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22951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 27, 2008, 05:45:40 PM
Even though I support his efforts on a monthly basis, its been too long since I checked in with Michael Yon. 

There are several fine entries at http://www.michaelyon-online.com/


22952  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Ladros de Crafty Dog on: October 27, 2008, 11:11:19 AM
Hola a todos:

La vida de este foro depende de la participacion de Uds.  Este manana veo que el post de Mauricio tiene casi 60 "reads" (leidos?) pero todavia nadie ha respondido para continuar la platica.

Si' quieren un foro vibrante, dependara' en Uds.

La Aventura continua,
Marc/Crafty Dog
22953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO health plan on: October 27, 2008, 11:06:53 AM
Its the NY Times so caveat lector:
===========================

Businesses Wary of Details in Obama Health Plan
By KEVIN SACK
Published: October 26, 2008
AGAWAM, Mass. — Dave Ratner, owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City, is pretty sure he is about to get “whacked” by the new state law that requires employers to contribute to health care benefits for their workers or pay a $295-per-employee penalty. In order to avoid thousands of dollars in fines, Mr. Ratner is considering not adding part-time workers at his four pet supply stores in Western Massachusetts.

But the penalty in Massachusetts is picayune compared with what some health experts believe Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, might impose as part of his plan to provide affordable coverage for the uninsured. Though Mr. Obama has not released details, economists believe he might require large and medium companies to contribute as much as 6 percent of their payrolls.

That, Mr. Ratner said, would be catastrophic to a low-margin business like his, which has 90 employees, 29 of them full-time workers who are offered health benefits.

“To all of a sudden whack 6 to 7 percent of payroll costs, forget it,” he said. “If they do that, prices go up and employment goes down because nobody can absorb that.”

Writ large, that is one of the significant concerns about Mr. Obama’s health plan, which like this state’s landmark 2006 law would subsidize coverage for the uninsured by taxing employers who do not cover their workers. And it is a primary reason that so-called play-or-pay proposals have had an unsteady history for nearly two decades.

With Mr. Obama’s plan, business leaders say, the devil will be in the unknown details.

Mr. Obama would prohibit insurers from rejecting applicants because of medical conditions, require health insurance for children and create a new federal health plan to provide comprehensive coverage to the uninsured. Those beneath certain income levels would be granted tax credits to make premiums affordable, and small businesses would be offered tax credits to provide benefits.

The tax credits are projected to cost at least $110 billion. Mr. Obama has said he would pay for it primarily by raising income taxes on those making more than $250,000 and by reducing health spending. But when he announced the plan in May 2007, he emphasized that employers would share in the cost.

“We will ask all but the smallest businesses who don’t make a meaningful contribution today to the health coverage of their employees to do so by supporting this new plan,” he said.

Left undefined has been what size firms would be exempted, what constitutes a “meaningful contribution,” and how much noncompliant businesses would be required to pay. Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, badgered Mr. Obama in two of their debates to define the penalty, but Mr. Obama did not rise to the bait.

“We made a decision even before the plan was rolled out not to decide,” said David M. Cutler, a Harvard economist who speaks for the campaign on health care. “It’s not that there’s a decision out there that we’re not telling. It’s literally that we’ve decided not to decide.”

That may be smart politics. But it makes business groups nervous that Mr. Obama might impose an unmanageable burden. They also worry that any time his health plan faces a shortfall, businesses will be asked to up their ante, as has happened in Massachusetts.

“Play-or-pay can become a blank check to an already overcapitalized health care system,” said Helen B. Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, which represents 300 companies.

Business groups also have concerns that Mr. McCain’s plan to change the tax treatment of health benefits would erode employer-sponsored insurance.

Mr. Cutler said the Obama campaign regarded play-or-pay less “as a revenue raiser” than as a way of “leveling the playing field.” It would hold accountable those employers whose uninsured workers might seek treatment in emergency rooms or enroll in government insurance plans, with costs subsidized by others through higher premiums and taxes. Mr. Cutler said the expense to businesses would be offset by savings from Mr. Obama’s proposals to reduce health spending, though that is an uncertain prospect.

Several econometric models have assumed that Mr. Obama would have to set his penalty near 6 percent of payroll (Mercer, a benefits consulting firm says that large employers typically pay 15 percent). Recent play-or-pay proposals in California and Pennsylvania put the figure at 3 or 4 percent, and both failed in part because of business opposition.

=======

Page 2 of 2)



Hawaii is the only state that requires employers to provide health benefits, while Vermont, like Massachusetts, gently fines those who do not. Several other states have enacted similar laws over the last two decades, but they have been repealed, rejected by voters or challenged in court.

Economists believe the cost of health benefits is ultimately shifted to employees through lower wages. When wages cannot be lowered, layoffs may result. Katherine Baicker of Harvard and Helen G. Levy of the University of Michigan have projected that play-or-pay might push 224,000 workers into that category.
When negotiating their health plan, Massachusetts lawmakers rejected a payroll tax and instead set a “fair share contribution” that was low enough to appease businesses. The amount also was kept low to steer clear of the 1974 federal law prohibiting states from regulating multistate group insurance plans. Companies with 10 or fewer full-time equivalent employees were exempted.

State officials hoped the penalty would generate a little revenue, but recognized it was not likely to prompt employers to start offering coverage. It raised only $7.7 million in its first year, well under projections. So when a substantial budget gap opened in the $869 million health plan this year, Gov. Deval Patrick asked businesses to help fill the hole.

He compromised on a revised formula that is projected to bring in $30 million by increasing the number and average size of firms that will be penalized. The state expects 1,100 businesses to be fined, up from 855, or about 3 percent of eligible companies.

The deal left business leaders satisfied for the moment. They recognize that the $295 penalty is a fraction of the $4,000 that Massachusetts employers spend to insure an individual worker.

But businesses worry the state will raise their obligation each year. They argue they have already absorbed costs of insuring 159,000 workers with group coverage since the state began mandating insurance (a total of 439,000 have enrolled, giving the state the country’s highest insurance rate).

“You want the system to work,” said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “You just want to make sure there isn’t more cost-shifting to businesses because they are paying their fair share.”

State officials are gratified that — contrary to national trends — the share of employers offering health benefits has increased slightly. One fear about play-or-pay is that if the penalty is too low employers will stop offering coverage and pay the fines instead, shifting workers to government insurance programs.

But leaders here also are sensitive to the possibility that further increases in the penalty might stymie wage and job growth.

“In this day and age,” said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, the state secretary of health and human services, “it wouldn’t take much of a change in policy to push some entities over the brink.”
22954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 27, 2008, 10:46:32 AM
AFGHAN DRUG KINGPIN CHARGED WITH FINANCING
TALIBAN TERRORIST INSURGENCY


(Washington, DC)-MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and MICHELE M. LEONHART, Acting Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced today the arrest of HAJI JUMA KHAN, a/k/a “Abdullah,” a/k/a “Haji Juma Khan Mohammadhasni,” an Afghan drug trafficker charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics with intent to support a terrorist organization. KHAN is among the first defendants to be prosecuted under the 2006 federal narco-terrorism statute.

 

According to the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
Since at least 1999, KHAN led an international opium, morphine and heroin trafficking organization (the “Khan Organization”) based principally in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces of southern Afghanistan. The Khan Organization arranged to sell morphine base, an opium derivative that can be processed into heroin, in quantities as large as 40 tons – enough to supply the entire United States heroin market for more than
two years. According to the Indictment, the Khan Organization also operated labs in Afghanistan that produced refined heroin and sold the drug in quantities of as much as 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds, and more.



KHAN has been closely aligned with the Taliban, which was designated by the President of the United States as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Group in 2002. The Taliban’s totalitarian government controlled Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until 2001, when it was removed from power by the United States and allied military forces. Since the United States’ military intervention, the Taliban has operated an insurgency aimed at re-establishing its control of Afghanistan and forcibly expelling the United States and its allies through terrorist tactics such as suicide bombings, improvised explosive
devices, shootings and kidnappings, which target American soldiers, Afghan political leaders, security contractors and civilians. The Taliban has publicly claimed credit for terrorist attacks, including a January 14, 2008 attack on civilians and employees at the Serena Hotel in Kabul, in which an American citizen was murdered.



The Taliban’s terrorist insurgency has been funded in part by drug traffickers who provide financing to the Taliban in exchange for protection for their drug routes, production labs, and opium poppy fields. KHAN has supported the Taliban’s efforts to forcibly remove the United States and its allies from Afghanistan by providing financial support in the form of drug proceeds.



 “Proceeds from HAJI JUMA KHAN's global drug trafficking organization funded the terrorist activities of the Taliban,” said DEA Acting Administrator MICHELE M. LEONHART. “His arrest disrupts a significant line of credit to the Taliban and will shake the foundation of his drug network that has moved massive quantities of heroin to worldwide drug markets.”

 

 Mr. GARCIA said: “The arrest of HAJI JUMA KHAN is another significant step in the continuing effort to combat terrorism by stopping the flow of narcotics proceeds that help fund the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.”

Mr. GARCIA praised the investigative work of the DEA, with the assistance of the British Serious Organised Crime Agency, and thanked the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Jandarma for their role in the case. He also thanked United States and international INTERPOL authorities for their support.



KHAN will be presented this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge RONALD L. ELLIS for initial appearance and arraignment. United States District Judge NAOMI REICE BUCHWALD will preside over future proceedings in this case; a conference is scheduled before Judge BUCHWALD for October 28, 2008, at 2:30 p.m.



If convicted, KHAN, 54, faces a maximum sentence of life and a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics Trafficking Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys MARSHALL A. CAMP and EUGENE INGOGLIA are in charge of the prosecution.
22955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Wilson: Marriage on: October 27, 2008, 09:43:25 AM
"The most important consequence of marriage is, that the husband
and the wife become in law only one person...  Upon this principle
of union, almost all the other legal consequences of marriage
depend.  This principle, sublime and refined, deserves to be
viewed and examined on every side."

-- James Wilson (Of the Natural Rights of Individuals, 1792)

Reference: The Works of James Wilson, Andrews, ed., vol. 1 (324)
22956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: October 26, 2008, 11:57:02 PM
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1008/14929.html

Quote:
Palin allies report rising campaign tension
By: Ben Smith
October 25, 2008 02:32 PM EST
Even as John McCain and Sarah Palin scramble to close the gap in the final days of the 2008 election, stirrings of a Palin insurgency are complicating the campaign's already-tense internal dynamics.

Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain's camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain's decline.

"She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane," said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to "go rogue" in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.

"I think she'd like to go more rogue," he said.

The emergence of a Palin faction comes as Republicans gird for a battle over the future of their party: Some see her as a charismatic, hawkish conservative leader with the potential, still unrealized, to cross over to attract moderate voters. Anger among Republicans who see Palin as a star and as a potential future leader has boiled over because, they say, they see other senior McCain aides preparing to blame her in the event he is defeated.

"These people are going to try and shred her after the campaign to divert blame from themselves," a McCain insider said, referring to McCain's chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, and to Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush aide who has taken a lead role in Palin's campaign. Palin's partisans blame Wallace, in particular, for Palin's avoiding of the media for days and then giving a high-stakes interview to CBS News' Katie Couric, the sometimes painful content of which the campaign allowed to be parceled out over a week.

"A number of Gov. Palin's staff have not had her best interests at heart, and they have not had the campaign's best interests at heart," the McCain insider fumed, noting that Wallace left an executive job at CBS to join the campaign.

Wallace declined to engage publicly in the finger-pointing that has consumed the campaign in the final weeks.

"I am in awe of [Palin's] strength under constant fire by the media," she said in an e-mail. "If someone wants to throw me under the bus, my personal belief is that the most graceful thing to do is to lie there."

But other McCain aides, defending Wallace, dismissed the notion that Palin was mishandled. The Alaska governor was, they argue, simply unready — "green," sloppy and incomprehensibly willing to criticize McCain for, for instance, not attacking Sen. Barack Obama for his relationship with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Palin has in fact performed fairly well in the moments thought to be key for a vice presidential nominee: She made a good impression in her surprise rollout in Ohio and her speech to the Republican National Convention went better than the campaign could have imagined. She turned in an adequate performance at a debate against the Democratic Party's foremost debater.

But other elements of her image-making went catastrophically awry. Her dodging of the press and her nervous reliance on tight scripts in her first interview, with ABC News, became a national joke — driven home to devastating effect by "Saturday Night Live" comic Tina Fey. The Couric interview — her only unstaged appearance for a week — was "water torture," as one internal ally put it.

Some McCain aides say they had little choice with a candidate who simply wasn't ready for the national stage, and that Palin didn't forcefully object. Moments that Palin's allies see as triumphs of instinct and authenticity — the Wright suggestion, her objection to the campaign's pulling out of Michigan — they dismiss as Palin's "slips and miscommunications," that is, her own incompetence and evidence of the need for tight scripting.

But Palin partisans say she chafed at the handling.

"The campaign as a whole bought completely into what the Washington media said — that she's completely inexperienced," said a close Palin ally outside the campaign who speaks regularly to the candidate.

"Her strategy was to be trustworthy and a team player during the convention and thereafter, but she felt completely mismanaged and mishandled and ill advised," the person said. "Recently, she's gone from relying on McCain advisers who were assigned to her to relying on her own instincts."

Palin's loyalists say she's grown particularly disenchanted with the veterans of the Bush reelection campaign, including Schmidt and Wallace, and that despite her anti-intellectual rhetoric, her closest ally among her new traveling aides is a policy adviser, former National Security Council official Steve Biegun. She's also said to be close with McCain's chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, who prepared her for the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate.

When a McCain aide, speaking anonymously Friday to The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, suggested that Palin's charge that Obama was "palling around with terrorists" had "escaped HQ's vetting," it was Scheunemann who fired off an angry response that the speech was "fully vetted" and that to attack Palin for it was "bullshit."

Palin's "instincts," on display in recent days, have had her opening up to the media, including a round of interviews on talk radio, cable and broadcast outlets, as well as chats with her traveling press and local reporters.

Reporters really began to notice the change last Sunday, when Palin strolled over to a local television crew in Colorado Springs.

"Get Tracey," a staffer called out, according to The New York Times, summoning spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt, who reportedly "tried several times to cut it off with a terse 'Thank you!' in between questions, to no avail." The moment may have caused ulcers in some precincts of the McCain campaign, but it was an account Palin's admirers in Washington cheered.

Palin had also sought to give meatier policy speeches, in particular on energy policy and on policy for children with disabilities; she finally gave the latter speech Friday, but had wanted to deliver it much earlier.

She's also begun to make her own ad hoc calls about the campaign's direction and the ticket's policy. McCain, for instance, has remained silent on Democrats' calls for a stimulus package of new spending, a move many conservatives oppose but that could be broadly popular. But in an interview with the conservative radio host Glenn Beck earlier this week, Palin went "off the reservation" to make the campaign policy, one aide said.

"I say, you know, when is enough enough of taxpayer dollars being thrown into this bill out there?" she asked. "This next one of the Democrats being proposed should be very, very concerning to all Americans because to me it sends a message that $700 billion bailout, maybe that was just the tip of the iceberg. No, you know, we were told when we've got to be believing if we have enough elected officials who are going to be standing strong on fiscal conservative principles and free enterprise and we have to believe that there are enough of those elected officials to say, 'No, OK, that's enough.'"

(A McCain spokeswoman said Palin's statement was "a good sentiment.")

But few imagine that Palin will be able to repair her image — and bad poll numbers — in the eleven days before the campaign ends. And the final straw for Palin and her allies was the news that the campaign had reported spending $150,000 on her clothes, turning her, again, into the butt of late-night humor.

"She never even set foot in these stores," the senior Republican said, noting Palin hadn't realized the cost when the clothes were brought to her in her Minnesota hotel room.

"It's completely out-of-control operatives," said the close ally outside the campaign. "She has no responsibility for that. It's incredibly frustrating for us and for her."

Between Palin's internal detractors and her allies, there's a middle ground: Some aides say that she's a flawed candidate whose handling exaggerated her weak spots.

"She was completely mishandled in the beginning. No one took the time to look at what her personal strengths and weaknesses are and developed a plan that made sense based on who she is as a candidate," the aide said. "Any concerns she or those close to her have about that are totally valid."

But the aide said that Palin's inexperience led her to her own mistakes:

"How she was handled allowed her weaknesses to hang out in full display."

If McCain loses, Palin's allies say that the national Republican Party hasn't seen the last of her. Politicians are sometimes formed by a signal defeat — as Bill Clinton was when he was tossed out of the Arkansas governor's mansion after his first term — and Palin would return to a state that had made her America's most popular governor and where her image as a reformer who swept aside her own party's insiders rings true, if not in the cartoon version the McCain campaign presented.

"There are people in this campaign who feel a real sense of loyalty to her and are really pleased with her performance and think she did a great job," said the McCain insider. "She has a real future in this party."
22957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US SF hit AQ in Syria on: October 26, 2008, 11:50:17 PM
October 26, 2008

US Special Forces Launch Rare Attack Inside Syria

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 10:06 p.m. ET

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- U.S. military helicopters launched an extremely rare attack Sunday on Syrian territory close to the border with Iraq, killing eight people in a strike the government in Damascus condemned as ''serious aggression.''

A U.S. military official said the raid by special forces targeted the network of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq. The Americans have been unable to shut the network down in the area struck because Syria was out of the military's reach.

''We are taking matters into our own hands,'' the official told The Associated Press in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

The attack came just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an ''uncontrolled'' gateway for fighters entering Iraq.

A Syrian government statement said the helicopters attacked the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction shortly before sundown and fired on workers inside, the statement said.

The government said civilians were among the dead, including four children.

A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh said some of the helicopters landed and troops exited the aircraft and fired on a building. He said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories. The witness spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Another witness said four helicopters were used in the attack.

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there have been some instances in which American troops crossed areas of the 370-mile Syria-Iraq border in pursuit of militants, or warplanes violated Syria's airspace. But Sunday's raid was the first conducted by aircraft and on such a large scale. In May 2005, Syria said American fire killed a border guard.

Syria's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the U.S. and Iraqi charges d'affaires to protest against the strike.

''Syria condemns this aggression and holds the American forces responsible for this aggression and all its repercussions. Syria also calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and launch and immediate investigation into this serious violation and prevent the use of Iraqi territory for aggression against Syria,'' the government statement said.

Syrian state television late Sunday aired footage that showed blood stains on the floor of a site under construction, with wooden beams used to mold concrete strewn on the ground. Akram Hameed, one of the injured, told the television he was fishing in the Euphrates and saw four helicopters coming from the border area under a heavy blanket of fire.

''One of the helicopters landed in an agricultural area and eight members disembarked,'' the man in his 40s said. ''The firing lasted about 15 minutes and when I tried to leave the area on my motorcycle, I was hit by a bullet in the right arm about 20 meters (yards) away,'' he said.

The injured wife of the building's guard, in bed in hospital with a tube in her nose, told Syria TV that two helicopters landed and two remained in the air during the attack.

''I ran to bring my child who was going to his father and I was hit,'' she said. The TV did not identify her by name.

The area targeted is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which had been a major crossing point for fighters, weapons and money coming into Iraq to fuel the Sunni insurgency.

Iraqi travelers making their way home across the border reported hearing many explosions, said Qaim Mayor Farhan al-Mahalawi.

The foreign fighters network sends militants from North Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East to Syria, where elements of the Syrian military are in league with al-Qaida and loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath party, the U.S. military official said.

He said that while American forces have had considerable success, with Iraqi help, in shutting down the ''rat lines'' in Iraq, and with foreign government help in North Africa, the Syrian node has been out of reach.

''The one piece of the puzzle we have not been showing success on is the nexus in Syria,'' the official said.

On Thursday, U.S. Maj. Gen. John Kelly said Iraq's western borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fairly tight as a result of good policing by security forces in those countries but that Syria was a ''different story.''

''The Syrian side is, I guess, uncontrolled by their side,'' Kelly said. ''We still have a certain level of foreign fighter movement.''

He added that the U.S. was helping construct a sand berm and ditches along the border.

''There hasn't been much, in the way of a physical barrier, along that border for years,'' Kelly said.

The White House in August approved similar special forces raids from Afghanistan across the border of Pakistan to target al-Qaida and Taliban operatives. At least one has been carried out.

The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq has been cut to an estimated 20 a month, a senior U.S. military intelligence official told the Associated Press in July. That's a 50 percent decline from six months ago, and just a fifth of the estimated 100 foreign fighters who were infiltrating Iraq a year ago, according to the official.

Ninety percent of the foreign fighters enter through Syria, according to U.S. intelligence. Foreigners are some of the most deadly fighters in Iraq, trained in bomb-making and with small-arms expertise and more likely to be willing suicide bombers than Iraqis.

Foreign fighters toting cash have been al-Qaida in Iraq's chief source of income. They contributed more than 70 percent of operating budgets in one sector in Iraq, according to documents captured in September 2007 on the Syrian border. Most of the fighters were conveyed through professional smuggling networks, according to the report.

Iraqi insurgents seized Qaim in April 2005, forcing U.S. Marines to recapture the town the following month in heavy fighting. The area became secure only after Sunni tribes in Anbar turned against al-Qaida in late 2006 and joined forces with the Americans.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem accused the United States earlier this year of not giving his country the equipment needed to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq. He said Washington feared Syria could use such equipment against Israel.

Though Syria has long been viewed by the U.S. as a destabilizing country in the Middle East, in recent months, Damascus has been trying to change its image and end years of global seclusion.

Its president, Bashar Assad, has pursued indirect peace talks with Israel, mediated by Turkey, and says he wants direct talks next year. Syria also has agreed to establish diplomatic ties with Lebanon, a country it used to dominate both politically and militarily, and has worked harder at stemming the flow of militants into Iraq.

The U.S. military in Baghdad did not immediately respond to a request for comment after Sunday's raid.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/worl...=1&oref=slogin
22958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: October 26, 2008, 11:47:59 PM
October 26, 2008

US Special Forces Launch Rare Attack Inside Syria

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 10:06 p.m. ET

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- U.S. military helicopters launched an extremely rare attack Sunday on Syrian territory close to the border with Iraq, killing eight people in a strike the government in Damascus condemned as ''serious aggression.''

A U.S. military official said the raid by special forces targeted the network of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq. The Americans have been unable to shut the network down in the area struck because Syria was out of the military's reach.

''We are taking matters into our own hands,'' the official told The Associated Press in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

The attack came just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an ''uncontrolled'' gateway for fighters entering Iraq.

A Syrian government statement said the helicopters attacked the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction shortly before sundown and fired on workers inside, the statement said.

The government said civilians were among the dead, including four children.

A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh said some of the helicopters landed and troops exited the aircraft and fired on a building. He said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories. The witness spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Another witness said four helicopters were used in the attack.

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there have been some instances in which American troops crossed areas of the 370-mile Syria-Iraq border in pursuit of militants, or warplanes violated Syria's airspace. But Sunday's raid was the first conducted by aircraft and on such a large scale. In May 2005, Syria said American fire killed a border guard.

Syria's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the U.S. and Iraqi charges d'affaires to protest against the strike.

''Syria condemns this aggression and holds the American forces responsible for this aggression and all its repercussions. Syria also calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and launch and immediate investigation into this serious violation and prevent the use of Iraqi territory for aggression against Syria,'' the government statement said.

Syrian state television late Sunday aired footage that showed blood stains on the floor of a site under construction, with wooden beams used to mold concrete strewn on the ground. Akram Hameed, one of the injured, told the television he was fishing in the Euphrates and saw four helicopters coming from the border area under a heavy blanket of fire.

''One of the helicopters landed in an agricultural area and eight members disembarked,'' the man in his 40s said. ''The firing lasted about 15 minutes and when I tried to leave the area on my motorcycle, I was hit by a bullet in the right arm about 20 meters (yards) away,'' he said.

The injured wife of the building's guard, in bed in hospital with a tube in her nose, told Syria TV that two helicopters landed and two remained in the air during the attack.

''I ran to bring my child who was going to his father and I was hit,'' she said. The TV did not identify her by name.

The area targeted is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which had been a major crossing point for fighters, weapons and money coming into Iraq to fuel the Sunni insurgency.

Iraqi travelers making their way home across the border reported hearing many explosions, said Qaim Mayor Farhan al-Mahalawi.

The foreign fighters network sends militants from North Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East to Syria, where elements of the Syrian military are in league with al-Qaida and loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath party, the U.S. military official said.

He said that while American forces have had considerable success, with Iraqi help, in shutting down the ''rat lines'' in Iraq, and with foreign government help in North Africa, the Syrian node has been out of reach.

''The one piece of the puzzle we have not been showing success on is the nexus in Syria,'' the official said.

On Thursday, U.S. Maj. Gen. John Kelly said Iraq's western borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fairly tight as a result of good policing by security forces in those countries but that Syria was a ''different story.''

''The Syrian side is, I guess, uncontrolled by their side,'' Kelly said. ''We still have a certain level of foreign fighter movement.''

He added that the U.S. was helping construct a sand berm and ditches along the border.

''There hasn't been much, in the way of a physical barrier, along that border for years,'' Kelly said.

The White House in August approved similar special forces raids from Afghanistan across the border of Pakistan to target al-Qaida and Taliban operatives. At least one has been carried out.

The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq has been cut to an estimated 20 a month, a senior U.S. military intelligence official told the Associated Press in July. That's a 50 percent decline from six months ago, and just a fifth of the estimated 100 foreign fighters who were infiltrating Iraq a year ago, according to the official.

Ninety percent of the foreign fighters enter through Syria, according to U.S. intelligence. Foreigners are some of the most deadly fighters in Iraq, trained in bomb-making and with small-arms expertise and more likely to be willing suicide bombers than Iraqis.

Foreign fighters toting cash have been al-Qaida in Iraq's chief source of income. They contributed more than 70 percent of operating budgets in one sector in Iraq, according to documents captured in September 2007 on the Syrian border. Most of the fighters were conveyed through professional smuggling networks, according to the report.

Iraqi insurgents seized Qaim in April 2005, forcing U.S. Marines to recapture the town the following month in heavy fighting. The area became secure only after Sunni tribes in Anbar turned against al-Qaida in late 2006 and joined forces with the Americans.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem accused the United States earlier this year of not giving his country the equipment needed to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq. He said Washington feared Syria could use such equipment against Israel.

Though Syria has long been viewed by the U.S. as a destabilizing country in the Middle East, in recent months, Damascus has been trying to change its image and end years of global seclusion.

Its president, Bashar Assad, has pursued indirect peace talks with Israel, mediated by Turkey, and says he wants direct talks next year. Syria also has agreed to establish diplomatic ties with Lebanon, a country it used to dominate both politically and militarily, and has worked harder at stemming the flow of militants into Iraq.

The U.S. military in Baghdad did not immediately respond to a request for comment after Sunday's raid.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/worl...=1&oref=slogin
22959  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 26, 2008, 09:40:21 PM
For a wonderful weekend of Cub Scout camping with my family.
22960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 26, 2008, 07:53:23 PM
Which is why it would be helpful to precede posts of articles with a sentence or three description of why you are posting the article  smiley
22961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 26, 2008, 04:21:22 PM
Anyone want to converse with CCP about the point(s) he raises?
22962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Christians in Pakistan on: October 26, 2008, 04:17:47 PM
Pakistani Christians told to convert or die


Source: http://www.speroforum.com/site/article.asp?id=16554&t=Pakistani+Christians+told+t o+convert+or+die

Christians of south Punjab have received letters threatening death if they do not convert to Islam. In Jun3 2008, Islamic militants abducted Christians during worship. Pakistani police appear impotent.


About after a year, once again Christians of Shantinagar, a Christian village in south Punjab, Pakistan, received threatening letters by post, in which they were asked to convert to Islam or be ready to die or leave the area. Nine Christian religious and political leaders received the menacing mail on Sept. 3. Like previous mail, there is no dead line for the threat.

The letters say that, "Don't think we have forgotten you. We are after you and we will teach you a lesson if you do not obey our advice." The letters have no names of the senders but the message is almost the same. "Although each letter is a little different from others, the message are for conversion," Kaleem Dutt, one of the recipients of the letters told Minorities Concern of Pakistan (MCP) by phone. About fifteen days before these letters, few Christian families who live outside the village on their agricultural lands were attacked at night by some miscreants. They tortured them, beat them, insulted them and looted them. They also told the Christians to leave the area otherwise they will again and again be treated like this.

This is not the first time that Christians of this area received these sorts of letters. Last year, 10 Christians of the same village twice received the same type of correspondence with the same messages. That time the dead-line to convert to Islam was mentioned in the letters which was ten days. "Thanks God nothing happened after those ten days, so people feel relaxed," Saleem Dutt, a villager form Shantinagar told MCP. The new mail once again threatened Christians and they are so scared. They had informed the police officers of the special branch and arranged a security system around the village.

Last year, during the months of May, June and August, along with people of Shantinagar, religious minorities of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), especially Christians of Charsada and Peshawar, capital of NWFP, also received threatening letters from the unknown militants. The letters' message was to change their religions and convert to Islam. On June 21, 2008, Islamic militants kidnapped 16 Christians in a raid around 8pm while they were worshipping in the house of Salamat Masih, a Christian, in Peshawar. They were taken to the Khyber Agency, near the boarder with Afghanistan.

However, after couple of hours they were released after government's negotiation with the militants. Last year when Christians of Shantinagar received the intimidating letters, they immediately informed the police authorities about the letters and also gave the phone numbers of the threatening phone calls "but police did nothing," Christians complained. There are many militants groups active in the country especially in the tribal region of NWFP, but it is still not clear which militant group is behind these intimidating messages.

The Christians of Shantinagar are living under constant threat of attack by the militants. The apprehension of people of Shantinagar is genuine because on Feb. 6, 1997 this village was attacked by a mob of about 2000 people when the whole village was burnt and destroyed despite the presence of around 300 policemen outside the village. Christians were allegedly accused of insulting the Holy Quran. So, within hours, about 80 percent village was annihilated. Almost 800 houses were destroyed and 2500 people were affected. In the attack, about 2000 Bibles were burnt also. A judicial inquiry was held but still the findings of the inquiry are not made public. Moreover, police arrested 97 persons in this connection but nobody has been convicted so far.

The recent letters are a visible example of an attempt to force conversion of religious minorities in the country. In many cases, Christian, Hindu and Sikh women, have been kidnapped and forcibly married to Muslim men after conversion. Minority rights groups estimate that around 600 people a year are forcibly converted to Islam.
22963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 26, 2008, 04:11:12 PM
Well, looky, looky, look what we have here:

Government computers used to find information on Joe the Plumber
Investigators trying to determine whether access was illegal
Friday, October 24, 2008 8:57 PM
By Randy Ludlow


The Columbus Dispatch
"State and local officials are investigating if state and law-enforcement computer systems were illegally accessed when they were tapped for personal information about "Joe the Plumber."
Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher became part of the national political lexicon Oct. 15 when Republican presidential candidate John McCain mentioned him frequently during his final debate with Democrat Barack Obama.
The 34-year-old from the Toledo suburb of Holland is held out by McCain as an example of an American who would be harmed by Obama's tax proposals.
Public records requested by The Dispatch disclose that information on Wurzelbacher's driver's license or his sport-utility vehicle was pulled from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles database three times shortly after the debate.
Information on Wurzelbacher was accessed by accounts assigned to the office of Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers, the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency and the Toledo Police Department.
It has not been determined who checked on Wurzelbacher, or why. Direct access to driver's license and vehicle registration information from BMV computers is restricted to legitimate law enforcement and government business.
Paul Lindsay, Ohio spokesman for the McCain campaign, attempted to portray the inquiries as politically motivated. "It's outrageous to see how quickly Barack Obama's allies would abuse government power in an attempt to smear a private citizen who dared to ask a legitimate question," he said.
Isaac Baker, Obama's Ohio spokesman, denounced Lindsay's statement as charges of desperation from a campaign running out of time. "Invasions of privacy should not be tolerated. If these records were accessed inappropriately, it had nothing to do with our campaign and should be investigated fully," he said.
The attorney general's office is investigating if the access of Wuzelbacher's BMV information through the office's Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway computer system was unauthorized, said spokeswoman Jennifer Brindisi.
"We're trying to pinpoint where it came from," she said. The investigation could become "criminal in nature," she said. Brindisi would not identify the account that pulled the information on Oct. 16.
Records show it was a "test account" assigned to the information technology section of the attorney general's office, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Thomas Hunter.
Brindisi later said investigators have confirmed that Wurzelbacher's information was not accessed within the attorney general's office. She declined to provide details. The office's test accounts are shared with and used by other law enforcement-related agencies, she said.
On Oct. 17, BMV information on Wurzelbacher was obtained through an account used by the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency in Cleveland, records show.
Mary Denihan, spokeswoman for the county agency, said the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services contacted the agency today and requested an investigation of the access to Wurzelbacher's information. Cuyahoga County court records do not show any child-support cases involving Wurzelbacher.
The State Highway Patrol, which administers the Law Enforcement Automated Data System in Ohio, asked Toledo police to explain why it pulled BMV information on Wurzelbacher within 48 hours of the debate, Hunter said.
The LEADS system also can be used to check for warrants and criminal histories, but such checks would not be reflected on the records obtained by The Dispatch.
Sgt. Tim Campbell, a Toledo police spokesman, said he could not provide any information because the department only had learned of the State Highway Patrol inquiry today.
__________________
22964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: October 26, 2008, 01:53:42 AM
I'd have voted for Margaret Thatcher for President of the United States in a flash.
22965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 26, 2008, 01:46:42 AM
CCP:

I found that interesting and will think about it.

Thank you,
Marc
22966  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 25, 2008, 01:28:17 PM
No shame in losing to BJ.  Is that his only post hormonal fight?  The insecurity that leads a fighter to take steroids to begin with can often prey upon his mind after he is off the steroids , , ,
22967  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: October 25, 2008, 01:23:57 PM
Misadventures at our end.  My sincere apologies.  No embarassed class today.  Class WILL be held next week.
22968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 25, 2008, 02:26:57 AM
Woof:

The "Great Moderator in the Sky" is in the back of the van in the dark on a laptop wireless connection.  Without reading them all, my snap impression is that each article is designed to address particular points of the article by the Harvard woman Muslim seriatim.  As is his wont, GM facilitates the misunderstanding by not including a one or two sentence description of the article e.g. The author mentions this Muslim Congressman.  Let's take a look at who he really is in this article." or something that would clue the read in as to why the article is there.

Anyway, I'm to bed soon.  You two will have to hash this out on your own. evil cheesy

TAC,
Marc
22969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 24, 2008, 05:51:36 PM
I'm on my way out the door so no time to give that a proper read.

I do note though that the Dems screamed concentraiton when the Reagan tax cuts took effect.  Turns out the reason was that the rick were allowing their wealth to be taxed at the lower rates under Reagan.  This proved hard for the Dems to comprehend , , ,  rolleyes
22970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 24, 2008, 03:56:44 PM
Woof All:

I will be leaving in a couple of hours to take the family for a weekend of Cub Scout camping and probably will not have internet access until Sunday night.

The Adventure continues,
Marc
22971  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 24, 2008, 03:54:52 PM
Thank you.

A lot of Sherk's rep was built during his  , , , hormonal phase.  How has he been since then?
22972  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: October 24, 2008, 03:42:59 PM
Woof All:

I leave in a couple of hours for a weekend of Cub Scout camping with the family and may not have internet access until our return on Sunday evening.

TAC,
CD
22973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 24, 2008, 01:34:59 PM
Fred Thompson sums things up:

http://www.fredpac.com/index.aspx
22974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: October 24, 2008, 01:05:36 PM
Whatever It Takes, Part Two

ACORN, the troubled left-wing activist group, has new headaches. Yesterday Michael Slater, head of its Project Vote, admitted that some 400,000 of its claimed 1.3 million newly registered voters were rejected by election officials as either duplicates or fraudulent -- i.e. it doesn't sound as if ACORN's vaunted "quality control" efforts were all that effective.

Some reasons why may be exposed next week in a lawsuit filed by the Republican Party of Pennsylvania in state court. The Web site PolitickerPA reports that Anita Moncrief, an ACORN worker in Washington D.C. from 2005 to 2008, will testify that the group engaged in "minimal to non-existent" checking of its voter registration work during her time with Project Vote.

The Republican suit, filed by Pittsburgh attorney Heather Heidelbaugh, demands that the Pennsylvania Secretary of State follow federal law requiring that first-time voters using an absentee ballot show some form of identification. It also seeks to have ACORN turn over its voter registration lists, identify registrants who signed up fraudulently and instruct them not to vote.

-- John Fund
22975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer on: October 24, 2008, 10:41:22 AM
From Washington Post

McCain for President
By Charles Krauthammer

Friday, October 24, 2008; A19

Contrarian that I am, I'm voting for John McCain. I'm not talking about bucking the polls or the media consensus that it's over before it's over. I'm talking about bucking the rush of wet-fingered conservatives leaping to Barack Obama before they're left out in the cold without a single state dinner for the next four years.

I stand athwart the rush of conservative ship-jumpers of every stripe -- neo (Ken Adelman), moderate (Colin Powell), genetic/ironic (Christopher Buckley) and socialist/atheist (Christopher Hitchens) -- yelling "Stop!" I shall have no part of this motley crew. I will go down with the McCain ship. I'd rather lose an election than lose my bearings.

First, I'll have no truck with the phony case ginned up to rationalize voting for the most liberal and inexperienced presidential nominee in living memory. The "erratic" temperament issue, for example. As if McCain's risky and unsuccessful but in no way irrational attempt to tactically maneuver his way through the economic tsunami that came crashing down a month ago renders unfit for office a man who demonstrated the most admirable equanimity and courage in the face of unimaginable pressures as a prisoner of war, and who later steadily navigated innumerable challenges and setbacks, not the least of which was the collapse of his campaign just a year ago.

McCain the "erratic" is a cheap Obama talking point. The 40-year record testifies to McCain the stalwart.

Nor will I countenance the "dirty campaign" pretense. The double standard here is stunning. Obama ran a scurrilous Spanish-language ad falsely associating McCain with anti-Hispanic slurs. Another ad falsely claimed that McCain supports "cutting Social Security benefits in half." And for months Democrats insisted that McCain sought 100 years of war in Iraq.

McCain's critics are offended that he raised the issue of William Ayers. What's astonishing is that Obama was himself not offended by William Ayers.

Moreover, the most remarkable of all tactical choices of this election season is the attack that never was. Out of extreme (and unnecessary) conscientiousness, McCain refused to raise the legitimate issue of Obama's most egregious association -- with the race-baiting Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Dirty campaigning, indeed.

The case for McCain is straightforward. The financial crisis has made us forget, or just blindly deny, how dangerous the world out there is. We have a generations-long struggle with Islamic jihadism. An apocalyptic soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. A nuclear-armed Pakistan in danger of fragmentation. A rising Russia pushing the limits of revanchism. Plus the sure-to-come Falklands-like surprise popping out of nowhere.

Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who's been cramming on these issues for the past year, who's never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world? A foreign policy novice instinctively inclined to the flabbiest, most vaporous multilateralism (e.g., the Berlin Wall came down because of "a world that stands as one"), and who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as "the tragedy of 9/11," a term more appropriate for a bus accident?

Or do you want a man who is the most prepared, most knowledgeable, most serious foreign policy thinker in the United States Senate? A man who not only has the best instincts but has the honor and the courage to, yes, put country first, as when he carried the lonely fight for the surge that turned Iraq from catastrophic defeat into achievable strategic victory?

There's just no comparison. Obama's own running mate warned this week that Obama's youth and inexperience will invite a crisis -- indeed a crisis "generated" precisely to test him. Can you be serious about national security and vote on Nov. 4 to invite that test?

And how will he pass it? Well, how has he fared on the only two significant foreign policy tests he has faced since he's been in the Senate? The first was the surge. Obama failed spectacularly. He not only opposed it. He tried to denigrate it, stop it and, finally, deny its success.

The second test was Georgia, to which Obama responded instinctively with evenhanded moral equivalence, urging restraint on both sides. McCain did not have to consult his advisers to instantly identify the aggressor.

Today's economic crisis, like every other in our history, will in time pass. But the barbarians will still be at the gates. Whom do you want on the parapet? I'm for the guy who can tell the lion from the lamb.


letters@charleskrauthammer.com
22976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 24, 2008, 09:20:47 AM
Doylestown, Pa.

The Barack Obama campaign occupies a storefront on N. Main Street across from the county courthouse. A stream of people filters through to pick up buttons or leaflets. The bulletin board lists a dozen staffers in this office and another in Bristol.

 
APNow try to find a John McCain outpost in Bucks County. Armed with an address, you'd get an unmarked, low, stand-alone office building on a four-lane state highway 15 minutes' drive from here. On the front door a small sign directs visitors to the McCain campaign around the corner and down the stairs to the basement. Two volunteers man phones, McCain posters or signs aren't readily available. Three paid staffers direct the Republican's campaign from a single office in this critical battleground.

Mr. McCain probably can't win the election without Pennsylvania. And both campaigns think it will be decided in the four "collar counties" around Philadelphia. Of them, Bucks (pop. 625,000) is a microcosm of the state. Rural northern "upper Bucks" is socially conservative, clinging -- as Mr. Obama famously said this year -- to guns and religion; the center around Doylestown is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, once dominated by Republican "moderates"; and "lower" Bucks around Bristol is blue-collar, formerly industrial, depressed, and tends to vote Democratic.

The "maverick" John McCain was supposed to play well with the independents and middle-of-the-road Democrats and Republicans in places like Bucks County. Hillary Clinton beat Mr. Obama by 34 points here, and carried 60 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. President Bush did miserably in the Philly suburbs in 2004, yet lost the state by a mere 2.5 points. To make this state red, the McCain camp figured: Start with the burbs. "We don't need to turn collar counties. We need to do better than W. did," says Jon Seaton, the McCain campaign manager for Ohio and Pennsylvania.

It hasn't gone Mr. McCain's way. As Wall Street tumbled, Barack Obama expanded a two point lead into double digits -- 10.5 points as of yesterday, according to RealClearPolitics. The one available poll on suburban Philadelphia showed the Democrat up comfortably in all four counties.

McCain strategists insist Pennsylvania votes close and polls will tighten. Mr. McCain appeared at three rallies in the state Tuesday, beginning at a paper mill in Bensalem, down the road from Doylestown. He was in the suburbs twice last week. His wife Cindy campaigned for him in Bucks County on Monday.

Having opted out of public financing, Mr. Obama's money edge (a record $618 million raised so far) enables him to run a better-staffed and more vibrant ground organization as well as dominate the air waves. At rallies McCain surrogates insist that "the state isn't for sale." But the Democrats have registered over 200,000 voters since June 1. Their lead over Republicans statewide is 1.2 million, double the gap in 2004. This election "saw the biggest switch ever" from one party to another in Pennsylvania, says pollster Michael Young.

The political winds were changing before the Obama juggernaut came along. Within living memory, the "collar" counties were rock-solid Republican. No more. In 2006, Chester elected its first Democrat to Congress in 82 years, and Democrats are gaining strength in Delaware County. In the past year Montgomery and Bucks counties flipped, with registered Democrats now outnumbering Republicans.

You see the consequences first at the local level. Five years ago in Doylestown, the mayor and all nine borough councilmen were Republicans. Now the mayor and six councilmen are Democrats. A watershed came in the 2006 elections when Patrick Murphy, who served in Iraq, ended a decade-long reign of moderate Republicans in the 8th Congressional district, which covers all of Bucks County. Doing his campaign rounds in Bristol, Mr. Murphy, 35 and married to a Republican, says, "People here were Rockefeller Republicans, not Bush Republicans. Now they're Blue Dog Democrats," adding, "I'm a veteran, I'm a gun owner."

Some say the Bush era's profligate spending, wars and social conservatism alienated the Republican moderates. Pat Poprik, the Bucks County Republican chairman, offers another explanation: Newcomers from New York and Philadelphia brought their liberal politics.

Whether it is Bucks County or the national Republican Party that's changed, the GOP's problems here predated John McCain and will outlive him. Pollster Terry Madonna and Mr. Young think that 2008 may be "Pennsylvania's last hurrah" as a swing state. If it turns solid blue, "such a shift would have enormous political implications, radically altering future Electoral College maps, thereby making it ever more difficult for the GOP to win national elections," they wrote this month.

Mr. Kaminski is a member of the Journal's editorial board.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
22977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Would the last honest reporter please turn out the lights? on: October 24, 2008, 09:16:00 AM
http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2008-10-05-1.html




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

WorldWatch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

By Orson Scott Card
 October 5, 2008
 

Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights?

An open letter to the local daily paper -- almost every local daily paper in America:

I remember reading All the President's Men and thinking: That's journalism. You do what it takes to get the truth and you lay it before the public, because the public has a right to know.

This housing crisis didn't come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration.

It was a direct result of the political decision, back in the late 1990s, to loosen the rules of lending so that home loans would be more accessible to poor people. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were authorized to approve risky loans.

What is a risky loan? It's a loan that the recipient is likely not to be able to repay.

The goal of this rule change was to help the poor -- which especially would help members of minority groups. But how does it help these people to give them a loan that they can't repay? They get into a house, yes, but when they can't make the payments, they lose the house -- along with their credit rating.

They end up worse off than before.

This was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them.

Furthermore, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were making political contributions to the very members of Congress who were allowing them to make irresponsible loans. (Though why quasi-federal agencies were allowed to do so baffles me. It's as if the Pentagon were allowed to contribute to the political campaigns of Congressmen who support increasing their budget.)

Isn't there a story here? Doesn't journalism require that you who produce our daily paper tell the truth about who brought us to a position where the only way to keep confidence in our economy was a $700 billion bailout? Aren't you supposed to follow the money and see which politicians were benefitting personally from the deregulation of mortgage lending?

I have no doubt that if these facts had pointed to the Republican Party or to John McCain as the guilty parties, you would be treating it as a vast scandal. "Housing-gate," no doubt. Or "Fannie-gate."

Instead, it was Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, both Democrats, who denied that there were any problems, who refused Bush administration requests to set up a regulatory agency to watch over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and who were still pushing for these agencies to go even further in promoting subprime mortgage loans almost up to the minute they failed.

As Thomas Sowell points out in a TownHall.com essay entitled Do Facts Matter? "Alan Greenspan warned them four years ago. So did the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the President. So did Bush's Secretary of the Treasury."

These are facts. This financial crisis was completely preventable. The party that blocked any attempt to prevent it was ... the Democratic Party. The party that tried to prevent it was ... the Republican Party.

Yet when Nancy Pelosi accused the Bush administration and Republican deregulation of causing the crisis, you in the press did not hold her to account for her lie. Instead, you criticized Republicans who took offense at this lie and refused to vote for the bailout!

What? It's not the liar, but the victims of the lie who are to blame?

Now let's follow the money ... right to the presidential candidate who is the number-two recipient of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae.

And after Freddie Raines, the CEO of Fannie Mae who made $90 million while running it into the ground, was fired for his incompetence, one presidential candidate's campaign actually consulted him for advice on housing.

If that presidential candidate had been John McCain, you would have called it a major scandal and we would be getting stories in your paper every day about how incompetent and corrupt he was.

But instead, that candidate was Barack Obama, and so you have buried this story, and when the McCain campaign dared to call Raines an "adviser" to the Obama campaign -- because that campaign had sought his advice -- you actually let Obama's people get away with accusing McCain of lying, merely because Raines wasn't listed as an official adviser to the Obama campaign.

You would never tolerate such weasely nit-picking from a Republican.

If you who produce our local daily paper actually had any principles, you would be pounding this story, because the prosperity of all Americans was put at risk by the foolish, short-sighted, politically selfish, and possibly corrupt actions of leading Democrats, including Obama.

If you who produce our local daily paper had any personal honor, you would find it unbearable to let the American people believe that somehow Republicans were to blame for this crisis.

There are precedents. Even though President Bush and his administration never said that Iraq sponsored or was linked to 9/11, you could not stand the fact that Americans had that misapprehension -- so you pounded us with the fact that there was no such link. (Along the way, you created the false impression that Bush had lied to them and said that there was a connection.)

If you had any principles, then surely right now, when the American people are set to blame President Bush and John McCain for a crisis they tried to prevent, and are actually shifting to approve of Barack Obama because of a crisis he helped cause, you would be laboring at least as hard to correct that false impression.

Your job, as journalists, is to tell the truth. That's what you claim you do, when you accept people's money to buy or subscribe to your paper.

But right now, you are consenting to or actively promoting a big fat lie -- that the housing crisis should somehow be blamed on Bush, McCain, and the Republicans. You have trained the American people to blame everything bad -- even bad weather -- on Bush, and they are responding as you have taught them to.

If you had any personal honor, each reporter and editor would be insisting on telling the truth -- even if it hurts the election chances of your favorite candidate.

Because that's what honorable people do. Honest people tell the truth even when they don't like the probable consequences. That's what honesty means. That's how trust is earned.

Barack Obama is just another politician, and not a very wise one. He has revealed his ignorance and naivete time after time -- and you have swept it under the rug, treated it as nothing.

Meanwhile, you have participated in the borking of Sarah Palin, reporting savage attacks on her for the pregnancy of her unmarried daughter -- while you ignored the story of John Edwards's own adultery for many months.

So I ask you now: Do you have any standards at all? Do you even know what honesty means?

Is getting people to vote for Barack Obama so important that you will throw away everything that journalism is supposed to stand for?

You might want to remember the way the National Organization of Women threw away their integrity by supporting Bill Clinton despite his well-known pattern of sexual exploitation of powerless women. Who listens to NOW anymore? We know they stand for nothing; they have no principles.

That's where you are right now.

It's not too late. You know that if the situation were reversed, and the truth would damage McCain and help Obama, you would be moving heaven and earth to get the true story out there.

If you want to redeem your honor, you will swallow hard and make a list of all the stories you would print if it were McCain who had been getting money from Fannie Mae, McCain whose campaign had consulted with its discredited former CEO, McCain who had voted against tightening its lending practices.

Then you will print them, even though every one of those true stories will point the finger of blame at the reckless Democratic Party, which put our nation's prosperity at risk so they could feel good about helping the poor, and lay a fair share of the blame at Obama's door.

You will also tell the truth about John McCain: that he tried, as a Senator, to do what it took to prevent this crisis. You will tell the truth about President Bush: that his administration tried more than once to get Congress to regulate lending in a responsible way.

This was a Congress-caused crisis, beginning during the Clinton administration, with Democrats leading the way into the crisis and blocking every effort to get out of it in a timely fashion.

If you at our local daily newspaper continue to let Americans believe --and vote as if -- President Bush and the Republicans caused the crisis, then you are joining in that lie.

If you do not tell the truth about the Democrats -- including Barack Obama -- and do so with the same energy you would use if the miscreants were Republicans -- then you are not journalists by any standard.

You're just the public relations machine of the Democratic Party, and it's time you were all fired and real journalists brought in, so that we can actually have a daily newspaper in our city.
22978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 24, 2008, 09:07:18 AM
"I will state one more time that as long as the country's wealth keeps getting concentrated to a smaller and smaller percentage of the population we will get exactly what we are seeing."

Source?

That said, the question you raise is an interesting one.  If you would like to pursue it, please do so in the Politics thread.
22979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on: October 24, 2008, 09:01:19 AM

"That wise Men have in all Ages thought Government necessary
for the Good of Mankind; and, that wise Governments have always
thought Religion necessary for the well ordering and well-being
of Society, and accordingly have been ever careful to encourage
and protect the Ministers of it, paying them the highest publick
Honours, that their Doctrines might thereby meet with the greater
Respect among the common People."

-- Benjamin Franklin (On that Odd Letter of the Drum, April 1730)

Reference: Franklin Collected Writings, Lemay, ed., 148
22980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: October 24, 2008, 12:55:22 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR9V_aOCga0
22981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Flynn on: October 23, 2008, 11:35:41 PM
pasted from the Obama Phen. thread:
===========================

DANIEL J. FLYNN
Obama: The Oak Grown from Acorn
The radical group is front and center when it comes to voter fraud.
16 October 2008
Stealing Elections, Revised and Updated: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, by John Fund (Encounter, 175 pp., $19.95)

Last week, well before news broke today of an FBI voter-fraud investigation of the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (Acorn), Nevada authorities raided the group’s Las Vegas headquarters. The offices of Nevada’s secretary of state and attorney general, both Democrats, seized computers, voter-registration cards, and employee information after Acorn submitted numerous fraudulent names and addresses as part of its voter-registration drive. “Some of these [forms] were facially fraudulent; we basically had the starting lineup for the Dallas Cowboys,” Ross Miller, Nevada’s secretary of state, explained. “Tony Romo is not registered to vote in Nevada.” Acorn’s Project Vote alleges that the raid is part of a nationally orchestrated effort to suppress voter turnout. “Project Vote has been attacked all over the country because we registered at least 1.2 million voters,” theorizes Nevada Acorn’s Bonnie Smith-Greathouse. “That could sway an election.”

And that’s just the point, argues John Fund in the updated and timely reissue of his Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy. Fund contends that recent changes in election laws have made it easier to “sway an election,” as Smith-Greathouse puts it—through cheating. “The United States has a haphazard, fraud-prone election system befitting a developing nation rather than the globe’s leading democracy,” Fund asserts. At times, Fund’s subject seems more fitting for a magazine exposé than for a book—until one confronts the sheer volume of examples he has compiled. Like a portrait of corruption from a century prior, Lincoln Steffens’s Shame of the Cities, Fund’s Stealing Elections adopts a muckraking style and spotlights a national problem by illuminating it on a city-by-city basis.

In the name of making every vote count, efforts to expand the electorate have resulted in tallying votes that shouldn’t be considered and negating valid votes. Over a century’s worth of reforms designed to protect the concept of “one man, one vote” have been undermined in just a few decades. Fund points out that most states now allow voters to obtain absentee ballots without establishing a need (such as status as a student, soldier, or diplomat, or showing that one would be out of state on Election Day). One state, Oregon, has eliminated polling places entirely. The raison d’être of the secret ballot—to protect the public from having votes bought or coerced—is thus discarded.

Same-day registration, which backers argue further democratizes elections, is, according to Stealing Elections, “not a reform at all but an added opportunity for mischief”—such as vote buying. The comical scheme of an Al Gore–supporting New York socialite offering free cigarettes to homeless Milwaukeeans in exchange for votes could only occur in a state with same-day registration. Voters registering multiple times under the Motor Voter law, some liberals’ hostility toward poll workers checking government-issued identifications, and lawyers invading locales with election disputes—all increase the chances that legitimate votes will wind up cast aside or canceled out by illegitimate ones.

Stealing Elections overflows with examples of electoral shenanigans. The controversial 2004 Democratic primary, for instance, in which Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar unseated Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, ran rife with peculiarities that affected the outcome. While Rodriguez boasted a slim 126-vote lead on election night, the recount in Zapata County turned up a missing ballot box with 304 votes, four-fifths of them for Cuellar. “Webb County reported that their recount came up with 115 more votes than they had first reported,” Fund writes. “Cuellar won every one of the newly discovered votes.” In San Antonio, an area the challenger carried decisively, election officials discovered voter-registration applications for 42 dead people.

On election night that same year, Washington State voters elected Republican Dino Rossi over Democrat Christine Gregoire. On Christmas Eve, state lawyers overturned the election after a third recount. “Nearly 2,000 more votes were counted in King County than the number of individual voters who appeared on the list of those who had cast a ballot,” Fund reports. In one Seattle precinct—where most of the voters had curiously registered just that past year—70 percent of voters listed a government administration building as their residential address. Election officials found hundreds of “lost” ballots, accepted the votes of hundreds of ineligible felons, and, in a few instances, counted the votes of those residing in graveyards. One ballot punched for Gregoire but listing Rossi in the “write-in” line was strangely added in the recount to the totals for Gregoire. Given the strange methodology employed by ballot counters, it’s not surprising that Gregoire is now Washington’s governor.

In St. Louis, dogs join the dead on the election rolls. In 2000, voters nationwide let out a collective gasp in the waning hours of Election Day. Lawyers for Jesse Jackson and Al Gore convinced judges in St. Louis to keep polls open in selected African-American neighborhoods, altering election law by extending voting hours for those most likely to support Gore. Along with the discovery of a voting machine in an abandoned lot the day after the election, and the revelation that 56,000 St. Louis voters had registered multiple times, Missouri voters also learned that “Robert Odom”—on whose behalf Gore-Lieberman lawyers had successfully sued to keep the polls open—had voted in the early afternoon, before the court order extending poll-closure times was issued. The lawsuit was clearly premeditated, as the evidence of computerized phone banks, all-too-ready with a get-out-the-vote message, made clear. The exclamation point to the Show Me State’s 2000 horror show was provided by Ritzy, the 13-year-old spaniel who had been on the voter rolls for eight years.

A common thread in many of the cases that Fund spotlights is the shadowy presence of Acorn. Two and a half years after the debacle in Seattle, Washington’s attorney general indicted seven Acorn workers for their role in what he called “the worst case of voter registration fraud” in the state’s history. In St. Louis, eight Acorn workers pled guilty to election fraud this past April. On the other side of Missouri, in 2006, four Kansas City Acorn workers were indicted after officials deemed nearly 15,000 of their 35,000 registrations phony.

In the mid-nineties, Barack Obama ran Acorn’s Project Vote campaign in Illinois. He sued the state of Illinois on the group’s behalf in 1995 to implement the Motor Voter law. “After he joined the board of the Woods Fund,” Stealing Elections notes, “Obama saw to it that substantial grants were given to Acorn.” Senator Obama has championed Acorn’s legislative priorities in Congress. His presidential campaign even donated more than $800,000 to Acorn. Obama is the oak grown from Acorn, a group so proud of its association that it boasts “Obama Organizing Fellows” and runs a “Camp Obama” training event. While Acorn boasts of its Obama association, the candidate, of course, is more reticent. That’s because he well knows that many non-dead, non-animal voters would not find a close association with such a group a desirable quality in a potential president.

“Once a community organizer, then a foundation grant-maker, and now a lobbyist for direct government funding, Barack Obama has been with Acorn throughout his career,” Fund writes. “In return, Acorn is pledging to spend $35 million this year registering voters—both real and fictive. Should Obama become president, look for Acorn to have a vastly more ambitious legislative agenda, and for Obama to be responsive.” Acorn, in other words, has a lot riding on Tony Romo voting early, often, and everywhere.

Daniel J. Flynn is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left. (Crown Forum, 2008).

http://www.city-journal.org/2008/bc1016df.html
22982  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: New to forum on: October 23, 2008, 09:48:33 PM
Hi Doug:

Thanks for trying to find the existing threads and welcome  smiley

Hi Nok:

Nice to see you here. 

Folks, Nok is our supplier for the new sparring knives
http://dogbrothers.com/store/index.php?cPath=44&osCsid=bfee797fb908810654b310766b45f6ac
We like them a lot and think you will too.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog
22983  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 23, 2008, 07:08:48 PM
What's the tip sheet on Tysono Griffin?
22984  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: GM Narrie Babao on: October 23, 2008, 07:07:41 PM
Thank you.
22985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 23, 2008, 03:18:04 PM
I like the way this blog from Scott Grannis puts it:


My concerns with Obama
As a fan of free markets, liberty, and limited government, I have grave concerns about Obama as president. I acknowledge his depth of intellect, and I also note that he has changed his views on a wide range of subjects in the past year, moving more to the center from the extreme left. But there are a handful of core beliefs and characteristics of his that I find quite disturbing. Karl Rove pinned this down in his WSJ column today.
Wanting to raise taxes -- anyone's taxes -- in a slowdown is a warning sign of a misguided economic philosophy. Obama's proposal to redistribute wealth is a warning of indifference or hostility to enterprise.

Three years ago, Mr. McCain called for stricter oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, warning their risky practices threatened our economy and could cost taxpayers billions. Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats ignored these signs and opposed reform.

Obama's health-care plan is a warning that government will have more, not less, to say about your health care if he has his way.

Obama's dismissal of offshore drilling and opposition to nuclear power are warning signs for an economy whose growth depends on affordable energy.

The absence of a single significant instance in which Mr. Obama cooperated in a bipartisan manner in the Senate is a warning sign. And so is his refusal to break with his party or its interest groups on any issue of substance.
To these I would add: Obama's strong belief in man-made global warming is a warning that the government will assume much broader control over economic activity (e.g., via limits on CO2 emissions). Obama's advocacy of youth corps and community service is a warning that the government will have more power to indoctrinate the young. Obama's belief in the power of government to do good is a warning that he will invariably choose more regulation and more government bureaucracy rather than less as a solution to problems that crop up.

And all of this will detract from individual liberty and free markets as it grants more power to government.
22986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 23, 2008, 02:55:36 PM
Some of you may have noticed the presence in this thread of President Reagan.  It is because I think him as having added genuinely and at a profound level, added to the DNA of the American creed.

Although there are areas of MLK's thinking which do not belong in this thread (and ones with which I disagree in whole or part are posted, I will delete them  cheesy ) there most certainly are areas of his thinking that do, so, for the first time here, Martin Luther King.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
22987  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Clips on: October 23, 2008, 01:05:04 PM
I am reminded of a saying I heard often in Mexico:

"Todo es prohibido, todo es posible." ("Everything is prohibited.  Everything is possible")

During a three day stay in a Mexican prison in Chiapas (the state that borders Guatemala) I was not there long enough to see a lot, but had the sense of tremendous , , , flexibility in the application of rules.  Furthermore, I work regularly with a Mexican prison SWAT type team in the state of Mexico (see the clip on our multimedia page of the day when I met them).  I remember one conversation after I had shown our DLO Dogcatcher defense against the prison sewing machine.   I was asked about reverse grip attacks.  As the interaction continued, I realized that they were not talking about an icepick type of attack, but a reverse grip attack with the blade laying along the forearm.  This tends to be a slashing attack instead of a thrusting attack which suprised me quite a bit.  Thinking in American terms I asked how the cons made good edges. "Oh, we're not talking about shanks made here in the prison they explained, but real knives that get in through corruption" they explained.
22988  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / GM Narrie Babao on: October 23, 2008, 12:56:43 PM
Woof All:

Does anyone have contact info for GM Narrie Babao of the San Diego CA area?

TIA,
Crafty Dog
22989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 23, 2008, 12:04:22 PM
Some of the best comes towards the end

http://hotair.com/archives/2008/10/21/the-comprehensive-argument-against-barack-obama/
22990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 23, 2008, 11:46:18 AM
Hatin' Palin She's not the reason Americans can't stand their politicians.By DANIEL HENNINGER
Article
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The abuse being heaped on Sarah Palin is such a cheap shot.

The complaint against the Alaska governor, at its most basic, is that she doesn't qualify for admission to the national political fraternity. Boy, that's rich. Behold the shabby frat house that says it's above her pay grade.

 
NBC
Sarah Palin appears with Lorne Michaels on Saturday Night Live.
Congress has the lowest approval rating ever registered in the history of polling (12%!). She isn't the reason polls are showing people want the entire Congress fired, with many telling pollsters they themselves could do a better job.

Sarah Palin didn't design a system of presidential primaries whose length and cost ensures that only the most obsessional personalities will run the gauntlet, while a long list of effective governors don't run.

These rules have wasted the electorate's time the past three presidential elections, by filling the debates with such zero-support candidates as Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, Al Sharpton, Duncan Hunter, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden (8,000 total votes), Wesley Clark and Alan Keyes.


Daniel Henninger discusses the "cheap shots" taken at Sarah Palin and highlights some problems with the political system. (Oct. 23)
Out of this process has fallen a Democratic nominee who entered the U.S. Senate in 2005 fresh off a stint in the Illinois state legislature, with next to no record of political accomplishment. He may be elected mainly because, in Colin Powell's word, he is thought to be "transformational." One may hope so.

By not bothering to look very deeply at the details beneath either candidate's governing proposals, the media have created a lot of downtime to take free kicks at Gov. Palin. My former colleague, Tunku Varadarajan, has compiled a glossary of Palin invective, and I've added a few: "Republican blow-up doll," "idiot," "Christian Stepford wife," "Jesus freak," "Caribou Barbie," "a dope," "a fatal cancer to the Republican Party," "liar," "a national disgrace" and "her pretense that she is a woman."

If American politics is at low ebb, it is because so many of its observers enjoy working in its fetid backwash.

The primary discomfort with Gov. Palin is the notion that she doesn't have sufficient experience to be president, that Sen. McCain should have picked a Washington hand seasoned in the ways of the world. Such as? Here's an opinion poll question:

If as Joe Biden suggests the U.S. is likely to be tested by a foreign enemy next year, who of the following would you rather have dealing with it in the Oval Office: Nancy (of Damascus) Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Edwards, Joe (the U.S. drove Hezbollah out of Lebanon) Biden, Mike Huckabee, Geraldine Ferraro, Tom DeLay, Jimmy Carter or Sarah Palin?

My pick? Gov. Palin, surely the most grounded, common-sense person on that list of prime-time politicians.

The established political pros let the selection process come to this. Presidential candidates such as John McCain and Barack Obama have become untethered from the discipline of party institutions, largely because the parties have lost coherence. So we get celebrity candidates made famous, fundable and electable by dint of their access to the Beltway media. For voters, this election is a national Hail Mary.

For nearly two years, all the major candidates have rotated through our lives as solitary personalities attended by careerist campaign professionals. Barack, Hillary, Rudy, Mitt, Mike, McCain. When the moment arrived to pick a running mate, input from the parties was minimal. That famous party boss, Caroline Kennedy, advised Barack Obama. They picked a three-decade denizen of the Senate. John McCain's obligation was himself and his endless slog to this big chance.

The quick surge of party-wide excitement and campaign contributions after his selection of Sarah Palin made clear that the McCain candidacy was moribund and headed for a low-turnout debacle. If he had picked any of the plain-vanilla men on his veep short list -- Pawlenty, Sanford, Romney or Lieberman -- they'd have won approval from the media's college of cardinals, and killed his campaign.

The stoning of Sarah Palin has exposed enough cultural fissures in American politics to occupy strategists full-time until 2012. We now see there is a left-to-right elite centered in New York, Washington, Hollywood and Silicon Valley who hand down judgments of the nation's mortals from their perch atop the Bell Curve.

It seems only yesterday that the most critical skill in presidential politics was being able to connect to people in places like Bronko's bar or Saddleback Church. When Gov. Palin showed she excelled at that, the goal posts suddenly moved and the new game was being able to talk the talk in London, Paris, Tehran or Moscow. She looks about a half-step behind Sen. Obama on that learning curve.

Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of "Saturday Night Live," lives on the forward wave of American life. This week he gave his view of Sarah Palin to EW.com: "I think Palin will continue to be underestimated for a while. I watched the way she connected with people, and she's powerful. Her politics aren't my politics. But you can see that she's a very powerful, very disciplined, incredibly gracious woman. This was her first time out and she's had a huge impact. People connect to her."

Uh-oh. Sounds like the cancer could be in remission.
22991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Obamanomics on: October 23, 2008, 11:39:52 AM
"I think at this point there needs to be a focus on an immediate increase in spending and I think this is a time when deficit fear has to take a second seat . . . I believe later on there should be tax increases. Speaking personally, I think there are a lot of very rich people out there whom we can tax at a point down the road and recover some of the money."
-- Barney Frank, October 20, 2008

The election is still two weeks away, but we are already living in the world of Obamanomics. In fact, on fiscal policy we've been living in that world at least since February when the Bush Administration conceded to the Congressional priority of Keynesian fiscal "stimulus." That didn't work very well, but no matter. Spurred on by Barack Obama, Democrats in Congress are preparing Round Two, this time in the form of $150 billion to $300 billion in new spending.

 
APIf we may borrow a phrase, this is the triumph of hope over experience. The one thing Washington hasn't failed to do in recent years is spend, yet the economy doesn't seem to have improved on the event. Brian Riedl, a budget expert at the Heritage Foundation, has calculated that in 2008 Congress enacted $332 billion of "emergency" supplemental spending bills, only half of which was for the Iraq war. Do you feel stimulated?

The nearby chart shows the arc of tax policy and economic growth across the Bush years. After the dot-com bust, President Bush compromised with Senate Democrats and delayed his marginal-rate income tax cuts in return for immediate tax rebates. The rebates goosed spending for a while but provided no increase in incentives to invest. Only after 2003, when the marginal-rate cuts took effect immediately, combined with cuts in dividend and capital gains rates, did robust growth return. The expansion was healthy until it was overtaken by the housing bust and even resisted recession into this year. Mr. Bush and Congress returned to the rebate formula in February, but a blip in second-quarter growth has now ended as the economy heads into recession. The Dow plunged again yesterday with a 514-point drop.

 The latest plan is even worse than the spring round of $100 billion or so in tax rebate checks. At least rebates allowed taxpayers to spend their own money. Under this stimulus the government will tax or borrow $150 billion to $300 billion in order to spend the money on social and pork-barrel programs. The latest draft would direct dollars to food stamps, another expansion in unemployment insurance, home heating subsidies, more aid to states and cities, and "infrastructure" like roads, bridges and public transit. Because of Davis-Bacon wage requirements on these brick and mortar projects, a portion of the dollars would coincidentally flow to the Democrats' biggest campaign contributors: unions. Call it a political "rebate" check.

On Tuesday Senator Obama said this spending would create millions of new jobs by closing a federal "investment deficit." Over the past eight years the federal budget has exploded by more than $1.1 trillion, much of it for the very programs that Democrats want to spend more on. Let's start with infrastructure. Three years ago Congress passed a transportation bill of more than $286 billion. The transportation budget is up 22% after inflation in the past eight years. Roads and bridges can help economic growth if they increase productivity by more than the amount they cost in higher taxes or borrowing. But not if they are bridges to nowhere as so many of these projects are.

Further Reading
By Karl Rove
The Tax Argument Still Works 10/23/2008
Obama's plans are giving voters pause.
How about aid to local communities? That spending has soared by 91% after inflation in eight years. The education budget is up 57%. Welfare programs are up 30%. Only two years ago Democrats were calling the Tom DeLay Republicans spendthrift. Now they say there's an "investment deficit."

Federal budget deficits are not something we obsess about, but eventually this new spending has to be paid for, and Barney Frank's comments only underscore that big tax increases are coming. The prospect of these tax increases is now hanging over the economy like a pall, as investors and businesses wonder where and how heavily an Obama Administration and Congress would strike. The pall is likely to continue well into 2009, as millions of Americans delay their investment decisions until they know how much their after-tax returns are likely to fall.

If Mr. Obama really wants a "stimulus," he'll announce that given the condition of the economy he won't raise taxes at all. Meanwhile, all of us are getting a preview of Obamanomics in action.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
22992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on: October 23, 2008, 11:33:20 AM

"Wish not so much to live long as to live well."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard's Almanack, June 1746)

Reference: Franklin: Writings, Lemay, Library of America (1209)
22993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: October 22, 2008, 06:46:13 PM
RELEASE NUMBER: 080927-01
DATE POSTED: SEPTEMBER 27, 2008

75th Ranger Regiment Soldier awarded Silver Star
By Staff Sgt. Andrew Kosterman
1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)

FORT LEWIS, Wash. (USASOC News Service, Sept. 27, 2008) – What began as a mission to find and eliminate terrorists earlier this year in Iraq ended up being a life-defining moment for one member of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

 
Spc. Joe Gibson
Spc. Joe Gibson was on a secret night mission Apr. 26, 2008 when he placed his comrades’ lives ahead of his while evacuating wounded American Soldiers and engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a suicide bomber.  His actions that day saved the lives of fellow Rangers.

The attention brought from the awarding of the nation’s third highest medal for valor makes Gibson feel slightly “uncomfortable,” and is quick to point out the achievements of his brothers in arms.

“I am honored to be here with those other guys that got honored,” said Gibson following an awards ceremony for members of the unit.

The medal was presented to Gibson by Adm. Eric Olson, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command.  With the stoic look many Rangers have from multiple combat tours, Gibson stood tall when presented the medal.  Before presenting Gibson and other Rangers medals for their actions in combat, Olson lauded the men of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

“You are a special breed, we ask a lot of you and for that the nation and I thank you,” said Olson.  “Rangers are proven over and over again in battle.  Rangers are glorified in Hollywood movies, but you aren’t actors, you are real men who make real sacrifices”

Olson added that Gibson’s actions during the mission for which he was awarded “exemplify and uphold the warrior culture of the Rangers.”

THE CRUCIBLE BEGINS

As the helicopter full of Rangers touched down that April night, Gibson and fellow Soldiers found themselves dodging enemy small arms fire less than 50 meters away.  Gibson’s platoon sergeant said the enemy small arms and machine gun fire began “less than a minute” after the group disembarked the helicopter.

“The contact was heavy where Spc. Gibson was,” said the platoon sergeant.  “We took 2 casualties there.”

He described the setting as “a very dark night, out in the middle of nowhere with no ambient light, chest high grass, deep irrigation ditches.”

Among the two casualties the Rangers sustained was a life threatening gun shot wound victim. 

“The guy that got hit is a real good friend of mine, and he called out to me,” said Gibson.  “Me and another guy moved to him.  I had the medical equipment, so I started getting that prepped while other people started taking care of him.  We got him ready for (evacuation), patched him up and started moving him out.”

Transporting the casualty over an uneven field with irrigation ditches and through enemy fire was a challenge for the Rangers.

“Moving him out was horrible. It was the most ‘smoked’ I’ve ever been.  It was physically demanding,” said Gibson.

The Rangers’ dedication to each other motivated Gibson to get his friend to safety. 

“It was my buddy, I didn’t want to quit,” said Gibson. “For a while, it was just me on one end of the litter.”

Gibson’s actions are credited with saving the Soldier’s life.  The Soldier returned home safely to see his wife and newborn.

MAKING SURE

After assisting in the medical evacuation, Gibson and the Rangers continued on with their mission.  They began to clear a field with tall grass and canals near the helicopter landing zone.  The Rangers knew enemy was still in the area even though most had fled when the Soldiers touched down.  While clearing the field, Gibson stepped on a terrorist hiding in a ditch under some grass.

“I really didn’t think it was a person that I stepped on because I thought it was just another part of the ground, maybe some trash or something,” said Gibson.

Initially, Gibson continued for a few more steps past the terrorist.  Following his gut instinct, Gibson turned around investigate what he stepped on.  The terrorist moved to kill Gibson and the Rangers.

“He didn’t say anything other than giving his war cry,” explained Gibson.  “He had an advantage on me.  I didn’t have a chance to get my weapon ready and I knew he was gonna shoot me, so I dived on him.”

Gibson grabbed the muzzle of the terrorist’s rifle as the terrorist began to fire.  Gibson wrestled the terrorist to the ground and gained positional control.  He struggled and later stripped the terrorist of his weapon.  After stripping the terrorist of the weapon, the terrorist gripped Gibson’s rifle.  Without the ability to use a firearm, Gibson engaged the enemy with his hands.

“Then he ripped off my helmet and all my (night vision) optics, so I couldn’t see all that well,” recalled Gibson.

The terrorist then began to reach for something hiding in his clothing.

“I stopped him ‘cause I thought maybe he was grabbing a knife to attack me with,” said Gibson.

The terrorist was reaching for the detonator to his suicide vest.  The terrorist screamed “bomb!” in English.

“I thought at that moment that I was probably going to die,” explained Gibson.

As Gibson worked to stop the terrorist from detonating his vest, the terrorist had maneuvered into a position that was cutting off Gibson’s circulation.  Gibson, in an effort to save himself, began to hit the terrorist as hard as he could.  His blows rendered the terrorist unconscious. 

“I got my weapon into his stomach and fired,” said Gibson.  “And he came back to conscious after that, I knew I got him.  I stood up and neutralized him.”

DOING HIS JOB

The native of Yale, Okla. explains that he was just doing what he was supposed to do and that he thinks he doesn’t deserve any special recognition.  Gibson said he is honored to serve as a Ranger and have save his fellow Soldier’s life.  Gibson added that he “can’t wait” to return to Iraq.  Following the incident, Gibson re-enlisted to fight with the Ranger platoon he accompanied that night.
22994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 22, 2008, 05:25:35 PM
Having a notion of the 9th Amendment Right of Privacy and not climbing up the butt of citizens without some sort of specific reasonable basis.
22995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Well, Iran has conditions even if BO does not on: October 22, 2008, 05:21:24 PM
Barack Obama's declaration that, if elected, he would be willing to sit down and talk to Iran "without preconditions" has been widely discussed in this country. It's a key policy difference between him and John McCain, who rejects unconditional talks with Tehran.

So what does the Islamic Republic think? The enterprising reporters at the state news agency recently asked a high-ranking official for his opinion on talks with the U.S. As it turns out, Iran has its own "preconditions" and they don't suggest a diplomatic breakthrough, or even a summit, anytime soon.

Mehdi Kalhor, Vice President for Media Affairs, said the U.S. must do two things before summit talks can take place. First, American military forces must leave the Middle East -- presumably including such countries as Iraq, Qatar, Turkey and anywhere else American soldiers are deployed in the region. Second, the U.S. must cease its support of Israel. Until Washington does both, talks are "off the agenda," the Islamic Republic News Agency reports. It quotes Mr. Kalhor as saying, "If they [the U.S.] take our advice, grounds for such talks would be well prepared.

Iran is one of the toughest and most urgent foreign policy problems the new U.S. Administration will face. If Mr. Obama ends up in the Oval Office on January 20, he may find that solving it will take more than walking into a room and talking to Iranians "without preconditions."

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
22996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 22, 2008, 05:17:05 PM

Actually McCain got it from Hillary.  rolleyes cry  Its part of why he is diving in the polls.  Stupid ecnoomics, and pathetic populist pandering.
22997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: October 22, 2008, 11:21:09 AM
What happens when the voter in the exact middle of the earnings spectrum receives more in benefits from Washington than he pays in taxes? Economists Allan Meltzer and Scott Richard posed this question 27 years ago. We may soon enough know the answer.

Barack Obama is offering voters strong incentives to support higher taxes and bigger government. This could be the magic income-redistribution formula Democrats have long sought.

Sen. Obama is promising $500 and $1,000 gift-wrapped packets of money in the form of refundable tax credits. These will shift the tax demographics to the tipping point where half of all voters will receive a cash windfall from Washington and an overwhelming majority will gain from tax hikes and more government spending.

In 2006, the latest year for which we have Census data, 220 million Americans were eligible to vote and 89 million -- 40% -- paid no income taxes. According to the Tax Policy Center (a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute), this will jump to 49% when Mr. Obama's cash credits remove 18 million more voters from the tax rolls. What's more, there are an additional 24 million taxpayers (11% of the electorate) who will pay a minimal amount of income taxes -- less than 5% of their income and less than $1,000 annually.

In all, three out of every five voters will pay little or nothing in income taxes under Mr. Obama's plans and gain when taxes rise on the 40% that already pays 95% of income tax revenues.

The plunder that the Democrats plan to extract from the "very rich" -- the 5% that earn more than $250,000 and who already pay 60% of the federal income tax bill -- will never stretch to cover the expansive programs Mr. Obama promises.

What next? A core group of Obama enthusiasts -- those educated professionals who applaud the "fairness" of their candidate's tax plans -- will soon see their $100,000-$150,000 incomes targeted. As entitlements expand and a self-interested majority votes, the higher tax brackets will kick in at lower levels down the ladder, all the way to households with a $75,000 income.

Calculating how far society's top earners can be pushed before they stop (or cut back on) producing is difficult. But the incentives are easy to see. Voters who benefit from government programs will push for higher tax rates on higher earners -- at least until those who power the economy and create jobs and wealth stop working, stop investing, or move out of the country.

Other nations have tried the ideology of fairness in the place of incentives and found that reward without work is a recipe for decline. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher took on the unions and slashed taxes to restore growth and jobs in Great Britain. In Germany a few years ago, Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder defied his party's dogma and loosened labor's grip on the economy to end stagnation. And more recently in France, Nicolas Sarkozy was swept to power on a platform of restoring flexibility to the economy.

The sequence is always the same. High-tax, big-spending policies force the economy to lose momentum. Then growth in government spending outstrips revenues. Fiscal and trade deficits soar. Public debt, excessive taxation and unemployment follow. The central bank tries to solve the problem by printing money. International competitiveness is lost and the currency depreciates. The system stagnates. And then a frightened electorate returns conservatives to power.

The economic tides will not stand still while Washington experiments with European-type social democracy, even though the dollar's role as the global reserve currency will buy some time. Our trademark competitive advantage will be lost, and once lost, it will be hard to regain. There are too many emerging economies focused on prosperity and not redistribution for the U.S. to easily recapture its role of global economic leader.

Tomorrow's children may come to question why their parents sold their birthright for a mess of "fairness" -- whatever that will signify when jobs are scarce and American opportunity is no longer the envy of the world.

Mr. Lerrick is a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
22998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: October 22, 2008, 11:04:14 AM
Over to you JDN  evil cheesy
22999  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dates of Dog Brothers Gatherings of the Pack on: October 22, 2008, 10:51:51 AM
Woof All:

For the Open Gathering we are looking at Sunday, September 20th, once again in Burbank, CA.

"Higher consciousness through harder contact!"(c)
Crafty Dog
GF
23000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: October 22, 2008, 10:41:41 AM
Smart *ss cheesy

What about the politics of personal destruction, as practiced by the Hillbillary Clintons for example?  Do we really want government officials being able to climb up the butt of any citizen?
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