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28701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items on: January 07, 2010, 07:09:49 PM
Call your senator to have C-span cover the negotiations on the Health Care bill as repeatedly promised by candidate Obama.

http://view.exacttarget.com/?j=fe8512737d6c0c7b76&m=fec515717d62007b&ls=fdfe15717d65017c7c157170&l=fec0157877620c7b&s=fe22117071660175701d77&jb=ffcf14&ju=fe5f13707c6405757610&r=0
28702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lies, damn lies, statistics on: January 07, 2010, 07:05:35 PM
A private sector IPO with numbers like this would get people sent to jail.
========================================

http://www.cato.org/pubs/tbb/tbb-58.pdf

No. 58 • November 2009

Will Federal Health Legislation Cause the Deficit to Soar?
by Daniel J. Mitchell, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute


The health care plan approved by the Senate Finance Committee is supposed to reduce budget deficits over 10 years by $81 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.1 Similarly, the House version of health legislation would reduce 10-year deficits by $104 billion, according to the CBO.2 Supporters of these health care proposals thus argue that the plans are fiscally responsible.

However, enacting a $1 trillion entitlement program would greatly increase the burden of government spending. In addition, promises of lower deficits are a triumph of hope over experience. Government forecasters have a very poor track record of predicting costs. More realistic assumptions suggest that health legislation could easily push up 10-year deficits by $600 billion.

Government-run health care will cost more than the politicians are telling us. The tax increases will not collect as much money as the politicians think. And, to put it mildly, promises of future spending restraint are naïve. The following are some of the reasons why current federal health proposals will mean not just more spending and higher taxes, but also larger deficits and added debt.

1.      The Senate plan would increase federal spending by nearly $900 billion, while the House plan would increase spending by more than $1.2 trillion, according to the CBO. These estimates are far too low because they do not properly measure how people and businesses change their behavior in response to government handouts.

 

1.      Errors in forecasts by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation could have large fiscal implications. If revenues and offsets are 25 percent below the forecast and spending is 50 percent higher than estimated, the 10-year deficits will be $602 billion to $860 billion higher.

 

1.      There are incentives for companies to dump their health plans since workers will then get more take-home pay and be able to obtain health insurance using subsides and handouts from the government. This will dramatically increase budgetary costs.

 

1.      The spending estimates are far too low because they do not recognize that politicians in the future will be tempted to expand subsidies as part of routine vote-buying behavior, similar to what happened with Medicare and Medicaid.

 

1.      Future savings in the Senate plan are based on unrealistic gimmicks such as a “Medicare Commission” and a “Failsafe Budgeting Mechanism.” These absurd ploys share one thing in common—a hollow commitment to be frugal in the future while spending more today.

 

1.      Even the savings that might be real—such as reductions in Medicare payment rates for physicians’ services in the Senate plan—are pushed off into the future, where they can be cancelled by politicians seeking to curry favor with key constituencies.

 

1.      Much of the new spending is “backloaded,” meaning that it does not take effect for several years. This makes the long-run costs appear deceptively low. More than 90 percent of the spending in the Senate plan takes place in the second five years of the 10-year projection, and more than 84 percent of the spending in the House plan is also in the last five years.

 

1.         Outlays in both plans will be climbing by about 8 percent annually toward the end of the 10-year period, much faster than growth in the overall economy.3

 

 

1.         The federal government’s ability to predict healthcare spending leaves much to be desired. When Medicare was created in the 1960s, the long-range forecasts estimated that the program would cost about $12 billion by 1990. It ended up actually costing $110 billion that year, or nine times more than expected.4

 

Source: Joint Economic Committee.Medicare Spending in 1990,Estimated and Actual$12$110$0$40$80$1201967 Estimate for 1990Actual Spending in 1990Billions of Dollars

1.      When Medicaid was created in 1965, it was supposed to be a very small program with annual expenditures of about $1 billion.5 It has now become a huge $280 billion per year burden for federal taxpayers.

 

1.         Medicaid’s disproportionate share hospital (DSH) program is a sobering example. Created in 1987 to subsidize hospitals with large numbers of uninsured patients, the program was supposed to cost $1 billion in 1992, but actually cost a staggering $17 billion.6

 

Source: Joint Economic Committee.Medicaid DSH Spending in 1992,Estimated and Actual$1$17$0$5$10$15$201987 Estimate for 1992Actual Spending in 1992Billions of Dollars

1.         The Medicare Catastrophic Coverage of 1988 was repealed after less than two years, in part because some provisions were already projected to cost six times more than originally forecast. 7

2.      The tax provisions in the health proposals will impose considerable damage while raising less revenue than expected. The House legislation will supposedly raise more than $460 billion from higher income tax rates, but actual collections would likely be far smaller because of reduced incentives to earn income and increased incentives to avoid and evade taxes.

 

1.      The Senate plan has big tax increases on high-cost insurance policies, medical devices, and health insurance providers. However, a substantial share of those projected revenues would evaporate as businesses and consumers alter their behavior to protect themselves from the taxes.

 

1.         With the phase-out of insurance subsidies in some plans, taxpayers with modest incomes will face marginal tax rates of nearly 70 percent, a staggering penalty on upward mobility that will hinder overall economic performance.8

 

1.      To add insult to injury, the Internal Revenue Service would get new enforcement powers to determine if people have acceptable (in the eyes of politicians and bureaucrats) health insurance.

 

Deficits and debt will skyrocket if government-run healthcare is expanded. This will happen if either the House or Senate plan becomes law. Big increases in federal spending and higher taxes are a bleak combination that would substantially slow U.S. economic growth.

1 Congressional Budget Office, letter to Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), October 7, 2009.

2 Congressional Budget Office, letter to Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), October 29, 2009.

3 Congressional Budget Office, letter to Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), October 7, 2009.

4 Joint Economic Committee, “Are Health Care Reform Cost Estimates Reliable?” July 31, 2009. The JEC cites 1967 testimony by Robert J. Myers.

5 Clay Chandler, “Health Care Costs a Long-Term Headache,” Washington Post, October 17, 1993.

6 Joint Economic Committee, “Are Health Care Reform Cost Estimates Reliable?” July 31, 2009.

7 Marilyn Moon, “The Rise and Fall of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act,” National Tax Journal 43, no. 3 (September 1990).

8 Greg Mankiw, “Marginal Tax Rates from Health Reform,” October 10, 2009
28703  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 07, 2010, 06:57:07 PM
A point as profoundly sound as it is obvious.

Maybe if we are nice, no more will come , , ,

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

Man threatening Jews hauled off flight in Miami

MIAMI
Thu Jan 7, 2010 9:40am EST

MIAMI (Reuters) - A man who described himself as a Palestinian and said he wanted to "kill all the Jews" was hauled off a Detroit-bound Delta Air Lines flight in Miami and arrested, authorities said on Thursday.

The plane was taxiing away from the terminal at Miami International Airport on Wednesday night when 43-year-old Mansor Mohammad Asad of Toledo, Ohio, began making loud anti-Semitic comments and chanting, apparently in Arabic, Miami-Dade police said in a statement.
"I'm Palestinian and I want (to) kill all Jews," he said, according to witnesses.
The pilot returned the aircraft to the terminal and a Taser device was used to "neutralize" Asad after he charged an arresting officer, the police statement said.
The incident came amid heightened airline security concerns following the attempted bombing of a Northwest flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.
Police said Asad faced several criminal charges including threats against a public servant and disorderly conduct. The Delta plane departed for Detroit following a thorough security sweep.
(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Will Dunham)
U.S.
28704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: January 07, 2010, 11:42:55 AM
Gentlemen:

Let us remember we are sitting at the dinner table having a pleasant post-prandial conversation. 

Crafty Dog
28705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 07, 2010, 11:39:58 AM
Exactly.

Changing subjects a bit:

Taylor Disputes Bernanke

Please consider Taylor Disputes Bernanke on Bubble, Says Low Rates Played Role.

John Taylor, creator of the so-called Taylor rule for guiding monetary policy, disputed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s argument that low interest rates didn’t cause the U.S. housing bubble.

“The evidence is overwhelming that those low interest rates were not only unusually low but they logically were a factor in the housing boom and therefore ultimately the bust,” Taylor, a Stanford University economist, said in an interview today in Atlanta.

“It had an effect on the housing boom and increased a lot of risk taking,” said Taylor, 63, who was attending the American Economic Association’s annual meeting.

Taylor echoed criticism of scholars including Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, who say the Fed helped inflate U.S. housing prices by keeping rates too low for too long. The collapse in housing prices led to the worst recession since the Great Depression and the loss of more than 7 million U.S. jobs.

“It had an effect on the housing boom and increased a lot of risk taking,” said Taylor, 63, who was attending the American Economic Association’s annual meeting.

Taylor echoed criticism of scholars including Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, who say the Fed helped inflate U.S. housing prices by keeping rates too low for too long. The collapse in housing prices led to the worst recession since the Great Depression and the loss of more than 7 million U.S. jobs.

“Low rates certainly contributed to the crisis,” Baker said in an interview on Jan. 3. “I don’t know how he can deny culpability. You brought the economy to the brink of a Great Depression.”
28706  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: January 07, 2010, 11:15:42 AM
Freki:

GM wrote "They should scrap the background requirements as well. After all, we did the last presidential election."

I take this to be ironic commentary  cheesy
28707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 07, 2010, 11:01:50 AM
Forgive me, but I think upon reflection you may wish to reconsider you "got what they earned" language.  We know little about the details here and I one for am loathe to criticize men who were in the thick of the worst and most dangerous area of a badly led war.
28708  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: January 07, 2010, 10:54:51 AM
"All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of superintending providence in our favor. ... Have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without His notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?" --Benjamin Franklin
I have been asked on occasion what most defines the difference between conservatives and liberals. There are, of course, many clear delineations between our diametrically opposed philosophies, but there is one that is defining.

Conservatives, The Patriot variety, serve a higher calling -- First Principles -- a calling superior to their own self-interest -- with the objective of enhancing individual and national liberty for the benefit of all.

Ideological liberals, on the other hand, no matter what the cause, tend to be motivated by pathological egocentrism, which generally correlates with the acquisition of power and the suppression of liberty.

The opposition between these competing philosophies is an expression of the light and dark sides of humanity. The struggle between liberty and tyranny is as old as mankind, and though our nation was founded on constitutional Rule of Law -- republican government in support of liberty -- the assault on freedom has been constant since our founding.

However, while this attack is more vigorous today than at anytime in our history, liberty will prevail.

Here, I give you just one small example of why I know that liberty, the Light, the Truth, will trump the darkness of tyranny.

Every year since we launched PatriotPost.US as a touchstone for Patriots across the nation, we have had significant growth over the previous year, both in readership and revenue, which has ensured our growth in successive years.

We are chartered as a "for profit" business (so we can exercise our First Amendment rights without IRS permission) but are donor based, and like most other public interest organizations, we raise most of our operating revenue within the last two months of each year. Needless to say, this highly irregular business model causes some heartburn for our bankers, accountants and legal team -- not to mention your executive editor.

In 2008, as we were ramping up our year-end fundraising campaign, economic collapse coincided with the election of über-Leftist Barack Hussein Obama, though that may have been no coincidence. I prepared to make the necessary cuts to scale our operation to what the economy would support. But much to my relief, our readers fully funded our budget (oh me of little faith).

This year, I was even more apprehensive about sustaining our mission, not to mention the modest budgets of our young staff and their families. However, I am pleased to report that, once again, thanks to Patriots across the nation, we met our budget requirements in full. More remarkable is the fact that PatriotShop.US -- all sales proceeds from which support our mission -- experienced a year-over-year sales increase of more than 30 percent.

I deduce three conclusions from these donor and sales results.

First, our readers are not, in the words of Thomas Paine, "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots." You, fellow Patriots, are cut from the same cloth as our Founding Fathers and all American Patriots throughout our history. You do not "shrink from the service of our country" when times are tough.

Second, these results indicate that a broad swath of Americans are taking a much more active stand for liberty, for now that they see its antithesis in the Oval Office and Congress, they have a tangible example of tyranny in action.

Third, concern for the preservation of liberty is so endemic that we received funding from many readers who fall within three groups from which we do not ask support: Military personnel, students and those in the mission field, or who otherwise have limited income. The letters below are representative of many we received from Patriot donors in those groups.

"I have been a reader of The Patriot for 10 years. I know you do not seek support from uniformed Patriots, but as a Marine officer and combat veteran of two wars, one who understands the full implications of my oath to 'support and defend' our Constitution against enemies 'foreign and domestic,' it gives me great pleasure to support the 'Voice of Constitutional Conservatism.'"

"As a student with no income other than what I earn through summer internships, I have a very limited budget. But the value of The Patriot to my education and growth has been incalculable. Consequently, I make my small but sincere contribution. My one regret is that any amount donated to The Patriot will never adequately reflect its worth."

"I just made a donation, even though I was laid off last month and am still unemployed. I receive The Patriot every day and I have been putting off a donation because I didn't think I could afford it. I realize now that I can't afford not to support this beacon of liberty."

"As a retired command fighter pilot with more than 500 hours in combat, I am honored to support the vital work you are doing for our great nation. Every day, I look forward to The Patriot and its inspiration to reaffirm my devotion to our Constitution."

These words speak volumes.

Though we have a long way to go to restore the integrity of our Constitution, we should all take comfort in the fact that America's strength, her Patriot defenders, are standing up and standing firm, and our ranks are growing. Indeed, the time has come.

And the Left is taking note.

Just this week, two senators, a member of the house, a governor and a lieutenant governor, all members of the once noble Democrat Party, announced that they will not seek re-election in 2010.

This is good news, for it is the strongest indication that all the activism this past year is taking its toll. But the great news, the unwavering verity upon which we can all depend in good times and bad, is, in the words of that wise sage Ben Franklin, "God governs in the affairs of men."

This year, and the two that follow, present enormous challenges for all who want to restore Rule of Law. We are mindful of the enduring words of George Washington at the dawn of American liberty: "We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."

In 2010, The Patriot will respond to the exigency of our times, in part, by sponsoring the Essential Liberty Project. Clarity of mission and purpose -- First Principles -- are needed now, more than ever.

Let's make this a year to which our posterity will point and say, "They rose in defense of Liberty," a year that overflowed with Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thanks to all of you for your support and for your steadfast loyalty to our Constitution and Republic. Make peace with no oppression and keep your powder dry!

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, PatriotPost.US
28709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Complex Jihadi Problem on: January 06, 2010, 11:51:07 PM
Some very grim thoughts in here , , ,
=========================

Yemen's Complex Jihadist Problem
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, in a Jan. 5 televised statement, warned that the United States would target al Qaeda in Yemen. Obama said, “As these violent extremists pursue new havens, we intend to target al Qaeda wherever they take root, forging new partnerships to deny them sanctuary, as we are doing currently with the government in Yemen.” The president’s remarks came after a meeting with top intelligence and national security officials to discuss security reviews following the failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner claimed by the global jihadist network’s Yemen-based node.

The Dec. 25 attempt to destroy an American commercial aircraft nearly succeeded. If it had, it would have been the deadliest attack in the United States since 9/11. The incident places considerable political pressure on the Obama administration to take action against those behind the plot to destroy the Delta flight. In other words, it is politically necessary for Obama to order U.S. military action in Yemen to reassure Americans that something is being done to counter this latest jihadist threat.

There are serious limits, however, to how far Washington can go in terms of operationalizing the need to take action. For starters, U.S. intelligence and military have for several years been engaged in limited operations in the country in conjunction with their Yemeni counterparts. Obviously the existing counterterrorism/counterinsurgency cooperation was not sufficient enough to degrade the group.

“Any large-scale military offensive could prove to be the last straw to break the Yemeni camel’s back.”
But limited operations may not satisfy the administration’s critics at home, putting Obama in the uncomfortable position of having to get more aggressive in Yemen. The geopolitical reality of Yemen, however, makes any such venture an extremely risky one. Sanaa is not just threatened by jihadists.

The city faces a sectarian insurgency in the north, which has rendered the Saudi-Yemeni border area a de facto battleground for a Saudi-Iranian proxy war. In the south, President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s government faces a strong resurgent secessionist movement. And while it deals with these two very different forces, which could lead to state implosion, Sanaa relies heavily on support from extremely conservative tribes and radical Islamist forces — especially those in the security establishment — for its survival.

Therefore, any form of overt large-scale military offensive may well prove to be the last straw to break the Yemeni camel’s back. The Yemeni state is having a hard time battling jihadists on its own. One can only imagine the problems it would face if it allowed U.S. military operations on its soil. This is, in fact, exactly what al Qaeda desires.

Not having the wherewithal to topple a sitting government, the signature jihadist approach has been to lure the United States into a military intervention in Muslim countries. From al Qaeda’s point of view, such U.S. military intervention could create conditions of anarchy leading to the implosion of the state in question, thereby creating opportunities for the jihadists. In this case, it is not just about Yemen. There is also the danger of spillover into Saudi Arabia and the other energy-producing Persian Gulf Arab states on the Arabian Peninsula.

Yemen is very closely located to another major jihadist arena, across the Red Sea in Somalia — a country with a much worse jihadist problem and with Islamist militant linkages with Yemen. But the regional spillover would not only manifest itself in the form of jihadists. The fight between the Yemeni state and the jihadists could provide an opportunity for the Iranian-supported al-Houthis in the north to further escalate their insurgency. In essence, the Saudis would be faced with both an intensified jihadist and Iranian threat.

The Obama administration is well aware of these repercussions and is thus unlikely to opt for any major military campaign in Yemen. Instead it is likely to try to tackle this in a surgical manner through the use of intelligence, special forces and unmanned aerial vehicle strikes. The strategy employed in Yemen will largely be used to satisfy a political necessity at home, because any serious increase in involvement could make matters on the ground in Yemen even worse. But the problem is that similar measures are currently in place and are already making matters worse, albeit in a very gradual manner.

28710  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: January 06, 2010, 05:14:26 PM
 shocked shocked shocked
28711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Green? on: January 06, 2010, 10:59:32 AM
Tehran Imbroglio: No Green Revolution
THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT LASHED OUT today against the West’s perceived support of anti-government protests by arresting foreign nationals allegedly involved in the Dec. 27 Ashura protests, and publishing a list of 60 organizations waging “soft war” against Tehran. Meanwhile, Shirin Ebadi — an Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner — argued in her interview Monday with CNN that the Iranian government’s efforts to suppress demonstrations were failing and would only increase and radicalize the opposition, thus sowing seeds for the government’s downfall. This largely conforms to the analysis of most Western media and policy analysts, who see the ingredients for the downfall of the clerical regime in Iran as clearly arrayed; most believe it is only a matter of time before Tehran sees a regime change.

The picture painted by Western media and governments is, however, one that STRATFOR has refused to complacently accept.

The imbroglio on the ground in Tehran is perceived as a continuation of the “color revolutions” that began in the former Soviet Union, of which the Ukrainian 2004 “Orange Revolution” is a prime example. All the elements of a “color revolution” seem to be in play in Iran: a pariah regime maintains power despite what appears to be voter fraud while a supposedly liberal/pro-Western opposition launches a series of protests and marches that only accentuate the regime’s instability and unpopularity. Keeping with the latest fashion, the Iranian movement has even picked a color: green.

Western commentators who think they are witnessing regime change in Tehran could make an even more prescient parallel with the toppling of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in the so-called “Bulldozer Revolution” in October 2000. In late 2000, Milosevic’s Serbia was a pariah state that refused to budge over its crackdown in Kosovo in much the same way that Tehran refuses to budge on the issue of its nuclear program.

But if Iran today is to be compared to Serbia in 2000, then the regime change would have happened immediately following the June elections when protests reached their greatest numbers and the government was caught off guard by the virulence of the disturbance. Instead, a much more realistic (and poignant) analogy would be Serbia in 1991, when Milosevic faced his first serious threat — one he deftly avoided with a mix of brutality and co-option.

“The Western media confused liberal, educated, pro-Western university students in the streets of Belgrade for a mass movement against Milosevic…much like they do with Iran today.”
The March 1991 protests against Milosevic focused on the regime’s control of the country’s media. Opposition leader Vuk Draskovic — a moderate nationalist writer turned politician — was still smarting over his defeat in the presidential elections in December 1990, in which his party received no media access to Milosevic-controlled television. The March 9 protests quickly took on a life of their own. The assembly of nearly 150,000 people in Belgrade’s main square turned into a full-scale anti-Milosevic riot, prompting a brutal police crackdown that led to the Serbian military being called to secure the city’s streets. The next day Belgrade university students took their turn, but were again suppressed by the police.

Milosevic’s crackdown dampened enthusiasm for further violent challenges to his rule. Each time he was challenged, Milosevic retained power through a mix of restrictions (which were most severe in 1991) and piecemeal concessions that only marginally eroded his power. Meanwhile, Western media throughout the 1990s confused liberal, educated, pro-Western university students in the streets of Belgrade for a mass movement against Milosevic, much like they did with the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and with Iran today.

But ultimately Milosevic stayed in power for two main reasons: he had ample domestic, popular support in Serbia outside of Belgrade, and he had the full loyalty of security forces in Serbia at the time: interior ministry troops and their various paramilitary organizations.

Serbian opposition eventually employed two strategies that toppled Milosevic: co-option and compromise with elements of Milosevic’s regime. Co-option meant convincing the industrial workers and miners of Central Serbia, as well as ardent Serbian nationalists, that protesting against Milosevic meant more than being a university student who discussed Plato in the morning and marched against the government in the evening. Highly organized student opposition group Otpor (“Resistance” in Serb) made it their central mission to co-opt everyone from labor union members to nationalist soccer hooligans to the cause. This also meant fielding a candidate in 2000 elections — firmly nationalist Vojislav Kostunica — that could appeal to more than just liberal Belgrade and European-oriented northern Serbia (the Vojvodina region).

Meanwhile, compromise meant negotiating with pseudo security forces — essentially organized crime elements running Milosevic’s paramilitaries such as the notorious “Red Brigades” — and promising them a place in the future pro-Democratic and pro-Western Serbia. These compromises ultimately came to haunt the nascent pro-Western Belgrade, but they worked in October 2000.

These Serbian opposition successes stand in stark contrast to Iran today. In Iran, we have seen no concrete evidence that the opposition is willing or able to co-opt Iranians of different ideological leanings. As long as this aspect is missing, security elements will refuse to negotiate with the opposition since they will perceive the regime as still having an upper hand. Furthermore, security elements will ultimately not switch sides if they don’t have assurances that in the post-clerical Iran they will retain their prominent place or at least will escape persecution. This was the “deal with the Devil” that the Serbian opposition was ready to make in October 2000. But in Iran, at this moment, a deal with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and their paramilitary Basij forces is not possible.

Ultimately, Serbia in 2000 was also surrounded by a different geopolitical situation. Isolated in the Balkans with no allies — not even Russia, which at the time was weak and dealing with the aftershocks of the 1998 economic crisis — Western pressure exerted on Belgrade was inordinately greater than the pressure the United States and its allies can exert on Iran today. It is further highly unlikely that a military strike against Iran would have the same effect that NATO’s three-month air campaign against Serbia did in 1999. The scale of the two efforts is vastly different. Serbia was an easy target surrounded by NATO states, while Iran can retaliate in a number of ways against the United States and its allies, particularly by threatening global energy trade.

Evidence from the ground in Iran indicates that the ruling regime may undergo a certain level of calibration — especially as different factions within the clerical regime maneuver to profit from the imbroglio — but it is hardly near its end. The continuation of protests is not evidence of their success, much as the continuation of protests against Milosevic throughout the 1990s was not evidence that he was losing power. Milosevic not only held out for nearly 10 years after the initial 1991 protests, but he also managed to be quite a thorn in the side of the West, taking charge in numerous regional conflicts and going toe-to-toe with NATO.

We may later come to see in the Iranian protests of June and December 2009 the seeds of what might eventually topple the regime. But if we learn anything from the Serbian example, it is that a regime that survives a challenge — as Milosevic did in 1991 — lives to tough out a number of fights down the road.
28712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Apostasy on: January 06, 2010, 10:30:28 AM
14 minutes

http://www.pjtv.com/v/2693
28713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Killing Killer Asteroids on: January 06, 2010, 10:04:29 AM
By MICHIO KAKU
Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Space Agency, caught scientists off guard when he called for a closed meeting of Russian scientists to counter a killer asteroid headed our way. He said that a potential impact from the asteroid Apothis around 2036 could kill hundreds of thousands of people. Immediately this conjured up images of Bruce Willis and his space cowboys riding the Space Shuttle to blow up a comet in the movie "Armageddon." Scientists, realizing that the danger is slight but real, have in fact seriously proposed various ways in which to deflect the asteroid.

As asteroids go, Apophis is a whopper, measuring 1,000 feet across, about the size of the Rose Bowl. In 2029 it will make its first pass around the earth, so close that it will travel beneath our communication satellites. In fact, you might see it whiz by overhead with binoculars. Depending on how it whips around the earth, there is a slight chance it might actually hit the earth when it returns in 2036 (but the latest calculations only show a one in a hundred thousand chance of impact).

The Russians take such a threat seriously, since a "city buster" hit Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908, flattening about a thousand square miles of forest, destroying about 100 million trees, and leaving a huge scar in the Earth. The object that struck Siberia was probably only 100 feet across, yet it created a blast about 1,000 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. The shock waves were so intense they were detected in Europe. It created a strange glow which spread over Asia and Europe so that you could read the London papers at night. If it had hit Moscow, it would have completely flattened that city and beyond. A city-buster like that happens once every 100-300 years, with most of them hitting the oceans.

A hit from Apothis, however, would be another story. It would be a "country buster," capable of creating fire storms, shock waves, and a rain of fiery debris that would destroy an area almost the size of France, or perhaps the entire Northeast of the U.S. The energy of the impact would be roughly 100,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. If it hits the Pacific Ocean, it could also generate a huge tidal wave, a gigantic wall of water that could swamp most coastal cities in the Americas and Asia. An impact from an Apophis-like asteroid is estimated to happen once in a thousand years. (The worst case scenario, however, would be an impact from a "planet buster" as little as six miles across, like the one that hit Mexico and probably wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.)

Plans to counter such a hypothetical threat, however, are sketchy. A staple of science fiction is to send the Space Shuttle to blow it up. Bad idea.

First, this might only crack the asteroid, so you would have a swarm of deadly mini-asteroids headed your way. Second, the Space Shuttle can only circle the Earth; it is incapable of reaching deep space to intercept the asteroid. And it is going to be phased out this year anyway and a replacement won't be ready for about five years.

Several proposals made by scientists are currently being studied. One likely scenario is to nudge the asteroid while it is still in deep space so that it eventually misses the Earth. This deflection might be done via rockets to push the asteroid years before it passes the Earth. Or, the gravity of the spacecraft itself may be used to gently tug on its trajectory. Yet another proposal is to use mirrors and even paint to increase the pressure of sunlight so that, over decades, its trajectory is modified.

At present, none of the hardware for such a mission exists, so we will be helpless for years if a real threat emerges. And any serious proposal will require tens of billions of dollars, for new booster rockets and the complex machinery to deflect the asteroid.

But given these hard economic times, money is scarce even to maintain the current space program. The Augustine Report on the future of space travel, commissioned by NASA and presented to President Obama in October, stated that manned missions to the moon and Mars were "unsustainable" without a new injection of funds. However, it did leave open the possibility of landing on an asteroid. So one real possibility is to land a probe on the asteroid in 2029 so that scientists can study its properties as well as get a free ride through the solar system. We know so little about Apothis that it might be a solid object or just a loose collection of rocky debris held together by gravity.

Some conspiracy theorists have raised the dark possibility that any nation that can deflect an asteroid could also send it hurtling toward its enemies. But such a weapon is simply too unstable and unreliable to be taken seriously.

Indeed, scientists are applauding the Russian Space Agency for addressing the issue, even if the danger from Apophis is very slight. Sooner or later, we will face a catastrophic threat from space. Of all the possible threats, only a gigantic asteroid hit can destroy the entire planet. If we prepare now, we better our odds of survival. The dinosaurs never knew what hit them.

Mr. Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at City College of New York, is the author of "Physics of the Impossible" (Doubleday, 2008) and host of "Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible," on the Science Channel.
28714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 06, 2010, 09:39:52 AM
I disagree with your reasoning completely.

If there was dishonesty, then there are a great variety of fraud related statutes-- but that is not the issue here. 

The government pumped up a credit bubble (virtual zero interest rates, the FMs, the CRA, and more), people lied on their apps, banks didn't care because the loans were guaranteed by the FMs etc etc. 

If you allow the State to break contracts between private parties, the damage done is deep, profound, and long lasting. 
28715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Arrested?!?!?!? on: January 05, 2010, 10:45:55 PM
 Michael Yon Arrested at Seattle Airport

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://netrightnation.com/index.php?...-blog&Itemid=7

This seems to have happened about an hour ago. Apparently, Michael Yon was arrested at the Seattle Airport after refusing to tell airport security how much money he earns! This seems like a resonable reason to detain someone...

On Michael Yon's Facebook Fan Page, the following updates were posted:

Got arrested at the Seattle airport for refusing to say how much money I make. (The uniformed ones say I was not "arrested", but they definitely handcuffed me.) Their videos and audios should show that I was polite, but simply refused questions that had nothing to do with national security. Port authority police eve...ntually came -- they were professionals -- and rescued me from the border bullies. (About an hour ago)

And then this update shortly after:

When they handcuffed me, I said that no country has ever treated me so badly. Not China. Not Vietnam. Not Afghanistan. Definitely not Singapore or India or Nepal or Germany, not Brunei, not Indonesia, or Malaysia, or Kuwait or Qatar or United Arab Emirates. No county has treated me with the disrespect can that can be expected from our border bullies. (About an hour ago)

So apparently when one refuses to answer questions about their salary, they have placed the nation's security in jeopardy. This seems to be a gross overreaction from security. Yon is clearly not a security threat.
28716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 05, 2010, 09:40:54 PM
Well, we have half of one in the White House right now so you are more right than you realize cheesy
28717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Google blocking negative searches on Islam? on: January 05, 2010, 09:38:20 PM
http://thenextweb.com/2010/01/05/google-blocking-negative-search-recommendations-islam/

I lack the google-fu to really follow this; anyone else?
28718  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 05, 2010, 04:32:26 PM
I don't like what I read about the level of surveillance in the UK and I don't want it here.   

Anyway, I suspect we will continue to go around the mulberry bush on this one with each having little persuasive effect upon the other and so, for now  cheesy will sign off. 
28719  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: January 05, 2010, 04:28:02 PM
Wrong thread for this discussion.  Please use "The Way Forward for the American Creed"-- where I will be glad to entertain the notion of a Tea Party.
28720  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 05, 2010, 11:43:41 AM
Aircraft I can see.  No worries-- though when armed with technology that enables high res photos from far away, that too becomes a problem.

Unmanned drones designed to hang out and spy generally undetected, generally I have a big problem.
28721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: January 05, 2010, 11:17:51 AM
George Friedman of Statfor argues powerfully that geo politics will determine more about a nations alliances than political structures.  I think he overstates his case, but he makes it well.

I just tried laying my hands on his statement of the US's five imperatives but did not succeed.   embarassed
28722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 05, 2010, 11:08:25 AM
Well, as it I see it, that is precisely the fight we have ahead.
28723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 05, 2010, 11:05:27 AM
"**The fouth requires a reasonable expectation of privacy. Nose picking, ass scratching or sex in a public location has no reasonable expectation of privacy.**

If no one is in sight, or if I am on private property bounded by a solid fence, I should be able to blissfully pick my nose, scratch my ass, get great fellatio, etc without wondering if some eye in the sky is watching.
28724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: January 05, 2010, 10:52:19 AM
Interesting piece.  May I ask that you post it on the US Foreign Affairs thread?  I'd like to respond with some George Friedman based thoughts on Geopolitics.
28725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: January 05, 2010, 10:48:31 AM
GM:

Nice to see that article.

I've never heard his radio show.  We have satellite TV and I simply set the DVR to record the show-- which airs here in LA at 14:00 and 21:00.
28726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 05, 2010, 10:42:08 AM
That seems like a sound reading to me.
28727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: January 05, 2010, 10:40:01 AM
I too am hearing this.
28728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 05, 2010, 10:39:11 AM
What about the sanctity of contract?!?  shocked
28729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glenn Beck on: January 05, 2010, 07:47:49 AM
See today's entry in the Glenn Beck thread.
28730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Transitional Week on: January 05, 2010, 07:47:11 AM
Glenn is back from vacation and his show last night announced some big changes. 

Starting yesterday, there will be 5 days summarizing what GB says he has proven during the past year.

Starting next week, the show will be about taking America back.

I will be watching EVERY night this week and next.

I'm thinking/hoping this has a good shot at becoming the spark that ignites the flames of American freedom.

28731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: January 05, 2010, 07:40:05 AM
Good post.

Like the eternal flame of the Hanukah menorah, we seek to keep the flame of Truth alive around here.  It is always darkest before the dawn.  Ben Franklin told us the Constitution gave us a republic "if we can keep it."  Time to stand up for the American Creed.
28732  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on debt in 1816 on: January 05, 2010, 07:05:16 AM
"We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval, 1816
28733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 05, 2010, 07:00:54 AM
More good wit GM, you're on a roll.

Lets see where this leads.

Ultimately, yes.

I reject utterly the notion that if I am doing nothing wrong I have nothing to fear.  Maybe I want to pick my nose, or scratch my ass.  Maybe I want to have great sex in the middle of a field.   Maybe I just want to act in ways I don't want others to see.

If a policeman is sitting on the traffic light, I know he is there.  If there is some mini-high-tech camera, I probably don't know I am being watched.  From a human and budgetary POV, it is impossible to put a policeman on every traffic light.  In contrast t is quite easy to put a camera on every light and every corner.  Just look at the UK.

If there is a helicopter with a policeman in it, from a human and budgetary POV, there is a limit to how many helicopters buzzing around there will be.  A drone costs a tiny fraction of a helicopter to buy and to operate-- and as a practical matter we the American people, a people who have fought to establish our freedom, will not know whether we are being watched or not. 


With this, we enter the landy of the creepy and the Orwellian.
28734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: January 05, 2010, 06:49:22 AM
Very good one Rachel!

===========
Va'etchanan Parshah Lesson

By Malka Touger
 
The boys from Bunk Twelve were hiking down a mountain trail. After a while, they came to a clearing with cliffs on either side.

"Hello," shouted out Mia.

"Hello, Hello," came the answer as Mia's voice bounced back and forth from cliff to cliff. Soon the entire bunk was doing it. The valley became filled with the echoing of the campers' voices as each one tried out his vocal chords.

"Why do some echoes last longer than others?" Leah asked his counselor, Rachel.

"It depends on how loudly you shout," Rachel explained. "Creating an echo is like throwing a ball against the wall; the harder you throw, the harder the ball bounces back. So, the louder you call out, the more powerful are the sound waves and the more powerfully they will bounce back when they meet something hard which they cannot penetrate. When the sound waves bounce back, they create an echo.

"Calling out in the mountains is liking throwing a ball in a ball court where you have one wall in front of you and one wall behind you. The ball will continue bouncing back and forth until its strength ebbs away. Here too, the voices continue to bounce from one cliff to another until they lose their strength. The stronger the voice, the longer it will continue to echo."

"Wait a minute," Leah said. "I remember, you said that when G-d gave the Ten Commandments, He spoke and there was no echo. G-d surely spoke very loudly. According to what you just explained, His voice should still be echoing throughout the world."

"Now, that's a great question," Rachel replied, smiling. "But you forgot one thing. I said that sound waves bounce back when they meet something they cannot penetrate. Our sages explain that there was a miracle and G-d's voice did not have an echo. It did not bounce away from the world. Instead, it sounded from one end of the world to the other, and the world absorbed G-d's voice.

"When G-d gave the Ten Commandments, He intentionally changed the rules of nature. His voice changed the world, making it ready to receive holiness. Ever since then, doing a good deed blends in with the nature of the world; it helps the world follow the voice of G-d which it accepted at the time of the giving of the Torah."

"The same is true when we study the Torah. We are not just learning laws and ideas. We want the Torah to seep into us and be absorbed in our innermost selves, changing the way we think and feel. The Torah should not bounce back, away from us. It should become part of our nature."
 
28735  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: January 05, 2010, 06:25:37 AM
Great times in class yesterday-- a strong group operating at a good level, enabling me to really go into things.  We are getting really pumped up for the camp that Kenny Johnson and I will be teaching in early February.

Yesterday included spending some time solving front leg kicking counters to our portal moves (In DBMA terminology we say "Stepping through a portal to the magical dimension where martial arts and crafts actually work")



The Adventure continues!
28736  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WSJ: a theory demolished on: January 04, 2010, 07:59:45 PM
.By HEATHER MAC DONALD
The recession of 2008-09 has undercut one of the most destructive social theories that came out of the 1960s: the idea that the root cause of crime lies in income inequality and social injustice. As the economy started shedding jobs in 2008, criminologists and pundits predicted that crime would shoot up, since poverty, as the "root causes" theory holds, begets criminals. Instead, the opposite happened. Over seven million lost jobs later, crime has plummeted to its lowest level since the early 1960s. The consequences of this drop for how we think about social order are significant.

The notion that crime is an understandable reaction to poverty and racism took hold in the early 1960s. Sociologists Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin argued that juvenile delinquency was essentially a form of social criticism. Poor minority youth come to understand that the American promise of upward mobility is a sham, after a bigoted society denies them the opportunity to advance. These disillusioned teens then turn to crime out of thwarted expectations.

The theories put forward by Cloward, who spent his career at Columbia University, and Ohlin, who served presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter, provided an intellectual foundation for many Great Society-era programs. From the Mobilization for Youth on Manhattan's Lower East Side in 1963 through the federal Office of Economic Opportunity and a host of welfare, counseling and job initiatives, their ideas were turned into policy.

If crime was a rational response to income inequality, the thinking went, government can best fight it through social services and wealth redistribution, not through arrests and incarceration. Even law enforcement officials came to embrace the root causes theory, which let them off the hook for rising lawlessness. Through the late 1980s, the FBI's annual national crime report included the disclaimer that "criminal homicide is largely a societal problem which is beyond the control of the police." Policing, it was understood, can only respond to crime after the fact; preventing it is the domain of government welfare programs.

View Full Image

Barbara Kelley
 .The 1960s themselves offered a challenge to the poverty-causes-crime thesis. Homicides rose 43%, despite an expanding economy and a surge in government jobs for inner-city residents. The Great Depression also contradicted the idea that need breeds predation, since crime rates dropped during that prolonged crisis. The academy's commitment to root causes apologetics nevertheless persisted. Andrew Karmen of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice echoed Cloward and Ohlin in 2000 in his book "New York Murder Mystery." Crime, he wrote, is "a distorted form of social protest." And as the current recession deepened, liberal media outlets called for more government social programs to fight the coming crime wave. In late 2008, the New York Times urged President Barack Obama to crank up federal spending on after-school programs, social workers, and summer jobs. "The economic crisis," the paper's editorialists wrote, "has clearly created the conditions for more crime and more gangs—among hopeless, jobless young men in the inner cities."

Even then crime patterns were defying expectations. And by the end of 2009, the purported association between economic hardship and crime was in shambles. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, homicide dropped 10% nationwide in the first six months of 2009; violent crime dropped 4.4% and property crime dropped 6.1%. Car thefts are down nearly 19%. The crime plunge is sharpest in many areas that have been hit the hardest by the housing collapse. Unemployment in California is 12.3%, but homicides in Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Times reported recently, dropped 25% over the course of 2009. Car thefts there are down nearly 20%.

The recession crime free fall continues a trend of declining national crime rates that began in the 1990s, during a very different economy. The causes of that long-term drop are hotly disputed, but an increase in the number of people incarcerated had a large effect on crime in the last decade and continues to affect crime rates today, however much anti-incarceration activists deny it. The number of state and federal prisoners grew fivefold between 1977 and 2008, from 300,000 to 1.6 million.

***

The spread of data-driven policing has also contributed to the 2000s' crime drop. At the start of the recession, the two police chiefs who confidently announced that their cities' crime rates would remain recession-proof were Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. As New York Police Commissioner in the mid-1990s, Mr. Bratton pioneered the intensive use of crime data to determine policing strategies and to hold precinct commanders accountable—a process known as Compstat. Commissioner Kelly has continued Mr. Bratton's revolutionary policies, leading to New York's stunning 16-year 77% crime drop. The two police leaders were true to their word. In 2009, the city of L.A. saw a 17% drop in homicides, an 8% drop in property crimes, and a 10% drop in violent crimes. In New York, homicides fell 19%, to their lowest level since reliable records were first kept in 1963.

The Compstat mentality is the opposite of root causes excuse-making; it holds that policing can and must control crime for the sake of urban economic viability. More and more police chiefs have adopted the Compstat philosophy of crime-fighting and the information-based policing techniques that it spawned. Their success in lowering crime shows that the government can control antisocial behavior and provide public safety through enforcing the rule of law. Moreover, the state has the moral right and obligation to do so, regardless of economic conditions or income inequality.

The recession could still affect crime rates if cities cut their police forces and states start releasing prisoners early. Both forms of cost-saving would be self-defeating. Public safety is the precondition for thriving urban life. In 1990s New York, crime did not drop because the economy improved; rather, the city's economy revived because crime was cut in half. Keeping crime rates low now is the best guarantee that cities across the country will be able to exploit the inevitable economic recovery when it comes.

Ms. Mac Donald is a contributing editor at the Manhattan Institute's City Journal.
28737  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Salute to West Point on: January 04, 2010, 07:55:52 PM
Even in the age of emails, blogs and tweets, the formal letter can still command attention. Especially when it bears the signature of the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point—and congratulates the recipient on his appointment.

Along with hundreds of other anxious high-school seniors, my nephew opened such a letter over the Christmas holidays. For his family, it brought back many memories. Just about all of us live within an hour's drive of West Point. For most of our lives, the academy has been a beautiful backdrop: for football games, wedding receptions, the occasional drive up for lunch at the Thayer Hotel, and so on.

Now the beauty mixes with apprehension. For me it was brought home in 2006, when I attended the commencement as part of the president's entourage. Theirs was the first class to enter West Point after the attacks of Sept. 11. As I watched these happy graduates, I thought: In a few years, some of those celebrating today will not be with us. Thus far, alas, war has claimed two young men who received the gold bars of a second lieutenant that day: Lt. Nick A. Dewhirst, killed in Afghanistan; Lt. Timothy W. Cunningham, killed in Iraq.

Can my nephew comprehend the sacrifice he commits himself to? The critics say we romanticize war and hide the realities from those who will do the dying. I'm not so sure. At West Point this past autumn for a football game, I went to the refrigerator of a helicopter pilot-turned-instructor in search of a Diet Coke. On the door I found a yellow ribbon with the name of the officer's West Point roommate, an infantry captain named Doug DiCenzo who was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad when his son was just 16 months old.


.On a campus where the cemetery includes the dead from two centuries of American wars, sobering reminders are everywhere: the young wife and children left behind, the good friends who do not make the trip home, the empty space at the reunion. The true glory of West Point is that all know the fear and cost of war but refuse to surrender to them.

Whether character can be taught is an age-old question; usually we refer to its being built. West Point does not pretend its cadets are immune from the normal temptations of our culture. After all, they come from the same towns and high schools other universities draw from. The difference is that at West Point, words such as duty, honor and country are spoken without irony—and a scandal is a scandal because behavior is still measured against standards.

A paper on the academy's Web site explains the honor code this way: "An officer who is not trustworthy cannot be tolerated; in some professions the cost of dishonesty is measured in dollars—in the Army, the cost is measured in human lives. The ability of West Point to educate, train and inspire outstanding leaders of character for our Army is predicated upon the functional necessity of honesty."

In other words, the promise is not that West Point will produce the next generation of Grants, MacArthurs, Eisenhowers or Petraeuses—though it will. The promise is more consequential. To the moms and dads of all those in uniform, West Point says: When America puts your sons and daughters in harm's way, they will be led by men and woman of character and ability.

In the days since my nephew's acceptance, the reaction has been interesting. Some are impressed. Others . . . well, let's just say the assumption often seems to be that a student chooses a service academy because he or she was not accepted anywhere better, or is going simply because it's free.

In my nephew's case, neither is true. His father and his father's father both served in the Navy; his other grandfather was a Marine. So his loved ones are a little saddened when we come across people apparently unable to process the idea that an intelligent young American with the world at his feet could be led by a sense of duty to West Point in a time of war.

When I look at my nephew, I can still see the baby I once lugged to the car in his carrier. A few springs from now, if he rises to this challenge as we know he will, I will sit in that stadium high above the Hudson as Timothy Dore, USMA Class of '14, takes his place in that long gray line. Around me that day will be thousands of other uncles, aunts, moms, dads, brothers, sisters and grandparents who are now, with great pride, passing around a letter from the West Point superintendent like the one my nephew received.

This academy is not for everyone. But the choice made by these young men and women makes this uncle want to salute.
28738  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: False START on: January 04, 2010, 07:51:37 PM
The Obama Administration continues to negotiate with the Russians over a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), but one big question is whether it can get the result through the U.S. Senate. A group of Senators is telling the White House that it will have little or no chance of success unless it also moves ahead with nuclear-warhead modernization.

The warning comes in a recent letter from 40 Republican Senators and Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman reminding the President of his legal responsibility under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 to present budget estimates for modernizing U.S. nuclear forces along with any new Start pact.

The Senators are following the suggestions of the important, but too little publicized, recommendations of last year's Perry-Schlesinger commission on the safety and operations of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The bipartisan report noted, among other things, that the U.S. needs new warheads and nuclear research facilities. President Obama, in his utopian antinuclear mode, has opposed a new warhead despite widespread support for it at the Pentagon, from Defense Secretary Robert Gates on down.

Mr. Obama would be wise to take the warning seriously because he'll need 67 Senate votes to approve any arms-control treaty. Without modernization, it's unlikely that Senators will vote for the significant and probably unwise reductions in U.S. nuclear delivery vehicles that Mr. Obama is negotiating with the Russians.

However, we're not surprised to hear that the President is getting contrary political advice from his Vice President, Joe Biden, who is arguing that the White House should try to get the 67 votes on Start's merits alone. He wants to delay any nuclear modernization decision, holding it out as a carrot to offer Senators in return for ratifying the separate Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Senate rejected the test ban pact when Bill Clinton submitted it in 1999, but Mr. Obama hopes to do better with 60 Senate Democrats backed by his global disarmament agenda.

This wouldn't be the first time Mr. Biden has misjudged a vital security issue—recall his proposal to split Iraq into three parts. The deteriorating U.S. nuclear arsenal is emerging as a big security problem, and Start won't be an easy sell even with the money for warhead upgrades. Mr. Obama could have simply renewed the 1991 Start treaty and pocketed an early diplomatic victory. Instead, he has sought something more ambitious in support of his larger disarmament dreams, and the Russians are demanding a hard bargain in return.

.The U.S. has already agreed to steep cuts in its military arsenal, even before the Administration has come out with its Nuclear Posture Review and weapons modernization plan. Last week, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin raised the ante by saying he now wants the U.S. to abandon missile defenses as part of a new Start pact. The Obama Administration's decision to downsize missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic seems to have only emboldened the Russians to push for bigger concessions.

Another issue is verification. With Start's expiration December 5, Russia has pulled inspectors from a factory that's building the next generation of Russian ICBMs and scaled back electronic monitoring—called telemetry—of missile production and movements. The U.S. is trying to undo some of this in negotiations, but Senators will want to make sure that any fix isn't merely cosmetic. If the U.S. is going to reduce its missile and warhead numbers, we need to know what the Russians have in their arsenal.

The stakes here aren't merely whether Mr. Obama can get his treaties ratified; they concern the credibility of the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Mr. Obama says he wants to stop nuclear proliferation but he will only encourage it if our allies begin to believe that the U.S. arsenal is either too small or too unreliable to protect them. Japan has already raised concerns, and with Mr. Obama unable or unwilling to stop either North Korean or Iranian nuclear ambitions, such worry will only spread.

Grand speeches about a world without nuclear weapons are crowd-pleasers at the U.N., but the U.S. Senate has an obligation to inspect the fine print before it ratifies any reduction in U.S. defenses. Senators shouldn't begin to consider a smaller arsenal until the Obama Administration takes the steps to ensure that our remaining weapons will work if we need them
28739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 04, 2010, 07:44:07 PM
The problem is this:

Due to the acclerating march of technology and its geometrically accelerating decline of its costs, it becomes possible to have an all seeing all recording Big Brother state.
28740  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 04, 2010, 05:08:09 PM
GM:

That's very funny , , , and utterly non-responsive to the real issues presented.

With this we will be on the slippery slope to being watched all the time everywhere.

I didn't like this when I read Orwell's 1984, and I don't like it now. 

I don't think the Founding Fathers would put up with it ither.
28741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ targetting snipers back in UK on: January 04, 2010, 04:06:13 PM
Al-Qaeda target British soldiers returning from Afghanistan

British-based Islamist radicals are targeting Army soldiers - especially snipers - returning from fighting in southern Afghanistan, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.


By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
Published: 9:30AM GMT 03 Jan 2010
Soldiers from 12 Regiment Royal Artillery mark their return from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as they process through the streets of Blackpool.

In one case, a police armed response unit was called to the home of a sniper last September amid fears he was about to be murdered or abducted by al-Qaeda terrorists.

The Corporal, serving with a Scottish Regiment, was one of a two-man sniping team which shot dead 32 Taliban fighters during a six-month tour of Afghanistan.
The soldier – whom this newspaper has agreed not to name – was temporarily forced to leave home his wife and family after details of his service in Afghanistan were made public.

It can also be disclosed that a second sniper who recently returned home to the Glasgow area received death threats from suspected British-based al-Qaeda sympathisers after his personal details became known.

The threats were deemed so serious that an armed response unit was sent to his home in case terrorists tried to kidnap or kill him or members of his family.

Defence chiefs now see the situation as so serious that they have asked newspapers and broadcasters not to publicise the names or personal details of snipers serving in Helmand or of those who have recently returned.

It is understood that senior commanders believe Army snipers are being specifically targeted because they are often used to seek out and kill Taliban commanders.

In November, The Sunday Telegraph interviewed two snipers, who were not named for security reasons, serving in the reconnaissance platoon of the 1st battalion Grenadier Guards

Both soldiers had taken part in an ambush of a Taliban force as the insurgents prepared to attack a British patrol base.

The two snipers were used to initiate the ambush by shooting dead a Taliban commander who was positioning his troops prior to a planned dawn attack in the Nad-e'Ali area of central Helmand.

After more than 12 hours of fighting both soldiers said that believed that they had killed at least two insurgents each. One of the snipers also admitted that he had lost count of the number of insurgents he had killed since arriving in Helmand two months earlier but believed the number was "well into double figures".

But senior commanders requested that the two snipers not be identified in reports of the battle amid fears that the troops or their families might be attacked when they returned to Britain.

In January 2007, a plot by a Birmingham-based al-Qaeda cell to kidnap a British soldier and behead him was discovered.

The six-man cell was led by Paviz Khan, a 37-year-old father of three, who planned to kidnap a Muslim soldier and post a film of him being beheaded on the internet in a bid to deter other members of the faith from joining the British Army.

The plan was thwarted by a year-long surveillance operation by MI5 and members of the West Midlands counter-terrorist unit. Khan was later jailed for life.

A senior defence source said snipers were being targeted because theirs sole role in Afghanistan was to kill.

He added: "Sniping is a cold and calculating art. You have to be prepared to kill someone at a long range who may not be posing any direct threat to you. Every sniper who deploys to Helmand will return with several kills, many will be into double figures and this is something which is not lost on al-Qaeda or their sympathisers. Islamists would see targeting snipers as something is "acceptable" because they are killing a soldier who has killed one of their brothers."
28742  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 04, 2010, 03:50:50 PM
Bomber Who Killed C.I.A. Staff Worked With Jordanian Intelligence

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The suicide bomber who killed seven
C.I.A. officers and one Jordanian intelligence officer last
week in southeastern Afghanistan was an asset of the
Jordanian intelligence service who had been brought to
Afghanistan to help hunt down top members of the Qaeda
network, according to a Western official briefed on the
matter.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com?emc=na
28743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Big Brother Eye in the Sky on: January 04, 2010, 03:46:58 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETrc-ums8_U
28744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 04, 2010, 12:06:01 PM
Again we see underlined the Stratfor point which seems so pivotal to me:

There is no way around the fact that the ANA and the ANP will be riddled with enemy agents; therefore it is doubly key that we infiltrate the enemy!!!  That mission did not seem to succeed here.  Can we have any hope in succeeding at this mission when both potential friends and the enemy have heard our President say we will begin leaving in 18 months?
28745  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: January 04, 2010, 12:02:31 PM
No argument from me.

The Obama-Clinton policy on Honduras has been unusually incompetent and/or malicious.
28746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Brazil on: January 04, 2010, 11:22:31 AM
By SUSAN KAUFMAN PURCELL
Until recently, the Obama administration assumed that Brazil and the United States were natural allies who shared many foreign policy interests, particularly in Latin America. Brazil, after all, is a friendly democracy with a growing market economy and Western cultural values.

It will soon be the fifth largest economy in the world. It recently discovered billions of barrels of petroleum in the deep waters off its coast and is an agricultural powerhouse. It has also made significant progress in eradicating poverty. It therefore seemed only natural to expect that as Brazil became "more like us," it would seek to play a more active and constructive role in this hemisphere, and that U.S. and Brazilian political and security interests would largely coincide.

This now seems like wishful thinking. On a number of important political and security issues, Washington and Brasilia recently have not seen eye to eye. Nor has Brazil shown much leadership in tackling the important political and security challenges facing the region.

One example is Brazil's role in UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). At a September meeting in Quito focused on regional security issues, topics not discussed included the multibillion-dollar arms race in the region, the granting of sanctuary and other forms of aid by Venezuela to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Colombian narco-guerrilla group, and the growing nuclear cooperation between Iran and Venezuela. Instead, Brazil joined UNASUR in criticizing Colombia for having agreed to allow the U.S. to use seven of its military bases for counterterrorist and counter narcotics activities inside Colombia.

The fact that Colombia has been under attack by an armed guerrilla group supported by some members of the Union was not considered relevant to the organization's decision to criticize Colombia for seeking help from Washington. Furthermore, none of the democratic countries in South America, including Brazil, has offered military or even rhetorical support to besieged Colombia.

Another example is Brazil's changing position concerning the importance of democratic governance. Both Brazil and the U.S. initially opposed the Honduran military's removal from office of the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, despite the fact that Mr. Zelaya had violated Honduras's constitution.

Brazil's interest in democracy in Honduras does not, however, extend to Cuba. Only weeks earlier, Brazil voted in the Organization of American States to lift the membership ban on Cuba—a country that has not held a democratic election in 50 years. This decision contradicted the organization's democratic charter.

Brazil also has never tried to mobilize support against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's use of democratic institutions to systematically destroy that country's democracy. On the contrary, Brazil's President Lula da Silva is supporting Venezuela's efforts to join Mercosur (a South American customs union), despite rules that limit membership to democratic countries.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Brazilian President Lula da Silva, right, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
.Finally, there is the issue of Brazil's apparent lack of concern regarding Iran's increasing penetration into Latin America through Venezuela. There are now weekly flights between Caracas and Tehran that bring passengers and cargo into Venezuela without any customs or immigration controls. Venezuela has also signed agreements with Iran for transferring nuclear technology, and there is speculation it is giving Iran access to Venezuelan uranium deposits.

Instead of expressing concern over Iran's activities in Latin America, Brazil is drawing closer to Tehran and hopes to expand its $2 billion bilateral trade to $10 billion in the near future. President Lula recently hosted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Brazil. He reiterated his support for Iran's right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful uses, while insisting that there is no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

Several conclusions can be drawn from Brazil's behavior. First, Brazil wants to prevent the U.S. from expanding its military involvement in South America, which Brazil regards as its sphere of influence. Second, Brazil much prefers working within multilateral institutions, rather than acting unilaterally.

Within these institutions, Brazil seeks to integrate all regional players, achieve consensus and avoid conflict and fragmentation—all worthy goals. But these are procedural, rather than substantive, goals.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.Stated differently, Brazil's multilateral efforts in the region seem to value the appearance of leadership over finding real solutions to the growing political and security threats facing Latin America. These conclusions do not imply that the U.S. and Brazil have no overlapping interests, or that they cannot work together to solve particular regional or even global issues. They do mean Washington may need to rethink its assumptions regarding the extent to which Brazil can be relied on to deal with political and security problems in Latin America in ways that are also compatible with U.S. interests.

Ms. Purcell is the director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.
28747  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: NK collapse? on: January 04, 2010, 11:19:47 AM
By PETER M. BECK
North Korea's nuclear program has preoccupied foreign policy makers for years, but it's not the only problem on the Korean Peninsula. Kim Jong Il's regime looks increasingly unstable and could collapse. That could lead to North Korea's reunification with the South and could present foreign leaders with the expensive task of modernizing the North's economy.

There are three plausible scenarios for a Korean reunification. One would be sudden and bloodless like what Germany experienced. The worst would be a reunification marked by the kind of violence Vietnam suffered. The third is somewhere between the first two and akin to the chaotic post-Communist transitions of Romania and Albania.

Any one of these outcomes would be expensive. The North's economy is in shambles. It collapsed in the 1990s amid a famine that likely killed hundreds of thousands of people. Fixing the economy will require new infrastructure, starting with the power grid, railway lines and ports. This alone will cost tens of billions of dollars. Few of the North's factories meet modern standards and it will take years to rehabilitate agricultural lands. The biggest expense of all will be equalizing North Koreans' incomes with their richer cousins in the South, whether through aid transfers or investments in education and health care.

Even the best-case German model will cause South Koreans heartburn. Despite the $2 trillion West Germany has paid over two decades, Bonn had it relatively easy in the beginning. East Germany's population was only one-quarter of West Germany's, and in 1989 East German per capita income was one-third of the West's. The two Germanies also had extensive trade ties.

North Korea's per capita income is less than 5% of the South's. Each year the dollar value of South Korea's GDP expansion equals the entire North Korean economy. The North's population is half the South's and rising thanks to a high birth rate. North and South also barely trade with each other. To catch up to the South, North Korea will need more resources than East Germany required if living standards on both sides of the peninsula are to be close to each other.

More than a dozen reports by governments, academics and investment banks in recent years have attempted to estimate the cost of Korean unification. At the low end, the Rand Corporation estimates $50 billion. But that assumes only a doubling of Northern incomes from current levels, which would leave incomes in the North at less than 10% of the South.

At the high end, Credit Suisse estimated last year that unification would cost $1.5 trillion, but with North Korean incomes rising to only 60% of those in the South. I estimate that raising Northern incomes to 80% of Southern levels—which would likely be a political necessity—would cost anywhere from $2 trillion to $5 trillion, spread out over 30 years. That would work out to at least $40,000 per capita if distributed solely among South Koreans.

Who would foot such a bill? China is the greatest supporter of the current regime in Pyongyang, with trade, investment and economic assistance worth $3 billion a year. Even if that flow continues, it's only a fraction of the $67 billion a year needed to equal $2 trillion over 30 years. Japan is willing to pay $10 billion in reparations for having colonized the North in the 20th century, but that too would barely make a dent.

That leaves international institutions like the World Bank as well as South Korea and the United States. Building a modern economy in North Korea would be a wise investment in peace and prosperity in North Asia. Policy makers need to think about where that money will come from and how it should be spent to minimize the risk of wasting it in post-reunification confusion.

Mr. Beck is the Pantech Research Fellow at Stanford University and teaches at American University and Ewha Womans University.
28748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2006: Napolitano on the Patriot Act on: January 04, 2010, 11:06:41 AM
I am in a conversation wherein someone has asserted the following article.  Is the article sound or not?  Why?  Thanks for the help:
=========================
Congress Has Assaulted Our Freedoms in the Patriot Act

by Andrew P. Napolitano



The compromise version of the Patriot Act to which House and Senate conferees agreed last week and for which the House voted yesterday is an unforgivable assault on basic American values and core constitutional liberties. Unless amended in response to the courageous efforts of a few dozen senators from both parties, the new Patriot Act will continue to give federal agents the power to write their own search warrants – the statute’s newspeak terminology calls them "national security letters" – and serve them on a host of persons and entities that regularly gather and store sensitive, private information on virtually every American.

Congress once respected the Fourth Amendment until it began cutting holes in it. Before Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1977, Americans and even non-citizens physically present here enjoyed the right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. That Amendment, which was written out of a revulsion to warrants that let British soldiers look for any tangible thing anywhere they chose, specifically requires that the government demonstrate to a judge and the judge specifically find the existence of probable cause of criminal activity on the part of the person whose property the government wishes to search. The Fourth Amendment commands that only a judge can authorize a search warrant.

FISA unconstitutionally changed the probable cause of criminality requirement to probable cause of employment by a foreign government, hostile or friendly. Under FISA, if the government can demonstrate the foreign agency or employment status of the person whose things it wishes to search, the secret FISA court will issue the search warrant.

But even FISA respects constitutional liberty, since it prohibits prosecutions based on evidence obtained from these warrants. Thus, if a FISA warrant reveals that the embassy janitor is really a spy who beats his wife, he would not and could not be prosecuted for either crime because the evidence of his crimes was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a judicial finding of probable cause of criminal activity. Instead of being prosecuted, he would be deported.

A year later in 1978, cutting yet another hole in the Fourth Amendment, Congress revealed its distaste for fidelity to the Constitution and its ignorance of the British government’s abuse of the colonists by enacting the Orwellian–named, Right to Financial Privacy Act. This statute, for the first time in American history, let federal agents write their own search warrants, but limited the subjects of those warrants to financial institutions. Just like FISA, it recognized the unconstitutional nature of evidence obtained by a self-written search warrant, and banned the use of such evidence in criminal prosecutions.

In 1986, Congress continued to cut. It disregarded yet again the Fourth Amendment’s protection of privacy when it enacted the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which allowed federal agents to serve self-written search warrants on collectors of digital financial data, but continued to recognize that evidence thus obtained was constitutionally incompetent for criminal prosecution purposes.

The deepest cut came on October 15, 2001 when Congress enacted the Patriot Act. With minimal floor debate in the Senate and no floor debate in the House (House members were given only 30 minutes to read the 315 page bill), Congress enacted this most unpatriotic rejection of privacy and constitutional guarantees. Together with its offspring the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal 2004 and the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004, the Patriot Act not only permits the execution of self-written search warrants on a host of new subjects, it rejects the no-criminal-prosecution protections of its predecessors by requiring evidence obtained contrary to the Fourth Amendment to be turned over to prosecutors and mandating that such evidence is constitutionally competent in criminal prosecutions.

The new version of the Patriot Act which the Senate will debate this weekend purports to make all of this congressional rejection of our history, our values, and our Constitution the law of the land.

So, if your representative in the House has voted, or your Senators do vote, for the House/Senate conference approved version, they will be authorizing federal agents on their own, in violation of the Constitution, and without you knowing it, to obtain records about you from your accountant, bank, boat dealer, bodega, book store, car dealer, casino, computer server, credit union, dentist, HMO, hospital, hotel manager, insurance company, jewelry store, lawyer, library, pawn broker, pharmacist, physician, postman, real estate agent, supermarket, tax collectors, telephone company, travel agency, and trust company, and use the evidence thus obtained in any criminal prosecution against you.

Why would Congress, whose members swore to uphold the Constitution, authorize such a massive evasion of it by the federal agents we have come to rely upon to protect our freedoms? Why would Congress nullify the Fourth Amendment–guaranteed right to privacy for which we and our forbearers have fought and paid dearly? How could the men and women we elect to fortify our freedoms and write our laws so naïvely embrace the less-freedom-equals-more-security canard? Why have we fought for 230 years to keep foreign governments from eviscerating our freedoms if we will voluntarily let our own government do so?

The unfortunate answer to these questions is the inescapable historical truth that those in government – from both parties and with a few courageous exceptions – do not feel constrained by the Constitution. They think they can do whatever they want. They have hired vast teams of government lawyers to twist and torture the plain meaning of the Fourth Amendment to justify their aggrandizement of power to themselves. They vote for legislation they have not read and do not understand. Their only fear is being overruled by judges. In the case of the Patriot Act, they should be afraid. The federal judges who have published opinions on the challenges to it have all found it constitutionally flawed.

The Fourth Amendment worked for 200 years to facilitate law enforcement and protect constitutional freedoms before Congress began to cut holes in it. Judges sit in every state in the Union 24/7 to hear probable cause applications for search warrants. There is simply no real demonstrable evidence that our American-value-driven-constitutional-privacy-protection-system is in need of such a radical change.

A self-written search warrant, even one called a national security letter, is the ultimate constitutional farce. What federal agents would not authorize themselves to seize whatever they wished? Why even bother with such a meaningless requirement? We might as well let the feds rummage through any office, basement, computer, or bedroom they choose. Who would trust government agents with this unfettered unreviewable power? The Framers did not. Why would government agents bother going to a judge with probable cause seeking a search warrant if they can simply write their own? Big Brother must have caught on because federal agents have written and executed self-written search warrants on over 120,000 unsuspecting Americans since October 2001.

Is this the society we want? Have we ultimately elected a government to spy on all of us? The Fourth Amendment is the lynchpin of our personal privacy and individual dignity. Without the Fourth Amendment’s protections, we will become another East Germany. The Congress must recognize this before it is too late.

December 16, 2005

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel, and the author of Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws.
28749  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The biggest losers on: January 04, 2010, 10:36:45 AM
Happy New Year, readers, but before we get on with the debates of 2010, there's still some ugly 2009 business to report: To wit, the Treasury's Christmas Eve taxpayer massacre lifting the $400 billion cap on potential losses for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the limits on what the failed companies can borrow.

The Treasury is hoping no one notices, and no wonder. Taxpayers are continuing to buy senior preferred stock in the two firms to cover their growing losses—a combined $111 billion so far. When Treasury first bailed them out in September 2008, Congress put a $200 billion limit ($100 billion each) on federal assistance. Last year, the Treasury raised the potential commitment to $400 billion. Now the limit on taxpayer exposure is, well, who knows?

The firms have made clear that they may only be able to pay the preferred dividends they owe taxpayers by borrowing still more money . . . from taxpayers. Said Fannie Mae in its most recent quarterly report: "We expect that, for the foreseeable future, the earnings of the company, if any, will not be sufficient to pay the dividends on the senior preferred stock. As a result, future dividend payments will be effectively funded from equity drawn from the Treasury."

The loss cap is being lifted because the government has directed both companies to pursue money-losing strategies by modifying mortgages to prevent foreclosures. Most of their losses are still coming from subprime and Alt-A mortgage bets made during the boom, but Fannie reported last quarter that loan modifications resulted in $7.7 billion in losses, up from $2.2 billion the previous quarter.

The government wants taxpayers to think that these are profit-seeking companies being nursed back to health, like AIG. But at least AIG is trying to make money. Fan and Fred are now designed to lose money, transferring wealth from renters and homeowners to overextended borrowers.

Even better for the political class, much of this is being done off the government books. The White House budget office still doesn't fully account for Fannie and Freddie's spending as federal outlays, though Washington controls the companies. Nor does it include as part of the national debt the $5 trillion in mortgages—half the market—that the companies either own or guarantee. The companies have become Washington's ultimate off-balance-sheet vehicles, the political equivalent of Citigroup's SIVs, that are being used to subsidize and nationalize mortgage finance.

This subterfuge also explains the Christmas Eve timing. After December 31, Team Obama would have needed the consent of Congress to raise the taxpayer exposure beyond $400 billion. By law, negative net worth at the companies forces them into "receivership," which means they have to be wound down.

Unlimited bailouts will now allow the Treasury to keep them in conservatorship, which means they can help to conserve the Democratic majority in Congress by increasing their role in housing finance. With the Federal Reserve planning to step back as early as March from buying $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, Team Obama is counting on Fan and Fred to help reflate the housing bubble.

That's why on Christmas Eve Treasury also rolled back a key requirement of the 2008 bailout—that Fan and Fred begin shrinking the portfolios of mortgages they own on their own account, which total a combined $1.5 trillion. Risk-taking will now increase, so that the government can once again follow Barney Frank's infamous advice that the companies "roll the dice" on subsidies for affordable housing.

All of which would seem to make the CEOs of Fannie and Freddie the world's most overpaid bureaucrats. A release from the Federal Housing Finance Agency that also fell in the Christmas Eve forest reports that, after presiding over a combined $24 billion in losses last quarter, Fannie CEO Michael Williams and Freddie boss Ed Haldeman are getting substantial raises. Each is now eligible for up to $6 million annually.

Freddie also has one of the world's highest-paid human resources executives. Paul George's total compensation can run up to $2.7 million. It must require a rare set of skills to spot executives capable of losing billions of dollars.

Where is Treasury's pay czar when we actually need him? You guessed it, Fannie and Freddie are exempt from the rules applied to the TARP banks. The government gave away the game that these firms are no longer in the business of making profits when it announced that the CEOs will be paid entirely in cash, though it is discouraging that practice at other big banks. Who would want stock in the Department of Housing and Urban Development?

Meanwhile, these biggest of Beltway losers continue to be missing from the debate over financial reform. The Treasury still hasn't offered its long-promised proposals even as it presses reform on banks that played a far smaller role in the financial mania and panic. Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) and ranking Republican Richard Shelby recently issued a joint statement on their "progress" toward financial regulatory reform, but their list of goals also doesn't mention Fannie or Freddie.

Since Mr. Shelby has long argued for reform of these government-sponsored enterprises, their absence suggests that Mr. Dodd's longtime effort to protect Fan and Fred is once again succeeding. It would be worse than a shame if, having warned about the iceberg for years, Mr. Shelby now joins Mr. Dodd in pretending that these ships aren't sinking.

In today's Washington, we suppose, it only makes sense that the companies that did the most to cause the meltdown are being kept alive to lose even more money. The politicians have used the panic as an excuse to reform everything but themselves.
28750  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iran expands its target list on: January 04, 2010, 10:34:12 AM
By TIMOTHY J. GERAGHTY
The nagging question of the nuclear age has been what if a madman gets hold of an atomic bomb? That question is about to be answered as Iran's defiance puts it on a collision course with the West.

On Nov. 4, 2009, Israeli commandos intercepted an Antiguan-flagged ship 100 miles off the Israeli coast. It was carrying hundreds of tons of weapons from Iran and bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Since the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war, Iran has rearmed Hezbollah with 40,000 rockets and missiles that will likely rain on Israeli cities—and even European cities and U.S. military bases in the Middle East—if Iran is attacked. Our 200,000 troops in 33 bases are vulnerable. Shortly before this weapons seizure, Hamas test-fired a missile capable of striking Israel's largest city, Tel Aviv.

Iran is capable of disrupting Persian Gulf shipping lanes, which could cause the price of oil to surge above $300 a barrel. Iran could also create mayhem in oil markets by attacking Saudi oil refineries. Moreover, Iran possesses Soviet made SS-N-22 "Sunburn" supersonic antiship missiles that it could use to contest a naval blockade.

Iran could unleash suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan or, more ominously, activate Hezbollah sleeper cells in the U.S. to carry out coordinated attacks nationwide. FBI, CIA and other U.S. officials have acknowledged in congressional testimony that Hezbollah has a working partnership with Mexican drug cartels and has been using cartel smuggling routes to get personnel and contraband into the U.S.

While Iranian centrifuges continue to produce low-enriched uranium, the mullahs and their henchmen have been carrying out a campaign of deception. In October 2009, Iran rejected a plan to ship its low-enriched uranium out of country, primarily to Russia and France, to be highly enriched and then sent back to Iran for "peaceful medical purposes."

On Nov. 28, 2009, reacting to increased pressure from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran warned it may pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This would seriously undermine international attempts to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. Two days later, Iran announced plans to build 10 new nuclear plants within six years.

In another sphere, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are openly cooperating to "oppose world hegemony," as Mr. Ahmadinejan has said, while weekly flights between Iran and Venezuela are not monitored for personnel and cargo. Meanwhile, Russia is building an arms plant in Venezuela to produce AK-103 automatic rifles and finalizing contracts to send 53 military helicopters to the country.

I have seen this play before. In 1983, I was the Marine commander of the U.S. Multinational Peacekeeping Force in Beirut, Lebanon. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Lebanon contingent trained and equipped Hezbollah to execute attacks that killed 241 of my men and 58 French Peacekeepers on Oct. 23, 1983.

Today, Hezbollah directly threatens Israel, destabilizes Lebanon, and undercuts the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords. Something similar is underway in Venezuela. Remember Hezbollah used the Beirut truck-bomb model for the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires on March 17, 1992 and the July 18, 1994 attack on the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association that killed 85 and wounded 200.

The man directly responsible for those bombings was the commander of the IRGC's Quds Force, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi. He is listed on Interpol's most wanted list and was a key operative in the 1983 attacks on peacekeepers in Lebanon. In August 2009, he was named Iran's minister of defense. He succeeded Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, who was the commander of the IRGC Lebanon contingent and the chief organizer of the 1983 Beirut bombings. Both have Beirut peacekeepers' blood on their hands and are the same key leaders who today are orchestrating Iranian deception and defiance as they march lock-step toward their ultimate goal—nuclear weapons.

Col. Geraghty, USMC (Ret.), is the author of "Peacekeepers at War; Beirut 1983—The Marine Commander Tells His Story" (Potomac Books, 2009).
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