mission Capital Advisors LLC. The deadline for bids is April 6.

The loan for construction of the W Hotel in downtown Atlanta was made in April 2008, a month after the collapse of Bear Stearns Cos., according to Reynolds. The developer of the property is Atlanta-based Barry Real Estate Cos., which owns commercial projects in Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando, Florida and Birmingham, Alabama.

One Condo Sale

The hotel, managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., opened in January 2009. It offers amenities such as a Bliss Spa and a service for obtaining skybox seats at Atlanta Braves baseball games.

Silverton’s Specialty Finance Group LLC, which made the loan, notified the developer that it was in default, according to a letter dated April 16.

The hotel is operating at “close to 60 percent” occupancy, said Hal Barry, chairman of Barry Real Estate. The occupancy rate for luxury hotels nationwide in the fourth quarter of last year was 60.6 percent, according to Smith Travel Research Inc. in Hendersonville, Tennessee. There are also 76 condominiums in the complex, of which one has sold, he said. He declined to comment about the status of the loan.

A sale of Silverton’s $23 million share of the financing at half its book value could force participating banks to take more than $30 million in writedowns, Reynolds said.

The sale of loans from failed banks in 2009 brought on average 43 percent of their book value, according to an FDIC summary. Non-performing loans, those on which the borrower has defaulted or there is little prospect of repayment, were sold for 26 percent of their book value on average.

Servicing Rights

Reynolds has proposed that the FDIC sell Silverton’s interest in the project separately from its lead role in servicing the loan. That would enable the participating banks to buy the servicing rights and seek a long-term workout, avoiding any immediate writedowns. Selling the servicing rights along with Silverton’s portion of the loan, which give the owner the ability to restructure or foreclose on a loan, could encourage short-term investors, Reynolds said.

If the loan is sold to a buyer who restructures it at less than book value or forecloses on the property, participating banks would have to write down their stakes, said Russell Mallett, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in New York who specializes in bank accounting. Absent a restructuring, banks have flexibility in how they value loans, he said.

“This is not a perfect real estate development, but it could work its way out of its problems if they get more funding and we’re patient,” said Ralph Banks, executive vice president of Merchants & Farmers Bank of Greene County in Eutaw, Alabama, which owns less than $1 million of the loan.

‘Decreases’ Value

That view was supported by executives at two other lenders that bought participations who asked not to be identified because their banks’ roles as owners of the W Hotel loan haven’t been disclosed.

The FDIC has a policy of not splitting servicing rights from loan ownership because it “decreases the value of those assets,” said Hernandez, the agency spokesman.

Reynolds said the banks he represents may bid for Silverton’s share of the W Hotel loan if they can come up with the capital in order to stave off writedowns. Some of the lenders are already in financial trouble, he said, declining to identify them. One that participated in the loan, Florida Community Bank in Immokalee, Florida, failed on Jan. 29.

‘Deal With Themselves’

Silverton, a wholesale bank based in Atlanta with no consumer operations, was owned and overseen by more than 400 community lenders in the region. It was founded in 1986 and provided banking services, including wire-transfer systems, bond trading and credit-card operations, to about 1,400 institutions in 44 states.

Reynolds said the banks that owned Silverton, some of which had representatives on its board, never imagined it would fail.

“My clients had a long, successful record with Silverton,” Reynolds said. “When they signed their participations, they felt they were signing a deal with themselves because they all owned the bank. We all thought this was a way to diversify risk.”

The bank’s troubles began in early 2007, when it changed from a state to a national charter so it could accelerate its growth, according to a report by the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General, which reviews failures of banks regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Defaults Double

Silverton’s commercial real estate lending rose to $1.2 billion at the end of 2008 from $681 million at the end of 2006, the report said. The bank had $4.1 billion in assets when it failed last year, and the FDIC said the closing will cost its insurance fund $1.3 billion.

“The board and management either chose to ignore or failed to acknowledge the indicators of a declining real estate market,” the inspector general’s report said.

Real estate loans at U.S. banks that are at least 90 days overdue or that are expected to default almost doubled in 12 months to 7.1 percent, according to December FDIC data. Non- performing loans for construction and development rose to 16 percent from 8.6 percent.

“This is a situation the FDIC is going to face more, since the number of bank failures is going up,” said Gerard Cassidy, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Portland, Maine. “The FDIC is not in the business of managing loans, so they do have to sell them. But they also have to look at the bigger picture and take a global approach by liquidating those assets without hurting the banks that bought participations.”
27703  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 09, 2010, 06:07:39 AM
It's an idiomatic expression meaning "Very impressive"  grin
27704  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 09, 2010, 06:06:42 AM
I have been told to be capable of 4-12 miles a day for 5 days over very uneven terrain.  We will be returning to a home base, probably a ranch, every night.

I see I have reported a major glitch.  My 1.1 mile time is NOT 5:30.  Hell my one mile time in high school was 6:00 and that was without any weight!  The dirt loop on which I have been doing my work is .28 (hence the weirdness of reporting increments of 1.1 miles) and everytime I pass my truck I have a piece of paper and a pen on the windshield wiper which I use to jot down my data (number of laps, pulse) as I go by.  The 5.30 is a rough approximation of my time for the .28 of each lap.  Overall I am averaging just over 3 miles per hour. 
27705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More "Huh"? on: March 08, 2010, 05:06:43 PM
A savvy friend writes:

Here's my very limited understanding.

Whenever the Fed decides to reduce reserves, it will have to sell its balance sheet assets to somebody for money. When the check written to the Fed clears against the buyer's bank that bank's reserves at the Fed will drop by the same amount. So that is the process the Fed will eventually follow if it does indeed begin to reduce bank reserves.

The Fed has certain "primary dealers" who, as I understand it, must buy Fed assets when they are offered for sale. I presume the primary dealers are buying for resale and, frankly, I don't know how prices are set between the Fed and the primary dealers.

Since the Fed now has a motley bunch of assets on its balance sheet for which it paid more than a trillion dollars, it apparently thinks it needs more "counterparties" who are able to buy such assets. I am not sure why they need a program to identify more buyers in advance; if those assets actually have some value I would think the Fed would only need to offer the assets and wait to see the bids. Maybe the Fed has some scheme which will press more institutions into the "must buy" role? 

The "reverse repo" terminology also confuses me. If the Fed sells assets with a repurchase agreement, that would seem to imply only a short term reduction in reserves. A regular "repo" is used by the Fed to temporarily increase bank reserves -- buying an asset to increase reserves but with an agreement to sell it back in a short period of time, thereby reversing the earlier operation.

So ... let me add my voice to the growing chorus: how about a thorough explanation of this Fed announcement?
27706  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: March 08, 2010, 05:03:13 PM
Due to a very bad knee injury in 1992 I have tremendous empathy for Tricky's current (and recurrent) woes and the deepest of respect for the true warrior spirit he shows in this moment.  He certainly is an outstanding fighter, but more importantly in this moment he shines as Dog Brother.
27707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Huh? on: March 08, 2010, 12:07:41 PM
Can someone explain this to me please?


The Federal Reserve Bank of New York today announced the beginning of a program to expand its counterparties for conducting reverse repurchase agreement transactions. This expansion is intended to enhance the capacity of such operations to drain reserves beyond what could likely be conducted through the New York Fed's traditional counterparties, the Primary Dealers. This announcement is pursuant to the October 19, 2009, Statement Regarding Reverse Repurchase Agreements, which announced that the New York Fed was studying the possibility of expanding its counterparties for these operations. The additional counterparties will not be eligible to participate in transactions conducted by the New York Fed other than reverse repos. This expansion of counterparties for the reverse repo program is a matter of prudent advance planning, and no inference should be drawn about the timing of any prospective monetary policy operation. The initial efforts of the New York Fed will be aimed at firms that typically provide large amounts of short-term funding to the financial markets. This approach will ensure that the Federal Reserve quickly achieves significant capacity for conducting reverse repo operations while allowing the Trading Desk at the New York Fed to utilize its current infrastructure for conducting and settling such operations. Over time, the New York Fed expects it will modify the counterparty criteria to include a broader set of counterparties.

The ultimate size and terms of reverse repo operations will depend on the directive from the Federal Open Market Committee to conduct such operations. In terms of operational details, the New York Fed anticipates that any transactions would be:
offered to primary dealers and the broader set of counterparties,
conducted at auction for a fixed (not floating) rate,
settled through the tri-party repo system, and
held against all major types of collateral in the System Open Market Account (SOMA), including Treasury securities, agency debt securities, and agency MBS securities.
27708  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's Expanding Influence Part 1 on: March 08, 2010, 11:06:13 AM

The United States’ involvement in the Middle East — wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a standoff with Iran over its nuclear program — has given Russia an opportunity to expand its influence in the former Soviet Union. Moscow has already had some success in consolidating control over what it considers the four most crucial countries, but it would like to push back against the West in several other countries if it has time to do so before Washington’s attention returns to Eurasia.

Editor’s note: This introduction launches a four-part series in which STRATFOR will examine Russia’s efforts to exert influence beyond its borders.


U.S. Weakness and Russia’s Window of Opportunity

Russia today is vastly different from the Russia of 10 or 20 years ago. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the West began a geopolitical offensive in Russia’s near abroad, and met with some success. However, the past two months have seen a drastic rollback of Western influence in the former Soviet Union, with Russia forming unions with Kazakhstan and Belarus and a pro-Russian government returning to Ukraine. Moscow is making progress in its grand scheme to solidify its position as a regional power in Eurasia once again, reversing what it sees as Western infiltration. The question now is how far Russia wants to go — or how far it feels it must and can go — in this quest.

The Inherent Russian Struggle
Russia’s defining problem stems from its geographic indefensibility. Russia has no rivers, oceans, swamps, mountains or other natural features truly protecting it. To compensate for these vulnerabilities, Russia historically has had to do two things: Consolidate forces at home while purging outside influences, and expand in order to create buffers around its borders. At times, Russia reached out too far and collapsed, which forced it to start over. But Russia has only been a stable, strong power — regionally and globally — when it had a buffer zone surrounding its core. The best example of this was the Soviet Union, in which Russia surrounded itself with a sphere of countries under its control, from Central Asia to the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. This gave Moscow the insulation it needed to project influence far beyond its borders.

(click here to enlarge image)
But in 1989, the Soviet Union lost control of Eastern Europe and had disintegrated by 1991, returning Russia essentially to its 17th century borders (except for Siberia). Russia was broken, vulnerable and weak.

The United States, on the other hand, emerged from the Cold War with a huge opportunity to contain Russia and prevent its re-emergence as a great power in Eurasia. The Soviet disintegration did not in any way guarantee that Moscow would not resurge eventually in another form, so the West had to neuter Russia both internally and externally. First the United States nudged the pro-democratic and capitalist forces inside Russia to try to change the nature of the Kremlin. Theoretically, this led to the democratic experiment of the 1990s that ended in bitter chaos, rather than democracy, within Russia. Yet it did prevent the Russian government from becoming a consolidated (let alone powerful) entity.

The United States also began working to contain Russia’s influence inside its borders and pick away at its best defense: its buffer. The United States and Western Europe carried out this strategy in several ways. The West used its influence and money quickly after the fall of the Soviet Union to create connections with each former Soviet state. It also fomented a series of color revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan that solidified Western influence in those countries. NATO and the European Union also expanded into former Soviet territory to include Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Washington and NATO even opened military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to facilitate moving supplies into Afghanistan.

Moscow saw this as a direct and deliberate challenge to Russian national security. But before it could even consider reaching across its borders to counter the West’s geopolitical encroachment, Russia had to clean house. Under former Russian President (and current Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin, Russia’s internal consolidation began with the Kremlin regaining control over the country politically, economically and socially while re-establishing its control over Russia’s wealth of energy reserves. The Kremlin also put an end to the internal volatility created by the oligarchs, organized crime and wars in the Caucasus. The recentralization of the Russian state under Putin’s rule, coupled with high energy prices bringing in exorbitant amounts of money, made Russia strong again, but it still needed to reclaim its buffer zone.

The Window of Opportunity
While Russia reconsolidated, the United States became preoccupied with the Islamic world. As the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have developed, they have absorbed Washington’s focus, presenting Russia with an opportunity to push back against the West’s increased influence in Eurasia. It remains unclear whether Russia would have been able to counter the Western infiltration of the former Soviet states if the United States had not been looking elsewhere. But Russia has taken advantage of Washington’s preoccupation to attempt to re-establish its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union.

The U.S. absorption on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan has not occurred without Russian involvement. Russia has used its connections in the Middle East and Afghanistan as leverage in its negotiations with the United States for years, demanding that Washington outright abandon moves to solidify Western influence in the former Soviet states. Furthermore, Moscow’s plan to expand its influence into the former Soviet sphere depends on Washington’s preoccupation. Thus, Russia has openly supported Iran with political, nuclear and military deals, and has made negotiations for military supply routes into Afghanistan more difficult for the United States and NATO.

The geopolitical tug-of-war between Washington and Moscow has not been easy. But while Washington has been preoccupied with its wars, Russia has been able to reconsolidate its influence in countries that never strayed far from Moscow’s hand, such as Belarus and Kazakhstan. Russia proved that the West could not stop it from militarily rolling back into its former territory during the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. Russia’s most crucial victory to date has been in Ukraine, where the top four candidates in the country’s January presidential election were all pro-Russian, thus ensuring the end of the pro-Western Orange movement.

The question now is: What does Russia feel it must accomplish before the United States is freed up from its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or its standoff with Iran?

The Russian Plan
The Kremlin is not looking to re-establish the Soviet Union. Rather, Moscow has stepped back and looked at its former Soviet sphere and determined what is imperative to the future of Russia’s regional power and stability. Essentially, Russia has placed the countries of its former sphere of influence and other regional powers into four categories:

(click here to view interactive graphic)
First are four countries where Russia feels it must fully reconsolidate its influence: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Georgia. These countries protect Russia from Asia and Europe and give Moscow access to the Black and Caspian seas. They are also the key points integrated with Russia’s industrial and agricultural heartland. Without all four of them, Russia is essentially impotent. So far, Russia has reconsolidated power in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, and part of Georgia is militarily occupied. In 2010, Russia will focus on strengthening its grasp on these countries.
Next are six countries where Moscow would like to reconsolidate its influence if it has the opportunity to do so before Washington’s attention turns back to Eurasia: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Russia does not need these countries in order to remain strong, but without them the West is too close to the Russian core for comfort. These countries have either strategic geographic locations, links to Russia or valuable assets. Estonia could almost be put into the first category, as some forces inside Moscow consider it more important because of location near Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, and on the Baltic Sea. Russia will attempt to deal with these countries only after its four top priorities are met.
The third group on Russia’s list consists of countries that are not critical to the Kremlin, but Moscow feels could easily be controlled because of their own inherent vulnerabilities. These countries — Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia — are not geographically, politically or economically important and are so unstable that Moscow could consolidate control over them rather quickly. Some of these countries are already under Russian control, through no concerted effort on Moscow’s part, but their natural instability and weakness can make them more trouble than they are worth.
The final group on Russia’s list consists of countries that are not former Soviet states or countries Russia thinks it can pull in under its influence. These last countries — Germany, Turkey, France and Poland — are regional powers (or future powers) in Eurasia that could complicate Russia’s efforts. Moscow feels it needs to form a strong relationship, or at least an understanding, with these countries about Russia’s dominance in the former Soviet sphere. These countries are all NATO members, and each has its own complex relationship with the United States. But Moscow again is taking advantage of the United States’ distraction to leverage its own relationship with these countries. Moscow will have to play a very delicate game with these regional heavyweights to make sure it does not turn them into enemies.
A Closing Window
Russia has had some success in meeting its goals while the United States has been preoccupied, but it also knows Washington is attempting to wrap up its affairs in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan and have a freer hand in other areas. For Russia, the clock is ticking.

Russia does have the advantage, in that it is easier for the United States to prevent the emergence of a regional hegemon than to control one that has already emerged. The United States’ focus will return to Eurasia after Russia has already made significant progress on its to-do list. But this is not to say that Russia is the definite winner. Russia’s geopolitical imperatives remain: The country must expand, hold together and defend the empire, even though expansion can create difficulties in the Russian core. This is already a difficult task; it will be made even harder when the United States is free to counter Russia.

In this series, STRATFOR will break down exactly how Russia will be tackling its to-do list of countries, examining the different levers Moscow holds over each country and what bumps it may experience along the way.
27709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yet another government takeover on: March 08, 2010, 10:40:05 AM
Everyone knows Democrats are planning to use the budget reconciliation process to get ObamaCare through the Senate. Less well known is that Democrats are plotting add-ons to that bill to get other liberal priorities enacted—programs that could never attract 60 votes.

One of these controversial measures rewrites the Higher Education Act to ban private companies from offering federally guaranteed student loans as of this July. Congress has already passed laws in recent years discouraging private lenders from making loans without a federal guarantee. But most college financial-aid departments still want private companies to originate and service the guaranteed loans. That's because the alternative—a public option run by the Department of Education—has been distinguished by its Soviet-style customer service.

The Democratic plan is to make this public option the only option mere days before colleges send out their financial aid packages to incoming students. The House and Senate budget committees issued instructions last year to look for savings in the student-lending program, so the Democrats have prepared in advance their excuse to jam these changes through the reconciliation process.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
.Secretary of Education Arne Duncan portrays the changes as eliminating subsidies to private companies, but no one should misinterpret these comments to mean that taxpayers will benefit. The plan that passed the House includes $67 billion in "savings," according to a Friday estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. But the bill also has more than $77 billion in new spending.

The net loss to taxpayers isn't limited to $10 billion. After inquiries from Senator Judd Gregg (R., N.H.) and Rep. John Kline (R., Minn.) last year, CBO explained that "savings" estimates are artificially high because of government accounting rules that undercount the risks of default when the government is originating the loans, while the new spending estimates are artificially low. This could be significant. Many colleges oppose the government plan specifically because the feds don't make the same effort to prevent defaults that the private lenders do.

Taxpayers have even more reason than academics to fear the impact, in part because the public may not learn the details before this plan becomes law. Democrats aim to bring their education revolution to the floor without a committee vote or even a hearing in the Senate.

Democrats might seek to enact the bill passed by the House last summer, an even more ambitious plan sketched out in the President's 2011 budget, or some mystery meat prepared by chef Tom Harkin, who chairs the Senate education committee. So far he won't tell anyone what's on the menu, and he may not have to. The limited 20 hours of reconciliation debate will no doubt be consumed by ObamaCare, but another new entitlement could be hustled into law under cover of bloviating lawmakers.

Both the House-passed bill and the President's budget increase Pell Grants and also create automatic future increases, so individual grants will grow faster than inflation every year. Colleges will pocket the money by raising tuition, so we have yet another federal program ensuring that higher education costs continue to rise even faster than health-care spending.

Mr. Obama's budget also calls for making Pell Grants a mandatory entitlement. At least now they are subject to annual appropriation and their growth can be slowed when tax revenues fall or other priorities rate higher. Mr. Obama would prefer spending that is quite literally out of control.

"Various changes that the President proposes to the Pell Grant program would add another $0.2 trillion to the deficit between 2011 and 2020," CBO said Friday. That could turn out to be a very optimistic estimate if unemployment remains high and more people seize the educational opportunity to which they have just become entitled. Still another taxpayer trap will be sprung if the President's proposal to forgive some debt incurred by "overburdened" borrowers is included in the bill.

The federal education takeover is another example of the Democrats' willingness to use whatever tactics are necessary to advance their agenda to concentrate power in Washington—while they still can.
27710  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Viejito con huevos y cuchillo contra ladron on: March 08, 2010, 08:35:44 AM
ME gusto' tambien como no le permitia a nada acercarse a el despues de la huida del ladron.  Necesitamos acordarnos que malos frequentemente trabajan en equipos.

Pero, si no me equivoco, tamien cabe mencionar que su tecnica permitia que la pistola del malo se le cruzara.
27711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on "general welfare" concept on: March 08, 2010, 08:32:47 AM
"It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It [the Constitution] was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect." --Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on a National Bank, 1791
27712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 07, 2010, 11:16:20 PM
That he was born into a patrician family doesn' t help either.
27713  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 07, 2010, 11:14:05 PM
Well, sh*t howdy!
27714  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 07, 2010, 11:05:09 PM
I'm looking to bump up my distance and/or heart rate on Tuesday.
27715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: March 07, 2010, 07:39:30 PM
Ah yes, Bill Clinton who sent Johnny Chung to raise money in Taiwan in return for sailing a US aircrafty carrier through the straits?  Bill Clinton who took money from the Red Chinese front of the Riady family?  The same Riady's who paid Webster Hubbell $700,000 in psuedo consulting fees that really were to pay him doing time without implicating Hillary in the Rose firm's overbilling in AK?  Bill Clinton who enabled technology to Red China by moving technology export decisions from the State Dept to the Commerce Dept in return for donations?  Bill Clinton who let Saddam Hussein run the UN inspectors out of Iraq so that we were nearly totally blind four years later when it was time to decide whether SH had WMD?

That Bill Clinton?
27716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: March 06, 2010, 08:18:22 PM
Oy vey   rolleyes

Good thing we have such a coherent strategy to deal with all this , , ,
27717  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 06, 2010, 03:46:27 PM
Thursday:  3.3 miles with 50 pounds

Today, another 3.3 miles with 50 pounds.

Average pulse mile 1: 97
AP #2: 103
AP #3: 111

5.30 minutes per 1.1 miles

The original plan was to go 4.4 miles but with only one day's rest the muscles of my upper back we saying it was enough for the day. My next session will have two days rest so I will bump it up to 4.4 miles then.

I do like the way the weight vest is teaching me things about posture and gait. Today I was noticing that carrying the vest was easier the more I opened the thoracic region of the spine (think scapula down, rhomboids activated, pec minor released, thumbs parallel, heart chakra open) In conjunction with maintaining each foot on the ground longer subtly improves hip alignment and counter swinging the shoulders (e.g. right shoulder forward on left step) diminishes heel strike. Now the hips roll nicely and I start opening up the hip flexors.

Still my pace is slow (about 5.40 per 1.1 miles).  Someone advised me to have longer strides.  For me this seems to really increase heel strike. Am I doing something wrong?
27718  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Viejito con huevos y cuchillo contra ladron on: March 06, 2010, 03:29:13 PM

27719  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 06, 2010, 10:48:37 AM
27720  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: WHERE IS THE FOOTWORK!?! on: March 06, 2010, 10:47:54 AM
I was in the Octagon when I was a judge at UFC X. I agree, there is plenty of room for good footwork.  OTOH the cage at King of the Cage was really quite small.  Footwork always applies at any and all ranges, but its relevance can be real brief in tighter ranges-- though no the less important for its brevity.
27721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 06, 2010, 05:27:44 AM
While teaching at Fort Polk I received a nasty cut on my finger tip that needed four stitches.  I went to the hospital on base.  Things were not busy at all, but it took six hours to get it taken care of.
27722  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 06, 2010, 05:24:28 AM
I have already experienced in a small way the changes in the center of gravity.  You make a good point about training to get used to this.  Maybe I will begin with some lateral lunges , , ,
27723  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: WHERE IS THE FOOTWORK!?! on: March 06, 2010, 05:20:56 AM

IMHO there are some fighters who use elements of the triangular footwork, e.g. the inside tooth for Dean "the king of mean" Jardine does this with a cross rather often.  There also was a fighter (UFC 81?) who REALLY looked to me like he had been watching our Kali Tudo 1-- even Joe Rogan noticed something was "different/unusual" about his footwork and how he was hard to hit.  Shogun Rua uses something very much like what we call a Zirconia (see e.g. his KO of Liddell, and against Machida)
27724  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: WHERE IS THE FOOTWORK!?! on: March 05, 2010, 10:35:20 PM

Not sure of your meaning here.  Do you mean DB fights?  What do you mean by "too much" mobility?
27725  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 05, 2010, 10:33:52 PM
Maxx:  Yes, it is-- I redacted it when I posted it because I didn't know at the time that it was public info that it was SF.

R:  In addition to the aerobic conditioning, I need to prep my ability to carry weight on my upper body, and do hills for a goodly number of miles.
27726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: March 05, 2010, 02:52:27 PM
Very good to see reconciliation broken down like that  cool


'Every argument has been made. Everything that there is to say about health care has been said, and just about everybody has said it," President Obama declared yesterday as he urged Democrats to steamroll his plan through Congress. What hasn't been heard, however, is even a shred of White House honesty about the true costs of ObamaCare, or its fiscal consequences.

Nearby, we reprint Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan's remarks at the health summit last week, which methodically dismantle the falsehoods—there is no other way of putting it—that Mr. Obama has used to sell "reform" and repeated again yesterday. No one in the political class has even tried to refute Mr. Ryan's arguments, though he made them directly to the President and his allies, no doubt because they are irrefutable. If Democrats are willing to ignore overwhelming public opposition to ObamaCare and pass it anyway, then what's a trifling dispute over a couple of trillion dollars?

At his press conference yesterday, Mr. Obama claimed that "my proposal would bring down the cost of health care for millions—families, businesses and the federal government." He said it is "fully paid for" and "brings down our deficit by up to $1 trillion over the next two decades." Never before has a vast new entitlement been sold on the basis of fiscal responsibility, and one reason ObamaCare is so unpopular is that Americans understand the contradiction between untold new government subsidies and claims of spending restraint. They know a Big Con when they hear one.

Mr. Obama's fiscal assertions are possible only because of the fraudulent accounting and budget gimmicks that Democrats spent months calibrating. Readers can find the gory details in Mr. Ryan's pre-emptive rebuttal nearby, though one of the most egregious deceptions is that the bill counts 10 years of taxes but only six years of spending.

The real cost over a decade is about $2.3 trillion on paper, Mr. Ryan estimates, and even that is a lowball estimate considering how many people will flood to "free" health care and how many businesses will be induced to drop coverage. Mr. Obama claimed yesterday that the plan will cost "about $100 billion per year," but in fact the costs ramp up each year the program exists. The far more likely deficits are $460 billion over the first 10 years, and $1.4 trillion over the next 10.
What Mr. Ryan calls "probably the most cynical gimmick" deserves special attention, which is known in Washington as the "doc fix." Next month Medicare physician payments are scheduled to be cut by 22% and deeper thereafter, though Congress is sure to postpone the reductions as it always does. Failing to account for this inevitability takes nearly a quarter-trillion dollars off the ObamaCare books and by itself wipes out the "savings" that the White House continues to take credit for.

Some in the liberal cheering section now claim that this Medicare ruse isn't Mr. Obama's problem because it was first promised by Republicans and Bill Clinton in 1997. But then why did Democrats include the "doc fix" in all early versions of the bill to buy the support of the American Medical Association, only to dump this pricey item later when hiding it would make it easier to fake-reduce the deficit?

The President was (miraculously) struck dumb by Mr. Ryan's critique, and in his response drifted off into an irrelevant tangent about Medicare Advantage, while California Democrat Xavier Becerra claimed "you essentially said you can't trust the Congressional Budget Office." But Mr. Ryan was careful to note that he didn't doubt the professionalism of CBO, only the truthfulness of the Democratic gimmicks that the budget gnomes are asked to score.

Yesterday Mr. Obama again invoked the "nonpartisan, independent" authority of CBO, which misses the reality that if you feed the agency phony premises, you are going to get phony results at the other end.

The President also claimed the reason his plan is in trouble, and the reason Democrats must abuse the Senate's rules to ram this plan into law, is that "many Republicans in Congress just have a fundamental disagreement over whether we should have more or less oversight of insurance companies." So most of Mr. Obama's first year in office has been paralyzed over nothing more than minor regulatory hair-splitting. This is so preposterous that the President can't possibly believe it.

Congress's spring break begins on March 29, and Democratic leaders plan on jamming this monster through Congress before then. Americans have to hope that enough rank-and-file Democrats aren't as deaf to fiscal honesty as this President.
27727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 05, 2010, 10:19:05 AM
Reconciliation is still the buzzword on Capitol Hill as Democrat "leaders" Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi try to figure out how to ram ObamaCare down our throats. Not that they see it that way; as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer put it, "That's not ramming something through with a majority. It is doing what democracy calls for." Well, this isn't a democracy, it's a republic: and the Founders set it up that way for a reason.

Accompanied by his teleprompter, Barack Obama began a renewed push for a vote on the health care bill by Easter when he met a group of people wearing lab coats in the Rose Garden on Wednesday (and he accused Rep. Eric Cantor of using a "prop" by bringing the 2,400-page bill itself to last week's health care summit). Obama claimed that "new and improved" legislation "incorporates the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans." As we said Tuesday, however, the problem isn't whether the bill is "bipartisan." A few Republican ideas sprinkled in won't fix it. The problem, at its core, is that a plan for Congress to take over one-sixth of the U.S. economy is unconstitutional.

In the face of all evidence, the teleprompter continued, "I don't believe we should give government bureaucrats or insurance company bureaucrats more control over health care in America." Huh? Giving government bureaucrats control over health care in America is precisely what Obama is proposing to do.

For all the talk about reconciliation in the Senate, the House vote may be the more important one. The Associated Press reports, "The House passed health overhaul legislation by a narrow 220-215 vote in November, but since then several Democrats have defected or left the House. To avoid a filibuster in the Senate that Democrats can't defeat, Obama is now pushing the House to approve the Senate's version of the bill, along with a package of changes to fix elements of the Senate bill that House Democrats don't like, including a special Medicaid deal for Nebraska and a tax on high-value insurance plans that is opposed by organized labor."

If Pelosi is able to strong-arm the Senate bill through the House with a bare majority, Senate reconciliation becomes moot. With three vacancies, Democrats need just 217 votes for passage, and there are a handful of Democrats who voted "no" in November who now say they're undecided. On the other hand, 12 pro-life Democrats, led by Bart Stupak of Michigan, say they're prepared to switch sides and scuttle ObamaCare if sufficient protections against abortion funding aren't put in place. The Senate bill doesn't meet their benchmark.

Never underestimate this president's lack of shame, though -- or his penchant for Chicago-style politics. For example, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) voted against ObamaCare in November, but he is now "undecided." So on Wednesday, Obama nominated Jim's brother Scott to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Offering jobs for playing the White House way is nothing new, and Scott Matheson is, to be fair, a well-credentialed nominee. However, even the appearance of selling judgeships for health care votes would give pause to a more honorable president.

As for leftist sentiment, perhaps MSNBC host Ed Schultz best summed it up this week, saying, "mall government has never gotten anybody any health care."

"The Republicans have a choice," Schultz declared. "Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way. ... We have people in need and they need to be helped."

Memo to Ed: If government would get out of the way, those people might be able to help themselves, as our Founders intended. Democrats aren't about to let that happen because it really isn't about helping those in need.
27728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fisher Ames, 1789 on: March 05, 2010, 09:59:29 AM
"We are not to consider ourselves, while here, as at church or school, to listen to the harangues of speculative piety; we are here to talk of the political interests committed to our charge." --Fisher Ames, speech in the United States House of Representatives, 1789
27729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: March 05, 2010, 09:58:54 AM
Which is why little girls in Afpakia going to school and their teachers are often killed or have acid thrown in their faces.  For the fcukers who do this, they need to be militarily assisted into meeting their 72 virgins and people need to see that this is what happens to such fcukers.
27730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 04, 2010, 10:28:47 PM
Q: What’s the difference between Obama and Hitler?
A: Hitler wrote his own book.

Q: What’s another difference between Obama and Hitler?
A: Hitler got the Olympics to come to his country.

Q: What’s the main problem with Barack Obama jokes?
A: His followers don’t think they’re funny and everyone else doesn’t think they’re jokes.

Q: Why does Barack Obama oppose the Second Amendment?
A: It stands between him and the First.

Q: What’s the difference between Rahm Emanuel and a carp?
A: One is a scum sucking bottom feeder and the other is a fish.

Q: What does Barack Obama call lunch with a convicted felon?
A: A fund raiser.

Q: What’s the difference between Obama’s cabinet and a penitentiary?
A: One’s full of tax evaders, blackmailers and threats to society. The other is for prisoners.

Q: What do you call the US after four years of Obama and the Liberal congress?
A: An Obama-nation.

Q: Why doesn’t Obama pray?
A: It’s impossible to read the teleprompter with your eyes closed.
27731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on General Welfare clause in 1792 on: March 04, 2010, 06:25:01 PM
"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions." --James Madison, letter to Edmund Pendleton, 1792
27732  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Guns and Privileges & Immunities in the context of McDonald on: March 04, 2010, 06:07:35 PM
Bringing this rather deep discussion over from BBG's post in the legal issues thread:
Reason Magazine

Guns for All, Privileges or Immunities for None

The hearings in McDonald v. Chicago promise an unrevolutionary victory—but still an important one

Brian Doherty | March 4, 2010

Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the big laugh line of the hour at Tuesday’s Supreme Court hearings in McDonald v. Chicago. That case’s outcome will decide whether the Second Amendment rights vindicated in 2008’s D.C. v. Heller apply to states and localities. Scalia amused the crowd by asking a question that has perplexed some legal scholars and gun activists both for and against McDonald lawyer Alan Gura’s general goal of applying Second Amendment protections to all levels of American government.

To get the joke, such as it was, you first need the background about what was at stake. The Bill of Rights was originally interpreted to bind only the federal government. The framers of the 14th Amendment intended to change that, and bind the states as well in respecting Americans’ rights. This was in 1868, when recently freed slaves had their rights to work, own property, and bear arms widely abused and unprotected by state and local governments.

The history of the 14th Amendment's passage indicates that a certain part of the amendment was meant to bear the interpretive burden of applying—“incorporating” in the legal lingo—the Bill of Rights (and other restrictions on government power) to the states. That was the Privileges or Immunities Clause: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

Since a controversial 1873 Supreme Court decision in a set of cases regarding a slaughterhouse monopoly in Louisiana, known as the Slaughterhouse Cases, the Privileges or Immunities Clause has been pretty much interpreted out of existence. The Supreme Court has instead used the vaguer and less textually sensible “due process of law" provision of the same amendment to incorporate certain rights against the states. Using that tool, the Court over the past century has already incorporated most of the Bill of Rights on the states, and some unenumerated rights as well. Gura elected to reverse this trend by arguing for incorporation of the Second Amendment on privileges or immunities grounds.

So Scalia asked Gura early in his 20 minutes of argument time on Tuesday: “Mr. Gura, do you think it is at all easier to bring the Second Amendment under the Privileges and Immunities Clause than it is to bring it under our established law of substantive due…process?... Why are you asking us to overrule 150, 140 years of prior law, when—when you can reach your result under substantive due—I mean, you know, unless you are bucking for a—a place on some law school faculty…?”

Scalia, reputedly a constitutional originalist, flashed some ugly colors with that laugh-provoking comment: He’d rather go with the easy precedential flow—even given a substantive due process argument that he openly admits he thinks is wrong but which he’s “acquiesced” to—then vindicate the actual intentions of the framers of a very important constitutional amendment.

Gura undoubtedly went for a daring gambit on privileges or immunities (in addition to, not at the expense of, the more traditionally successful due process argument). He did so, first, because he thought it was the correct argument based on constitutional language and history. But he, and many other legal scholars, was also excited because a revival of privileges or immunities could give courts new power to restrict states and localities from violating other rights much on the minds of the 14th Amendment’s framers.

Gura quoted some of them, from the 1866 Civil Rights Act: “To make and enforce contracts…to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property.” A properly grounded application of the privileges or immunities clause could help vindicate the sort of economic liberties considered out of fashion and meaningless in the higher courts since the early 20th century days of the Lochner case.

While nothing is certain until the decision (or decisions) come down later in the year, the general consensus is that Gura has at least the same five justices who revived the Second Amendment in Heller prepared to apply it to the states via the Due Process Clause. This includes Scalia, despite his expressed doubts about the validity of due process incorporation in general. Thus, Gura and the McDonald team win.

Gura cast his mission so ambitiously, though, that he may have created an unfortunate public relations problem for his team. His impending victory might be spun as a defeat. There were elements in the gun-rights community, including the National Rifle Association (NRA) (who won argument time for their advocate Paul Clement at the hearings even though McDonald was not their case), who thought Gura reached for too risky a victory for economic and other liberties when he should have kept his eye on the Second Amendment ball. The NRA’s Clement kept it simple, insisting before the court that “Under this court's existing jurisprudence, the case for incorporating the Second Amendment through the Due Process Clause is remarkably straightforward. The Second Amendment, like the First and the Fourth, protects a fundamental preexisting right that is guaranteed to the people” and thus should be incorporated against the states just as those other amendments were.

In his half hour before the justices, Chicago’s counsel James Feldman maintained that, since guns can hurt people, localities’ power to protect public safety should allow them to regulate guns as much as they want. Not wanting to re-argue Heller (unlike Justice Steven Breyer, who is still obsessed with the militia clause as presumptively dominating the purpose of the Second Amendment, contra Heller), Feldman asserted that a fundamental right to self-defense might exist, but that right was not infringed fundamentally by the banning of any specific variety of weapon, as Chicago did with handguns. Scalia wondered why Feldman seemed to think an unwritten right to self-defense existed that states should honor when he didn’t think that the written right to keep and bear arms had to be thusly honored.

The confused and random jumble of issues and concerns that flowed out in the hour at the Court shows that, while using due process may be the easiest way out for lazy justices who don’t want to think freshly or step outside a middle-of-the-road consensus, the inherent vagueness of due process makes actual legal reasoning hard—unnecessarily so, given the clearer set of historical concerns about privileges or immunities that were on the minds of the Republicans who pushed the 14th Amendment in the late 1860s.

The absurdity of legal reasoning unmoored from the historical understanding of liberty rights was apotheosized in Breyer’s reference to a "Madison Chart,” in which we decide on how much judicial respect various rights would be granted by imagining James Madison ranking their importance on a chart. Breyer avers, apparently consulting Madison’s shade, that guns for the militia would be listed high on the chart, high above guns to shoot burglars. (Jokes about the “Madison Chart” ought to be law school staples down the line.)

The various justice's particular and often eccentric concerns further muddied any discernible lines of logic at the hearing. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took a poorly conceived swipe at any originalist understanding of what rights the Privileges or Immunities Clause might guarantee by stressing the claim that women didn’t have the right to own property or have occupations separate from their husbands in 1868. (Meaning they wouldn’t now either if Gura won on privileges or immunities grounds?) Both she and Justice Anthony Kennedy tried to dredge a precise answer from Gura as to exactly what rights were protected by his conception of the clause, which he wouldn’t and couldn’t do. That the Constitution was designed to protect the people’s liberties through limiting government’s power and not listing citizens’ rights is not an idea much at the front of the justices’ minds.

Justice John Paul Stevens made it clear again and again that even if incorporated against the states, a Second Amendment right could and even ought to be restricted to the narrowest version of Heller: commonly used weapons for self-defense in the home. Even Scalia made it clear that he doesn’t think state level restrictions on concealed carry would necessarily be in danger under an incorporated Second Amendment, and both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Kennedy made it clear that an incorporated Second Amendment does not mean a Second Amendment whose reach was as wide as the gun rights community might like. Roberts spelled it out like this: The Second Amendment “is still going to be subject to the political process if the Court determines that it is incorporated in the Due Process Clause. All the arguments [Chicago’s lawyer Feldman made] against incorporation it seems to me are arguments you should make in favor of regulation under the Second Amendment. We haven't said anything about what the content of the Second Amendment is beyond what was said in Heller.”

That’s worth remembering as we wait for the decision and its aftermath. In the usual media scrum outside the courtroom as the hearings let out, the Brady Center’s Paul Helmke was OK with losing complete bans on commonly used weapons such as Chicago’s, but insisted most (though he denied many even existed) local gun regulations are sensible public safety measures and would certainly survive future legal challenges even if Gura wins. The NRA’s Paul Clement cagily refused to say what sort of lawsuits the NRA might file challenging other state gun regulations in the event of a McDonald victory.

The future of gun rights, then, is brighter than before, though not as bright as the most tenacious defenders of self-defense rights might like. But what of the future of the Privileges or Immunities Clause? It seems as if the clause arose, goosed by Gura, from a grave that Slaughterhouse had sealed it in, only to promptly have a stake driven through its heart and its head chopped off and then shoved back in to the grave by the decidedly unfriendly approach of the justices. In the pre-hearing debate over whether privileges or immunities had a chance in McDonald, the very fact the court took up Gura’s case as opposed to a simpler due process case from the NRA also up for consideration led some to assume the Court must have wanted a chance to seriously rethink the issue. The evidence from Tuesday morning showed no sign of such interest in privileges or immunities.

However, at a Hill briefing by three privileges or immunities scholars and advocates on Wednesday—Clark Neily of the Institute for Justice, Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, and Timothy Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation—the mood was still defiant, not defeated.

To roughly summarize a set of arguments I heard this week in interviews and at that briefing on the future of privileges or immunities, just as Progressive-era legal doctrinal victories such as “rational review” evolved over generations to overtake the profession, a rising group of younger litigators and legal scholars are united in agreeing that Slaughterhouse was an embarrassment and must go. And scholars and advocates from different sides of the political spectrum, for different reasons, are eager to see privileges or immunities arguments become an active part of the arsenal for courts and lawyers. (Some progressives see in it a stronger chance to cram various welfare rights into the Constitution, though more libertarian fans of the clause think the clearer historical record makes the clause a weaker, not stronger, tool than due process by which to work such legal mischief.)

But no matter what the consensus is, a privileges or immunities victory will eventually have to be won in the Supreme Court, and in my read there is at best one person on the current Court who would vote for it. Justice Clarence Thomas, silent as always in this week’s hearings, has in the past expressed an interest in rethinking privileges or immunities. There’s a strong expectation on the part of some privileges or immunities fans that Thomas will write a concurring opinion uniting in the holding that the Second Amendment is incorporated, but with a separate set of privileges or immunities-based reasoning that could become a rallying flag for future arguments about the clause’s continued value. However, what sort of case might be on the horizon to bring it back before the court is unclear. What seems clear is that at least four justices have to go and be replaced by jurists friendly to the abandoned clause for it to become a meaningful part of American jurisprudence. We will have the privileges or immunities fight with us for a long time to come.

On the night of the hearings, I stepped outside the constitutional debate, and glimpsed the heart of why such high-level abstractions matter—the reason why the Supreme Court was even listening to these arguments. Cases have plaintiffs, and plaintiffs are people. At a reception sponsored by one of the case’s institutional plaintiffs, the Second Amendment Foundation, I met the lead plaintiff, Otis McDonald.

Otis McDonald will be the man—as a plaintiff—who vindicated the rights of every American who doesn’t live in a federal enclave to, at the very least, have adequate means to try to protect their lives, families, and property from violent danger. He’ll go down in the history books, to be sure, this 76-year-old man with a wife and eight kids.

He’s black, which is appropriate for both public relations and for history. It ties the arguments Gura made on McDonald's behalf to why the 14th Amendment exists: to guarantee that people of his color would have the liberties and protections white Americans of the time were supposed to have enjoyed. As Gura declared right at the start of his presentation to the Court, “In 1868, our nation made a promise to the McDonald family that they and their descendants would henceforth be American citizens, and with American citizenship came the guarantee enshrined in our Constitution that no State could make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of American citizenship.”

Let me tell you something else about Otis McDonald: If you are lucky enough to meet the guy, you’re going to love him. Really. In about a half hour of conversation, both one-on-one and in a small group, the guy was devastatingly charming, in a completely unstudied way. He’s compelling and convincing and real, telling quotidian stories about being late for planes and late-night fishing; and equally so when getting historical and cosmic about the arc of his life and the role he knows he’s playing in his country’s history. One minute laughing and light, the other giving a sincerely tear-jerking account of the pride and gratitude he feels toward everyone else, especially the younger generation, advancing the scholarship and advocacy of his and his fellow Americans’ rights. After that half hour, I was on this guy’s side, just as a fellow human being. And a dream client for a civil rights case like this to boot, as the lawyers present agreed enthusiastically.

That the city of Chicago prevents this man from making the best choice available to him to protect himself and his family from the very real threats that surround him is, simply and with no constitutional history or theory required, wrong. It is a wrong that Gura's arguments on Tuesday will likely right. And while libertarian legal scholars (and some leftist ones) may feel dejected that Gura failed to win the Court over to the wisdom of overturning Slaughterhouse, McDonald, his fellow plaintiffs, and the rest of Chicago will because of his efforts be able to exercise a core human right unmolested. That is great news, news whose importance should not be clouded by the specifics of how it was won.

Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man (BenBella), Radicals for Capitalism (PublicAffairs) and Gun Control on Trial (Cato Institute).
27733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: March 04, 2010, 04:58:52 PM
Back in the 1980s, when the editorial page of the WSJ was a serious place (quite unlike now in the Murdoch era) one of the powerful themes powerfully pursued was the fact that the incumbent re-election rate of the House was 98%  shocked shocked shocked

We see this here in CA quite vividly.  Back when Gov. S______r had testicles, he tried an initiative for honest apportionment of districts, which for reasons beyond my ken, failed utterly.
27734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The right prescription on: March 04, 2010, 11:58:19 AM
The Right Prescription
Obamacare: Still a Threat to Your Life
By Peter Ferrara on 3.3.10 @ 6:08AM

The true reality of last week's health care summit, what was really going on between the lines, was ugly and scary. I have been deeply involved in these health care debates for almost 30 years, ever since I co-authored the first paper published on Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) with John Goodman in 1981. What the health summit made clear to me is that the Democrats do not understand what the Republicans are talking about on health care. Indeed, they have no idea what the American people are talking about either, or why growing majorities of us oppose what they are trying to do.

But it gets even worse. The health summit made clear that the Democrats do not understand what they themselves are doing on health care. They have been misled and manipulated by left-wing ideologues.

Why Your Life Is At Risk

Let me reveal my personal stake in this health care debate. My life is at risk. So is yours, as well as the lives of our children, our parents, and everyone else in our families. For the thorough government takeover of health care in America the Democrats are feverishly pursuing, and the outdated socialized medicine policies from other countries they are so religiously committed to adopting, would trash the very ability of the system to provide the health care many of us are likely to need in coming years to extend our lives, and to maintain our basic quality of life.

The decimation of our health care system under Obamacare begins with government mandates, regulations, bureaucracies, and controls. The House and Senate health care bills that President Obama and the Democrats refuse to take off the table create close to 100 new health care bureaucracies, boards, commissions and programs. This is the government takeover of health care.

These new authorities arrogate to the government the power to decide "what works" in health care, and what doesn't. The code words they use include "best practices" -- a government bureaucracy in Washington is going to decide what are the "best practices" in providing health care for you and your children, not you and your doctor. Another code phrase is "reward doctors for quality not quantity." Government bureaucracies in Washington do not know how to do this. But they will make a huge mess out of your health care in trying to.

These government bureaucracies will also have the power to cut off your health care when they decide it is no longer worth the money. We have already seen a glimpse of this in the declaration by a bureaucracy, to be expanded with more powers under Obamacare, that women over 72 should not have mammograms. What they are saying here is that if you are over 72 and get breast cancer, they don't want to know about it. Just take the painkiller and go home, to paraphrase President Obama. They believe they can buy more votes taking the money for your care and spending it somewhere else. This is called "cost effectiveness."

The destruction of the health care system is then expanded through the payment system. Among the code words here are "pay for performance" and "accountable care." This is how the bureaucracy will enforce its dictates concerning what works and what doesn't, best practices, cost effectiveness, and termination of health care no longer deemed worthy. Doctors and hospitals will be rewarded through payments if they follow the centralized bureaucracy's dictates; they will be penalized with reduced payments if they don't. You will never know what happened to you. The doctor is not going to tell you, "I could have saved your daughter's life with this new treatment, but that is not yet a best practice according to the government."

Health care obliteration then continues by constricting the payments overall to doctors, hospitals, specialists, surgeons, health care innovators, and other health providers. This is where the $500 billion in Medicare cuts come in, which is $800 billion in the first 10 years of full implementation under Obamacare. Seniors will soon find out that constricted payments mean constricted services, because President Obama has already begun cutting payments under Medicare, particularly for cancer and heart specialists, treatments, and diagnostics. But this is just part of the constricted payments to the entire health system under Obamacare, which is how President Obama thinks he will bring the cost curve down. The sad truth is that the only cost control in Obamacare involves health care rationing, which means denying you health care. Those union orchestrated sad sacks marching in the streets chanting for "health care" are suckers.

The final component ultimately leaving us with Potemkin Village health care is the effect of all of this on investment incentives. Nobody is going to invest the capital necessary to develop the new, life-saving health care treatments and technologies and miracle cure drugs, and build the new facilities and purchase the new equipment to provide them, with the constricted payments of Obamacare as their reward. That money will instead join the capital fleeing to build new factories providing good jobs in the increasingly booming economies of Brazil, India, and China.

We can begin to see these effects of Obamacare in Massachusetts, which adopted some of the Obamacare policies a few years ago. As John Goodman writes in his Health Alert ("Scaling the Summit") for February 26, "As a result, the waiting times to see a new doctor in Boston are twice as long as in any other U.S. city. And there are still as many people going to emergency rooms for care in Massachusetts today as there were before the Massachusetts health plan was adopted."

But none of the supporters of Obamacare -- the bloggers, the talk show hosts, the literal clowns like Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and Wanda Sykes that now get media coverage to lecture us on public policy -- understand any of this. They have their heads firmly and deeply stuck in the sand, and insist it is all made up. And as for Democrat members of Congress, they don't have a clue.

Fighting for Their Lives

But when their own lives are at risk, suddenly they can understand it quite well. Consider the case of Danny Williams, age 60, Premier of Newfoundland, Canada, who secretly snuck into the U.S. for his own heart surgery. After his surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, Williams told reporters, "This was my heart, my choice, and my health. I did not sign away my right to get the best possible health care for myself when I entered politics."

Why Williams felt he had to come to America was further illuminated by the recent heart surgery of former President Bill Clinton. As Dr. Marc Siegel explained in the New York Post,

Clinton, of course, got the best of care -- a cardiac stent (a tiny metal cylinder) coated with a drug to help keep his artery open. Recent studies in the New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere have shown that these drug-eluting stents are more effective than bare metal ones. But they cost two-to-four times more -- and the technology is relatively new. That combination has left government run health-care systems slow to adopt them….Per capita, our neighbors to the north receive only half as many coronary [operations]. And only 30% of the stents placed in Canada are drug-eluting, compared to a whopping 80% in the United States. So a Canadian cardiac patient is less than a quarter as likely as an American to be outfitted with the kind of state-of-the-art stent that Clinton had. In Canada, land of single payer health insurance, you're also less likely to get the stent as soon as the need is clear.

Wanda Sykes owes Sarah Palin an apology.

Why Your Country Is at Risk

The Health Care Summit highlighted another issue that too many of us too easily conceded. House Republican Budget Chief Paul Ryan articulately exposed Obamacare as increasing the deficit by $460 billion over the first 10 years, and $1.4 trillion over the second 10 years. That is with half a trillion in tax increases, and half a trillion in Medicare cuts, over the first 10 years alone.

One of the chief tricks to hide these deficits is to provide for reversing some of the draconian cuts for doctors and hospitals in a separate bill scored as increasing the deficit by $371 billion. The Obamacare legislation also counts on raiding $52 billion in Social Security revenues. Still another trick to claim deficit neutrality is to count the 10 years of tax increases and Medicare cuts against only 6 years of increased Obamacare spending.

While we can't pay for all the entitlement programs we already have, Obamacare adds a new entitlement providing handouts to help pay for health insurance for families with incomes as high as $88,000 a year. That is why the true 10 year cost for Obamacare is really $2.3 trillion, as Ryan explained.

Filibuster Falsehoods

The ugly in the health care summit was the transparent trap President Obama and the Democrats laid for the Republicans. Obama was not the least bit interested in anything the Republicans had to say. He filibustered for 119 minutes of the summit, talking more than all the rest of the Democrats combined at 114 minutes. The Republicans were allowed only 110 minutes to speak altogether.

And as we have seen over and over on health care, much if not most of what President Obama had to say during his filibuster was just not true. The most embarrassing was the exchange with Sen. Lamar Alexander over whether Obamacare would cause health insurance premiums to rise. After Alexander cited CBO as saying they would, Obama imperiously disputed him as "not factually accurate," and then launched into a confused and convoluted argument as to why CBO had really said health insurance premiums would be going down. "But they didn't say that the actual premiums would be going up," Obama insisted. "What they said was they'd be going down by 14 percent to 20 percent." He insisted that he was sure he was right, and that he had gone over and over this with CBO, challenging Alexander to resolve the issue publicly "before we leave today" because "this is an example of where we've got to get our facts straight."

And so it was resolved before they left that day when Sen. Jon Kyl read from the CBO report saying that premiums would indeed rise under Obamacare, and Rep. Eric Cantor tried to explain to President Obama, "We just can't afford this. This government can't afford it, businesses can't afford it." Obama then retreated to saying, well, the premiums would be higher because his plan mandated richer benefits. But that is a concession that premiums would, in fact, be rising, not a demonstration that they would be falling. In fact, premiums will soar by much more than CBO admits, as much as 100% to 200% for young workers, as mathematically demonstrated in studies by WellPoint and others, which Obama and the Democrats have refused to even consider. Yes, the whole point is that premiums would be rising because of the benefits that the Democrats would mandate. And what the public and the critics have been telling them is that we can't afford those increases, and that in many cases the same can be achieved by different means.

President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius perpetrated another falsehood in criticizing high risk pools, which, when done right, provide a safety net for the uninsured who have become too sick to buy insurance anywhere else. When you concentrate all the high cost risks in one pool, Sebelius insisted, then costs in that pool become very high, and it becomes too expensive for people. But the risk pools are all subsidized by tax funds precisely because those covered by the pool can't be expected to pay all the costs themselves. The point many conservatives and Republicans have been trying to make is that rather than trying to force these high cost uninsured onto the same insurance as everyone else, and massively increasing everyone's premiums as a result, provide them their own risk pool charging no more than they can afford, and subsidize remaining costs so that the pool is a real safety net ensuring that no one need lack essential health coverage and care. Experience shows this can be done at modest cost.

But the greatest ignorance of the day was reflected when President Obama said that a "high deductible plan" is "basically not health insurance." High deductible health plans are the only real insurance, spreading the risk of the high costs affecting only a few in any one year among the entire pool. It is the retro low deductible plans, covering routine yearly expenses that most incur, that are not health insurance, but prepaid health care involving enormously counterproductive incentives and unnecessary costs. Understanding this is essential to solving the health cost problem, but, again, Obama and the Democrats have no clue.

Instead, they repeated the canard that Health Savings Accounts are not workable for the poor, when the truth is they benefit the poor the most. An HSA includes a savings account that can be used to pay for expenses below the deductible. The poor are most in need of the savings they can keep if they don't waste money unnecessarily on health care. What Democrats don't like about HSAs is that they put the patient rather than the government in charge.

Those Who Live by the Reconciliation, Die by the Reconciliation

What was really going on at the summit was reflected in the persistent, obviously pre-arranged, transparently false theme among the Democrats that, hey, you know, we are not really that far apart, there is really a lot of agreement. That was meant to set the Republicans up so the Democrats could say afterward that the Republicans refused to support Obamacare simply for partisan, political reasons, or because they really were in the pocket of industry, and so the Democrats are justified in ramming it through without them, through reconciliation. That was the real point and goal of the summit.

That didn't work because the Republicans were surprisingly good in articulating their reasons for opposing the legislation, and those reasons resonated strongly with the American people. By giving the Republicans such a high profile forum to express these reasons and their far more common sense alternatives, the summit backfired into yet another disastrous loss for Obamacare.

Reconciliation is a process solely for enacting budgetary measures to reduce the deficit, not sweeping, historic reforms involving adoption of the costliest new entitlement in history. Proceeding with President Obama's health care overhaul through reconciliation would flout Congressional rules way beyond any historical precedent.

But what is adopted by reconciliation can and will be repealed by reconciliation, setting a precedent for future entitlement reforms using the same process.

Letter to the Editor

StumbleUpon| Digg| Reddit| Twitter| Facebook

Peter Ferrara is director of entitlement and budget policy at the Institute for Policy Innovation, a policy advisor to the Heartland Institute, and general counsel of the American Civil Rights Union. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under the first President Bush. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

27735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items on: March 04, 2010, 11:55:42 AM
Crunch time!!! At the very least, be sure to get off your butt and sign this petition.  Better yet, call/write your Congressman!
27736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Diet on: March 04, 2010, 10:11:18 AM
My daughter is so empathetic that she will only buy potted flowers for Mom, not ones that have been cut.   My wife emphatically warns against this path for us , , , oh well , , ,  smiley
27737  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 03, 2010, 08:05:53 PM
"There are bound to be bad guys infiltrating the ranks of the ANA and ANP.  There really is no "black & white" in Afghanistan.  Just a whole lot of gray.  The vetting process for these guys is minimal at best.  In my personal opinion, it's not the TB/AQ that are the major underlying cause for the apparent incompetence and inability of Afghan forces to perform independently and without help from outsiders.  The real problem is actual incompetence at every level throughout the ANA an ANP.  The vast majority have next to no education and a lot of them don't care as long as they get a paycheck however little the pay may be.  And it is very little compared to what the bad guys pay their Holy Soldiers.  Lack of discipline is another major consideration.  Discipline can be thought of as the lube that keeps the gears of the military machine turning smoothly.  Without it the machine breaks.  Lack of pride in the true sense.  Somebody needs to instill in these men a true, deeply rooted sense of worth in these guys.  It seems to me that the majority of them place no real value or importance on what their mission is, Afghanistan as a nation, and themselves as soldiers.  When an American  recruit makes it through basic training or boot camp, they're pissing red, white and blue.  Afghans on the other hand aren't exactly pissing their national colors (red, black & green) though.   Considering all this, the TB/AQ that do exist within the ranks have an easy job and there really is no way around it.  We just have to wait until someone from an opposing tribe rats them out..."

I am truly delighted to have this conversation with you, so I communicate effectively that I am not arguing with you/your experience but rather testing my ideas with you precisely out of respect.

That said, given what you say-- does President Obama's strategy make any sense at all? 

As best as I can tell it is to build a coherent army out of what you just describe (fully consistent with my armchair readings btw) an army that will allow us to begin to leave by , , , when? , , , spring/summer 2011? 

 Do I have this right and if so, does it make any sense?

27738  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Too much, too soon on: March 03, 2010, 08:39:30 AM
From Britain:


Too much, too soon
As possibly one of its last acts as government, British Labour bids to make sex education compulsory.
Sex education. The very words strike a note of gloom. Long, long ago, back in the 1950s when schoolgirl pregnancies were a rarity, and anyone who gave children contraceptives and urged them to enjoy “safe sex” would have been arrested, things looked different.

In those days, there was a feeling that, with the advent of television and greater prosperity, with young people enjoying more freedom than had been the case in centuries past, and with a general sense of social change in the air, it might be useful to ensure that the young were well informed about the facts of human reproduction. In this way, greater freedom would not spell social chaos; with knowledge and with suitable moral guidance, the young could enjoy wholesome relationships and understand why it was important to remain chaste.

The accepted wisdom was that sexual experimentation among young people arose out of ignorance: girls did not know how babies happened, and were too shy or embarrassed to discuss such things with their parents. Now things would change; health officials drew up plans. All were agreed on one thing: information about sexual and reproductive matters would come with clear moral guidance and, indeed, the whole scheme was seen primarily in that context.

But things did not work out as planned. Other voices took over as commercial and ideological forces got involved. Golly, how different things are in 2010. We have now had massive schemes of propaganda on sexual issues pushed at the young for decades. Schools arrange talks and brochures, demonstrations and films about contraception and abortion, making official links with abortion providers and with clinics which give youngsters contraceptives without parental knowledge or consent. Posters urge youngsters to consider whether or not they are lesbian or homosexual, and how to feel good about it if they decide they are.

The result? The teenage pregnancy rate has soared, and the problem of sexually-transmitted diseases among the young is now so huge that supermarkets and youth clubs have joined health centres and schools in giving information about how to obtain medical help for these potentially lethal illnesses.

Fewer and fewer young people are marrying. Of those who do, many divorce – especially if they have been living together beforehand. Many people in their twenties, attempting marriage, have had multiple sexual partners. Many girls bring to marriage a background of more than one abortion, with its consequent physical and psychological damage. Almost half of all births are now out of wedlock. Children born to unmarried couples have only a slim chance of remaining in contact with both parents by the time they reach puberty as most such relationships break up before then.
And into this grisly scene the government is bringing – yes, you’ve guessed it – more sex education. Under legislation now in Parliament (Children Schools and Families Bill), sex and relationships education will be a compulsory part of the statutory National Curriculum. Parents will continue to have the right to withdraw their children from these classes, but only up to the age of 15. After that they must attend classes which include information on “how and where to obtain information about health and sex advice” -- to wit, your local family planning/abortion clinic. This is to ensure they get at least 12 months of amoral, utilitarian sex education before finishing compulsory schooling.

However, there is no opt-out at any stage for schools. Faith schools -- which constitute a third of all schools in Britain -- will have to teach a curriculum that starts with talking to five-year-olds about bodily changes, teaches “different relationships” (of which marriage is only one) from the age of seven, and everything else from the age of 11 -- including same-sex relationships, contraception and abortion.

Since the government announced its latest plan in November, the excellent Family Education Trust has produced a a devastating critique in its detailed report, Too Much,Too Soon. Increasingly, informed and professional voices are raised about the sexualising of the young and there is discussion about the links between this and the rising tide of teenage drunkenness, violence, and suicide.  Ironically, the government itself has just released a report warning Britons about the sexualisation of children -- as if it had nothing to do with its own awful agenda.

In response to outrage from many parents and family groups the minister in charge of this draconian bill, Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (yes, this government department really does seem to believe that it is in charge of children and families as well as schools) has insisted that faith schools will still be able to teach the sex content within “the tenets of their faith”. Last week an amendment to this effect was passed in the Commons -- the result of a deal with religious authorities, notably the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CES), which seems to regard it as a positive coup.

But there are many sceptics. Jewish columnist Melanie Phillips has taken a liberal rabbi to task for defending the compromise, which she calls “demonstrably absurd”. The Telegraph’s Catholic blogger Damian Thompson has called for the CES to be wound up, and The Catholic Herald says that it demonstrates the need for Catholics to “take drastic action to confront moral relativism in our schools”.

On the other hand the National Secular Society, in tune with much of the press, has portrayed the amendment as a massive concession, saying that the government has “once more bowed to pressure from the Catholic church, betraying the children in faith schools who have a right to objective and balanced sex education."
This, despite Mr Balls’ repeated insistence that there is to be "no watering down" of the government’s scheme. "There's no opt-out for any faith school from teaching the full, broad, balanced curriculum on sex education," he says. "Catholic schools can say to their pupils that, as a religion, we believe contraception is wrong, but what they can't do is say they are not going to teach about contraception."

Meanwhile the CES is emphatic that the character of education in Catholic schools will remain clear: “The teaching of all aspects of the curriculum in Catholic schools reflects their religious ethos. In the same way, the SRE in Catholic schools will be rooted in the Catholic Church’s teaching of the profound respect for the dignity of all human persons," it says. This is unconvincing, to say the least. Already – and this is shameful – some Catholic schools promote access to abortion information and use standard leaflets to ensure that children are given material about contraception.

With a general election coming up this year, this ought to be a major issue. What next? Thank goodness for one clear voice – the Cardinal Archbishop of Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, has hit out at the government’s “systematic and unrelenting attack on family values”. He points to the “soaring toll” of abortions, and to the government’s record on forcing all adoption agencies to accept allocating children to homosexual couples, as examples of government anti-family attitudes.

Ordinary Christians – and people of all faiths and none who are concerned about the tragic brokenness of modern British society – look to religious leaders for a voice. Can we hear more voices like that of Cardinal O’Brien, please? And can we ask what a Catholic Education Service is for, if it is not to promote Catholic beliefs and values in education?
Sooner or later, there will be a turnaround in the official policies on sex education. The sheer social chaos that has resulted – and will worsen rapidly in the next few years – from the policies of recent decades will ensure this. We need to speed up the process, and we need people of faith to help in that. At present, the future looks bleak.

Joanna Bogle writes from London.

27739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A piece of good news on: March 03, 2010, 08:30:22 AM
Good follow through on that BBG.  No doubt the MSM will be all over this  rolleyes

Speaking of corruption, , ,

Representative Charles B. Rangel Says He Is Stepping Down Temporarily as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman

Caught in a swirl of ethics inquiries, Representative Charles
B. Rangel said on Wednesday that he would temporarily step
aside as leader of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Read More:
27740  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 03, 2010, 08:28:34 AM
Frankly, I think Glenn Beck is showing the way.  Did you catch his show on Monday and yesterday?

PS: Not familiar with Levin and Reagan's son in order to comment. Hannity is both an ass and a mental mediocrity, and Limbaugh , , , well too little content to time ratio for me to be bothered.
27741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 03, 2010, 08:24:31 AM
I'm not entirely clear here-- is VDH being sarcastic when he uses the term "assasination" here?  Why would targetting and killing an enemy in a war be an "assassination"? 

Anyway, I'd like to suggest that this interesting post would better belong in the "Legal Issues created by the War on Islamic Fascism". 
27742  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rand Paul on: March 03, 2010, 08:18:58 AM
PC or anyone:

What can you tell us about Rand Paul and his candidacy in KY?
27743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: March 03, 2010, 08:18:11 AM
PC:  I'll be asking you about Rand Paul on the Politics thread.
27744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: March 03, 2010, 08:16:10 AM
Monday's shows I thought quite good, and last night's show outstanding.
27745  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 03, 2010, 08:15:00 AM

Here is a routine someone recommended to me:

_______________ preparatory training program. This program is physically and mentally

demanding. To accomplish physical-related goals set by ----, applicants must be in good physical

condition upon arrival at ---------. Soldiers attending the ---- Program will perform physical

tasks that will require them to climb obstacles (by use of a rope) 20 to 30 feet high, swim while

in uniform, and travel great distances cross-country while carrying a rucksack with a minimum of

50 pounds. The ---- Program requires upper and lower body strength and physical endurance

to accomplish daily physical-oriented goals on a continuous basis for 24 days. Below is a recommended

5-week PT program consisting of realistic physical and mental goals relative to physical

requirements set by the ---------- ---- committee (if you have time, work out more than 5

weeks prior to arrival).

4-3. Stages of physical fitness. Attaining physical fitness is not an overnight process; the body

must go through three stages:

a. The first is the toughening stage, which lasts about 2 weeks. During this time the body

goes through a soreness and recovery period. When a muscle with poor blood supply (such as a

weak muscle) is exercised, the waste products produced by the exercise collect faster than the

blood can remove them. This acid waste builds up in the muscle tissue and irritates the nerve in

the muscle fiber causing soreness. As the exercise continues, the body is able to circulate the

blood more rapidly through the muscles and remove the waste material, which causes soreness to


b. The slow improvement stage is second stage in attaining physical fitness. As the body

passes through the toughening stage and continues into the slow improvement stage, the volume

of blood circulating in the muscle increases and the body functions more efficiently. In the first few

weeks the improvement is rapid, but as a higher level of skill and conditioning is reached, the

improvement becomes less noticeable. The body reaches its maximum level of performance between

6 and 10 weeks. The intensity of the program and individual differences account for the

variance in time.

c. The sustaining stage is the third stage during which physical fitness is maintained. It is

necessary to continue exercising at approximately the same intensity to retain the condition developed.

4-4. Physical workouts. Physical workouts should be conducted a minimum of 4 days a week;

work out hard one day, easy the next. A hard and easy workout concept will allow maximum effort

for overloading both the muscle groups and cardiorespiratory system; it will also prevent injury and

stagnation in the program. For example: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday--Hard workouts (overloading

of muscles) (Saturday used for extra long workouts). Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday--

Easy workouts. This is the time to practice swimming and work on overall fitness; sprints, pull-ups,

push-ups, and especially stretching.

a. Prior to each workout, 10 to 15 minutes should be devoted to performing stretching exercises.

Additionally, the ----------- Surgeon recommends a well-balanced diet be incorporated

with this recommended PT program and that daily fluid (water) intake be increased.



b. Week 1. (Only hard workout days are listed here. Make up your own workouts on your

“easy” days.)

(1) Day 1: See what you can do. Do the best you can do.

(a) APFT (maximum performance in all events, see what you can do).

(b) One hundred-meter swim (nonstop, any stroke, do not touch the side or bottom of the


(c) Forced march with 30-pound rucksack, 3 miles in 45 minutes (along a road) or 1 hour if

cross-country. (Wear well broken-in boots with thick socks.)

(2) Day 2:

(a) Three sets of push-ups (maximum repetitions in one-half minute period).

(b) Three-mile run (moderate 8- to 9-minute mile pace).

(c) Rope climb or three sets of pull-ups (as many as you can do).

(d) Forced march with 30-pound rucksack, 5 miles in 1 hour and 15 minutes (along a road) or

1 hour and 40 minutes (cross-country).

(3) Day 3: Forced march with 30-pound rucksack, 5 miles in 1 hour and 15 minutes (along

the road) or 1 hour and 40 minutes (cross-country).

c. Week 2.

(1) Day 1: Repeat of day 3, week 1 (forced march), extend distance to 8 miles with 35-

pound rucksack in 2 hours (along a road) or 2 hours and 40 minutes (cross-country).

(2) Day 2:

(a) Three sets of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups (maximum repetitions in 35-second period three


(b) Run 5 miles (moderate 8- to 9-minute mile pace).

(c) Three sets of squats with 35-pound rucksack (50 each set). Go down only to the point

where the upper and lower leg forms a 90-degree bend at knee.

(3) Day 3: Forced march with 35-pound rucksack, 10 miles in 3 hours (along a road) or 4

hours (cross-country).

d. Week 3.

(1) Day 1:

(a) Four sets of push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups (maximum repetitions in 40-second period).

(b) Run 4 miles (fast to moderate 7- to 8-minute mile pace.)



(c) Four sets of squats with 40-pound rucksack.

(2) Day 2: Forced march 12 miles with 40-pound rucksack in 4 hours (along a road) or 4

hours and 40 minutes (cross-country).

(3) Day 3:

(a) Four sets of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups (maximum repetitions in 45-second period).

(b) Run 6 miles (fast to moderate 7- to 8-minute pace).

(c) Four sets of squats with 40-pound rucksack.

e. Week 4.

(1) Day 1: Forced march 14 miles with 50-pound rucksack in 4 hours (along a road) or 4

hours and 40 minutes (cross-country).

(2) Day 2:

(a) Four sets of push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups (maximum repetitions in 1-minute period).

(b) Run 6 miles (fast to moderate 7- to 8-minute mile pace).

(c) Four sets of squats with 50-pound rucksack.

(3) Day 3: Forced march 18 miles with 50-pound rucksack in 4 hours and 45 minutes (along

a road) or 6 hours (cross-country).

f. Week 5.

(1) Day 1:

(a) Run 3 miles (fast 6- to 7-minute mile pace).

(b) Five hundred-meter swim (nonstop, any stroke, but not on your back).

(2) Day 2: APFT. You should be able to achieve a score of at least 240 (minimum of 70

points in any one event) in the 17 to 21 year age limit. If not, work out harder.

(3) Day 3: Forced march 18 miles with 50-pound rucksack in 4 hours and 30 minutes (along

a road) or 6 hours (cross-country).

4-5. Considerations.

a. For forced marches, select boots that are comfortable and well broken-in (not worn out).

Wear lightweight fatigues and thick socks (not newly issued socks). Army issue boots are excellent

if fitted properly.

b. Utilize map and compass techniques whenever possible during forced march cross-country


c. Insoles specifically designed to absorb shock will reduce injuries.



d. Practice proper rucksack marching and walking techniques:

(1) Weight of body must be kept directly over feet, and sole of shoe must be flat on ground

taking small steps at a steady pace.

(2) Knees must be locked on every step in order to rest muscles of the legs (especially when

going uphill).

(3) When walking cross-country, step over and around obstacles; never step on them.

(4) When traveling up steep slopes, always traverse them; climb in zigzag pattern rather

than straight up.

(5) When descending steep slopes, keep the back straight and knees bent to take up shock

of each step. Dig in with heels on each step.

(6) Practice walking as fast as you can with rucksack. Do not run with a rucksack. When

testing, you may have to trot to maintain time, but try not to do this during training, it may injure you.

(7) A good rucksack pace is accomplished by continuous movement with short breaks (5

minutes) every 6 to 8 miles.

( If you cannot ruckmarch, then do squats with your rucksack. (One hundred repetitions,

five times or until muscles fatigue.)

e. On each day (not listed in training program) conduct less strenuous workouts such as

biking and short or slow runs. To complement push-up workouts, weight lifting exercises should

be included (for development of upper body strength) in easy day workout schedule. Swim as

often as you can (500 meters or more).

f. Once a high level of physical fitness is attained, a maintenance workout program should be

applied using the hard and easy workout concept. Once in shape, stay in shape. Do not stop this

5-week program. If you have met all the goals, then modify program by increasing distance and

weight and decreasing times. Be smart, don’t injure yourself.
27746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: March 03, 2010, 08:11:19 AM
Can't read it-- too small.
27747  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Rabbits on: March 03, 2010, 08:08:27 AM
RABBITS are supposed to be easy to kill. The French dispatch them with a sharp knife to the throat. A farmer in upstate New York swears that a swift smack with the side of the hand works. Others prefer a quick twist of the neck.

It didn’t seem so easy at the rabbit-killing seminar held in a parking lot behind Roberta’s restaurant in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn in November.
The idea was to place the rabbit on its belly on straw-covered asphalt, press a broomstick across the back of its neck and swiftly yank up the rear legs. Done right, it’s a quiet and quick end. But it takes a little skill and a lot of fortitude, which some of the novices lacked.

Nine people had paid $100 each to learn how to raise, kill and butcher the animals. One was a woman hoping to start a farm in the Bronx. Another was considering a move to family land in Montana. A couple dressed in black had traveled from the Upper East Side with their knives and cutting boards in an Abercrombie & Fitch bag.

Sharleen Johnson, who rode a bus in from Boston, wanted to raise livestock in her backyard.

“This is my gateway animal,” she said.

In an age when diners scoop marrow from roasted beef shins and dissect the feet of pigs raised by people they’ve met, rabbit certainly seems like the right meat at the right time.

American rabbit is typically raised on smaller farms, not in some giant industrial rabbit complex. The meat is lean and healthy, and makes an interesting break from chicken. For people learning to butcher at home, a rabbit is less daunting to cut up than a pig or a goat. And those who are truly obsessed with knowing where their food comes from can raise it themselves.

Still, it’s a rabbit, the animal entire generations know as the star of children’s books and Saturday-morning cartoons, and as a classroom mascot.

Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn had rabbit on some menus shortly after it opened in late 2008. But after a table of guests walked out, it came off. Now the only rabbit served at the restaurant is disguised in a country terrine.

“It seems to me that the more you can make rabbit not look like rabbit, the easier it is to sell people on it,” said the restaurant’s owner, Doug Crowell.

But not everybody is squeamish. Some restaurant chefs are lining up for well-raised rabbits from small farms, using the meat in coconut chili braises, liver pâtés and even upscale sliders inspired by White Castle.

“Every time I put it on the menu it flies out the door,” said Chris Kronner of Bar Tartine in San Francisco.

Rabbit is also becoming popular among those with an interest in raising farm animals but without much space or experience. Sure, rabbits can be fragile. They get scared and have heart attacks. Heat or the cold can knock them off. They can be bad parents, abandoning their babies or worse.

But they breed like, well, you know. That means they produce a lot of meat for not much money. And they’re clean and quiet — especially welcome traits in the suburbs.

“I always say rabbits are the new chickens,” said Novella Carpenter, who built a farm on an abandoned lot in a poor section of Oakland, Calif., and turned her experience into a book called “Farm City.”

“You can pay more, which is the Slow Food method,” she said. “Or you can do it yourself. Which is my method.”

Ms. Carpenter believes anyone who is thinking of raising rabbits should kill one first. That is one reason she, along with Samin Nosrat, a Bay Area cooking teacher, conducted the Brooklyn class.

The seminars were part of a larger East-West rabbit cultural exchange organized by the magazine Meatpaper. It was built around a series of rabbit dinners at Bar Tartine last month and at Diner in Brooklyn last November.

As the pre-slaughter lecture in Brooklyn began, Ms. Carpenter prepared students for the moment.

“Today is a somber day because we are going to be killing rabbits,” she said. “But I am always psyched after slaughter because I’m like, now I’m going to eat.”

The rabbit events appealed to the kind of adventurous cook who signs up for weekend sausage-making classes, in part because rabbits are an especially good way to learn basic home butchery.

“They have the same muscle structure as a pig,” Mr. Kronner said. “For someone who hasn’t broken down a large animal, a rabbit is a great place to start.”

The classes and dinners also attracted those seeking a slower way of living.


Page 2 of 2)

“American palates are expanding and looking backwards, and rabbit is a big part of that, ” said Sasha Wizansky, the editor in chief of Meatpaper, who first suggested the bicoastal food exchange.

Still, arguing that the country is in the middle of a rabbit renaissance might be overstating it. Rabbit never really had a strong first act to begin with.
It has always been something of a crisis meat in America. Poor rural dwellers who moved to the city and European immigrants looking to assimilate found other animals to eat as soon as they could (the French notwithstanding).

And although rabbit consumption spiked during World War II, when the United States government encouraged people to raise them for meat, it never translated to the supermarket. When the French food revolution changed American dining in the 1960s, rabbit in mustard sauce would turn up at the occasional dinner party or restaurant. But the country never quite got past the pets-or-meat problem.

Ever since the Victorians began keeping them as pets, the relationship between the rabbit and the table has been uneasy.

“It’s this weird association with Easter,” said Sean Rembold, the chef at Diner and at its sibling restaurant next door, Marlow & Sons.

Chefs have to tap-dance between customers who are excited to eat rabbit and those who find the mere idea intolerable. And despite its reputation as a staple in frugal times, rabbit isn’t cheap these days. A seven-pound live rabbit might weigh four pounds cleaned and cost a restaurant $25 to $30. D’Artagnan sells a whole fryer rabbit for $36.99 on its Web site.

Chefs searching for local, fresh rabbit can’t always find enough. In the Bay Area, cooks wait for a call from Mark Pasternak of Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Marin County. Along with his wife, a rabbit veterinarian named Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, he raises the most coveted rabbits in Northern California.

They are such believers in the economic and health benefits of eating rabbit that they travel regularly to Haiti to teach families to raise rabbits on foraged food. The Pasternaks and their two daughters were in Haiti during the recent earthquake, when they turned their attention from rabbits to rescue.

Mr. Pasternak began growing rabbits about 12 years ago for his mother-in-law, who is from France. She brought a French chef to dinner and word leaked out to Bay Area cooks. Soon, Mr. Pasternak was selling rabbit to Chez Panisse and the French Laundry.

“I went from two to 2,000 in no time,” he said. Not that he butchers 2,000 rabbits every week. Usually, it’s about 100. But he is preparing to quadruple the number of breeding rabbits he keeps, making chefs in the Bay Area happy.

“I turn down two, three, four restaurants every single week,” Mr. Pasternak said. “I get calls from all over the country, but I discourage shipping the rabbits. You don’t need me shipping rabbit back to New York.”

Some chefs in Manhattan turn to John Fazio, who sells his rabbits with most organs intact to restaurants like Savoy and Marlow & Sons and to a few Italian markets on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

Mr. Fazio started raising rabbits near his home in Modena, N.Y., 80 miles north of Manhattan, after an accident left him unable to make a living as a truck driver. A couple of years ago, a chef at Cookshop in Chelsea started ordering them. Others followed. Now he sells 300 to 400 a week.

He slaughters to order. And he has a signature.

“If they don’t have a rabbit with a head on it, they don’t have a rabbit from me,” he said.

Both he and Mr. Pasternak raise a mix of New Zealands and Californians, the two most popular meat breeds. New Zealands are longer and thinner but produce more babies. Californians are a little meatier. Mr. Pasternak adds in some tri-colored Rex rabbits, which are used in the fur trade and have a good temperament.

In the kitchen, rabbit can be a challenge. The bones are tinier and more fragile than those of chickens, making splintering a constant concern. The meat sticks and clings in an endless number of small nooks and crannies.

Like chickens, rabbits have parts that cook differently. But it’s hard to roast the whole animal at the same temperature without making some meat too dry or tough.

The hind legs especially almost always need a moist, slow braise. For frying, plenty of cooks like to give them a good soak in buttermilk or a light brine.

The saddle, or center portion of the rabbit, is a different story. The meat can be fried, but it can be dry. So it helps to apply a bit more finesse.

“Treat the loins like pork tenderloins and wrap them in pancetta,” Mr. Rembold said. “It’s a great home cook trick. It’s like a chicken breast.”

For a salad of bitter greens and rabbit he served at the Brooklyn rabbit dinners, Mr. Rembold removed the legs, sautéed the rest of the rabbit whole, then removed and sliced the meat to toss with frisée and a mustard dressing.

To make the most of all bits of the rabbit, Mr. Rembold suggests a sausage made with a medium grind mixed with some fatback or chicken skin to enrich the lean meat. Ms. Nosrat likes to use up all the scraps and legs in a long-simmered ragù.

Angelina Lippert, the woman who took an Abercrombie & Fitch bag and her boyfriend to the class in Brooklyn, brought home the legs of the rabbit they killed and braised them with almonds, apples, Calvados and cream. The saddle, kidneys and heart went into a rolled roast with garlic, sage and rosemary.

The killing itself was a little more intense than she had expected, she said.

“When I was the first person to volunteer to break the neck, it all seemed so easy and emotionless that I didn’t realize until after I’d done it that I was shaking,” she said.

But she recovered quickly. After all, there was a rabbit to dress.

Ms. Lippert still has the pelt, the head and the feet. They’re in her freezer, awaiting the taxidermist. But she doesn’t have the boyfriend.

“He ended up leaving me for a vegetarian,” she said.
27748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 02, 2010, 01:54:12 PM
Romney brings a lot to the table, and I liked his concession speech, but as a matter of politics (and some substance) the following concern me:

1) His Ken doll image, and his poll-driven campaign , , , until he was the only alternative to McCain.
2) His version of Obama care in MA pre-dating Obama (I could be wrong on this, but my impression is his candidacy would kill the HC issue for his party)
3) His patrician birth, like Bush's, makes him temperamentally incapable of dealing with race-baiting, class-baiting, and other typical Dem tactics.  Like Bush, I fear he will become a "compassionate conservative".
27749  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 02, 2010, 12:59:45 PM
Woof All:

I began preparing for a tracking course in 8 weeks.  The course will entail wearing about 45 pounds for many miles over very uneven terrain, so I have begun acclimating myself to hiking with weight.  Thanks to my wife helping me find my weight vest yesterday, today I was able to use my weight vest.

I did only 3.3 miles, all barefooting in my Vibram VSOs.

Mile 1: natural
 Mile 2: 25 lbs.
Mile 3: 50 lbs:

I wear a watch with a pulsemeter and was surprised at how little the weight affected my pulse.

The Adventure continues!
27750  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 02, 2010, 10:08:28 AM
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barack Obama are debating the final details of the latest U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which informs a broad spectrum of Pentagon plans, March 1. Though the fundamental strategic balance is unlikely to change, the NPR and the ongoing negotiations with Russia over a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty will bear considerable watching.


U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is meeting with President Barack Obama on March 1 to discuss final options for the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The NPR has seen several delays and was previously slated to be released alongside the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and Ballistic Missile Defense Review on Feb. 1. Now expected to be released mid-March, the NPR is almost certainly largely complete, with the final issues being hammered out between the state and defense departments and the White House.

There reportedly has been some disagreement between the Pentagon and the White House over the review, centered on a draft that the White House criticized as too much of a continuation of the status quo. The precise details of what Gates and Obama are discussing March 1 are currently unclear, but it appears to be the White House’s intention to press the Pentagon on wording about the circumstances under which the United States might consider using nuclear weapons and on warhead reductions. Though the exact scale of those reductions remains unclear, the White House appears to be pushing for more of a seminal document and less of the status quo. But large reductions will have to come from somewhere other than the operationally deployed arsenal.

The operationally deployed arsenal is thought to have already been reduced to below 2,200 strategic warheads in conformity with the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), signed in Moscow in 2002. The bulk of any further reductions in the arsenal are expected to come mostly from weapons held in reserve in storage. While the exact size and composition of the operationally deployed strategic deterrent and reserve stockpile poses some technical questions, most of the fat has already been trimmed from the operationally deployed arsenal, and large reductions beyond the 1,700-2,200 warheads stipulated by SORT seem unlikely at this point.

The 1,700-2,200 figure supposedly originated in the Pentagon in the first place, representing a figure the military felt comfortable with. Negotiations with Moscow on a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which lapsed in December 2009, are taking place concurrently with the NPR discussions. Further reductions in the size of the U.S. arsenal per the NPR are unlikely to impress Moscow, which is happy with a largely symbolic reduction below the SORT-stipulated numbers. Negotiators on the START replacement already reportedly have settled on around 1,600 operationally deployed warheads — a figure both the Pentagon and the Kremlin likely are comfortable with.

Russia is watching the U.S. NPR process closely, but not for a shift on warhead numbers. Issues likely to be in the final NPR — continued emphasis on ballistic missile defenses (BMD), which Russia opposes; Russia’s perception of the precise language of the circumstances under which Washington will consider using nuclear weapons and increasing emphasis on non-nuclear deterrence capabilities that, in the Kremlin’s eyes, would alter the strategic balance — will affect START negotiations as well. Russia is not simply waiting on the NPR to put ink to paper; there remain important areas of disagreement, like the U.S. BMD systems specifically slated for former Warsaw Pact countries and the availability of test and telemetry data on new weapon systems (which Russia is developing, but the United States is not).

And yet the NPR is also something of a non-issue. At the end of the day, the United States will retain the most robust and reliable nuclear deterrent in the world, and publicly released nuclear doctrine aside, will retain the ability to use nuclear weapons at its discretion when its national interests are threatened.

Both the United States and Russia have an interest in sustaining a bilateral, long-term nuclear arms control regime. The NPR will support that, and despite some points to still be settled, a START replacement is likely to be inked eventually as well.
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