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30901  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: September 26, 2008, 07:01:31 PM
If you are so inclined, please feel free to start a thread and share them.
30902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pakistan s Ambassador on: September 26, 2008, 02:05:33 AM
Pakistan and Afghanistan
Unite Against Terrorism

President Hamid Karzai and the new democratically elected president of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, are firmly committed to fighting terrorism in a united front, as common allies of the United States and victims of terrorism. As part of this struggle, we need to find new ways to deny terrorists the opportunity to capitalize on abject poverty that engulfs the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This is crucial: People who are well fed are not desperate. People who have confidence in public education do not turn toward political madrassas to educate their children. People who have good jobs do not shelter terrorists. In other words, prosperity is one of the most important predictors of political stability, which in turn is the single most critical element in the containment of fanaticism and terrorism.

One innovative idea now before the U.S. Congress does exactly that -- the creation of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ) in Afghanistan and Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The legislation, introduced on a bipartisan basis by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) would allow the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan to produce and export a wide range of textiles, handicrafts, carpets, gemstones and other products to the U.S. duty free. This concept is consistent with similar, successful programs for Jordan, Egypt and some other countries.

The list of duty-free goods has been crafted to be attractive to investors but tightly defined to avoid impact on U.S. domestic production. The rights of laborers will be protected; and the zones will offer legitimate, sustained income to local populations, providing alternatives to joining and supporting terrorists and extremists.

These zones would also draw Pakistan and Afghanistan's economies closer together, increasing cooperation and integration. Trade between our two countries has increased dramatically in recent years, with Pakistani exports to Afghanistan jumping from $25 million to $1.2 billion in the last six years. Further cooperation would only increase trade and expand joint efforts on matters of mutual concern -- terrorism chief among them.

The ROZ concept is enthusiastically supported by the Bush administration. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said that "these programs will boost sustainable economic development for citizens in impoverished areas at the epicenter of the war on terror and drugs."

Sens. Joe Biden (D., Del.) and Richard Lugar (R., Ind.), the chairman and the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have made enhanced trade and economic development a priority for building a prosperous, stable and democratic Central and South Asia. This is an idea whose time truly has come.

We, the ambassadors of Pakistan and Afghanistan, urge Congress to move expeditiously to enact ROZ legislation. It will constitute a much-needed affirmation to the people of both our countries that America is a dependable ally, and that it understands that more than military action alone is needed in the war against terrorists.

Reconstruction Opportunity Zones are an essential part of a broader, realistic, multifaceted policy that will choke off the oxygen of terrorism. As a brave leader committed to fighting terrorism, the late Benazir Bhutto wrote at the end of her posthumously published book, "Reconciliation": "Extremism thrives under dictatorship and is fueled by poverty, ignorance and hopelessness. The extremist threat within the Islamic world and between the Islamic world and the West can be solved, but it will require addressing all the factors that breed it."

For the United States, this is a critical moment -- a moment that could very well determine the long-term success of the civilized world's containment of fanaticism and terrorism. Creative policies such as ROZ now and in the future can solve it.

Mr. Haqqani is Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. Mr. Jawad is Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S.
30903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Public deserves better plan on: September 26, 2008, 01:52:21 AM
Another piece raising questions , , ,

The Public Deserves a Better Deal


The Treasury plan to buy illiquid financial assets has been widely criticized as being unfair to taxpayers, who will have to bear losses ahead of shareholders of the institutions that will be bailed out.
[The Public Deserves a Better Deal] Corbis

There is a better alternative to stabilize the markets: Invest the $700 billion of taxpayer money in senior preferred stock of the troubled financial institutions that pose systemic risks. Let's call this the "Preferred plan." In fact, it is the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac model -- which the Treasury Department has already endorsed and used in practice. It is also the approach Warren Buffett used for his investment in Goldman Sachs.

There are major problems with the Treasury plan. First, by buying banks' worst assets at above-market prices, taxpayers take an immediate economic loss -- while transferring wealth to shareholders and executives of the very institutions that brought on the financial crisis.

Second, this plan puts too much discretionary power in the hands of Treasury officials. Who determines what financial assets are purchased and at what prices? Who determines which bank gets to benefit from these taxpayer subsidies? Will bank shareholders continue to receive dividends, and executives continue to get paid huge bonuses?

When financial institutions borrow massive amounts of money to invest in assets that are now found to be illiquid and poorly performing, it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to bear the resulting losses. These losses should be borne by the shareholders.

If taxpayers have to step in and provide capital to keep operating enterprises that the government decides are key to the functioning of the economy as a whole, taxpayers must receive protection.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said at the Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, "[the] Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac [interventions] worked the way they were supposed to." These enterprises continued to function, maintaining homeowner access to and lowering the cost of mortgage financing. However, managements of these companies had to leave and forfeit the compensation packages they had negotiated.

Shareholders had their dividends blocked and remain first in line to bear losses, as they should have been. Taxpayers came both first and last -- first to get paid back, as the new preferred stock is senior to all shareholders; and last in realizing losses, as common and other preferred equity would be extinguished before the taxpayers would be at risk.

This mechanism -- purchases of senior preferred stock with warrants in troubled institutions -- addresses the problems with the Treasury plan. The financial market is stabilized, companies get recapitalized, failures are avoided, debt securities are supported, and time is gained for illiquid assets to mature.

The institutions continue to function, their cost of funding will decline as equity capital increases, and innocent third parties like bank depositors, broker/dealer clients and insurance-policy holders are all protected. The only difference is that potential losses are kept with the shareholders where they belong.

The Treasury plan would also entail larger outlays than the Preferred plan. By allowing all banks to sell their worst assets to Treasury at inflated prices, taxpayers would be subsidizing healthy banks which have access to private capital (Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, for example) as well as banks that don't have a private alternative. But under a Preferred plan, only banks that don't have a private alternative will be given federal assistance. This would reduce the outlay otherwise required to solve the crisis.

Few people familiar with the issues deny that Treasury action is needed to stabilize the financial markets. However, the question is who should bear the cost?

Under the Treasury plan the taxpayer pays the price. Under a Preferred plan, the shareholders of the firms who created the problems bear the first loss. Who do you think should pay?

Before committing $700 billion of our money, we should encourage Congress to take a few extra days to get this legislation right.

Mr. Paulson is president and portfolio manager of Paulson & Co. Inc., a New York-based investment management firm.
30904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iraq Progress on: September 26, 2008, 01:28:18 AM
Iraq Political Progress


For some better news this week, turn the channel to Iraq. The Parliament in Baghdad just undid the biggest political knot in the country. Wednesday's deal to hold provincial elections opens the way for former insurgents and their supporters, mainly Sunni Arabs, to join the democratic process in Iraq. That in turn should help consolidate the stunning security gains of the past year.
[Iraq Political Process] AP

An American soldier stands guard as an Iraqi soldier hands out leaflets of wanted men in Baghdad, Sept. 24, 2008.

We used to hear from Joe Biden, the Pentagon and others on both sides of the aisle in Washington that only political reconciliation and a U.S. force pullout could stem the violence. They got it backwards. The "surge" and General David Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy, in a matter of months, turned or neutralized Sunni and Shiite militias and all but defeated al Qaeda in Iraq. Only now that it's calmer do Iraqis feel secure enough to make political progress.

Under the compromise, elections are to be held by January in 14 provinces. Expect Sunnis to win a large chunk of seats in Anbar, Diyala and other regions; most Sunnis sat out the previous polls in 2005 and won't make that mistake again. The notable exception is Tamim, home to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk disputed by Kurds and Sunnis. Iraqi parliamentarians agreed to kick this problem down the road. Elections there will be put off into the spring once disputes over voter rolls and other questions are resolved. This was the necessary compromise to break the deadlock in Baghdad.

Less noticed but also critical is the manner of voting. In the coming provincial elections, Iraqis will choose from a slate of candidates nominated by political parties. Three years ago, they got to vote only for a "closed slate" of parties without knowing which particular politician would end up representing them in the regional or national assemblies.

The change to a so-called open slate is a step forward. It makes politicians more directly accountable to their constituents and reduces the power of party bosses. The national elections, which are expected by 2010 but were also held up by the dispute over the provincial vote, are expected to be open slate, as well.

Unfortunately Iraq remains stuck with "proportional representation," a 2005 gift from U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi that helped exacerbate sectarian tensions and bring weak coalition governments. Under this system, Iraqis don't vote for individual candidates in set constituencies. Instead they choose among party slates that are then awarded a share of seats based on their showing. This gives a strong incentive for Iraq to have only ethnic-based parties.

Iraqi party bosses are attached to this system, and fought behind the scenes even against an open slate. No surprise there: What politician wants to risk losing power? A move from proportional representation to constituency voting would be hard and time consuming. A U.S. official in Baghdad tells us that Washington "won't take a position" on a preferable system for Iraq. Maybe it should. A constitutional reform that further blunts sectarianism in politics and strengthens this young democracy would seem to be in the American -- and Iraqi -- interest.

For all the remarkable progress, the war in Iraq isn't over. An ambush on Iraqi police in the volatile Diyala province, also Wednesday, left 35 policemen dead. Whoever wins the White House next year would imperil the recent gains by drawing down American forces before Iraq holds provincial and national elections. They're needed to ensure security and guard against sectarian backsliding. As importantly, the U.S. is a trusted neutral observer whose robust presence will reassure various Iraqi communities that the elections are fair.

The election compromise is a major breakthrough and shows that political reconciliation is happening in Iraq. It is also further proof that the sacrifice of American soldiers has not been in vain.
30905  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WSJ: Mayorga on: September 26, 2008, 01:20:23 AM
At the age of 35, Ricardo "El Matador" Mayorga is making the most unlikely comeback in boxing. But don't tell the Surgeon General. He's doing it while smoking a pack a day.

In one of the planet's most physically demanding sports, Mr. Mayorga has managed to win a world championship and stay in the top ranks for a decade. Tomorrow night, he's scheduled to fight former world champion Shane Mosley in a bout that could rekindle his title hopes or send him into retirement. But the most remarkable thing about this boxer from Nicaragua is that he has risen to the top of his sport while sucking down enough cigarette smoke to kill a rhinoceros. He has little interest in nutrition or scientific training. He's never been hooked up to a Vo2 Max machine and he turns down the vitamin B12 shots offered by his coach, Rigoberto Garibaldi. "No scientist would be able to figure out what makes him work," says Mr. Garibaldi.

In a sports world dominated by athletes obsessed with calibrating their bodies to a precise degree, Mr. Mayorga has spent his entire career doing the opposite -- pumping himself full of stuff that should be slowing him down. While training in Florida for tomorrow's fight at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., Mr. Mayorga woke up at dawn every morning and ran three miles at speeds that, according to his trainer, would make any other boxer pass out -- let alone one who smoked. "It doesn't affect him at all," Mr. Garibaldi says.

After lunch, Mr. Mayorga would drive to a small gym at an office park in the Miami suburb of Coconut Creek to work on shadowboxing, punching mitts and working the heavy bag. In the late afternoons, he sometimes added another workout of weights or more running. At the end of the day, he's so tired he can barely move. But this grueling ritual is frequently punctuated by an astonishing sight: Mr. Mayorga, still dressed in his sweaty workout clothes, lighting up a cigarette.

WSJ's Reed Albergotti visits "El Matador." (Sept. 26)

After one grueling workout last month in Florida, he toweled off and walked outside the gym. His coach handed him some fresh fruit to eat for recovery and an assistant produced a lighter. Soon Mr. Mayorga was taking a deep drag from a Marlboro, looking relieved and relaxed. "I've been smoking since I was 13," he said. "It seems to be working for me, so why stop?"

Mr. Mayorga's assistant, Anthony Gonzalez, says that when the boxer isn't training, he smokes as many as three packs, or 60 cigarettes, a day.

High-level trainers say that despite what you might think, an occasional cigarette is relatively normal for pro athletes, especially in Europe, where athletes smoke the way NFL linemen might sneak Big Macs into training camp. French soccer superstar Zinedine Zidane was photographed sneaking a cigarette during the 2006 World Cup. One of the greatest cyclists of all time, Belgian Eddy Merckx, smoked occasionally. And a 2003 survey showed about 10% of Major League Baseball players admitted using cigarettes.

Mark Verstegen, the founder of the Arizona-based sports-training facility Athletes Performance, says there is no question that smoking hurts athletic performance. When some of the elite athletes he's worked with have quit smoking, he says, they've seen immediate gains in physiological markers like oxygen uptake, muscle fatigue and overall speed. The act of smoking, he says, "mucks up the whole system."
[Ricardo Mayorga] John Loomis for The Wall Street Journal

Ricardo Mayorga

Several studies performed on athletes back up these observations. In 1985, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles ran nine male subjects to the point of exhaustion -- some after smoking three cigarettes and some without smoking at all. They found the smokers were less able to get oxygen to their muscles and had higher heart rates. A study concluded last year at Denmark's Copenhagen Muscle Research Center found that muscle protein synthesis, which is essential for athletes, was substantially lower in a group of smokers than a group of nonsmokers.

Terry Conway, a public-health researcher at San Diego State University, says that while tobacco smoke does not do elite athletes any favors, it may not slow them down enough to make a big difference. "They can tolerate assaults to their body because they are genetically gifted," she says.

Mr. Mayorga says his first taste of boxing came as a boy on the streets of Managua. As a junior boxer, he won Nicaragua's national championship and a Central American Golden Gloves title before turning pro in 1993. His heyday in the ring came in 2002 and 2003 when he won three welterweight title matches -- beating the top-ranked and heavily favored Andrew Lewis by technical knockout and winning both the WBA and WBC welterweight titles by beating reigning-champion Vernon Forrest twice. He fell just short of winning the undisputed welterweight title in 2003, but collected the super welterweight crown in 2005.

The low point of Mr. Mayorga's career came in 2006 when Oscar De La Hoya pummeled him so badly the official stopped the fight in the sixth round. Though he never officially retired, he didn't fight again for almost two years.

As he ascended in boxing, Mr. Mayorga says he originally tried to hide his smoking habit for fear that promoters would scold him. After beating Mr. Lewis in 2002, Mr. Mayorga was sitting in the training room with his coach and smoking a cigarette when Alan Hopper, a publicist for promoter Don King, walked in. His coach frantically grabbed the cigarette and attempted to put it out, but instead of lecturing the fighter, Mr. Hopper told him to light up another one and found him a bottle of beer to take to the press conference. When Mr. Mayorga started taking questions from the media while drinking and smoking, an image was born.

Mr. Mayorga's punching power and his unrestrained bravado quickly made him a cult figure in boxing. Earlier in his career, his signature move was to allow his opponent to take a free punch at his head. He once offered an opponent a job sweeping his floors and threatened to send another opponent to heaven to meet his deceased mother. In 2003, he posed on the cover of the boxing magazine The Ring in his gloves and trunks with a cigarette dangling from his lips.

Mr. Mayorga's current comeback began in November when he upset Fernando Vargas in 12 rounds, bringing his career record to 28-6-1 and earning him a fight with Mr. Mosley, 37, who is also looking to rekindle his title hopes. Mr. Mosley, 44-5, is best known for giving Mr. De La Hoya two of his five career losses. At press time, he was the clear favorite. The fight will be televised on HBO.

When asked if he would ever smoke, Mr. Mosley laughed and said no. He has been training at his high-altitude home in Big Bear, Calif., running up and down hills, lifting weights and carefully monitoring his diet. He said he even makes his mother go outside when she smokes. Mr. Mayorga says training at altitude won't help his opponent in the ring. "He can go to the North Pole or the Amazon, the result's going to be the same. I'm going to win the fight."

At the prefight press conference in Los Angeles, Mr. Mayorga, dressed in a suit, lit a cigarette and even offered one to Mr. Mosley. "He can smoke a cigarette when he loses," Mr. Mosley says. "I'm going to destroy him in five rounds or less."
30906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / RTC Chairman on: September 26, 2008, 12:46:41 AM
What We Learned
From Resolution Trust

As individuals who were intimately involved in the resolution of this country's last financial crisis, we follow with great interest Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's proposal to acquire distressed real-estate assets from financial institutions.

The current situation threatens our economy more than the savings and loan and banking crisis of the 1980s and early 1990s. The Treasury secretary should be congratulated for moving quickly and decisively.

We would like to offer some thoughts based on our experiences in starting up and operating the government-owned Resolution Trust Corporation, as well as a similar type of operation undertaken by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for dealing with failed banks.

The RTC was charged with resolving nearly 750 failing savings and loan institutions holding $400 billion in assets, and the FDIC had an additional $200 billion from failed banks. Most of these assets were loans to homeowners, builders and developers. Many of the assets, especially construction and development loans, had no established market or "fair value."

The major difference between then and now is that the RTC was, with only a couple of exceptions, dealing with S&Ls closed by their chartering agency. This meant the RTC took over the assets after the institution failed, not before. So the RTC did not have to first negotiate a "fair value purchase price" with a troubled seller. Our experience with past U.S. bank and S&L assistance efforts, as well as those of other countries, leads us to believe that deciding what price to pay -- and which institution to "assist" by buying their assets -- will not be easy.

Guidelines should be established regarding which institutions will be assisted, and how the government will minimize losses, should "fair value" prices prove too high. One option is to not pay all cash upfront. Another method of protecting the taxpayer against overpayment would be for the government to have the right to recover some part of losses suffered on the later sale of assets. Other countries with asset-acquisition programs found themselves conflicted between paying too much to help the bank and trying to avoid losses eventually realized.

Clear guidelines for the management process should be established as promptly as possible for the real-estate loans and/or mortgage-backed securities acquired by Treasury. Like those owned by the RTC, all will require some level of active management.

Buying and managing home mortgages acquired by Treasury will be very challenging. Valuation will be heavily influenced by local real-estate markets and the actions available to the lenders. Restrictions on lender actions or sale prices should be avoided to help maximize recoveries and minimize taxpayers' losses. Restructuring loans often provides an attractive option that avoids foreclosure and keeps families in their homes. But it is important that the lender be allowed to pursue other options when determined to be in the best interest of the taxpayer.

The most difficult loans for the RTC to manage were loans to developers and builders. Our guess is such loans are a looming problem that has not yet been fully recognized. While it is not clear if the proposal currently addresses such loans, it should. Their treatment will impact the property values underlying loans acquired by Treasury.

The RTC started a number of sales initiatives. For the more difficult real-estate loans and properties, we started hiring contractors to manage and sell the assets. But aligning the interests of contractors with the RTC proved very difficult.

The RTC saw that the larger its inventory of distressed assets became, the more the overhang impeded the ability of the markets to determine value and function effectively. We concluded that the only way to stimulate markets as well as avoid conflicting mandates was to quickly move assets into private-sector ownership and expertise, by selling them in bulk in an open and competitive manner.

Here are the most important lessons we learned from our experiences in the late '80s and early '90s:

- Acquired assets require active management. Assets tend to lose value while in government hands, as the government seldom can duplicate a private owner's interest in enhancing value. The RTC employed over 10,000 people in the first year of operation.

- Holding large inventories of assets will lead to depressed prices. No one wants to buy when the market has a large overhang of assets just waiting to be dumped when prices improve.

- To get the market started, assets have to be sold at very low prices. Such sales will attract buyers, with a resulting increase in prices. At the same time, selling at low prices could trigger accusations that the agency is "depressing the market."

- Every government sale or purchase creates winners and losers. This results in intense political and economic pressures to influence the actions of the agency. The RTC's independent governance and operations protected against fraud and political influence.

The Treasury proposal will undoubtedly raise many conflicts similar to those seen by the RTC. In our experience, government ownership and management of assets rarely increases value. Moving assets openly, fairly and promptly to sound private-sector owners is the best way to minimize taxpayers' losses. If the RTC hadn't adopted this approach, it might still be around today.

Mr. Seidman is former FDIC and RTC chairman. Mr. Cooke is former deputy FDIC chairman and RTC executive director.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum
30907  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: September 25, 2008, 04:23:41 AM
Not sure why you posted in this thread grin Tom but glad you made it out.

Any  good stories?
30908  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Hello All on: September 25, 2008, 04:19:00 AM

Welcome aboard Estevan and thank you for your service. 
I hope we will see you on the Politics and Religion forum too.

Crafty Dog
30909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Kessler: Paulson plan will make money on: September 24, 2008, 11:41:14 PM
The Paulson Plan
Will Make Money
For Taxpayers


In 1992, hedge-fund manager George Soros made $1 billion betting against the British pound. In 2007, John Paulson's Credit Opportunities fund correctly bet against subprime mortgages, clearing $15 billion for the year and $3.7 billion for him. Warren Buffett is now hoping to make big money on Goldman Sachs.

But these are small-time deals. My analysis suggests that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (a former investment banker, no less, not a trader) may pull off the mother of all trades, which could net a trillion dollars and maybe as much as $2.2 trillion -- yes, with a "t" -- for the United States Treasury.
[The Paulson Plan Will Make Money for Taxpayers] Chad Crowe

Here's what's happened so far. New technology like electronic trading meant that Wall Street's bread-and-butter business of investment banking and trading stocks stopped making much money years ago. So investment banks took their enormous capital and at first packaged yield-enhanced, subprime mortgage loans into complex derivatives such as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Eventually and stupidly, these institutions owned them for themselves -- lots of them, often at 30-to-1 leverage. The financial products were made "safe" by insurance products known as credit default swaps, a credit derivative from companies such as AIG. When housing turned down, the mortgages and derivatives were worth a lot less and no one would lend Wall Street money anymore.

Then the piling on started. Hedge funds could short financial stocks and then bid down the prices of CDOs stuck on Wall Street's balance sheets. This was pretty easy to do in an illiquid market. Because of the Federal Accounting Standards Board's mark-to-market 157 rule, Wall Street had to write off the lower value of these securities and raise more capital, diluting shareholders. So the stock prices would drop, which is what the shorts wanted in the first place. It was all legit.

There is a saying on Wall Street that goes, "The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent." Long Term Capital Management learned this lesson 10 years ago when it got its portfolio picked off by Wall Street as its short-term financing dried up. I had thought the opposite -- hedge funds picking off Wall Street -- would happen today. But in a weird twist, it's the government that is set up to win the prize.

Here's how: As short-term financing dried up, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's deteriorating financials threatened to trigger some $1.4 trillion in credit default swap payments that no one, including giant insurer AIG, had the capital to make good on. So Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson put Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship. This removed any short-term financing hassle. He also put up $85 billion in loan guarantees to AIG in exchange for 80% of the company.

Taxpayers will get their money back on AIG. My models suggest that Fannie and Freddie, on the other hand, are a gold mine. For $2 billion in cash up front and some $200 billion in loan guarantees so far, the U.S. government now controls $5.4 trillion in mortgages and mortgage guarantees.

Fannie and Freddie each own around $800 million in mortgage loans, some of them already at discounted values. They also guarantee the credit-worthiness of another $2.2 trillion and $1.6 trillion in mortgage-backed securities. Held to maturity, they may be worth a lot more than Mr. Paulson paid for them. They're called distressed securities for a reason.

Now Mr. Paulson is pitching Congress for $700 billion or more to buy distressed loans and CDOs from the rest of Wall Street, injecting needed cash onto balance sheets so that normal loans for economic activity can be restored. The trick is what price he will pay. Better mortgages and CDOs are selling for 70 cents on the dollar. But many are seriously distressed (15-25 cents on the dollar) because they are the last to be paid in foreclosures. These are what Wall Street wants to unload the quickest.

Firms will haggle, but eventually cave -- they need the cash. I am figuring Mr. Paulson could wind up buying more than $2 trillion in notional value loans and home equity and CDOs for his $700 billion.

So the U.S. will be stuck with a portfolio in the trillions of dollars in bad loans and last-to-be-paid derivatives. Where is the trade in that?

Well, unlike Mr. Buffett or any hedge fund, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve get to cheat. It's not without risk, but the Feds, with lots of levers, can and will pump capital into the U.S. economy to get it moving again. Future heads of Treasury and the Federal Reserve will be growth advocates -- in effect, "talking their book." While normally this creates a threat of inflation and a run on the dollar, and we may see dollar exchange rates turn south near term, don't expect it to last.

First, with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley now operating as low-leverage bank holding companies, a dollar injected into the economy will most likely turn into $10 in capital (instead of $30 when they were investment banks). This is a huge change. Plus, a stronger U.S. economy, with its financial players having clean balance sheets, will become a safe haven for capital.

Europe is threatened by an angry Russian bear. The Far East, especially China, has its own post-Olympic banking house of cards of non-performing loans to deal with. Interest rates will tick up as the economy expands -- a plus for the dollar. Finally, a stronger economy driven by industry instead of financials means more jobs, less foreclosures and higher held-to-maturity payouts on this Fed loan portfolio.

You can slice the numbers a lot of different ways. My calculations, which assume 50% impairment on subprime loans, suggest it is possible, all in, for this portfolio to generate between $1 trillion and $2.2 trillion -- the greatest trade ever. Every hedge-fund manager will be jealous. Mr. Buffett is buying a small piece of the trade via his Goldman Sachs investment.

Over 10 years this could change the budget scenario in D.C., which can also strengthen the dollar. The next president gets a heck of a windfall. In the spirit of Secretary of State William Seward's purchase of Alaska for $7 million in 1867, this week may be remembered as Paulson's Folly.

Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author of "How We Got Here" (Collins, 2005).

Please add your comments to the
30910  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: September 24, 2008, 11:15:28 PM
Thanks for the heads up.   I found the URL and it looks like it is being posted by GM Pallens to whom I did give permission to use to promote himself on his website.

I would have preferred that he give us credit and mentioned the DVD from which it came , , ,
30911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 24, 2008, 10:37:52 PM
I am on a really crummy computer in Switzerland with no audio, but this clip comes recommended to me.


The WSJ rips McCain another butthole again:

The Candidates Vote 'Present'


Last we checked, the President of the United States was still George W. Bush, the Secretary of the Treasury was still Henry Paulson, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve was still Ben Bernanke, and Congress still had 533 members not running for President who are at least nominally competent to debate and pass legislation.

So count us as mystified by Senator John McCain's decision yesterday to suspend his campaign and call for a postponement in Friday's first Presidential debate so that he and Barack Obama can work out a consensus bill to stabilize the financial system. This is supposed to be evidence of leadership?

Mr. McCain's decision follows an equally odd suggestion from Mr. Obama yesterday morning that the two candidates issue a joint statement of principles and conditions for the financial rescue package. As a purely political matter, we understand why Mr. Obama would just as soon say "present" on a tricky Senate vote. He probably figures the current economic mess plays into his argument for "change," so why not minimize any differences with Mr. McCain on the Paulson plan as he heads to Election Day?

We also understand Mr. McCain's desire to further dress his campaign in "Country First" gilding, as if patriotism and consensus are one and the same, or that getting something done is more important than getting it right.

Whatever the motive, this is not what the country expects from its Presidential candidates. The Administration and the Congress have a responsibility to negotiate legislation, and we can only hope it isn't carbuncled to a point that makes it impossible for Treasury to hold a decent mortgage-backed securities auction, or allow markets to clear. As Senators, Messrs. Obama and McCain also have a responsibility to give us their up-or-down verdict on the bill as it emerges. If they have specific differences or suggestions, they certainly have a large megaphone to broadcast them.

As candidates, however, they are not serving the public by hiding behind a fog of faux bipartisanship that obscures their core economic principles and their approach to governance in times of crisis. Far from being an issue that is above electoral politics, the financial panic is too serious not to have a serious discussion about. President Bush gave both candidates a hand last night by inviting them to a White House meeting on the legislation today, but this looks more like political theater than it does actual governing. Both candidates are angling to get some credit for being in on the deal, whatever it might be.

Nor does it stanch a panic when Mr. McCain issues a statement warning that "I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time," or comparing the current situation to September 11. No plan passes without going through Congressional hazing, if not modification, and predicting doom does nothing to reassure Americans that our political system is able to manage amid turmoil.

Mr. Obama was right on the merits, and politically shrewd, to respond to Mr. McCain's suggestion to postpone Friday's debate by saying that "Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It's not necessary for us to think that we can only do one thing and suspend everything else." He added that he planned to be at the debate.

The behavior of both candidates has an air of running for political cover. Neither of them need master the subtleties of credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities in time for their debates. But it would be reassuring to know that they are at least capable of holding, and sticking to, a coherent position on what is now the most important issue of the campaign. When one of them becomes President, he won't have the luxury of pressing the "pause" button at the next crisis.

The First Debate Could Be Decisive

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Presidential debates are important -- and the first debate is the most important of all, establishing an arc of opinion that persists unless jarred loose by big mistakes or dramatic events.

So whether this year's first presidential debate between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain is Friday night or postponed a few days, it may be the fall's most critical event. In the nine first debates since 1960, the perceived winner of the debate averaged a 4.2 point net swing in the Gallup poll.
[The First Debate Could Be Decisive] Martin Kozlowski

Mr. Obama fought hard to have the first clash devoted to foreign policy and the last on the economy. It may be smart to end the series on his strongest turf. But that means the debates start on ground where Mr. McCain is more comfortable, having a sizable poll lead on who'd be a better commander in chief.

Here's the advice some experts I consulted offered the candidates:

First, do no harm. Persistent proficiency is better than big mistakes. Remember Al Gore's sighs in 2000? President George H.W. Bush glancing at his watch in 1992? Michael Dukakis's botched answer to Bernie Shaw's death-penalty question in 1988?

Know what you want to achieve and have that narrative down cold, for yourself and for your opponent. How do you want potential defectors and converts to see and feel about you and your opponent when it's over? How do you accentuate your strengths and his weaknesses?

Answer the questions. Voters don't like it when candidates are not responsive. Mr. McCain shone so much brighter at Rev. Rick Warren's Saddleback conversation because he answered with plain talk and simple declarative statements.

People want to see candidates operating without a script. They are clamoring for spontaneity. So avoid hyper-repetition. For example, Mr. Gore's repeated robotic invocation of the phrase "risky scheme" backfired.

Spend time describing problems. In the '92 debates, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot established personal links with voters as much from how they portrayed the nation's challenges as from their proposals to address them.

Humor is a powerful weapon, but only if it is not canned or forced. Ronald Reagan demolished Walter Mondale with this self-deprecating line: "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."

The counterpunch is better than the punch. The first person to attack generally suffers, especially if the attack comes across as exaggerated or unfair. Attack sparingly and then by inference and obliquely. Rather than a frontal assault on Mr. Obama's inexperience, Mr. McCain could say America's adversaries will test any new president, and only he has the skill and leadership the country will need in that crisis.

Mr. McCain needs to come across as optimistic, loose and likable. He must guard against revealing his lack of respect for Mr. Obama. And he must grab the "change" banner from Mr. Obama by describing a few things he'll do internationally that are new and different.

Mr. McCain should remind voters the surge in Iraq was the most vital decision in the War on Terror. Mr. Obama opposed it and even continued to oppose it after it was an undeniable success. And Mr. McCain should frame energy as a security issue with large implications for jobs and our economy.

Mr. Obama's task is to look like a credible commander in chief. Right now, too many people lack confidence that he's up to the most important of presidential responsibilities.

Mr. Obama must avoid the pervasive sense of nuance that weakened his performance at the Saddleback Forum. He should attack less. If Mr. McCain is condescending, Mr. Obama should call him on it. If Mr. McCain launches a full-out assault, Mr. Obama should rebut it. Otherwise, he should aim for firmness, seriousness of purpose and clarity in his views.

In criticizing President Bush's foreign policy, Mr. Obama must be careful not to sound like he's running down America. Breaking with someone in his party on a vital issue would show leadership and independence.

The story line of the coverage afterward can do almost as much to shape perception as much as the debate itself. Mr. Gore was on defense for weeks after his '00 sighing fit.

Mr. Obama has more recent debate experience, and he's wise to have spent three days in Florida resting. Mr. McCain, by contrast, has campaigned with little rest and rehearsal. This is dangerous. Mood and countenance matter as much as command of issues.

A debate tie goes to the frontrunner. With that now being Mr. Obama by a slim margin, Mr. McCain must emerge the clear winner, or his prospects of being the next president will dim.

Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

30912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 24, 2008, 04:15:44 PM
ACORN, with which BO has heavy connections, is notorius for massive voter fraud.
30913  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Swiss Gathering 26-27 of September on: September 24, 2008, 04:13:12 PM
Woof All:

Arrived in Bern after a red-eye flight from hell.

Fights will be in sheep meadow with some uneven terrain issues evil

30914  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Filipino martial arts schools near Whittier? on: September 23, 2008, 04:32:20 PM
Louie Campos is as good as he is unknown to the larger scene.  In short he is very good.  Please give him a warm Woof! from me.
30915  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: soempat on: September 23, 2008, 04:30:37 PM
That sounds about right to me, thank you for helping flesh things out.

Back in the 80s at the Glencoe Ave Inosanto Academy, Pak Vic unerringly zeroed in on a suberb rattan stick I had-- a very special stick.  Far too hefty for a "DB friends at the end of the day" fight.  This stick had a remarkable ability to destroy all sticks that trained against it-- and Pak Vik spotted it right away.  He asked to move with it and his eyes lit up-- so I had to give it to him  cry cheesy

Indirect point of the story-- I agree about some systems being oriented towards sticks too destructive for our type of fighting and that Pak Vik's is one of them.
30916  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: September 23, 2008, 01:20:08 PM
It is lifted from our "The Grandfathers Speak".   angry
30917  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: soempat on: September 23, 2008, 11:59:01 AM
He and his brother Paul had a big falling out.
30918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: September 23, 2008, 11:57:11 AM
Conservatives Ponder the End of Capitalism

Conservatives on Capitol Hill are starting to push back against the Bush-Paulson $700 billion bank bailout plan. One lead member of the conservative House Republican Study Committee asked me in a panicked phone call this weekend: "Is this the end of free market capitalism?" Republican Mike Pence of Indiana is advising caution and has come out against the rescue. "Congress must not hastily embrace a cure that may do more harm to our economy than the disease of bad debt," he warns.

Outside conservative groups are also divided. We're told an intense debate is going on in the hallowed halls of the Heritage Foundation, where some support the bailout and others are aghast at the idea. "If this were Obama proposing such a massive government expansion of power, we would be calling him a commie," grouses one high level Heritage manager who fears panic may trump free market principles at the think tank.

All this means the plan may not flow through Congress as seamlessly as the White House had hoped. There are two problems: On the one hand are congressional Democrats like Barney Frank of Massachusetts who are demanding their own priorities, such as a $50 billion stimulus spending plan. (Apparently $700 billion is not enough stimulus.) They also want to impose new regulations on bailed-out institutions, including CEO pay limits and curbs on leverage. This leads to the second complication: All these add-ons only have made Republican conservatives more squeamish. In the Senate, Jim DeMint of South Carolina is rounding up opponents with the line that the bailout "is not capitalism. It is the opposite of capitalism."

Conservatives are dividing into two camps: Those who believe the Paulson plan is the only way to prevent a collapse of capitalism and those who see it exposing the markets to massive governmental interference in the future and huge new powers to regulate industry. "We will be hard-pressed to block any government expansions in the future if we support this plan," a Senate leadership aide tells me.

Rep. Pence also complains that all this talk about expanding government debt and spending to bail out Wall Street wrongdoers is getting John McCain and the GOP off message just before the election. He wants Republicans instead talking about "indexing the Capital Gains tax to inflation (which the Treasury Department can do without any help from Congress) . . . passing an energy bill that lessens the price of gasoline at the pump through more domestic drilling . . . and a reform of entitlements." He adds: "We should also find budget savings to pay for what we spend."

Now there's an old-fashioned conservative idea that has fallen by the wayside.

-- Stephen Moore

Pining for Sarah

Last week, Jewish groups were abuzz with news that an annual pro-Israel rally scheduled for yesterday in Manhattan had lost one of its most loyal speakers. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton pulled out after getting pressure from Obama supporters not to attend once it became clear Sarah Palin would also be there. The scene would have drawn enormous attention coming on the heels of the "Saturday Night Live" skit featuring comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as the two women. In the end, rally organizers decided to scrub all political speakers -- including Mrs. Palin -- from the program.

The rally went on as scheduled but in a way that didn't make Team Obama happy. Anti-Obama and pro-Republican signs were common at the event. One read: "We Want Sarah. Shame On The Rally Organizer."

Democratic Congressman Anthony Wiener said the event was still a success because it proved how many people care about Israel and came out to protest a visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to New York. But he acknowledged the awkward political theater behind it: "I think it would have been fine for Sarah to speak. We just needed someone of equal stature from the Obama campaign to speak."

In the end, Republicans clearly scored points from the controversy, according to Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. He told WCBS-TV: "Sarah Palin wanted to be there, but it looks like she was purposely told not to and rejected. It gives her standing, particularly among those people who are thinking about voting Republican anyway."

-- John Fund

Rule of Lawyers

As some states begin early voting for president, battalions of lawyers recruited by both presidential candidates are already filing lawsuits before the ballots are even received. "We're waiting for the day that pols can cut out the middleman and settle all elections in court," jokes the political newsletter Hotline.

William Todd, a lawyer advising the John McCain campaign, filed suit in Ohio court yesterday. He claims Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has shown favoritism in rejecting some applications by voters for absentee ballots.

The Associated Press reports that voters Paul Doucher and Deloris Eagle say they wanted to vote by mail, which Ohio allows starting this week. But they did not check a box that indicated they are qualified voters. Ms. Brunner says that without a check mark, she can't process the applications. Look for flyspecking by the courts to see if she has held all applications to the same standard.

In next-door Michigan, it's the Obama campaign that filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming the Michigan Republican Party had a plan to use foreclosure lists to challenge voters' residency at the polls.

The Michigan Messenger, a liberal Web site, reported earlier this month that James Carabelli, chairman of the Macomb County GOP, had said: "We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren't voting from those addresses." Mr. Carabelli has flatly denied making such a statement and has won a partial retraction from the Web site over its claim that a similar plan was afoot by GOP operatives in Ohio. It sounds like both sides can't wait to subpoena each other's emails and memos to see what they've been up to.

Voters are still used to having the final word in an election. But that could change if the November outcome degenerates into voters being overruled by often unelected judges and trial lawyers practicing scorched-earth tactics. Brad Smith, a law professor and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, says the trend toward "election by litigation" isn't healthy and steps should be taken to minimize its spread. "It's good to have added attention on elections and federal money to run them," he told me. "But people have to relax, be reasonable and have some level of good faith." Right now, there's precious little evidence of any of that on the campaign trail.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"He loved the Senate, he loved Arizona, he loved his wife, and he hated being told what to do. . . . He may have also sensed that his popularity, which was considerable, would change once he became a candidate for president. As many people have discovered, a politician can go a long way in Washington until he becomes a serious presidential candidate. At that precise moment the Washington press corps digs in, and reputations are destroyed in no time" -- from a discussion of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential race in Alfred Regnery's new book on the conservative movement "Upstream."

Sometimes a Cigar Isn't a Cigar

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has since said he was joshing, but that's almost beside the point. Speaking before an audience in July, the governor detailed how he supposedly used his official position to "turn some dials" on Election Day to ensure the victory of Democrat Jon Tester over incumbent Republican Conrad Burns in the 2006 U.S. Senate race. Those "dials" included harassing GOP poll watchers on Indian reservations, timing the release of vote tallies from key precincts, and pressing the Associated Press to call the race for Mr. Tester while votes were still being counted. Mr. Tester won by fewer than 3500 votes

Mr. Schweitzer now says he was "just joking around and making it colorful" for his audience -- the American Association for Justice, the banner the nation's trial lawyers now operate under. Ho, ho. His spokeswoman later removed a link to a transcript from Mr. Schweitzer's entry on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

Whatever the satire quotient, one thing the venue and Mr. Schweitzer's choice of applause lines makes clear: The trial lawyers are still the trial lawyers. He had good reason to think a group nominally devoted to "justice" would enjoy hearing about abuse of official power to cement Democratic control of the Senate, which the trial bar uses to block tort reform and protect its livelihood. A previous head of the association, attorney Fred Baron, once complained in a speech about a Wall Street Journal editorial that alleged "the plaintiffs bar is all but running the Senate." He didn't like the words "all but."

Now you know why important debates such as limits on electronic eavesdropping devolve into frivolities over whether phone companies can be sued for cooperating with the government. That's the agenda of the trial lawyers infecting everything the senate does.

Montana Democratic Attorney General Mike McGrath has accepted Mr. Schweitzer's explanation that he was joking and has declined to investigate his claims, over objections from Republicans, including Mr. Schweitzer's Republican challenger this fall, state Sen. Roy Brown.

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

30919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: September 23, 2008, 11:08:50 AM
Mexicans feeling pinch as income stream from U.S. slows


Mexicans feeling pinch as income stream from U.S. slows
10:52 PM CDT on Monday, September 22, 2008
By LAURENCE ILIFF / The Dallas Morning News

DEMAC, Mexico Luis Mart韓ez went from being a successful Dallas businessman to a struggling alfalfa farmer in rural central Mexico because of a North Texas crackdown on illegal immigrants.
Now, that crackdown is squeezing towns across Mexico as immigrant unemployment grows in the U.S. and money sent home declines at a record rate.

The Oak Cliff resident of 20 years was deported after a traffic stop in Carrollton near his recycling workshop. Immigration officials said he had violated his residency by leaving the country without permission to attend a funeral in Mexico during the lengthy wait for his green card.

Now in the alfalfa fields of his boyhood, Mr. Mart韓ez, 43, faces a fate similar to hundreds of thousands of his countrymen who have been deported or who returned home after losing their jobs: a massive loss of income.
"You make $10 an hour over there and $10 a day here in Mexico," said Mr. Mart韓ez, who added that in addition to his recycling business he has Dallas property and pays U.S. taxes.

A growing number of deportations, along with rising unemployment, are forcing Mexicans to further tighten their belts as remittances sent home dropped by nearly 7 percent in July compared with a year earlier. That's the biggest one-month fall on record as measured by Mexico's central bank.

Although some analysts question how the remittances are measured and suggest some may have made it back to Mexico under the central bank's radar, they agree that the effects of immigrant unemployment and deportations are increasingly being felt from Dallas to Demac.
"Hispanic unemployment is likely to go up all the way to December before it comes down," said Manuel Orozco, who is head of a remittance project at the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington.

Of the 500,000 Hispanics who have lost their jobs since January 2007, he estimates 60,000 are illegal immigrants from Mexico. Some have been forced to take jobs that pay much less. "I have interviewed migrants, and they tell me they lost a job in construction at $15 an hour and now are washing dishes for $7 an hour," he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. authorities are deporting Mexican immigrants at a rate not seen in 50 years, including more than 208,000 "removals" from the U.S. interior in the current fiscal year, which ends this month.
"Deportations are a serious matter that has an effect on the money flows [to home countries]," Mr. Orozco said.

Because about 90 percent of immigrant earnings stays in the U.S., the deportations and job losses affect both sides of the border, authorities say."It means that the money not being sent back is not being generated here," said David J. Molina, an economics professor at the University of North Texas. "To a large extent, I would argue that that slowdown is not good for either side of the border."

But some differ. Jean Towell, Dallas president of Citizens for Immigration Reform, said falling remittances illustrate two things.
"It does show that enforcement, plus the economy, are working together to make it harder for the illegal aliens to stay in the country," she said. "For the people who receive remittances, of course, it's a bad thing. They rely on that since their country doesn't seem to be able to take care of the economy well enough so that people have a sustained rate of living."

In Demac and in Dallas, the tough times for immigrants in the U.S. are felt house by house.
While Mr. Mart韓ez toils in alfalfa fields, his wife is in Dallas. In Demac, his 82-year-old mother, Gregoria, used to receive a little money each month from a nephew, but that's gone. Mr. Mart韓ez's sister Julia said she too has lost income from children in the U.S., but she's not sure if it's because of hard times or because they have gotten married and moved on with their lives.

Another sister, Edith, said the children she teaches in elementary school depend on remittances from relatives in the U.S., but while the amount may have fallen, the money continues to flow like always, which encourages further immigration.

"These kids want to follow in the footsteps of their fathers to leave, so they can build a house back home and have a car," she said.

Mr. Mart韓ez said he is making the best of the family alfalfa business, looking for new markets and new ways to boost the slim profits. Maybe he'll be able to send money to the U.S. someday, he joked.
"I'm used to hard work, so it's not so bad," he said during a break from raking dry alfalfa into piles and lifting them into a truck. "Imagine if I had worked in an office."

And it's not just the lost money that he needs to put his daughters through school. It's his lost life in Dallas since his return to Mexico.
"It's very difficult. It's 20 years you have been gone, and when you come back, your friends are not here," Mr. Mart韓ez said.

The stalled construction projects around Demac are a clear sign, he said, that times are getting tougher for immigrants in the U.S.
"This town has maybe 50 or 60 young people that are working over there, and they have projects that are going on here, construction of houses and stuff like that, but because so many people there are being taken out of the country, it's affecting us a lot," said Mr. Mart韓ez.

He called Dallas a city with "a small-town spirit" and the United States "a nation blessed by God." For those, and many other reasons, he is working his way back through the immigration service while hoping U.S. policies toward immigrants become more tolerant.

"We have hope something will happen in the U.S.A., something that can give us the opportunity to go back and keep working over there," he said. "I spent 20 years of my life in that country, so that means I am part of that country."

Staff writer Dianne Solis in Dallas contributed to this report.
30920  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Clips on: September 23, 2008, 10:08:58 AM
And you would be helpful if you posted URLs of particularly interesting ones here  grin
30921  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: September 23, 2008, 10:07:54 AM
What is Silva's normal fighting weight?
30922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: September 23, 2008, 09:54:56 AM
"The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential
to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man,
that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many
sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different
characters and capacities impressed with it."

-- James Madison (letter to Frederick Beasley, 20 November 1825)

Reference: Writings of Madison, Hunt, ed., vol. 9 (230)
30923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Jazz bassist Charlie Haden goes Country on: September 23, 2008, 01:07:07 AM
A Jazz Artist Goes Back to His Roots Music
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For the renowned jazz bassist Charlie Haden, his new country album "Rambling Boy" (Decca) isn't a departure. It's a return to the music of his youth. Long before he played alongside Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Carla Bley, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny and others, he was Cowboy Charlie, who first appeared at age 2 on his parents' country-music radio show "Uncle Carl Haden and the Haden Family." On the new disc, a clip from the show features 2-year-old Cowboy Charlie singing and yodeling, with gentle prodding from his dad.

For "Rambling Boy," which includes references obvious and obscure to his childhood influences, the 71-year-old Mr. Haden is united with another generation of the Haden Family: his triplets, Rachel, Petra and Tanya; son, Josh; and wife, Ruth Cameron. They're bolstered by an impressive collection of friends, including Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Mark Fain, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Bryan Sutton -- surely the country equivalent of the jazz musicians with whom Mr. Haden usually keeps company.

Getty Images
Charlie Haden
Rosanne Cash sings "The Wildwood Flower," a song popularized by Maybelle Carter, a frequent visitor to the Haden family home in Springfield, Mo., back in the 1940s. Dan Tyminski -- who provided the singing voice to George Clooney's character in the Coen Brothers' film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" -- is onboard, as is pop's Elvis Costello and Bruce Hornsby. Mr. Metheny, with whom Mr. Haden collaborated in 1996 on the lovely "Beyond the Missouri Sky," plays guitar on, and helped arrange, many of the tunes on the new album.

"I thought originally it was going to be the kids with my dad," Petra Haden told me when we met in New York. "But it turned into one big party."

When I met with Charlie Haden later in the day, he told me he began thinking of recording a country album with his family about 20 years ago when they gathered in rural Missouri to celebrate his mother's 80th birthday.

"Ruth wanted everybody to be together," said Mr. Haden, whose four children were joined by his brothers and sisters. "At some point, we were sitting in mom's cabin and Ruth said, 'Why don't you sing something?' We hadn't sung in decades."

The kids joined in. "Josh and the girls were experimenting. They hadn't sung with me before," he recalled. "It really sounded great."

As well it might have. All the Hadens are musical. Tanya is a cellist and vocalist, Josh leads the band Spain, and Rachel played bass with Todd Rundgren and sang with Beck. Petra, who's played violin with the Foo Fighters, has recorded several wonderfully idiosyncratic vocal albums, including a version of the Who's "The Who Sell Out" in which she sings every sound. Her latest is "Hearts & Daggers" (FU:M) by Miss Murgatroid & Petra Haden, her two-person project with accordionist and singer Alicia Rose.

Though he kept busy -- fruitfully so -- with his jazz career, Mr. Haden seemed, after that party at his mother's cabin, to be creeping toward a return to the music of his youth. He sang a traditional country tune in public for the first time since childhood on "The Art of the Song," which he cut with his band Quartet West in 1999. Three years earlier, he and Mr. Metheny added a bit of country to "Beyond the Missouri Sky" with "The Precious Jewel," written by Roy Acuff; the traditional tune "He's Gone Away," which Mr. Haden's mother sang on the old radio program; and Josh Haden's composition "Spiritual."

揗y dad knew so many people: Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers. I was privileged in my family. It was a normal thing for me to be with famous people.
Charlie Haden

On the new album, Josh sings "Spiritual," and in what may be its most affecting track, Tanya delivers a fragile, heart-wrenching "He's Gone Away." Fans of "Beyond the Missouri Sky" will love the version of "The Fields of Athenry" on "Rambling Boy," in which Petra's voice gives way to a skittish, dazzling solo by Mr. Metheny.

Mr. Haden said he had to cajole at least one member of his family into participating. "I had to really talk Tanya into it," he told me. "She's really, really shy. She's not into the music scene like Rachel and Petra. She's a mother and a painter. But she doesn't picture herself a singer. I told them, 'I want each of you to do a song of your own.'" Tanya's married to actor Jack Black, who delivers a rousing reading of the traditional tune "Old Joe Clark" on the album. Ruth Cameron sings the Irish folk tune "Down by the Salley Gardens" with delicate grace.

The triplets' sweet harmonies are featured on "Voice From on High," "Single Girl, Married Girl" and "Seven Year Blues." "I hadn't sung with my sisters in so long," Petra said. "When we sang together, we were really locked in. It was really relaxed. Rather than having really strict rehearsals, we just watched my dad directing everybody. He had the vision. He said, 'I'm getting the best players' -- and here comes Bruce Hornsby and Pat Metheny, who's my favorite guitarist."

Petra remembers her father's stories about the country legends he met as a boy. "He would always refer to Mother Maybelle. She really meant something to him. He really has a deep connection to this music." As a tribute, guitarist Bryan Sutton plays Carter's introduction almost note for note on "The Wildwood Flower."

Mr. Haden said, "My dad knew so many people: Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers. I was privileged in my family. It was a normal thing for me to be with famous people." Which made it easier for him to infiltrate the highest level of modern jazz as a young bassist: "When I decided to play jazz, I made it a priority to meet the people I wanted to meet." He said he could see through the veneer of fame and celebrity to appreciate their true gifts.

"Rambling Boy" concludes with a tender reading of "Oh Shenandoah" sung by Mr. Haden, who was born in Shenandoah, Iowa. "It brought back all the time with my dad and mom and brothers and sisters, first in Shenandoah and then in Springfield. I talked to my sister Mary, and she said, 'Charlie, if only mom could've heard this.'

"And what a treat it was for me to be playing music behind my children," he added. "It was nice to be with both families again."

Mr. Fusilli is the Journal's rock and pop music critic. Email him at

30924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Alan Reynolds on: September 23, 2008, 12:57:27 AM
AR is one of America's finest economists.


'Wall Street' No Longer Exists
With Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley becoming commercial banks, and the other three big investment banks/brokerage houses being acquired by commercial banks, politicians and the press won't have Wall Street to kick around anymore. Headlines now shout about a $700 billion "Bailout for Wall Street." Yet strictly speaking, Wall Street as we knew it no longer exists.

The conversion or absorption of all five of Wall Street's big investment banks into commercial banks raises several intriguing issues.

First of all, the financial storms over the past year have -- before last week -- been largely confined to securities markets and to interbank loans among commercial and investment banks. Bank loans to commercial and industrial business, real estate and consumers continued to expand nearly every month. Commercial and industrial loans exceeded $1.5 trillion this August, up from less than $1.2 trillion a year earlier. Real-estate loans exceeded $3.6 trillion, up from less than $3.4 trillion a year ago. Consumer loans were $845 billion, up from $737 billion. Credit standards are tougher, which is surely a good thing, but interest rates for creditworthy borrowers remain low.

The ongoing slow but steady availability of bank credit helps explain the much-remarked contrast between Wall Street and Main Street -- the shaky condition of exotic financial markets compared with relatively benign statistics for industrial production, retail sales, employment and the rest of the nonhousing economy. Most people go about their business without depending on investment banks or exotic varieties of commercial paper.

Second, recent events highlight the absurdity of the attempt by several pundits to blame recent problems on "financial deregulation." That complaint was aimed at the Financial Modernization Act of 1999, which passed the House by a vote of 362-57 and the Senate by 90-8, yanking the last brick out of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act's regulatory wall between commercial banks and investment banks.

If it was somehow possible in today's world of global electronic finance to the rebuild such a wall, that would mean J.P. Morgan could not have bought Bear Stearns, Bank of America could not have bought Merrill Lynch, Barclays could not buy most of Lehman, and Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley could not become bank holding companies. It is hard to imagine how things would have worked out in that situation, but it surely would not have been an improvement.

Since the 1933 regulatory wall has collapsed as definitively as the Berlin Wall, all the giant financial conglomerates now face oversight and regulation by the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Innocents who seek security in regulation need to recall, however, that not one of those august agencies exhibited timely foresight or concern about the default risk among even prime mortgages in some locations, or about any lack of transparency with respect to bundling mortgages into securities. People do not become wiser, more selfless or more omniscient simply because they work for government agencies.

Wall Street was always a metaphor, of course, but so are words like "bailout" and "toxic" debt. Nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was a bailout for creditors (who received windfall gains), not for stockholders or executives. The federally enforced shotgun marriage between J.P. Morgan and Bear Stearns at the initially ridiculous price of $2 a share was no bailout for Bear. The 11.3% federal loan to AIG, contingent on the potential expropriation of 80% of shareholder value, is no bailout either.

By contrast, what was done to stop a run on the money-market funds is a real bailout which could encourage them to hold risky paper and also make it tougher for commercial banks to attract deposits. The proposal to buy up mortgage-backed securities is a bailout too, though the beneficiaries are not just the tattered remains of Wall Street. The bailout consists of shifting the risk of loss to taxpayers. Actual losses could not reach $700 billion unless the securities were literally worthless, which would mean the value of the underlying real estate fell to zero.

What was "toxic" for investment banks is not equally toxic for the Treasury Department because the government does not even bother to keep a balance sheet, much less abide by mark-to-market accounting rules. A powerful motive for converting investment banks into commercial banks is to get around those onerous balance-sheet rules that required fire-sale pricing of securities that were virtually unmarketable during a panicky scramble for liquidity. Strict adherence to those rules made patience a vice and a "buy and hold" approach impossible. This confirms what many of us have long been saying about the foolishness of letting arbitrary bookkeeping rules dominate economic reality.

Turning Wall Street into a bunch of commercial banks is a solution of sorts to a problem aggravated by foolish mark-to-market regulations, not by the inevitable demise of the 1933 wall between investment banks and commercial banks. Something good may yet come out of all this, because that wall never made much sense in the first place.

Mr. Reynolds, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, is the author, most recently, of "Income and Wealth" (Greenwood Press, 2006).
30925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Useful Idiots on: September 23, 2008, 12:46:33 AM
Imagine yourself as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now in your fourth year as president of Iran and about to make yet another appearance at the U.N.'s General Assembly in New York. Superficially -- but only superficially -- things do not appear to be going well.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Over the weekend, you replaced the head of your central bank over differences about an inflation rate of 28%, up from 12% in 2006. He's the second one to go in just a year. Ali Larijani, once your top nuclear negotiator, resigned last year over his objections to your confrontational style, and may challenge you in next year's presidential election. Your boss, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also cooled on your presidency.

Abroad, your tenure has brought about three binding, albeit weak, U.N. sanctions. The often pliant International Atomic Energy Agency last week issued a scathing report, scoring your government for obstructing its investigations and citing evidence that your military has sought to refit long-range missiles to carry a nuclear warhead. Now France and Britain are pressing for another round of sanctions -- and another kick in the shins to your faltering economy.

As for your well-publicized doubts and disquisitions on the future of Israel, or the existence of homosexuality in Iran, or the Holocaust, or the divine halo you sensed the first time you spoke at the U.N., you have succeeded -- as George W. Bush never could have done on his own -- in convincing the American public that Iran is a clear and present danger. In Tel Aviv they say you must be a Mossad mole. Could the Islamic Republic possibly have an uglier face?

Of course not. And that's the whole point of your presidency. Your goal has been to define Iranian deviancy down. You've succeeded handsomely.

A decade ago, before anyone outside the torture chambers of Tehran's Evin prison knew your name, it was former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who personified the Iranian hard line. He green-lighted terrorist attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina; he refused to revoke the death sentence on novelist Salman Rushdie; a German court fingered him in the assassinations of Iranian-Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant. When Mohammad Khatami succeeded him as president, the world breathed a sigh of relief.

Now it is Mr. Rafsanjani who is often spoken of as a "pragmatist" and a "moderate" -- as compared to you.

As for the nuclear file, in 2004 the West's bottom line was that Iran had to suspend uranium enrichment as a precondition for negotiations. Mr. Khatami obliged (or at least pretended to); the West's negotiating position barely budged.

By contrast, since you took over you have installed thousands of centrifuges, spinning uranium roughly at a rate of a bomb's worth of fissile material every year. And while you've paid a price in U.N. sanctions, you've also caused Russia and China to split with the rest of the Security Council over stiffer penalties. Better yet, the Bush administration has gone from refusing to negotiate, to offering conditional negotiations, to pursuing low-level negotiations and now, lately, feeling its way toward tacit diplomatic normalization. All that without you bending an inch toward the West.

Above all, you have given the world time to digest the notion that Iran will inevitably become a nuclear power, and that nothing can be done to stop it -- at least at any kind of acceptable price. Will Americans agree to open a third military front in the Middle East? Does Israel, which couldn't so much as defeat Hezbollah, want to roll the dice on a bombing run that will spark another bloody regional war but retard Iran's nuclear programs by at most a few years? How will the U.S. afford its epic Wall Street bailouts if you shut down the Straits of Hormuz?

Surely your enemies will take no such risks. Which is why you're pleased that the more far-seeing Americans are coming around to your point of view. Look at former CIA spy Robert Baer. Mr. Baer has a new book arguing that the U.S. ought not "to stand in the way of Iran's quest to dominate Islam." He thinks Israel's nuclear arms should be put under U.N. supervision. He believes the U.S. and Iran are ripe for the kind of alliance Nixon forged with Mao.

It cannot surprise you that such ideas are now taking root with the American intelligentsia; useful idiots always contribute to the revolution.

And what about your own future? It's true that Iran has inflation and other economic headaches, but didn't the Imam Khomeini say he didn't start a revolution to bring down the price of melons? If the Almighty wills that you will leave office next year, so be it. As president, you have done more for the Islamic Republic in your four years than all your predecessors combined managed in their 25.
30926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More details on the Ayers connection on: September 23, 2008, 12:38:27 AM

Obama and Ayers
Pushed Radicalism
On Schools
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Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists.

Bill Ayers.
The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama's first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.

The Obama campaign has struggled to downplay that association. Last April, Sen. Obama dismissed Mr. Ayers as just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," and "not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis." Yet documents in the CAC archives make clear that Mr. Ayers and Mr. Obama were partners in the CAC. Those archives are housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago and I've recently spent days looking through them.

The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago's public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation's other key body, the "Collaborative," which shaped education policy.

The CAC's basic functioning has long been known, because its annual reports, evaluations and some board minutes were public. But the Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.

One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.

The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.

In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.

CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

Mr. Obama once conducted "leadership training" seminars with Acorn, and Acorn members also served as volunteers in Mr. Obama's early campaigns. External partners like the South Shore African Village Collaborative and the Dual Language Exchange focused more on political consciousness, Afrocentricity and bilingualism than traditional education. CAC's in-house evaluators comprehensively studied the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students. They found no evidence of educational improvement.

CAC also funded programs designed to promote "leadership" among parents. Ostensibly this was to enable parents to advocate on behalf of their children's education. In practice, it meant funding Mr. Obama's alma mater, the Developing Communities Project, to recruit parents to its overall political agenda. CAC records show that board member Arnold Weber was concerned that parents "organized" by community groups might be viewed by school principals "as a political threat." Mr. Obama arranged meetings with the Collaborative to smooth out Mr. Weber's objections.

The Daley documents show that Mr. Ayers sat as an ex-officio member of the board Mr. Obama chaired through CAC's first year. He also served on the board's governance committee with Mr. Obama, and worked with him to craft CAC bylaws. Mr. Ayers made presentations to board meetings chaired by Mr. Obama. Mr. Ayers spoke for the Collaborative before the board. Likewise, Mr. Obama periodically spoke for the board at meetings of the Collaborative.

The Obama campaign notes that Mr. Ayers attended only six board meetings, and stresses that the Collaborative lost its "operational role" at CAC after the first year. Yet the Collaborative was demoted to a strictly advisory role largely because of ethical concerns, since the projects of Collaborative members were receiving grants. CAC's own evaluators noted that project accountability was hampered by the board's reluctance to break away from grant decisions made in 1995. So even after Mr. Ayers's formal sway declined, the board largely adhered to the grant program he had put in place.

Mr. Ayers's defenders claim that he has redeemed himself with public-spirited education work. That claim is hard to swallow if you understand that he views his education work as an effort to stoke resistance to an oppressive American system. He likes to stress that he learned of his first teaching job while in jail for a draft-board sit-in. For Mr. Ayers, teaching and his 1960s radicalism are two sides of the same coin.

Mr. Ayers is the founder of the "small schools" movement (heavily funded by CAC), in which individual schools built around specific political themes push students to "confront issues of inequity, war, and violence." He believes teacher education programs should serve as "sites of resistance" to an oppressive system. (His teacher-training programs were also CAC funded.) The point, says Mr. Ayers in his "Teaching Toward Freedom," is to "teach against oppression," against America's history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.

The Obama campaign has cried foul when Bill Ayers comes up, claiming "guilt by association." Yet the issue here isn't guilt by association; it's guilt by participation. As CAC chairman, Mr. Obama was lending moral and financial support to Mr. Ayers and his radical circle. That is a story even if Mr. Ayers had never planted a single bomb 40 years ago.

Mr. Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
30927  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Request for Reviews on: September 23, 2008, 12:30:32 AM
Woof All:

I was just surfing through our catalog/store and noticed that several of the DVDs have few or no reviews.  Would folks be so kind as to post reviews of any of our DVDs which you have?

Guro Crafty
30928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turning point in Pak attitudes? on: September 23, 2008, 12:19:41 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A Turning Point in Pakistan's Attitude Toward Jihadist War?
September 22, 2008
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Sunday that the Prime Minister House in Islamabad was the original target of the Sept. 20 suicide bombing at the Marriott hotel in the Pakistani capital but that militants could not attack the house due to tight security.

Whether or not Gilani is correct, the Marriott attack considered by many Pakistanis as the worst terrorist attack in the history of the country hit close to home for the Pakistani government. At the time of the bombing, the who抯 who of Pakistan抯 top civil and military leadership including Gilani, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and President Asif Ali Zardari were at a dinner gathering at the Prime Minister House, located about half a mile from the Marriott. When the blast occurred, there was a large commotion at the Prime Minister House as officials scurried to make sure the president was protected.

The Marriott bombing was a major wake-up call for the Pakistani government, which until now has waffled on its handling of Islamist militants operating in the country. After such a dramatic attack so close to so many high-ranking government officials, Zardari announced that his government will now be going on the offensive against the militants, much like U.S. President George W. Bush did after the Sept. 11 attacks. Zardari is a controversial figure among the public as well as the military because of past corruption charges, and his bad reputation is likely to get in the way of his attempts to get tough with jihadists.

But he may have help, in that this latest bombing has also had an impact on public perceptions, which have thus far been against fighting what is seen as an American war that has destabilized the country. The attack is getting a lot of play in the media, and as more Pakistanis see the magnitude of the damage, popular perceptions are undergoing a shift. We are hearing of a move to organize local forces in the Pashtun areas to counter the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.

The biggest problem facing the United States since the beginning of the war against militants has been Pakistan抯 reluctance to aggressively pursue the jihadists. A lot of this has been because Islamabad does not want to see the complete neutralization of the Afghan Taliban a key asset for Pakistan in its attempt to re-establish influence in Afghanistan. Even after the rise of the Pakistani Taliban, which has been waging war against Islamabad, the policy has been to distinguish between rogue Taliban and those still under control.

This attitude, along with the view within Washington that Islamabad was unwilling to seriously deliver on its commitments as an ally in the jihadist war, were key factors that led to Washington engaging in unilateral actions on Pakistani soil. The destruction of the Marriott hotel could be a turning point in terms of the Pakistanis mustering up the political will for decisive action against jihadist forces. A behavioral shift in Islamabad could offset recent frictions with Washington.

The extent to which Pakistan will get tough on the jihadists, however, remains to be seen. What is clear though is that the destruction of the Marriott has demonstrated that Islamabad can no longer afford to remain on the defensive.
30929  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 23, 2008, 12:17:03 AM
For my daughter (she's 6) accompanying me to the store this evening, and then tonight SHE read TO me her bedtime stories.
30930  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: September 23, 2008, 12:15:32 AM
Woof TD:

There's a brief bit of footage of GM Villabrille on our "The Grandfathers Speak" which Guro Inosanto authorized me to use, likewise footage of Manong LaCoste and several other GMs.   

Do you have URLs for the footage you have seen?

30931  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: soempat on: September 23, 2008, 12:05:36 AM
Woof Guide Dog:

My memory jibes with yours-- and no worries about mentioning his DVDs, Pak Vik is a friend of ours.

30932  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Farewells and Goodbyes on: September 23, 2008, 12:03:55 AM
Woof Maxx:

Happy and healthy hunting to you.  As President Reagan said, the strategy is this "We win.  They lose."

De opreser liber,
Crafty Dog
30933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tithing on: September 22, 2008, 02:37:38 PM
Woof All:

Tithing is an important part of Life.  This thread is for sharing good ideas for tithing.  (In a closely related vein, please see the "Help our Troops"  )  As I have posted previously on this forum, amongst the recipients of tithing by our family is Michael Yon, whose reader supported reporting in Iraq and now Afghanistan does so much to get the Truth out.

In this post, I begin with this email sent to me by my wife, which both supports the Cub Scouts AND our troops while scoring you some good popcorn:


We could help out our Cub Scout pack greatly if we did fundraising for it via the popcorn sales.  And, if we have folks use a certain code (TENXVBF)  Conrad
can get credit for it and even earn a week camping trip. Maybe you could do some marketing via your forums?  The fundraising ends mid-October.

There is even something they can click on that will send popcorn/trail mix they order to our troops.

Here is what they'd have to do:

1) Log on to :
2) Then they will see when they are logged in to give credit to Conrad D.
3) Then they can click on Support Our Troops Buy Now link and send popcorn
to the troops.
        They can also order popcorn and have it sent to themselves.
        (They should use the red links at the top for themselves.
        Otherwise it will send them to the link that tries to get them
        to order a case of the tins.)


Thanking you for your consideration,
30934  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Tithing on: September 22, 2008, 02:35:03 PM
Woof All:

Tithing is an important part of Life.  This thread is for sharing good ideas for tithing.  (In a closely related vein, please see "Help our Troops"  )

I begin with this sent to me by my wife, which both supports the Cub Scouts AND our troops:


We could help out our Cub Scout pack greatly if we did fundraising for it via the
popcorn sales.  And, if we have folks use a certain code (TENXVBF)  Conrad
can get credit for it and even earn a week camping trip.

I was just thinking you could maybe so some shameless marketing via your
forums and ask people to buy popcorn and use the code TENXVBF.

There is even something they can click on that will send popcorn/trail mix they order
to our troops!

Here is what they'd have to do:

1) Log on to :
2) Key in TENXVBF where is says ENTER ORDER KEY.  Then they will see when they
are logged in to give credit to Conrad D.
3) Then they can click on Support Our Troops Buy Now link and send popcorn
to the troops.
        They can also order popcorn and have it sent to themselves.
        (They should use the red links at the top for themselves.
        Otherwise it will send them to the link that tries to get them
        to order a case of the tins.)


Thanking you for your consideration,
30935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Everyone's Worry on: September 22, 2008, 12:48:26 PM
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the United Nations in New York this week. Don't expect an honest update from him on his country's nuclear program. Iran is now edging closer to being armed with nuclear weapons, and it continues to develop a ballistic-missile capability.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Such developments may be overshadowed by our presidential election, but the challenge Iran poses is very real and not a partisan matter. We may have different political allegiances and worldviews, yet we share a common concern -- Iran's drive to be a nuclear state. We believe that Iran's desire for nuclear weapons is one of the most urgent issues facing America today, because even the most conservative estimates tell us that they could have nuclear weapons soon.

A nuclear-armed Iran would likely destabilize an already dangerous region that includes Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, and pose a direct threat to America's national security. For this reason, Iran's nuclear ambitions demand a response that will compel Iran's leaders to change their behavior and come to understand that they have more to lose than to gain by going nuclear.

Tehran claims that it is enriching uranium only for peaceful energy uses. These claims exceed the boundaries of credibility and science. Iran's enrichment program is far larger than reasonably necessary for an energy program. In past inspections of Iranian nuclear sites, U.N. inspectors found rare elements that only have utility in nuclear weapons and not in a peaceful nuclear energy program. Iran's persistent rejection of offers from outside energy suppliers or private bidders to supply it with nuclear fuel suggests it has a motive other than energy in developing its nuclear program. Tehran's continual refusal to answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about this troublesome part of its nuclear program suggests that it has something to hide.

The world rightfully doubts Tehran's assertion that it needs nuclear energy and is enriching nuclear materials for strictly peaceful purposes. Iran has vast supplies of inexpensive oil and natural gas, and its construction of nuclear reactors and attempts to perfect the nuclear fuel cycle are exceedingly costly. There is no legitimate economic reason for Iran to pursue nuclear energy.

Iran is a deadly and irresponsible world actor, employing terrorist organizations including Hezbollah and Hamas to undermine existing regimes and to foment conflict. Emboldened by the bomb, Iran will become more inclined to sponsor terror, threaten our allies, and support the most deadly elements of the Iraqi insurgency.

Tehran's development of a nuclear bomb could serve as the "starter's gun" in a new and potentially deadly arms race in the most volatile region of the world. Many believe that Iran's neighbors would feel forced to pursue the bomb if it goes nuclear.

By continuing to act in open defiance of its treaty obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, Iran rejects the inspections mandated by the IAEA and flouts multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions.

At the same time, Iranian leaders declare that Israel is illegitimate and should not exist. President Ahmadinejad specifically calls for Israel to be "wiped off from the map," while seeking the weapons to do so. Such behavior casts Iran as an international outlier. No one can reasonably suggest that a nuclear-armed Iran will suddenly honor international treaty obligations, acknowledge Israel's right to exist, or cease efforts to undermine the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is also the chief spokesman for a regime that represses religious and ethnic minorities, women, students, labor groups and homosexuals. A government willing to persecute its own people can only be viewed as even more dangerous if armed with nuclear weapons.

Finally, our economy has suffered under the burden of rising oil prices. Iran is strategically located on a key choke point in the world's energy supply chain -- the Strait of Hormuz. No one can suggest that a nuclear Iran would hesitate to use its enhanced leverage to affect oil prices, or would work to ease the burden on the battered economies of the world's oil importers.

Facing such a threat, Americans must put aside their political differences and send a clear and united message that a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable.

That is why the four of us, along with other policy advocates from across the political spectrum, have formed the nonpartisan group United Against Nuclear Iran. Everyone must understand the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran and mobilize the power of a united American public in opposition. As part of the United Against Nuclear Iran effort, we will announce various programs in the months ahead that we hope will be rallying points for the American and international public to voice unified opposition to a nuclear Iran.

We do not aim to beat the drums of war. On the contrary, we hope to lay the groundwork for effective U.S. policies in coordination with our allies, the U.N. and others by a strong showing of unified support from the American people to alter the Iranian regime's current course. The American people must have a voice in this great foreign-policy challenge, and we can make a real difference through national and international, social, economic, political and diplomatic measures.

Mr. Holbrooke is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Woolsey is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Ross was a special Middle East coordinator for President Clinton. Mr. Wallace was a representative of the U.S. to the U.N. for management and reform.
30936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: A Mortgage Fable on: September 22, 2008, 12:38:23 PM
I think this gets it exactly right:

Once upon a time, in the land that FDR built, there was the rule of "regulation" and all was right on Wall and Main Streets. Wise 27-year-old bank examiners looked down upon the banks and saw that they were sound. America's Hobbits lived happily in homes financed by 30-year-mortgages that never left their local banker's balance sheet, and nary a crisis did we have.

Then, lo, came the evil Reagan marching from Mordor with his horde of Orcs, short for "market fundamentalists." Reagan's apprentice, Gramm of Texas and later of McCain, unleashed the scourge of "deregulation," and thus were "greed," short-selling, securitization, McMansions, liar loans and other horrors loosed upon the world of men.

Now, however, comes Obama of Illinois, Schumer of New York and others in the fellowship of the Beltway to slay the Orcs and restore the rule of the regulator. So once more will the Hobbits be able to sleep peacefully in the shire.


From left: Christopher Cox, Henry Paulson, Harry Reid, Richard Shelby, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Dodd and Ben Bernanke.
With apologies to Tolkien, or at least Peter Jackson, something like this tale is now being sold to the American people to explain the financial panic of the past year. It is truly a fable from start to finish. Yet we are likely to hear some version of it often in the coming months as the barons of Congress try to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the housing and mortgage meltdowns.

Yes, greed is ever with us, at least until Washington transforms human nature. The wizards of Wall Street and London became ever more inventive in finding ways to sell mortgages and finance housing. Some of those peddling subprime loans were crooks, as were some of the borrowers who lied about their incomes. This is what happens in a credit bubble that becomes a societal mania.

A Look Back at the Crisis Unfolding
Stopping the Panic 09/20/08 Now the task is to protect taxpayers and restore markets.Be It Resolved 09/19/08 Paulson and Bernanke ask Congress for a resolution agency.The Fed and AIG 09/18/08 Nationalizations aren't stopping the financial panic.McCain and the Markets 09/17/08 Denouncing 'greed' and Wall Street isn't a growth agenda.The Fed's Epic Day 09/17/08 It's only fair to praise the central bank when it does the right thing.Surviving the Panic 09/16/08 A resolution agency, steady monetary policy, and a big tax cut.Wall Street Reckoning 09/15/08 Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's refusal to blink won't get any second guessing from us.But Washington is as deeply implicated in this meltdown as anyone on Wall Street or at Countrywide Financial. Going back decades, but especially in the past 15 or so years, our politicians have promoted housing and easy credit with a variety of subsidies and policies that helped to create and feed the mania. Let us take the roll of political cause and financial effect:

- The Federal Reserve. The original sin of this crisis was easy money. For too long this decade, especially from 2003 to 2005, the Fed held interest rates below the level of expected inflation, thus creating a vast subsidy for debt that both households and financial firms exploited. The housing bubble was a result, along with its financial counterparts, the subprime loan and the mortgage SIV.

Fed Chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke prefer to blame "a global savings glut" that began when the Cold War ended. But Communism was dead for more than a decade before the housing mania took off. The savings glut was in large part a creation of the Fed, which flooded the world with too many dollars that often found their way back into housing markets in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere.

- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Created by government, and able to borrow at rates lower than fully private corporations because of the implied backing from taxpayers, these firms turbocharged the credit mania. They channeled far more liquidity into the market than would have been the case otherwise, especially from the Chinese, who thought (rightly) that they were investing in mortgage securities that were as safe as Treasurys but with a higher yield.

These are the firms that bought the increasingly questionable mortgages originated by Angelo Mozilo's Countrywide and others. Even as the bubble was popping, they dived into pools of subprime and Alt-A ("liar") loans to meet Congressional demand to finance "affordable" housing. And they were both the cause and beneficiary of the great interest-group army that lobbied for ever more housing subsidies.

Fan and Fred's patrons on Capitol Hill didn't care about the risks inherent in their combined trillion-dollar-plus mortgage portfolios, so long as they helped meet political goals on housing. Even after taxpayers have had to pick up a bailout tab that may grow as large as $200 billion, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank still won't back a reduction in their mortgage portfolios.

- A credit-rating oligopoly. Thanks to federal and state regulation, a small handful of credit rating agencies pass judgment on the risk for all debt securities in our markets. Many of these judgments turned out to be wrong, and this goes to the root of the credit crisis: Assets officially deemed rock-solid by the government's favored risk experts have lately been recognized as nothing of the kind.

When debt instruments are downgraded, banks must then recognize a paper loss on these assets. In a bitter irony, the losses cause the same credit raters whose judgments allowed the banks to hold these dodgy assets to then lower their ratings on the banks, requiring the banks to raise more money, and pay more to raise it. The major government-anointed credit raters -- S&P, Moody's and Fitch -- were as asleep on mortgages as they were on Enron. Senator Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) tried to weaken this government-created oligopoly, but his reforms didn't begin to take effect until 2007, too late to stop the mania.

- Banking regulators. In the Beltway fable, bank supervision all but vanished in recent years. But the great irony is that the banks that made some of the worst mortgage investments are the most highly regulated. The Fed's regulators blessed, or overlooked, Citigroup's off-balance-sheet SIVs, while the SEC tolerated leverage of 30 or 40 to 1 by Lehman and Bear Stearns.

The New York Sun reports that an SEC rule change that allowed more leverage was made in 2004 under then Chairman William Donaldson, one of the most aggressive regulators in SEC history. Of course the SEC's task was only to protect the investor assets at the broker-dealers, not the holding companies themselves, which everyone thought were not too big to fail. Now we know differently (see Bear Stearns below).

Meanwhile, the least regulated firms -- hedge funds and private-equity companies -- have had the fewest problems, or have folded up their mistakes with the least amount of trauma. All of this reaffirms the historical truth that regulators almost always discover financial excesses only after the fact.

- The Bear Stearns rescue. In retrospect, the Fed-Treasury intervention only delayed a necessary day of reckoning for Wall Street. While Bear was punished for its sins, the Fed opened its discount window to the other big investment banks and thus sent a signal that they would provide a creditor safety net for bad debt.

Morgan Stanley, Lehman and Goldman Sachs all concluded that they could ride out the panic without changing their business models or reducing their leverage. John Thain at Merrill Lynch was the only CEO willing to sell his bad mortgage paper -- at 22 cents on the dollar. Treasury and the Fed should have followed the Bear trauma with more than additional liquidity. Once they were on the taxpayer dime, the banks needed a thorough scrubbing that might have avoided last week's stampede.

- The Community Reinvestment Act. This 1977 law compels banks to make loans to poor borrowers who often cannot repay them. Banks that failed to make enough of these loans were often held hostage by activists when they next sought some regulatory approval.

Robert Litan, an economist at the Brookings Institution, told the Washington Post this year that banks "had to show they were making a conscious effort to make loans to subprime borrowers." The much-maligned Phil Gramm fought to limit these CRA requirements in the 1990s, albeit to little effect and much political jeering.


We could cite other Washington policies, including the political agitation for "mark-to-market" accounting that has forced firms to record losses after ratings downgrades even if the assets haven't been sold. But these are some of the main lowlights.

Our point here isn't to absolve Wall Street or pretend there weren't private excesses. But the investment mistakes would surely have been less extreme, and ultimately their damage more containable, if not for the enormous political support and subsidy for mortgage credit. Beware politicians who peddle fables that cast themselves as the heroes.
30937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: September 22, 2008, 12:15:47 PM
Marriage in the Balance

Opponents of a measure that would cement a definition of marriage as between a man and a woman in the California constitution were cheered by a new Field Poll last week showing the measure losing 55% to 38%. Just a few weeks ago, the measure was trailing by only nine points.

But the battle over Proposition 8, which seeks to reestablish a traditional definition of marriage that was overturned by the state's Supreme Court this summer, isn't over.

A new study of polling in 26 states -- including California -- that have voted on the issue of gay marriage shows that support for such measures is often under-reported in polls. For example, in 2000 when California first voted on gay marriage, polls showed that Proposition 22 -- which would have banned gay marriage -- had 53% support in the final pre-election poll. It wound up winning with 61%.

"I can't say for sure why polls almost always understate support for traditional marriage," says Frank Schubert, a strategist for anti-gay marriage forces. "I believe it is because the media portrays same-sex marriage as being politically correct. Supporters of traditional marriage don't want pollsters to consider them intolerant, so they mask their true feelings on the issue."

In states that have voted on gay marriage, the study found that polls underestimated support for traditional marriage by an average of seven points. In only two states (Texas and South Carolina) did pre-election polls accurately predict the outcome of the vote. In only one state (Arizona), polls overstated the final percentage of voters who backed traditional marriage.

While that history may be of some solace to opponents of gay marriage, their trailing in California is at the outer edges of the survey errors. Buoyed by a favorable rewording of the ballot summary for November's Proposition 8 by California's Attorney General Jerry Brown, supporters of gay marriage may be on their way to an historic reversal of their state's 2000 vote.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"Seven days ago, Democrats were in a state of political panic after Sarah Palin's selection as running mate had helped push John McCain ahead in the polls. Now it may be the Republicans' turn . . . because the GOP is closely identified with big business in the minds of voters [in the current financial crisis]. . . . No poll numbers or headlines between now and Friday are as likely to influence the final outcome of election as much as [this week's first presidential] debate. Obama has avoided debates since his poor showing in April against Clinton in Philadelphia, and also did poorly in a Sept. 16 forum at California's Saddleback Church. If Obama doesn't turn in a solid performance Friday, his recent poll advantage could fade quickly. A week from now, Democrats may find themselves pushing the panic button again" -- Robert Stacy McCain, writing at the American Spectator's web site

Barney Frank Creates a Diversion

Nobody said Barney Frank wasn't smart, but his cynicism is getting the best of him. His House Finance committee quietly voted out a reversal of a recent mortgage reform. The latest bill would again require the Federal Housing Administration to allow seller financed downpayments -- which even the FHA calls an engine of fraud. Yet, meanwhile, in a shadow play of accountability, he noisily demands that Hank Paulson's mortgage bailout package be conditioned with caps on CEO pay for financial firms that participate.

Mr. Frank is being frivolous. If the idea is to get the financial system working again, depriving firms of the means to compete for talent is a strange way to do it. But he doesn't really mean it -- he's flogging his initiative on the hot button of CEO pay merely to create a simulation of debate while he and Mr. Paulson rush through a vast new subsidy machine for the housing lobby.

That's not to say incentives aren't important. Redesigning incentives is a big part of the day-to-day work of capitalism and that's going on now -- think of the near-constant stream of innovations aimed at fine-tuning CEO contracts. But the urgent target for political reform should be government's own contribution -- its massive subsidies and incentives for rich and poor alike to incur housing debt, including egregious things like FHA guarantees for no-downpayment loans. A lot of questions ought to be asked before Congress enacts the Paulson plan. Don't expect Mr. Frank to ask them -- he's too busy carrying water for the housing lobby that got us here in the first place.

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

30938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 22, 2008, 12:13:25 PM
McCain at His Worst

What is John McCain thinking? First, Mr. McCain takes a wild swing by saying as president, he would have fired Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, for "betraying the public trust." It turns out a president doesn't have the statutory authority to do that, and Mr. Cox has been a political asset in dealing with the financial meltdown of last week. Indeed, the day after his call for Mr. Cox's firing, Mr. McCain retreated and called him "a good man."

Now Mr. McCain has compounded his error by floating the name of Andrew Cuomo, the pugilistic Democratic New York attorney general, as his possible nominee to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. McCain told CBS's "60 Minutes" that Mr. Cuomo had "respect" and "prestige," praising his tenure as secretary of housing and urban development in the Clinton administration.

Mr. McCain must be looking at a different record than I am. Mr. Cuomo was a political grandstander at HUD, ranging far afield to file frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers. He also spent taxpayer money to hire such firms as Booz Allen Hamilton, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young to paper over snafus at his agency.

Among the problems created by Mr. Cuomo while at HUD were what the liberal Village Voice called last month "a series of decisions between 1997 and 2001 that gave birth to the country's current crisis." A Voice investigation found that Mr. Cuomo "took actions that -- in combination with many other factors -- helped plunge Fannie and Freddie into the subprime markets without putting in place the means to monitor their increasingly risky investments. He turned the Federal Housing Administration mortgage program into a sweetheart lender with sky-high loan ceilings and no money down, and he legalized what a federal judge has branded 'kickbacks' to brokers that have fueled the sale of overpriced and unsupportable loans. Three to four million families are now facing foreclosure, and Cuomo is one of the reasons why."

Most egregiously, Matthew Rees of the Weekly Standard documented how Secretary Cuomo used the power of his office to declare war against Susan Gaffney, the HUD inspector general who was investigating charges of self-dealing by Cuomo aides. The Government Accountability Office later concluded Mr. Cuomo had used underhanded tactics to pursue spurious charges of racial discrimination against Ms. Gaffney.

The GAO found that HUD's decision to handpick two lawyers to investigate the discrimination charge, and award them contracts totaling $100,000 (the normal cost is about $3,000), represented "significant deviation" from the standard process of investigating discrimination complaints.

Ms. Gaffney, a classic whistleblower in the maverick tradition John McCain claims to embody, was an innocent victim of Mr. Cuomo's smear machine. Mr. McCain needs to go back and look at the Cuomo record at HUD -- and at the New York Attorney General's office for that matter -- before he so loosely and recklessly promotes Mr. Cuomo as someone to oversee the nation's securities regulation.

30939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan; Luther Martin on: September 22, 2008, 12:06:10 PM
揟he character that takes command in moments of crucial choices has already been determined by a thousand other choices made earlier in seemingly unimportant moments. It has been determined by all the 憀ittle choices of years past梑y all those times when the voice of conscience was at war with the voice of temptation, [which was] whispering the lie that 慽t really doesn抰 matter. It has been determined by all the day-to-day decisions made when life seemed easy and crises seemed far away梩he decision that, piece by piece, bit by bit, developed habits of discipline or of laziness; habits of self-sacrifice or self-indulgence; habits of duty and honor and integrity梠r dishonor and shame. 桼onald Reagan


God, we're told, chooses the foolish to confound the wise, and the wise men who guided America's founding -- James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall and Gouverneur Morris, among others -- were, to a man, confounded by Luther Martin. They were mistaken to take their obstreperous opponent lightly, however, though foolish he could be.

 In "Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet," a short and engaging biography of Luther Martin (1748-1826), Bill Kauffman shows us a sot, a quarrelsome bore, a butcher of the English language, an outspoken abolitionist who himself owned slaves -- and a man who advanced opinions at the Constitutional Convention that desperately needed to be heard.

The Maryland lawyer, and the state's attorney general, was the Constitutional Convention's "least honored delegate," Mr. Kauffman says. This relatively low esteem Mr. Kauffman attributes to Martin's relentless defense of the Articles of Confederation, under which, we should remember, the states, though "united" during the Revolutionary War, nevertheless retained their autonomy and independence. Martin's efforts to prevent a more centralized form of government surely made him his share of enemies at the Convention, though his slovenly habits, argumentative nature and blabbermouth tendencies surely played a role, too. Had Martin been tactful and succinct, his warnings might well have received the serious consideration they deserved.

The Anti-Federalists have long been portrayed as bumpkins who, in their provincialism, refused to admit the superiority of the Constitution and the new nation's potential for greatness. The portrayal is often unfair, and it is to Mr. Kauffman's credit that he has undertaken to give the dissenters their due. Martin, George Mason and Patrick Henry -- easily the intellectual equals of their more celebrated opponents -- raised serious arguments against the Constitution. In case after case, as Mr. Kauffman demonstrates, their dire predictions proved warranted.

Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet
By Bill Kauffman
(ISI Books, 202 pages, $25)
The Constitution would relegate the states to a subordinate status, the Anti-Federalists argued. It would thereby prove to be a threat to liberty, by denying states the freedom to govern their own affairs and by imposing laws and obligations that the states themselves would otherwise reject. The Constitution did not safeguard civil liberties either, the anti- Federalists charged; a Bill of Rights would be required to correct the flaw. The Constitution's "general welfare" clause, they said, could open the door to almost any activity that the national government wished to involve itself in -- as indeed it did.

When Martin was raising the alarm about such dangers, he was at his reckless best. In November 1787, in a speech to the Maryland House of Delegates, he assailed the Constitutional Convention not only for what it was attempting to do but for how it was going about the job. He broke the pledge to secrecy under which the convention had met and informed the Maryland legislators that the Framers -- already regarded with reverence -- had wantonly violated their instructions to meet "for the sole and express purpose of revising" the Articles of Confederation.

Instead, convention delegates had taken it upon themselves to make a fresh start by creating an entirely new system of government. To Martin, such an effort was akin to launching a coup d'閠at. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin had given their "hearty concurrence" to this mischief, Martin declared, but we should not "suffer our eyes to be so far dazzled by the splendor of names, as to run blindfolded into what may be our destruction."

Maryland largely ignored Martin's warnings. In April 1788, it voted to ratify the Constitution, the seventh state to do so, though on condition that a Bill of Rights be added. In June, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify, the required threshold had been reached, and the new Constitution took effect. Three years later, the first 10 amendments were added.

Martin's energetic opposition to the Constitution, though ultimately futile, was nevertheless the capstone of a peculiar career. Before then, he had been an increasingly important force in Maryland and the new nation. After, he seems to have stalled. His later life, while reasonably productive, was not happy. Just 40 years old when defeated by the Constitution's ratification, Martin served for decades on the Maryland bar and bench. In 1818, he represented the losing side in the landmark case of McCulloch v. Maryland, in which the state attempted to impose a tax on the notes of banks not chartered in Maryland. The state lost, further strengthening the power of the federal government that Martin had sought to restrain.

Martin also continued to drink heavily, sinking into bankruptcy and madness. By the mid-1820s he was subsisting on a special tax imposed on Maryland lawyers solely for his personal support. Eventually he was taken in by Aaron Burr, whom he had defended at the disgraced ex-vice president's 1807 trial for treason. By this time, an irrational detestation of Thomas Jefferson, his one-time decentralist ally, led Martin to embrace the Federalist Party, in apparent repudiation of everything he had argued for so strenuously. He was buried in New York City, evidently in an unmarked grave.

Mr. Kauffman tells this harrowing tale with a proper recognition of its farcical elements. He is a rollicksome stylist, though some readers may find his tone a tad too jokey at times. But throughout Mr. Kauffman shows a sympathetic regard for his subject. An appreciation of Luther Martin is perhaps overdue; a respect for the Anti-Federalists certainly is. Both ends are well served by this entertaining and instructive work.

Mr. Crawford is the author of "Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson."
30940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Nathan Hale on: September 22, 2008, 05:37:15 AM

"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

-- Nathan Hale (before being hanged by the British, 22 September

Reference: The Spirit of `Seventy-Six, Commager and Morris (476);
original General William Hull, Campbell (37-38)
30941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 22, 2008, 04:01:00 AM
I usually find Krugman to be an ass, an idiot, or both-- but here I think he raises some fair questions.

Cash for Trash
Published: September 21, 2008
NY Times

Some skeptics are calling Henry Paulson抯 $700 billion rescue plan for the U.S. financial system 揷ash for trash. Others are calling the proposed legislation the Authorization for Use of Financial Force, after the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the infamous bill that gave the Bush administration the green light to invade Iraq.

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There抯 justice in the gibes. Everyone agrees that something major must be done. But Mr. Paulson is demanding extraordinary power for himself and for his successor to deploy taxpayers money on behalf of a plan that, as far as I can see, doesn抰 make sense.

Some are saying that we should simply trust Mr. Paulson, because he抯 a smart guy who knows what he抯 doing. But that抯 only half true: he is a smart guy, but what, exactly, in the experience of the past year and a half a period during which Mr. Paulson repeatedly declared the financial crisis 揷ontained, and then offered a series of unsuccessful fixes justifies the belief that he knows what he抯 doing? He抯 making it up as he goes along, just like the rest of us.

So let抯 try to think this through for ourselves. I have a four-step view of the financial crisis:

1. The bursting of the housing bubble has led to a surge in defaults and foreclosures, which in turn has led to a plunge in the prices of mortgage-backed securities assets whose value ultimately comes from mortgage payments.

2. These financial losses have left many financial institutions with too little capital too few assets compared with their debt. This problem is especially severe because everyone took on so much debt during the bubble years.

3. Because financial institutions have too little capital relative to their debt, they haven抰 been able or willing to provide the credit the economy needs.

4. Financial institutions have been trying to pay down their debt by selling assets, including those mortgage-backed securities, but this drives asset prices down and makes their financial position even worse. This vicious circle is what some call the 損aradox of deleveraging.

The Paulson plan calls for the federal government to buy up $700 billion worth of troubled assets, mainly mortgage-backed securities. How does this resolve the crisis?

Well, it might might break the vicious circle of deleveraging, step 4 in my capsule description. Even that isn抰 clear: the prices of many assets, not just those the Treasury proposes to buy, are under pressure. And even if the vicious circle is limited, the financial system will still be crippled by inadequate capital.

Or rather, it will be crippled by inadequate capital unless the federal government hugely overpays for the assets it buys, giving financial firms and their stockholders and executives a giant windfall at taxpayer expense. Did I mention that I抦 not happy with this plan?

The logic of the crisis seems to call for an intervention, not at step 4, but at step 2: the financial system needs more capital. And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don抰 go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

That抯 what happened in the savings and loan crisis: the feds took over ownership of the bad banks, not just their bad assets. It抯 also what happened with Fannie and Freddie. (And by the way, that rescue has done what it was supposed to. Mortgage interest rates have come down sharply since the federal takeover.)

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a 揷lean plan. 揅lean, in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review 揵y any court of law or any administrative agency, and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.

I抦 aware that Congress is under enormous pressure to agree to the Paulson plan in the next few days, with at most a few modifications that make it slightly less bad. Basically, after having spent a year and a half telling everyone that things were under control, the Bush administration says that the sky is falling, and that to save the world we have to do exactly what it says now now now.

But I抎 urge Congress to pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to seriously rework the structure of the plan, making it a plan that addresses the real problem. Don抰 let yourself be railroaded if this plan goes through in anything like its current form, we抣l all be very sorry in the not-too-distant future.
30942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 22, 2008, 03:56:36 AM
Bill Kristol's conservative bona fides are in good order, so , , ,

A Fine Mess
Published: September 21, 2008
NY Times

A friend serving in the Bush administration called Sunday to try to talk me out of my doubts about the $700 billion financial bailout the administration was asking Congress to approve. I picked up the phone, and made the mistake of good-naturedly remarking, in my best imitation of Oliver Hardy, 揥ell, this is a fine mess you抳e gotten us into.

People who抳e been working 18-hour days trying to avert a meltdown are entitled to bristle at jocular comments from those of us not in public office. So he bristled. He then tried to persuade me that the only responsible course of action was to support the administration抯 request.

I抦 not convinced.

It抯 not that I don抰 believe the situation is dire. It抯 not that I want to insist on some sort of ideological purity or free-market fastidiousness. I will stipulate that this is an emergency, and is a time for pragmatic problem-solving, perhaps even for violating some cherished economic or political principles. (What are cherished principles for but to be violated in emergencies?)

And I acknowledge that there are serious people who think the situation too urgent and the day too late to allow for a real public and Congressional debate on what should be done. But based on conversations with economists, Wall Street types, businessmen and public officials I抦 doubtful that the only thing standing between us and a financial panic is for Congress to sign this week, on behalf of the American taxpayer, a $700 billion check over to the Treasury.

A huge speculative housing bubble has collapsed. We抮e going to have a recession. Unemployment will go up. Credit is going to be tighter. The challenge is to contain the damage to a 搉ormal recession and to prevent a devastating series of bank runs, a collapse of the credit markets and a full-bore depression.

Everyone seems to agree on the need for a big and comprehensive plan, and that the markets have to have some confidence that help is on the way. Funds need to be supplied, trading markets need to be stabilized, solvent institutions needs to be protected, and insolvent institutions need to be put on the path to a deliberate liquidation or reorganization.

But is the administration抯 proposal the right way to do this? It would enable the Treasury, without Congressionally approved guidelines as to pricing or procedure, to purchase hundreds of billions of dollars of financial assets, and hire private firms to manage and sell them, presumably at their discretion There are no provisions for or even promises of disclosure, accountability or transparency. Surely Congress can at least ask some hard questions about such an open-ended commitment.

And I抳e been shocked by the number of (mostly conservative) experts I抳e spoken with who aren抰 at all confident that the Bush administration has even the basics right or who think that the plan, though it looks simple on paper, will prove to be a nightmare in practice.

But will political leaders dare oppose it? Barack Obama called Sunday for more accountability, and I imagine he抣l support the efforts of the Democratic Congressional leadership to try to add to the legislation a host of liberal spending provisions. He probably won抰 want to run the risk of actually opposing it, or even of raising big questions and causing significant delay lest he be attacked for risking the possible meltdown of the global financial system.

What about John McCain? He could play it safe, going along with whatever the Bush administration and the Congress are able to negotiate.

If he wants to be critical, but concludes that Congress has to pass something quickly lest the markets fall apart again, and that he can抰 reasonably insist that Congress come up with something fundamentally better, he could propose various amendments insisting on much more accountability and transparency in how Treasury handles this amazing grant of power.

Comments by McCain on Sunday suggest he might propose an amendment along the lines of one I received in an e-mail message from a fellow semi-populist conservative: 揂ny institution selling securities under this legislation to the Treasury Department shall not be allowed to compensate any officer or employee with a higher salary next year than that paid the president of the United States. This would punish overpaid Wall Streeters and, more important, limit participation in the bailout to institutions really in trouble.

Or McCain more of a gambler than Obama could take a big risk. While assuring the public and the financial markets that his administration will act forcefully and swiftly to deal with the crisis, he could decide that he must oppose the bailout as the panicked product of a discredited administration, an irresponsible Congress, and a feckless financial establishment, all of which got us into this fine mess.

Critics would charge that in opposing the bailout, in standing against an apparent bipartisan consensus, McCain was being irresponsible.

Or would this be an act of responsibility and courage?
30943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dominic Pitchard on: September 22, 2008, 03:47:43 AM
RIP Dominic Pritchard  KIA from war wounds to the spirit.
30944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 08:53:29 PM
"Frankly, the fact that Israel has accomplished so much while under such constant threat is nothing short of miraculous."

Amen to that.  I am reminded of the words of the heroic Wafa Sultan, when responding to comments about us Jews being "people of the book"; she said "No, they are people of MANY books- of science, medicine, and art and more."

Making editor of Law Review at Harvard is a really big deal.  Odd is not writing any articles while there , , , kind of like voting "present"  cheesy 

Anyway, time for dinner, gotta go.
30945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 21, 2008, 04:03:04 PM
Jack Wheeler:

Over three years ago (April 2005) in Bye Bye Bolivia, you learned that under Evo Morales, Bolivia would someday break apart.  Ever since, Evo's puppet master Hugo Chavez has desperately tried to prevent this.  Now, this week, the moment of dissolution seems to have arrived.

With the lowland provinces of the "Media Luna" in outright rebellion, Morales has been unable to trust his military enough to order it to crush the rebels.  The New York Times is reporting that Chavez is publicly ridiculing the Bolivian military and threatening to invade the country with Venezuelan soldiers.

One or another, Morales or the country itself as an intact nation will not be around for much longer.


Speaking of nations that may not be around brings up Pakistan.  It's so upset over the US sending real live soldiers based in Afghanistan across its border to kill Taliban terrorists trying to kill them that the whole country is having a temper tantrum over the violation of its sacred "sovereignty."

The reason for the tantrum is that the sovereignty they demand the US "respect" doesn't exist.

I've crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan - on foot, on horseback, by truck, even in a raft across the Kabul River - and vice versa many times.  I have seen with my own eyes:  there is no border.  Pakistan has never exercised anything approaching sovereign authority over its border with Afghanistan.

That 1600-mile border was drawn by a British civil servant, Sir Mortimer Durand (1850-1924), in 1893 in his capacity as Foreign Secretary of British India.  The government of Afghanistan has never recognized the "Durand Line" as a legitimate border - since it divides the Pushtun people (who make up the majority of Afghans) in two.

Further, the Durand Line Agreement - which the Brits claimed Afghan King Abdur Rahman Khan signed, but only in English which he didn't speak or read - was valid for 100 years and expired in 1993.  No subsequent Afghan government has renewed the Durand Agreement.

Thus the Afghan-Pakistan border does not exist either legally or actual reality.

The Pakistan "government-within-a-government," the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency or ISI, is conducting a proxy war against the United States and the government of Afghanistan via the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists.  The US, NATO, and Afghan military forces have every right to take whatever measures are necessary to shut this war down in territory the Paks have no legal right to nor control.

Pakistan is rapidly becoming a failed state - so failed that there is an increasing chance it may break apart into its constituents:  Baluchistan, the Sindh, Punjab, and "Pushtunistan" which may merge with Afghanistan.  India and the US better have a well-thought out and well-practiced plan to seize control of Pak nukes if necessary.
30946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 03:59:13 PM
"his brain worked well enough to get through Harvard and Harvard Law"

Actually his undergrad was Columbia. smiley
30947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 02:00:06 PM
Woof GM:

We have here Exhibit A as to why it is a good idea to put in an explanatory sentence or three as to WHY you are posting articles cheesy  If you had included the descriptions you include here with the original post, all would have been clear to JDN.


30948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 21, 2008, 01:19:40 PM
Jack Wheeler:

 , , , And fourth is the release this week of John Fund's book Stealing Elections.  This is an incredibly important book.  John exposes the plans of the ultimate "community organizer" ACORN to commit massive voter fraud in cities throughout the country - and details how Obama is an ACORN operative.  He was a "community organizer for ACORN and then their lawyer.

Obambi, John reveals, has 9,000 lawyers ready to challenge November 4 election results in thousands of precincts in hundreds of counties in dozens of states, all under the phony claim of "voter suppression" perpetrated by evil election-stealing Republicans.

Just to take one single county, Bernalillo County in New Mexico:  over 1,000 fraudulent voters registrations have been submitted by ACORN, and if they are not accepted, ACORN will scream "voter suppression!"

Incidentally, Obambi's call for his followers to "argue with your neighbors and get in their face" if they don't support him (9/17 in Elko NV) is a classic ACORN intimidation technique.  Read John's book.
30949  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: September 21, 2008, 10:22:41 AM
Like most Americans, I feel a special affinity for/bond with the British-- so much of the best of America we inherited from them--, but on several fronts (the response to Islamic Fascism, the hostility to self-defense, the Orwellian supervision, the PC nanny state and its intimidation of common sense leave one wondering where the heck they are headed.
30950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: September 21, 2008, 10:13:28 AM
Ali, who became an international celebrity after refusing to accept her marriage to a man three times her age and winning a divorce, is now back to a semblance of a normal life in Sana.
By Delphine Minoui and Borzou Daragahi, Special to The Times
September 20, 2008

SANA, YEMEN -- Still groggy, the schoolgirl brushed her hair, struggled to pull on her socks and snuggled into her school uniform: a green gown and a white head scarf.

By the time she gathered up her books and strapped on her backpack she was smiling and enthusiastic, her nervousness eclipsed by anticipation of the first day of class.  Like children across the world, 10-year-old Nujood Ali went back to school this month after a lengthy break. But Nujood hadn't been lazing about or playing hide-and-seek with her friends during the summer.  Instead, after she was pulled out of the second grade by her father earlier this year, she was married off to a man three times her  age, who beat her and sexually abused her.

For many girls in this traditional society, where tribal custom and conservative interpretations of Islam dominate, that would have been the end of the story. But Nujood was outraged. She gathered up her courage and on the advice of an aunt went to court in April. She got the help of a lawyer and filed for divorce.

A judge quickly granted it.

And on Tuesday morning, the divorcee, possibly the world's youngest, once again became a schoolgirl.

"I'm very happy to be going back to school," she said, waiting in her ramshackle home for her younger sister Haifa to get ready. "I'm going to study Arabic, the Koran, mathematics and drawing. I will do that with my classmates and I will definitely make friends there."

Nujood's unusual story of rebellion made her an international celebrity. Since The Times wrote of her in June, CNN, Elle magazine and other international media have come to this mountaintop capital to chronicle her tale.  Hordes of nonprofit organizations offered to help her get back to school, some even willing to foot the bill to send her abroad or to a fancy private academy, though they ignored Haifa, Nujood's little sister and best friend.

In the end, Nujood opted for a small, government-run public school relatively close to her home. She would begin where she left off, starting the second grade again.

Even then, it wasn't easy. One teacher said she worried that Nujood might disturb other students by talking about her sexual experiences.  The night before she went to school, Nujood said she dreamed of notebooks, drawings and new friends.

"When I left school, I learned how to count from one to 100," she said. "Now, I am going to learn how to count until a million."

Nujood said she wanted to study hard, to be able to attend university and become a lawyer like Shada Nasser, the well-known Yemeni human rights advocate who helped her get her divorce.  The girl's experience, and her ambition, have even served as an inspiration to her parents, uneducated rural people who moved to the capital's outskirts a few years ago and say they married her off to protect her from the dangers of the city.

"We were never asked if we wanted to go to school when we were children," said her father, Ali Mohammed Ahdal, who has two wives and 16 children.

"If we had a choice, we would have loved to study like Nujood."

On Tuesday morning, Nujood and Haifa climbed into a yellow taxi paid for by an Italian aid group and drove through the capital's smog-choked streets, passing vendors of the mildly narcotic khat leaves and the occasional shepherd.

Outside the schoolhouse, Nasser stood waiting, eager to share a day she had anticipated. "I can't believe we finally made it," said the attorney, who agreed to drop the rest of her caseload to take up Nujood's cause after the girl showed up alone in a Sana courthouse in April.
Nujood and Nasser were welcomed by Njala Matri, the principal of the school in Rawdha, a lower-middle-class neighborhood along the road to the city's international airport.

"You are welcome here. You can feel at home," she said, smiling at Nujood.

Only about half of Yemeni girls attend primary school. Last year, one of the school's 1,200 girls, a 13-year-old, dropped out to marry, though the legal age of consent is 15. "Now, she's a mother," Matri said in dismay.

Women's rights activists say child marriage is part of a vicious circle. Girls drop out of school and bear too many children, contributing to Yemen's high female illiteracy and exploding birth rate.  But on Tuesday, Nujood stepped through the school's gates into a vast courtyard, disappearing into a swarm of noisy classmates. Some paid her no mind, while others approached the girl who had become a local and international media star.

"I am so excited," she said, playing nervously with her hands.

A bell sounded and the students quieted down, forming lines for roll call before shuffling into classrooms of about 50 students each. 
Nujood took a seat in the third row, neither at the front nor the back of the classroom.  The teacher, dressed in an all-covering black abaya, hushed the students and began the day's lesson by asking them to recite the national anthem as well as passages from the Koran.

Small hands shot into the air.

"Who can recite the Surat al-Hamd?" the teacher asked, referring to the first chapter of the Koran.

She saw Nujood's hand, and called her name.

"Nujood?" she said.

Nujood stood up and began, ending with: "Show us the straight path. The path of those whom You have favored. Not the path of those who earn Your anger nor of those who go astray."

"May God bless you," said the teacher.

"Let's give her a round of applause."

The others clapped as Nujood sat down, a little girl once again.

LA Times
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