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28701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: March 06, 2009, 10:17:50 AM
Obama funds $20M tax payer dollars to immigrate Hamas Refugees to the USA

This is the news that didn't make the headlines...

By executive order, President Barack Obama has ordered the expenditure of $20.3 million in migration assistance to the Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza. The "presidential determination" which allows hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with ties to Hamas to resettle in the United States was signed on January 27 and appeared in the Federal Register on February 4th.

Few on Capitol Hill took note that the order provides a free ticket replete with housing and food allowances to individuals who have displayed their overwhelming support of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in the parliamentary election of January 2006.

Now we learn that he is allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refuges to move to and live in the US at American taxpayer expense.

To verify for yourself:
28702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Risks to travel in Mexico on: March 06, 2009, 08:31:41 AM
Mexico: Spring Break Travel and Security Risks
Stratfor Today » March 5, 2009 | 1257 GMT

A Mexican federal police officer at a checkpoint in the resort city of AcapulcoSummary
As spring break season approaches, warnings about travel to Mexico invite a closer look at security in the country’s popular resort cities.

On March 2, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives became the latest government agency to release an alert warning citizens of the risks associated with visiting Mexico. In previous weeks, the U.S. State Department and the Canadian foreign affairs department also have issued travel alerts, and several American universities have urged their students to avoid visiting Mexico during the spring break season.

The impetus for these warnings, of course, is the continuously deteriorating security situation in Mexico created by ongoing drug cartel violence and the government’s response. On one hand, the bulk of this violence is concentrated in specific areas far from the country’s coastal resort towns, and thousands of foreign tourists visit the country each year, encountering at most only minor security issues. On the other hand, organized crime-related violence is extremely widespread in Mexico, and there are few places in the country that do not carry significant security risks. Firefights between soldiers and cartel gunmen armed with assault rifles have erupted without warning in small mountain villages and in large cities like Monterrey, as well as in resort towns like Acapulco and Cancun. In addition, it is important to understand the risks associated with traveling to a country that is engaged in ongoing counternarcotics operations involving thousands of military and law enforcement personnel.

While there are important differences among the security environments in Mexico’s various resort areas, as well as between the resort towns and other parts of Mexico, there also are some security generalizations that can be made about the entire country. For one, Mexico’s reputation for crime and kidnapping is well-deserved, and locals and foreigners alike often become victims of assault, express kidnappings and other crimes. Further complicating the situation is the fact that the general decline in law and order, combined with large-scale counternarcotics operations that occupy the bulk of Mexico’s federal forces, has created an environment in which criminals not associated with the drug trade can flourish. Carjackings and highway robberies in particular have become increasingly common in Mexican cities along the U.S. border and elsewhere in the country — an important risk to weigh for anyone considering driving through the area.

Other security risks in the country come from the security services themselves. When driving, it is important to pay attention to the military-manned highway roadblocks and checkpoints that are established to screen vehicles for drugs or illegal immigrants. On several occasions, the police officers and soldiers manning these checkpoints have opened fire on innocent vehicles that failed to follow instructions at the checkpoints, which are often not well-marked. In addition, Mexico continues to face rampant police corruption problems that do not appear to be improving, meaning visitors should not be surprised to come across police officers who are expecting a bribe or are even involved in kidnapping-for-ransom gangs.

Along with the beautiful beaches that attract foreign tourists, many well-known Mexican coastal resort towns also offer port facilities that have long played strategic roles in the country’s drug trade. Drug traffickers have used both legitimate commercial ships as well as fishing boats and other surface vessels to carry shipments of cocaine from South America to Mexico. In addition, many drug cartels have often relied on hotels and resorts to launder drug proceeds. Because of the importance of these facilities, drug-trafficking organizations generally seek to limit violence in such resort towns — not only to protect existing infrastructure there, but also to avoid the attention that violence affecting wealthy foreign tourists would draw.

But despite the cartels’ best intentions, there remains great potential for violence in many of these resort areas. For one, the Mexican government occasionally conducts arrests and raids against suspected drug traffickers in resort cities, and it is all too common for these criminals — armed with assault rifles and grenades — to violently resist capture, sometimes leading to protracted firefights and pursuits throughout the town. Second, many of these areas are disputed territory for the country’s warring cartels, and these ongoing turf battles can easily get out of hand. In either case, collateral damage to innocent bystanders is a very real possibility, as two Canadian tourists discovered in Acapulco in February 2007 when they were wounded during a drive-by shooting.

While security issues are a concern in almost every area of Mexico, the various coastal resort communities have unique characteristics that influence the type of crime and cartel activity seen there.

Cancun has historically been an important port of entry for South American drugs transiting Mexico on their way to the United States. It traditionally has been an operating area for the Gulf cartel and its former enforcement arm, Los Zetas. Today, Zeta activity in the area remains very high, though drug flow through the region has tapered off as aerial and maritime trafficking have decreased. Consequently, the Zetas operating in the area have branched out to other criminal enterprises, such as alien smuggling, extortion and kidnapping. There also have been suggestions that many members of the Cancun city police have been on the Zeta payroll; these rumors surfaced after the February assassination of a retired army general on charges that he was involved in the killing. These developments brought new federal attention to the city, including rumors that the federal government planned to deploy additional military troops to the region to investigate the local police and conduct counternarcotics operations. Few, if any, additional troops have been sent to Cancun, but ongoing shake-ups in the law enforcement community there have only added to the area’s volatility.

Along with Cancun, Acapulco has been one of Mexico’s more violent resort cities during the last few years of the cartel wars. Rival drug cartels have battled police and each other within the city as well as in nearby towns. The nearby resort town of Zihuatanejo, for example, recently experienced a police strike after several officers there were targeted in a series of grenade attacks in February. Suspected drug traffickers continue to attack police in Zihuatanejo, and at least six officers have been killed within the past week.

Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta’s location on the Pacific coast makes it strategically important to trafficking groups that send and receive maritime shipments of South American drugs and Chinese ephedra, a precursor chemical used in the production of methamphetamine, much of which is produced in the surrounding areas of the nearby city of Guadalajara. It is believed that several of Mexico’s largest and most powerful drug cartels maintain a presence in Puerto Vallarta and the nearby municipality of Jarretaderas for the purposes of drug trafficking. Despite this presence, however, incidents of cartel violence in Puerto Vallarta are relatively low. Threats from kidnapping gangs or other criminal groups are also lower in this resort city than in the rest of the country, and, like elsewhere, there is no indication that Americans or other international tourists are specifically targeted.

Mazatlan, located just a few hundred miles north of Puerto Vallarta, has been perhaps the most consistently violent of Mexico’s resort cities during the past few months. It is located in Sinaloa state, one of the country’s most violent areas, and the bodies of victims of drug cartels or kidnapping gangs appear on the streets there on a weekly basis. As in other areas, there is no evidence that the violence in Mazatlan is directed against foreign tourists, but the sheer level of violence means the potential for collateral damage is high.

Cabo San Lucas
Located on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, Cabo San Lucas has been relatively insulated from the country’s drug-related violence and can be considered one of the safer places in Mexico for foreign tourists. Although historically it has been a stop on the cocaine trafficking routes, Cabo San Lucas’ strategic importance decreased dramatically after the late 1990s as the Tijuana cartel lost its contacts with Colombian cocaine suppliers. As a result, the presence of drug traffickers in the area has been limited over the last five years. That said, it is still part of Mexico, and the city experiences problems with crime — including organized crime and kidnappings. Within the last year, for example, police have dismantled at least two kidnapping gangs in Cabo San Lucas, and in nearby La Paz, the son of a local airline owner was shot to death by several men armed with assault rifles
28703  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: March 06, 2009, 08:06:29 AM
 huh huh huh
28704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan; Jefferson; Madison; Washington; Madison; Jefferson on: March 06, 2009, 07:42:01 AM
Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed ... or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment." --Ronald Reagan
"War is not the best engine for us to resort to; nature has given us one in our commerce, which if properly managed, will be a better instrument for obliging the interested nations of Europe to treat us with justice."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Pickney, 29 May 1797
"[C]ommercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive and impolitic. ...f industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out."

--James Madison, speech to Congress, 9 April 1789

"I think all the world would gain by setting commerce at perfect liberty."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, 7 July 1785

"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course."

--George Washington, Farewell Address, 19 September 1796
"A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species." --James Madison


"The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. ... I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere." --Thomas Jefferson

28705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bush and BO as CIC on: March 05, 2009, 04:40:31 PM
Second post of the afternoon:
28706  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: The Triumph of Banality on: March 05, 2009, 03:48:08 PM
March 4, 2009
The Triumph of Banality
Obama didn't invent dishonesty in political discourse — but he has a talent for it.
by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online

One of the most tired rhetorical tropes in Washington starts with, “We must . . . ” In the age of Obama, this is now usually followed by “Get the cost of our health care under control,” or “Invest in the education of our youth,” or “Spend wisely.” Such promises usually devolve into pleas for more money. They rarely explore how we ended up in the first place with such severe crises in health care and education — and with trillions in borrowing to spend trillions more that we do not have.

The cost of health care is spiraling out of control, and not just because the proverbial evil “they” (fill in the blank: pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, medical corporations, trial lawyers, etc.) charge too much. Such profit-mongering entities may well gouge us, owing to a lack of competition, fear of lawsuits, or government mandates and interference. Yet the larger culprit is, of course, we the people. The cost of our health care is soaring because, to be frank, that health care is usually very good, and it does things routinely that almost no one else in the world contemplates — such as providing 83-year-olds with heart-valve replacements, 78-year-olds with hip and knee replacements, and those who drink, smoke, and are chronically obese with drugs and weekly doctor visits.

When I grew up in rural California in the 1960s, an obese uncle in his early 70s had “heart trouble.” That translated into some nitroglycerin tablets, and otherwise about the same regimen offered President Eisenhower after his in-office heart attack: Try to quit smoking, eat less, more bed rest — and good luck!

Forty years later, that same patient would have a bypass, and an expensive battery of medications and weekly follow-up doctor visits — and would make it not to 73 years old (as my uncle was when he died), but to 78 or 80, or even 90.

If we wish to get health-care costs under control, then we should at least be honest with the American people and admit that we are all paying a collective fortune largely for three reasons: (1) to keep functioning into their 60s those who drank, smoked, and ate too much and in a past era would have passed on at 60; (2) to give us all an extra three to five years of mobility and functionality after we reach 75; (3) to fit us up with IVs, feeding tubes, and respirators so that in our last six months of life we can die in a rest home or among machines and specialists in a hospital rather than in our own home with a few morphine tablets for pain and a bowl of soup with a straw on the nightstand.

My dentist warned me in 1962 to brush three times a day, since he could predict a depressing train of events to come for most of the more fortunate rural patients who could pay for his care: surely fillings in your 20s and 30s, hopefully caps in your 40s, maybe root canals and crowns in your 50s, and, unfortunately, false teeth after that. And now? We confidently expect all sorts of restorative dentistry and tooth implants to such a degree that the old common sight of a normal American middle-class fellow with a couple of missing teeth or even a shiny, crass glistening gold incisor is now the exception.

Again, health care is expensive because Americans, with some good reason, have decided that the ancient tragic view — we all age and break down, and pay for the sins of our 20s and 30s in our 50s and 60s — can at last be replaced by the therapeutic promise of vigor and health into our 80s.

What could be done? President Obama could try some honesty. Thus he might say, “We are spending hundreds of billions to keep us healthy, vital, and alive in ways unimaginable a few years ago. To keep our part of the bargain, we must then encourage the aging to remain active and working — and delay retirement. If we are living to 80 rather than 65, then surely we can start receiving Social Security benefits at 67 rather than at 62. What we save in postponed payouts can go to the greater cost of keeping us alive to 80.”

President Obama also promises historic new rates of high-school and college graduation. Again, he seems to think the present problem is the absence of money — as if brilliant, gifted, and motivated young people are ending up at McDonald’s rather than doing quantum physics because the bogeymen “they” raised the bar and didn’t give them enough college scholarship support.

More banality. The truth is quite different. First, too many of contemporary minority youth — the growing Hispanic and African-American underclass that may well soon make up 40 percent of our nation’s student body — for a variety of reasons beyond the government’s control (e.g., from inordinate patterns of illegitimacy; greater absence of two-parent families; above-average parental drug use, incarceration rates, and felony convictions; and a pervasive ethic of machismo that disdains “acting white” with your nose in a book), simply are not as competitive as other students in grade and high schools. In reaction, the good-hearted state, at the 11th hour of college entry, seeks to ensure an equality of result through affirmative action, set-asides, de facto quotas, and government subsidies. When poorly prepped minority students subsequently do not graduate from college at rates commensurate with other groups, the Left cries “racism” — and we are again back to asking for more money rather than a radical change of heart.

President Obama apparently cannot say, “Americans — each time you have a child out of wedlock, each time you take an illicit drug, each time you break the law or go to jail, each time you romanticize brutality rather than honor scholarship, each time you allege the racism of the others rather than look into your own soul, you do your own small part in ensuring that we might not educate your child as we should — no matter how many thousands of dollars we lavish upon him.”

Second, for all American youth, too much government money, not too little, is pouring into education. From some 20 years’ experience in higher public education in California, I have come to know a familiar student profile:

Age: 18–30
Units enrolled: 6–9
Residence: Still at home
Job: 20 hours a week at minimum wage to pay for car, insurance, video games, entertainment incidentals (but not rent, food, laundry, etc.)
Major: Either undeclared or changing
Goal: Return to school every other semester, work part-time, party, and put off becoming autonomous

Such students, in today’s grade-inflated university, are able to get Cs and Bs for F and D work, to cobble together state and federal loans, student work assistance, and grants — and to delay growing up while they sleepwalk through a largely therapeutic curriculum. Eric Holder may call us cowards for not discussing race more openly, but if he were to examine the current class offerings at a California public university, or read the syllabi of the courses, he would quickly discover that race, class, and gender are the common themes — an approach designed to encourage grievance and separatism, which consumes precious student hours at the expense of real learning in the liberal arts and hard sciences.

If President Obama is serious about education, then he might also remonstrate with universities to bare their books, keep their costs below the rate of inflation, mandate a cutoff of student support after four years, insist that the BA or BS degree be contingent on some sort of final exit examination, re-examine tenure — and invest in vocational and trade schools rather than continue subsidizing community-studies, sociology, education, and physical-education degrees. One brilliant plumber, gifted carpenter, or adept auto mechanic does more for the American economy (and our collective values) than a dozen 20-something sociology majors in progress.

All government officials talk of spending wisely, but they never tell us the true extent of their financial malfeasance. Imagine if last week, in his address to Congress, President Obama had said something like the following: “We must cut spending, since the borrowed money must come from somewhere. Either we print more paper dollars, and eventually ruin the value of our currency in the manner now common in Zimbabwe or Argentina; or we continue to borrow from the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans, and therefore mortgage both our honor and our autonomy; or, in the manner of War Bonds during the Second World War, we will have to ask you all to forgo stocks, 401(k)s, and real-estate investments, and instead each month, as part of your patriotic duty, buy U.S. government savings bonds that garner almost no interest, to subsidize our nation’s lavish borrowing and spending.”

Only that way could we have an honest national debate on whether the proposed high-speed rail between Vegas and LA is worth making Americans soon pay $10 for a Big Mac; or whether federally subsidized community organizing justifies more begging for help from the Communist government in Beijing; or whether we would all like to accept 0.05 interest on our government bonds to finance the mortgage bailout of those in arrears on their home debt.

In short, for each word devoted to spending, we need one word of honest exegesis about “paying for it.”

For the last 20 years, all our presidents have talked much about health care, education, and spending, while saying little. Either they were not honest enough to tell us the truth — or they were convinced that, like children, we simply couldn’t handle it if they did.

©2009 Victor Davis Hanson
28707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 05, 2009, 11:33:53 AM

Beautiful.  One last request.  What is the URL of the clip itself?

Thank you.

28708  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 05, 2009, 01:08:52 AM

Thank you for the piece on spinal stenosis.  My sense of it is that is exactly why it is important that the femurs be balanced between internal and external, the hip flexors be released, and the hips be balanced.   I suspect in a large % of cases that sustained tension from the flexors contribute mightily to the stenosis.

Am I missing something here?
28709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: March 05, 2009, 01:05:30 AM
Thank you Rachel.  I like this one too.

Reminds me of a Jewish joke about an old man who has spent his life following all the little rules as specified in the Torah.  Every he prays morning and evening for God's assistance, but his life his for excrement.  His wife a shrew, his sons bums, the daughters unmarried etc etc.  Imagine a good Jewish joke well told here.

His neighbor is everything he is not.  Follows virtually none of the rules, never prays, etc and his life is great.  A beautiful wife who loves him, many children and grandchildren, all of them happy and productive, etc etc.

Finally one day as the old man is praying once again asking for help, he gets mad and angrily demands an explanation from God for all this.  He runs through the list of what he has done and how much he has prayed to God and contrasts his neighbor and their respective results.  In conclusion he shouts "God!  I want to know why!"

God answers him.  He says "Because you noodge (sp?) too much."

28710  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: March 05, 2009, 12:29:38 AM
"I suppose, and I can't discern if it's inflation adjusted either."

Umm , , , as best as I can tell, that is another way of saying the same thing smiley

Its a pet peeve of mine.
28711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor:Russia's Sleight of Hand on: March 05, 2009, 12:27:33 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia's Sleight of Hand
March 4, 2009
Speaking at a press conference in Madrid on Tuesday, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said that it was “not productive” to link talks over a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Europe with the perceived security threat from Iran, as proposed by Washington.

The topic came up as Medvedev spoke alongside Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at a press conference about a number of unrelated topics. The question he was responding to seemed to come out of left field, suggesting that the Kremlin planted the question, and perhaps the journalist. The question concerned a secret letter exchange between U.S. President Barack Obama and Medvedev — an exchange that was made public on Tuesday after a leak to The New York Times.

For the Russians, a quid pro quo on BMD and Iran is simply unacceptable. It isn’t because the Russians have heightened sensibilities — they are the masters of linking otherwise unrelated topics together for discussion and action — but because they are thinking much bigger these days. They want a grand bargain with the Americans, and they want it now.

Ever since it became clear in late 2003 that the war in Iraq would serve as more of a sandbag than a springboard for U.S. policy, the Russians have enjoyed the light streaming through a window of opportunity. Pretty much all U.S. ground forces are spoken for by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if both wars were declared over today, it would be more than two years before all forces could be withdrawn, rested and re-equipped for future deployments. U.S. expeditionary capability is currently limited to the Air Force and naval aviation – tools that are hardly small fry, especially when you are on the receiving end, but which are not particularly useful for blocking Russian moves in states that were part of the Soviet Union, like Ukraine or Georgia. Blocking such actions can be done only with ground forces, and those forces simply are not available right now.

Thus, from the Russian perspective, the time to negotiate with the Americans about the broad spectrum of relations is now. They do not want a short list of quid pro quo arrangements that will let the Americans push off the bigger issues until another day. They want everything — and they mean everything — settled now, when their power is at a relative high compared to that of the United States.

The Russians do not want a simple rejiggering of existing disarmament treaties; they want fundamentally new ones that extend the current nuclear parity with the United States, codifying it to the finest detail possible. They want to shoot down the plans for BMD, a technology that one day could render the Russian nuclear deterrent obsolete. They want the United States to publicly recognize Russian dominance throughout the former Soviet Union, and — again, publicly — put an end to Western military, political and economic encroachment into Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Central Asia.

Part of the ability to get such a grand bargain at such a fortuitous time, of course, rests in the ability to convince the other side that your own tools are even more robust than they may seem. You must convince the other side your rise to power is inevitable. It comes to shaping perceptions, and in this the Russians are peerless.

Remember Cold War propaganda? It was certainly on parade in Spain, not just in the shaping of a press conference where the quid pro quo comments garnered such attention, but in a phalanx of “deals” that the Russian delegation signed.

Most notable was a supposedly ironclad natural gas swap deal between state energy firm Gazprom and Spain’s Repsol. Under the deal, Repsol would gain access to Russian production sites in exchange for Russian access to the Spanish retail market. The centerpiece of the agreement involves liquefied natural gas (LNG), which would come from the offshore Shtokman field. Again the message was dramatic: Even European states that do not currently receive Russian energy are lining up to get access! There is one glitch: Shtokman is a pipe dream. Gazprom possesses neither offshore nor LNG expertise. Shtokman will be realized only if Gazprom pays someone to develop it — and that certainly isn’t going to happen during a global credit crunch.

Not to be outdone, the Russian state press had its own response to the New York Times leak on the quid pro quo of BMD for Iran. Editorials expounded that there was no deal to be had because the Russians had already suspended their plans to deploy nuclear-tipped Iskander missiles to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Since the Russians had unilaterally declared this, there was no need for BMD.

This issue is primarily one of fine print. While the Iskanders have been tested, there is no evidence that any have actually been deployed — to Kaliningrad or elsewhere — and even less evidence that the Russians have figured out how to mate a nuclear warhead to the missiles. Put simply, the Russian “concession” sounds great to the untrained ear — no nukes in Europe — but the Iskanders are not yet a reality, let alone a bargaining chip.

Propaganda and disinformation are as much part of Russia’s negotiating package as its nuclear capabilities and Latin American populist movements. Russia never really abandoned the tool, but we haven’t seen such aggressive message-planting for quite some time. Then again, the stakes haven’t been this high in a while.
28712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 04, 2009, 11:00:54 PM
Is there a source or a URL with the datum?  Sorry to be so relentless, but I don't want to get hung out to dry on this one , , ,
28713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: March 04, 2009, 10:59:46 PM
While conceptually the point that there are other variables that the marginal rate is relevant, I agree fully with Doug's point about the pivotal role of the marginal rate.

I too would like to see some examples of some of the data tossed out by JDN e.g. "the actual tax rates paid by US corporations are extraordinarily low, around 6%."

Also, the GAO IMHO is occasionally impartial-- and frequently at key moments does Congress's bidding. 
28714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 04, 2009, 08:44:00 PM
I'd love to spread that around but I know I am going to be asked when Bush was speaking.  Do you have any idea Chad?
28715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran can develop 50 nukes on: March 04, 2009, 08:39:55 PM
second post of the day

Iran can develop a nuclear weapon within a year and has access to enough fissile material to produce up to 50 nuclear weapons, a panel of current and former U.S. officials advising the Obama administration said Wednesday.

By James Rosen
Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Iran can develop a nuclear weapon within a year and has ready access to enough fissile material to produce up to 50 nuclear weapons, according to a panel of current and former U.S. officials advising the Obama administration.

William Schneider, Jr., chairman of the Defense Science Board and a former under secretary of state in the Reagan administration, offered those estimates Wednesday during a news conference announcing the release of a new "Presidential Task Force" report on Iran by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The report, entitled "Preventing a Cascade of Instability: U.S. Engagement to Check Iranian Nuclear Progress," was signed by a team of policymakers, former officials and Iran scholars that included Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind..
Also signing on to the early draft form were two individuals expected to play significant roles in the development of the Obama administration's foreign policy: former Ambassador Dennis Ross, named last month by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a special envoy on the Iran issue, and Robert Einhorn, a former assistant secretary of state who is expected to accept a senior position dealing with non-proliferation issues.

The "cascade" refers to a set of 164 high-speed centrifuges used to enrich uranium to the high levels necessary to produce a nuclear weapon. The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently reported that Iran has enough low enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon, and currently has 5,600 centrifuges operating at its pilot enrichment facility in Natanz. Iran has declared its intention to add another 45,000 centrifuges over the next five years.

But Schneider said Iran has already "perfected the industrial aspects of enriching uranium," and can easily develop a nuclear weapon long before 2014.

"The ability to go from low enriched uranium to highly enriched uranium, especially if [the Iranians] expand the number of centrifuges, would be a relatively brief period of time, perhaps a year or so, before they'd be able to produce a nuclear weapon," Schneider said at the news conference. "So it's not a long-distance kind of problem."

Moreover, Schneider warned that the fundamentalist Islamic regime in Tehran -- which has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and equipped and funded regional terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah -- has access to significant amounts of the raw fissile material that would be the core ingredient in such a nuclear arsenal.

These indigenous natural resources include "yellowcake," the raw uranium ore that is converted to gas and then fed into the cascades of centrifuges. "Iran has enough yellowcake in the country to perhaps produce enough highly enriched uranium, if they go to that length, to produce perhaps fifty nuclear weapons," Schneider said.

Neither of the other two panel members who appeared alongside Schneider at the news conference -- Eugene Habiger, a retried four-star general and former commander in chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, and Nancy Soderberg, a former ambassador to the U.N. and National Security Council staffer during the Clinton administration -- disputed Schneider's claims.
The Washington Instiyute's nine-page report also warned that Israel "may feel compelled" to take military action to try to destroy or retard the Iranian nuclear program if Russia sells the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran.

"Israeli leaders seem convinced that at least for now, they have a military option," the report states.

"However, Israelis see the option fading over the next one to two years, not only because of Iran's nuclear progress and dispersion of its program but also because of improved Iranian air defenses, especially the expected delivery of the S-300. ... Israel therefore may feel compelled to act before the option disappears."

Schneider, who along with Habiger and Soderberg conferred with high-level officials from Israel, Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain during a trip to the Middle East last December, reported that the Israeli military still believes it can hold the Iranian nuclear apparatus "at risk," but will no longer hold that view if Tehran acquires more sophisticated air defense technology from Moscow.
"It is the transfer of the S-300 that is likely to be a trigger for Israeli action," Schneider said. "The time frame is getting compressed and we need to act quickly if we are going to be successful [in resolving the issue peacefully]."

"Time is not on our side," agreed Habiger. "We've been mucking about on this issue for years now."

Habiger and Soderberg said it remains possible for the U.S., by working with Russia, China and Arab allies in the Persian Gulf, to persuade Iran not to obtain a nuclear weapon.

"They are a rational actor," Soderberg said of the Iranian regime. "They are deterrable." If the costs of pursuing the nuclear program are made sufficiently high, the panel said -- particularly through the imposition of sanctions on Iran's oil and gas sector -- Tehran's "cost-benefit analysis" could be changed.

Iran's defense minister visited Moscow last month to press for the Russian state-controlled arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, to sell Iran the S-300 system. Russian officials, at least publicly, were non-committal.
However, Iran signed a $700 million contract with Russia in 2005 to purchase 29 low-to-medium altitude surface-to-air missiles, which were delivered the following year and became operational in early 2007.
28716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Time to defecate or get off the pot on: March 04, 2009, 04:11:24 PM
As a Presidential candidate, Barack Obama called a nuclear Iran "a grave threat" and said "the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." But he also called for direct, high-level talks in the hopes that the mullahs could be persuaded to abandon their nuclear dreams.

APWe've never held out much hope for those talks, which would inevitably be complicated and protracted. Mr. Obama is already trying to lure Russian help on Iran by offering to trade away hard-earned missile defense sites in Eastern Europe. Russia's President claims to be unimpressed. And now it turns out that the rate at which Iran's nuclear programs are advancing may render even negotiations moot.

That's a fair conclusion from the latest report by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency. Among other disclosures, the IAEA found that Iran has produced more than 1,000 kilograms of low enriched uranium (LEU), enough for a single bomb's worth of uranium after further enrichment. The IAEA also found that Iran had underreported its stock of LEU by about 200 kilograms, which took the agency by surprise partly because it only checks Iran's stockpile once a year. This is the basis for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Michael Mullen's weekend acknowledgment that the U.S. believes Iran has enough fissile material to make a bomb.

Iran now possesses 5,600 centrifuges in which it can enrich uranium -- a 34-fold increase from 2006 -- and plans to add 45,000 more over five years. That will give Tehran an ability to make atomic bombs on an industrial scale. Iran has also announced that it plans to begin operating its Russian-built reactor at Bushehr sometime this spring. That reactor's purposes are ostensibly civilian, but it will eventually produce large quantities of spent fuel that can covertly be processed into weapons-usable plutonium.

That's not all. The IAEA says its inspectors have been denied access to a heavy water reactor in Arak, and that Iran has put a roof over the site "rendering impossible the continued use of satellite imagery to monitor further construction inside the reactor building." Most proliferation experts agree that the Arak reactor, scheduled for completion in 2011, can have no purpose other than to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

True to form, Iran continues to deny the IAEA access to other parts of its nuclear programs, including R&D facilities and uranium mines. "Regrettably," says the report, "as a result of the continued lack of cooperation by Iran in connection with the remaining issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme, the Agency has not made any substantive progress on these issues."

Further Reading
Click here to read the IAEA report.
The report contains much more of this. It is the latest in a long line of reports that should have sounded alarms but instead have accustomed the world to conclude that a nuclear Iran is something we'll just have to live with. Well, not the entire world: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned last week that "time is slipping through our fingers" when it comes to stopping Tehran. "What is needed," he added, "is a two-pronged course of action which includes ironclad, strenuous sanctions . . . and a readiness to consider options in the event that these sanctions do not succeed."

Nobody -- Mr. Obama least of all -- can doubt what Mr. Barak means by "options." Nor should the Administration doubt that an Israeli strike, however necessary and justified, could put the U.S. in the middle of a broader Middle East war. If Mr. Obama wants to avoid a security crisis in the first year of his watch, he will have to get serious about Iran now.
28717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: March 04, 2009, 04:04:00 PM
I find the visual presentation quite misleading.  A move from 200 to 400 is 100%, yet shows the same as a move from 1400 to 1600, which is roughly 14.14 %.
28718  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 04, 2009, 08:55:53 AM
Thank you, looking forward to it! cool
28719  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Expecting a deluge of mockery over this BO gem tomorrow? on: March 04, 2009, 12:45:34 AM
Expecting a deluge of MSM mockery over this BO gem tomorrow?

Yeah, right.

"What you’re now seeing is a profit and earnings ratios get to the point that buying stocks is a good thing if you have a long-term perspective on it,” the President said to reporters after meeting in the Oval Office with visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown."
28720  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Poem on: March 03, 2009, 09:02:11 PM
Tax Poem
At first I thought this was funny...then I realized the awful truth of it.
Be sure to read all the way to the end!
Tax his land, 
Tax his bed, 
Tax the table 
At which he's fed. 
Tax his tractor, 
Tax his mule, 
Teach him taxes 
Are the rule. 
Tax his work, 
Tax his pay, 
He works for peanuts 
Tax his cow, 
Tax his goat, 
Tax his pants, 
Tax his coat. 
Tax his ties, 
Tax his shirt, 
Tax his work, 
Tax his dirt. 
Tax his tobacco, 
Tax his drink, 
Tax him if he 
Tries to think.. 
Tax his cigars,   
Tax his beers, 
If he cries 
Tax his tears. 
Tax his car, 
Tax his gas, 
Find other ways 
To tax his ass. 
Tax all he has 
Then let him know 
That you won't be done 
Till he has no dough. 
When he screams and hollers,
Then tax him some more, 
Tax him till 
He's good and sore.. 
Then tax his coffin, 
Tax his grave, 
Tax the sod in 
Which he's laid. 
Put these words 
Upon his tomb, 
'Taxes drove me to my doom...' 
When he's gone, 
Do not relax, 
Its time to apply 
The inheritance tax .& nbsp;
Accounts Receivable Tax 
Building Permit Tax 
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax 
Corporate Income Tax 
Dog License Tax 
Excise Taxes 
Federal Income Tax 
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA) 
Fishing License Tax 
Food License Tax 
Fuel Permit Tax 
Gasoline At x (44.75 cents per gallon) 
Gross Receipts Tax 
Hunting License Tax 
Inheritance Tax 
Inventory Tax   ; ;
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax) 
Liquor Tax 
Luxury Taxes 
Marriage License Tax 
Medicare Tax 
Personal Property Tax 
Property Tax 
Real Estate Tax 
Service Charge Tax 
Social Security Tax 
Road Usage Tax 
Sales Tax 
Recreational Vehicle Tax 
School Tax 
State Income Tax 
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA) 
Telephone Federal Excise Tax 
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax 
Telephone Fed er al,
State and Local Surcharge Taxes 
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax 
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax 
Telephone State and Local Tax 
Telephone Usage Charge Tax 
Utility Taxes 
Vehicle License Registration Tax 
Vehicle Sales Tax 
Watercraft Registration Tax 
Well Permit Tax 
Workers Compensation Tax 

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.  We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids. 
What in the hell happened?
Can you spell 'politicians?' 
And I still have to 'press 1' for English!?!?!?!?
28721  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: March 03, 2009, 07:08:37 PM
Woof All:

Our editor ran into some serious technical challenges integrating the mini-DV footage and the new HD technology into one format.  These have now been resolved.

Sorry for the delay  embarassed
28722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: March 03, 2009, 03:24:20 PM
I agree with this article.

Unfortunately the Democrats (and RINOs like McCain) are determined to import tens of millions of Mexicans (the 10-15 million already here, plus their families and relatives because they will vote Democratic.

How can we separate these two issues when Congress goes to work on this?
28723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 100,000 foot soldiers in cartels? on: March 03, 2009, 03:17:23 PM

100,000 Foot Soldiers in Mexican Cartels

March 3, 2009

by Sara A. Carter

To dilute the will to win is to destroy the purpose of the game. There is no substitute for victory.

--General Douglas MacArthur

The U.S. Defense Department thinks Mexico's two most deadly drug cartels together have fielded more than 100,000 foot soldiers - an army that rivals Mexico's armed forces and threatens to turn the country into a narco-state.

'It's moving to crisis proportions,' a senior U.S. defense official told The Washington Times. The official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the sensitive nature of his work, said the cartels' 'foot soldiers' are on a par with Mexico's army of about 130,000.

The disclosure underlines the enormity of the challenge Mexico and the United States face as they struggle to contain what is increasingly looking like a civil war or an insurgency along the U.S.-Mexico border. In the past year, about 7,000 people have died - more than 1,000 in January alone. The conflict has become increasingly brutal, with victims beheaded and bodies dissolved in vats of acid.

The death toll dwarfs that in Afghanistan, where about 200 fatalities, including 29 U.S. troops, were reported in the first two months of 2009. About 400 people, including 31 U.S. military personnel, died in Iraq during the same period.

The biggest and most violent combatants are the Sinaloa cartel, known by U.S. and Mexican federal law enforcement officials as the 'Federation' or 'Golden Triangle,' and its main rival, 'Los Zetas' or the Gulf Cartel, whose territory runs along the Laredo,Texas, borderlands.

The two cartels appear to be negotiating a truce or merger to defeat rivals and better withstand government pressure. U.S. officials say the consequences of such a pact would be grave.

'I think if they merge or decide to cooperate in a greater way, Mexico could potentially have a national security crisis,' the defense official said. He said the two have amassed so many people and weapons that Mexican President Felipe Calderon is 'fighting for his life' and 'for the life of Mexico right now.'

As a result, Mexico is behind only Pakistan and Iran as a top U.S. national security concern, ranking above Afghanistan and Iraq, the defense official added.

Other U.S. officials and Mexico specialists agreed with this assessment.

Michael V. Hayden, who left as CIA director in January, put Mexico second to Iran as a top national security threat to the United States. His successor, Leon E. Panetta, told reporters at his first news conference that the agency is 'paying ... a lot of attention to' Mexico.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CBS' '60 Minutes' on Sunday that 'the stakes are high for the safety of many, many citizens of Mexico and the stakes are high for the United States no doubt.'

In a December interview with The Times, President Bush said his successor would need to deal 'with these drug cartels in our own neighborhood. And the front line of the fight will be Mexico.'

A State Department travel advisory last month seemed timed to caution U.S. students contemplating spring breaks south of the border.

'Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades,' the advisory said.

Independent analysts warn that narco-terrorists have infiltrated the Mexican government, creating a shadow regime that further complicates efforts to contain and destroy the cartels.

'My greatest fear is that the tentacles of the shadow government grow stronger, that the cartels have penetrated the government and that they will be able to act with impunity and that this ever stronger shadow government will effectively evolve into a narco-state,' said Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington.

The Mexican Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on the drug war.

Mr. Calderon, however, has adamantly denied assertions that Mexico is becoming a failed state.

The Mexican government has 'not lost any part - any single part - of the Mexican territory to drug cartels,' he recently told the Associated Press.

His comments run counter to the impressions of U.S. law enforcement officials and some Mexican journalists reporting in Ciudad Juarez, a city just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

On a recent morning here, the once-bustling border town of 1.3 million was more like a ghost town.

'It's empty,' said a vendor of freshly baked tortillas and salsa, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Maria. 'We are in a losing war against the narco-traffickers. My business is dying, and soon it will join the graveyard of businesses that have had to close down. No one comes Juarez anymore.'

More than 1,800 people have been killed in the city since last year. The number continued to climb as The Times visited, with more than 20 deaths in one week.

In response to the challenge, U.S. and Mexican authorities have stepped up raids on cartel members in both countries.

Last week, U.S. and Mexican forces arrested 755 people, including 52 in the United States associated with the Sinaloa cartel. However, cartel leader Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is still at large. He is thought to be living in Sinaloa and protected by hired gunmen and Mexican federal officials on his payroll, said a U.S. law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing intelligence operations.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spokesman Garrison Courtney said last week's raids put a dent in cartel operations but that public attention to the crisis has been long in coming.

'If we don't start paying attention, the violence - which has already spilled into the U.S. - is going to get worse,' Mr. Courtney said. 'This is a shared interest between the United States and Mexico to go after these drug traffickers.'

In recent years, however, U.S. officials have been reluctant to share information with Mexican counterparts, fearing that they will leak to the cartels.

DEA officials interviewed by The Times said the Sinaloa cartel employs Mexican federal officials, while other cartels pay off local governments and police.

'Many times, what you see isn't really what's going on,' said a DEA official, who asked not to be named because of the nature of his work. 'Many times the death of federal officers or local police isn't a cartel making the hit, but the cartels themselves in the government fighting one another. The same thing has happened to the Mexican army, where the cartels have also bought loyalty to move dope into the U.S.'

Mr. Courtney said the Mexican cartels have 'evolved into the Colombian cartels of the 1980s. Even the government's reaction to what's going on there right now and over the last five years is what the government of Colombia faced when they went after Pablo Escobar. Juarez has seen an escalation in that same type of brutal violence.'

Escobar was a Colombian drug lord who died in 1993.

More than 2,000 Mexican army soldiers and 425 federal police are patrolling in Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located. More than 45,000 Mexican troops have been engaged in the drug war since Mr. Calderon took office in 2006.

Mr. Carpenter said the use of the Mexican military may be backfiring.

'I said at the time when Calderon called the military to take the lead role in confronting the cartels that he was undertaking a massive gamble,' Mr. Carpenter said. 'It is clear now that he is losing that gamble if he has not already lost it.'

A U.S. counterterrorism official said, however, that the severity of the crisis was bringing the U.S. and Mexican governments closer and that the CIA will work closely with Mexico if asked for guidance.

'Both countries have a common interest in clamping down on the cartels, and that has shaved away some of the underlying historical tensions in what has long been a close relationship with Mexico,' said the official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named. 'The Mexicans understand - perhaps more so than at any time in recent memory - that we are genuine about taking these people on.'

Meanwhile, thousands of Mexicans daily cross the Santa Fe bridge, which connects Ciudad Juarez to El Paso, ironically one of the safest U.S. cities.

'Why should we have to live like this?'asked Maria, the vendor. 'Why do our children have to die, while our neighbors live like nothing is happening? Every day we pray for something different, for peace. Every day our prayers are left unanswered.'
28724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD on: March 03, 2009, 11:40:05 AM
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN on Sunday that Iran has enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.

"We think they do, quite frankly," Mullen said.

Tehran retorted that the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency monitors Iran's nuclear facility at Natanz. But the IAEA was shocked last month to find 209 kilograms more low-enriched uranium at Natanz than expected, enough for up to 25 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium — or one Hiroshima-sized device.

Speaking of incompetence, the U.S. intelligence community in October 2007 asserted "with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

That National Intelligence Estimate said: "Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005."

That hasn't seemed to have quelled Admiral Mullen's worries.

Consider, after all, the long list of examples proving the cloudiness of our spy agencies' crystal ball. Two days before Saddam Hussein's march into Kuwait in 1990, for instance, the CIA was telling President George H.W. Bush that an invasion was unlikely.

Less than a week before Moscow's Christmas 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, the agency's top Soviet analysts claimed, "The pace of Soviet deployments does not suggest . . . urgent contingency."

And back in 1950, two days before 300,000 Red Chinese troops assaulted American forces in Korea, the CIA repeated to President Eisenhower that the Chinese would not invade.

How many times must Inspector Clouseau bumble before we stop taking him seriously?

Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman's new history of nuclear proliferation, "The Nuclear Express," recounts Israel's successful — and fairly speedy — quest for the bomb. By the spring of 1963, President John F. Kennedy knew Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was lying about Israel's Dimona "civilian" reactor.

JFK "sent harsh messages to Ben-Gurion, but to no avail; delay and obfuscation were Ben-Gurion's stock and trade."

By the end of 1963 the Dimona plant was producing plutonium. By 1966, Israel apparently conducted "a hydronuclear or near-zero yield test" of a prototype bomb beneath the Negev desert.

Four decades later, delay and obfuscation are now Tehran's stock and trade. But unlike Tel Aviv, their nuclear intentions are not defensive but jihadist. And they are a clear and present danger to us.
28725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 6 Pillars of Russian Power part 2 on: March 03, 2009, 10:53:11 AM

The Reality of Russian Power
So while Russia might be losing its financial security and capabilities, which in the West tend to boil down to economic wealth, the global recession has not affected the reality of Russian power much at all. Russia has not, currently or historically, worked off of anyone else’s cash or used economic stability as a foundation for political might or social stability. Instead, Russia relies on many other tools in its kit. Some of the following six pillars of Russian power are more powerful and appropriate than ever:

Geography: Unlike its main geopolitical rival, the United States, Russia borders most of the regions it wishes to project power into, and few geographic barriers separate it from its targets. Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states have zero geographic insulation from Russia. Central Asia is sheltered by distance, but not by mountains or rivers. The Caucasus provide a bit of a speed bump to Russia, but pro-Russian enclaves in Georgia give the Kremlin a secure foothold south of the mountain range (putting the August Russian-Georgian war in perspective). Even if U.S. forces were not tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States would face potentially insurmountable difficulties in countering Russian actions in Moscow’s so-called “Near Abroad.” Russia can project all manner of influence and intimidation there on the cheap, while even symbolic counters are quite costly for the United States. In contrast, places such as Latin America, Southeast Asia or Africa do not capture much more than the Russian imagination; the Kremlin realizes it can do little more there than stir the occasional pot, and resources are allotted (centrally, of course) accordingly.

Politics: It is no secret that the Kremlin uses an iron fist to maintain domestic control. There are few domestic forces the government cannot control or balance. The Kremlin understands the revolutions (1917 in particular) and collapses (1991 in particular) of the past, and it has control mechanisms in place to prevent a repeat. This control is seen in every aspect of Russian life, from one main political party ruling the country to the lack of diversified media, limits on public demonstrations and the infiltration of the security services into nearly every aspect of the Russian system. This domination was fortified under Stalin and has been re-established under the reign of former President and now-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This political strength is based on neither financial nor economic foundations. Instead, it is based within the political institutions and parties, on the lack of a meaningful opposition, and with the backing of the military and security services. Russia’s neighbors, especially in Europe, cannot count on the same political strength because their systems are simply not set up the same way. The stability of the Russian government and lack of stability in the former Soviet states and much of Central Europe have also allowed the Kremlin to reach beyond Russia and influence its neighbors to the east. Now as before, when some of its former Soviet subjects — such as Ukraine — become destabilized, Russia sweeps in as a source of stability and authority, regardless of whether this benefits the recipient of Moscow’s attention.

Social System: As a consequence of Moscow’s political control and the economic situation, the Russian system is socially crushing, and has had long-term effects on the Russian psyche. As mentioned above, during the Soviet-era process of industrialization and militarization, workers operated under the direst of conditions for the good of the state. The Russian state has made it very clear that the productivity and survival of the state is far more important than the welfare of the people. This made Russia politically and economically strong, not in the sense that the people have had a voice, but in that they have not challenged the state since the beginning of the Soviet period. The Russian people, regardless of whether they admit it, continue to work to keep the state intact even when it does not benefit them. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia kept operating — though a bit haphazardly. Russians still went to work, even if they were not being paid. The same was seen in 1998, when the country collapsed financially. This is a very different mentality than that found in the West. Most Russians would not even consider the mass protests seen in Europe in response to the economic crisis. The Russian government, by contrast, can count on its people to continue to support the state and keep the country going with little protest over the conditions. Though there have been a few sporadic and meager protests in Russia, these protests mainly have been in opposition to the financial situation, not to the government’s hand in it. In some of these demonstrations, protesters have carried signs reading, “In government we trust, in the economic system we don’t.” This means Moscow can count on a stable population.

Natural Resources: Modern Russia enjoys a wealth of natural resources in everything from food and metals to gold and timber. The markets may take a roller-coaster ride and the currency may collapse, but the Russian economy has access to the core necessities of life. Many of these resources serve a double purpose, for in addition to making Russia independent of the outside world, they also give Moscow the ability to project power effectively. Russian energy — especially natural gas — is particularly key: Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas for a quarter of its demand. This relationship guarantees Russia a steady supply of now-scarce capital even as it forces the Europeans to take any Russian concerns seriously. The energy tie is something Russia has very publicly used as a political weapon, either by raising prices or by cutting off supplies. In a recession, this lever’s effectiveness has only grown.
Military: The Russian military is in the midst of a broad modernization and restructuring, and is reconstituting its basic warfighting capability. While many challenges remain, Moscow already has imposed a new reality through military force in Georgia. While Tbilisi was certainly an easy target, the Russian military looks very different to Kiev — or even Warsaw and Prague — than it does to the Pentagon. And even in this case, Russia has come to rely increasingly heavily on its nuclear arsenal to rebalance the military equation and ensure its territorial integrity, and is looking to establish long-term nuclear parity with the Americans. Like the energy tool, Russia’s military has become more useful in times of economic duress, as potential targets have suffered far more than the Russians.
Intelligence: Russia has one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful intelligence services. Historically, its only rival has been the United States (though today the Chinese arguably could be seen as rivaling the Americans and Russians). The KGB (now the FSB) instills fear into hearts around the world, let alone inside Russia. Infiltration and intimidation kept the Soviet Union and its sphere under control. No matter the condition of the Russian state, Moscow’s intelligence foundation has been its strongest pillar. The FSB and other Russian intelligence agencies have infiltrated most former Soviet republics and satellite states, and they also have infiltrated as far as Latin America and the United States. Russian intelligence has infiltrated political, security, military and business realms worldwide, and has boasted of infiltrating many former Soviet satellite governments, militaries and companies up to the highest level. All facets of the Russian government have backed this infiltration since Putin (a former KGB man) came to power and filled the Kremlin with his cohorts. This domestic and international infiltration has been built up for half a century. It is not something that requires much cash to maintain, but rather know-how — and the Russians wrote the book on the subject. One of the reasons Moscow can run this system inexpensively relative to what it gets in return is because Russia’s intelligence services have long been human-based, though they do have some highly advanced technology to wield. Russia also has incorporated other social networks in its intelligence services, such as organized crime or the Russian Orthodox Church, creating an intricate system at a low price. Russia’s intelligence services are much larger than most other countries’ services and cover most of the world. But the intelligence apparatus’ most intense focus is on the Russian periphery, rather than on the more expensive “far abroad.”
Thus, while Russia’s financial sector may be getting torn apart, the state does not really count on that sector for domestic cohesion or stability, or for projecting power abroad. Russia knows it lacks a good track record financially, so it depends on — and has shored up where it can — six other pillars to maintain its (self-proclaimed) place as a major international player. The current financial crisis would crush the last five pillars for any other state, but in Russia, it has only served to strengthen these bases. Over the past few years, there was a certain window of opportunity for Russia to resurge while Washington was preoccupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This window has been kept open longer by the West’s lack of worry over the Russian resurgence given the financial crisis. But others closer to the Russian border understand that Moscow has many tools more potent than finance with which to continue reasserting itself.

28726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: March 03, 2009, 10:52:02 AM
The Financial Crisis and the Six Pillars of Russian Strength
March 3, 2009

By Lauren Goodrich and Peter Zeihan

Related Link
The Russian Resurgence
Putin’s Consolidation of Power
Russian Energy and Foreign Policy
Russia’s Military

Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia has been re-establishing much of its lost Soviet-era strength. This has given rise to the possibility — and even the probability — that Russia again will become a potent adversary of the Western world. But now, Russia is yet again on the cusp of a set of massive currency devaluations that could destroy much of the country’s financial system. With a crashing currency, the disappearance of foreign capital, greatly decreased energy revenues and currency reserves flying out of the bank, the Western perception is that Russia is on the verge of collapsing once again. Consequently, many Western countries have started to grow complacent about Russia’s ability to further project power abroad.

But this is Russia. And Russia rarely follows anyone else’s rulebook.

The State of the Russian State

Russia has faced a slew of economic problems in the past six months. Incoming foreign direct investment, which reached a record high of $28 billion in 2007, has reportedly dried up to just a few billion. Russia’s two stock markets, the Russian Trading System (RTS) and the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICEX), have fallen 78 and 67 percent respectively since their highs in May 2008. And Russians have withdrawn $290 billion from the country’s banks in fear of a financial collapse.

One of Moscow’s sharpest financial pains came in the form of a slumping Russian ruble, which has dropped by about one-third against the dollar since August 2008. Thus far, the Kremlin has spent $200 billion defending its currency, a startling number given that the currency still dropped by 35 percent. The Russian government has allowed dozens of mini-devaluations to occur since August; the ruble’s fall has pushed the currency past its lowest point in the 1998 ruble crash.

The Kremlin now faces three options. First, it can continue defending the ruble by pouring more money into what looks like a black hole. Realistically, this can last only another six months or so, as Russia’s combined reserves of $750 billion in August 2008 have dropped to just less than $400 billion due to various recession-battling measures (of which currency defense is only one). This option would also limit Russia’s future anti-recession measures to currency defense alone. In essence, this option relies on merely hoping the global recession ends before the till runs dry.

The second option would be to abandon any defense of the ruble and just let the currency crash. This option will not hurt Moscow or its prized industries (like those in the energy and metals sectors) too much, as the Kremlin, its institutions and most large Russian companies hold their reserves in dollars and euros. Smaller businesses and the Russian people would lose everything, however, just as in the August 1998 ruble crash. This may sound harsh, but the Kremlin has proved repeatedly — during the Imperial, Soviet and present eras — that it is willing to put the survival of the Russian state before the welfare and survival of the people.

The third option is much like the second. It involves sealing the currency system off completely from international trade, relegating it only to use in purely domestic exchanges. But turning to a closed system would make the ruble absolutely worthless abroad, and probably within Russia as well — the black market and small businesses would be forced to follow the government’s example and switch to the euro, or more likely, the U.S. dollar. (Russians tend to trust the dollar more than the euro.)

According to the predominant rumor in Moscow, the Kremlin will opt for combining the first and second options, allowing a series of small devaluations, but continuing a partial defense of the currency to avoid a single 1998-style collapse. Such a hybrid approach would reflect internal politicking.

The lack of angst within the government over the disappearance of the ruble as a symbol of Russian strength is most intriguing. Instead of discussing how to preserve Russian financial power, the debate is now over how to let the currency crash. The destruction of this particular symbol of Russian strength over the past ten years has now become a given in the Kremlin’s thinking, as has the end of the growth and economic strength seen in recent years.

Washington is interpreting the Russian acceptance of economic failure as a sort of surrender. It is not difficult to see why. For most states — powerful or not — a deep recession coupled with a currency collapse would indicate an evisceration of the ability to project power, or even the end of the road. After all, similar economic collapses in 1992 and 1998 heralded periods in which Russian power simply evaporated, allowing the Americans free rein across the Russian sphere of influence. Russia has been using its economic strength to revive its influence as of late, so — as the American thinking goes — the destruction of that strength should lead to a new period of Russian weakness.

Geography and Development

But before one can truly understand the roots of Russian power, the reality and role of the Russian economy must be examined. From this perspective, the past several years are most certainly an aberration — and we are not simply speaking of the post-Soviet collapse.

All states economies’ to a great degree reflect their geographies. In the United States, the presence of large, interconnected river systems in the central third of the country, the intracoastal waterway along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, the vastness of San Francisco Bay, the numerous rivers flowing to the sea from the eastern slopes of the Appalachian Mountains and the abundance of ideal port locations made the country easy to develop. The cost of transporting goods was nil, and scarce capital could be dedicated to other pursuits. The result was a massive economy with an equally massive leg up on any competition.

Russia’s geography is the polar opposite. Hardly any of Russia’s rivers are interconnected. The country has several massive ones — the Pechora, the Ob, the Yenisei, the Lena and the Kolyma — but they drain the nearly unpopulated Siberia to the Arctic Ocean, making them useless for commerce. The only river that cuts through Russia’s core, the Volga, drains not to the ocean but to the landlocked and sparsely populated Caspian Sea, the center of a sparsely populated region. Also unlike the United States, Russia has few useful ports. Kaliningrad is not connected to the main body of Russia. The Gulf of Finland freezes in winter, isolating St. Petersburg. The only true deepwater and warm-water ocean ports, Vladivostok and Murmansk, are simply too far from Russia’s core to be useful. So while geography handed the United States the perfect transport network free of charge, Russia has had to use every available kopek to link its country together with an expensive road, rail and canal network.

One of the many side effects of this geography situation is that the United States had extra capital that it could dedicate to finance in a relatively democratic manner, while Russia’s chronic capital deficit prompted it to concentrate what little capital resources it had into a single set of hands — Moscow’s hands. So while the United States became the poster child for the free market, Russia (whether the Russian Empire, Soviet Union or Russian Federation) has always tended toward central planning.

Russian industrialization and militarization began in earnest under Josef Stalin in the 1930s. Under centralized planning, all industry and services were nationalized, while industrial leaders were given predetermined output quotas.

Perhaps the most noteworthy difference between the Western and Russian development paths was the different use of finance. At the start of Stalin’s massive economic undertaking, international loans to build the economy were unavailable, both because the new government had repudiated the czarist regime’s international debts and because industrialized countries — the potential lenders — were coping with the onset of their own economic crisis (e.g., the Great Depression).

With loans and bonds unavailable, Stalin turned to another centrally controlled resource to “fund” Russian development: labor. Trade unions were converted into mechanisms for capturing all available labor as well as for increasing worker productivity. Russia essentially substitutes labor for capital, so it is no surprise that Stalin — like all Russian leaders before him — ran his population into the ground. Stalin called this his “revolution from above.”

Over the long term, the centralized system is highly inefficient, as it does not take the basic economic drivers of supply and demand into account — to say nothing of how it crushes the common worker. But for a country as geographically massive as Russia, it was (and remains) questionable whether Western finance-driven development is even feasible, due to the lack of cheap transit options and the massive distances involved. Development driven by the crushing of the labor pool was probably the best Russia could hope for, and the same holds true today.

In stark contrast to ages past, for the past five years foreign money has underwritten Russian development. Russian banks did not depend upon government funding — which was accumulated into vast reserves — but instead tapped foreign lenders and bondholders. Russian banks took this money and used it to lend to Russian firms. Meanwhile, as the Russian government asserted control over the country’s energy industries during the last several years, it created a completely separate economy that only rarely intersected with other aspects of Russian economic life. So when the current global recession helped lead to the evaporation of foreign credit, the core of the government/energy economy was broadly unaffected, even as the rest of the Russian economy ingloriously crashed to earth.

Since Putin’s rise, the Kremlin has sought to project an image of a strong, stable and financially powerful Russia. This vision of strength has been the cornerstone of Russian confidence for years. Note that STRATFOR is saying “vision,” not “reality.” For in reality, Russian financial confidence is solely the result of cash brought in from strong oil and natural gas prices — something largely beyond the Russians’ ability to manipulate — not the result of any restructuring of the Russian system. As such, the revelation that the emperor has no clothes — that Russia is still a complete financial mess — is more a blow to Moscow’s ego than a signal of a fundamental change in the reality of Russian power.
28727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The coming elections on: March 03, 2009, 01:23:21 AM
March 2, 2009

Opposition figures and contenders for the Afghan presidency criticized Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday for his decision to hold an early presidential vote. A day earlier, the Afghan leader issued a decree ordering that elections be held in April as opposed to the already-set date of Aug. 20. Afghanistan’s election commission and the United States are both emphasizing the need for elections to be held in late summer as opposed to early spring.

Even in a “normal” country, elections require some preparation time. And in Afghanistan, even the routine preparations associated with organizing polls require a considerable effort. But most important is the need for enhanced security, given the country’s raging Taliban insurgency. An 8,000-strong U.S. Marine expeditionary brigade — the next major ground combat formation scheduled to deploy as part of the Obama administration’s announced plans to send 17,000 additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan — will not arrive until late spring. Whether they can be in position in time for the April election is unclear, but the full 17,000-strong force was intended to be in place ahead of the August elections.

Even with sufficient preparation time and additional Western forces to beef up security, holding an election in Afghanistan will be a herculean task. Much of the discussion and debate regarding this issue focuses on the reasons and the problems associated with Karzai’s move to hold early elections. But there is an even bigger problem brewing in Afghanistan, and the controversy over the election date is but a symptom of that. At a time when the Obama administration is trying to get a grasp of the ground realities in Afghanistan and the wider region in order to craft a strategy to deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda, the challenges Karzai faces are unraveling Afghanistan’s existing political structure.

The Karzai government, with all its shortcomings, has been the foundation of U.S.-led Western efforts to forge a post-Taliban republic. The events of the last seven years — particularly the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Talibanization of Pakistan — have demonstrated that those efforts have floundered. We are at a point where there are international efforts under way exploring the potential for some form of a political settlement with the Pashtun jihadists. The growing domestic and international opposition to Karzai pushes the United States and its allies further into a weak operating position.

Stratfor is of the view that, in the long run, personalities and groups matter very little, but in the short term, they play a pivotal role; this is the case with Karzai. Despite being a weak president, he has been Afghanistan’s only president since the U.S. invasion of the country in late 2001 (first as an interim president, then as an elected president after the vote in 2004). A compromise president, Karzai was able to maintain a delicate balance of sorts between the various factions within the country.

The hope has been that the existing system would hold while efforts are made to tweak it for the purposes of a future power-sharing agreement. But Karzai’s troubles indicate that the system needs to be salvaged, even before there are any moves toward dealing with the jihadist rebels. Any change to the status quo — such as another candidate replacing Karzai as president — could further destabilize the country, especially at such a crucial juncture.

As it is, Afghanistan represents a quagmire for Washington. The uncertainty surrounding Karzai’s future and the political storm gathering next door in Pakistan, where the federal government moved against the government of the country’s largest province, shows that the regional situation is deteriorating faster than the United States can work to contain matters.


NATO: Might Ask China For Support With Afghanistan
March 2, 2009 | 2017 GMT
NATO might ask China to give support for the war in Afghanistan, possibly by opening an alternate supply route to the country through western China, The Associated Press reported March 2, citing an unnamed senior U.S. official. The option is still being considered, and NATO has not decided whether to ask China for help, the official said. He made the statement ahead of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting set for March 5 in Brussels.

28728  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: March 03, 2009, 01:19:49 AM

We'd be delighted to receive a resume/demo reel from GM Anthony-- please give him my regards-- and from you.

The pilot will be shot in the first week of April.  At the very least you have at least until then, and probably a bit more, but do try to get you resume/reel in by then.

28729  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 03, 2009, 01:14:09 AM

Thank you.  I agree with your comments.   Please continue my education if you would by expounding a bit on spinal stenosis.

Comment:  In the progression that I favor, I seek to align with Mother Earth first-- i.e. work from the feet up.  There is a series of exercises that I have evolved using a medicine ball towards that end that I have not seen put together in similar fashion elsewhere but I have run it by qualified people whom I respect to very positive reviews.

Dean's comments on his feet and thumbs were EXACTLY what I expected.  MOST people have imbalance between external and internal rotation of the femur and this imbalance creates pressure discomfort at the sacrum-- and is part of the chain that creates internal rotation of the shoulders, as flagged by the thumbs.  By the criteria which I believe to be true, the feet should naturally come to rest at parallel, as should the thumbs. 

As the progression I use works its way from the ground up and arrives at the femur-hip joint I use two exercises to release the piriformis and the IT band, and one to activate the adductors.  It is then that I go into the glute-hamstring peak contraction as foundation for releasing the hip flexors.   For cases requiring lots of attention, there is also a particular quad stretch that hits it in its funtion as secondary hip flexor too.

THEN the progression activates the lumbar and continues up the spine with a unique thoracic activation exercise that I learned from Chris Gizzi.  Then it is time for classic rotator cuff stuff.  By the time we get to here, both the feet and the thumbs should be parallel when standing without thought.

There are some additional points concerning the positioning of the neck, head/ears, but with the foundation properly set, they come easily enough.

First and final point.  I ALWAYS let people know that I am self-educated, tell them my intention, and receive agreement that only they are responsible for them and to do only what they are comfortable doing. 

In the case of acute injury-- e.g. as here with C-Kaju, there will be extensive conversation first.  In his case, the conversation will be greatly enabled by his substantial medical knowledge.
PS: Reminder!!!

""The IC (Ischio-Condylar) or Adductor magnus is the third Piton in the pelvic stabilizer triad."

Please expand upon this!!!

Do you have a URL of a picture of it?"
28730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: March 02, 2009, 10:46:55 PM
Interesting thoughts there Doug.

"But as oil hit $120-$150 per barrel, there were places around the globe less prosperous than the US that cried uncle first.  All the data seems to indicate that the current downturn hit the rest of the world first and hardest."

This seems perceptive to me and accords with Alan Reynolds post , , , somewhere here making the point that the downturn started outside of the US.
28731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: March 02, 2009, 10:43:48 PM
Good to see a focused conversation!

Personally I like the idea of the Fair Tax and think it has been misunderstood by many and deliberately slimed by some whose interests it threatens, but at the given moment when we are in a terrible struggle to keep America a free market country, I suspect not much will get done with regard to the FT.  When people are being paniced (sp?) into a lemming stampede that throws away a goodly piece of what makes America America, is not a propitious time for a serious national conversation to persuade people to try of the FT.  By all means continue to lay groundwork and engage with the questions and doubts e.g. as is being done here, but my energies go elsewhere right now.
28732  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 02, 2009, 10:19:48 PM

I am a layman and you are a doctor.  

That said, I truly am not sure we are not yet fully communicating.  Is your URL's point PNF?  If so that is not what I am describing at all.  

I think I fully understand your point about the patient flattening out his lordisis to diminish pain.  I saw this up close with Guro Inosanto in the mid-late '90s.  He had lost his lordosis entirely and was in great pain.  Guro I. has flattered me by thanking me for telling him that BJJ would be good for his back (I introduced him and the Machado brothers and drove him to his first lesson as well as often served as a body upon which he would practice as well as introduced him to his yoga teacher Sara Petit)

I do not understand your concern that releasing the psoas et al will increase lordosis- quite the contrary!  Please help me understand.


"Reciprocal inhibition
Reciprocal inhibition uses the body's antagonist-inhibition reflex to induce relaxation of a "tight" muscle. For example, when the biceps (in this case the agonist) is flexed, a reflexive inhibition of the triceps (here the antagonist) is induced. Thus loss of range of motion in the triceps can be incrementally restored by flexion of the biceps."

"[edit] Post-isometric relaxation
Immediately after isometric contraction, the neuro-muscular apparatus becomes briefly refractory, or unable to respond to further excitation. Thus, stretching a muscle immediately following its isometric contraction may incrementally restore range of motion."

This sounds like basic PNF if I understand correctly.  If so, I perceive what I have in mind as a bit different.

My thought process includes the idea that tight psoas and other hip flexors (and weak activation of the hip extensors in the peak range of motion!) lead to compression of the lumbar region with attendant pain.  As I understand it, the flattening of the lordosis that Guro I. was a palliative, but not a solution.  

C-Kaju, quick question.   Stand without thinking.  Look down at your feet.   What do you see?  Are they parallel or does one or both of them point outwards?  Additionally, stand in front of a mirror without thinking-- are your thumbs parallel or do they point inwards?

Edited to add that this was posted before seeing C-Kaju's post immediately prior to this one.
28733  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / When civilians shoot and when they think LEOs should on: March 02, 2009, 09:44:50 PM
. New study: When civilians would shoot...and when they think you should

Fascinating experiments by 2 California researchers show that young civilians who might someday be on an OIS jury overwhelmingly disagree with veteran officers about when police are justified in shooting armed, threatening perpetrators.

Interestingly, tests also reveal that when facing shoot/don't shoot decisions of their own, civilians tend to be quick on the trigger--and often wrong in their perceptions. Even in ideal lighting conditions, civilian test subjects show "a very low capacity for distinguishing" a handgun from an innocuous object, such as a power tool. Forced to make a time-pressured decision, the vast majority would shoot a "suspect" who is, in fact, unarmed.

"On one hand," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, "this research should make civilians more sympathetic to officers who mistakenly shoot unarmed subjects under high-stress, real-world conditions.

"But on the other hand, the study shows the woeful lack of understanding most non-cops have about the larger legality and appropriateness of using deadly force. And this can result in serious ramifications in the courtroom."

The findings, by Dr. Matthew Sharps, an expert on eye-witness identification and a psychology professor at California State University-Fresno, and Adam Hess, a lecturer in criminology at the school, are reported in The Forensic Examiner [12/22/08], published by the American College of Forensic Examiners. Their paper, "To shoot or not to shoot: Response and interpretation of response to armed assailants," can be read in full by clicking here.

In their experiments, Sharps and Hess report, they first addressed "how untrained people would react if placed in the position of police officers confronting a situation potentially involving firearms and firearm violence."

Eighty-seven female and 38 male college student volunteers of various races were each shown 1 of 4 high-quality digital photos of simulated "crime scenes." The settings were stage-set with the guidance of veteran FTOs from the Fresno PD, "all highly experienced in tactical realities and the sorts of situations encountered by witnesses and officers on the street."

Three photos showed a lone M/W subject, holding a Beretta 9mm pistol in profile: one depicted a "simple" scene, "sparse in terms of potentially distracting objects"; another a "complex" scene, "including street clutter, garbage cans, and other potentially distracting items"; the third a complex scene that included several bystanders and a young, female "victim" being threatened by the armed perpetrator pointing the gun at her in a 1-handed grip.

In a fourth photo, the scene was the same as the third--except that the Beretta was replaced with a power screwdriver.

Before any pictures were shown, each volunteer was told that a scene "which may or may not involve a crime or sources of danger" would be flashed for 2 seconds or less on a movie screen. "You may intervene" by shooting at the perpetrator "to protect yourself or others if you see an individual holding a weapon," the researchers explained. Participants could "shoot" either by pressing a button or by firing a suction-tipped dart from a toy gun.

"The conditions for all 4 scenes involved uniformly excellent lighting (strong sunlight), and the relative comfort of witnesses being seated," Sharps and Hess write. "There was no movement or occlusion of important elements of the scenes, and of course there was no personal danger for the respondents in the experiment."

The smallest number of individuals decided to shoot at the lone subject holding a gun in the simple environment with no victim. Yet "even under these circumstances, in which no crime was depicted," a strong majority--64%--decided to fire. This despite the fact that the "perpetrator" as depicted could have as easily been target-shooting as committing a crime, the researchers note.

In the complex but victimless scene, 67% chose to shoot. When a victim and bystanders were added, the proportion of shooters rose significantly, to 88%--nearly 9 out of 10.

But most revealingly, when the suspect pointed a power screwdriver instead of a gun, some 85% "shot" him. "In other words," Sharps and Hess write, "respondents were equally likely to shoot the perpetrator whether he was armed or unarmed, as long as there was a potential 'victim' in the scene. It made no [statistically significant] difference whether the perpetrator held a gun or a power tool."

Across the range of scenes, "when untrained people...'confronted' a suspect, the majority decided to shoot him under all conditions....[The] very high number of those who decided to shoot the unarmed suspect under ideal conditions might be inflated even further under the rapidly changing and visually confusing circumstances of a typical police emergency."

The challenge the volunteers faced in distinguishing between the gun and the power tool was relatively easy, compared to officers making split-second decisions in the field. Cops frequently have to employ "rapid cognitive processing" in darkness or semidarkness, often deciding in less than a second whether to shoot, the researchers observe.

"During that time, many factors in a scene must be evaluated: the suspect's motions; where the weapon is aimed; the presence of other people, including other potential suspects, and whether they are in the officer's probable field of fire; other potential sources of hazard, to self, to others, and to the suspect, in the immediate environment....

"In view of these extensive processing demands, errors in perception or cognitive processing are likely to be relatively frequent....

"[E]xtraordinary demands are placed on the cognitive and perceptual abilities of police officers in cases of gun violence. Public perception of these incidents, however, typically does not center on the cognitive or perceptual issues involved."

Instead, officers' errors in shooting suspects brandishing innocuous objects rather than guns are "attributed, in many sources, to racism...and failures of integrity." It seems "incomprehensible, to many people, that officers could possibly mistake a [non-weapon] for a real firearm in the dark."

Among several instances the researchers cite in which officers have been pilloried by the press and public for mistaken perceptions is the infamous case of Amadou Diallo, who was shot and killed by NYPD personnel in 1999 when he abruptly pulled a black wallet from his pocket during a confrontation. More recently, a subject was shot dead in Tacoma, WA, when he pointed a small, black cordless drill directly at officers.

"It should be noted that the situation in which most people [in the experiment] effectively decided to kill an unarmed suspect was similar to the circumstances surrounding" these 2 cases, the researchers state.

The intensely negative reactions of civilians toward officers involved in such incidents may, in reality, "have more to do with highly unrealistic public and mass-media expectations, and with popular ideas about deadly force, than with putative racism or integrity issues on the part of police," Sharps and Hess suggest.

A disturbing insight into the public mind-set regarding police use of deadly force surfaced through a companion experiment conducted by the research team.

Again using digital photography projected onto a screen, 33 females and 11 males recruited from freshman psychology classes were asked to view scenes in which a male or female Caucasian perpetrator, positioned "among typical street clutter," pointed a pistol in a 1-handed grip at a young, female "victim."

After viewing the scene for a full 5 seconds ("far more than ample observation and processing time"), each subject was asked "what a police officer should do on encountering the situation depicted"...and why.

Previously, 3 senior FTOs and a senior police commander had evaluated the proper police response. All concluded that "there was no question that this situation absolutely required a shooting response for both the male and female perpetrator.... [A]ny police officer encountering this situation must fire [immediately] on the order to prevent the probable imminent death of the victim."

To the researchers' surprise, the civilian volunteers overwhelmingly rated this a no-shoot situation. Only 11.36%--roughly 1 out of 10--"felt that a shooting response was called for," the researchers report. "[A]pproximately 9 out of 10...were of the opinion that an officer should not fire...although all of the senior police officers consulted stated that the situation depicted absolutely required a shooting response.

"This result may have important implications for situations in which 12-person juries must evaluate a given police shooting....In any given, randomly selected jury of 12 citizens, these results suggest that on average, 1 or at most 2 jurors out of 12 would be likely to see an officer on trial in an officer-involved shooting situation as justified in shooting a perpetrator, even under the clearest and most appropriate of circumstances."

Sharps and Hess want to conduct further research before drawing any solid gender conclusions. However, "no male respondent felt that a shooting response was justified with a female perpetrator," and only 1 in 16 female respondents favored shooting the male gunman.

The reasons the respondents gave overall for their negative views on shooting graphically illustrate the cop-civilian disconnect. Some thought the suspect wouldn't really fire because of "the daylight, public conditions of the situation." Others "concocted elaborate rules of engagement" under which an officer might shoot: if the suspect fired first, or if the suspect had already committed murder, or if the officer had first tried to "convince" the suspect to drop the gun.

Still others "literally invoked the need for clairvoyance on the part of the police, saying that an officer should not fire...because the suspect 'did not look like she wanted to kill.' Several qualified their responses with the idea that if the police had to fire, they should shoot the perpetrator's leg or arm, because...'a shot to the leg is relatively harmless....' "

The researchers speculate that "many of these unrealistic responses may have derived from confusion of media depictions of police work with the real thing on the part of the public...and probably from unrealistic expectations concerning the workings and capabilities of the human nervous system...."

They conclude: "f these ideas and attitudes are as widespread as the results of this initial research effort suggest, there is substantial need for better education in the realities of crime and police work for the public from which, of course, all jurors are selected....This extreme discrepancy between public perception and actual police policy and operations warrants further attention, both in future research and in the modern criminal justice system....

"t is clear that these [findings] assume special significance for the real-world courtroom circumstances under which actual witnesses, jurors, and public constituencies consider and testify as to the actions of law enforcement personnel in application to real-world violent crime."

"Although this research is a welcome first step in helping to bridge the gap of understanding between many civilians and law enforcement, it's important to remember that the exploration doesn't stop here," says Dr. Lewinski. "Force Science Research Center Advisor Tom Aveni's work on contextual cues makes clear that in order to facilitate a more thorough understanding of these issues, this study should expand beyond static settings and expand into fluid and dynamic scenarios that better reflect issues of threat recognition and response in regard to human movement. Although we're supportive of and grateful for the work that's been done to date, we're hopeful that the focus will move in this direction."

[Our thanks to Wayne Schmidt, executive director of Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, for alerting us to this study. Reminder: register now for AELE's unique workshop on Lethal and Less-Lethal Force, Mar. 9-11 or Oct. 26-28 in Las Vegas. Go to for more information and online sign-up.]
28734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bolton: Iran clenches its fist on: March 02, 2009, 04:59:48 PM
As Iran prepares to fire up its Bushehr nuclear reactor -- and as the International Atomic Energy Agency governing board meets this week, again confronted with further progress by Tehran's nuclear program -- it is worth asking how the Obama administration is responding.

Well, the State Department recently named Dennis Ross, a seasoned Middle East negotiator, as a "special adviser" to the Gulf region -- a bureaucratic but important prerequisite for direct talks with Iran. Unfortunately, a new envoy and a new diplomatic tone cannot disguise the ongoing substantive collapse of U.S. policy and resolve in the teeth of the Islamic Republic's growing challenge.

Tehran welcomes direct negotiations with Washington. Why not, given the enormous benefits its nuclear programs have accrued during five and a half years of negotiations with Europe? Why not, with America at the table, buy even more time to marry its impending nuclear weapons with its satellite-launching ballistic missile capability?

We have yet to see any evidence that Barack Obama (any more than George W. Bush) knows how to stop Iran. Consider these four blunt threats to our interests that direct talks may only facilitate, not reduce.

First, diplomacy has not and will not reduce Iran's nuclear program. Ironically, European leaders are belatedly feeling hollow in the pits of their diplomatic stomachs, now that their failed diplomacy has left us with almost no alternatives to a nuclear Iran. Imagine their dismay that President Obama is now "opening" to Iran, thus eviscerating their tentative efforts to "close" the diplomatic cover under which Iran has almost achieved the worst-case outcome, deliverable nuclear weapons.

The West's collective failure to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions has persuaded Iran that it faces minimal risks in greater adventurism on other fronts as well. Mr. Obama's discovery of "carrots and sticks," after a half decade of European failure to make that mantra a successful policy, will lead Tehran's mullahs to one inescapable conclusion: They have won the nuclear race, absent imminent regime change or military action.

Second, dealing with Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria as though they are unrelated to Iran's broader threat is exactly backwards. Mr. Obama is again following Europe's mistaken view that ending the Arab-Israeli conflict will help to resolve other regional problems. But concentrating on Gaza only increases Hamas's leverage, just as negotiating with Syria only enhances its (and thereby Iran's) bargaining power.

We should deal instead with diseases, not symptoms. Changing Tehran's Holocaust-denying regime could end its nuclear program, as well as eliminate its continuing financing of and weapons supplies for Hamas and Hezbollah, reduce its malign hold over Syria, and strengthen Lebanon's fragile democracy. Taming Iran is not a magical cure-all, but surely addressing the central threat is more sensible than haphazardly dealing with the symptoms separately.

Third, Iran opposes a freer, more stable Iraq, and U.S. diplomacy will not change that. Given the recent political and military progress in stabilizing Iraq, Tehran holds a weak hand. Accordingly, legitimizing Iran as a factor in Iraqi affairs via diplomacy is patently illogical and would only strengthen Iran at the very moment Mr. Obama has announced the reduction of America's presence and clout in Iraq.

Iran's theocracy knows God's law without the help of mere voters, and it has no taste for the democracy to which Iraqis are growing increasingly accustomed. It is telling that Iran's Baghdad ambassador is a commander of the Revolutionary Army's elite Quds force.

Lastly, Iran has no incentive to "help" in Afghanistan, especially on narcotics, despite a domestic narcotics problem. Tehran's approach to Afghanistan is more subtle and complex. Whatever the desire to reduce its own drug problem, why should Iran not welcome increased sales to the decadent West and a weaker Kabul government? Moreover, if Iran cannot have its own puppets in control, it will welcome a corrupt, divided and incompetent Afghan government, rather than help us achieve the opposite result. As with Iraq, weak and divided neighbors on its borders are assets not liabilities for Tehran -- and ample reason not to assist us in changing these realities.

Hordes of U.S. officials with vague and overlapping mandates -- special envoys, ambassadors, cabinet officials, and, of course, the vice president -- are racing to be in the first photo-op with Iran. But what should focus our attention is the substantive risk that Tehran will use its opportunity to employ diplomacy to undermine U.S. interests.

Iran has already made clear how it will proceed. By recently withholding visas for the U.S. women's badminton team, Iran symbolically dashed administration hopes to update "ping pong" diplomacy. Perhaps in Iran they still play badminton with a clenched fist rather than an open hand.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
28735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China pushes ahead in cyberwar on: March 02, 2009, 02:26:27 PM
With its vast population and internal-security concerns, China could well have the most extensive and aggressive cyberwarfare capability in the world. This may bode well for China as it strives to become a global power, but it does not engender a business-friendly environment for foreign companies and individuals in China, where there is no such thing as proprietary information. From within or without, defending against China’s cyberwarfare capability is a daunting task.

In late 2008, rumors began circulating that the Chinese government, beginning in May 2009, would require foreign companies operating in China to submit their computer security technology for government approval. Details were vague, but the implication was that computer encryption inside China would become essentially useless. By giving away such information — the type of encryption systems they use and how they are implemented — companies would be showing the Chinese government how to penetrate their computer systems. It is not uncommon for governments and militaries operating on foreign soil to be required to do this, but it is unusual for private companies. (Of course, many governments, such as the United States, refuse to relinquish secure communications even when they have a diplomatic presence in a friendly nation, such as the United Kingdom.)

There is nothing sacred about information in China, where the cyberwarfare capability is deep, pervasive and a threat not only to foreign governments and militaries but also foreign corporations and individuals. STRATFOR sources tell us that the Chinese government already has pertinent information on all Taiwanese citizens of interest to China, a database that could easily be expanded to include other foreign nationals. The Chinese government can decipher most types of encrypted e-mails and documents, and China’s Internet spy network is thought to be the most extensive — if not the most creative — in the world. The government’s strongest tactic is a vast network of “bots” — parasitic software programs that allow their users to hijack networked computers. Individual bots can be building blocks for powerful conglomerations known as “botnets” or “bot armies,” which are fairly conventional formations engaged in a game of numbers not unlike traditional Chinese espionage. It is not the most innovative form of cyberwarfare, but China wields this relatively blunt instrument very effectively.

Indeed, China may well have the most extensive cyberwarfare capability in the world and the willingness to use it more aggressively than any other country. Such capability and intent are based on two key factors. One is the sheer size of China’s population, which is large enough to apply capable manpower to such a pervasive, people-intensive undertaking. In other words, one reason they do it is because they can.

Related Special Topic Page
Another is the Chinese government’s innate paranoia about internal security, born of the constant challenge of extending central rule over a vast territory. This paranoia drove Beijing to build the “Great Firewall,” an ability to control Internet activity inside the country. (Virtually all information coming into and out of China is filtered and can be cut off by the flip of a switch.) This amount of control over the information infrastructure far surpasses the control that the United States and other Western countries — or even Russia — can wield over their infrastructures.

While much of China’s Internet spying is aimed at Taiwan, it is also driven by Beijing’s desire for global-power status. With the United States and Russia both investing in offensive and defensive cyberwarfare capability, China has a vested interest in applying its strengths and devoting its resources to staying ahead of the pack and not being caught in the middle. With its information infrastructure under tight governmental control, China can leverage its massive manpower resources in a manner that allows it to conduct far more direct and holistic cyberwarfare operations than any other country.

Today, with current technology, the Chinese government can hack into most anything, even without information on specific encryption programs. It can do this not only by breaking codes but also through less elaborate means, such as capturing information upstream on Internet servers, which, in China, are all controlled by the government and its security apparatus. If a foreign company is operating in China, it is almost a given that its entire computer system is or will be compromised. If companies or individuals are using the Internet in China, there is an extremely strong possibility that several extensive bots have already infiltrated their systems. STRATFOR sources in the Chinese hotel industry tell of extensive Internet networks in hotels that are tied directly to the Public Security Bureau (PSB, the Chinese version of the FBI). During the 2008 Olympics, Western hotel chains were asked to install special Internet monitoring devices that would give the PSB even more access to Internet activities.

The Chinese Internet spy network relies heavily on bots. Many Chinese Web sites have these embedded bots, and simply logging on to a Web site could trigger the download of a bot onto the host computer. Given that the Internet in China is centrally controlled by the government, these bots likely are on many common Web sites, including English-language news sites and expatriate blogs. It is important to note that the Chinese cyberwarfare capability is not limited by geography. The government can break into Web sites anywhere in the world to install bots.

China has invested considerable time and resources to developing its bot armies, focusing on quantity rather than quality and shying away from more creative forms of hacking such as SQL injections (injecting code to exploit a security vulnerability) and next-generation remote exploits (in such features as chat software and online games). The best thing about bots is that they are easy to spread. An extensive bot army, for example, can be employed both externally and internally, which puts China at a distinct advantage. If Beijing wanted to cut its Internet access to the rest of the world in a crisis scenario, it could still spy on computers beyond its national boundaries, with bots installed on computers around the world. The upkeep of the spy network could easily be accomplished by a few people operating outside of China. By comparison, according to STRATFOR Internet security sources, the United States does not have the ability to shut down its Internet network in a time of crisis, nor could it get into China’s network if it were shut down.

A bot army might be a large, blunt instrument, but finding a bot on a computer can be a Herculean task, beyond the capabilities of some of the most Internet-savvy people. Moreover, the Chinese have started to make their bots “user-friendly.” When bots were first introduced, they could slow down computer operating systems, eventually leading the computer user to reinstall the hard drive (and thus killing the bot). Sources say that Chinese bots now can be so efficient they actually make many computers run better by cleaning up the hard drive, trying to resolve conflicts and so on. They are like invisible computer housecleaners tidying things up and keeping users satisfied. The payment for this housecleaning, of course, is intelligence.

In addition to bots and other malware, the Chinese have many other ways to expand their Internet spy network. A great deal of the computer chips and other hardware used in manufacturing computers for Western companies and governments are made in China; and these components often come from the factory loaded with malware. It is also common for USB flash drives to come from the factory infected. These components make their way into all manner of computers operating in major Western companies and governments, even the Pentagon (which recently was forced to ban the use of USB thumb drives because of a computer security incident).

Recently, a STRATFOR source who formerly worked in Australia’s government was surprised that the Australian government was considering giving a national broadband contract to the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies, which is known to have ties to the Chinese government and military. Huawei was the subject of a U.S. investigation that eventually led it to withdraw a joint $2.2 billion bid to buy a stake in 3Com, a U.S. Internet router and networking company. Other STRATFOR sources are wary of Huawei’s relationship with the U.S. company Symantec, maker of popular anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.

For companies operating in China, the best course of action is simply to leave any sensitive materials outside of China and not allow computer networks inside China to come into contact with sensitive materials. A satellite connection would help mitigate the possibility of intrusion from targeted direct hacking, but such networks are not extensive in China and move data fairly slowly. It is really not a matter of what kind of network to use. Although there have been no reports of a next-generation 3G network being hacked in any country, the Chinese government can still access the traffic on the network because it owns the physical infrastructure — telephone wires and poles, fiber optics, switching stations — and maintains tight control over it. Moreover, most 3G-enabled devices also use Bluetooth, which is extremely vulnerable to attack. And neither 3G nor satellite connections necessarily reduce the threat from bots that are propagated over e-mail or by Web-browser exploits. In the end, if your computer or other data device is infected with malware, a secure network provides very little solace.

Even when a foreign traveler leaves sensitive materials at home, there is no guarantee of their safety. The pervasive Chinese bot armies are a formidable foe, and they frequently attack networks and systems in almost every part of the world (the Pentagon defends against thousands of such attacks every day). Although China lacks a certain innovative finesse when it comes to cyberwarfare, it has a massive program with a wide reach. Combating it, from within or without, is a daunting task for any individual, company or superpower.

28736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton; Jefferson on: March 02, 2009, 01:02:15 PM
"The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of its political cares."

--Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 12, 27 November 1787
"Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition." --Thomas Jefferson
28737  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: GRAPPLING Y CUCHILLOS... on: March 02, 2009, 12:05:48 PM
!!!Muy bien!!!

El valor de esta leccion se puede ver por ejemplo en el hilo sobre el Heroe quien fue pinchado.
28738  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD: NEWT!!! on: March 02, 2009, 11:36:56 AM
Eyeing Newt For '12
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, February 27, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Politics: As the Republican Party hunts for new faces for 2012, an old face has intruded from out of right field. Clearly, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is running for president.


Read More: General Politics


Can the man who a decade and a half ago led Republicans to control of Congress for the first time in over 40 years perform another unlikely feat and replace Barack Obama in the White House?

Gingrich gave the speech of his life Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. His pre-planned grand entrance, working an overflow hotel ballroom crowd as he inched to the podium in State of the Union fashion to the rhythmic strains of "Eye of the Tiger," left no doubt of his intention to run for the highest office in the land.

Considering that Gingrich was thrown out of the speakership by his own House Republicans after serving only four years, the roaring CPAC crowd might justly be accused of amnesia. But the real electricity came from Gingrich's extraordinary rhetoric.

Again and again, he referred to the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress as the "left-wing machine." Repeatedly he referred to Attorney General Eric Holder's accusation that America is a nation of cowards — challenging him to a one-on-one "dialogue about cowardice anywhere and anytime."

Gingrich suggested that the best locale for such a talk might be a poor neighborhood in Detroit, a city whose once-prosperous population of 1.8 million was halved by liberal policies that "trap children in schools that are disasters."

The former speaker taunted President Obama for opposing earmarks yet supporting spending legislation containing 8,000 such items, contending that the nation would rally behind this president "if he were to take on the Democratic machine" against wasteful spending.

He mocked the president's vow that taxes wouldn't be raised on those making under $250,000, saying the $650 billion pegged for energy tax revenues in Obama's budget would only hit those below $250k who use electricity, gasoline, heating oil or natural gas.

Those taxed the least under the new plan are apparently only "the Amish in central Pennsylvania," he quipped.

The most inventive content in Gingrich's electrifying address, however, was the political prescriptions for the coming Obama years. "We are bigger than the Republican Party," he said of the political movement that has found the GOP to be its most effective vehicle.

He accused the Bush administration of launching a "Bush-Obama continuity in economic policy" with its financial bailout last fall, noting Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's role in that government intervention.

The political division in America, rather than Democratic-Republican, he said, is "a party of the American people" and "a party of big government and political elites." And unfortunately, according to Gingrich, Republicans became "the right wing of that party" of massive government and elitism.

In this context, remembering that Ronald Reagan as a former Democrat "reached out to Democrats and independents" in all of his major speeches, this Republican revolutionary actually called on conservative activists to recruit candidates to run in Democratic Party primaries against incumbent Democratic members of Congress.

He also touted the audacious economic proposals of his think tank, which include cutting Social Security taxes in half, a zero capital gains tax and matching Ireland's low 12.5% corporate tax rate.

How you sell the scrapping of capital gains taxes, Gingrich said, is by asking Americans how they would like an overnight increase of between 20% and 40% in the value of their 401(k)s and other savings.

As speaker, the talented-but-flawed Newt Gingrich was taken to the cleaners by President Clinton. Veteran Washington reporter Robert Novak found Gingrich guilty of "a mindless tactical incompetence that invites defeat."

But if Washington really is dominated by a "left-wing machine" intent on imposing socialism on America, Republicans may end up turning not to an outsider to fight the Goliath, but to a warrior who knows Washington well.

28739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD: BO's Bush policy on: March 02, 2009, 11:32:32 AM
Obama's withdrawal plan would take U.S. forces in Iraq down from a current 142,000 troops to 35,000 to 50,000. Under the status of forces agreement between the U.S. and Iran, negotiated and signed last year by the Bush administration, all forces must be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

In short, though President Obama will get credit, it was Bush's plan — not Obama's.

When Obama first began running for the nation's highest office in 2006, he vowed he would immediately withdraw all U.S. combat forces if elected. At the time, few with any knowledge about the conflict in Iraq took him seriously.

And sure enough, faced with the realities on the ground in Iraq and in the campaign back home, Obama changed his stance last year from immediately withdrawing all combat forces to one of removing, as his campaign Web site said, "one to two combat brigades each month, and (having) all our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months."

Now comes his much-awaited plan. Technically, Obama won't be able keep his most recent promise on troop withdrawals, but he'll come close. For that he can thank President Bush and the highly successful "surge" in troops he and Gen. David Petraeus put in place, making withdrawal possible.

In Friday's remarks, Obama told the assembled Marines: "Today I've come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end." But in fact, the actual war has been over for some time. We hate to tell the Bush-haters out there, or to relive painful recent history, but President Bush won it, making the current pullout possible.

That victory was underscored in January when Iraq held largely peaceful elections, in which voters mostly repudiated extremist parties in favor of the moderate leadership of Nouri al-Maliki.

In his comments Friday, Obama noted the progress made.

"Thanks in great measure to your service," he said, "the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007.

"Al-Qaida in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq's Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs," Obama continued. "The capacity of Iraq's Security Forces has improved, and Iraq's leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation."

He further lauded January's elections showing Iraqis have begun "pursuing their aspirations through peaceful political process."

All very true. Iraq has been a big success, which explains why you never see or hear about it in the mainstream news anymore. Suicide bombings and attacks on troops have become relatively rare, and now that Bush is out of office, there's little political profit remaining for the left in bashing America's bold Mideast initiative.

Whether you agree with Bush or not, he brought a kind of democracy to Iraq that can be found nowhere else in that region. His plan rocked al-Qaida back on its heels, to the point where its survival is in doubt. Iraq is a model.

In short, Obama's policy is really, in most respects, Bush's policy. That the troops can now come home proudly is a tribute to Bush's steadfastness. But Obama will be wise not to remove them all.

We kept troops in Europe and Japan after World War II and in South Korea after the Korean War. Bush's policy proved that democracy can take root where no one thought possible. But as in Europe, Korea and Japan, it must be protected.
28740  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: March 02, 2009, 11:18:29 AM
Given the gathering apocalyptic looking storm clouds, I'm thinking the Political Economics thread is becoming a bit unweildy and so begin this one with the latest liberal fascist economic drivel from His Glibness:


Home Invasions
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, February 25, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Activism: The community organizers who helped tank the housing market plan to seize private property being foreclosed. Acorn's "homesteaders" will squat in homes they don't own as Congress members urge them on.


Read More: Economy


Last October, we noted a campaign appearance in late 2007 by then-candidate Barack Obama at the Heartland Democratic Presidential Forum organized by Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change.

Before leaders of community organizing groups including Acorn, Obama pledged: "We're gonna be having meetings all across the country with community organizations so that you have input into the agenda for the next presidency of the United States of America."

The kind of input Acorn had in mind, and the agenda it apparently has set for America, was seen last week after Acorn representatives broke into a foreclosed home in southeast Baltimore, part of its "Home Savers" campaign in at least 22 cities.

Under this program, teams of activists will become squatters in foreclosed homes, daring authorities to forcibly evict them. Among those condoning such defiance of the law is Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, who told the squatters: "Stay in your homes. If the American people, anybody out there is being foreclosed, don't leave."

Is this what Congress had in mind when it included several billion dollars in the "stimulus" bill for groups such as Acorn to engage in "neighborhood stabilization" activities? This is like giving fire prevention funds to arsonists.

The irony here is that it was Acorn, under the cover of the Community Reinvestment Act, that intimidated banks into making risky loans in the name of "fairness." And it was Acorn that organized to intimidate financial institutions into giving what have been called "ninja" loans — for no income, no job, no assets — to people who could not afford them.

When Acorn broke into the house at 315 South Ellwood Ave. in Baltimore, member Louis Beverly, after cutting a lock with bolt cutters, proclaimed: "This is our house now." But it isn't Acorn's house. Nor is it the house of former owner Donna Hanks, who bought it in the summer of 2001.

As columnist Michelle Malkin points out, both the house and Ms. Hanks have an interesting history. The house went into foreclosure in the spring of 2006. Somewhere between that purchase and foreclosure, Ms. Hanks refinanced the original home loan to the tune of $270,000. That's a lot of extra cash.

In July 2006, she filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 and as part of the deal agreed to pay $10,500 in arrears, which resulted in a halt to the 2006 foreclosure. In September 2006, the bankruptcy court ordered her employer to deduct $340 a month from her bartender salary to pay down the debt.

According to court records, that still left her $1,228 a month in take-home pay from that job. She also claimed second and third jobs bringing home another $1,625 a month. In addition, there was a pro-rated tax refund in the pot. In February 2008, a second foreclosure was filed. Hanks had two years to pay and didn't. She tried to game the system and failed.

President Obama now proposes spending $275 billion to help us pay our neighbors' mortgages and the mortgages of people like Ms. Hanks. Consequences are the incentive to avoid risky behavior.

So why are we rewarding failure and abolishing consequences? Many of the homeowners the government is bailing out took unnecessarily chancy loans that helped bring about the financial crisis.

Some people legitimately need help. Most people don't. More than 90% of Americans are still employed, and more than 90% of homeowners still pay their mortgages on time. Paying one's taxes is patriotic, we're told. So is paying one's mortgage.

Also see  and the following days-- one of my very favorite strips!
28741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rep Ryan' on: March 02, 2009, 03:34:04 AM
Inheriting countless challenges, Congress and the Obama administration have moved quickly on many fronts to implement their economic agenda. After two months of drastic interventions, has hope replaced fear, and confidence pushed aside uncertainty? Hardly.

David GothardThe budget the president released last week, however, does provide some certainty about where we are headed: higher taxes on small businesses, work and capital investment.

Add to this the costly burdens of a cap-and-trade carbon emissions scheme and an effective nationalization of health care, and it is clear that the government is going to grow while the economy will shrink. In a nutshell, the president's budget seemingly seeks to replace the American political idea of equalizing opportunity with the European notion of equalizing results.

A constructive opposition party should be willing to call out the majority when it falls short. More important, Republicans must offer alternatives. In this spirit, here is what I would do differently:

- A pro-growth tax policy. Rather than raise the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6%, it should be dropped to 25%. The lower tax brackets should be collapsed to one 10% rate on the first $100,000 for couples. And the top corporate tax rate should be lowered to 25%. This modest reform would put American companies' tax liability more in line with the prevailing rates of our competitors.

We've seen 10 years of growth in our equity markets wiped out in recent months, while 401(k)s, IRAs and college savings plans are down by an average of 40%. The administration and congressional Democrats want to raise capital gains tax rates by a third. Instead, we should eliminate the capital gains tax. It supplies about 4% of federal revenues, yet it places a substantial drag on economic growth. Individuals already pay taxes on income when they earn it. They should not be socked again when they are saving and investing for their retirement and their children's education.

Capital gains taxes are a needless burden on investment, savings and risk-taking, activities in short supply these days. Getting rid of this tax could help establish a floor on stock prices and stem the decline in the value of retirement plans by increasing the after-tax rate of return on capital.

Democrats oppose this, playing on emotions of fear and envy. But while class warfare may make good short-term politics, it produces terrible economics.

- Guarantee sound money. For the last decade, the Federal Reserve's easy-money policy has helped fuel the housing bubble that precipitated our current crisis. We need to return to a sound money policy. That would end uncertainty, help keep interest rates down, and increase the confidence entrepreneurs and investors need to take the risks required for future growth.

I believe the best way to guarantee sound money is to use an explicit, market-based price guide, such as a basket of commodities, in setting monetary policy. A more politically realistic path to price stability would be for the Fed to explicitly embrace inflation targeting.

Transcripts from recent meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee meetings suggest that the Fed may already be moving in this direction. This would be an improvement over the status quo: It could help combat near-term deflation concerns while also calming the market's longer-term inflation fears.

- Fix the financial sector. A durable economic recovery requires a solution to the banking crisis. There are no easy or painless solutions, but the most damaging solution over the long term would be to nationalize our financial system. Once we put politicians in charge of allocating credit and resources in our economy, it is hard to imagine them letting go.

The underlying structural problem at our financial institutions is the toxic assets infecting their balance sheets and impairing their operations. In order to help purge these assets from the system, we need a government-sponsored, comprehensive solution, but one that is transparent and temporary, and which leverages -- rather than chases away -- private-sector capital.

The general idea is to establish an entity or fund to purchase troubled assets from financial institutions and then hold them until they could be sold once the market has recovered. The Treasury has announced its intention to use capital from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, along with financing from the Fed's soon-to-be operational Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, to set up such an entity. It will be a tall task to get all the details and incentives right, but the administration's general strategy appears to be sound.

A good model for this government-sponsored entity is the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC), which helped clean up bank failures in the wake of the savings-and-loan crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s by absorbing and selling off bad bank assets. The circumstances of today's financial sector are different, but the goals of our current efforts should mirror the general merits of an RTC-like entity. We should aim to recoup a portion of our initial expenditures, and we should leave only a fleeting government footprint on the financial sector and the economy.

- Get a grip on entitlements. With $56 trillion in unfunded liabilities and our social insurance programs set to implode, we must tackle the entitlement crisis. President Barack Obama deserves credit for his recent efforts to build a bipartisan consensus on entitlement reform. But we can't solve the entitlement problem unless we acknowledge why the costs are exploding, and then take action.

I have proposed legislation, called "A Roadmap for America's Future," that would bring permanent solvency to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. By transforming these open-ended entitlements into a system with a defined benefit safety net for the low-income and chronically ill, in conjunction with an individually owned, defined contribution system for health and retirement, we can reach the goal of these programs without bankrupting the next generation. It would also show the world and the credit markets that we are serious about our debt and unfunded liabilities.

Republicans can help Washington become part of the solution, not part of the problem. We can do this by pushing to enact tax policies that boost incentives for economic growth and job creation, focus the Fed on price stability, fix our banking system to get credit flowing again, stop reckless spending, and reform our entitlement programs.

Our economy is begging for clear leadership that inspires confidence and hope that the entrepreneurial spirit will flourish again. Our goal must be to offer Americans that leadership.

Mr. Ryan, from Wisconsin, is ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee and also serves on Ways and Means.
28742  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's military budget on: March 02, 2009, 03:32:10 AM
For all of his lavish new spending plans, President Obama is making one major exception: defense. His fiscal 2010 budget telegraphs that Pentagon spending is going to be under pressure in the years going forward.

The White House proposes to spend $533.7 billion on the Pentagon, a 4% increase over 2009. Include spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, which would be another $130 billion (or a total of $664 billion), and overall defense spending would be around 4.2% of GDP, the same as 2007.

APHowever, that 4% funding increase for the Pentagon trails the 6.7% overall rise in the 2010 budget -- and defense received almost nothing extra in the recent stimulus bill. The Joint Chiefs requested $584 billion for 2010 and have suggested a spending floor of 4% of GDP. Both pleas fell on deaf ears. The White House budget puts baseline defense spending at 3.7% of GDP, not including Iraq and Afghanistan. The budget summary pleads "scarce resources" for the defense shortfall, which is preposterous given the domestic spending blowout.

More ominously, Mr. Obama's budget has overall defense spending falling sharply starting in future years -- to $614 billion in 2011, and staying more or less flat for a half decade. This means that relative both to the economy and especially to domestic priorities, defense spending is earmarked to decline. Some of this assumes less spending on Iraq, which is realistic, but it also has to take account of Mr. Obama's surge in Afghanistan. That war won't be cheap either.

The danger is that Mr. Obama may be signaling a return to the defense mistakes of the 1990s. Bill Clinton slashed defense spending to 3% of GDP in 2000, from 4.8% in 1992. We learned on 9/11 that 3% isn't nearly enough to maintain our commitments and fight a war on terror -- and President Bush spent his two terms getting back to more realistic outlays for a global superpower.

American defense needs are, if anything, even more daunting today. Given challenges in the Mideast and new dangers from Iran, an erratic Russia, a rising China, and potential threats in outer space and cyberspace, the U.S. should be in the midst of a concerted military modernization. Mr. Obama's budget isn't adequate to meet those challenges.

That means Secretary of Defense Robert Gates faces some hard choices when he finishes his strategic review this spring. An early glimpse will come soon when the Pentagon must decide whether to continue to purchase more Lockheed F-22 Raptors. The Air Force is set to buy 183 of the next generation fighters, though it wanted 750, which would be enough to give the U.S. air supremacy over battlefields over the next three decades. Now the fighter may be prematurely mothballed.

Weapons programs, such as missile defense or the Army's Future Combat Systems, are also in danger. Others have been ridiculously delayed. The Air Force flies refueling tankers from the Eisenhower era. Mr. Obama's own 30-something Marine One helicopter is prone to break down and technologically out of date.

The Pentagon shouldn't get a blank check, though much of its procurement waste results from the demands made by Congress. Mr. Gates has also rightly focused on the immediate priority of irregular warfare and counterinsurgency. But history also teaches that a nation that downplays potential threats -- such as from China in outer space -- is likely to find itself ill-prepared when they arrive.

The U.S. ability to project power abroad has been crucial to maintaining a relatively peaceful world, but we have been living off the fruits of our Cold War investments for too long. We can't afford another lost defense decade.

28743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Volker on: March 02, 2009, 12:25:12 AM
I really feel a sense of profound disappointment coming up here. We are having a great financial problem around the world. And finance doesn't work without some sense of trust and confidence and people meaning what they say. You take their oral word and their written word as a sign that their intentions will be carried out.

The letter of invitation I had to this affair indicated that there would be about 40 people here, people with whom I could have an intimate conversation. So I feel a bit betrayed this evening. Forty has swelled to I don't know how many, and I don't know how intimate our conversation can be. But I will, at the very least, be informal.

There is a certain interest in what's going on in the financial world. And I will disappoint you by saying I don't know all the answers. But I know something about the problem. Let me just sketch it out a little bit and suggest where we may be going. There is a lot of talk about how we get out of this, but I think it's worth remembering, or analyzing, how this all started.

This is not an ordinary recession. I have never, in my lifetime, seen a financial problem of this sort. It has the makings of something much more serious than an ordinary recession where you go down for a while and then you bounce up and it's partly a monetary - but a self-correcting - phenomenon. The ordinary recession does not bring into question the stability and the solidity of the whole financial system. Why is it that this is so much more profound a crisis? I'm not saying it's going to get anywhere as serious as the Great Depression, but that was not an ordinary business cycle either.

This phenomenon can be traced back at least five or six years. We had, at that time, a major underlying imbalance in the world economy. The American proclivity to consume was in full force. Our consumption rate was about 5% higher, relative to our GNP or what our production normally is. Our spending - consumption, investment, government -- was running about 5% or more above our production, even though we were more or less at full employment.

You had the opposite in China and Asia, generally, where the Chinese were consuming maybe 40% of their GNP - we consumed 70% of our GNP. They had a lot of surplus dollars because they had a lot of exports. Their exports were feeding our consumption and they were financing it very nicely with very cheap money. That was a very convenient but unsustainable situation. The money was so easy, funds were so easily available that there was, in effect, a kind of incentive to finding ways to spend it.

When we finished with the ordinary ways of spending it - with the help of our new profession of financial engineering - we developed ways of making weaker and weaker mortgages. The biggest investment in the economy was residential housing. And we developed a technique of manufacturing class D mortgages but putting them in packages which the financial engineers said were class A.

So there was an enormous incentive to take advantage of this bit of arbitrage - cheap money, poor mortgages but saleable mortgages. A lot of people made money through this process. I won't go over all the details, but you had then a normal business cycle on top of it. It was a period of enthusiasm. Everybody was feeling exuberant. They wanted to invest and spend.

You had a bubble first in the stock market and then in the housing market. You had a big increase in housing prices in the United States, held up by these new mortgages. It was true in other countries as well, but particularly in the United States. It was all fine for a while, but of course, eventually, the house prices levelled off and began going down. At some point people began getting nervous and the whole process stopped because they realized these mortgages were no good.

You might ask how it went on as long as it did. The grading agencies didn't do their job and the banks didn't do their job and the accountants went haywire. I have my own take on this. There were two things that were particularly contributory and very simple. Compensation practices had gotten totally out of hand and spurred financial people to aim for a lot of short-term money without worrying about the eventual consequences. And then there was this obscure financial engineering that none of them understood, but all their mathematical experts were telling them to trust. These two things carried us over the brink.

One of the saddest days of my life was when my grandson - and he's a particularly brilliant grandson - went to college. He was good at mathematics. And after he had been at college for a year or two I asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. He said, "I want to be a financial engineer." My heart sank. Why was he going to waste his life on this profession?

A year or so ago, my daughter had seen something in the paper, some disparaging remarks I had made about financial engineering. She sent it to my grandson, who normally didn't communicate with me very much. He sent me an email, "Grandpa, don't blame it on us! We were just following the orders we were getting from our bosses." The only thing I could do was send him back an email, "I will not accept the Nuremberg excuse."

There was so much opaqueness, so many complications and misunderstandings involved in very complex financial engineering by people who, in my opinion, did not know financial markets. They knew mathematics. They thought financial markets obeyed mathematical laws. They have found out differently now. You know, they all said these events only happen once every hundred years. But we have "once every hundred years" events happening every year or two, which tells me something is the matter with the analysis.

So I think we have a problem which is not an ordinary business cycle problem. It is much more difficult to get out of and it has shaken the foundations of our financial institutions. The system is broken. I'm not going to linger over what to do about it. It is very difficult. It is going to take a lot of money and a lot of losses in the banking system. It is not unique to the United States. It is probably worse in the UK and it is just about as bad in Europe and it has infected other economies as well. Canada is relatively less infected, for reasons that are consistent with the direction in which I think the financial markets and financial institutions should go.

So I'll jump over the short-term process, which is how we get out of the mess, and consider what we should be aiming for when we get out of the mess. That, in turn, might help instruct the kind of action we should be taking in the interim to get out of it.

In the United States, in the UK, as well - and potentially elsewhere - things are partly being held together by totally extraordinary actions by a central bank. In the United States, it's the Federal Reserve, in London, the Bank of England. They are providing direct credit to markets in massive volume, in a way that contradicts all the traditions and laws that have governed central banking behaviour for a hundred years.

So what are we aiming for? I mention this because I recently chaired a report on this. It was part of the so-called Group of 30, which has got some attention. It's a long and rather turgid report but let me simplify what the conclusion is, which I will state more boldly than the report itself does.

In the future, we are going to need a financial system which is not going to be so prone to crisis and certainly will not be prone to the severity of a crisis of this sort. Financial systems always fluctuate and go up and down and have crises, but let's not have a big crisis that undermines the whole economy. And if that's the kind of financial system we want and should have, it's going to be different from the financial system that has developed in the last 20 years.

What do I mean by different? I think a primary characteristic of the system ought to be a strong, traditional, commercial banking-type system. Probably we ought to have some very large institutions - or at least that's the way the market is going - whose primary purpose is a kind of fiduciary responsibility to service consumers, individuals, businesses and governments by providing outlets for their money and by providing credit. They ought to be the core of the credit and financial system.

This kind of system was in place in the United States thirty years ago and is still in place in Canada, and may have provided support for the Canadian system during this particularly difficult time. I'm not arguing that you need an oligopoly to the extent you have one in Canada, but you do know by experience that these big commercial banking institutions will be protected by the government, de facto. No government has been willing to permit these institutions, or the creditors and depositors to these institutions, to be damaged. They recognize that the damage to the economy would be too great.

What has happened recently just underscores that. And I think we're at the point where we can no longer fool ourselves by saying that is not the case. The government will support these institutions, which in turn implies a closer supervision and regulation of those institutions, a more effective regulation than we've had, at least in the United States, in the recent past. And that may involve a lot of different agencies and so forth. I won't get into that.

But I think it does say that those institutions should not engage in highly risky entrepreneurial activity. That's not their job because it brings into question the stability of the institution. They may make a lot of money and they may have a lot of fun, in the short run. It may encourage pursuit of a profit in the short run. But it is not consistent with the stability that those institutions should be about. It's not consistent at all with avoiding conflict of interest.

These institutions that have arisen in the United States and the UK that combine hedge funds, equity funds, large proprietary trading with commercial banks, have enormous conflicts of interest. And I think the conflicts of interest contribute to their instability. So I would say let's get rid of that. Let's have big and small commercial banks and protect them - it's the service part of the financial system.

And then we have the other part, which I'll call the capital market system, which by and large isn't directly dealing with customers. They're dealing with each other. They're trading. They're about hedge funds and equity funds. And they have a function in providing fluid markets and innovating and providing some flexibility, and I don't think they need to be so highly regulated. They're not at the core of the system, unless they get really big. If they get really big then you have to regulate them, too. But I don't think we need to have close regulation of every peewee hedge fund in the world.

So you have this bifurcated - in a sense - financial system that implies a lot about regulation and national governments. If you're going to have an open system, you have got to get much more cooperation and coordination from different countries. I think that's possible, given what we're going through. You've got to do something about the infrastructure of the system and you have to worry about the credit rating agencies.

These banks were relying on credit rating agencies while putting these big packages of securities together and selling them. They had practically - they would never admit this - given up credit departments in their own institutions that were sophisticated and well-developed. That was a cost centre - why do we need it, they thought. Obviously that hasn't worked out very well.

We have to look at the accounting system. We have to look at the system for dealing with derivatives and how they're settled. So there are a lot of systemic issues. The main point I'm making is that we want to emerge from this with a more stable system. It will be less exciting for many people, but it will not warrant - I don't think the present system does, either -- $50 million dollar paydays in that central part of the system. Or even $25 or $100 million dollar paydays. If somebody can go out and gamble and make that money, okay. But don't gamble with the public's money. And that's an important distinction.

It's interesting that what I'm arguing for looks more like the Canadian system than the American system. When we delivered this report in a press conference, people said, "Oh you mean, banks won't be able to have hedge funds? What are you talking about?" That same day, Citigroup announced, "We want to get rid of all that stuff. We now realize it was a mistake. We want to go back to our roots and be a real commercial bank." I don't know whether they'll do that or not. But the fact that one of the leading proponents of the other system basically said, "We give up. It's not the right system," is interesting.

So let me just leave it at that. We've got more than 40 people here but they're permitted to ask questions, is that the deal?
28744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sleep walking dog on: March 01, 2009, 11:49:54 PM
28745  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Estudio en los riesgos de ser heroe on: March 01, 2009, 11:45:36 PM
Gracias por entrar la platica  smiley


?Como sentirias en tu corazon al hacer nada?

?Como sentirias si tu mujer o tu hijo te viera hacer nada?
28746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 01, 2009, 08:18:05 PM
A scathing piece of political humor. THIS is the way forward for we of the American Creed.
28747  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Estudio en los riesgos de ser heroe on: March 01, 2009, 06:28:00 PM
Se ve mejor en ese clip:

y unos cosas mas en este:
28748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hayek on: March 01, 2009, 03:45:13 PM
Friedrich A. Hayek in "The Constitution of Liberty" (1960), on the myth that progressive tax rates are necessary to fund large increases in government spending, lest an intolerable burden be placed on the poor:

Not only is the revenue derived from the high rates levied on large incomes, particularly in the highest brackets, so small compared with the total revenue as to make hardly any difference to the burden borne by the rest; but for a long time . . . it was not the poorest who benefited from it but entirely the better-off working class and the lower strata of the middle class who provided the largest number of voters.

It would probably be true, on the other hand, to say that the illusion that by means of progressive taxation the burden can be shifted substantially onto the shoulders of the wealthy has been the chief reason why taxation has increased as fast as it has done and that, under the influence of this illusion, the masses have come to accept a much heavier load than they would have done otherwise. The only major result of the policy has been the severe limitation of the incomes that could be earned by the most successful and thereby gratification of the envy of the less-well-off.

28749  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Just say "No!" on: March 01, 2009, 03:44:13 PM

Recently, a firestorm ignited in Wisconsin when I, as Milwaukee County executive, refused to submit a wish list to Gov. Jim Doyle for items in the federal "stimulus" package.

Gov. Doyle -- like other politicians -- had lined up at the federal trough begging for billions in "free money" to cover budget deficits and to fuel new spending. He and others simply couldn't understand and were outraged that I didn't join them, and that I didn't relent even after the president signed the stimulus bill into law.

My explanation is simple. First, this money isn't free. Second, under Gov. Doyle our state has borrowed vast sums of money and avoided making tough budget decisions while expanding government programs. In three biannual budgets since he took office in 2003, new state bonding exceeded new tax revenue collections by $2.1 billion. During good times, the governor had been borrowing money to underwrite expansions of health care, education and environmental programs. If he is bailed out now, the federal stimulus funds will only enable the governor and others to go on spending and even taking on new obligations that will lead to larger deficits down the road. Third, if we grow government rather than private-sector jobs, we will not help the economy. Strong leadership, honest budgeting and tax cuts would do a lot more.

This burst housing bubble that led to the recession was created when millions of people were allowed (or encouraged) to spend borrowed money on homes they couldn't afford and were later forced into foreclosure.

Apparently Washington politicians learned nothing from this process. They rushed to spend $787 billion of borrowed money on new government programs in the name of economic stimulus. But even this loan of taxpayer money -- essentially the largest mortgage in history -- will come due. When it does, our children and grandchildren will pay for this imprudence.

As popular as the federal "stimulus" package is with Washington politicians, it is more popular among state and local politicians who view federal money as a cure for their fiscal woes.

Wisconsin is afflicted with fiscal woes. In every budget he has signed, Gov. Doyle postponed difficult decisions using accounting gimmicks and excessive bonding to pay for ongoing operational costs. The most egregious example is the damage done to the transportation fund over the past six years, which uses state gas taxes and vehicle registration fees to fund road projects. The governor has raided the segregated fund for a total of $1.2 billion to cover ongoing operational costs for government programs. He's partially replaced the raided funds with $865.5 million in bonds.

As a result of borrowing against tomorrow to live for today, the governor left Wisconsin's budget vulnerable. So in the fall of 2008 when recession caused a sharp decline in tax revenue, the state was forced into the red.

Wisconsin now faces an unprecedented $5.75 billion budget deficit, fourth-largest in the nation. Many municipalities also face deficits. My county, however, finished fiscal year 2007 with a $7.9 million surplus and will break even for fiscal year 2008 when the books are closed next month. Why? Because we made tough budget decisions demanded by the taxpayers.

State and local officials who failed to do so are looking to the federal government for a bailout. But what happens when the stimulus money is gone? Is the federal government committed to funding the projects it will now underwrite forever? I'm not willing to bet on it.

The stimulus is a classic bait-and-switch. Once the highways are built and social-service case loads have increased, Wisconsin will be left with the bill to maintain the new roads and services. This will force Wisconsin to raise new taxes. Gov. Doyle and legislative Democrats are already discussing higher taxes on hospitals, retailers, employers and even Internet downloads to feed their spending addiction.

The stimulus is also a bait-and-switch on employment. While the stimulus package might create a few construction jobs, the federal money will run out and those workers will lose their jobs. Even worse, most of the money is actually spent on new government programs and on bailing out failed state and local governments.

For the vast majority of residents of my state, the stimulus funds will not help them pay the mortgage or replenish their depleted retirement savings as they worry about being laid off.

True economic stimulus creates sustainable private-sector jobs. The fastest, most effective way to create them is to reduce taxes and implement regulatory and fiscal policies that encourage job growth and economic investment. History has shown repeatedly from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan that as taxes are cut, consumers spend more and investors put more money in the economy. This, in turn, creates jobs, and grows the economy.

Too many politicians confuse more government spending with economic recovery. I believe that's the wrong approach, and I will not submit a wish list for new government spending. Excessive spending will only lead to higher taxes, and that will drive jobs away when we need them the most.

We need to use these challenging times as an opportunity to streamline government and reduce the tax burden on working families. In 2002, during my first campaign for county executive, I promised to spend taxpayer money as if it were my own. If government -- at all levels -- were to do just that, we could reduce taxes and stimulate the economy. That would put people back to work again. And that is something on my wish list.

Mr. Walker, a Republican, is Milwaukee County executive.
28750  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Estudio en los riesgos de ser heroe on: March 01, 2009, 08:26:11 AM
100% de acuerdo Cecilio.

Por flojera  rolleyes uso un programa de traduccion para traducir algo que originalmente escribi' en ingles.  Ojala que sea entendible:


Algunas observaciones iniciales rápidas:

A) En 0:04 vemos a un hombre empuja un botón para abrir la puerta al tren. He visto esto en Suiza (y presumiblemente en otra parte en Europa) pero nunca en EEUU;

B) ?Héroe veia problema comenzar en el coche de tren?

C) En 0:14 nota número varias héroes potenciales siguen al Tipo Malo fuera de la puerta inmediatamente -- que sugiere clamor que general puede haber iniciado -- quizás esto explica la firmeza rápida de Héroe como él abre su puerta y los bustos un movimiento con virtualmente no vacilación;¿

D) 0:18 Ya tiene tiene cuchillo en la mano Tipo Malo?  La calidad visual pobre lo hace duro para mí decir. Si sí, entonces Heroe no lo vio.  ¿Lo conseguir acceso al Tipo si no, entonces cuándo Malo?  Sospecho que el cuchillo fue ya en la mano basada sobre la reacción del hombre que lleva la ropa limpiada en seco.  No prueba cierta, pero sugestiva.

E) 0:19 La patada voladora sugiere la entrenamiento martial a mí.  Sí es desaliñado, pero sirve su propósito a romper BG corre. ¿Yo no pienso que una persona no capacitada habría tratado esto, pero quizás en Europa donde muchas personas poseen excelentes habilidades de fútbol?  Note el movimiento prudente Malo de Tipo que apuñala en la patada voladora de héroe -- indicando él probablemente tuvo el cuchillo en la mano ya.

F) 0:24 vemos una respuesta instintiva típica de tipo que lucha cuerpo a cuerpo; Tipo Malo ya hace la Máquina de coser de la Prisión. Los ataques son reconocidos como que ataques de cuchillo bastante rápidamente y el Héroe ya han soltado su asidero en 0:29. Esto parece a mí ser una reacción rápida bonita. He visto longitud en pies de personas ni dar cuenta de.

G) En los segundos finales nosotros conseguimos una vista buena de un cuchillo bastante grande.

El comentario adicional: Por mi sentido del mundo, excepcional aquí está el número de personas que responden por avanzar vigorosamente.

Mi ingles original:

Some quick initial observations:

a) at 0:04 we see a man push a button to open the door to the train.  I've seen this in Switzerland (and presumably elsewhere in Europe) but never in the US;

b) Did Hero see problem start in the train car?

c)  At 0:14 note various potential heroes follow the Bad Guy out of the door immediately-- which suggests general hue and cry may have initiated-- perhaps this explains the rapid decisiveness of Hero as he opens his door and busts a move with virtually no hesitation;

d)  0:18  Does Bad Guy have knife in hand?  Poor visual quality makes it hard for me to tell.  If yes, then H missed it.  If not, then when did Bad Guy access it?  I suspect the knife was already in the hand based upon the reaction of the man carrying the dry-cleaned clothes.  Not proof certain, but suggestive.

e) 0:19   The flying kick suggests training to me.  Yes it is sloppy, but it serves its purpose in breaking BG's sprint.  I do not think an untrained person would have tried this, but perhaps in Europe where many people possess excellent soccer skills?  Note the Bad Guy’s  forehanded stabbing motion at the hero’s flying kick-- indicating he probably had the knife in hand already.

f) 0:24   We see a typical instinctive grappling type response; Bad Guy is already doing the Prison Sewing Machine.  The attacks are recognized as knife attacks quite quickly and Hero has already released his hold at 0:29.  This seems to me to be a pretty quick reaction.  I've seen footage of people not even realizing.

g) In the final seconds we get a pretty good view of a rather large knife.

Additional comment:  Per my sense of the world, unusual here is the number of people who respond by vigorously coming forward.

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