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23001  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 17, 2009, 08:54:07 AM
Raymond Roth of Fontana CA received
23002  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our side screws up on: September 17, 2009, 08:42:53 AM
Bloggers said this photo showed a gargantuan crowd at Saturday's "tea party" protest. But it apparently was taken in 1997 at a Promise Keepers rally.

In the competitive world of Washington protests, crowd size is often a matter of dispute. Organizers usually boast of huge crowds, while police and the news media offer much smaller estimates.

So supporters of Saturday’s “tea party” protests against President Barack Obama were quick to highlight their big turnout. To bolster countless claims on blogs and Facebook, many posted a photograph that showed a gargantuan crowd sprawling from Capitol Hill down the National Mall to the Washington Monument.

But it turns out the photo is more than 10 years old, apparently taken during a 1997 Promise Keepers rally.

On Saturday, estimates about the crowd spread quickly through the conservative blogosphere. Many writers, including author Michelle Malkin, pegged the number of people between 1 million and 2 million. Those reports were largely based on information from people in the crowd.

Malkin, for example, updated her blog at 12:34 p.m. noting that, “Police estimate 1.2 million in attendance. ABC News reporting crowd at 2 million,” and she cited a Twitter post from Tabitha Hale, writer of Pink Elephant Pundit, who was in Washington for the protest.

Many bloggers said the media was unfairly reporting much smaller numbers, and many included the photo.

“I have no doubt that Washington Democrats are well aware of how many people turned out, even as their media outlets try to downplay the event,” said Power Line, a conservative blog that linked to the photograph from Say Anything, another conservative Web site.

“ 'Media’ estimates range from 60,000 to 500,000 to around 2 million (yes, 2,000,000),” wrote John G. Winder for the conservative blog Cypress Times. “Those estimates, the language employed, and the visuals chosen for use in reporting the rally and representing the people gathered, vary greatly based solely on bias.”

In the mainstream media, crowd estimates varied.

The New York Times reported that “thousands” of protesters “filled the west lawn of the Capitol and spilled onto the National Mall,” while Fox News wrote that “tens of thousands” marched on Washington. CNN said “reporters at the scene described the massive crowd as reaching the tens of thousands.”

Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Department, said the local government no longer provides official crowd estimates because they can become politicized. But the day of the rally, Piringer unofficially told one reporter that he thought between 60,000 and 75,000 people had shown up.

“It was in no way an official estimate,” he said.

We asked Piringer whether there were enough protesters to fill the National Mall, as depicted in the photograph.

“It was an impressive crowd,” he said. But after marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, the crowd “only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street,” he said.

Yet the photograph so widely posted showed the crowd sprawling all the way to the Washington Monument, which is bordered by 15th and and 17th Streets.

There’s another problem with the photograph: It doesn’t include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth Street and Independence Avenue that opened on Sept. 14, 2004. (Looking at the photograph, the building should be in the upper right hand corner of the National Mall, next to the Air and Space Museum.) That means the picture was taken before the museum opened exactly five years ago. So clearly the photo doesn’t show the “tea party” crowd from the Sept. 12 protest.

Also worth noting are the cranes in front of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. According to Randall Kremer, the museum’s director of public affairs, “The last time cranes were in front was in the 1990s when the IMAX theater was being built.”

It appears that the photo was actually taken in 1997 at a rally for Promise Keepers, a group for Christian men. According to the group’s Web site, nearly 1 million people attended the event. Photos of the Oct. 4, 1997, event that were posted on various Web sites in 2003, 2008 and earlier this year show either the same picture or a similar photo that has identical tents and what appear to be TV screens in the same locations.

Conservative bloggers who originally posted the picture have backed down.

Malkin, like some of her conservative cohorts, retracted the number she had attributed to ABC when the network chastised FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe, whose organization arranged the event, for inaccurately telling the crowd that the news organization had reported the crowd at 1 million to 1.5 million people.

Malkin linked to the ABC story on her site, and changed her blog post headline to “Celebrating the 9/12 rallies; Turnout estimated at 2 million; Update: How many?; FreedomWorks in error.”

Say Anything updated its original post to say that the picture was “of the wrong rally.” An accurate photo “clearly shows that (the rally) didn’t take place on the mall nearly as extensively as the image I mistakenly posted does.” Power Line took the picture down all together.

But because mistakes can still live forever on the Internet and many people who saw the photo on Facebook were unaware it was found to be the wrong picture, we decided to still rate it on the Truth-O-Meter. And Pants on Fire it is.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/sep/14/blog-posting/blogger-claim-photo-shows-millions-tea-party-prote/
23003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton 1802 on: September 17, 2009, 08:26:03 AM
"[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes." --Alexander Hamilton, letter to James Bayard, 1802
23004  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: September 16, 2009, 08:53:37 PM
 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
According to Webster's 1828 dictionary, "regulate" means "[t]o put in good order; as, to regulate the disordered state of a nation or its finances."

"Militia" means "[t]he body of soldiers in a state enrolled for discipline, but not engaged in actual service except for emergencies; as distinguished from regular troops, whose sole occupation is war or military service. The militia of a country aer the able bodied men organized into companies, regiments, and brigades, with officers of all grades, and required by law to attend military exercises on certain days only, but at other times left to pursue their usual occupations."

At the time the articles of confederation and the constitution were adopted, it was universally accepted that a full time military was extremely dangerous to liberty. They referred to a full time military as a "standing army" or a "regular army."

The phrase "well regulated militia" appears in Article VI of the Articles of Confederation. According to that Article, "every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutred, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition, and camp equipage."

The Anti-federalists opposed adopting the constitution because they feared it gave the federal government the ability to destroy the militia and create a standing army.

Patrick Henry put this pretty well: "My great objection to [the constitution] is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights; or, of waging war against tyrants: It is urged by some Gentlemen, that this new plan will bring us an acquisition of strength, an army, and the militia of the States: This is an idea extremely ridiculous: Gentlemen cannot be in earnest. This acquisition will trample on your fallen liberty ... Have we the means of resisting disciplined armies, when our only defence, the militia is put into the hands of Congress? ... The Honorable Gentlemen who presides, told us, that to prevent abuses in our Government, we will assemble in Convention, recall our delegated powers, and punish our servants for abusing the trust reposed in them. Oh, Sir, we should have fine times indeed, if to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people. Your arms wherewith you could defend yourselves are gone ... Did you ever read of any revolution in any nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all? You read of a riot act in a country which is called one of the freest in the world, where a few neighbors cannot assemble without the risk of being shot by a hired soldiery, the engines of despotism. We may see such an act in America. A standing army we shall have also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny."
23005  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 16, 2009, 05:35:48 PM
Reads rather plausibly to me , , ,
23006  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington, 1795 on: September 16, 2009, 10:32:18 AM
"[W]e ought to deprecate the hazard attending ardent and susceptible minds, from being too strongly, and too early prepossessed in favor of other political systems, before they are capable of appreciating their own." --George Washington, letter to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, 1795
23007  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 16, 2009, 10:15:54 AM
I'll check the mailbox again today.    An additional option is to fax them in in or send them as an attached file to an email.
23008  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: September 16, 2009, 08:34:44 AM
A friend from India comments:

In India, the buzz is that Mr. Ombaba wants to force non NPT signatory states to sign the CTBT. Expect India to do a thermonuclear fusion test, before signing the CTBT. This would have implications for Israel too. Israel would be forced to bomb Iran, before signing the treaty. Both these events have geostrategic implications.
23009  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: September 15, 2009, 10:50:05 PM
Here's another take.  What do we make of this?
=================

Obama’s UN Gambit: King of the Universe and the Polls
He’ll chair a Security Council meeting — and pander to rogue states

By Anne Bayefsky

Looking for a quick and easy boost in the polls, President Obama has decided to go to the one place where merit bears no relationship to adulation: the United Nations. On September 24, the president will take the unprecedented step of presiding over a meeting of the UN Security Council.

No American president has ever attempted to acquire the image of King of the Universe by officiating at a meeting of the UN’s highest body. But Obama apparently believes that being flanked by council-member heads of state like Col. Moammar Qaddafi — who is expected to be seated five seats to Obama’s right — will cast a sufficiently blinding spell on the American taxpayer that the perilous state of the nation’s economy, the health-care fiasco, and a summer of “post-racial” scapegoating will pale by comparison.

After all, who among us is not for world peace?

Unfortunately, however, the move represents one of the most dangerous diplomatic ploys this country has ever seen. The president didn’t just decide to chair a rare council summit; he also set the September 24 agenda — as is the prerogative of the state holding the gavel for the month. His choice, in the words of American UN Ambassador Susan Rice, speaking on September 2 at her first press briefing since the United States assumed the council presidency, is this: “The session will be focused on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly, and not on any specific countries.”




This seemingly innocuous language has two profoundly disturbing features. First, UN documents indicate that the Security Council is currently dealing with over 100 issues. While “non-proliferation” is mentioned, “disarmament” is not. Similarly, a UN Secretariat compilation “forecasting the Council’s program of work” for the month of September — based on prior activities and requests — lists non-proliferation specifically in relation to Iran and North Korea and does not list disarmament. But in light of Obama’s wishes, a tailor-made subheading will likely be adopted under the existing entry “maintenance of international peace and security.” The new item will insist on simultaneous consideration of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament and make no mention of particular states.

This is no trivial technicality. The linguistic formula, which Obama’s confrere Qaddafi will undoubtedly exploit, shamelessly panders to Arab and Muslim states. It is a familiar recipe for stonewalling efforts to prevent Iran or other Muslim and Arab states from acquiring nuclear weapons until Israel is disarmed or Israel’s (unofficial) nuclear capacity is exposed and neutralized. It is also a frequent tool of those whose real goal is to stymie America’s defenses.

Second, Obama’s agenda preference indicates that he is dead-set against chairing a session on the non-proliferation issues already on the council’s plate — those that name Iran and North Korea. This stretches his “beer summit” technique to the global scale. Naming names, or identifying the actual threats to world peace, would evidently interfere with the spectacle of proclaiming affection for world peace in the abstract. The problem is that this feel-good experience will feel best of all to Iran, which has interpreted Obama’s penchant for form over substance to be a critical weakness. As a Tehran newspaper close to the regime snickered in July: “Their strategy consists of begging us to talk with them.”

At Ambassador Rice’s news briefing, she gave “an overview of the principal important meetings” to be held in September on her watch. After finishing the list of subjects without mentioning Iran or North Korea, she added: “So those are the highlights. We also have . . . three sanctions regimes that are up for regular review, chaired by the heads of the sanctions committees. We have Sudan, Iran and North Korea, and these are, I expect, likely to be uneventful and routine considerations of these various regimes.”

Even hard-boiled UN correspondents were surprised. Rice was asked to explain how the recent capture by the United Arab Emirates of containers of ammunition en route to Iran from North Korea could be construed as “uneventful and routine.” Her answer highlights the administration’s delinquency: “We are simply receiving . . . a regularly scheduled update. . . . This is not an opportunity to review or revisit the nature of either of those regimes.”

A brutalized Iranian population, yearning for democracy, has repeatedly been met by nothing but sad faces from this administration. An Iranian president installed by treachery has been legitimized by American recognition of his government, a decision that has sidelined other eminently justifiable alternatives. The leaders of this state sponsor of terrorism aim to annihilate the Jewish state and are on the verge of acquiring the means to do so. But instead of making the isolation and delegitimation of Iran the top priority for America’s turn at the council presidency, the Obama administration has taken Iran off the table at precisely the time when top decision-makers will be present.

The administration’s zeal for the front-page photo-op on September 25’s New York Times has now become a scramble to manufacture an “outcome” for the session. The president’s idea for a glorious finish was described by Ambassador Rice as some kind of joint statement declaring in part “that we are united in support for effective steps to ensure nuclear nonproliferation.”

Such a result would be breathtaking — for the audacity of claiming exactly the opposite of what it really represents. Even allied council members France and the United Kingdom are reported to be very unhappy with Obama’s no-names strategy for his September rollout.

Far from bolstering his flagging image, the president’s group-hug theory of diplomacy deserves the disdain of anyone who can separate rhetoric from reality.

— Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and executive director of Human Rights Voices.
 
 
 
.To wit: Section 9 of the Constitution says:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.)
 
23010  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 15, 2009, 06:56:17 PM
Excellent news Pappy Dog.

Forms just received from Thomas Nowara of LA, CA and Raymond Roth of Fontana, CA
23011  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager on: September 15, 2009, 01:36:53 PM
The Left Is Right -- Taxes Are a Moral Issue
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One principle that all those on the left hold is that taxes constitute more than an economic issue; they are, first and foremost, a moral one. Economists on the left may argue for higher taxes on economic grounds but they and we know that at bottom, higher taxes, especially "taxing the rich," is what they believe morality demands.



For example, there are obviously only two possible ways to reduce government deficits: reduce spending or increase taxes (or some combination of both). The left advocates the later; the right advocates the former. Left-wing spokesmen, such as New York Times economics columnist and Princeton University professor of economics Paul Krugman, may offer economic arguments for raising taxes in order to lower government deficits, but their real motivations are moral: reducing economic inequality (by redistributing income) and expanding government (because government is the most effective way to help all citizens).

Now, as it happens, not only is there is nothing wrong with being animated by moral concerns -- we should all be. The problem with the left's advocacy of higher taxes is not that it is rooted in moral concerns. The problem -- actually the two problems -- are these:

First, higher taxes are rarely morally defensible. In fact, on purely moral grounds -- in other words, even if they did effectively reduce the deficit without paying an economic price for doing so -- they are usually not moral. More on this below.

Second, higher taxes are usually economically counterproductive. This does not matter to the left, however, because economic growth is not what most interests the left. Since Karl Marx, the left has always been far more interested in economic equality than in economic growth. It is true that liberals such as John F. Kennedy were more concerned with economic growth than with economic equality -- which is why he advocated lowering taxes -- but for much of the last century, unlike today, there was a major difference between liberal and left.

Now to return to the moral arguments, my difference with the left is not that I oppose morality dictating economic policy. I believe, in fact, that virtually all social policies should be rooted in moral concerns. My difference with the left is that I am convinced that moral considerations dictate lower, not higher, taxes.

It is too bad that libertarians and conservatives rarely take on the left on moral grounds because the left's moral foundations are as weak as their economic foundations.

The very notion of an income tax is morally debatable. On what moral grounds can the state force a citizen essentially at gunpoint to give away his legally and morally earned money? Why isn't taxation a form of legalized stealing? The obvious answer is that common sense dictates that citizens have the moral right, even the moral obligation, to vote to give money to, at the very least, enable a government to fund a police force, sustain a national defense, and help those incapable of helping themselves or of being helped by others.

But at some point beyond that, taxation becomes nothing more than legalized stealing. Obviously, people will differ over where exactly that point is, but no rational person disputes that such a point exists. No one could argue that a 100 percent tax -- even if it paid for every need every member of the society had -- was moral and not simply a form of theft.

So moral problem No.1 with taxation is the morality of forcing other people -- under threat of violence -- to give their money away.

A second moral problem is having some people give at a greater percentage rate than others. The biblical notion of tithing, for example, is entirely universal -- everyone gave a tenth what he had. No one was forced to give half while others gave a tenth.

A third moral problem is allowing those who pay no tax (such as the federal income tax) to vote on how much others will be forced to pay. It is quite difficult to morally defend the fact that about half of Americans pay no federal income tax, yet they determine how much the other half will be forced to pay.

A fourth moral problem is that the higher the taxes, the more decent people become cheaters. One of the leading religious ethicists of our time, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of two volumes of Jewish ethical law, told me years ago when he lived in Israel during the height of its socialism with its correspondingly high taxes that he witnessed the finest citizens, religious and secular alike, having to cheat on taxes or be rendered impoverished. I have never forgotten that.

I know no one in America today -- and I know extraordinarily honest and generous people, liberal and conservative -- who does not in some way "cheat" on taxes -- as, for example, reporting expenses as business expenses that are not really so. I place the word cheat within quotation marks because not all cheating is illegal. Some people figure out how to avoid paying what the law demands through completely legal, but ethically questionable, means.

At a certain level of taxation, virtually every honest person is reduced to cheating either legally or illegally.

A fifth moral problem is that the higher the tax rate, the lower the charity rate. This is universally true. The more people give to the state, the less they give to their neighbor -- and even to members of their family -- in need.

And sixth and only finally because of the limitations in size of a single column, the higher the taxes, the less people are inclined to work hard. Why should they? At a given point, people just conclude that work is for suckers.

And I haven't even begun to discuss the economic failings of higher taxes.

So, next time someone on the left advocates higher taxes, remember two things: He or she is coming from a moral, not an economic, position. And the moral case against higher taxes is far more powerful than the moral case for them.

23012  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Football on: September 15, 2009, 10:46:11 AM
DBMA has as its mission statement "Walk as a Warrior for all your days" and in this regard, football is something we look to to inform our sense of multiple players operating in 360 contexts, our sense of contact, footwork, and more.  My thanks to Chris Gizzi for opening my eyes in this.

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

By CHARLES SIEBERT
Football, for allof its brute force and ferocity, is a game of guile and gamesmanship. This is especially true today, when the space in which the sport is played has been foreshortened by the size and speed of the athletes playing it, and outcomes are increasingly decided as much by the quality of a team's game plan as they are by the level of play. Football has essentially become hour-long sessions of high-speed, crash-helmet chess, and more fun to watch because of it. Even the biggest and most heavily favored juggernauts can on any given day be suddenly undone by a group of scrappy upstarts with a wealth of passion and a well-wrought stratagem: some riotous, rhythm-ruining array of timely defensive blitzing packages, or a stunningly inventive attack formation such as the new "Wildcat" offense.

The NFL, with its dizzying speeds and hard hitting—to say nothing of its preponderance of high-salaried stars—has long had a way of tempering the more fanciful, free-wheeling schemes of high school and college ball. And yet all that seemed to change last year, when the then-struggling Miami Dolphins overwhelmed the mighty New England Patriots in game three of the season with a sudden, whirlwind display of Wildcat wizardry. Six times in the course of that game, the Patriots' defenders suddenly found themselves standing opposite an odd-looking offensive alignment. Rather than the traditional front line of a guard, a tackle, and a tight end on either side of the center, the Dolphins now had a guard, two tackles and a tight end all stacked on one side. More disturbing still, standing a few yards behind the center, awaiting the snap in the quarterback's traditional "shotgun" position, were two running backs, the dual run-and-pass threat of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. As for the Dolphins' quarterback, Chad Pennington, he was positioned up on the overstacked side of the line, just outside the tight end, now an entirely misplaced and therefore unknown proposition.

View Full Image

Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
 
The Miami Dolphins used the overstacked ‘Wildcat’ formation against the New England Patriots, Nov. 23, 2008.
.This is the most subversive, the nearly mutinous aspect of the Wildcat, and the very essence of its explosive potential: the way in which it wholly bypasses the quarterback, the traditional pillar and field general of the offense. Among the things that a defense likes to see when an offense lines up opposite them before the start of play is the quarterback at his traditional post, either directly under center or a few yards behind center in the "shotgun." This gives the defense an edge, some would say an 11-on-10 advantage. Because, unless the quarterback is that exceptional dual run-or-pass threat in the mold of Vince Young or Michael Vick, or the 2008 champion University of Florida's Tim Tebow, then a defense can focus less on him and more on the action that he, through either a hand-off or a pass, is about to set in motion.

The most fixed figure in an offense, the middleman, the interlocutor of each play, the quarterback is the guy through whom a defense—via the lean of his body or the direction of his gaze—often gets the best fix on where a play is going. By removing the quarterback from his predictable hand-off, passing-machine role and enfolding him into the larger offensive mix, the Wildcat makes him one more variable for the defense to consider, and thus neutralizes their tacit one-man edge. The Wildcat is, in effect, a classic instance of eliminating the middleman and cutting, or snapping, directly to the chase. That could be a straight run behind a phalanx of blockers, or a hand-off to another back or roving flanker or "wingback," who was set in motion behind the line before the snap. Or it could be just pulling up and passing the ball down field to an open receiver, possibly even to the quarterback—a dizzying array of options that tends to slow a defense down, give them pause.

 
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
 
George Gipp of Notre Dame, shown here in 1920, was one of the multipurpose ‘wingbacks’ who gave the early ‘Single-wing’ formation its name.
.In chess, even in speed chess, one has time to ponder a response to a new formation. In football, even the slightest hesitation equals loss. In fact, before the Patriots' vaunted defense was able to get a read on what was going on around them that day, the Dolphins would score four touchdowns with the Wildcat (three rushing and one on a pass from Brown), abruptly ending the Patriots' 21-game regular-season winning streak with a 38-13 drubbing. Over the next 11 games, the Dolphins went on to average seven yards per play from the "Wildcat" and qualified for the playoffs. They have since acquired West Virginia's multitasking quarterback, Pat White, in the draft, a potentially lethal move that has teams around the league including the Eagles (with the newly acquired Michael Vick), the Baltimore Ravens, the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Jets and even the New England Patriots dreaming up Wildcat packages of their own.

There's something at once sleekly high-tech and decidedly throwback, nearly sandlot, about the Wildcat: an elaborate and well-honed version of that basic backyard-pick-up-game ethos of "let's just get as many of the best players on the field as we can and then wing it." Winging it is, after all, increasingly difficult to do within any organized field of endeavor. But this is especially so within the parameters of a football field. While nuns may not fret their convent's narrow room, as Wordsworth wrote in his famous sonnet about the paradoxically liberating powers of the sonnet form's strictures on the imagination, offensive coordinators are forever scratching about for ways to pry open and fly the confines of a 100-yard gridiron.

In this regard, the Wildcat is an inspired bit of football poetry, affirming as it does that there are still an infinite number of new ways to re-imagine inherently finite spaces. And when one considers the growing number of big, fast, multidimensional, run-and-throw style quarterbacks that high schools and colleges are now churning out—to the extent that some pro scouts are lamenting the imminent extinction of the classic drop-back, field-general style—then the Wildcat formation begins to look less like a passing fancy and more like something permanent.

Still, for all the talk of the Wildcat representing football's future, it is, in fact, a direct derivative (some would say a near carbon copy) of an early offense formation known as the "Single-wing," which might well have faded into extinction if not for a few high school coaches who kept it percolating in their playbooks. One of the game's very first attempts to fly its own inherent confines, the "Single-wing" was the brainchild of the University of Pittsburgh's Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner, the father of modern football, and it was advanced by football inventors like Notre Dame's Knute Rockne, and Warner's protégé at Pitt, Jock Sutherland.

After the ploddingly crushing rugby-like scrums and somewhat oxymoronically named "Flying Wedges" of yore were outlawed, in the interest of safety, back in 1905, Warner took advantage of new rules allowing, among other things, the forward pass and arrived at a scheme that should by now sound familiar: an unbalanced offensive line with a quarterback positioned just behind one of the strong-side tackles, a pair of running backs waiting in the quarterback's shotgun position to take the snap from center, and off beyond the strong-side end, the roving, multipurpose "wingback," who gave the Single-wing its name. The best athletes of their day, wingbacks are now the stuff of football legend: George Gipp of Notre Dame, Michigan's Tom Harmon, Nile Kinnick of Iowa and Western Reserve's Steve Belichick, father of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

The Single-wing would dominate college football right up through the 1940s and then gradually yield to newer formations. As the forward pass and freer substitution rules became ever more prominent in pro offenses of the 1950s and '60s, formations began to accommodate and codify the quarterback's emergent field-general stature, placing him directly under center and the running backs behind him in a "T" or "I" formation. The "T" and the "I" soon morphed into the "Wishbone" and from there into more widely dispersed formations, designed to make use of every inch and angle of football's blank page—offenses that, in name alone, "Flexbone," "Triple Option," "Veer," and "Spread," suggest the evolution of some huge, flightless bird struggling to free itself from the confines of its own proscribed shell.

College and high school have long been the Petri dishes of football innovation, and it is there that the Wildcat's recent emergence can be traced. In a 1998 article for Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director magazine, a high-school football coach and Yale graduate named Hugh Wyatt wrote of a direct-snap, single-wing style formation that he named the "Wildcat," after the mascot of the school where he coached at the time. Seven years later, Gus Malzahn, the offensive coordinator for the Arkansas Razorbacks, implemented a single-wing style package that he'd used successfully coaching high school ball. Conspiring with Razorback running back coach Danny Nutt to get their best players on the field at the same time, he put the multidimensional running back Darren McFadden, now of the Oakland Raiders, in the quarterback position and fellow running back Felix Jones at wingback. The Wildcat was soon spreading like wildfire.

An estimated 80% of high school and college teams are expected to be featuring the formation this season, including, of course, Arkansas, Tulsa (where Gus Malzahn now coaches) and Ole Miss (coached by Danny Nutt's brother Houston), as well as Alabama, Michigan State and Minnesota. And when Gus Malzahn's replacement at Arkansas, David Lee, moved on to become the quarterback coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2008, the Wildcat was soon baring its claws in the pros—appearing as a bizarre and uncontainable creature to a stunned New England Patriot defense but wholly recognizable to an astute football historian like Bill Belichick.

"Call it what you want," the Patriots' coach would tell Sports Illustrated after the Patriots-Dolphins game. "But that's single-wing style football."

Corrections & Amplifications: Football star Steve Belichick attended Western Reserve University, a forerunner of today's Case Western Reserve University. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said he played for Case Western Reserve.


23013  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Armstrong vs. Dawkins on: September 15, 2009, 10:37:53 AM
Man vs. God


We commissioned Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins to respond independently to the question "Where does evolution leave God?" Neither knew what the other would say. Here are the results.

Karen Armstrong says we need God to grasp the wonder of our existence
Richard Dawkins has been right all along, of course—at least in one important respect. Evolution has indeed dealt a blow to the idea of a benign creator, literally conceived. It tells us that there is no Intelligence controlling the cosmos, and that life itself is the result of a blind process of natural selection, in which innumerable species failed to survive. The fossil record reveals a natural history of pain, death and racial extinction, so if there was a divine plan, it was cruel, callously prodigal and wasteful. Human beings were not the pinnacle of a purposeful creation; like everything else, they evolved by trial and error and God had no direct hand in their making. No wonder so many fundamentalist Christians find their faith shaken to the core.

 
Nippon Television Network
 .Richard Dawkins argues that evolution leaves God with nothing to do .But Darwin may have done religion—and God—a favor by revealing a flaw in modern Western faith. Despite our scientific and technological brilliance, our understanding of God is often remarkably undeveloped—even primitive. In the past, many of the most influential Jewish, Christian and Muslim thinkers understood that what we call "God" is merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence, whose existence cannot be proved but is only intuited by means of spiritual exercises and a compassionate lifestyle that enable us to cultivate new capacities of mind and heart.

But by the end of the 17th century, instead of looking through the symbol to "the God beyond God," Christians were transforming it into hard fact. Sir Isaac Newton had claimed that his cosmic system proved beyond doubt the existence of an intelligent, omniscient and omnipotent creator, who was obviously "very well skilled in Mechanicks and Geometry." Enthralled by the prospect of such cast-iron certainty, churchmen started to develop a scientifically-based theology that eventually made Newton's Mechanick and, later, William Paley's Intelligent Designer essential to Western Christianity.

But the Great Mechanick was little more than an idol, the kind of human projection that theology, at its best, was supposed to avoid. God had been essential to Newtonian physics but it was not long before other scientists were able to dispense with the God-hypothesis and, finally, Darwin showed that there could be no proof for God's existence. This would not have been a disaster had not Christians become so dependent upon their scientific religion that they had lost the older habits of thought and were left without other resource.

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WSJ Illustration
 .Symbolism was essential to premodern religion, because it was only possible to speak about the ultimate reality—God, Tao, Brahman or Nirvana—analogically, since it lay beyond the reach of words. Jews and Christians both developed audaciously innovative and figurative methods of reading the Bible, and every statement of the Quran is called an ayah ("parable"). St Augustine (354-430), a major authority for both Catholics and Protestants, insisted that if a biblical text contradicted reputable science, it must be interpreted allegorically. This remained standard practice in the West until the 17th century, when in an effort to emulate the exact scientific method, Christians began to read scripture with a literalness that is without parallel in religious history.

Most cultures believed that there were two recognized ways of arriving at truth. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were essential and neither was superior to the other; they were not in conflict but complementary, each with its own sphere of competence. Logos ("reason") was the pragmatic mode of thought that enabled us to function effectively in the world and had, therefore, to correspond accurately to external reality. But it could not assuage human grief or find ultimate meaning in life's struggle. For that people turned to mythos, stories that made no pretensions to historical accuracy but should rather be seen as an early form of psychology; if translated into ritual or ethical action, a good myth showed you how to cope with mortality, discover an inner source of strength, and endure pain and sorrow with serenity.

In the ancient world, a cosmology was not regarded as factual but was primarily therapeutic; it was recited when people needed an infusion of that mysterious power that had—somehow—brought something out of primal nothingness: at a sickbed, a coronation or during a political crisis. Some cosmologies taught people how to unlock their own creativity, others made them aware of the struggle required to maintain social and political order. The Genesis creation hymn, written during the Israelites' exile in Babylonia in the 6th century BC, was a gentle polemic against Babylonian religion. Its vision of an ordered universe where everything had its place was probably consoling to a displaced people, though—as we can see in the Bible—some of the exiles preferred a more aggressive cosmology.

There can never be a definitive version of a myth, because it refers to the more imponderable aspects of life. To remain effective, it must respond to contemporary circumstance. In the 16th century, when Jews were being expelled from one region of Europe after another, the mystic Isaac Luria constructed an entirely new creation myth that bore no resemblance to the Genesis story. But instead of being reviled for contradicting the Bible, it inspired a mass-movement among Jews, because it was such a telling description of the arbitrary world they now lived in; backed up with special rituals, it also helped them face up to their pain and discover a source of strength.

Religion was not supposed to provide explanations that lay within the competence of reason but to help us live creatively with realities for which there are no easy solutions and find an interior haven of peace; today, however, many have opted for unsustainable certainty instead. But can we respond religiously to evolutionary theory? Can we use it to recover a more authentic notion of God?

Darwin made it clear once again that—as Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas and Eckhart had already pointed out—we cannot regard God simply as a divine personality, who single-handedly created the world. This could direct our attention away from the idols of certainty and back to the "God beyond God." The best theology is a spiritual exercise, akin to poetry. Religion is not an exact science but a kind of art form that, like music or painting, introduces us to a mode of knowledge that is different from the purely rational and which cannot easily be put into words. At its best, it holds us in an attitude of wonder, which is, perhaps, not unlike the awe that Mr. Dawkins experiences—and has helped me to appreciate —when he contemplates the marvels of natural selection.

But what of the pain and waste that Darwin unveiled? All the major traditions insist that the faithful meditate on the ubiquitous suffering that is an inescapable part of life; because, if we do not acknowledge this uncomfortable fact, the compassion that lies at the heart of faith is impossible. The almost unbearable spectacle of the myriad species passing painfully into oblivion is not unlike some classic Buddhist meditations on the First Noble Truth ("Existence is suffering"), the indispensable prerequisite for the transcendent enlightenment that some call Nirvana—and others call God.

—Ms. Armstrong is the author of numerous books on theology and religious affairs. The latest, "The Case for God," will be published by Knopf later this month.
Richard Dawkins argues that evolution leaves God with nothing to do
Before 1859 it would have seemed natural to agree with the Reverend William Paley, in "Natural Theology," that the creation of life was God's greatest work. Especially (vanity might add) human life. Today we'd amend the statement: Evolution is the universe's greatest work. Evolution is the creator of life, and life is arguably the most surprising and most beautiful production that the laws of physics have ever generated. Evolution, to quote a T-shirt sent me by an anonymous well-wisher, is the greatest show on earth, the only game in town.

Indeed, evolution is probably the greatest show in the entire universe. Most scientists' hunch is that there are independently evolved life forms dotted around planetary islands throughout the universe—though sadly too thinly scattered to encounter one another. And if there is life elsewhere, it is something stronger than a hunch to say that it will turn out to be Darwinian life. The argument in favor of alien life's existing at all is weaker than the argument that—if it exists at all—it will be Darwinian life. But it is also possible that we really are alone in the universe, in which case Earth, with its greatest show, is the most remarkable planet in the universe.

 
Bettmann/CORBIS
 
Charles Darwin
.What is so special about life? It never violates the laws of physics. Nothing does (if anything did, physicists would just have to formulate new laws—it's happened often enough in the history of science). But although life never violates the laws of physics, it pushes them into unexpected avenues that stagger the imagination. If we didn't know about life we wouldn't believe it was possible—except, of course, that there'd then be nobody around to do the disbelieving!

The laws of physics, before Darwinian evolution bursts out from their midst, can make rocks and sand, gas clouds and stars, whirlpools and waves, whirlpool-shaped galaxies and light that travels as waves while behaving like particles. It is an interesting, fascinating and, in many ways, deeply mysterious universe. But now, enter life. Look, through the eyes of a physicist, at a bounding kangaroo, a swooping bat, a leaping dolphin, a soaring Coast Redwood. There never was a rock that bounded like a kangaroo, never a pebble that crawled like a beetle seeking a mate, never a sand grain that swam like a water flea. Not once do any of these creatures disobey one jot or tittle of the laws of physics. Far from violating the laws of thermodynamics (as is often ignorantly alleged) they are relentlessly driven by them. Far from violating the laws of motion, animals exploit them to their advantage as they walk, run, dodge and jink, leap and fly, pounce on prey or spring to safety.

Never once are the laws of physics violated, yet life emerges into uncharted territory. And how is the trick done? The answer is a process that, although variable in its wondrous detail, is sufficiently uniform to deserve one single name: Darwinian evolution, the nonrandom survival of randomly varying coded information. We know, as certainly as we know anything in science, that this is the process that has generated life on our own planet. And my bet, as I said, is that the same process is in operation wherever life may be found, anywhere in the universe.

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WSJ Illustration
 .What if the greatest show on earth is not the greatest show in the universe? What if there are life forms on other planets that have evolved so far beyond our level of intelligence and creativity that we should regard them as gods, were we ever so fortunate (or unfortunate?) as to meet them? Would they indeed be gods? Wouldn't we be tempted to fall on our knees and worship them, as a medieval peasant might if suddenly confronted with such miracles as a Boeing 747, a mobile telephone or Google Earth? But, however god-like the aliens might seem, they would not be gods, and for one very important reason. They did not create the universe; it created them, just as it created us. Making the universe is the one thing no intelligence, however superhuman, could do, because an intelligence is complex—statistically improbable —and therefore had to emerge, by gradual degrees, from simpler beginnings: from a lifeless universe—the miracle-free zone that is physics.

To midwife such emergence is the singular achievement of Darwinian evolution. It starts with primeval simplicity and fosters, by slow, explicable degrees, the emergence of complexity: seemingly limitless complexity—certainly up to our human level of complexity and very probably way beyond. There may be worlds on which superhuman life thrives, superhuman to a level that our imaginations cannot grasp. But superhuman does not mean supernatural. Darwinian evolution is the only process we know that is ultimately capable of generating anything as complicated as creative intelligences. Once it has done so, of course, those intelligences can create other complex things: works of art and music, advanced technology, computers, the Internet and who knows what in the future? Darwinian evolution may not be the only such generative process in the universe. There may be other "cranes" (Daniel Dennett's term, which he opposes to "skyhooks") that we have not yet discovered or imagined. But, however wonderful and however different from Darwinian evolution those putative cranes may be, they cannot be magic. They will share with Darwinian evolution the facility to raise up complexity, as an emergent property, out of simplicity, while never violating natural law.

Where does that leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God's redundancy notice, his pink slip. But we have to go further. A complex creative intelligence with nothing to do is not just redundant. A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain. God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.

Now, there is a certain class of sophisticated modern theologian who will say something like this: "Good heavens, of course we are not so naive or simplistic as to care whether God exists. Existence is such a 19th-century preoccupation! It doesn't matter whether God exists in a scientific sense. What matters is whether he exists for you or for me. If God is real for you, who cares whether science has made him redundant? Such arrogance! Such elitism."

Well, if that's what floats your canoe, you'll be paddling it up a very lonely creek. The mainstream belief of the world's peoples is very clear. They believe in God, and that means they believe he exists in objective reality, just as surely as the Rock of Gibraltar exists. If sophisticated theologians or postmodern relativists think they are rescuing God from the redundancy scrap-heap by downplaying the importance of existence, they should think again. Tell the congregation of a church or mosque that existence is too vulgar an attribute to fasten onto their God, and they will brand you an atheist. They'll be right.

—Mr. Dawkins is the author of "The Selfish Gene," "The Ancestor's Tale," "The God Delusion." His latest book, "The Greatest Show on Earth," will be published by Free Press on Sept. 22.
23014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pushing Israel/outsourcing to Israel on: September 15, 2009, 10:17:25 AM
second post of the day

Events are fast pushing Israel toward a pre-emptive military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, probably by next spring. That strike could well fail. Or it could succeed at the price of oil at $300 a barrel, a Middle East war, and American servicemen caught in between. So why is the Obama administration doing everything it can to speed the war process along?

At July's G-8 summit in Italy, Iran was given a September deadline to start negotiations over its nuclear programs. Last week, Iran gave its answer: No.

Instead, what Tehran offered was a five-page document that was the diplomatic equivalent of a giant kiss-off. It begins by lamenting the "ungodly ways of thinking prevailing in global relations" and proceeds to offer comprehensive talks on a variety of subjects: democracy, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, "respect for the rights of nations," and other areas where Iran is a paragon. Conspicuously absent from the document is any mention of Iran's nuclear program, now at the so-called breakout point, which both Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his boss Ali Khamenei insist is not up for discussion.

What's an American president to do in the face of this nonstarter of a document? What else, but pretend it isn't a nonstarter. Talks begin Oct. 1.

All this only helps persuade Israel's skittish leadership that when President Obama calls a nuclear-armed Iran "unacceptable," he means it approximately in the same way a parent does when fecklessly reprimanding his misbehaving teenager. That impression is strengthened by Mr. Obama's decision to drop Iran from the agenda when he chairs a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sept. 24; by Defense Secretary Robert Gates publicly opposing military strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities; and by Russia's announcement that it will not support any further sanctions on Iran.

In sum, the conclusion among Israelis is that the Obama administration won't lift a finger to stop Iran, much less will the "international community." So Israel has pursued a different strategy, in effect seeking to goad the U.S. into stopping, or at least delaying, an Israeli attack by imposing stiff sanctions and perhaps even launching military strikes of its own.

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Associated Press
 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
.Thus, unlike Israel's air strike against Iraq's reactor in 1981 or Syria's in 2007, both of which were planned in the utmost secrecy, the Israelis have gone out of their way to advertise their fears, purposes and capabilities. They have sent warships through the Suez Canal in broad daylight and conducted widely publicized air-combat exercises at long range. They have also been unusually forthcoming in their briefings with reporters, expressing confidence at every turn that Israel can get the job done.

The problem, however, is that the administration isn't taking the bait, and one has to wonder why. Perhaps it thinks its diplomacy will work, or that it has the luxury of time, or that it can talk the Israelis out of attacking. Alternatively, it might actually want Israel to attack without inviting the perception that it has colluded with it. Or maybe it isn't really paying attention.

But Israel is paying attention. And the longer the U.S. delays playing hardball with Iran, the sooner Israel is likely to strike. A report published today by the Bipartisan Policy Center, and signed by Democrat Chuck Robb, Republican Dan Coats, and retired Gen. Charles Ward, notes that by next year Iran will "be able to produce a weapon's worth of highly enriched uranium . . . in less than two months." No less critical in determining Israel's timetable is the anticipated delivery to Iran of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft batteries: Israel will almost certainly strike before those deliveries are made, no matter whether an Iranian bomb is two months or two years away.

Such a strike may well be in Israel's best interests, though that depends entirely on whether the strike succeeds. It is certainly in America's supreme interest that Iran not acquire a genuine nuclear capability, whether of the actual or break-out variety. That goes also for the Middle East generally, which doesn't need the nuclear arms race an Iranian capability would inevitably provoke.

Then again, it is not in the U.S. interest that Israel be the instrument of Iran's disarmament. For starters, its ability to do so is iffy: Israeli strategists are quietly putting it about that even a successful attack may have to be repeated a few years down the road as Iran reconstitutes its capacity. For another thing, Iran could respond to such a strike not only against Israel itself, but also U.S targets in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.

But most importantly, it is an abdication of a superpower's responsibility to outsource matters of war and peace to another state, however closely allied. President Obama has now ceded the driver's seat on Iran policy to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He would do better to take the wheel again, keeping in mind that Iran is beyond the reach of his eloquence, and keeping in mind, too, that very useful Roman adage, Si vis pacem, para bellum.
23015  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 15, 2009, 10:10:16 AM
Registered Fighter list as of this morning

1) Nick "Pappy Dog" Papadakis
N. Hollywood, CA

2) Dean “Kaju Dog” Webster
Lemoore, CA

3) Richard “Seeing Eye Dog” Estepa
Oxnard, CA

4) Mike “War Dog” Barredo
Palm Springs, CA

5) Steve “Iron Dog” Shelburn
Modest, CA

6) Brian “Guide Dog” Stoops
Chino Hills, CA
(may be unable to show, but we keep him on the list just in case)

7) Mat “Boo Dog” Booe
Castaic, CA

Cool Erik “Tennessee Dog” Bryant
Sherman Oaks, CA

9) Greg "Cyborg Dog" Brown
Boston, MA

10) “Dog” Rene Cocolo
Toronto, CANADA

11) “Dog” Randall Scott Gregory
Brattleboro, Vermont

12) “Dog” Ryan Gruhn
State College, PA

13) “Dog” Kase Wright
Corpus Cristi, TX

14) “Dog” Michael Norrel
State College, PA

15) “Cat” Linda Matsumi
Los Gatos, CA

16) Ryan Achenbach
Milwalkie, OR

17) Peter Andrada
San Jose, Ca

18) Jason Barker
Pacific Palisades, CA

19) Mike Getten
Pacific Palisades, CA

20) Jeremiah Hagan
Los Angeles, CA

21) Kyle Kabala
Glendora, CA

22) Chhi’med Kunzang
Kila, MT

23) Steve Lawson
Carolina Beach, NC

24) Howie Mandel
Philadelphia, PA

25) Dante Mapanao
Huntington Beach, CA

26) Ivaylo Penev
Sunnyvale, CA

27) Jeff Peters
McLean, VA

28) Mauricio Sanchez Reyes
Mexico City, Mexico

29) Josh Scott
San Diego, CA

30) Jonathan Weaver
State College, PA

31) Devin Wilkey
Phoenix, AZ

32) Mark Houston
Moreno Valley CA

33) Mark O'Delll
Moreno Valley CA
23016  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Interstate Commerce on: September 15, 2009, 09:55:08 AM
By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO
Last week, I asked South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, where in the Constitution it authorizes the federal government to regulate the delivery of health care. He replied: "There's nothing in the Constitution that says that the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do." Then he shot back: "How about [you] show me where in the Constitution it prohibits the federal government from doing this?"

Rep. Clyburn, like many of his colleagues, seems to have conveniently forgotten that the federal government has only specific enumerated powers. He also seems to have overlooked the Ninth and 10th Amendments, which limit Congress's powers only to those granted in the Constitution.

One of those powers—the power "to regulate" interstate commerce—is the favorite hook on which Congress hangs its hat in order to justify the regulation of anything it wants to control.

Unfortunately, a notoriously tendentious New Deal-era Supreme Court decision has given Congress a green light to use the Commerce Clause to regulate noncommercial, and even purely local, private behavior. In Wickard v. Filburn (1942), the Supreme Court held that a farmer who grew wheat just for the consumption of his own family violated federal agricultural guidelines enacted pursuant to the Commerce Clause. Though the wheat did not move across state lines—indeed, it never left his farm—the Court held that if other similarly situated farmers were permitted to do the same it, might have an aggregate effect on interstate commerce.

James Madison, who argued that to regulate meant to keep regular, would have shuddered at such circular reasoning. Madison's understanding was the commonly held one in 1789, since the principle reason for the Constitutional Convention was to establish a central government that would prevent ruinous state-imposed tariffs that favored in-state businesses. It would do so by assuring that commerce between the states was kept "regular."

The Supreme Court finally came to its senses when it invalidated a congressional ban on illegal guns within 1,000 feet of public schools. In United States v. Lopez (1995), the Court ruled that the Commerce Clause may only be used by Congress to regulate human activity that is truly commercial at its core and that has not traditionally been regulated by the states. The movement of illegal guns from one state to another, the Court ruled, was criminal and not commercial at its core, and school safety has historically been a state function.

Applying these principles to President Barack Obama's health-care proposal, it's clear that his plan is unconstitutional at its core. The practice of medicine consists of the delivery of intimate services to the human body. In almost all instances, the delivery of medical services occurs in one place and does not move across interstate lines. One goes to a physician not to engage in commercial activity, as the Framers of the Constitution understood, but to improve one's health. And the practice of medicine, much like public school safety, has been regulated by states for the past century.

The same Congress that wants to tell family farmers what to grow in their backyards has declined "to keep regular" the commercial sale of insurance policies. It has permitted all 50 states to erect the type of barriers that the Commerce Clause was written precisely to tear down. Insurers are barred from selling policies to people in another state.

That's right: Congress refuses to keep commerce regular when the commercial activity is the sale of insurance, but claims it can regulate the removal of a person's appendix because that constitutes interstate commerce.

What we have here is raw abuse of power by the federal government for political purposes. The president and his colleagues want to reward their supporters with "free" health care that the rest of us will end up paying for. Their only restraint on their exercise of Commerce Clause power is whatever they can get away with. They aren't upholding the Constitution—they are evading it.

Mr. Napolitano, who served on the bench of the Superior Court of New Jersey between 1987 and 1995, is the senior judicial analyst at the Fox News Channel. His latest book is "Dred Scott's Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America" (Nelson, 2009).

23017  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madam, I'm Adam on: September 15, 2009, 07:44:51 AM
New Clues to Sex Anomalies in How Y Chromosomes Are Copied

NY Times
By NICHOLAS WADE
Published: September 14, 2009
The first words ever spoken, so fable holds, were a palindrome and an introduction: “Madam, I’m Adam.”


A few years ago palindromes — phrases that read the same backward as forward — turned out to be an essential protective feature of Adam’s Y, the male-determining chromosome that all living men have inherited from a single individual who lived some 60,000 years ago. Each man carries a Y from his father and an X chromosome from his mother. Women have two X chromosomes, one from each parent.

The new twist in the story is the discovery that the palindrome system has a simple weakness, one that explains a wide range of sex anomalies from feminization to sex reversal similar to Turner’s syndrome, the condition of women who carry only one X chromosome.

The palindromes were discovered in 2003 when the Y chromosome’s sequence of bases, represented by the familiar letters G, C, T and A, was first worked out by David C. Page of the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and colleagues at the DNA sequencing center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

They came as a total surprise but one that immediately explained a serious evolutionary puzzle, that of how the genes on the Y chromosome are protected from crippling mutations.

Unlike the other chromosomes, which can repair one another because they come in pairs, one from each parent, the Y has no evident backup system. Nature has prevented it from recombining with its partner, the X, except at its very tips, lest its male-determining gene should sneak into the X and cause genetic chaos.

Discovery of the palindromes explained how the Y chromosome has managed over evolutionary time to discard bad genes: it recombines with itself. Its essential genes are embedded in a series of eight giant palindromes, some up to three million DNA units in length. Each palindrome readily folds like a hairpin, bringing its two arms together. The cell’s DNA control machinery detects any difference between the two arms and can convert a mutation back to the correct sequence, saving the Y’s genes from mutational decay.

After Dr. Page discovered the palindromes, he wondered whether the system had weaknesses that might explain the male sex chromosome anomalies that are a major object of his studies. In the current issue of Cell, with Julian Lange and others, he describes what they call the “Achilles’ heel” of the Y chromosome and the wide variety of sexual disorders that it leads to.

The danger of the palindrome protection system occurs when a cell has duplicated all its chromosomes prior to cell division, and each pair is held together at a site called the centromere. Soon, the centromere will split, with each half and its chromosome tugged to opposite sides of the dividing cell.

Before the split, however, a serious error can occur. Palindromes on one Y chromosome can occasionally reach over and form a fatal attraction with the counterpart palindrome on its neighbor. The two Y’s fuse at the point of joining, and everything from the juncture to the end of the chromosome is lost

The double-Y’s so generated come in a range of lengths, depending on which of the palindromes makes the unintended liaison. Like other chromosomes, the Y has a left arm and a right arm with the centromere in between. The male-determining gene lies close to the end of the left arm. If the palindromes at the very end of the right arm make the join, a very long double-Y results in which the two centromeres are widely separated. But if the joining palindromes are just to the right of the centromere, a short double-Y is formed in which the two centromeres lie close together.

Dr. Page detected among his patients both short and long double-Y’s and those of all lengths in between. He and his colleagues then noticed a surprising difference in the patients’ sexual appearance that depended on the length between the centromeres of their double-Y’s.

The patients in whom the distance between the Y’s two centromeres is short are males. But the greater the distance between the centromeres, the more likely the patients are to be anatomically feminized. A few of the patients were so feminized that they had the symptoms of Turner’s syndrome, a condition in which women are born with a single X chromosome.

The explanation for this spectrum of results, in Dr. Page’s view, lies in how the double-Y’s are treated in dividing cells and in the consequences for determining the sex of the fetus.

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(Page 2 of 2)



When the centromeres are close together, they are seen as one and dragged to one side of the dividing cell. As long as the Y’s male-determining gene is active in the cells of the fetal sex tissue, or gonad, the gonads will turn into testes whose hormones will masculinize the rest of the body.


But when the centromeres lie far apart, chromosomal chaos results. During cell division, both centromeres are recognized by the cell division machinery, and in the tug of war the double-Y chromosome may sometimes survive and sometimes be broken and lost to the cell.

Such individuals can carry a mixture of cells, some of which carry a double-Y and some of which carry no Y chromosome. In the fetal gonads, that mixture of cells produces people of intermediate sex. In many of these cases the patients had been raised as female but had testicular tissue on one side of the body and ovarian tissue on the other.

In the extreme version of this process, the distribution of cells may be such that none of the fetal gonad cells possess a Y chromosome, even though other cells in the body may do so. Dr. Page and his colleagues found five of the feminized patients had symptoms typical of Turner’s syndrome. The patients had been brought to Dr. Page’s attention because their blood cells contained Y chromosomes. Evidently by the luck of the draw, the blood cell lineage had retained Y chromosomes but the all important fetal gonad cells had been denied them.

In 75 percent of women with Turner’s syndrome, the single X comes from the mother. “Since they are females, everyone imagines it’s Dad’s X that is missing,” Dr. Page said. “But it could easily be Dad’s Y.”

That the degree of feminization parallels the distance between the two centromeres of the double Y chromosome is “a fantastic experiment of nature,” Dr. Page said. Despite having studied the Y chromosome for nearly 30 years, he has learned that it is always full of surprises.

“I continue to see the Y as an infinitely rich national park where we go to see unusual things, and we are never disappointed,” he said.

Dr. Cynthia Morton, editor of the American Journal of Human Genetics, said the new explanation of Turner’s syndrome was plausible. “It’s another beautiful David Page contribution to the science of genetics,” Dr. Morton said.
23018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Crisis Suspended? on: September 15, 2009, 07:10:57 AM
I wonder if Stratfor should be considering the possiblity that our President is a clueless kitty?
====================

Iran: Crisis Suspended?
IT APPEARS THAT — FOR NOW, AT LEAST — A CRISIS OVER IRAN perhaps has been delayed. Still, a number of things are not sitting right as we re-examine the situation.

To review, the P-5+1 group (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China and Germany) set a Sept. 25 deadline for Iran to enter into serious negotiations over its nuclear program. Several days later, Israel — the country most threatened by a potentially nuclear-capable Iran — deliberately made public an agreement that it had cut with Washington: Either the West would get Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions by the end of September through diplomacy or “crippling sanctions,” or Israel’s military option would be taken into serious consideration. For Israel, this deadline certainly meant something.

” In spite of Iran’s attitude toward the deadline, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration announced Sept. 11 that it — along with the other P-5+1 powers — had accepted Tehran’s offer for unconditional talks. “
But Iran treated this deadline like the many deadlines it has circumvented in the past. First, the Iranian regime rejected the very idea of a deadline being imposed upon it. Then, more conciliatory statements were issued expressing the government’s desire to talk. Finally, just a few days before the deadline, Iran ceremoniously presented a proposal that made a mockery of Western demands. Washington made it abundantly clear that the proposal — which spoke of global nuclear disarmament, United Nations reform and everything but Iran’s nuclear program — was unsatisfactory. The Iranians evidently were not taking the deadline seriously.

But a funny thing happened over the weekend. In spite of Iran’s attitude toward the deadline, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration announced Sept. 11 that it — along with the other P-5+1 powers — had accepted Tehran’s offer for unconditional talks. A day later, Israel — which certainly is not blind to Iran’s maneuvers — also endorsed the decision to proceed with negotiations. In an interview with Reuters, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who is also minister of intelligence and atomic energy, talked around the issue of the now-defunct deadline and said that “the time is now” for the world powers to respond to the Iranian nuclear threat. At the same time, Meridor emphasized that he was not referring to military action.

On the surface, it appears that Iran has danced around yet another nuclear deadline. Since it likely will take more than two weeks to organize a meeting between the P-5+1 and Iran, the sanctions deadline has effectively been defused. It’s not clear to us whether Iran actually made concessions behind the scenes to kill this deadline and stave off sanctions, but the speed with which Washington agreed to talk strikes us as odd, especially considering how much the deadline meant to Israel and the manner in which Iran appeared to have blown it off.

Israel must be watched closely in the weeks ahead. Israel’s patience for Iranian maneuvers has run out. Just as importantly, in contrast to the Obama administration, the Israelis know well that Russia is absolutely critical to any plans concerning Iran. Not only do the Russians retain the threat of selling strategic weapons to Tehran — which would complicate any future military operations against Iran’s nuclear facilities — but they have the ability to blow apart the U.S.-led sanctions regime by supplying gasoline to Iran itself, or through former Soviet surrogates like Turkmenistan. Considering how sour relations have become between Russia and the United States, the Israel can clearly see the potential for Moscow to up the ante with Washington by playing its Iran card.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu probably had all this in mind when he flew secretly to Moscow for a 14-hour visit Sept. 7, where he reportedly spoke frankly with Russia’s core leadership. According to STRATFOR sources, Netanyahu was trying to get a read on Moscow’s intentions toward Iran, but Russia’s response was not exactly comforting. Russia’s main dispute is with the United States and its apparent disregard for Moscow’s influence in the former Soviet periphery. Netanyahu apparently was told that if he wants Russia to back off on Iran, Israel will have to stay out of Russia’s way in places like Ukraine and Georgia (which have strong defense relationships with Israel) and also get Israel’s allies in Washington to start taking Russian demands more seriously.

Israel apparently got the message. Speaking on behalf of Netanyahu’s cabinet, in accepting the P-5+1 talks with Iran, Meridor said, “I don’t think Russia has an interest in a nuclear Iran. Maybe they want to be considered as a partner, not to be told what to do. I am not for or against the Russians. I am saying they are important elements. They have an important role in the world. Communism might be dead. Russia is not.”

This view starkly contrasts the message that has been put out by the Obama administration regarding Russian strength. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in particular, enraged the Kremlin when he essentially wrote off Russia as a power too economically and demographically challenged to pose a real threat to the West any longer. It remains to be seen whether Israel can convince Washington of Russia’s leverage over Iran.

So, we are left with several disjointed realities. The Israelis understand Russian leverage concerning Iran, and they were promised crippling sanctions against Iran by Washington. Instead, Israel appears to be getting another diplomatic song and dance from Iran to buy time for its nuclear program. It would seem, then, that Israeli concerns over Iran’s nuclear program are unlikely to be satisfied anytime soon, or by another round of diplomacy.

There are a lot of moving parts that need to be tracked in this Iran saga, but in such uncertain times — and with so much at stake — potential military maneuvers will bear considerable watching amid the political rhetoric.
23019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson, 1790 on: September 15, 2009, 06:56:42 AM
Love having you kick in on this thread Freki  cool
============

"Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge." --James Wilson, Of the Study of the Law in the United States, 1790
23020  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A good night's sleep can be a challenge on: September 15, 2009, 06:55:08 AM


http://niemann.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/14/good-night-and-tough-luck/?th&emc=th
23021  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Second Amendment Sources on: September 15, 2009, 06:40:39 AM


http://www.madisonbrigade.com/library_ff.htm

==========

http://www.gunscholar.org/

=========

http://www.davekopel.com/2dAmendment.htm#History_and_Philosopy
23022  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 14, 2009, 08:11:38 PM
Sheep Dog tells me he is sending in his registration tomorrw!  cool
23023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 14, 2009, 07:43:24 PM
 cool cool cool
23024  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CA Ammo on: September 14, 2009, 06:56:06 PM

CA members, please be aware that our Legislature passed AB962 on Friday.

Among other things, AB962 requires the fingerprinting of ammo purchasers and bans all handgun ammo sales which are not "face-to-face" (i.e. mail-order and internet sales).

In addition to handgun cartridges, AB962 is probably applicable to 'dual-use' handgun/rifle (e.g. .22LR) calibers as well. It may also apply to magazines and bullets, since "ammunition" is defined by existing law as:

"...any bullet, cartridge, magazine, clip, speed loader, autoloader, or projectile capable of being fired from a firearm with deadly consequence."

Please contact Governor Schwarzenegger and politely ask him to veto the bill. If he does not veto the bill within 30 days, it will become law.

For additional information:
http://calnra.com/legs.shtml?year=2009&summary=ab962
http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...d.php?t=221473

Contact information for Gov. Schwarzenegger:

Email:
http://gov.ca.gov/interact#email

Phone:
916-445-2841

Fax:
916-558-3160

Mailing Address:
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Here are some posts from calguns.net discussing effective talking points:

http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...2&postcount=50
http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...9&postcount=68
http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...9&postcount=71
http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...&postcount=111
http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...&postcount=136
http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...&postcount=164
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/..._sen_comm.html (scroll down to "Fiscal Impact")
23025  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brit officer makes bayonet kill in Afg on: September 14, 2009, 04:19:52 PM
A British Lieutenant and his bayonet

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By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
Published: 9:00PM BST 12 Sep 2009

British officer wins two gallantry awards for fending off Taliban attack with bayonet

A young British officer, Lieutenant James Adamson, who won two gallantry awards while serving in Afghanistan has told how he fended off an enemy attack by bayoneting a Taliban fighter to death.
Lieutenant James Adamson was awarded the Military Cross after killing two insurgents during close quarter combat in Helmand's notorious "Green Zone".

The 24-year-old officer, a member of the 5th battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, revealed that he shouted "have some of this" before shooting dead a gunman who had just emerged from a maize field.
Lt Adamson, who is single and comes from the Isle of Man, was moving between two eight man sections when a group of Taliban fighters attempted a flanking attack

Seconds later and out of ammunition, the lieutenant leapt over a river bank and killed a second insurgent machine-gunner with a single thrust of his bayonet in the man's chest.
The officer was one of 145 members of the armed services who last week received awards in the latest Operational Honours list.
In a graphic description of the intense fighting in Helmand, the officer told of the moment killed the second fighter. He said: "It was a split second decision.
"I either wasted vital seconds changing the magazine on my rifle or went over the top and did it more quickly with the bayonet.
"I took the second option. I jumped up over the bank of the river. He was just over the other side, almost touching distance.
"We caught each other's eye as I went towards him but by then, for him, it was too late. There was no inner monologue going on in my head I was just reacting in the way that I was trained.
"He was alive when it went in – he wasn't alive when it came out – it was that simple."
Recalling his feelings in the moments afterwards Lt Adamson, said: "He was young, with dark hair. He only had kind of whispy hair on his chin, not a proper beard, so he wasn't that old, maybe a teenager.
"Afterwards, when he was dead, I picked up his PKM (Russian-made belt-fed machine gun) machine gun and slung it over my back.
"We then had to wait for more of my men to join us. We thought there could be more Taliban about and we were just watching our arcs of fire, waiting for more to come out of a big field of maize which came right up to the river we had been wading through.
"One of my men, Corporal Billy Carnegie, reached us, looked at the two dead Taliban on the ground and then saw the blood on my bayonet and said "boss what the **** have you been doing?"
The firefight, in July 2008, began during the middle an operation to push the Taliban out of an area close to the town of Musa Qala in northern Helmand.
Lt Adamson's platoon of 25-men, which was leading the assault, had just halted their advance when they were attacked.

He continued: "The Taliban kept on probing us – sending in fighters to attack, first in twos then in fours.
"There was a gap between the two sections and the Taliban realised this and were sending in men to get between the two groups so they could split us up and isolate us.
"Myself and Corporal Fraser 'Hammy' Hamilton were wading nipple deep down a river which connected the two positions. Hammy was ahead when the Taliban fighter with the PKM (Russian machine gun) appeared from a maize field.
"There was an exchange of fire and 'Hammy' fired off his ammunition and then the weight of fire coming from the Taliban forced him under the water.
"The machine-gunner had also gone to ground but was still firing in our direction periodically. I had just caught up when 'Hammy' came up out of the water like a monster of the deep.
"Then another Taliban man came through the maize carrying an AK47. He was only three to four metres away.
"I immediately shot him with a burst from my rifle which was already set on automatic. He went down straight away and I knew I had hit him.
"Hammy said I shouted: 'have some of this' as I shot him but I can't remember that. I fired another burst at the PKM gunner and then that was me out of ammunition as well.
"That was when I decided to use the bayonet on him. It was a case of one second to bayonet him or two seconds to put on a fresh magazine.
"Nothing was really going through my mind but briefly I did think 'if this works out the boys will love it' – as in the rest of the platoon that I commanded.
"The undergrowth is so dense in the 'Green zone' that I often ordered bayonets fixed because you knew the distances between you and the Taliban could be very short. It is also good for morale."
His Military Cross citation read: "Adamson's supreme physical courage, combined with the calm leadership he continued to display after a very close encounter with the Taliban, were of the very highest order.
"His actions also neutralised an enemy flanking attack which could have resulted in casualties for his platoon."
Two weeks earlier Lt Adamson had won a Mention in Dispatches (MID) by leading his men in an ambush against the Taliban in the same area.
It is understood that the young lieutenant is the first member of the armed forces to receive two awards for gallantry during the same operational tour.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...h-bayonet.html
23026  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Fact checking His Glibness on: September 14, 2009, 10:02:12 AM
By SCOTT HARRINGTON
In his speech to Congress last week, President Barack Obama attempted to sell a reform agenda by demonizing the private health-insurance industry, which many people love to hate. He opened the attack by asserting: "More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care. It happens every day."

Clearly, this should never happen to anyone who is in good standing with his insurance company and has abided by the terms of the policy. But the president's examples of people "dropped" by their insurance companies involve the rescission of policies based on misrepresentation or concealment of information in applications for coverage. Private health insurance cannot function if people buy insurance only after they become seriously ill, or if they knowingly conceal health conditions that might affect their policy.


 .Traditional practice, governed by decades of common law, statute and regulation is for insurers to rely in underwriting and pricing on the truthfulness of the information provided by applicants about their health, without conducting a costly investigation of each applicant's health history. Instead, companies engage in a certain degree of ex post auditing—conducting more detailed and costly reviews of a subset of applications following policy issue—including when expensive treatment is sought soon after a policy is issued.

This practice offers substantial cost savings and lower premiums compared to trying to verify every application before issuing a policy, or simply paying all claims, regardless of the accuracy and completeness of the applicant's disclosure. Some states restrict insurer rescission rights to instances where the misrepresented or concealed information is directly related to the illness that produced the claim. Most states do not.

To highlight abusive practices, Mr. Obama referred to an Illinois man who "lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about." The president continued: "They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it."

Although the president has used this example previously, his conclusion is contradicted by the transcript of a June 16 hearing on industry practices before the Subcommittee of Oversight and Investigation of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The deceased's sister testified that the insurer reinstated her brother's coverage following intervention by the Illinois Attorney General's Office. She testified that her brother received a prescribed stem-cell transplant within the desired three- to four-week "window of opportunity" from "one of the most renowned doctors in the whole world on the specific routine," that the procedure "was extremely successful," and that "it extended his life nearly three and a half years."

The president's second example was a Texas woman "about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne." He said that "By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer more than doubled in size."

The woman's testimony at the June 16 hearing confirms that her surgery was delayed several months. It also suggests that the dermatologist's chart may have described her skin condition as precancerous, that the insurer also took issue with an apparent failure to disclose an earlier problem with an irregular heartbeat, and that she knowingly underreported her weight on the application.

These two cases are presumably among the most egregious identified by Congressional staffers' analysis of 116,000 pages of documents from three large health insurers, which identified a total of about 20,000 rescissions from millions of policies issued by the insurers over a five-year period. Company representatives testified that less than one half of one percent of policies were rescinded (less than 0.1% for one of the companies).

If existing laws and litigation governing rescission are inadequate, there clearly are a variety of ways that the states or federal government could target abuses without adopting the president's agenda for federal control of health insurance, or the creation of a government health insurer.

Later in his speech, the president used Alabama to buttress his call for a government insurer to enhance competition in health insurance. He asserted that 90% of the Alabama health-insurance market is controlled by one insurer, and that high market concentration "makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly—by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest; by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage; and by jacking up rates."

In fact, the Birmingham News reported immediately following the speech that the state's largest health insurer, the nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, has about a 75% market share. A representative of the company indicated that its "profit" averaged only 0.6% of premiums the past decade, and that its administrative expense ratio is 7% of premiums, the fourth lowest among 39 Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans nationwide.

Similarly, a Dec. 31, 2007, report by the Alabama Department of Insurance indicates that the insurer's ratio of medical-claim costs to premiums for the year was 92%, with an administrative expense ratio (including claims settlement expenses) of 7.5%. Its net income, including investment income, was equivalent to 2% of premiums in that year.

In addition to these consumer friendly numbers, a survey in Consumer Reports this month reported that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama ranked second nationally in customer satisfaction among 41 preferred provider organization health plans. The insurer's apparent efficiency may explain its dominance, as opposed to a lack of competition—especially since there are no obvious barriers to entry or expansion in Alabama faced by large national health insurers such as United Healthcare and Aetna.

Responsible reform requires careful analysis of the underlying causes of problems in health insurance and informed debate over the benefits and costs of targeted remedies. The president's continued demonization of private health insurance in pursuit of his broad agenda of government expansion is inconsistent with that objective.

Mr. Harrington is professor of health-care management and insurance and risk management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
23027  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda NY (a.k.a. NY Times) on: September 14, 2009, 08:53:12 AM
U.S. Is Finding Its Role in Business Hard to Unwind
Pravda NY is surprised to discover that putting the toothpaste back in the tube is tough to do , , ,


ND L. ANDREWS and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: September 13, 2009
WASHINGTON — When President Obama travels to Wall Street on Monday to speak from Federal Hall, where the founders once argued bitterly over how much the government should control the national economy, he is likely to cast himself as a “reluctant shareholder” in America’s biggest industries and financial institutions.


But one year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers set off a series of federal interventions, the government is the nation’s biggest lender, insurer, automaker and guarantor against risk for investors large and small.

Between financial rescue missions and the economic stimulus program, government spending accounts for a bigger share of the nation’s economy — 26 percent — than at any time since World War II. The government is financing 9 out of 10 new mortgages in the United States. If you buy a car from General Motors, you are buying from a company that is 60 percent owned by the government.

If you take out a car loan or run up your credit card, the chances are good that the government is financing both your debt and that of your bank.

And if you buy life insurance from the American International Group, you will be buying from a company that is almost 80 percent federally owned.

Mr. Obama plans to argue, his aides say, that these government intrusions will be temporary. At the same time, however, he will push hard for an increased government role in overseeing the financial system to prevent a repeat of the excesses that caused the crisis.

“These were extraordinary provisions of support, not part of a permanent program,” said Lawrence H. Summers, director of the National Economic Council at the White House. “You’re seeing a process of exit every day. It’s a process that’s going to take quite some time, but the prospects are much brighter today than they were nine months ago.”

That process unfolds every day in a bland bureaucrat’s haven, an annex connected by an underground tunnel to the Treasury’s main building on Pennsylvania Avenue. There, about 200 civil servants — accountants, lawyers, former investment bankers — oversee the $700 billion program that pumps taxpayer money into banks, insurance companies and two of Detroit’s Big Three auto companies.

In the main Treasury building, senior officials hold veto power over executive pay packages for the biggest recipients of government loans, like Citigroup and Bank of America. A separate group, working closely with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, oversees the multibillion-dollar bailout of American International Group. Ten blocks away, at the Federal Reserve, officials are still providing the emergency liquidity that keeps a battered economy moving.

To Mr. Obama’s critics, thousands of whom took to the streets of Washington this weekend to protest a new era of big government, all these efforts are part of a plan to dismantle free-market capitalism. On the ground it looks quite different, as a new president and his team try to define the proper role, both as owners and regulators.

A Light Hand on the Reins

Far from eagerly micromanaging the companies the government owns, Mr. Obama and his economic team have often labored mightily to avoid exercising control even when government money was the only thing keeping some companies afloat.

A few weeks ago, there were anguished grimaces inside the Treasury Department as the new chief executive of A.I.G., Robert H. Benmosche, whose roughly $9 million pay package is 22 times greater than Mr. Obama’s, ridiculed officials in Washington — his majority shareholders — as “crazies.”

Causing even more unease to policymakers, Mr. Benmosche insisted that A.I.G. — one of the worst offenders in the risk-taking that sent the nation over the edge last year — would not rush to sell its businesses at fire-sale prices, despite pressure from Fed and Treasury officials, who are desperate to have the insurer repay its $180 billion government bailout.

But in the end, according to one senior official, “no one called him and told him to shut up,” and no one has pulled rank and told him to sell assets as soon as possible to repay the loans.

A similar hands-off decision was made about the auto companies. Shortly after General Motors and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, some members of the administration’s auto task force argued that the group should not go out of business until it was confident that a new management team in Detroit had a handle on what needed to be done.

But Mr. Summers strongly rejected that approach, and the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, agreed.

“The argument was that if the president said he wasn’t elected to run G.M., then we couldn’t hire a new board and then try to run any aspect of it,” one participant in the discussions said. The auto task force took off for summer vacation in July, and it never returned.

But it will probably be several years before the government can begin to sell its stake in G.M. back to the public, and even then, according a report issued last week by the independent monitor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, some of the $20 billion or so funneled to G.M. and Chrysler is probably gone forever.

Winding Down Programs

By contrast, Mr. Obama’s team and the Federal Reserve have been more successful than generally recognized at winding down many of the support programs for banks. Nearly three dozen financial institutions have repaid $70 billion in loans to the Treasury, and officials predict that $50 billion more will be repaid over the next 18 months. Indeed, the government has earned tidy profit on the first round of repayments.

One of the biggest backstops has been the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which now guarantees about $300 billion worth of bonds issued by banks.

==========

U.S. Is Finding Its Role in Business Hard to Unwind


Published: September 13, 2009
(Page 2 of 2)



The volume of new guarantees has declined to less than $5 billion a month in August from more than $90 billion a month earlier this year. The F.D.I.C. announced last week that it would either end the program entirely on Oct. 31 or reduce it further by substantially increasing the fees that banks have to pay.


Similarly, one of the Fed’s biggest emergency loan programs, the Term Auction Facility, has shrunk by more than half in the last 12 months. A second big program, which finances short-term i.o.u.’s for businesses, has shrunk to $124 billion, from $332 billion a year ago.

Obama administration officials bristle at even the hint that their rescue measures have ushered in a new era of “big government.”

But supporters and critics alike worry that it will be difficult to shrink the government to anything like its former role. For one thing, Mr. Obama is determined to expand government regulation of business and to beef up federal protections for consumers.

Seeking More Oversight

Mr. Obama’s proposals to overhaul the system of financial regulation would give the Fed new powers to supervise giant financial institutions whose failure could threaten the entire financial system.

To limit the dangers posed by insolvent institutions that are “too big to fail,” the F.D.I.C. would receive new authority to close them in an orderly way.

The administration would impose much tougher regulation over the vast market for financial derivatives like credit-default swaps and other exotic instruments for hedging risk.

It would also create an entirely new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would have broad power to regulate most forms of consumer lending.

In his speech on Monday, White House officials say, Mr. Obama will step up pressure on Wall Street to accept tougher oversight. Even though his proposals have made little headway in Congress, largely because of the battle over health care, Democratic lawmakers said they were determined to pass comprehensive legislation by next year.

“Big government now is the consequence of too little government before,” said Representative Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. “What you have right now, with the government owning companies, is the result of insufficient regulation before.”

On a practical level, experts say it will take years for the government to unwind some of its rescue programs.

Thanks to the mortgage crisis and the collapse in housing prices, private investors have fled the mortgage market, and the federal government now finances about 9 out of 10 new home loans in the United States.

The Treasury took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored finance companies that own or have guaranteed more than $5 trillion in mortgages, in the first week of September 2008. Fannie and Freddie now buy or guarantee almost two-thirds of all new mortgages. The Federal Housing Administration guarantees another 25 percent.

The cost of keeping the two giant companies afloat has been huge. The Treasury has provided Fannie and Freddie with $95 billion to cover losses tied to soaring default rates and losses in value on their own mortgage portfolios. Analysts predict that the companies will need considerably more in the year ahead. At the same time, the Fed is buying almost all the new mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the F.H.A. Buying up those securities drives up their price and pushes down their effective interest rates, and ultimately lowers borrowing costs to homebuyers.

An Enormous Scale

The scale of the Fed’s intervention has been staggering. The central bank has acquired more than $700 billion in mortgage-backed securities so far, and officials have said they will buy up to $1.25 trillion — a goal that should take the Fed until early next year. To help Fannie and Freddie raise the money they need to buy mortgages from lenders, the Fed is also buying $200 billion of their bonds.

All told, the government is propping up almost the entire mortgage market and, by extension, the housing industry.

As the government backs away from its rescue operations, economists and others worry about unknown consequences. Some analysts are already predicting that mortgage rates will bump higher when the Fed stops buying mortgage securities, potentially delaying a recovery in housing.

But the much bigger puzzle is how the government will untangle Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with their combustible mix of taxpayer support, public policy goals and for-profit structures.

“It will be very difficult to unwind, having stepped in as big as they did,” said Howard Glaser, a senior housing official during the Clinton administration and now an industry consultant in Washington. “There is no structure, no mechanism, for private investors to come back into the market.”

Other experts and policy makers have begun to raise broader concerns. Even if the Obama administration and the Fed do manage to shrink the government’s role to precrisis levels, has the government’s immense rescue simply set the stage for more frequent interventions in the future?

“This crisis, whether it’s because of the Fed or the Treasury or Congress, has created a lot of new moral hazards,” said Charles I. Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. “Once you have done this once, even though it was in a severe crisis, the temptation will be for people to figure that in the next crisis you’ll do it again. You’ve got to figure out a way to say no.”
23028  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A hoax on: September 14, 2009, 07:41:08 AM
 California Bombing Hoax Bought By Germans

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http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/09/bluewater/

I wonder how a real group could use hoaxes?

FRANKFURT — All of Germany was bamboozled Thursday by a bizarre scheme that tricked the country’s main wire service into reporting an attempted suicide bombing in a California town — an attack supposedly perpetrated by a non-existent rap group called the “Berlin Boys.”
How they did it: A team of publicity seeking hoaxers fooled Germany’s wire service into reporting on a fake suicide bombing in California allegedly perpetrated by German rappers.
1. First the tricksters set up a website for a fake California city called Bluewater and a fake TV station there. On the websites, they listed California telephone numbers — but those went directly to the hoaxsters’ German Skype accounts. They also created a Wikipedia article that confirmed the existence of the station.
2. A hysterical “reporter” from the fake TV station called German newsrooms reporting a suicide attacks, and directed them to the fake websites. German journalists called the phone numbers for “officials” listed on the sites to confirm the stories. Of course, those numbers connected straight to the hoaxsters.
3. The DPA – the German equivalent of the Associated Press – put the story up on its newswire. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office was quickly flooded with phone calls from German reporters trying to confirm the suicide bombing.
4. Within 30 minutes, the DPA took down their story. But the damage was done. Later, the hoaxsters sent out a press release announcing what they did.

The work of German filmmakers peddling a satirical movie called Short Cut to Hollywood, the elaborate hoax involved at least two faked websites, a faked Wikipedia entry and California phone numbers for “public safety” officials that were actually being answered by hoaxsters in Germany using Skype.
The hoax has transfixed this country. It prompted a 1,000-word tome on the website of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s most respected newspaper, and even a press conference denouncing the incident by the DPA – the German wire service responsible for first disseminating the news about the “attack.”
The hoax’s effect was felt thousands of miles away, as a flood of concerned phone calls from Germany jammed the switchboards at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office, which has jurisdiction over the supposed bombing site in California.


“This is frustrating and a waste of our resources,” said office spokesman Arden Wiltshire, who was awakened at 5 a.m. Thursday to try and sort out the crisis. Wiltshire worries that dispatchers could have missed important calls to deal with the Germans.
“We’re sorry for what happened; we, too, were victimized,” said Justus Demmer, a DPA spokesman. “What we have learned today is if there’s someone committed to betray you, it’s very hard to stop it.”


The hoax began Thursday when a man identifying himself as California TV journalist Rainer Petersen called Germany’s largest news services to report the rap group’s arrest. He directed journalists to websites for “KVPK News” and the “City of Bluewater.”


The Bluewater website listed California telephone numbers for city services, while the KVPK site hosted faux English-language TV news reports about the bombing.


But Bluewater isn’t a city at all: It’s a large unincorporated swath of land straddling the Arizona-California state line, with the California side patrolled by San Bernardino County’s deputies. The Berlin Boys don’t exist in real life, and neither does KVPK.


That didn’t stop the DPA from running the headline: “Attack in Small California Town.”


That’s when the trickle of calls to the Sheriff’s office became a barrage, prompting dispatchers to wake Wiltshire – something only done for a major crisis, like the shooting of an officer.


The DPA corrected the report about half an hour later, but by then it was too late. The assault on dispatchers paralyzed officials through the night, even after the pranksters sent out a press release that made it clear the whole stunt was an elaborate hoax to promote a short film.
23029  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Webster on education, 1790 on: September 14, 2009, 07:35:27 AM
"It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country." --Noah Webster, On Education of Youth in America, 1790
23030  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Warriors in action on: September 13, 2009, 08:34:33 PM
 A British Lieutenant and his bayonet

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By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
Published: 9:00PM BST 12 Sep 2009

British officer wins two gallantry awards for fending off Taliban attack with bayonet

A young British officer, Lieutenant James Adamson, who won two gallantry awards while serving in Afghanistan has told how he fended off an enemy attack by bayoneting a Taliban fighter to death.
Lieutenant James Adamson was awarded the Military Cross after killing two insurgents during close quarter combat in Helmand's notorious "Green Zone".

The 24-year-old officer, a member of the 5th battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, revealed that he shouted "have some of this" before shooting dead a gunman who had just emerged from a maize field.
Lt Adamson, who is single and comes from the Isle of Man, was moving between two eight man sections when a group of Taliban fighters attempted a flanking attack

Seconds later and out of ammunition, the lieutenant leapt over a river bank and killed a second insurgent machine-gunner with a single thrust of his bayonet in the man's chest.
The officer was one of 145 members of the armed services who last week received awards in the latest Operational Honours list.
In a graphic description of the intense fighting in Helmand, the officer told of the moment killed the second fighter. He said: "It was a split second decision.
"I either wasted vital seconds changing the magazine on my rifle or went over the top and did it more quickly with the bayonet.
"I took the second option. I jumped up over the bank of the river. He was just over the other side, almost touching distance.
"We caught each other's eye as I went towards him but by then, for him, it was too late. There was no inner monologue going on in my head I was just reacting in the way that I was trained.
"He was alive when it went in – he wasn't alive when it came out – it was that simple."
Recalling his feelings in the moments afterwards Lt Adamson, said: "He was young, with dark hair. He only had kind of whispy hair on his chin, not a proper beard, so he wasn't that old, maybe a teenager.
"Afterwards, when he was dead, I picked up his PKM (Russian-made belt-fed machine gun) machine gun and slung it over my back.
"We then had to wait for more of my men to join us. We thought there could be more Taliban about and we were just watching our arcs of fire, waiting for more to come out of a big field of maize which came right up to the river we had been wading through.
"One of my men, Corporal Billy Carnegie, reached us, looked at the two dead Taliban on the ground and then saw the blood on my bayonet and said "boss what the **** have you been doing?"
The firefight, in July 2008, began during the middle an operation to push the Taliban out of an area close to the town of Musa Qala in northern Helmand.
Lt Adamson's platoon of 25-men, which was leading the assault, had just halted their advance when they were attacked.

He continued: "The Taliban kept on probing us – sending in fighters to attack, first in twos then in fours.
"There was a gap between the two sections and the Taliban realised this and were sending in men to get between the two groups so they could split us up and isolate us.
"Myself and Corporal Fraser 'Hammy' Hamilton were wading nipple deep down a river which connected the two positions. Hammy was ahead when the Taliban fighter with the PKM (Russian machine gun) appeared from a maize field.
"There was an exchange of fire and 'Hammy' fired off his ammunition and then the weight of fire coming from the Taliban forced him under the water.
"The machine-gunner had also gone to ground but was still firing in our direction periodically. I had just caught up when 'Hammy' came up out of the water like a monster of the deep.
"Then another Taliban man came through the maize carrying an AK47. He was only three to four metres away.
"I immediately shot him with a burst from my rifle which was already set on automatic. He went down straight away and I knew I had hit him.
"Hammy said I shouted: 'have some of this' as I shot him but I can't remember that. I fired another burst at the PKM gunner and then that was me out of ammunition as well.
"That was when I decided to use the bayonet on him. It was a case of one second to bayonet him or two seconds to put on a fresh magazine.
"Nothing was really going through my mind but briefly I did think 'if this works out the boys will love it' – as in the rest of the platoon that I commanded.
"The undergrowth is so dense in the 'Green zone' that I often ordered bayonets fixed because you knew the distances between you and the Taliban could be very short. It is also good for morale."
His Military Cross citation read: "Adamson's supreme physical courage, combined with the calm leadership he continued to display after a very close encounter with the Taliban, were of the very highest order.
"His actions also neutralised an enemy flanking attack which could have resulted in casualties for his platoon."
Two weeks earlier Lt Adamson had won a Mention in Dispatches (MID) by leading his men in an ambush against the Taliban in the same area.
It is understood that the young lieutenant is the first member of the armed forces to receive two awards for gallantry during the same operational tour.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...h-bayonet.html
23031  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Urgent call on: September 13, 2009, 06:08:38 PM
My friend and DBMA representative in Mexico City, Mexico is coming to this his second Gathering.  Making the trip is a real stretch for him financially.  Is there someone who can put him on a sofa/floor/gym mat etc?  He arrives Thursday.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.
23032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 13, 2009, 09:24:13 AM
U.S. to Expand Review of Detainees in Afghan Prison Sign in to Recommend
ERIC SCHMITT

Published: September 12, 2009
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration soon plans to issue new guidelines aimed at giving the hundreds of prisoners at an American detention center in Afghanistan significantly more ability to challenge their custody, Pentagon officials and detainee advocates say.

The new Pentagon guidelines would assign a United States military official to each of the roughly 600 detainees at the American-run prison at the Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. These officials would not be lawyers but could for the first time gather witnesses and evidence, including classified material, on behalf of the detainees to challenge their detention in proceedings before a military-appointed review board.

Some of the detainees have already been held at Bagram for as long as six years. And unlike the prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba, these detainees have had no access to lawyers, no right to hear the allegations against them and only rudimentary reviews of their status as “enemy combatants,” military officials said.

The changes, which are expected to be announced as early as this week after an obligatory Congressional review, come as the Obama administration is picking through the detention policies and practices of the Bush administration, to determine what it will keep and what it will abandon in an effort to distance itself from some of the harsher approaches used under President George W. Bush. Human rights groups and prisoner advocates cautiously hailed the policy changes but said the government’s track record in this area had been so poor that they wanted to see concrete results before making hard judgments.

The decision has an immediately pragmatic side, too, coming as the administration is preparing to appeal a federal judge’s ruling in April that some Bagram prisoners brought in from outside Afghanistan have a right to challenge their imprisonment.

Some of the changes in the American detention policies are already under way. The Pentagon is closing the decrepit Bagram prison and replacing it this fall with a new 40-acre complex that officials say will be more modern and humane. In a recent policy reversal, the military for the first time is notifying the International Committee of the Red Cross of the identities of militants who were being held in secret at a camp in Iraq and another in Afghanistan run by United States Special Operations forces.

The Bagram prison has become an ominous symbol for Afghans — a place where harsh interrogation methods and sleep deprivation were used routinely in its early years, and where two Afghan detainees died in 2002 after being beaten by American soldiers and hung by their arms from the ceilings of isolation cells. Bagram also became a holding site for terrorism suspects captured outside Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since July, the prisoners at Bagram have refused to leave their cells to shower, meet with family members or Red Cross officials, or take part in other activities, to protest their indefinite imprisonment, human rights advocates said.

Pentagon officials said the new guidelines governing each detainee’s custody status reflect a broader shift to separate extremist militants from more moderate detainees instead of having them mixed together as they are now.

“We don’t want to hold anyone we don’t have to hold,” said one Defense Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the guidelines have not been formally announced. “It’s just about doing the right thing.”

The official declined to estimate how many detainees might be freed once they have new evidence and witnesses to testify on their behalf.

Sahr MuhammedAlly, a senior associate for law and security at the advocacy group Human Rights First who in April interviewed several former Bagram detainees in Afghanistan, called the proposed changes an improvement. But she said that “it remains to be seen whether they’ll be able to prevent arbitrary and indefinite detention.”

Tina Foster, the executive director of the International Justice Network, which is representing four Bagram detainees in a pending court case, expressed deep reservations.

“On paper, it appears they’re going to be changes that will allow detainees more opportunity to present their side of the story,” Ms. Foster said in a telephone interview. “But I think the procedures are just words on pieces of paper unless someone is there to ensure they’re being followed and the detainee has the ability to understand them and avail themselves of them.”

Military officials and human rights advocates also said there were questions about how quickly and comprehensively the guidelines could be put into practice, given concerns about shortages of qualified personnel to represent the detainees.

The changes have come as the administration is expected as early as Monday to file a formal written brief explaining its opposition to a ruling by a federal district judge, John D. Bates, in April. In it, he ruled that three detainees at Bagram had the same legal rights that the Supreme Court last year granted to prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay.

The prisoners — two Yemenis and a Tunisian — say that they were captured outside Afghanistan and taken to Bagram, and that they have been held for more than six years without trials. Arguing that they were not enemy combatants, the detainees want a civilian judge to review the evidence against them and order their release, under the constitutional right of habeas corpus.

The Obama administration, like the Bush administration, has rejected this argument. Officials say the importance of Bagram as a holding site for terrorism suspects captured outside Afghanistan and Iraq has risen under the Obama administration, which barred the Central Intelligence Agency from using its secret prisons for long-term detention and ordered the military prison at Guantánamo closed within a year.

The new policy guidelines will bolster the government’s case, said the Defense Department official, who added, “We want to be able to go into court and say we have good review procedures.”

The Obama administration had sought to preserve Bagram as a haven where it could detain terrorism suspects beyond the reach of American courts, agreeing with the Bush administration’s view that courts had no jurisdiction over detainees there.
23033  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / You ever hear of a thing called an alarm clock? on: September 13, 2009, 07:38:37 AM
Giving Ramadan a Drumroll in Brooklyn at 4 A.M. 
Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times
Mohammad Boota has been drumming in Brooklyn to wake Muslim worshipers during Ramadan since 2002.

Published: September 12, 2009
A few hours before dawn, when most New Yorkers are fast asleep, a middle-aged man rolls out of bed in Brooklyn, dons a billowy red outfit and matching turban, climbs into his Lincoln Town Car, drives 15 minutes, pulls out a big drum and — there on the sidewalk of a residential neighborhood — starts to play.

Mohammad Boota plays in 20-second bursts outside Pakistani businesses in Brooklyn, as he did at Bismillah Food last month. He has learned that not everyone appreciates his services.
The man, Mohammad Boota, is a Ramadan drummer. Every morning during the holy month, which ends on Sept. 21, drummers stroll the streets of Muslim communities around the world, waking worshipers so they can eat a meal before the day’s fasting begins.

But New York City, renowned for welcoming all manner of cultural traditions, has limits to its hospitality. And so Mr. Boota, a Pakistani immigrant, has spent the past several years learning uncomfortable lessons about noise-complaint hot lines, American profanity and the particular crankiness of non-Muslims rousted from sleep at 3:30 a.m.

“Everywhere they complain,” he said. “People go, like, ‘What the hell? What you doing, man?’ They never know it’s Ramadan.”

Mr. Boota, 53, who immigrated in 1992 and earns his living as a limousine driver, began waking Brooklynites in 2002. At first he moved freely around the borough, picking a neighborhood to work each Ramadan morning.

Not everyone was thrilled, he said. People would throw open their windows and yell at him, or call the police, who, he said, advised him kindly to move along.

As the years went by, he and his barrel drum were effectively banned from one neighborhood after another. He now restricts himself to a short stretch of Coney Island Avenue where many Pakistanis live.

Fearing that even that limited turf may be threatened real estate for him, he has modified his approach even further — playing at well below his customary volume, for only about 15 to 20 seconds in each location, and only once every three or four days.

The complaints have stopped, he said. But as he reflected on his early years of drumming in the streets of New York — before he knew better — wistfulness seeped into his voice. He rattled off the places he used to play, however briefly: “Avenue C, Newkirk Avenue, Ditmas, Foster, Avenue H, I, J and Neptune Avenue.”

“You know,” he reluctantly concluded, “in the United States you can’t do anything without a permit.”

Mr. Boota wants to be a good American, and a good Muslim. “I don’t want to bother other communities’ people,” he said. “Just the Pakistani people.”

Several prominent Muslim organizations in New York said they knew of no other drummers who played on Ramadan mornings. But while the custom’s usefulness has been largely eclipsed by the invention of the alarm clock, it has hung on in many places. Indeed, Mr. Boota said he continues the practice, in spite of the challenges and resistance, as much to keep a tradition alive as to feed a cultural yen of his countrymen.

“They’re waiting for me,” he said.

The daily Ramadan fast runs from the start of dawn to dusk. So shortly after 3 one recent morning, Mr. Boota left his wife, Mumtaz, as she prepared a predawn meal in their Coney Island apartment. About 15 minutes later he pulled his Lincoln to a stop in front of Bismillah Food, a small Pakistani grocery store on Coney Island Avenue, near Foster Avenue. Several men were inside; taxicabs parked outside suggested their occupation.

In one fluid motion, Mr. Boota popped the trunk, cut the motor, leapt out, hoisted the drum’s strap over his shoulder, greeted the owner — “Salaam aleikum” — and, standing in the sidewalk penumbra of the shop’s fluorescent light, began playing.

The men came to the door. “He’s a very popular man here,” one of them said, nodding at Mr. Boota, who wore his usual performance attire: a traditional shalwar kameez, a loose two-piece outfit, elaborately embroidered with gold thread.

Mr. Boota wielded his two drumsticks in a galloping clangor that echoed off the facades of the darkened buildings.

After about 20 seconds, he ended his performance with a punctuative smack of the taut drum heads. There was an exchange of mumbled pleasantries in Arabic, the men moved back inside the store, and as quickly as he had arrived, Mr. Boota was behind the wheel of his car again, driving a block south to another Pakistani-owned business.

“A few seconds,” he said, as he cut the engine again. “Ten, 15 seconds, and bye-bye.”

For the next 20 minutes, he repeated this drill outside three Pakistani restaurants, four convenience and grocery stores and a service station.

No one complained — audibly, at least. And a close watch on nearby windows along the street revealed no annoyed, or even curious, residents.

“You see, nobody yelling at you,” Mr. Boota said cheerily. “Everybody happy to see you.”

He added, “I don’t want people unhappy.”

Drumming, Mr. Boota said, is a family tradition. He is a seventh-generation ceremonial drummer and is now training his 20-year-old son, Sher, one of eight children. In addition to his Ramadan reveilles, Mr. Boota plays at Pakistani weddings, birthday parties, graduation celebrations and other events.

“A lot of happiness hours!” he exclaimed.

During his rounds the next night, he stopped at a Pakistani-run service station and wandered with his drum into the service bay. He wanted to demonstrate the full capacity of his instrument. One of the mechanics slid the heavy doors shut, and Mr. Boota started to play at full volume, unleashing deafening sheets of sound. For three solid minutes he pounded out relentless, churning polyrhythms that filled the space like smoke.

Mr. Boota was obviously reveling in the power of his drum after a week of frustrated Ramadan duty. As the ringing in the listeners’ ears faded, he headed back to his car.

“It’s a great noise,” he said.

Majeed Babar contributed reporting.
23034  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 13, 2009, 02:16:57 AM
Boo Dog is in! cool
23035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: with friends like these.... on: September 12, 2009, 06:00:58 PM
Already posted in the Hall of Shame thread
23036  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 12, 2009, 05:59:33 PM
Poi Dog says his application is on the way in  cool
23037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And so it goes , , , on: September 12, 2009, 11:59:59 AM


http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/09/us-shifts-policy-willing-to-meet-1on1-with-north-korea.html
23038  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brits training Libya on: September 12, 2009, 11:57:43 AM


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/onthefrontline/6176808/SAS-trains-Libyan-troops.html
23039  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty Saturday class on: September 12, 2009, 11:54:05 AM
Yes, and it will be my pleasure to have you guys.
23040  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ajami on: September 12, 2009, 09:52:36 AM
Not sure this piece's hypothesis holds together once Pakistan and its nukes are thrown in the mix.  Still, several points worth considering:

===========

By FOUAD AJAMI
The road that led to 9/11 was never a defining concern of President Barack
Obama. But he returned to 9/11 as he sought to explain and defend the war in
Afghanistan in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Phoenix, Ariz.,
on Aug. 17. "The insurgency in Afghanistan didn't just happen overnight and
we won't defeat it overnight, but we must never forget: This is not a war of
choice; it is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are
plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean
an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda could plot to kill more
Americans."

This distinction between a war of choice (Iraq) and a war of necessity
(Afghanistan) has become canonical to American liberalism. But we should
dispense with that distinction, for it is both morally false and
intellectually muddled. No philosophy of just and unjust wars will support
it. It was amid the ferocious attack on the American project in Iraq that
there was born the idea of Afghanistan as the "good war." This was the club
with which the Iraq war was battered. This was where that binary division
was set up: The good war of necessity in the mountains of Afghanistan, the
multilateral war born of a collective NATO decision-versus George W. Bush's
war of choice in Iraq, fought in defiance of the opinions of allies who had
been with us in the aftermath of 9/11, and whose goodwill we squandered in
the cruel streets of Fallujah and the deserts of Anbar.

Our elections last November, this narrative had it, had given us a chance to
bring America's embattled solitude and isolation in the world to an end. A
man with strands of Islam woven into his identity and biography was
catapulted to the presidency. We had drained the swamps of anti-Americanism.
Assalam aleikum (peace be upon you) in Cairo, Ankara and Tehran. The great
enmity, that unfashionable clash of civilizations, was declared done and
over with. A new history presumably began with Mr. Bush's return to his home
in Texas.

But it will not do to offer up 9/11 as a casus belli in Afghanistan while
holding out the threat of legal retribution against the men and women in our
intelligence services who carried out our wishes in that time of concern and
peril. To begin with, a policy that falls back on 9/11 must proceed from a
correct reading of the wellsprings of Islamist radicalism. The impulse that
took America from Kabul to Baghdad had been on the mark. Those were not
Afghans who had struck American soil on 9/11. They were Arabs. Their
terrorism came out of the pathologies of Arab political life. Their
financiers were Arabs, and so were those crowds in Cairo and Nablus and
Amman that had winked at the terror and had seen those attacks as America
getting its comeuppance on that terrible day. Kabul had not sufficed as a
return address in that twilight war; it was important to take the war into
the Arab world itself, and the despot in Baghdad had drawn the short straw.
He had been brazen and defiant at a time of genuine American concern, and a
lesson was made of him.

No Arabs had been emotionally invested in Mullah Omar and the Taliban, but
the ruler in Baghdad was a favored son of that Arab nation. The decapitation
of his regime was a cautionary tale for his Arab brethren. Grant George W.
Bush his due. He drew a line when the world of the Arabs was truly in the
wind and played upon by powerful temptations. Mr. Obama and his advisers
need not pay heroic tribute to the men and women who labored before them.
But they have so maligned their predecessors and their motives that the
appeal to 9/11 rings hollow and contrived. In those years behind us,
American liberalism distanced itself from American patriotism, and the
damage is there to see.

View Full Image


Associated Press


In the best of circumstances, this Afghan campaign would be a hard sell.
This is doubly so at a time of economic distress at home. There is no
tradition of central government to be restored in that most tribalized of
countries. The lessons, and the analogy, of Vietnam should perhaps be laid
to rest. This is not Mr. Obama's Vietnam. It is what it is-his Afghanistan.
But there are irresistible parallels with Lyndon Baines Johnson and the way
he committed his presidency, and the nation, to a war he dreaded from the
start.

This is LBJ in 1964, from a definitive history by A.J. Langguth, "Our
Vietnam," published in 2000: "I just don't think it is worth fighting for,
and I don't think we can get out. It's just the biggest damn mess." He would
prosecute what he called that "bitch of a war" with a premonition that it
could wreck his Great Society programs. He knew America's mood. "I don't
think the people of the country know much about Vietnam, and I think they
care a hell of a lot less." Yet, he took the plunge, he would try to
"cheat"-guns and butter at the same time, the war in Asia and the domestic
agenda of civil rights and the Great Society. History was merciless. It
begot a monumental tragedy in a land of no consequences to American
security.

Wars are great clarifiers. Barack Obama's trumpet is uncertain. His call to
arms in Afghanistan does not stir. He fears failure in Afghanistan, and
nothing more. Having disowned Iraq, kept its cause at a distance, he is
forced to fight the war in Afghanistan. So he equivocates and plays for
time. Forever the campaigner, he has his eye on the public mood, the steel
that his predecessor showed in 2007 when all was in the balance in Iraq is
not evident in Mr. Obama.

For the American effort in Afghanistan to stick on the ground in the face of
a Taliban insurgency that's gaining in strength and geographical reach, Mr.
Obama will have to make a hard choice. He will need a troop commitment of
sufficient weight to turn the tide of war. Furthermore, he will have to face
his own coalition on the left and convince it that there is a project in
Afghanistan worth fighting (and paying) for.

By the evidence of things, this is a decision that he has refused to make,
as he pursues his sweeping domestic agenda while keeping Afghanistan in
play. He had been sure that NATO forces would rush to his banners, that
Europe had stayed away from a serious commitment in Afghanistan because it
had been seized with an animus for his predecessor. But Mr. Bush had been an
alibi all along. The Europeans are in no mood for this war.

There is a British contingent of decent size in Afghanistan, but there had
been one in Iraq as well. The likes of Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder
(who dabbled in the most craven of anti-Americanism) are gone and forgotten,
but the French and the Germans have not ridden to the rescue of Kandahar.
The stringent restrictions on their forces, their very rules of engagement,
have left Afghanistan an Anglo-American burden in much the same way Iraq had
been.

Eight years ago, we were visited by the furies of Arab lands. We were rudely
awakened from a decade whose gurus and pundits had announced the end of
ideology, of politics itself, and the triumph of the world-wide Web and the
"electronic herd." We had discovered that on the other side of the world
masterminds of terror, and preachers, and their foot-soldiers were telling
of America the most sordid of tales. We had become, without knowing it, a
party to a civil war in the Arab-Islamic world between the autocrats and
their disaffected children, between those who wanted to live a normal life
and warriors of the faith bent on imposing their will on that troubled arc
of geography.

Our country answered that call, not always brilliantly, for we are fated to
be strangers in that world and thus fated to improvise and make our way
through unfamiliar alleyways. We met chameleons and hustlers of every shade
and had to learn, in a hurry, incomprehensible atavisms and pathologies. We
fared best when we trusted our sense of things. We certainly haven't been
kept safe by the crowds in Paris and Berlin, or by those in Ankara and Cairo
who feign desire for our friendship while they yearn for our undoing.

Mr. Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced
International Studies and an adjunct fellow at Stanford's Hoover
Institution, is the author, among other books, of "The Foreigner's Gift: The
Americans, the Arabs and the Iraqis in Iraq" (Free Press, 2007).
23041  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good billions 3 on: September 12, 2009, 09:46:30 AM


After the Earthquake
Because all dollar bills are alike, and because follow-up tracking by the government has been so minimal, it’s often impossible to determine if any bank or other financial institution used tarp money for any particular, discernible purpose. Only A.I.G., Bank of America, and Citigroup were subject to any reporting requirements at all, and the reporting has been spotty. But what is possible to say is that tarpallowed many recipients to spend money in ways they would have been unable to do otherwise. It’s also the case that recipients of tarp money continued to behave as if a financial earthquake hadn’t just shaken the world economy.

The Riviera Country Club is about a mile from the Pacific Ocean, in a scenic canyon north of Los Angeles. Riviera is home to one of the most storied tournaments on the P.G.A. Tour. This year the tournament was sponsored by a tarp recipient, the Northern Trust Company of Chicago. Northern was founded more than a century ago to cater to wealthy Chicagoans, and not much about its clientele has changed since then, except that now the company caters to the wealthy not just in Chicago but everywhere. According to the bank, its wealth-management group caters to those “with assets typically exceeding $200 million.” The company manages $559 billion in assets—a sum nearly as great as what has so far been spent on the tarpprogram itself.

When Northern Trust received $1.6 billion in tarp funds, a spokesman for the bank said that it was “too soon to say specifically” how the money would be used. But the company’s president and C.E.O., Frederick Waddell, noted that “the program will provide us with additional capital to maximize growth opportunities.” Three months later, the bank sponsored the Northern Trust Open, flying in wealthy clients from around the country. To entertain them, the bank brought in Sheryl Crow, Chicago, and Earth, Wind & Fire. A Northern Trust spokesman declined to say how much all this cost, but explained that it was really just a business decision “to show appreciation for clients.”

Northern Trust was acting no differently from many other tarp recipients. One of the most blatant examples was Citigroup’s plan to buy a $50 million private jet to fly executives around the country. A public outcry forced Citigroup to abandon that scheme, but the bank quietly went ahead with a $10 million renovation of its executive offices on Park Avenue, in New York. Given that Citigroup had already gone to the government three times for tarp assistance totaling $45 billion, and was not a paragon of public trust, retrofitting the windows with “Safety Shield 800” blastproof window film may have just been common sense.

The excesses weren’t confined to big-city banks. A subsidiary of North Carolina–based B.B.&T., after accepting $3.1 billion in tarp money, sent dozens of employees to a training session at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Sarasota, Florida. TCF Financial Corp., based in Wayzata, Minnesota, sent 40 “high-performing” managers, lenders, and other employees on a junket in February to Cancún, soon after receiving more than $360 million in tarp funds.

But let’s face it: episodes like these, infuriating as they may be, aren’t the real issue. The real issue is tarpitself, one of the most questionable ventures the U.S. government has ever pursued. Adopted as a plan to buy up toxic assets—one that was quickly deemed impractical even by those who first proposed it—it evolved into something more closely resembling an all-purpose slush fund flowing out to hundreds of institutions with their own interests and goals, and no incentive to deploy the money toward any clearly defined public purpose.


By and large, the cash that went to the Big 9 simply became part of their capital base, and most of the big banks declined to indicate where the money actually went. Because of the sheer size of these institutions, it’s simply impossible to trace. Bank of America no doubt used a portion of its $25 billion in tarp funds to help it absorb Merrill Lynch. Citigroup revealed in its first quarterly report after receiving $45 billion intarp funds that it had used $36.5 billion to buy up mortgages and to make new loans, including home loans.

A.I.G., the largest single tarp beneficiary, wasn’t even a bank. The insurance company used its $70 billion in tarp funds to pay off a previous government infusion from the Federal Reserve. The original bailout money had flowed through A.I.G. to Wall Street firms and foreign banks that had incurred big losses on credit-default swaps and other exotic obligations. These were basically the casino-style wagers made by A.I.G. and the counterparties—wagers they lost. The government justified the help by saying it was necessary to prevent disruption to the economy that would be caused by a “disorderly wind-down” of A.I.G. The collapse of Lehman Brothers had occurred just days before the Fed took action, and the shock waves on Wall Street from yet another implosion might have been catastrophic. Bankruptcy court, where troubled corporations routinely wind down their disorderly affairs, would have been another option, though that prospect might not have quickly enough addressed the gathering sense of urgency and doom. We’ll never know. Certainly bankruptcy court would not have allowed A.I.G.’s clients to get full value for their bad investments.

Instead, A.I.G. was able to pay off its counterparties 100 cents on the dollar. The largest payout—$12.9 billion—went to Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment house presided over by Paulson before he moved into his Treasury job. Merrill Lynch, the world’s largest brokerage—then in the process of being taken over by Bank of America—received $6.8 billion. Bank of America itself received $5.2 billion. Citigroup, the nation’s largest bank, received $2.3 billion. But it wasn’t just Wall Street that benefitted. A.I.G. also funneled tens of billions of tarp dollars to banks on the other side of the Atlantic.

Some banks receiving tarp funds bristle at the notion that the taxpayer-funded program is a bailout. They say it is an investment in banks by the federal government, one that requires them to pay interest and ultimately pay back the money or face a financial penalty. In fact, many banks are making their scheduled payments to Treasury, and others have paid off billions of dollars in tarp funds (as well as interest). Totarp supporters, this is evidence of a sound investment. But at this stage it isn’t clear that every institution will be able to make the interest payments and buy back the government’s holdings. As of this writing, some banks, including Pacific Capital Bancorp, the parent of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, have not been able to make their scheduled payments. No one can predict how many banks will ultimately come up short. But in the meantime tarp has been a very good deal for banks, because it gave them, courtesy of the taxpayers, access to capital that would have cost them substantially more in the private market, while exacting nothing from the beneficiaries in the form of a quid pro quo.

Based on the reluctance of many banks to take the money in the first place, and the swiftness with which other banks have repaid tarp funds, the main conclusion to be drawn is that relatively few were actually endangered. Rather than targeting the weak for relief—or allowing them to fail, as the government allowed millions of ordinary Americans to fail—Paulson and Treasury pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial system without prior design and without prospective accountability. What was this all about? A case of panic by Treasury and the Federal Reserve? A financial over-reaction of cosmic proportions? A smoke screen to take care of a small number of Wall Street institutions that received 100 cents on the dollar for some of the worst investments they ever made?

More than five months after the bulk of the bailout money had been distributed into bank coffers, Elizabeth Warren plaintively raised the central and as yet unanswered question: “What is the strategy that Treasury is pursuing?” And she basically threw up her hands. As far as she could see, Warren went on, Treasury’s strategy was essentially “Take the money and do what you want with it.”
23042  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good billions 2 on: September 12, 2009, 09:45:00 AM
Small Bank, Sharp Teeth
With few restrictions or controls in place, bailout money found its way not only to banks that didn’t really need it but also to banks whose business practices left much to be desired. On November 21, $180 million in tarp money wound up in the affluent seaside community of Santa Barbara, California. The tarp dollars flowed mostly into the coffers of a beige, Spanish-style building on Carrillo Street, home to the Santa Barbara Bank & Trust.

This might appear to be just the kind of regional bank that Treasury had in mind as an ideal beneficiary oftarp. The bank has been a fixture in Santa Barbara for decades, serving small businesses as well as wealthy individuals. It sponsors Little League teams, funds scholarships to send local kids to college, and takes an active role in community groups. It plays up its “longstanding commitment to giving back to the communities we serve.”

How much tarp money made its way through S.B.B.&T. and into the local community is not known. But, as it happens, the bank also operates a little-known and controversial program far from the lush enclaves of Santa Barbara. Like an absentee landlord, the community bank with the “give back” philosophy in Santa Barbara turns out to be a big player in poor neighborhoods throughout the country. And not in a nice way. Outside Santa Barbara, S.B.B.&T. peddles what are known as refund-anticipation loans (rals)—high-interest loans to the poor that are among the most predatory around.

A ral is a short-term loan to taxpayers who have filed for a tax refund. Rather than waiting one or two weeks for their refund from the I.R.S., they take out a bank loan for an amount equal to their refund, minus interest, fees, and other charges. Banks operate in concert with tax preparers who complete the paperwork, and then the banks write the taxpayer a check. The loan is secured by the taxpayer’s expected refund. rals are theoretically available to everyone, but they are used overwhelmingly by the working poor. Ordinarily, the loans have a term of only a few weeks—the time it takes the I.R.S. to process the return and send out a check—but the interest charges and fees are so steep that borrowers can lose as much as 20 percent of the value of their tax refund. A recent study estimated that annual rates on somerals run as high as 700 percent.

Santa Barbara is one of three banks that dominate this obscure corner of the banking market—the other two being J. P. Morgan Chase and HSBC. But unlike the two big banks, for which rals are but one facet of a broad-based business, Santa Barbara has come to rely heavily for its financial well-being on these high-interest loans to poor people. Interest earned from rals accounted for 24 percent of the banking company’s interest earnings in 2008, second only to income generated by commercial-real-estate loans. Under pressure from consumer groups, some banks, including J. P. Morgan Chase, have lowered their ralfees. Not Santa Barbara. Chi Chi Wu, of the National Consumer Law Center, in Boston, calls Santa Barbara Bank & Trust “a small bank with sharp teeth.”

The U.S. Department of Justice and state authorities in California, New Jersey, and New York have taken action against tax preparers with whom S.B.B.&T. works, charging them with deceptive advertising and with preparing fraudulent returns. Santa Barbara later took a $22 million hit on its books because of unpaid refund-anticipation loans.

The bank insists that its tarp money didn’t go to finance ral. “The capital received by Santa Barbara Bank & Trust under the U.S. Treasury Department’s Capital Purchase Program was not intended nor is it being used to fund or provide liquidity for any Refund Anticipation Loans,” according to Deborah L. Whiteley, an executive vice president of Pacific Capital Bancorp, Santa Barbara’s parent company. Other banks that have received tarp money have made similar statements, contending that money received from Washington simply became part of their capital base and was not earmarked for any specific purpose. But in a conference call with analysts on November 21, Stephen Masterson, the chief financial officer of Pacific Capital Bancorp, admitted that tarp “obviously helps us .… We didn’t take the tarp money to increase our ral program or to build our ral program, but it certainly helps our capital ratios.”

Indeed, the infusion from Treasury may well have been a lifeline for Santa Barbara. The Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina, which has been tracking S.B.B.&T.’s finances and its ralprogram for years, concluded in 2008 that S.B.B.&T. would be losing money if it weren’t putting the squeeze on poor people around the country.

Gouging Needy Students
KeyBank of Cleveland is another institution that was given the nod by Treasury officials—and another bank whose lending practices prompt the question: What were they thinking?

Last fall KeyBank received $2.5 billion in tarp money. Its parent company is KeyCorp, a major bank holding company headquartered in Cleveland. With 989 full-service branches spread across 14 states, KeyCorp describes itself as “one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies,” with assets of $98 billion. It also ranks as the nation’s seventh-largest education lender. In the summer of 2008, as banks and Wall Street firms were unraveling faster than they could count up their losses, KeyCorp delivered a decidedly upbeat report on its condition to investors. “Our costs are well controlled,” the company stated. “Our fee revenue is strong.…Our reserves are strong.…We remain well capitalized.”

What the report did not mention was a host of other problems. KeyCorp was in the midst of negotiations with the I.R.S. over questionable tax-leasing deals, and had had to deposit $2 billion in escrow with the government—forcing it to raise emergency capital and slash dividends after 43 consecutive years of annual growth. Meanwhile, consumer advocates had KeyBank in their sights because of the way it conducted its student-loan business, which they described as nakedly predatory. The Salt Lake Tribunereported that “KeyBank not only funds unscrupulous schools, it seeks them out, strikes up lucrative partnerships, and, in the process, suckers students into thinking the schools are legitimate.”

Over the years, thousands of students have secured education loans from KeyBank to attend a broad range of career-training schools—schools offering instruction in how to use or repair computers, how to become an electronics technician or even a nurse. One of the schools was Silver State Helicopters, which was based in Las Vegas and operated flight schools in a half-dozen states. During high-pressure sales pitches, people looking to change careers were encouraged to simultaneously sign up for flight school and complete a loan application that would be forwarded to KeyBank. Once approved, KeyBank, in keeping with long-standing practice, would give all the tuition money up front directly to Silver State. If a student dropped out, Silver State kept the tuition and the student remained on the hook for the full amount of the loan, at a hefty interest rate.

The same rule applied if Silver State shut itself down, which it did without warning on February 3, 2008. “Because the monthly operating expenses, even at the recently streamlined levels, continue to exceed cash flow,” an e-mail to employees explained, “the board has elected to suspend all operations effective at 5 p.m. today.” More than 750 employees in 18 states were out of work. More than 2,500 students had their training (for which they had paid as much as $70,000) cut short.

Silver State Helicopters was a flight school, but it might more accurately be thought of as a Ponzi scheme, according to critics. As long as there was a continual source of loan money, keeping the scheme afloat, all was well. KeyBank bundled the loans into securities, just as the subprime-mortgage marketers had done, and sold them on Wall Street. But when Wall Street failed to buy at an adequate interest rate, the money supply evaporated. As KeyBank dryly put it, “In 2007, Key was unable to securitize its student loan portfolio at cost-effective rates.” Without the loans—in other words, without the cooperation of Wall Street—the school had no income.

In February 2009, Fitch Ratings service, which rates the ability of debt issuers to meet their commitments, placed 16 classes of KeyCorp student-loan transactions totaling $1.75 billion on “Ratings Watch Negative,” signaling the possibility of a future downgrade in their creditworthiness.

Predator to the Rescue
The credit-card behemoth Capital One, an institution that many Americans probably don’t even realize is a bank, maintains its headquarters in McLean, in northern Virginia. Over the years, Capital One’s phenomenally successful marketing strategy has made the company the fifth-largest credit-card issuer in the U.S., and it has used its profits to expand into retail banking, home-equity loans, and other kinds of lending.

Capital One never revealed what it planned to do with the $3.5 billion tarp check it received from the U.S. Treasury on November 14, 2008, but three weeks later, the company bought one of Washington’s premier financial institutions, Chevy Chase Bank. To Washingtonians, Chevy Chase was a model corporate citizen. But outside Washington, it had a different reputation. The company’s mortgage subsidiary had engaged in practices that were at the core of the nation’s mortgage meltdown—risky loans with teaser interest rates that later went bad. The bank’s portfolio of mortgages from around the country was stuffed with a high percentage of so-called option arm—adjustable-rate mortgages with many different payment options. One of the most common kept a homeowner’s monthly payment the same for years, but the interest rate rose almost immediately. When the interest exceeded the amount of the monthly payment, the excess was tacked onto the principal, pushing homeowners ever deeper into debt. Having been lured by what a federal judge would call the “siren call” of this kind of mortgage, many Chevy Chase mortgage holders were on the brink of foreclosure, or had already fallen over the edge. By mid-2008, Chevy Chase’s “nonperforming” assets had tripled to $490 million since the previous September.

With Chevy Chase rapidly deteriorating, along came Capital One. Flush with tarp money, Capital One became a bailout czar of its own. It bought Chevy Chase for $520 million and assumed $1.75 billion of its bad loans. The purchase price was a fraction of what Chevy Chase would have brought before it wandered off into the wilderness of exotic mortgages and risky lending.

Meanwhile, even as it was bailing out Chevy Chase, Capital One was putting the squeeze on many thousands of its own credit-card holders, sharply raising their interest rates and imposing other conditions that made credit far more expensive and difficult to obtain. For many cardholders, rates jumped overnight from 7.9 percent to as much as 22.9 percent. Rather than using its multi-billion-dollar government infusion to prime the credit pump, Capital One in fact began turning off the spigot.

Capital One’s actions enraged its customers, many of whom had been cardholders for decades. The bank was engulfed with complaints. “The last I checked you were given money from the government for the specific purpose of freeing up credit to stimulate spending and help move the economy out of recession,” wrote a woman in Holland, Michigan. This was “just the opposite of what you did.” But other credit-card companies that received federal bailout money, such as Bank of America, J. P. Morgan Chase, and Citibank, would take the same route as Capital One, sharply raising interest rates, cutting off credit to millions of people, and frustrating the stated rationale for Treasury’s bailout.

23043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good Billions after bad on: September 12, 2009, 09:41:16 AM
BY DONALD L. BARLETT and JAMES B. STEELE


As the Bush administration waned, the Treasury shoveled more than a quarter of a trillion dollars in tarp funds into the financial system—without restrictions, accountability, or even common sense. The authors reveal how much of it ended up in the wrong hands, doing the opposite of what was needed.


Just inside the entrance to the U.S. Treasury, on the other side of a forbidding array of guard stations and scanners that control access to the Greek Revival building, lies one of the most beautiful interior spaces in all of Washington. Ornate bronze doors open inward to a two-story-high chamber. Chandeliers line the coffered ceiling, casting a soft glow on the marble walls and richly inlaid marble floor.


In this room, starting in 1869 and for many decades thereafter, the U.S. government conducted many of its financial transactions. Bags of gold, silver, and paper currency arrived here by horse-drawn vans and were carted upstairs to the vaults. On the busy trading floor, Treasury clerks supplied commercial banks with coins and currency, exchanged old bills for new, cashed checks, redeemed savings bonds, and took in government receipts. In those days, anyone could observe all this activity firsthand—could actually witness the government and the nation’s bankers doing business. The public space where this occurred became known as the Cash Room.

Today the Cash Room is used for press conferences, ceremonial functions, and departmental parties. And that’s too bad. If Treasury still used the room as it once did, then perhaps we’d have more of a clue about what happened to the billions of dollars that flew out of Treasury to selected American banks in the waning days of the Bush administration.

Last October, Congress passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, putting $700 billion into the hands of the Treasury Department to bail out the nation’s banks at a moment of vanishing credit and peak financial panic. Over the next three months, Treasury poured nearly $239 billion into 296 of the nation’s 8,000 banks. The money went to big banks. It went to small banks. It went to banks that desperately wanted the money. It went to banks that didn’t want the money at all but had been ordered by Treasury to take it anyway. It went to banks that were quite happy to accept the windfall, and used the money simply to buy other banks. Some banks received as much as $45 billion, others as little as $1.5 million. Sixty-seven percent went to eight institutions; 33 percent went to the rest. And that was just the money that went to banks. Tens of billions more went to other companies, all before Barack Obama took office. It was the largest single financial intervention by Treasury into the banking system in U.S. history.

But once the money left the building, the government lost all track of it. The Treasury Department knew where it had sent the money, but nothing about what was done with it. Did the money aid the recovery? Was it spent for the purposes Congress intended? Did it save banks from collapse? Paulson’s Treasury Department had no idea, and didn’t seem to care. It never required the banks to explain what they did with this unprecedented infusion of capital.

Exactly one year has elapsed since the onset of the financial crisis and the passage of the bailout bill. Some measure of scrutiny and control has since been imposed by the Obama administration, but even today it’s hard to walk back the cat and trace the money. Up to a point, though, it’s possible to reconstruct some of what happened in the first chaotic and crucial three months of the bailout, when Treasury was still in the hands of Henry Paulson and most of the money was disbursed. Needless to say, there is no central clearinghouse for information about the tarp money. To get details of any kind means starting with the hundreds of individual recipients, then poring over S.E.C. filings, annual reports, and other documentation—in other words, performing the standard due diligence that the government itself failed to perform. In the report that follows, we have no more than dipped a toe into the morass, but one fact emerges clearly: a lot of the money wound up in the coffers of some very surprising institutions— institutions that should have been seen as “troubling” as much as “troubled.”

A Reverse Holdup
The intention of Congress when it passed the bailout bill could not have been more clear. The purpose was to buy up defective mortgage-backed securities and other “toxic assets” through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as tarp. But the bill was in fact broad enough to give the Treasury secretary the authority to do whatever he deemed necessary to deal with the financial crisis. If tarp had been a credit card, it would have been called Carte Blanche. That authority was all Paulson needed to switch gears, within a matter of days, and change the entire thrust of the program from buying bad assets to buying stock in banks.

Why did this happen? Ostensibly, Treasury concluded that the task of buying up toxic assets would take too long to help the financial system and unlock the credit markets. So, theoretically, something more immediate was needed—hence the plan to inject billions into banks, whether or not they wanted or needed the money. To be sure, Citigroup and Bank of America were in precarious condition. So was the insurance giant A.I.G., which had already received an infusion from the Federal Reserve and ultimately would receive more tarp money—$70 billion—than any single bank. But rather than just aiding institutions in distress, Treasury set out to disburse money in a more freewheeling way, hoping it would pass rapidly into the financial system and somehow address the system-wide credit crunch. Even at this early stage, it was hard to escape the feeling that the real strategy was less than scientific—amounting to a hope that if a massive pile of money was simply thrown at the economy, some of it would surely do something useful.

On Sunday, October 12, between 6:30 and 7 p.m., Paulson made a series of calls to the C.E.O.’s of the biggest banks—the so-called Big 9—and asked them to come to Treasury the next afternoon for a meeting on the financial crisis. He was short on details, as he would be throughout the crisis. A series of e-mails obtained by Judicial Watch, a Washington public-interest group, offers a window on the moment. The C.E.O. of Citigroup, Vikram Pandit, had agreed to attend, but asked his staff to scope out the purpose. “Can you find out soon as possible what Paulson invite to VP [Vikram Pandit] for meeting at Treasury this afternoon is about?” a Citigroup executive in New York wrote the bank’s Washington office. When Citi’s high-powered lobbyist Nicholas Calio called Paulson’s office, he was told only that Pandit should attend.

Top Treasury staffers were likewise in the dark. Paulson’s chief of staff, James Wilkinson, sent out a 7:30 a.m. e-mail: “Can someone tell Michele Davis, [Kevin] Fromer and me who the ‘Big 9’ are?”

By midmorning, people finally had the names—Vikram Pandit, of Citigroup; Jamie Dimon, of J. P. Morgan Chase; Kenneth Lewis, of Bank of America; Richard Kovacevich, of Wells Fargo; John Thain, of Merrill Lynch; John Mack, of Morgan Stanley; Lloyd Blankfein, of Goldman Sachs; Robert Kelly, of the Bank of New York Mellon; and Ronald Logue, of State Street bank. Their destination was Room 3327, the Secretary’s Conference Room, on the third floor.

Paulson laid before them a one-page memo, “CEO Talking Points.” He wasn’t there to ask for their help, Paulson would say; he was there to tell them what he expected from them. To “arrest the stress in our financial system,” Treasury would unveil a $250 billion plan the next day to buy preferred stock in banks. Paulson’s memo told the bankers bluntly that “your nine firms will be the initial participants.” Paulson wasn’t calling for volunteers; he made it clear the banks had no choice but to allow Treasury to buy stock in their companies. It was basically a reverse holdup, with Paulson holding the gun and forcing the banks to take the money.

Some of the C.E.O.’s had misgivings, fearing that by accepting tarp money their banks would be perceived as shaky by investors and customers. Paulson explained that opting out wasn’t an option. “If a capital infusion is not appealing,” the memo continued, “you should be aware that your regulator will require it in any circumstance.” Paulson gave the bankers until 6:30 p.m. to clear everything with their boards and sign the papers.

Treasury had prepared a form with blank spaces for the name of the bank and the amount of tarp money requested. Each C.E.O. filled in the two blanks by hand—$10 billion, $15 billion, $25 billion, whatever—and then signed and dated the document. That was all it took.

“There Is No Problem Here”
But this was just the beginning. It’s one thing to call nine big banks into a room and give them what turned out to be a total of $125 billion. That required little more than a few hours. It’s quite a different matter to look out over the landscape of 8,000 other U.S. banks and decide which ones should get slices of the tarppie. Moreover, the guiding principle was never clear. Was it to give money to essentially sound banks, so that they could help inject more money into the credit markets? Was it to pull troubled banks into the clear? Was it both—and more?

Regardless, the mechanism to disburse all this money even more widely was an entity called the Office of Financial Stability. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a functioning office yet—it was just a name written into a piece of legislation. To lead it, Paulson picked Neel Kashkari, a 35-year-old former Goldman Sachs banker who had followed Paulson to Treasury when he became secretary, in July 2006. Kashkari was an odd choice to oversee a federal bailout of private companies. A free-market Republican, he had downplayed the gravity of the subprime-mortgage crisis only months before his appointment, reportedly sending the message to one gathering of bankers, “There is no problem here.”

Kashkari and other Paulson aides cobbled together the Office of Financial Stability under immense time pressure. They press-ganged people from elsewhere in Treasury and from far-flung government departments. By the end of the year, there were more “detailees” on loan from other offices (52) than there were permanent staff (38). They were spread out all over Treasury, from the ground floor to the third. Some occupied space in leased offices six blocks away. It was a strange agglomeration of people—stretching from Washington to San Francisco—who had never worked together before.

There were no internal controls to gauge success or failure. The goal was simply to dispense as much money as possible, as fast as possible. When Treasury began giving billions to the banks, the department had no policies in place to ensure that the banks were using the money in ways that met the purposes of the program, however defined. One main purpose, as noted, was to free up credit, but there was no incentive to lend and nothing to stop a bank from simply sitting on the money, bolstering its balance sheet and investing in Treasury bills. Indeed, Treasury’s plan was expressly not to ask the banks what they did with the money. As the Government Accountability Office later learned, “the standard agreement between Treasury and the participating institutions does not require that these institutions track or report how they plan to use, or do use, their capital investments.” When the G.A.O. asked Treasury if it intended to ask all tarp recipients to provide such an accounting, Treasury said it did not—and would not. “There’s not a bank in this country that would lend money under [these] terms,” Elizabeth Warren, the chair of a Congressional Oversight Panel that was eventually charged by Congress with overseeing tarp activities, would tell a Senate committee.

There wasn’t even anyone within the tarp office to keep track of the money as it was being disbursed. tarpgave that job—along with a $20 million fee—to a private contractor, Bank of New York Mellon, which also happened to be one of the Big 9. So here was a case of a beneficiary helping to oversee a process in which it was a direct participant. Most of the tarp contracts—for everything from legal services to accounting—were awarded under an expedited procedure that government watchdogs regard as “high-risk,” because it lacks a wide array of routine safeguards. In its first three months of operation, the Office of Financial Stability awarded 15 contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to law firms, fiscal agents, management consultants, and providers of various other services. There was enormous potential for conflicts of interest, and no procedure to deal with them. When the possibility of conflict of interest was raised, two of the contractors voiced vague promises to maintain an “open dialog” and “work in good faith” with Treasury, and left it at that.

When Henry Paulson unveiled the bank-rescue plan, he emphasized that it wasn’t a bailout. “This is an investment, not an expenditure, and there is no reason to expect this program will cost taxpayers anything,” he declared. For every $100 Treasury invested in the banks, he maintained, it would receive stock and warrants valued at $100. This claim proved optimistic. The Congressional Oversight Panel that later reviewed the 10 largest tarp transactions concluded that Treasury “paid substantially more for the assets it purchased under the tarp than their then-current market value.” For each $100 spent, Treasury received assets worth about $66.

Ask and You Shall Receive
In those first few weeks, money gushed out of Treasury and into the tarp pipeline at a torrential rate. After giving $125 billion to the big banks, Treasury moved on to the second round, wiring $33.6 billion to 21 other banks on November 14 in exchange for preferred stock. A week later it sent $2.9 billion to 23 more banks. As noted, by the time Barack Obama took office, the tarp tab totaled more than a quarter of a trillion dollars. In its first six months, the new administration disbursed an additional $125 billion to banks, mortgage companies, A.I.G., and the big auto manufacturers.

To the public, the bailout looked like a gold rush by banks competing for tarp money. It was indeed partly that, but the reality is more complex. While some banks lobbied aggressively for tarp money, many others that had no interest in the money were pressured to take it. Treasury’s explanation is that regulators knew which banks were strongest and wanted to get more capital into their hands in order to free up credit. But it’s also true that spreading the money around to a large number of small and medium-size banks helped create the impression that the bailout wasn’t just for a few big boys on Wall Street.

It’s impossible to overstate how casual the process was, or how little Treasury asked of the banks it targeted. Like most bankers, Ray Davis, the C.E.O. of Umpqua Bank, a solid, respectable local bank in Portland, Oregon, followed with great interest all the news out of Washington last fall. But he didn’t see that tarp had much relevance to his own bank. Umpqua was well run. It wasn’t bogged down by a portfolio of bad loans. It had healthy reserves.

Then he got a call from a Treasury Department representative asking if Umpqua would like to participate in the Treasury program and suggesting it would be a good thing for Umpqua to do. Davis listened politely, but the fact was, he says, that Umpqua “didn’t need the funds. Our capital resources were very high.”

The next day, Davis was in his office when another call came through from the same Treasury representative. “Basically what he said was that the secretary of the Treasury would like to have your application on his desk by five o’clock tomorrow afternoon,” Davis recalls.

The “application” was the paperwork for a capital infusion, and Davis was told it would be faxed over right away. By now he was sold on participating. “Here was somebody from the secretary of the Treasury calling,” Davis says, “and complimenting us on the strength of our company and saying you need to do this, to help the government, to be a good American citizen—all that stuff—and I’m saying, ‘That’s good. You’ve got me. I’m in.’”

The most urgent task was to complete the application and get it back to Treasury the next day, and this had Davis in a sweat: “I pictured this 200-page fax that would take me three weeks of work crammed into one evening.” Imagine Davis’s surprise when a staff member walked in soon afterward with the official “Application for tarp Capital Purchase Program.” It consisted of two pages, most of it white space.

If tarp accomplishes nothing else, it has struck a mighty blow for simplicity in government. The application was only 24 lines long, and asked such tough questions as the name and address of the bank, the name of the primary contact, the amount of its common and preferred stock, and how much money the bank wanted. Anyone who has filled out the voluminous federal forms required in order to be eligible for a college loan would die for such an application. Davis recalls that, when the two faxed pages were brought to him, all he could say was “Really?” As soon as Umpqua’s application was approved, Treasury wired $214 million to Umpqua’s account.

What happened in Portland happened elsewhere across the country. Peter Skillern, who heads the Community Reinvestment Association, a nonprofit group in North Carolina, describes a conference he attended where bankers explained that they had been “contacted by their regulators and told by them that they would be taking tarp.”

One policy that tarp did decide to adopt was to keep confidential the name of any bank that was deniedtarp funds—but it never had to invoke this rule. In those early months, with billions being wired all across the country, no financial institution that asked for tarp money was turned away.
23044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Solar Wind Surprise on: September 12, 2009, 09:33:06 AM
second post of the morning


 
 
 
Solar wind surprise: “This discovery is like finding it got hotter when the sun went down,”
10 09 2009
This gives a whole new meaning to “Total Solar Irradiance”. Instead of TSI, perhaps we should call the energy transfer that comes from the sun to the earth TSE for “Total Solar Energy” so that it includes the solar wind, the geomagnetics, and other yet undiscovered linkages. Jack Eddy is smiling and holding up the patch cord he’s been given at last, wondering how long it will be before we find all the connectors.



Scientists discover surprise in Earth’s upper atmosphere

From the UCLA Newsroom: By Stuart Wolpert

UCLA atmospheric scientists have discovered a previously unknown basic mode of energy transfer from the solar wind to the Earth’s magnetosphere. The research, federally funded by the National Science Foundation, could improve the safety and reliability of spacecraft that operate in the upper atmosphere.

“It’s like something else is heating the atmosphere besides the sun. This discovery is like finding it got hotter when the sun went down,” said Larry Lyons, UCLA professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and a co-author of the research, which is in press in two companion papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The sun, in addition to emitting radiation, emits a stream of ionized particles called the solar wind that affects the Earth and other planets in the solar system. The solar wind, which carries the particles from the sun’s magnetic field, known as the interplanetary magnetic field, takes about three or four days to reach the Earth. When the charged electrical particles approach the Earth, they carve out a highly magnetized region — the magnetosphere — which surrounds and protects the Earth.

Charged particles carry currents, which cause significant modifications in the Earth’s magnetosphere. This region is where communications spacecraft operate and where the energy releases in space known as substorms wreak havoc on satellites, power grids and communications systems.

The rate at which the solar wind transfers energy to the magnetosphere can vary widely, but what determines the rate of energy transfer is unclear.

“We thought it was known, but we came up with a major surprise,” said Lyons, who conducted the research with Heejeong Kim, an assistant researcher in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and other colleagues.

“This is where everything gets started,” Lyons said. “Any important variations in the magnetosphere occur because there is a transfer of energy from the solar wind to the particles in the magnetosphere. The first critical step is to understand how the energy gets transferred from the solar wind to the magnetosphere.”

The interplanetary magnetic field fluctuates greatly in magnitude and direction.

 
Heejeong Kim and Larry Lyons

“We all have thought for our entire careers — I learned it as a graduate student — that this energy transfer rate is primarily controlled by the direction of the interplanetary magnetic field,” Lyons said. “The closer to southward-pointing the magnetic field is, the stronger the energy transfer rate is, and the stronger the magnetic field is in that direction. If it is both southward and big, the energy transfer rate is even bigger.”

However, Lyons, Kim and their colleagues analyzed radar data that measure the strength of the interaction by measuring flows in the ionosphere, the part of Earth’s upper atmosphere ionized by solar radiation. The results surprised them.

“Any space physicist, including me, would have said a year ago there could not be substorms when the interplanetary magnetic field was staying northward, but that’s wrong,” Lyons said. “Generally, it’s correct, but when you have a fluctuating interplanetary magnetic field, you can have substorms going off once per hour.

“Heejeong used detailed statistical analysis to prove this phenomenon is real. Convection in the magnetosphere and ionosphere can be strongly driven by these fluctuations, independent of the direction of the interplanetary magnetic field.”

Convection describes the transfer of heat, or thermal energy, from one location to another through the movement of fluids such as liquids, gases or slow-flowing solids.

“The energy of the particles and the fields in the magnetosphere can vary by large amounts. It can be 10 times higher or 10 times lower from day to day, even from half-hour to half-hour. These are huge variations in particle intensities, magnetic field strength and electric field strength,” Lyons said.

The magnetosphere was discovered in 1957. By the late 1960s, it had become accepted among scientists that the energy transfer rate was controlled predominantly by the interplanetary magnetic field.

Lyons and Kim were planning to study something unrelated when they made the discovery.

“We were looking to do something else, when we saw life is not the way we expected it to be,” Lyons said. “The most exciting discoveries in science sometimes just drop in your lap. In our field, this finding is pretty earth-shaking. It’s an entire new mode of energy transfer, which is step one. The next step is to understand how it works. It must be a completely different process.”

The National Science Foundation has funded ground-based radars which send off radio waves that reflect off the ionosphere, allowing scientists to measure the speed at which the ions in the ionosphere are moving.

The radar stations are based in Greenland and Alaska. The NSF recently built the Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks.

“The National Science Foundation’s radars have enabled us to make this discovery,” Lyons said. “We could not have done this without them.”

The direction of the interplanetary magnetic field is important, Lyons said. Is it going in the same direction as the magnetic field going through the Earth? Does the interplanetary magnetic field connect with the Earth’s magnetic field?

“We thought there could not be strong convection and that the energy necessary for a substorm could not develop unless the interplanetary magnetic field is southward,” Lyons said. “I’ve said it and taught it. Now I have to say, ‘But when you have these fluctuations, which is not a rare occurrence, you can have substorms going off once an hour.’”

Lyons and Kim used the radar measurements to study the strength of the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetosphere.

One of their papers addresses convection and its affect on substorms to show it is a global phenomenon.

“When the interplanetary magnetic field is pointing northward, there is not much happening, but when the interplanetary magnetic field is southward, the flow speeds in the polar regions of the ionosphere are strong. You see much stronger convection. That is what we expect,” Lyons said. “We looked carefully at the data, and said, ‘Wait a minute! There are times when the field is northward and there are strong flows in the dayside polar ionosphere.’”

The dayside has the most direct contact with the solar wind.

“It’s not supposed to happen that way,” Lyons said. “We want to understand why that is.”

“Heejeong separated the data into when the solar wind was fluctuating a lot and when it was fluctuating a little,” he added. “When the interplanetary magnetic field fluctuations are low, she saw the pattern everyone knows, but when she analyzed the pattern when the interplanetary magnetic field was fluctuating strongly, that pattern completely disappeared. Instead, the strength of the flows depended on the strength of the fluctuations.

“So rather than the picture of the connection between the magnetic field of the sun and the Earth controlling the transfer of energy by the solar wind to the Earth’s magnetosphere, something else is happening that is equally interesting. The next question is discovering what that is. We have some ideas of what that may be, which we will test.”
23045  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prof. Svensmark on: September 12, 2009, 09:30:13 AM
Svensmark: “global warming stopped and a cooling is beginning” – “enjoy global warming while it lasts”
10 09 2009
This opinion piece from Professor Henrik Svensmark was published September 9th in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Translation is from Google translation with some post translation cleanup of jumbled words or phrases by myself. In cases were the words were badly jumbled or didn’t quite make sense I inserted [my interpretation in brackets]. Hat tip to Carsten Arnholm of Norway for bringing this to my attention. – Anthony

 Spotless Cueball: Catania observatory photosphere image August 31st, 2009
While the sun sleeps

HENRIK SVENSMARK, Professor, DTU, Copenhagen

Indeed, global warming stopped and a cooling is beginning. No climate model has predicted a cooling of the Earth, on the contrary. This means that projections of future climate is unpredictable, writes Henrik Svensmark.

The star which keeps us alive, has over the last few years almost no sunspots, which are the usual signs of the sun’s magnetic activity.

Last week, reported the scientific team behind Sohosatellitten (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) that the number of sunspot-free days suggest that solar activity is heading towards its lowest level in about 100 years’.  Everything indicates that the Sun is moving into a hibernation-like state, and the obvious question is whether it has any significance for us on Earth.

If you ask the International Panel on Climate Change IPCC, representing the current consensus on climate change, so the answer is a reassuring ‘nothing’. But history and recent research suggests that it is probably completely wrong. Let us take a closer look at why.

Solar activity has always varied.  Around the year 1000, we had a period of very high solar activity, which coincided with the medieval warmth. It was a period when frosts in May was an almost unknown phenomenon and of great importance for a good harvest.  Vikings settled in Greenland and explored the coast of North America. For example, China’s population doubled over this period.  But after about 1300, the earth began to get colder and it was the beginning of the period we now call the Little Ice Age. In this cold period  all the Viking settlements in Greenland disappeared. Swedes [were surprised to see Denmark to freeze over in ice], surprised the Danes by walking over the ice and the Thames in London froze repeatedly. But more serious was the long periods of crop failure, which resulted in a poorly nourished population, because of disease and hunger [population was reduced] by about 30 per cent in Europe.

It is important to note that the Little Ice Age was a global event. It ended in the late 19th century and was followed by an increase in solar activity. Over the past 50 years solar activity has been the highest since the medieval warmth for 1,000 years ago. And now it appears that the sun returns and is heading towards what is called ‘a grand minimum’ as we saw in the Little Ice Age.

The coincidence between solar activity and climate through the ages have tried explained away as coincidence. But it turns out that almost no matter what time studying, not just the last 1000 years, so there is a line. Solar activity has repeatedly over the past 10,000 years has fluctuated between high and low. Actually, the sun over the past 10,000 years spent in a sleep mode, approx. 17 pct of the time, with a cooling of the Earth to follow.

One can wonder that the international climate panel IPCC does not believe that the sun changed activity has no effect on the climate, but the reason is that they only include changes in solar radiation.

Just radiation would be the simplest way by which the sun could change the climate. A bit like turning up and down the brightness of a light bulb.

Satellite measurements of solar radiation has been shown that the variations are too small to cause climate change, but so has closed his eyes for a second much more powerful way the sun is able to affect Earth’s climate. In 1996 we discovered a surprising influence of the sun – its impact on Earth’s cloud cover.  High energy accelerated particles of exploded stars, the cosmic radiation, are helping to form clouds.

When the Sun is active its magnetic field shields better against the cosmic rays from outer space before they reach our planet, and by regulating the Earth’s cloud cover the sun can turn up and down the temperature. High solar activity obtained fewer clouds and the earth is getting warmer.  Low solar activity inferior shields against cosmic radiation, and it results in increased cloud cover and hence a cooling. As the sun’s magnetism has doubled its strength during the 20th century, this natural mechanism may be responsible for a large part of global warming during this period.

This also explains why most climate scientists are trying to ignore this possibility.  It does in fact favor the idea that the 20th century temperature rise is mainly due to human emissions of CO2.  If the sun as has influenced a significant part of warming in the 20 century, it means that CO2’s contribution must necessarily be smaller.

Ever since our theory was put forward in 1996, it has been through a very sharp criticism, which is normal in science.

First it was said that a link between clouds and solar activity could not be correct because no physical mechanism was known. But in 2006 after many years of work we managed to conduct experiments at DTU Space, where we demonstrated the existence of a physical mechanism. The cosmic radiation helps to form aerosols, which are the seeds for cloud formation.

Then came the criticism that the mechanism we have found in the laboratory was unable to survive in the real atmosphere and therefore had no practical significance.  But the criticism we have just emphatically rejected. It turns out that the sun itself is doing, what we might call natural experiments. Giant solar flares can have the cosmic radiation on earth to dive suddenly over a few days. In the days after the eruption cloud cover falls by about 4 per cent. And the content of liquid water in clouds (droplets) is reduced by almost 7 per cent.  Indeed, [you could say] that the clouds on Earth originated in space.

Therefore we have looked at the sun’s magnetic activity with increasing concern, since it began to wane in the mid-1990s.

That the sun could fall asleep in a deep minimum was suggested by [solar scientists] at a meeting in Kiruna in Sweden two years ago. As Nigel Calder and I updated our book “The Chilling Stars” therefore, we wrote a little provocative [passage] “we recommend our friends to enjoy global warming while it lasts.”

Indeed, global warming stopped and a cooling is beginning.  Last week, it was argued by Mojib Latif from the University of Kiel at the UN World Climate Conference in Geneva that cooling may continue through the next 10 to 20 years.

His explanation was natural changes in North Atlantic circulation and not in solar activity. But no matter how it is interpreted,  the natural variations in climate then penetrates more and more.

One consequence may be that the sun itself will show its importance for climate and thus to test the theories of global warming. No climate model has predicted a cooling of the Earth, on the contrary.

This means that projections of future climate is unpredictable. A forecast [that] says it may be warmer or colder for 50 years, is not very useful, for science is not able to predict solar activity.

So in many ways, we stand at a crossroads. The near future will be extremely interesting and I think it is important to recognize that nature is completely independent of what we humans think about it. Will Greenhouse theory survive a significant cooling of the Earth? Not in its current dominant form. Unfortunately, tomorrow’s climate challenges will be quite different than greenhouse theory’s predictions, and perhaps it becomes again popular to investigate the sun’s impact on climate.

Professor Henrik Svensmark is director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at DTU Space. His book “The Chilling Stars” has also been published in Danish as “Climate and the Cosmos” (Gads Forlag, DK ISBN 9788712043508)
23046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: U.S. Census 2010 on: September 12, 2009, 09:19:40 AM
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/op...-59072192.html
23047  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Jew Jitsu! on: September 11, 2009, 08:56:10 PM


http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f8e_1252361650
23048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jew Jitsu!!! on: September 11, 2009, 08:55:05 PM


http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f8e_1252361650
23049  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ACORN out? on: September 11, 2009, 08:41:07 PM
Outstanding news!!!

It appears that ACORN will NOT be participating in the census!!!
23050  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: September 11, 2009, 08:36:18 PM
Pasted from the 9/11 thread:

09/11/2009

 Editor's Corner
with PoliceOne Senior Editor Doug Wyllie

American cops: Force multipliers in counterterrorism
 

Editor's Note: I don't typically write in "first person" on this Web site. This is, in fact, the first time I’ve ever done so. One of the great pleasures of my job is that I get to talk to heroes every day. From cadets to Chiefs of Police, from the rookies to the recently retired, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with hundreds of outstanding police officers. But I don’t often get to speak with one of our country’s heroes who has hunted (and bagged) international terrorists. Fred Burton has been there and done that, and a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend some time with him. What follows are a few of the highlights of that conversation. I will refer back to this interview at times in the future — my intent here is merely to relate some of the wisdom he shared with me during our talk, the sum of which is this: American cops are on front lines against potential terrorist attacks on our soil.

— Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Senior Editor
 

 
Some PoliceOne Members already know a little bit about Fred Burton through his regular columns on current counterterrorism activities both here and abroad.  For those of you who don’t know his work, a little bit of historical context will go a long way.


Fred Burton began his law enforcement career in a way many police officers can relate to — a young man with the desire to help people in his community became a cop in Montgomery County, Maryland, which borders our nation’s Capitol. In the first chapter of his book, GHOST: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent, he writes, “I was a Maryland cop. I protected my community. I loved law enforcement, but I wanted something more.”

He applied for federal service, and the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State offered him a job. Before he began training for the DSS in November 1985 — around the time terrorists hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise liner — he had never even heard of the organization. By the time he retired from DSS, Fred had helped create (and then lead) the agency’s Counterterrorism Division. “Very few people have ever heard of us,” Fred writes. “My training for that work was as a street cop back when terrorism was in its infancy.”

He orchestrated the arrest of Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He investigated cases including the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the killing of Rabbi Meir Kahane, al Qaeda’s New York City bombing plots before 9/11, and the Libyan-backed terrorist attacks against diplomats in Sanaa and Khartoum. He has served his country in ways that may remain secret forever. 

Today, Fred Burton is widely considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on terrorists and terrorist organizations.  As Vice President for Counterterrorism and Corporate Security at STRATFOR, a global private intelligence company, Fred Burton leads a team of experts (with input from human intelligence sources around the world) that analyzes and forecast the most significant events and trends related to terrorism and counterterrorism.

To this day, he carries with him at all times a list of about a dozen names — handwritten into a small journal — of known actors, unidentified suspects, rogue intelligence operatives, and terrorists’ aliases or code names. When a bad guy is caught or killed, the name is scratched off the list. The number of names varies, he says, “depending on the speed of justice in the world.”

The NYPD Beat Cop Concept
Most police officers have a pretty good handle on where the “high-value targets” are in their patrol area. Many even think beyond the typical list of power plants, transportation facilities, malls, hospitals, sports complexes, rail yards, radio towers, and public buildings. But it goes way beyond even that. Burton says that agencies and officers should be aware of where the offices are whose CEOs or managers are particularly high-profile, or unexpectedly low-profile. He says that targets could be among the most innocuous-looking structures and areas.

“It’s still surprising to me the kind of blank stares I get at times — officers may know that they patrol an area that has a nuclear reactor, or that there’s a large dam. But they may not know, for example, that large oil, chemical, or gas lines run through their areas or that your suspicious person call in the vicinity of a location may be connected to those kinds of places.”

Further, Burton advises that police officers get to know the locations of the synagogues in their area of responsibility, as well as the mosques. “Have you made any effort to reach out to the Imam of the mosque or the Rabbi of that synagogue and establish some dialogue? What I sense — what I know and I’m sure you know too — is that cops are responding to their radio calls and they don’t have a lot of opportunity to get out and just develop some very granular contacts in the community. But these could turn out to be valuable information conduits.”

If you have a good avenue of communication within your various communities, he explains, they’re more apt to bring more information to your attention. “Say, for example, if they have someone — whether it’s in the jihadi community or in the right-wing Jewish extremist community — that they want to talk to you about...” Burton offers, and then allows that sentence hang in the air, unanswered.

Individuals working day-to-day in ethnically-owned private small business — from the deli to the hot dog cart to the self-storage businesses — are always good conduits of information if you really know your area of responsibility. When he visits police agencies around the country, he asks for a show of hands among the gathered group: ‘who here knows those business owners, or even where the synagogues, Jewish day care centers, or mosques are located?’

“You’ll get a hit or miss response,” he laments. “In an audience of 100 you might get 25 hands. Whether folks don’t want to respond, or what, I don’t know. But I get a sense there’s still not a lot of understanding of your different communities... where you can play a significant role in the war on terror.”

Information about all of these types of people and places has meaning — specifically it can mean the difference between an attack that’s carried out and one that’s prevented.

It’s the old beat cop principle that New York City is so famous for — knowing everything that is happening on your beat. “You really do need informational resources in the community as well as good observation skills to know what changes are taking place.”

Who’s Watching the Watchers?
Most pre-operational surveillance — such as sitting on a park bench, taking a picture, or shooting scenic video — is innocent-looking in nature and generally does not break the law. The real problem with this isn’t the legality of the activity, it’s that in too many cases, virtually no one is taking note that it’s happening. Burton says that often, no one has the mindset to wonder, ‘Why is this person taking a picture of this building?’

Worse, omong those who do make the observation, few will take the time to write it up in an intelligence report and make sure that it gets to the local Joint Terrorism Task Force for further investigation. “There may be three or four of those things that happen across a region,” Burton says, “but no one would know to make an analysis because no one bothered to send the sighting up the line.”

According to Burton, there’s a prevailing expectation among too many cops that someone else is doing that, but in fact, nobody is. “I think street cops think, ‘Well, the FBI must be doing that.’ And that’s just not the case. You know, the FBI — especially today’s FBI — they have an operating manual that’s about the size of an old Bell telephone book. They’re under a lot of bureaucratic requirements and scrutiny as to when they can talk to people and when they can’t. It takes a lot of supervisory approvals and so forth. So, your average street cop or your average detective has much more probability of running into a real terrorist than your average federal agent does. They also have the ability to just do more intelligence collection through interfacing with their area of responsibility.”

Burton contends that the thwarting of a terrorist attack is more probable at the street level than at the federal level. “I spent a lot of time with these folks across the country and I talked to a lot of different people and do a lot of speaking engagements with counter-terrorism agents. Even in the post-9/11 environment with DHS and your joint terrorism task forces with intelligence division agents and detectives — everybody kind of senses that somebody else is doing this stuff. In reality, they’re not.”

Jails: The Jihadist Jack-in-the-Box
Where would a jihadist go to cultivate new recruits? Where would he find recent converts to Islam who could easily be radicalized? Where are there large numbers of young men who feel disenfranchised and prone to violence? You’ve probably already guessed the top two places (hint: they’re not colleges and mosques). Cartels and gangs on the streets, and their related populace who live behind bars.

“You have a couple of environments that are very conducive for the recruitment for jihadist criminal activity. Obviously, one is the prison systems — more at the local and state level than the federal system because the federal system usually has folks that are put away for a good number of years due to federal sentencing guidelines. So, in essence, at the local and state levels where you see more of the recruitment of gang members as well as you get the converts to Islam, you get the captive audience that has to join the group for self-preservation phenomena.”

Burton says that there are some outstanding programs underway in some state and local corrections agencies that are beginning to develop actionable intelligence on these prisoners to garner how they’re doing recruitment. Despite these excellent efforts, there remain some “huge intelligence gaps” due to the difficulty of getting that kind of data and making sense of it. But strides are being made by extending some of the intelligence gathering activities devoted toward drug cartels and their criminal cadre who occupy our prisons.

“The other phenomena — and we see it especially when it comes to the Border — is that relationship between your various cartels and your criminal enterprises, your street gangs. Whether it’s MS-13, Barrio Aztecas, or a lot of smaller ones, you know there has to be an interface between the cartels that are pushing the dope north and the flow of weapons, stolen vehicles, and cash going south. You have that hand and glove interface there.”

Case in Point: A Successful Model
At the center of the successful take-down of a grassroots jihadist cell in May are some of the very things Burton discussed with PoliceOne:

1. among these homegrown terrorists, only one was reared as a Muslim — the other three converted to Islam in prison
2. relatively ordinary local synagogues were among the terrorists’ intended targets (the other target was a U.S. military transport aircraft)
3. one well-placed informant in a mosque was the conduit of information to law enforcement
4. the would-be terrorists used cameras bought at Wal-Mart to photograph their targets, doing their pre-operational surveillance in the open
5. vigilant observation of the suspects — and information being quickly passed to federal agents — led to the successful prevention of an attack

Of course, we’re talking about the Newburgh plot. In STRATFOR’s excellent analysis of the failed plot, Burton and his team write that “with an informant in place, the task force in charge of tracking the Newburgh plotters most likely constructed an elaborate surveillance system that kept the four men under constant watch during the investigation and sting operation, using technical surveillance of their residences and potential targets.”

Having the ability to closely observe the group’s communications and movements, STRATFOR estimated, law enforcement officials were able to gain control over the group’s activities to such a degree that they felt confident in letting the plotters plant a 37-pound inert explosive device in the trunk of a car outside of Riverdale Temple and two similarly harmless bombs outside the Riverdale Jewish Center, a synagogue a few blocks away.

There’s one other element to the Newburgh plot that Burton discussed with PoliceOne, and it’s as esoteric as it is concrete. The suspects told their arresting officers that they “wanted to commit jihad” because they were “disturbed about what happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”


Going Home... Eyeing the Horizon
Burton was recently invited to do a presentation on terrorism for his old PD, Montgomery County Police. “I guess it was about 250 police officers, and they had invited the U.S. Park Police and ICE and ATF... it was good going back and having an opportunity to talk to my old department.”

Among the things Burton said to the group is something he tries to talk about wherever he goes — that police officers are so focused on the day-to-day of patrol that they sometimes fail to recognize how the events which take place abroad can impact security here in the States.

“Whether that is a Mumbai attack or the current saber-rattling between Israel and Iran, they don’t put it in a domestic perspective. Meaning, ‘how does this international event resonate here? What are the possible ramifications to us here on my beat and in my city?’ I talk to a lot of police officers and what I see is that once you start talking about this issue, they clearly get it then and recognize that it’s important.”

Burton says that once the international trigger incident occurs, it is way too late to go back and start laying the foundations to those relationships and making those intelligence inroads. The “quiet times” on patrol are the best times for doing security surveys at those facilities, or establishing liaison with the owner of those properties. He asks, “Have you done a walk-through when you’ve got some down time to know these sites in case you’re called for an active shooter that takes place at this location?”

Just one example from which you can choose — among the topics he covers at STRATFOR — Burton points to the tensions between Iran and Israel right now. “Whether or not Israel is going to conduct a preemptive strike on Iran is a topic that we discuss here every day. That event, in the event that it occurs, will significantly resonate here in the United States. One: does your average police officer recognize that? And two: you’ll be in a much better position if you already know within your area of responsibility those Jewish-owned, multi-national Jewish schools, synagogues, as potential target sites and you’ve made an effort to establish contact with all of them. Because that brings you to the new phenomena of your lone-wolf jihadi and how in all probability — again, back to your street officer — your street officer is going to be the most probable interface between the victim and the perpetrator.”

Counterterrorism Force Multipliers
Burton states with conviction that police officers in the United States are at the front line of the preemption of a terrorist attack on our soil. He adds that strictly from a data-collection perspective — and all police officers are data-collectors — cops are “our best eyes and ears for detecting pre-operational surveillance by anybody. If you could marshal those assets nationally, from sea to shining sea, you could have a much better picture of events from a real-time surveillance perspective than we currently do.”

The good news, he says, is that America’s cops are a counterterrorism force multiplier, especially when you’re entering into times of heightened concern.

The bad news is chillingly simple: “Based on my investigations and the kind of work I’ve done in the past, once that suicide bomber starts rolling toward target they’re going to be about 95 to 97 percent successful in carrying out their mission and killing somebody.”
 

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

A veteran of more than ten years in online and print journalism, Doug Wyllie was writing about digital music before Napster, streaming video before YouTube, and wireless technology since the original Palm Pilot debuted. As senior editor of PoliceOne, Doug is responsible for the editorial direction of the PoliceOne website. In addition to his editorial and managerial responsibilities, Doug writes on a broad range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community.
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