Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Low interest rates
on: December 26, 2009, 04:24:34 AM
Even though it is POTH, a point of major importance is finally noticed-- that low interest rates destroy savers. Because it is POTH, "capitalism" is blamed, but the true name is "liberal fascism". The destruction of savings due to government meddling (which includes programs which "protect" people from the natural responsibility to save for emergencies, old age, etc.) is one of the most profound underlying vehicles for the destruction of the American free market and one of the most profound enabling tactics for the implementation of liberal fascism. Now that govt. deficits look ready to kick it in with interest rates, POTH finally notices that savers are hurt.
At Tiny Rates, Saving Money Costs Investors Recommend
By STEPHANIE STROM
Published: December 25, 2009
Millions of Americans are paying a high price for a safe place to put their money: extremely low interest rates on savings accounts and certificates of deposit.
Joe Parks, a retired accountant in Houston who sits on the volunteer advisory board of Better Investing, said that with low interest rates and fees, retirees and the elderly could take anywhere from a half to three-quarters of a percent cut in their incomes. Joe Parks, a retired accountant, said retirees and the elderly would take up to a three-quarters of a percent cut in income. The elderly and others on fixed incomes have been especially hard hit. Many have seen returns on savings, C.D.’s and government bonds drop to niggling amounts recently, often costing them money once inflation, fees and taxes are considered.
“Open a Savings Plus Account today and get a great rate,” read an advertisement in the Dec. 16 Newsday for Citibank, which was then offering 1.2 percent for an account. (As low as it was, the offer was good only for accounts of $25,000 and up.)
“They’re advertising it in the papers as if they’re actually proud of that,” said Steven Weisman, a title insurance consultant in New York. “It’s a joke.”
The advertised rate for the Savings Plus account has expired, according to the bank’s Web site; as of Friday, the account paid an interest rate of 0.5 percent. The bank’s highest-yield savings account, the Ultimate, was paying 1.01 percent.
The best deal Mr. Weisman has found is 2 percent on a one-year certificate of deposit offered by ING Direct, an online bank that has become a bit of a darling among the fixed-income crowd.
Interest on one- and two-year Treasury notes was just 0.40 percent and 0.89 percent, as of Monday. Bank of America offers 0.35 percent on a standard money market account with $10,000 to $25,000, and Wells Fargo will pay 0.05 percent on a basic savings account.
Indeed, after fees are subtracted, inflation is accounted for and taxes are paid, many investors in C.D.’s, government bonds and savings and money market accounts are losing money. In fact, Northern Trust waived some $8 million in fees on money market accounts because they would have wiped out all interest, and then some.
“The unemployment situation and the general downturn in the economy had an impact, but what’s going to happen now as C.D.’s mature is that retirees and the elderly are going to take anywhere from a half to three-quarters of a percent cut in their incomes,” said Joe Parks, a retired accountant in Houston on the advisory board of Better Investing, an organization that works to help people become savvier investors. “It’s a real problem.”
Experts say risk-averse investors are effectively financing a second bailout of financial institutions, many of which have also raised fees and interest rates on credit cards.
“What the average citizen doesn’t explicitly understand is that a significant part of the government’s plan to repair the financial system and the economy is to pay savers nothing and allow damaged financial institutions to earn a nice, guaranteed spread,” said William H. Gross, co-chief investment officer of the Pacific Investment Management Company, or Pimco. “It’s capitalism, I guess, but it’s not to be applauded.”
Mr. Gross said he read his monthly portfolio statement twice because he could not believe that the line “Yield on cash” was 0.01 percent. At that rate, he said, it would take him 6,932 years to double his money.
Many think the Federal Reserve is fueling a stock market bubble by keeping rates so low that investors decide to bet on stocks instead. Mr. Parks of Better Investing moved more money into the stock market early this year, when C.D.’s he held began maturing and he could not nearly recover the income they had generated by rolling them over.
He began investing some of the money in blue chip stocks with a dividend yield of at least 3 percent and even managed to find an oil-and-gas limited partnership that offered 8 percent.
Mr. Parks said, however, that he would not pursue that strategy as more of his C.D.’s matured. “What worked in the first quarter of this year isn’t as relevant, because the market has come up so much,” he said.
No one is advising a venture into higher-risk investments. Katie Nixon, chief investment officer for the northeast region at Northern Trust, said that, in general, “no one should be taking risks with their pillow money.”
“What people are paying for is safety and security,” she said, “and that’s probably just right.”
People who rely on income from such investments for support, however, are being forced to consider new options.
Eileen Lurie, 75, is taking out a reverse mortgage to help offset the decline in returns on her investments tied to interest rates. Reverse mortgages have a checkered reputation, but Ms. Lurie said her bank was going out of its way to explain the product to her.
“These banks don’t want to be held responsible for thousands of seniors standing in bread lines,” she said.
Such mortgages allow people who are 62 and older to convert equity in their homes into cash tax-free and without any impact on Social Security or Medicare payments. The loans are repaid after death.
“If your assets aren’t appreciating and aren’t producing any income, you’re getting eaten up in this interest rate environment,” said Peter Strauss, a lawyer who advises the elderly. “A reverse mortgage is one way of making a very large asset produce income.”
Eve Wilmore, 93, has watched returns on her C.D.’s drop to between 1 percent and 2 percent from about 5 percent a year or so ago. Yet the Social Security Administration recently raised her Medicare Part B premium based on those higher rates she had been earning. “I’m being hit from both sides,” Mrs. Wilmore said. “There’s some way I can apply for a reconsideration, and I’m going to fight it. I have to.”
She said she was reluctant to redeploy her money into higher-risk investments. “I don’t know what my medical bills will be from here on in, and so I want to keep the money where I can get to it easily if I need it,” she said.
Peter Gomori, who taught a course on money and investing for Dorot, a nonprofit that offers services for the elderly, did not advise his students on investment strategies but said that if he had, he would probably have told them to sit tight.
“I know interest rates are very low for Treasury securities and bank products, but that isn’t going to be forever,” he said.
But investment professionals doubt rates will rise any time soon — or to any level close to those before the crash.
“What the futures market is telling me,” Mr. Gross said, “is that in April 2011, these savers that are currently earning nothing will be earning 1.25 percent.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Major-General Miloslav Kaspar
on: December 26, 2009, 04:16:12 AM
Major-General Miloslav Kaspar
Major-General Miloslav Kaspar, who has died aged 95, fought with Czechoslovak forces in eastern Europe and France during the Second World War, and was responsible for choosing the team which assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, the SS governor of Prague in 1942; after the war he served as an intelligence officer with Deuxième Bureau and MI5.
Published: 7:53PM GMT 25 Dec 2009
In March 1939 Kaspar was with his first regiment in the Slovak capital of Bratislava when the Wehrmacht marched in to proclaim the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate. Setting out immediately for Warsaw, he joined a Polish military intelligence unit which sent him on a training course. Three weeks later he was smuggled into Prague to command a Czech unit spying on the enemy.
On April 20 he produced a report on the troops and heavy armour in a parade to celebrate Hitler's birthday. He wrote it on wet paper, so that the message became invisible when it dried, and accompanied it with an innocuous note.
Major-General Antonin PetrakWhen his brother Pepa, an engineer, told him details of the Soviet-German pact which he had overheard while checking phone lines, Kaspar immediately led his comrades back to Poland. There they joined the Czechoslovak Legion, formed by Lieutenant-Colonel Ludvik Svoboda, and were captured by the Russians invading from the east as the Germans poured in from the west. Kaspar found himself moved to a series of Soviet prison camps previously occupied by Poles, whose graffiti ominously stopped in March 1940 (when the Russians carried out the Katyn massacre).
On being released when Russian-German relations deteriorated, he and his companions were sent to the Crimea, deloused, and dispatched to France to take part in the fighting at Coulommiers on the Marne. But they were forced to retreat south.
On coming to a badly bombed bridge over the Loire, Kaspar organised his men to carry across munitions and gun parts under fire, for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. When he reached the sea, the sight of Admiral Somerville's fleet departing to challenge the French at Mers-el-Kebir convinced him for the first time that victory was possible.
After the French surrender, Kaspar arrived in Britain, becoming an interpreter and instructor to the London Scottish and the South Staffords. As an intelligence officer with the Czechoslovak Legion he also helped to choose the team to assassinate the German governor Reinhard Heydrich in Prague in 1942. It was while stationed near Royal Leamington Spa that he met Paulette Pegg, the daughter of a Ministry of Health inspector, whom he married in 1944.
After escorting the exiled Czechoslovak government in London to Slovakia via the Black Sea early the following year, Kaspar was given a battalion for the 300-mile advance on Prague; he took the town of Vsetin, earning a Medal for Valour, and helped the Romanians fight off a German attack on a village under the Tatra mountains, for which he was appointed a knight of the Royal Order of the Star of Romania.
His brother Tonda, who was in a Prague prison, was taunted by guards who told him that there was no chance of Miloslav riding to his rescue on a white horse – so he was delighted to hear that Mila had appeared in Prague on a grey. But their elder brother Pepa was captured bringing ammunition to the barricades on the streets, and killed by SS men in front of his wife and daughter.
When the ceasefire was established Kaspar helped to transfer the Sudeten Germans back to Germany, then studied at the Czechoslovak military war academy for a year before becoming professor of tactics at the staff college. When the communists took over in February 1948, however, he was sacked. He quickly dispatched his wife back to England, and crossed the mountains into Bavaria the next night.
The son of a local official, Miloslav Frantisek Kaspar was born in Prague on February 12 1914 and went to the Realka grammar school. An excellent football player, he was offered a contract by Sparta, but he elected instead to go to the army officers' college at Hranice in Moravia. He found time to visit the Folies Bergère in Paris, where he saw both Maurice Chevalier and Josephine Baker, whose banana striptease became one of his party tricks in later life. But he also earned sufficiently high marks to be able to choose his regiment, the 39th Infantry.
After leaving Czechoslovakia in 1948, Kaspar joined his wife in Britain, where he accepted an invitation from the wartime Czechoslovak defence minister, Sergej Ingr, to continue in military intelligence. He worked first for Deuxième Bureau in Paris and Innsbruck, where he was involved in running agents behind the Iron Curtain, then moved to MI5 in Cyprus before going to Beirut, where he called himself Miles Kingdon of Skyways Airways.
On returning to Britain, Kaspar became an export manager for Ranco, a refrigeration company, and then Anglo-Nordic, which sold central heating. When he retired in 1978 he became chairman and then president of the Association of Czechoslovak Legionnaires Abroad, editing its magazine Osvobozeni (Liberation).
As the Soviet Union crumbled in the 1980s he wrote, with Josef Bursik (a Czech hero of the Soviet Union who had fought with the Russians during the war), an open letter to President Gorbachev asking for the return of Carpatho-Ruthenia, which Stalin had annexed. Sir Geoffrey Howe, the Foreign Secretary, thanked them, but there was no Soviet response.
When the Communist regime in Prague fell with the Velvet Revolution, Kaspar was offered promotion to the rank of major-general.
He turned it down because it came from a defence minister who was a former communist, but accepted the offer when it was renewed by President Havel.
Returning to Prague after almost 50 years, he found few relations and a country greatly changed by communist rule. He spent his last years in Surrey and Oxfordshire.
Mila Kaspar, who died on November 4, is survived by his wife and three sons.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cleansing Rituals
on: December 25, 2009, 07:35:42 PM
Though its perspective is Christian and mine is not, I agree with the larger point the following makes. I hope to trigger more posts on this subject:
I've grown quite fond of a show on the History Channel called "Warriors". In
this show US Army Green Beret Terry Schappert goes all over the world to
study, engage and report on the great warrior cultures of history. In one
episode he profiled the Zulu people of South Africa and the warrior culture
which, under the sometimes brutal leadership of Shaka Zulu, changed the very
nature of warfare in Africa. But what captured my interest was not the
weapons and tactics of the Zulu warriors-it was what happened after the
battle. The Zulu community understood that their men returning from battle
had blood on their hands. In most cases they did not have the benefit of
long range weaponry that made the killing distant and faceless, but instead
had experienced the physical and psychological horrors of close quarters
combat with edged and blunt force weapons. As any combat veteran will tell
you, reintegrating into a peaceful society after witnessing the bloody
carnage of war is no simple matter, especially if there is blood on your own
hands. So, as the men returned from fighting they underwent spiritual
cleansing rituals which were intended to cleanse their hands of the blood
they had shed, freeing their consciences from guilt, their hearts of blood
lust, and helping them to transition back into peaceful life inside the
community. Schappert, a seasoned combat veteran himself, was clearly moved
by this, turning to the camera and explaining that "we don't get this."
And I really have to wonder why.
Why is it that we find it so easy to send our young people off to war,
giving them the latest, greatest and most effective training and weaponry on
the planet, applaud them for accomplishing their mission with honor and
valor, and then find it so difficult to reintegrate them into our peace
loving society when the battle is over? The secular authorities take steps
to provide counseling, treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
and other post-war psychological and psychiatric issues and I do not mean to
downplay the vital importance of the counseling disciplines in dealing with
the whole person, but I am convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ has a
profoundly important role to play in the lives of our returning warriors.
But to first discover what that role is we need to first swallow our western
pride and take a lesson from the Zulus. True, the Zulus were animistic in
their beliefs and practices and we do not condone or affirm anything that is
contrary to the Scriptures, but that doesn't mean the Zulus got it all wrong
on what a warrior returning from combat needs. We are quick to celebrate and
honor God's call on some to be warriors. We should be all the more eager to
honor the warriors who have heeded that call and return to us with blood on
their hands and horrifying images that have been seared into their minds by
being first in line to help give them what they really need: spiritual
The Zulus, along with just a few other warrior cultures throughout history
including some Native American Indian tribes, correctly understood that the
cleansing a warrior needed was deeply spiritual. For some reason we in the
US have seemed largely content with seeing our returning warriors' needs as
primarily mental and emotional, and trying to help them in those areas. But
as the Church we understand that God created us as multi-layered
people-physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. These layers overlap
and intermingle, creating powerful reactions throughout the entire being
when any single layer is acted upon. When your heart is broken you can't
eat. When your mind is racing you can't sleep. Fasting quickens the spirit.
Emotive music can soothe and pacify or excite and invigorate the mind and
body. God created it all, and never intended that any part be ignored. Plato
thought the spiritual was to be valued to the exclusion of the temporal
(physical, emotional, intellectual), but he went too far. The temporal
aspects are also part of God's human creation and are therefore precious in
His sight! But the spiritual layer-the soul-is foundational to the rest. The
body, the heart and the mind are dead without the soul, and outside of
Christ the soul is dead. If the body, heart and mind have participated in or
even simply witnessed the unnatural act of taking a human life-no matter how
despicable that life may have been-the only hope for that person's cleansing
is through a soul that is made alive in Christ Jesus, and a soul-bond to the
resurrected Christ where Jesus' blood is brought to bear against the
darkness left in war's wake. We are comfortable with the blood of Christ
cleansing us from sin, and we need to be comfortable with the truth that the
blood of Christ also "heals all your diseases" (Psalm 103:3). Isn't the
blood of Jesus who gave His life for that warrior in your midst also enough
to cleanse his hands of the blood of the enemy and make powerless the
memories that fester and haunt him in the middle of the night? Isn't the Son
who raised the dead also able to heal the heart and mind that have been
scarred by the horror of war? We confess that Jesus' blood is all that we
need. It's time to put that confession into action in a new way.
The War on Terror is much more than an ideological struggle-it is the very
battle between good and evil, between freedom and slavery, fulfilling the
word of the angel of the Lord in Genesis 16:12, that the hand of Ishmael
will be against everyone, and everyone's hand against him. It is a spiritual
war waged first in the heavenly realms, spilling over into the created world
where casualties are by no means limited to the physically wounded and
killed. As a result our nation is now faced with a spiritual humanitarian
disaster of cataclysmic proportions as our warriors return from battlefields
in the middle east. Our brave soldiers have shed the blood of the enemy, and
have had their hands stained by the blood of their brethren whom they were
not able to save. The secular world may be able to help the mind and body,
but it cannot hope to touch the spiritual wounds these warriors now
bear-only Jesus can. As the nation welcomes them home with pomp and
circumstance, let us, the Church, welcome them in with minds that understand
them, hearts that weep with them, arms that hold them and hands that pour
the oil of anointing in rich, spiritual ceremony, washing their hands,
hearts, minds and souls in the cleansing blood of Christ.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Yemen
on: December 25, 2009, 03:09:40 PM
Didn't really know where to post this, so decided to put it here:
A Dec. 24 raid by the government of Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has reportedly killed several senior leaders of the group. If these reports are confirmed, the operation could have far-reaching implications for the group and for the security for the Arabian Peninsula.
At 4:30 a.m. local time on Dec. 24, the government of Yemen launched an operation in the Rafadh area of al-Said district in the Shabwa province southeast of Sanaa. The operation, which reportedly involved an airstrike and a coordinated ground assault, was apparently targeting militants associated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Yemeni authorities are reporting that between 31 and 34 AQAP members were killed and 29 arrested in the operation. The Yemeni sources also advise that among those killed and arrested in the raid were several foreigners, including militants from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq.
According to STRATFOR sources, Anwar al-Awlaki the American-Yemeni cleric, who is well-known for his ties to U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan (who attacked a group of U.S Army soldiers at Fort Hood), was the primary target of the operation. STRATFOR sources have also said that as Yemeni authorities were watching al-Awlaki’s safe house, a number of other AQAP leaders arrived at the location to meet with the radical cleric.
Yemen is now reporting that it appears the operation also resulted in the deaths of other major AQAP leaders, including the group’s leader and former secretary to Osama bin Laden, Nasir al-Wahayshi, his Saudi deputy, Abu-Sayyaf al-Shihri (who is a former Guantanamo detainee), and another high-ranking operative, Mohammad Ahmed Saleh Umer, who was seen just days before on a widely disseminated videotape preaching openly to crowds in Abyan. The Yemeni authorities are attempting to verify the identities of all those killed in the strike, in order to confirm the deaths of these senior AQAP figures.
(click here to enlarge image)
The operation to target al-Awlaki was apparently aided by his recent interview with the television network Al Jazeera. The interview, which was posted to Al Jazeera’s Web site on Dec. 23, could have provided Yemeni or U.S. intelligence the opportunity to locate al-Awlaki. The interview — like the public speeches recently made by AQAP leaders in front of crowds in Abyan — may have been a deadly lapse of operational security.
If it is confirmed that al-Wahayshi and al-Shihri were indeed killed in the strike, the operation would be a devastating blow to the resurgent al Qaeda node in the Arabian Peninsula. The organization has been under considerable pressure in recent weeks. Thursday’s raid follows similar raids last week in Abyan and Sanaa provinces that resulted in the deaths of some 34 AQAP members, including high-ranking operative Mohammed Ali al-Kazemi, and the arrests of 17 other AQAP militants.
This is not the first time al Qaeda-affiliated militants in Yemen have been struck. In November 2002, the CIA launched a predator drone strike against Abu Ali al-Harithi and five confederates in Marib. That strike essentially decapitated the al Qaeda node in Yemen and greatly reduced their operational effectiveness. The arrest of al-Harithi’s replacement, Muhammad Hamdi al-Ahdal, a year later, was another crippling blow to the organization.
In 2003 as part of an extradition agreement with Iran, Nasir al-Wahayshi was returned to Yemen. In February 2006, al-Wahayshi and 22 other prisoners escaped from a prison in Sanaa, beginning a second phase of al Qaeda’s operations in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. With the help of other senior jihadist operatives like Qasim al-Rami — who reportedly managed to escape last week’s raids — al-Wahayshi, who assumed leadership of the group in mid-2007, managed to rebuild the organizational structure of al Qaeda in Yemen into a more cohesive, structured and effective organization. Under al-Wahayshi’s leadership, the al Qaeda-affiliated militants in Yemen have experienced a marked resurgence. Al-Wahayahi’s organization in Yemen was even strong enough to adopt the al Qaeda-linked militants who were forced to flee Saudi Arabia in the face of the Saudi government’s campaign against al Qaeda in the Kingdom, formally announcing the formation of AQAP in January 2009.
Although al-Wahayshi’s followers have not realized a great deal of tactical success, they have launched several high-profile attacks, including the Mar. 18, 2008 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and the Aug. 28, 2009 assassination attempt against Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister.
As STRATFOR has long noted, effective leadership is a key element in the effectiveness of militant organizations. If Yemeni forces were in fact successful in killing al-Wahayshi, al-Shihri, Mohammad Ahmed Saleh Umer, Anwar al-Awlaki — in addition to the death of Mohammed Ali al-Kazemi last week — AQAP has indeed suffered a significant organizational blow. The long-term consequences of these developments in Yemen, and their consequences for the security of Yemen and Saudi Arabia, will depend largely upon the leadership transition plan the group had in place (if there was one), and the personal abilities of the man who will step in to assume leadership of the group. In the face of such adversity, it will take an individual with a rare combination of charisma and leadership to quickly rebuild AQAP’s capabilities.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Luke
on: December 25, 2009, 10:16:38 AM
"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." --Luke 2:1-7
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
on: December 25, 2009, 10:13:05 AM
The Nevada gambler, al-Qaida, the CIA and the mother of all cons
Chris McGreal in Washington guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 23 December 2009 21.47 GMT
The intelligence reports fitted the suspicions of the time: al-Qaida sleeper agents were scattered across the US awaiting orders that were broadcast in secret codes over the al-Jazeera television network.
Flights from Britain and France were cancelled. Officials warned of a looming "spectacular attack" to rival 9/11. In 2003 President Bush's homeland security tsar, Tom Ridge, spoke of a "credible source" whose information had US military bracing for a new terrorist onslaught.
Then suddenly no more was said.
Six years later, Playboy magazine has revealed that the CIA fell victim to an elaborate con by a compulsive gambler who claimed to have developed software that discovered al-Jazeera broadcasts were being used to transmit messages to terrorists buried deep in America.
Dennis Montgomery, 56, the co-owner of a software gaming company in Nevada, who has since been arrested for bouncing $1m worth of cheques, claims his program read messages hidden in barcodes listing international flights to the US, their positions and airports to be targeted.
The CIA took the information seriously, working with Montgomery at his offices and paying him an undisclosed amount of money. The "intelligence" Montgomery claimed to have found was passed on to the White House and homeland security where it kickstarted an alert that bordered on panic.
According to Playboy, Montgomery's claims caused the cancellation of British Airways and other flights supposedly mentioned in the codes.
Some officials were not at all surprised to hear the allegation that al-Jazeera was involved. The then defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, later vilified the station for "vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable" reporting of the US invasion of Iraq.
For months, the source of the information was kept under wraps within the CIA but once it became more widely known in the agency it immediately came under question. Playboy quotes one former counterterrorism official who attended a briefing on the source as being furious. He said: "I was saying: 'This is crazy. This is embarrassing.' They claimed they were breaking the code, getting latitude and longitude, and al-Qaida operatives were decoding it. They were coming up with airports and everything, and we were just saying: 'You know, this is horseshit!' "
Frances Townsend, a homeland security adviser to Bush, defended the decision to work with Montgomery. "It didn't seem beyond the realm of possibility. We were relying on technical people to tell us whether or not it was feasible. I don't regret having acted on it," she told Playboy.
But the doubts began to prevail as Montgomery refused to reveal how he was finding the barcodes, when no one else could, and he demanded $100m for the software. The CIA also began to wonder why al-Qaida didn't use emails and web pages to communicate with its agents.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Vermont
on: December 24, 2009, 07:22:38 PM
SELF-DEFENSE (USE OF DEADLY FORCE)
Evidence has been introduced bearing on the issue of self-defense, as justification for the killing of (victim)_______________. The State bears the burden of proving that the killing was unlawful. A killing committed in lawful self-defense is lawful, and not a crime. Here the State must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that (Def)_______________ did not act in self-defense. [He] [She] has no burden of proof on this issue.
A person has the right to defend [himself] [herself] when [he] [she] is attacked, or when [he] [she] reasonably believes [he] [she] is in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm. A person in that situation has the right to use only such force as is reasonably necessary to repel the attack or the perceived imminent danger.
A killing is justified by self-defense if:
(1) (Def)_______________ reasonably believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger of being killed or of suffering great bodily harm, and
(2) (Def)_______________’s use of deadly force was reasonably necessary to repel the perceived threat.
The right of self-defense does not require that a person actually be assaulted, but (Def)_______________ must have believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger of great bodily harm, and [his] [her] belief must have been reasonable under the circumstances. [His] [Her] expectation of harm must have been based upon fact, and not on some imaginary fear. Furthermore, if [he] [she] honestly and reasonably believed it was immediately necessary to use deadly force to protect himself from an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury, the law does not require [him] [her] to retreat.
Self-defense requires that (Def)_______________ must have had a reasonable fear of imminent harm. In deciding this issue, you may consider what [he] [she] knew about (victim)_______________ at the time. You may consider any previous interactions, including any aggressive or hostile conduct by (victim)_______________, and any other evidence you consider relevant, including who started the confrontation.
When assessing the reasonableness of (Def)_______________’s fear, you may consider the individual characteristics of (Def)_______________ and (victim)_______________, such as their respective size, gender, age, physical condition, strength, stamina, courage, and assertiveness.
Self-defense permits only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to repel the perceived harm. A person may use the amount of force that reasonably appears to be necessary under all of the circumstances known to [him] [her] at the time. In this case you must decide whether (Def)_______________ reasonably believed it was necessary to use the amount of force that [he] [she] did use. When a person has reasonable grounds to believe that an assault is imminent, [he] [she] need not wait until it actually occurs before [he] [she] may resort to self-defense.
Once the issue of self-defense appears in the case, the burden is on the State to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that (Def)_______________ did not act in self-defense, or that the force used by (Def)_______________ was excessive under the circumstances. (Def)_______________ is not required to prove that [he] [she] acted in self-defense.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ
on: December 24, 2009, 01:52:53 PM
No matter how many troops President Obama orders to Afghanistan, victory will also require a surge across the Pakistan border that the Taliban and al Qaeda—but not American GIs—cross easily. The President knows this, but he hasn't made Pakistan's help any easier to obtain by signalling his intention to draw down a mere year after his surge troops arrive in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has slowly expanded its cooperation this year as its public and military have awakened to the threat from their own Islamist militants after a spate of terrorist attacks, including on the military headquarters in Rawalpindi. Long portrayed as noble bearded mountain fighters in Pakistan's press, the Islamists are at last seen as an existential threat to Islamabad and Lahore. And this year the military has pushed the Pakistani Taliban from the Swat Valley and South Waziristan and, in contrast with past offensives, hasn't for now ceded back the ground in a misconceived truce. This is progress.
But so far the generals have refused to take on other Islamists they don't view as a danger and have long cultivated as strategic assets—that is, the Afghan Taliban. This means the Taliban government in exile in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, and Afghan insurgents loyal to the ailing Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj based in North Waziristan. The so-called Quetta shura is led by deposed Taliban leader and Osama bin Laden ally, Mullah Omar, who fled in 2001 and now directs the fighting in southern Afghanistan from Quetta. The Haqqani network is the largest insurgent group in eastern Afghanistan.
We're told that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, in a private letter to Mr. Obama earlier this month, promised to take the fight to North Waziristan and Baluchistan. Merely to have a Pakistani politician acknowledge the existence of the Quetta shura counts as progress. The Pakistanis are reluctant to arrest their longtime proxies, Haqqani or Omar, but they could at least disrupt their headquarters and make it harder to operate from Pakistan.
As ever, the final decision rests with the Pakistan military led by General Ashfaq Kayani. According to a story in the New York Times, he has resisted the entreaties and told the U.S. that his troops have their hands too full with their own Pakistani Taliban to expand their operations.
The head of the U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen visited Pakistan last week to nudge some more. Perhaps they used the opportunity to express U.S. frustration about official Pakistani complicity in the deaths of American troops in Afghanistan. Such messages need to be sent, though the best way is in private.
If Pakistan truly has given up on its old double game of claiming to back America while allowing a Taliban sanctuary within its borders, now would be a good time to show it's serious. If not, the U.S. has leverage with Islamabad through foreign aid, as well as various military options. U.S. drone strikes can be expanded, including for the first time to Baluchistan, and special forces might be deployed across the porous border.
Both carry diplomatic risks. Though drone strikes have killed about two dozen civilians according to one Pakistani government estimate, the country's press loves to exaggerate the toll to embarrass the government and stoke anti-Americanism. The presence of U.S. troops in Pakistan, if publicized, could also undermine a Zardari government that's taken brave risks to help Washington.
This is where Mr. Obama's decision to announce a July 2011 deadline for beginning to withdraw from Afghanistan has been damaging. Various Administration officials have tried to walk back that deadline, but it has played inside Pakistan as further evidence that the Americans will eventually bug out of the region. Pakistan's military and intelligence services have long hedged their bets by supporting Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban in case the U.S. leaves and for fear that India will try to fill any power vacuum in Kabul. Now they have another excuse not to change.
The reality is that the gravest threat to Pakistan comes from Islamic radicals, especially if they are able to survive the U.S. and NATO surge. Their next targets will be Islamabad and Rawalpindi as much as Kabul, London or New York. The U.S. and Pakistan share a common enemy, and Mr. Obama will have to assure the Pakistanis that the American commitment won't end with some arbitrary withdrawal deadline made to appease the U.S. antiwar left.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kudlow
on: December 24, 2009, 01:40:41 PM
The Yield Curve Is Signaling Bigger Growth
By Lawrence Kudlow (Archive) · Thursday, December 24, 2009
What's a yield curve, and why is it so important?
Well, the curve itself measures Treasury interest rates, by maturity, from 91-day T-bills all the way out to 30-year bonds. It's the difference between the long rates and the short rates that tells a key story about the future of the economy.
When the curve is wide and upward sloping, as it is today, it tells us that the economic future is good. When the curve is upside down, or inverted, with short rates above long rates, it tells us that something is amiss -- such as a credit crunch and a recession.
The inverted curve is abnormal; the positive curve is normal. We have returned to normalcy, and then some. Right now, the difference between long and short Treasury rates is as wide as any time in history. With the Fed pumping in all that money and anchoring the short rate at zero, investors are now charging the Treasury a higher interest rate for buying its bonds. That's as it should be. The time preference of money simply means that the investor will hold Treasury bonds for a longer period of time, but he or she is going to charge a higher rate. That is a normal risk profile.
The yield curve may be the best single forecasting predictor there is. When it was inverted or flat for most of 2006, 2007 and the early part of 2008, it correctly predicted big trouble ahead. Right now, it is forecasting a much stronger economy in 2010 than most people think possible.
So there could be a mini boom next year, with real gross domestic product growing at 4 to 5 percent, perhaps with a 6 percent quarter in there someplace. And the unemployment rate is likely to come down, perhaps moving into the 8 percent zone from today's 10 percent.
The normalization of the Treasury curve is corroborated by the rising stock market and a normalization of credit spreads in the bond market. I note that as the curve has widened in recent weeks, gold prices have corrected lower and the dollar has increased somewhat. So the edge may be coming off the inflation threat.
If market investors expect the economy to grow, inflation at the margin will be that much lower as better growth absorbs at least some of the money-supply excess created by the Fed. My hunch is that inflation will range 2 percent to 3 percent next year.
It also could be that the health care bill about to pass in the Senate is less onerous from a growth standpoint -- and certainly less onerous than the House bill. For example, the Senate bill does not contain a 5.4 percent personal-tax-rate surcharge, which also would apply to capital gains. So if the Senate bill becomes the final bill, it will be less punitive on growth.
That could explain the fall in gold and the rise in the dollar. We'll still be stuck with a tax hike from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, but at least we won't have a tax hike on top of that. That's the optimistic view, at any rate.
But really, pessimists have missed the big rise in corporate profits, the resiliency of our mostly free-market capitalist economy and the monetarist experiment from the easy-money Fed. The optimal policy mix on the supply-side is low tax rates and King Dollar. We don't have that. So as good as 2010 may be, with investors moving to beat the tax man, it could be a false prosperity at the expense of 2011.
But let's cross that bridge when we get there. Right now, rising stocks and a wide and positive yield curve are spelling strong economic growth in the new year.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / CA Justifiable homicide
on: December 24, 2009, 01:22:19 PM
California Penal Code Section 197
Legal Research Home > California Lawyer > Penal Code > California Penal Code Section 197
Homicide is also justifiable when committed by any person in
any of the following cases:
1. When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a
felony, or to do some great bodily injury upon any person; or,
2. When committed in defense of habitation, property, or person,
against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or
surprise, to commit a felony, or against one who manifestly intends
and endeavors, in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, to enter
the habitation of another for the purpose of offering violence to any
person therein; or,
3. When committed in the lawful defense of such person, or of a
wife or husband, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant of such
person, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to
commit a felony or to do some great bodily injury, and imminent
danger of such design being accomplished; but such person, or the
person in whose behalf the defense was made, if he was the assailant
or engaged in mutual combat, must really and in good faith have
endeavored to decline any further struggle before the homicide was
4. When necessarily committed in attempting, by lawful ways and
means, to apprehend any person for any felony committed, or in
lawfully suppressing any riot, or in lawfully keeping and preserving
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / OBL almost assassinated Pres. Clinton
on: December 24, 2009, 01:14:08 PM
Osama bin Laden came within minutes of killing Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton came within minutes of being assassinated in the Philippines by terrorists controlled by Osama bin Laden, a new book has revealed.
By Tom Leonard in New York
Published: 7:00PM GMT 22 Dec 2009
The US leader was saved shortly before his car was due to drive over a bridge in Manila where a bomb had been planted.
The foiled attack came during Mr Clinton's visit to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the city in 1996.
At one point during his stay, he was scheduled to visit a local politician, his route taking him across a bridge in central Manila.
But as the presidential motorcade was about to set off, secret service officers received a "crackly message in one earpiece" saying intelligence agents had picked up a message suggesting an attack was imminent.
The transmission used the words "bridge" and "wedding" – a terrorists code word for assassination.
The motorcade was quickly re-routed and American agents later discovered a bomb had been planted under the bridge.
The subsequent US investigation into the plot "revealed that it had been masterminded by a Saudi terrorist living in Afghanistan – a man named Osama bin Laden".
Although al Qaeda members have admitted targeting Mr Clinton in the 1990s, no evidence has previously emerged suggesting the group's leader was involved or that the terrorists came close to succeeding.
Ken Gormley, an American law professor, said he was told by Louis Merletti, the former director of the Secret Service, of the bomb plot.
In The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs Starr, Prof Gormley wrote: "The thwarted assassination attempt was never made public.
"It remained top secret except to select members of the US intelligence community."
At the time, there were media reports about the discovery of two bombs, one at Manila airport and another at the venue for the leaders' meeting.
However, they were linked to a communist insurgency in the Philippines rather than as an external attempt to kill the US president.
A spokesman for the Secret Service refused to comment on Prof Gorman's allegations.
Commentators in the US questioned why the Clinton administration would keep quiet about the assassination attempt when it later needed to justify missile attacks on al-Qaeda training bases.
It could also have ramifications for the widely-held assumption that the Bush regime could not have anticipated the September 11 terror attacks.
Ramzi Yousef, the al-Qaeda member who used a truck bomb to attack the World Trade Centre in 1993, has admitted he plotted to assassinate Mr Clinton after fleeing to Manila, but was dissuaded by his high level of security.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described 9/11 mastermind, also lived in the Philippines in the mid-1990s and has admitted he considered trying to kill Mr Clinton.
The president and his national security team have been accused of passing up several opportunities to capture bin Laden and his associates in the 1990s when they were living in Sudan.
Mr Clinton has rejected such claims, insisting he was "obsessed" with the al-Qaeda leader during his time in office.
In the years leading up to the September 11 attacks, al Qaeda was blamed for bombing two US embassies in Africa and attacked the destroyer, the USS Cole.
However, Marisa Porges, a former government counter-terrorism advisor and an expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think tank, said the assassination plot, if true,would suggest al Qaeda was more developed than some thought it was prior to 9/11”.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said earlier this month that it was important to capture bin Laden, a goal that some believe has slipped down America's list of priorities in the years since the September 11 attacks.
Prof Gormley’s book, for which he interviewed Mr Clinton three times, focuses mainly on the former president’s pursuit by Ken Starr, the independent counsel.
Mr Starr’s conclusion that Mr Clinton lied during a sworn deposition about his affair with Monica Lewinsky led to the president’s impeachment.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...l-Clinton.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Col. Robert Howard
on: December 24, 2009, 11:49:26 AM
COL Robert L. Howard
1939 - 2009
This site is dedicated to Robert L. Howard, one of America's most decorated soldiers. He served five tours in Vietnam and is the only soldier in our nation's history to be nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor three times for three separate actions within a thirteen month period. Although it can only be awarded once to an individual, men who served with him said he deserved all three. He received a direct appointment from Master Sergeant to 1st Lieutenant in 1969, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in 1971. His other awards for valor include the Distinguished Service Cross - our nation's second highest award, the Silver Star - the third highest award, and numerous lesser decorations including eight Purple Hearts. He received his decorations for valor for actions while serving as an NCO (Sergeant First Class).
Robert L. Howard grew up in Opelika, Alabama and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1956 at age seventeen. He retired as a full Colonel in 1992 after 36 years service. During Vietnam, he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and spent most of his five tours in the super-secret MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group) also known as Special Operations Group, which ran classified cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. These men carried out some of the most daring and dangerous missions ever conducted by the U.S. military. The understrength sixty-man recon company at Kontum in which he served was the Vietnam War's most highly decorated unit of its size with five Medals of Honor. It was for his actions while serving on a mission to rescue a fellow soldier in Cambodia, that he was submitted for the Medal of Honor the third time for his extraordinary heroism.
Robert L. Howard is said to be our nation's most decorated soldier from the Vietnam War. He was the last Vietnam Special Forces Medal of Honor recipient still on active duty when he retired on Sept. 29, 1992. His story is told in John Plaster's excellent book, SOG The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam.
It is important for future generations that we remember our military heroes and the great sacrifices they have made for us in the name of Freedom.
Excerpt from John Plaster's recent book SECRET COMMANDOS Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG - pg. 303:
"The day that President Nixon draped the Medal of Honor's pale blue ribbon around Howard's neck, I sat before the TV in my parents' living room watching the evening news. Coming on top of his previous decorations - the Distinguished Service Cross and multiple Silver and Bronze Stars, plus eight Purple Hearts - Howard's combat awards exceeded those of Audie Murphy, America's legendary World War II hero, until then our most highly decorated serviceman. At last, Howard would get his due. I flipped station to station, but not one of the networks - not CBS or NBC or ABC - could find ten seconds to mention Captain Robert Howard or his indomitable courage. I found nothing about him in the newspapers. Twisted by the antiwar politics of that era, many in the media believed that to recognize a heroic act was to glorify war. They simply chose not to cover the ceremony. It might as well not have happened."
NOTE: In 1917, the laws governing the award of the Medal of Honor ended all DOUBLE awards of the Medal of Honor. Click here for more information
Wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat duty in Vietnam,
Robert Howard was awarded 8 Purple Hearts and is believed
to be the most decorated living American.
Medal of Honor Citation
The Green Beret magazine - 1969
Special Forces Medal of Honor
MACVSOG Medal of Honor Print
Medal of Honor Flag
Other MACV-SOG (CCC) Medal of Honor recipients. Click on photo to read their citation.
Franklin D. Miller
Fred W. Zabitosky
John J. Kedenburg
George K. Sisler
Only 3,448 Americans have been awarded Medals of Honor.
Today only 95 of them survive.
Thanks for visiting this website!
Click below to add your comments to the Guest Book.
Email webmaster - Neil: firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor
on: December 24, 2009, 10:08:02 AM
Intelligence Guidance (Special Edition): Watching Iran for a Breakpoint
Stratfor Today » December 23, 2009 | 2344 GMT
Iranian opposition supporters demonstrate at Tehran University on Dec. 7Editor’s Note: The following is an internal STRATFOR document produced to provide high-level guidance to our analysts. This document is not a forecast, but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions on areas for focus.
Events in Iran will dominate the next several days. We’d like to take a step back and examine the multiple Iran-related crises we see building in parallel to each other, despite the numerous unknowns that remain.
Domestic turmoil in Iran appears to be nearing a breakpoint. Clearly, the Iranian opposition protests that grew out of the June presidential election debacle have not lost their steam. The 10-day Shiite commemoration of Muharram has now provided the anti-regime protesters with an occasion to exploit the religious fervor associated with the martyrdom of Imam Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala in A.D. 680, a potent symbol for those who view themselves as martyrs in resisting the regime. The recent death of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, one of the rare clerical opponents to the regime, has only added more fuel to the fire.
Sporadic clashes have broken out in Qom and Isfahan provinces, with reports of the homes of senior dissident ayatollahs being targeted and their supporters being tear gassed and beaten by Basij militiamen and plainclothes security personnel. These clashes are escalating in the lead-up to Ashura, the 10th and final day of Muharram which falls on Dec. 27 this year. Emotions will be running high on Ashura, and opposition protesters are planning to hold demonstrations in major cities across Iran, a classic example of the lethal cocktail of religion and politics.
The demonstrations already are reaching unacceptable levels for the regime. Thus far, the regime has used a variety of intimidation tactics to try and shut the protests down, but it also has exercised restraint to avoid triggering a greater backlash. In essence, the regime has done enough to enrage the opposition but not enough yet to terrify the opposition into standing down.
Typically, when regimes reach this point, they lay the groundwork for the imposition of martial law. Doors are kicked in, purges ensue, media blackouts are enforced and dissidents are silenced. The regime has done many of these things already but not yet to the degree that would successfully intimidate the opposition. There is, of course, a great risk of backlash in imposing such a crackdown, especially during such a sensitive religious holiday. The regime has thus far been careful not to exacerbate rifts within the regime and security apparatus. While a martial law situation would carry substantial risk of blowback, it would be designed to suppress those rifts through brute force.
When government officials impose martial law it is almost always because there is a split in the regime. The split becomes dangerous to the rival faction. When that faction realizes accommodation is impossible, it has three choices. First, it can accept the split and its consequences. Second, it can turn over power. Third, it can crush opponents. From Burma to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to Argentina, this is a common process. When the pressures become overwhelming, the faction controlling the largest force changes the discussion from political to security. Men who were once enormously powerful are killed, imprisoned, “disappeared” or exiled. The most prominent leader, facing death, can choose capitulation. Such coups have better chances of success when one faction has powerful military support.
While STRATFOR does not have any clear indication yet that the regime is intending to impose some form of martial law, we are keeping the possibility in mind. In examining this possibility, we keep coming back to a statement by Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi on Dec. 22 that the regime has identified “80 foreign institutes, foundations, and funds that are active” in the opposition protests, including one with a $1.7 billion budget. The Iranian government regularly claims a foreign hand is behind domestic unrest, but this is different. By claiming it has identified specific foreign institutions underwriting the opposition, the regime is providing itself with the justification to declare any member of the opposition an enemy of the state in a martial law-type scenario.
As the internal unrest escalates within Iran, pressures also are building on the external front. The U.S. administration already has signaled that it may extend the deadline for Iran to negotiate over its nuclear program to at least mid-January 2010. U.S. and Iranian sources have reported a surge in backchannels between Washington and Tehran, with rumors circulating of Sen. John Kerry attempting to work out some sort of compromise behind the scenes. At the same time, Iran is sending holiday greetings to U.S. President Barack Obama while throwing out proposal after proposal after proposal to resolve the nuclear dispute.
Even as Iran is playing to its domestic constituency by flatly rejecting the notion of U.S.-set deadlines, it is doing enough both publicly and through backchannels to provide cover to the Russians, Chinese, Japanese, Germans and anyone else opposed to sanctions to make the argument for continued diplomacy. As long as Iran shows that it’s not walking away from negotiations, the harder it will be for the United States to build and a coalition against Iran. U.N Security Council members have announced that they will push any discussion on Iran to at least mid-January 2010 and were careful to avoid specifying whether that discussion would entail sanctions, indicating that Iran’s moves on the diplomatic front are thus far bearing fruit.
But Iran also cannot afford to take its eyes of Israel, which intends to hold the U.S. administration to its December deadline and its promise to take meaningful action in neutralizing Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Sanctions are not considered meaningful action by Israel, especially without the Russians and Chinese on board. At the same time, Iran may be calculating for now that the United States will restrain Israel if Israel can’t carry out a successful military strike on its own. The Iranians therefore want the United States to think long and hard about the Iranian reaction to such a strike. In addition to mine warfare in the Strait of Hormuz and terrorist attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas, the United States has been served a recent reminder of the damage Iran can do in Iraq. The Iran-Iraq spat over the Dec. 18 Iranian incursion and occupation of an Iraqi oil well is far from over, and now appears to be escalating as Iraq’s sectarian government is fragmenting over how to deal with the provocation.
Between the internal unrest in Iran, tensions escalating over the nuclear program and the ongoing border dispute with Iraq, the Iranian regime has its hands full in maneuvering between these building crises. A number of oddities linking these three issues also have begun surfacing in the past 36 hours in Iran and Iraq that warrant greater scrutiny in this tension-filled environment. STRATFOR will be watching developments closely in the coming days for any triggers that could signal a breakpoint.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kuperman
on: December 24, 2009, 09:22:19 AM
There’s Only One Way to Stop Iran
By ALAN J. KUPERMAN
Published: December 23, 2009
PRESIDENT OBAMA should not lament but sigh in relief that Iran has rejected his nuclear deal, which was ill conceived from the start. Under the deal, which was formally offered through the United Nations, Iran was to surrender some 2,600 pounds of lightly enriched uranium (some three-quarters of its known stockpile) to Russia, and the next year get back a supply of uranium fuel sufficient to run its Tehran research reactor for three decades. The proposal did not require Iran to halt its enrichment program, despite several United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding such a moratorium.
Iran was thus to be rewarded with much-coveted reactor fuel despite violating international law. Within a year, or sooner in light of its expanding enrichment program, Iran would almost certainly have replenished and augmented its stockpile of enriched uranium, nullifying any ostensible nonproliferation benefit of the deal.
Moreover, by providing reactor fuel, the plan would have fostered proliferation in two ways. First, Iran could have continued operating its research reactor, which has helped train Iranian scientists in weapons techniques like plutonium separation. (Yes, as Iran likes to point out, the reactor also produces medical isotopes. But those can be purchased commercially from abroad, as most countries do, including the United States.) Absent the deal, Iran’s reactor will likely run out of fuel within two years, and only a half-dozen countries are able to supply fresh fuel for it. This creates significant international leverage over Iran, which should be used to compel it to halt its enrichment program.
In addition, the vast surplus of higher-enriched fuel Iran was to get under the deal would have permitted some to be diverted to its bomb program. Indeed, many experts believe that the uranium in foreign-provided fuel would be easier to enrich to weapons grade because Iran’s uranium contains impurities. Obama administration officials had claimed that delivering uranium in the form of fabricated fuel would prevent further enrichment for weapons, but this is false. Separating uranium from fuel elements so that it can be enriched further is a straightforward engineering task requiring at most a few weeks.
Thus, had the deal gone through, Iran could have benefited from a head start toward making weapons-grade 90 percent-enriched uranium (meaning that 90 percent of its makeup is the fissile isotope U-235) by starting with purified 20 percent-enriched uranium rather than its own weaker, contaminated stuff.
This raises a question: if the deal would have aided Iran’s bomb program, why did the United States propose it, and Iran reject it? The main explanation on both sides is domestic politics. President Obama wanted to blunt Republican criticism that his multilateral approach was failing to stem Iran’s nuclear program. The deal would have permitted him to claim, for a year or so, that he had defused the crisis by depriving Iran of sufficient enriched uranium to start a crash program to build one bomb.
But in reality no one ever expected Iran to do that, because such a headlong sprint is the one step most likely to provoke an international military response that could cripple the bomb program before it reaches fruition. Iran is far more likely to engage in “salami slicing” — a series of violations each too small to provoke retaliation, but that together will give it a nuclear arsenal. For example, while Iran permits international inspections at its declared enrichment plant at Natanz, it ignores United Nations demands that it close the plant, where it gains the expertise needed to produce weapons-grade uranium at other secret facilities like the nascent one recently uncovered near Qom.
In sum, the proposal would not have averted proliferation in the short run, because that risk always was low, but instead would have fostered it in the long run — a classic example of domestic politics undermining national security.
Tehran’s rejection of the deal was likewise propelled by domestic politics — including last June’s fraudulent elections and longstanding fears of Western manipulation. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad initially embraced the deal because he realized it aided Iran’s bomb program. But his domestic political opponents, whom he has tried to label as foreign agents, turned the tables by accusing him of surrendering Iran’s patrimony to the West.
Page 2 of 2)
Under such domestic pressure, Mr. Ahmadinejad reneged. But Iran still wants reactor fuel, so he threatened to enrich uranium domestically to the 20 percent level. This is a bluff, because even if Iran could further enrich its impure uranium, it lacks the capacity to fabricate that uranium into fuel elements. His real aim is to compel the international community into providing the fuel without requiring Iran to surrender most of the enriched uranium it has on hand.
Indeed, Iran’s foreign minister has now proposed just that: offering to exchange a mere quarter of Iran’s enriched uranium for an immediate 10-year supply of fuel for the research reactor. This would let Iran run the reactor, retain the bulk of its enriched uranium and continue to enrich more — a bargain unacceptable even to the Obama administration.
Tehran’s rejection of the original proposal is revealing. It shows that Iran, for domestic political reasons, cannot make even temporary concessions on its bomb program, regardless of incentives or sanctions. Since peaceful carrots and sticks cannot work, and an invasion would be foolhardy, the United States faces a stark choice: military air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities or acquiescence to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.
The risks of acquiescence are obvious. Iran supplies Islamist terrorist groups in violation of international embargoes. Even President Ahmadinejad’s domestic opponents support this weapons traffic. If Iran acquired a nuclear arsenal, the risks would simply be too great that it could become a neighborhood bully or provide terrorists with the ultimate weapon, an atomic bomb.
As for knocking out its nuclear plants, admittedly, aerial bombing might not work. Some Iranian facilities are buried too deeply to destroy from the air. There may also be sites that American intelligence is unaware of. And military action could backfire in various ways, including by undermining Iran’s political opposition, accelerating the bomb program or provoking retaliation against American forces and allies in the region.
But history suggests that military strikes could work. Israel’s 1981 attack on the nearly finished Osirak reactor prevented Iraq’s rapid acquisition of a plutonium-based nuclear weapon and compelled it to pursue a more gradual, uranium-based bomb program. A decade later, the Persian Gulf war uncovered and enabled the destruction of that uranium initiative, which finally deterred Saddam Hussein from further pursuit of nuclear weapons (a fact that eluded American intelligence until after the 2003 invasion). Analogously, Iran’s atomic sites might need to be bombed more than once to persuade Tehran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
As for the risk of military strikes undermining Iran’s opposition, history suggests that the effect would be temporary. For example, NATO’s 1999 air campaign against Yugoslavia briefly bolstered support for President Slobodan Milosevic, but a democratic opposition ousted him the next year.
Yes, Iran could retaliate by aiding America’s opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it does that anyway. Iran’s leaders are discouraged from taking more aggressive action against United States forces — and should continue to be — by the fear of provoking a stronger American counter-escalation. If nothing else, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the United States military can oust regimes in weeks if it wants to.
Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try. They should be precision attacks, aimed only at nuclear facilities, to remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate.
The final question is, who should launch the air strikes? Israel has shown an eagerness to do so if Iran does not stop enriching uranium, and some hawks in Washington favor letting Israel do the dirty work to avoid fueling anti-Americanism in the Islamic world.
But there are three compelling reasons that the United States itself should carry out the bombings. First, the Pentagon’s weapons are better than Israel’s at destroying buried facilities. Second, unlike Israel’s relatively small air force, the United States military can discourage Iranian retaliation by threatening to expand the bombing campaign. (Yes, Israel could implicitly threaten nuclear counter-retaliation, but Iran might not perceive that as credible.) Finally, because the American military has global reach, air strikes against Iran would be a strong warning to other would-be proliferators.
Negotiation to prevent nuclear proliferation is always preferable to military action. But in the face of failed diplomacy, eschewing force is tantamount to appeasement. We have reached the point where air strikes are the only plausible option with any prospect of preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Catching up
on: December 24, 2009, 08:07:06 AM
Sorry I fell behind on this thread!
"[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments." --Benjamin Rush, On the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic, 1806
"National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman." --John Adams
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily." --George Washington
"I think all the world would gain by setting commerce at perfect liberty." --Thomas Jefferson
"[A] wise and frugal government ... shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government." --Thomas Jefferson
"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, 1785
"We established however some, although not all its [self-government] important principles. The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Cartwright, 1824
"The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse." --James Madison
"[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail, no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it." --Federal Farmer, Antifederalist Letter, No.18
"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined." --Patrick Henry, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1778
"O 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; and you have no longer an aristocratical, no longer a democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all?" --Patrick Henry, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1778
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck
on: December 24, 2009, 12:16:18 AM
Well, , , maybe its just because its the holidays. I sure do hope this thread gets some traction , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interpol above American Law?
on: December 23, 2009, 04:16:20 PM
Pasting here GM's post from the Issues in American Creed thread:http://hotair.com/archives/2009/12/23/did-obama-exempt-interpol-from-same-legal-constraints-as-american-law-enforcement/
Did Obama exempt Interpol from same legal constraints as American law-enforcement?
posted at 2:55 pm on December 23, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
During his presidency, Ronald Reagan granted the global police agency Interpol the status of diplomatic personnel in order to engage more constructively on international law enforcement. In Executive Order 12425, Reagan made two exceptions to that status. The first had to do with taxation, but the second was to make sure that Interpol had the same accountability for its actions as American law enforcement — namely, they had to produce records when demanded by courts and could not have immunity for their actions.
Barack Obama unexpectedly revoked those exceptions in a change to EO 12425 last month, as Threats Watch reports:
Last Thursday, December 17, 2009, The White House released an Executive Order “Amending Executive Order 12425.” It grants INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) a new level of full diplomatic immunity afforded to foreign embassies and select other “International Organizations” as set forth in the United States International Organizations Immunities Act of 1945.
By removing language from President Reagan’s 1983 Executive Order 12425, this international law enforcement body now operates – now operates – on American soil beyond the reach of our own top law enforcement arm, the FBI, and is immune from Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests. …
After initial review and discussions between the writers of this analysis, the context was spelled out plainly.
Through EO 12425, President Reagan extended to INTERPOL recognition as an “International Organization.” In short, the privileges and immunities afforded foreign diplomats was extended to INTERPOL. Two sets of important privileges and immunities were withheld: Section 2© and the remaining sections cited (all of which deal with differing taxes).
And then comes December 17, 2009, and President Obama. The exemptions in EO 12425 were removed.
Section 2c of the United States International Organizations Immunities Act is the crucial piece.
Property and assets of international organizations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, unless such immunity be expressly waived, and from confiscation. The archives of international organizations shall be inviolable. (Emphasis added.)
Inviolable archives means INTERPOL records are beyond US citizens’ Freedom of Information Act requests and from American legal or investigative discovery (“unless such immunity be expressly waived.”)
Property and assets being immune from search and confiscation means precisely that. Wherever they may be in the United States. This could conceivably include human assets – Americans arrested on our soil by INTERPOL officers.
Actually, that last argument overreaches. American law does not consider people as “assets.” It does mean, though, that Interpol officers would have diplomatic immunity for any lawbreaking conducted in the US at a time when Interpol nations (like Italy) have attempted to try American intelligence agents for their work in the war on terror, a rather interesting double standard.
It also appears to mean that Americans who get arrested on the basis of Interpol work cannot get the type of documentation one normally would get in the discovery process, which is a remarkable reversal from Obama’s declared efforts to gain “due process” for terrorists detained at Gitmo. Does the White House intend to treat Americans worse than the terrorists we’ve captured during wartime?
Andy McCarthy wonders the same thing:
Interpol’s property and assets are no longer subject to search and confiscation, and its archives are now considered inviolable. This international police force (whose U.S. headquarters is in the Justice Department in Washington) will be unrestrained by the U.S. Constitution and American law while it operates in the United States and affects both Americans and American interests outside the United States.
Interpol works closely with international tribunals (such as the International Criminal Court — which the United States has refused to join because of its sovereignty surrendering provisions, though top Obama officials want us in it). It also works closely with foreign courts and law-enforcement authorities (such as those in Europe that are investigating former Bush administration officials for purported war crimes — i.e., for actions taken in America’s defense).
Why would we elevate an international police force above American law? Why would we immunize an international police force from the limitations that constrain the FBI and other American law-enforcement agencies? Why is it suddenly necessary to have, within the Justice Department, a repository for stashing government files which, therefore, will be beyond the ability of Congress, American law-enforcement, the media, and the American people to scrutinize?
I seem to recall the Left getting hysterical over the Patriot Act extensions that Obama finally backed. This gives Interpol a much wider operational latitude than anything contemplated in the Patriot Act, and with no accountability at all.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Revenge
on: December 23, 2009, 10:44:17 AM
MEXICO CITY — It had been an elaborate farewell to one of Mexico’s fallen heroes.
The mother of a slain Mexican sailor, Irma Córdova Palma, center right, and his aunt, Josefa Angulo Flores, center, attended his funeral on Monday. Hours later, gunmen killed the women.
Mexican troops on Tuesday surrounded a home in Villahermosa where gunmen killed four relatives of a Mexican sailor who died last week in a special forces assault that killed a drug lord.
Ensign Melquisedet Angulo Córdova, a special forces sailor killed last week during the government’s most successful raid on a top drug lord in years, received a stirring public tribute in which the secretary of the navy presented his mother with the flag that covered her son’s coffin.
Then, only hours after the grieving family had finished burying him in his hometown the next day, gunmen burst into the family’s house and sprayed the rooms with gunfire, killing his mother and three other relatives, officials said Tuesday.
It was a chilling epilogue to the navy-led operation that killed the drug lord, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, and six of his gunmen. And it appeared to be intended as a clear warning to the military forces on the front line of President Felipe Calderón’s war against Mexico’s drug cartels: not only you, but your family is a target as well.
Prosecutors, police chiefs and thousands of others have been killed in the violence gripping Mexico, with whole families sometimes coming under attack during a cartel’s assassination attempt. But going after the family of a sailor who had already been killed is an exceedingly rare form of intimidation, analysts say, and illustrates how little progress the government has made toward one of its most important goals: reclaiming a sense of peace and order for Mexicans caught in the cross-fire.
“There will be more reprisals, both symbolic ones and strategic ones,” said Guillermo Zepeda, a security expert with the Center of Research for Development, in Mexico City. “They will take revenge against not only the top people, but anybody who participates.”
The military and police forces who have been fighting the drug war typically cover their faces with ski masks to protect their identities. But the government generally releases the names of police officers and soldiers who have been killed in the drug war.
Responding to the killings on Tuesday, Mr. Calderón said, “These contemptible events are proof of how unscrupulously organized crime operates, attacking innocent lives, and they can only strengthen us in our determination to banish this singular cancer.”
The gunmen killed Ensign Angulo’s mother, Irma Córdova Palma, and his sister Yolidabey, 22, just after midnight on Tuesday as they slept, said Tabasco State officials. An aunt, Josefa Angulo Flores, 46, died on her way to the hospital and Ensign Angulo’s brother Benito died shortly after he was admitted to the hospital. Another sister, who was not identified, was injured.
Ensign Angulo, 30, was killed Dec. 16 when military forces surrounded an upscale apartment complex in the city of Cuernavaca, an hour’s drive south of Mexico City, and cornered Mr. Beltrán Leyva, who American and Mexican officials say was one of Mexico’s most violent drug lords.
Although Mr. Calderón called the death of Mr. Beltrán Leyva a significant victory in the drug war, federal officials warned almost immediately that it could spawn more violence.
Attorney General Arturo Chávez Chávez told reporters the morning after the raid against Mr. Beltrán Leyva that his subordinates would battle among one another to take his place at the head of the cartel that bears his name.
But what officials did not expect was that among the first victims would be the innocent.
Throughout the three-year-old drug war, Mexican officials have argued that only a tiny percentage of the dead are noncombatants. Indeed, the vast majority of the dead are believed to be members of drug gangs settling scores. Half of the bodies are not even claimed by their families, government officials have said.
But the government has also proved to be powerless to protect many of its own forces in the drug war, much less innocent bystanders. In just one case in July, gunmen suspected of being cartel members killed 12 federal police officers in the western state of Michoacán in retaliation for the arrest of one of their leaders.
The killings on Tuesday underscore how vulnerable civilians are. Many local police forces are corrupted by drug money, officials say, and even when they are not, they are no match for the drug gangs’ firepower.
In one of the most frightening attacks directed at civilians, suspected cartel members threw grenades into a crowd celebrating Independence Day in the president’s hometown in 2008, killing eight people. It seemed to crystallize the fear that the cartels could strike wherever and whenever they wanted, despite the deployment of thousands of troops against them.
Analysts said that new levels of narcoterrorism were possible as the drug gangs tried to spread fear among those fighting them.
“Any objective could be vulnerable,” Mr. Zepeda, the security expert, said. “The state should be expecting it.”
Antonio Betancourt contributed reporting.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH
on: December 23, 2009, 10:33:59 AM
Its Pravda on the Hudson writing a PC article. Caveat Lector!
Is the statement in the article that the Constitution calls for "residents", not just "citizens" to be counted true?
MIAMI — Fearing that millions of illegal immigrants may not be counted in the 2010 census, Latino leaders are mobilizing a nationwide drive to urge Hispanics to participate in the survey, including an intense push this week in evangelical Christian churches.
Latino groups contend that there was an undercount of nearly one million Latinos in the 2000 census, affecting the drawing of Congressional districts and the distribution of federal money. Hispanic organizations are far better organized for next year’s census, but they say that if illegal immigrants — an estimated eight million of whom are Latino — are not included, the undercount could be much greater.
One study suggests that Congressional delegations in eight states with large Hispanic populations could grow if all Latinos — the nation’s largest minority at some 47 million — are counted.
But the obstacles to an accurate count are significant. Many illegal immigrants are likely to be reluctant to fill out a government form that asks for their names, birthdates and telephone numbers. And the count comes three years into an immigration crackdown that was initiated by President George W. Bush but has continued apace, though less visibly, under President Obama.
Several of the nation’s largest associations of Hispanic evangelical churches have agreed to join the census campaign. But it has caused dissension among others, with one evangelical pastor leading a call for a boycott of the census, saying it would put pressure on the Obama administration and on Congress to grant legal status to illegal immigrants.
Some Roman Catholic leaders, moreover, have said they are reluctant to urge Latino parishioners to participate without greater assurances from the administration that illegal immigrants will not be identified or detained through the census.
The Constitution calls for all residents to be counted, and last month the Senate rejected a measure by Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, that would have included only United States citizens in the official tally.
In October, census officials said they would not ask the Department of Homeland Security to suspend immigration raids during the census period, reversing a policy from 2000, when an immigration moratorium was observed. But census officials say there is no change in a longstanding policy that they do not share identity data with the Department of Homeland Security or any other agency.
Latino political leaders see full participation in the census as the culmination of heightened activism that began in the spring of 2006, when hundreds of thousands of Latinos marched in the streets to protest legislation then in Congress that would have toughened laws against illegal immigration. In 2007 they held a nationwide campaign to have Latino immigrants become United States citizens. That was followed last year with a huge voter registration drive.
“We want to tap into that same spirit,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, known as Naleo, a bipartisan group that is a main organizer of the census drive. “We have to go back to everybody and say, ‘Just as you marched, just as you naturalized, just as you voted, now you have to be counted.’ ”
One strategy is to encourage Latino immigrants to return the census forms by mail, rather than waiting for a census taker’s knock on the door, which could frighten illegal immigrants wary of immigration agents.
To that end, groups like Naleo, the National Council of La Razaand others are moving to tap the expanding social networks and the power of persuasion of evangelical churches, which have seen huge growth among Latinos in the last decade. At a recent meeting with religious leaders in Miami, Naleo unveiled a poster for churches to use during the Christmas season to talk up the census. It depicts Mary and Joseph, recalling that they went to Bethlehem to participate in a census.
“Así nació Jesus,” the poster says. “That’s how Jesus was born.”
Evangelical leaders said last Wednesday that the poster would be displayed in more than 7,000 evangelical churches this week.
Among the evangelicals to embrace the effort is the Rev. Samuel Rodríguez Jr., a pastor from California who is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which includes more than 25,000 evangelical churches.
“I believe we pastors have a moral responsibility to educate our flock in an action that will help our communities move forward on the path of political empowerment,” Mr. Rodríguez said.
A new ally in Miami is Pastor José Victor Dugand, who can be found most days in his church in the southwest part of the city singing Christian rock music with a Latin lilt and expounding bilingually on the Bible.
Even on hectic weeknights, worshipers come by the hundreds to pray at his Ekklesia Global Church, bringing worries about lost jobs in South Florida’s battered economy as well as fears of immigration authorities. Lately, Mr. Dugand tells his followers they can increase their political influence and draw federal money to the community by participating in the census.
“I think we need to come to the light — we need to be counted,” he said. “Right now, I believe the government is totally off in the figures. We need to have a number that is closer to reality, so we can have better representation politically.”
When illegal immigrants in his church express worries, Mr. Dugand advises them that they should trust the census. “I tell them, ‘Don’t flee, don’t just escape,’ ” he said. “Help us build something here for our children.”
But the Rev. Miguel Angel Rivera, a New Jersey pastor who heads a smaller coalition of evangelical clergy, has called for a boycott of the census.
“We need to empower the undocumented immigrants by asking them not to participate,” Mr. Rivera said, “as a way to protest the lack of commitment from this Congress to do what is right and moral, which is comprehensive immigration reform.”
He is touring the country with his boycott call, and he has gained the support of some community leaders, including Nativo López, a Mexican-American activist in Los Angeles.
Nearly 12 million Latinos voted in November 2008, an increase of two million votes over 2004, according to an analysis by Andres Ramirez, a researcher at NDN, a Democratic advocacy organization. Now, in the first census since Hispanics passed blacks to become the second-largest population group in the United States, Hispanics want to extend that voting power with a census count that would support more elected representatives for their communities.
An analysis by NDN and America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group, projected that a full count of Hispanics would lead to a significant redrawing of the Congressional map, with six states picking up one Congressional seat (Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah), while Arizona would add two and Texas as many as four.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed
on: December 23, 2009, 10:19:30 AM
My initial thoughts run along the lines of personality types: Logic is the dominant modality in only 10% of the population whereas, IIRC, emotion is the dominant modality for LOTS more people (the other two are Sensation and Intuition). How do we speak effectively to call to the heart on this issue?
Separately, though not directly on point but perhaps tangentially of interest is a technique I used the last time I ran for Congress (1992). Whenever I would get asked one of those wooly-headed "caring" based questions I would answer with the following story, telling it as if it were literally true-- the punch line giving away that it had been a parable all along:
"I was sitting in the _________ restaurant during the afternoon, having a late lunch with a friend. The only other people there were three people at a nearby table. They finished and when they received their bill they got up and came over to us and gave it to us. "What on earth do you think you are doing?" I asked.
They answered "There's three of us and two of you. We had a vote. You're paying."
And for the rest of the debate, anytime someone proposed some sort of govt. meddling/program, all I had to do was say as I looked at the crowd. "They had a vote. You're paying."
This seemed very effective.
PS: It is spelled "Villa", not Via (pronounced (Vee-ya)
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Need some help finding a topic
on: December 22, 2009, 11:43:31 PM
Her name is Ashley. She trains with Dino , , , last name slips my mind, sorry , , , They were using the name Team Ruthless at the time, but may have changed their name since then. Try searching for "Ashley" or "Team Ruthless".
Her form in strength work is exceptional, and so are her numbers.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews
on: December 22, 2009, 02:56:37 PM
OY to the world (Christmas in Boca)
'Twas the night before Christmas
and down here in Boca,
I was sitting at Starbucks,
drinking my mocha.
I know we're all Jewish,
but was wondering still,
if Santa would come here
and give us a thrill.
On my way home,
no Christmas lights did I see,
on the houses, the windows,
not even the trees.
What a strange feeling.
Not a decoration in sight.
Was it really December
or a warm summer's night?
I drove past Toojay's,
there were lines out the door.
People were waiting
for kishka and more.
The restaurants were busy,
Christmas dinners not planned.
Never, not here
we're in Boca Land.
At home all was quiet.
I left out Kosher wine,
In case Santa came to Boca
for the very first time.
Snoozing came easy
to me Christmas Eve.
I wasn't waiting for presents
to be left under a tree.
I could hope all I want.
I could fuss and then see,
if Santa would make time
for little old me.
Then all of a sudden
he pulled up in his Jag,
with a sack full of presents
each sporting a tag.
Oh Bloomies, oh Saks
Oh Nieman's and more.
He knows where to shop,
he frequents my stores!
He looked for the lox,
the bagels and deli.
He came to Boca first
to fill up his belly!
"I have a long night ahead,
I want you to know.
From Boca I leave
for New York and the snow."
He stayed for a while,
he chatted and ate.
Then he left in a flash
before it got late.
What a great night
I thought with a sigh.
That jolly old Santa
is a really nice guy.
As I cleared off the table
I heard with delight
"Shalom to you all,
and OY, what a night
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unemployment funds going broke
on: December 22, 2009, 11:04:46 AM
Unemployment funds going broke
December 22, 2009 - 5:23am
WASHINGTON - Joblessness is becoming such a drain on state unemployment funds that 40 states will go broke within two years.
Those states need $90 billion in loans to keep issuing benefit checks, The Washington Post reports.
The projection comes from Department of Labor estimates.
Twenty five states have already run out of benefit money and had to borrow $24.2 billion from the government. Virginia is among those states.
The options may be to cut unemployment benefits or raise payroll taxes, something that industry and business groups oppose.
Experts say the problems have occurred because states failed to prepare for the economic downturn.
(Copyright 2009 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed
on: December 22, 2009, 10:40:45 AM
It is as much "the lesser of two evils" as it is "the evil of two lessers". Character, integrity, and fidelity to certain ideals are both necessary-- and lacking in both the Patricians and the Demogogues. The point is not "to win", the point is to speak, to persuade, and to act on behalf of what one believes. I believe in the American Creed of our Founding Fathers, in the Declaration of Independence, and in our Consitution.
I have no interest in Republicans who seek to out-slut the Dems in destroying our country.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager: The accelerating decline
on: December 22, 2009, 10:34:07 AM
Democrats Ensure America Will No Longer Be the Last Best Hope of Earth
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
As the passage of the bill that will start the process of nationalizing health care in America becomes almost inevitable, so, too, the process of undoing America's standing as The Last Best Hope of Earth will have begun.
That description of America was not, as more than a few Americans on the left believe, made by some right-wing chauvinist. It was made by President Abraham Lincoln in an address to Congress on Dec. 1, 1862.
The bigger the American government becomes, the more like other countries America becomes. Even a Democrat has to acknowledge the simple logic: America cannot at the same time be the last best hope of earth and increasingly similar to more and more countries.
Either America is unique, in which case it at least has the possibility of uniquely embodying hopes for mankind -- or it is not unique, in which case it is by definition not capable of being the last best hope for humanity -- certainly no more so than, let us say, Sweden or the Netherlands.
Indeed, President Obama acknowledged this in April, when asked by a European reporter if he believes in American exceptionalism. The president's response: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
The president was honest. In his view, as in the view of today's Democratic party, America is special only in the same way we parents regard our children as "special." We all say it and we all believe it, but we know that it is meaningless except as an emotional expression of our love for our children. If every is child is equally special, none can be special, in fact. If every country is exceptional, then no country is exceptional, or at least no more so than any other.
With the largest expansion of the American government and state since the New Deal, the Democratic party -- alone -- is ending a key factor in America's uniqueness and greatness: individualism, which is made possible only when there is limited government.
The formula here is not rocket science: The more the government/state does, the less the individual does.
America's uniqueness and greatness has come from a number of sources, two of which are its moral and social value system, which is a unique combination of Enlightenment and Judeo-Christian values, and its emphasis on individual liberty and responsibility.
Just as the left has waged war on America's Judeo-Christian roots, it has waged war on individual liberty and responsibility.
Hillel, the most important rabbi of the Talmud (which, alongside the Hebrew Bible, is Judaism's most important book), summarized the human being's obligations in these famous words: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"
What does this mean in the present context? It means that before anything else, the human being must first take care of himself. When people who are capable of taking care of themselves start relying on the state to do so, they can easily become morally inferior beings. When people who could take care of their family start relying on the state to do so, they can easily become morally inferior. And when people who could help take care of fellow citizens start relying on the state to do so, the morally coarsening process continues.
There has always been something profoundly ennobling about American individualism and self-reliance. Nothing in life is as rewarding as leading a responsible life in which one has not to depend on others for sustenance. Little, if anything, in life is as rewarding as successfully taking care of oneself, one's family and one's community. That is why America has always had more voluntary associations than any other country.
But as the state and government have gotten bigger, voluntary associations have been dying. Why help others if the state will do it? Indeed, as in Scandinavia, the attitude gradually becomes: why even help myself when the state will do it?
Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are right about one thing -- they are indeed making history. But their legacy will not be what they think. They will be known as the people who led to the end of America as the last best hope of earth.
Copyright © 2009 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: People's Revolt?
on: December 21, 2009, 09:29:11 PM
The foundation stones of Iran's Islamic Republic were shaken again yesterday, showing that the largest antigovernment movement in its 30 years may be one of the biggest stories of next year as well. Now imagine the possibilities if the Obama Administration began to support Iran's democrats.
The perseverance of the so-called Green Movement is something to behold. Millions of Iranians mobilized against the outcome of June's fraudulent presidential election, and their protests were violently repressed. But the cause has only grown in scope, with the aim of many becoming nothing less than the death of a hated system.
Yesterday offered a glimpse into the regime's crisis of legitimacy. As in the waning days of the Shah in the late 1970s, Iranians merely need an excuse to show what they think of their rulers. The funeral of a leading Shiite cleric who'd inspired and guided the opposition brought out tens to hundreds of thousands to Iran's religious capital of Qom. Media coverage is severely restricted, but the demonstration's size was impossible to deny.
View Full Image
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri
.Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died Sunday, was no ordinary religious figure. He stood alongside the leader of the Islamic Revolution, his mentor Ayatollah Khomeini, and he was handpicked to replace him. But Montazeri broke with the ruling mullahs in the late 1980s, criticizing their violence and repression. And in recent months, he became a spiritual leader to the opposition.
He knew the regime intimately: "A political system based on force, oppression, changing people's votes, killing, closure, arresting and using Stalinist and medieval torture, creating repression, censorship of newspapers, interruption of the means of mass communications, jailing the enlightened and the elite of society for false reasons, and forcing them to make false confessions in jail, is condemned and illegitimate," he wrote.
Ailing at his death, Montazeri leaves behind a legacy Iranian modernizers can build on. Like the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq, he believed that the Shiite clergy should stay out of democratic politics. He also helped shape views on Iran's nuclear program. In October, Montazeri issued a fatwa against developing an Iranian bomb. His statement confirmed the view among Green Movement figures who believe an atomic weapon will only consolidate the regime's hold on power and isolate Iran.
OpinionJournal Related Stories:
Review & Outlook: Iranian Scorecard
Review & Outlook: The Disarmament President
Review & Outlook: 500,000 Centrifuges
.Absent religious legitimacy for the so-called Islamic Republic, the current rulers must rely on blunt means of preservation, such as the elite Revolutionary Guards and the Basiji militias. Thus Iran seems to be morphing into a military dictatorship, not unlike the Poland of Wojciech Jaruzelski after the "workers"—the supposed communist vanguard—turned against that regime.
Relying on thugs carries risks. During the summer protests, many protestors were killed, tortured and raped in the regime's jails. Among the dead is the son of a prominent conservative parliamentarian. Supreme leader Ali Khamenei sought to damp public outrage by closing the most notorious prison at Kahrizak, but pressure has continued to build. Reversing months of denials, the government on Saturday acknowledged the abuses, bringing charges against 12 military officials for the murder of three young protestors this summer.
Previously a neutral broker in Iranian politics, Khamenei undermined himself by siding so openly with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after June's elections. The decision to prosecute, which he would have had to sign off on, may be another miscalculation. A trial could help expose the corruption at the heart of this system.
(Another Polish parallel comes to mind: The 1984 trial of the secret policemen who murdered the pro-Solidarity priest, Father Jerzy Popieluszko, that further hurt that government's credibility.)
Which brings us to President Obama. Throughout this turbulent year in Iran, the White House has been behind the democratic curve. When the demonstrations started, Mr. Obama abdicated his moral authority by refusing to take sides, while pushing ahead with plans to negotiate a grand diplomatic bargain with Mr. Ahmadinejad that trades recognition for suspending the nuclear program.
Mr. Obama has since moved at least to embrace "universal values," and in his Nobel address this month he mentioned the democracy protestors by name. The White House yesterday sent condolences to Montazeri's friends and family, which is what passes for democratic daring in this Administration.
But the White House is also still pleading for talks even as its December deadline passes without any concession from Tehran. Meantime, the Iranian opposition virtually begs Washington not to confer any legitimacy on the regime, and the democracy demonstrators crave American support. Iran's civil society clock may now be ticking faster than its nuclear clock. However hard it may be to achieve, a new regime in Tehran offers the best peaceful way to halt Iran's atomic program. Shouldn't American policy be directed toward realizing that goal?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Dark Matter?
on: December 21, 2009, 09:27:01 PM
By LAWRENCE KRAUSS
In early December, the Cold Dark Matter Search (CDMS) experiment located in the deep Soudan Mine in northern Minnesota leaked a tantalizing hint that they may have discovered something remarkable. The experiment is designed to directly detect new elementary particles that might make up the dark matter known to dominate our own Milky Way galaxy, all galaxies, and indeed all mass in the universe—so news of a possible breakthrough was thrilling.
The actual result? Two pulses were detected over the course of almost a year that might have been due to dark matter, CDMS announced on Dec. 17. However, there is a 25% chance that the pulses were actually caused by background radioactivity in and around the detector.
Physicists remain fascinated by the possibility that the events at CDMS, reported on the back pages of the world's newspapers, might nevertheless be real. If they are, they will represent the culmination of one of the most incredible detective stories in the history of science.
Beginning in the 1970s, evidence began to accumulate that there was much more mass out there than meets the eye. Scientists, mostly by observing the speed of rotation of our galaxy, estimated that there was perhaps 10 times as much dark matter as visible material.
At around the same time, independent computer calculations following the possible gravitational formation of galaxies supported this idea. The calculations suggested that only some new type of material that didn't interact as normal matter does could account for the structures we see.
Meanwhile, in the completely separate field of elementary particle physics, my colleagues and I had concluded that in order to understand what we see, it is quite likely that a host of new elementary particles may exist at a scale beyond what accelerators at the time could detect. This is one of the reasons there is such excitement about the new Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. Last month, it finally began to produce collisions, and it might eventually directly produce these new particles.
Theorists who had proposed the existence of such particles realized that they could have been produced during the earliest moments of the fiery Big Bang in numbers that could account for the inferred abundance of dark matter today. Moreover, these new particles would have exactly the properties needed for such material. They would interact so weakly with normal matter that they could go through the Earth without a single interaction.
Emboldened by all of these arguments, a brave set of experimentalists began to devise techniques by which they might observe such particles. This required building detectors deep underground, far from the reach of most cosmic rays that would overwhelm any sensitive detector, and in clean rooms with no radioactivity that could produce a false signal.
So when the physics community heard rumors that one of these experiments had detected something, we all waited with eager anticipation. A convincing observation would vindicate almost half a century of carefully developed, if fragile, arguments suggesting a whole new invisible world waiting to be discovered.
For the theorist working at his desk alone at night, it seems almost unfathomable that nature might actually obey the delicate theories you develop on pieces of paper. This is especially true when the theories involve ideas from so many different areas of science and require leaps of imagination.
Alas, to celebrate would be premature: The reported results are intriguing, but less than convincing. Yet if the two pulses observed last week in Minnesota are followed by more signals as bigger detectors turn on in the coming year or two, it will provide serious vindication of the power of human imagination. Combined with rigorous logical inference and technological wizardry—all the things that make science worth celebrating—scientists' creativity will have uncovered hidden worlds that a century ago could not have been conceived.
If, on the other hand, the events turn out to have been mere background radioactivity, physicists will not give up. It will only force us to be more clever and more energetic as we try to unravel nature's mysteries.
Mr. Krauss is director of the Origins Institute at Arizona State University, and a theoretical physicist who has been involved in the search for dark matter for 30 years. His newest book, "Quantum Man," will appear in 2010.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Proposed Amendment
on: December 21, 2009, 09:23:21 PM
By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. AND LEE A. CASEY
For nearly a hundred years, federal power has expanded at the expense of the states—to a point where the even the wages and hours of state employees are subject to federal control. Basic health and safety regulations that were long exercised by states under their "police power" are now dominated by Washington.
The courts have similarly distorted the Constitution by inventing new constitutional rights and failing to limit governmental power as provided for in the document. The aggrandizement of judicial power has been a particularly vexing challenge, since it is inherently incapable of correction through the normal political channels.
There is a way to deter further constitutional mischief from Congress and the federal courts, and restore some semblance of the proper federal-state balance. That is to give to states—and through them the people—a greater role in the constitutional amendment process.
The idea is simple, and is already being mooted in conservative legal circles. Today, only Congress can propose constitutional amendments—and Congress of course has little interest in proposing limits on its own power. Since the mid-19th century, no amendment has actually limited federal authority.
But what if a number of states, acting together, also could propose amendments? That has the potential to reinvigorate the states as a check on federal power. It could also return states to a more central policy-making role.
OpinionJournal Related Stories:
Randy Barnett: The Case for a Federalism Amendment
Clarence Thomas: How to Read the Constitution
.The Framers would have approved the idea of giving states a more direct role in the amendment process. They fully expected that the possibility of amendments originating with the states would deter federal aggrandizement, and provided in Article V that Congress must call a convention to consider amendments anytime two-thirds of the state legislatures demand it. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers of this process: "[W]e may safely rely on the disposition of the state legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority."
What the Framers did not anticipate, however, was the profound reaction to their own "runaway" convention in 1787. By junking the Articles of Confederation in favor of a new Constitution, they gave us strong and stable government. They also showed exactly what constitutional conventions can do. As a result, no similar body has ever been assembled, and even suggesting a new convention can freeze the marrow in constitutional lawyers.
The answer is to amend the Constitution to permit two-thirds of the states to propose amendments directly. To do so, of course, means that the states would have to first call for a constitutional convention—at which they could propose such a change.
What about the risk of a runaway convention? We think that risk is very small. In the first place, the Constitution is not the Articles of Confederation, which were ratified only six years before they were replaced.
By contrast, the American people are profoundly attached to the Constitution. It cannot and will not be replaced by an amending convention. In any event, nothing proposed at such a convention—including a change to the current amendment process—could be adopted without three-fourths of the state legislatures agreeing.
Even to propose such a course might seem imprudent—but then again, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution never thought the balance of powers between states and the federal government would ever get so profoundly distorted. James Madison dismissed claims that the new federal government could displace the states as "chimerical fears," assuring his readers in The Federalist Papers that "[t]he powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite." Indeed, the Framers considered a "vertical" separation of powers—between federal and state authority—just as important as guaranteeing the success of liberty as the "horizontal" separation of powers between the president, Congress and the courts.
True enough, re-establishing a proper balance—where, as Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers, Washington is responsible "principally [for] external objects" and the states for "all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people"—will not be easy.
The gain will be substantial. Although it seems that permitting the states to propose amendments is a small thing, especially because ratification would still require three-fourths of the states to agree, it would shift the power calculus—and create a potential for action that the president, Congress and courts could never ignore as they consider the proper boundaries of their own authority.
Moreover, the effort to enable the states to check Washington's power would provide a constructive outlet for much of the growing anger—specially evident in phenomena such as the "tea party" movement—toward the political elites of both parties. It is not a partisan proposal and is difficult to oppose. The purpose is to move significant authority closer to the electorate, but in a measured, "conservative" manner that is in no sense "populist."
Opponents would have no fig leaf. They would have to openly argue that any effort to limit Washington's reach is a bad thing. And that is an argument they are likely to lose.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey, Washington, D.C.-based attorneys, served in the Department of Justice during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Change no one believes in
on: December 21, 2009, 09:07:06 PM
From the WSJ today.
Change Nobody Believes In
A bill so reckless that it has to be rammed through on a partisan vote on Christmas eve
And tidings of comfort and joy from Harry Reid too. The Senate Majority Leader has decided that the last few days before Christmas are the opportune moment for a narrow majority of Democrats to stuff ObamaCare through the Senate to meet an arbitrary White House deadline. Barring some extraordinary reversal, it now seems as if they have the 60 votes they need to jump off this cliff, with one-seventh of the economy in tow.
Mr. Obama promised a new era of transparent good government, yet on Saturday morning Mr. Reid threw out the 2,100-page bill that the world's greatest deliberative body spent just 17 days debating and replaced it with a new "manager's amendment" that was stapled together in covert partisan negotiations. Democrats are barely even bothering to pretend to care what's in it, not that any Senator had the chance to digest it in the 38 hours before the first cloture vote at 1 a.m. this morning. After procedural motions that allow for no amendments, the final vote could come at 9 p.m. on December 24.
Even in World War I there was a Christmas truce.
The rushed, secretive way that a bill this destructive and unpopular is being forced on the country shows that "reform" has devolved into the raw exercise of political power for the single purpose of permanently expanding the American entitlement state. An increasing roll of leaders in health care and business are looking on aghast at a bill that is so large and convoluted that no one can truly understand it, as Finance Chairman Max Baucus admitted on the floor last week. The only goal is to ram it into law while the political window is still open, and clean up the mess later.
• Health costs. From the outset, the White House's core claim was that reform would reduce health costs for individuals and businesses, and they're sticking to that story. "Anyone who says otherwise simply hasn't read the bills," Mr. Obama said over the weekend. This is so utterly disingenuous that we doubt the President really believes it.
The best and most rigorous cost analysis was recently released by the insurer WellPoint, which mined its actuarial data in various regional markets to model the Senate bill. WellPoint found that a healthy 25-year-old in Milwaukee buying coverage on the individual market will see his costs rise by 178%. A small business based in Richmond with eight employees in average health will see a 23% increase. Insurance costs for a 40-year-old family with two kids living in Indianapolis will pay 106% more. And on and on.
These increases are solely the result of ObamaCare—above and far beyond the status quo—because its strict restrictions on underwriting and risk-pooling would distort insurance markets. All but a handful of states have rejected regulations like "community rating" because they encourage younger and healthier buyers to wait until they need expensive care, increasing costs for everyone. Benefits and pricing will now be determined by politics.
As for the White House's line about cutting costs by eliminating supposed "waste," even Victor Fuchs, an eminent economist generally supportive of ObamaCare, warned last week that these political theories are overly simplistic. "The oft-heard promise 'we will find out what works and what does not' scarcely does justice to the complexity of medical practice," the Stanford professor wrote.
• Steep declines in choice and quality. This is all of a piece with the hubris of an Administration that thinks it can substitute government planning for market forces in determining where the $33 trillion the U.S. will spend on medicine over the next decade should go.
This centralized system means above all fewer choices; what works for the political class must work for everyone. With formerly private insurers converted into public utilities, for instance, they'll inevitably be banned from selling products like health savings accounts that encourage more cost-conscious decisions.
Unnoticed by the press corps, the Congressional Budget Office argued recently that the Senate bill would so "substantially reduce flexibility in terms of the types, prices, and number of private sellers of health insurance" that companies like WellPoint might need to "be considered part of the federal budget."
With so large a chunk of the economy and medical practice itself in Washington's hands, quality will decline. Ultimately, "our capacity to innovate and develop new therapies would suffer most of all," as Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey Flier recently wrote in our pages. Take the $2 billion annual tax—rising to $3 billion in 2018—that will be leveled against medical device makers, among the most innovative U.S. industries. Democrats believe that more advanced health technologies like MRI machines and drug-coated stents are driving costs too high, though patients and their physicians might disagree.
"The Senate isn't hearing those of us who are closest to the patient and work in the system every day," Brent Eastman, the chairman of the American College of Surgeons, said in a statement for his organization and 18 other speciality societies opposing ObamaCare. For no other reason than ideological animus, doctor-owned hospitals will face harsh new limits on their growth and who they're allowed to treat. Physician Hospitals of America says that ObamaCare will "destroy over 200 of America's best and safest hospitals."
• Blowing up the federal fisc. Even though Medicare's unfunded liabilities are already about 2.6 times larger than the entire U.S. economy in 2008, Democrats are crowing that ObamaCare will cost "only" $871 billion over the next decade while fantastically reducing the deficit by $132 billion, according to CBO.
Yet some 98% of the total cost comes after 2014—remind us why there must absolutely be a vote this week—and most of the taxes start in 2010. That includes the payroll tax increase for individuals earning more than $200,000 that rose to 0.9 from 0.5 percentage points in Mr. Reid's final machinations. Job creation, here we come.
Other deceptions include a new entitlement for long-term care that starts collecting premiums tomorrow but doesn't start paying benefits until late in the decade. But the worst is not accounting for a formula that automatically slashes Medicare payments to doctors by 21.5% next year and deeper after that. Everyone knows the payment cuts won't happen but they remain in the bill to make the cost look lower. The American Medical Association's priority was eliminating this "sustainable growth rate" but all they got in return for their year of ObamaCare cheerleading was a two-month patch snuck into the defense bill that passed over the weekend.
The truth is that no one really knows how much ObamaCare will cost because its assumptions on paper are so unrealistic. To hide the cost increases created by other parts of the bill and transfer them onto the federal balance sheet, the Senate sets up government-run "exchanges" that will subsidize insurance for those earning up to 400% of the poverty level, or $96,000 for a family of four in 2016. Supposedly they would only be offered to those whose employers don't provide insurance or work for small businesses.
As Eugene Steuerle of the left-leaning Urban Institute points out, this system would treat two workers with the same total compensation—whatever the mix of cash wages and benefits—very differently. Under the Senate bill, someone who earned $42,000 would get $5,749 from the current tax exclusion for employer-sponsored coverage but $12,750 in the exchange. A worker making $60,000 would get $8,310 in the exchanges but only $3,758 in the current system.
For this reason Mr. Steuerle concludes that the Senate bill is not just a new health system but also "a new welfare and tax system" that will warp the labor market. Given the incentives of these two-tier subsidies, employers with large numbers of lower-wage workers like Wal-Mart may well convert them into "contractors" or do more outsourcing. As more and more people flood into "free" health care, taxpayer costs will explode.
• Political intimidation. The experts who have pointed out such complications have been ignored or dismissed as "ideologues" by the White House. Those parts of the health-care industry that couldn't be bribed outright, like Big Pharma, were coerced into acceding to this agenda. The White House was able to, er, persuade the likes of the AMA and the hospital lobbies because the federal government will control 55% of total U.S. health spending under ObamaCare, according to the Administration's own Medicare actuaries
Others got hush money, namely Nebraska's Ben Nelson. Even liberal Governors have been howling for months about ObamaCare's unfunded spending mandates: Other budget priorities like education will be crowded out when about 21% of the U.S. population is on Medicaid, the joint state-federal program intended for the poor. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman calculates that ObamaCare will result in $2.5 billion in new costs for his state that "will be passed on to citizens through direct or indirect taxes and fees," as he put it in a letter to his state's junior Senator.
So in addition to abortion restrictions, Mr. Nelson won the concession that Congress will pay for 100% of Nebraska Medicaid expansions into perpetuity. His capitulation ought to cost him his political career, but more to the point, what about the other states that don't have a Senator who's the 60th vote for ObamaCare?
"After a nearly century-long struggle we are on the cusp of making health-care reform a reality in the United States of America," Mr. Obama said on Saturday. He's forced to claim the mandate of "history" because he can't claim the mandate of voters. Some 51% of the public is now opposed, according to National Journal's composite of all health polling. The more people know about ObamaCare, the more unpopular it becomes.
The tragedy is that Mr. Obama inherited a consensus that the health-care status quo needs serious reform, and a popular President might have crafted a durable compromise that blended the best ideas from both parties. A more honest and more thoughtful approach might have even done some good. But as Mr. Obama suggested, the Democratic old guard sees this plan as the culmination of 20th-century liberalism.
So instead we have this vast expansion of federal control. Never in our memory has so unpopular a bill been on the verge of passing Congress, never has social and economic legislation of this magnitude been forced through on a purely partisan vote, and never has a party exhibited more sheer political willfulness that is reckless even for Washington or had more warning about the consequences of its actions.
These 60 Democrats are creating a future of epic increases in spending, taxes and command-and-control regulation, in which bureaucracy trumps innovation and transfer payments are more important than private investment and individual decisions. In short, the Obama Democrats have chosen change nobody believes in—outside of themselves—and when it passes America will be paying for it for decades to come.
Larry N. Smith, M.D.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Force Science News: Sleep and the Midnight Shift
on: December 21, 2009, 01:20:20 PM
Midnight shift and health risks: New study tells sobering truths
Officers who predominately work midnights are at greater risk of developing severe health problems than civilians and other cops, especially if they average more than about 90 minutes of overtime per week and have trouble sleeping.
This is established in a new study by an 8-member team of health experts, headed by Dr. John Violanti, a former state trooper and now a research associate professor at the State University of New York-Buffalo.
In an ongoing series of groundbreaking investigations, Violanti and cohorts have previously explored shift work and its relationship to suicidal thoughts and to problems of sleep quality. In one earlier study, they found that retired LEOs in general tend to die some 6 years sooner than other retired civic workers.
"The newest findings confirm one more way that policing endangers those who serve," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center, which was not involved in the team's discoveries.
"Inescapably, some officers are forced to work undesirable hours, due to the 'round-the-clock nature of law enforcement. Now, knowing their special risks, it becomes all the more important for those on late shifts to rally their personal defenses against the potential assaults on their well-being."
Violanti agrees. "This is the first time that working officers have been examined from this particular perspective," he told Force Science News. "We hope these findings create an awareness of the importance of health education for police. Shift work is not going away. Officers need to learn how to adjust to it and come out alive."
The researchers' test group consisted of 61 male and 37 female volunteers randomly chosen from an eastern city with more than 900 sworn officers. Blood samples, blood pressure readings, and other pertinent data were collected from them at a medical clinic, and their shift assignments and overtime hours were confirmed from payroll records.
Day shift assignments were considered to be those that started between 4 AM and 11:59 AM; afternoon, starting between noon and 7:59 PM; and midnights beginning between 8 PM and 3:59 AM. The officers, who all worked 10-hour shifts, were categorized according to which shift they most often worked during the 5-year period preceding the study.
As a measurement of the officers' health risks, the researchers screened them for abdominal obesity (more than a 40.2-in. waistline in men, 34.6 inches in women); elevated triglycerides (above 150); reduced HDL ("good") cholesterol (less than 40 for men, less than 50 for women); glucose intolerance; and hypertension (blood pressure higher than 130/85).
A combination of any 3 of these "abnormalities" is said to constitute "metabolic syndrome," a condition that carries an increased risk of such health perils as stroke, cardiovascular disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
"In most individual categories, officers in the midnight-shift classification ranked the worst," one of the researchers, Dr. Bryan Vila, a member of the CJ faculty at Washington State University in Spokane, told FSN.
For example, 55% on midnights showed "elevated waist circumference," more than double the percentage found in the other 2 shifts. Half had sub-desirable levels of "good" cholesterol, compared to 30% on days and 44% on afternoons, and 25% had high blood pressure, compared to 15% on days and 9% on afternoons. (Figures are rounded here to avoid fractions.)
In measurement of triglycerides and glucose intolerance, midnight officers fared slightly better than their afternoon counterparts, but in no category were late-shift officers found to be in better shape than officers working days.
Over all, 30% of midnight officers had metabolic syndrome, versus 11% on days and about 15% on afternoon shifts.
"This is a very significant finding for a couple of reasons," Vila says. "First of all, studies of the general population have found that about 22% exhibit metabolic syndrome, and that includes sick people, old people, and others who might be expected to have a negative impact on the number. Cops at least have been screened for good overall physical and mental health when they joined the force.
"Besides that, officers in our study who worked midnights tended to be younger than those working days by an average of 6 years. You would expect younger officers to be less susceptible to the risk factors for serious diseases."
Midnight officers took additional hits when sleep and overtime were factored into the study.
The researchers report: "Officers who worked midnight shifts and [averaged] less than 6 hours sleep had a significantly higher mean number of metabolic syndrome components" than those who worked day and afternoon shifts. Indeed, their mean number of risk factors was more than 4 times that of day officers and more than 2 ? times that of those working afternoons.
Overtime, too, seems to impact midnight officers more negatively than those on other shifts. Among officers averaging more than 1..7 hours of overtime per week, those working midnights had a "significantly higher" mean number of metabolic syndrome factors--more than 4 times higher than day officers and more than twice the number for afternoon shifters.
The study notes in brief: "
horter sleep duration and more overtime combined with midnight shift work may be important contributors to the metabolic syndrome."
The researchers did not attempt to document the specific causes of the link between midnights and health dangers, but Violanti and Vila offer observations about a couple of likely suspects: eating habits and sleep patterns.
On late shifts, officers may feel more dependent on restaurants and vending machines that "point them more toward candy, Cokes, coffee, donuts, and fast foods than toward nutritious meals," Vila explains. In short, Violanti notes, "Diet on the night shift basically stinks."
Plus, he says, "Endocrine function and body balance are disturbed by circadian [daily rhythm] disruption. Working nights, especially on a job that's highly stressful, can cause significant wear and tear on the body."
"Sleep times for officers on midnights tend to be outside the normal range," Vila explains, "so they customarily get not only less sleep but sleep of lesser quality." This produces fatigue and sets up a vicious cycle. Insufficient sleep causes hormonal changes that, in effect, make the body crave quick energy bursts. "This triggers an appetite for the kind of foods that result in weight gain, bad cholesterol, and strain on the organs that help you metabolize sugars. In turn, being overweight makes you more susceptible to sleep apnea and other problems that interfere with restorative sleep."
If midnight officers want assurance of nutritious meals while working, they can pack their own, making sure what they eat is low in processed sugar and high in complex carbohydrates, he suggests.
"You'll sleep better," he says, "if you end vigorous physical activity 2 or more hours before you want to sleep. Minimize your caffeine consumption the last 4 hours of your shift, because it takes about 6 hours to diminish caffeine in the blood to a level where it won't interfere with sleep. And don't eat a big meal just before bedtime." Darkening the room when you have to sleep during daylight hours also helps.
"Make an agreement with your family that sleep for you is an important priority," Violanti suggests, so they can help minimize disturbances.
If you have persistent sleep problems, arrange to be screened for sleep disorders. "More than 40% of cops have serious sleep disorders, and these can usually be treated," Vila says. On the website of the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation [www.sleepfoundation.org] you can locate a sleep professional near you, as well as access helpful tips on better sleeping, books on the subject, and sleep aids.
Lewinski notes that the National Institutes of Health recommend the following for preventing or managing metabolic syndrome:
• Eating a diet low in fat, with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products
• Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise almost every day
• Losing weight so that your body mass index is less than 25
• Controlling blood pressure and blood sugar
• Not smoking
• Including fish, preferably oily fish, in your diet at least twice a week.
Violanti would like to see law enforcement agencies provide training on diet and sleep, but he points out that "in the end, we are responsible for our own health. We can't depend on an organization to take care of us. Taking our own simple steps to improve lifestyle--eating better, sleeping better, exercising--is the best way to deal with this problem."
With the new metabolic study serving as a baseline, Violanti and his team are planning longer-term monitoring of 460 officers to see if continued exposure to midnight service makes results worse and, hopefully, to pinpoint specific causes of related health problems.
Meanwhile, Vila says, more than a dozen research papers are in development as a part of Violanti's broad-based studies. "We are trying to look one piece at a time at why police work is such an unhealthy profession and what can be done about that."
As more becomes known, Force Science News will keep you updated.
Meanwhile, our strategic partner PoliceOne.com this week posted a news article you may find interesting, concerning a Maryland officer who is suing his county for compensation for heart problems that he claims arose because of his police service.
According to this report, "Maryland law presumes that if public safety officials develop heart diseases, then it was their jobs that caused it and the officials should be eligible for worker's compensation claims, regardless of other possible contributing factors like obesity, smoking habits, and family medical history."
Click here to check it out.
A full report on the newest study, "Atypical Work Hours and Metabolic Syndrome Among Police Officers," appears in the journal Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health, vol. 64, #3, 2009 and is available online for a fee. Click here to go to the report.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Global Police
on: December 21, 2009, 12:37:01 PM
Interpol and U.N. Back ‘Global Policing Doctrine’
By DOREEN CARVAJAL
Published: October 11, 2009 http://www10.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/...rpol.html?_r=5
PARIS — Interpol and the United Nations are poised to become partners in fighting crime by jointly grooming a global police force that would be deployed as peacekeepers among rogue nations riven by war and organized crime, officials from both organizations say.
On Monday, justice and foreign ministers from more than 60 countries, including the United States and China, are gathering in Singapore for a meeting hosted by the two international organizations.
It is the first step toward creating what Interpol calls a “global policing doctrine” that would enable Interpol and the United Nations to improve the skills of police peacekeepers, largely by sharing a secure communications network and a vast electronic trove of criminal information, including DNA records, fingerprints, photographs and fugitive notices.
“We have a visionary model,” said Ronald K. Noble, secretary general of Interpol and the first American to head the international police organization, which is based in Lyon. More than 187 member nations finance the organization.
“The police will be trained and equipped differently with resources,” Mr. Noble said. “When they stop someone, they will be consulting global databases to determine who they are stopping.”
Modern peacekeeping has evolved dramatically since the blue-helmeted U.N. military force won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1988. Since 2005, the number of police officers within the total force of 95,400 peacekeepers has more than doubled from about 6,000 to 12,200 in 17 countries.
U.N. police are already battling kidnappings and drug crime in Haiti and illicit lumber trading in Liberia. The aim of the joint effort is to increase the ability to track the movement of criminals around the world by sharing resources and common standards, according to Mr. Noble. He is also pressing ahead with plans for special electronic passports for the agency’s staff of more than 600 Interpol investigators to speed border crossings.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is contributing more than $2 million to finance the development of international global policing standards, according to Andrew Hughes, an Australian who currently heads the U.N.’s force of police officers.
The ambition is to create a series of networks to counter borderless organized criminal operations, Mr. Hughes said. Women, in particular, are being recruited, with a goal of reaching 20 percent of the U.N. force and the development of all-female units like the group of 140 peacekeepers from Bangladesh that is about to be deployed.
“We’re working with refugees,” Mr. Hughes said. “Many of the victims of atrocities are women, and they’ve had enough of men with guns and uniforms.”
He said that among the most critical tasks for a global police force were combating illegal arms and drug trafficking. His own officers in West Africa have watched the growth of cocaine smuggling by Colombian and Venezuelan drug cartels through weakened countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia to the lucrative consumer markets in Europe.
The United States remains the biggest market for cocaine, according to the U.N.’s annual report on drugs and crime. But in the past three years, South American cartels have moved more drugs to Europe using transit points like Guinea Bissau, where the president and the head of the military were killed in sophisticated bombing attacks in March. Each year, at least 50 tons of cocaine from Andean countries passes through West Africa to the streets of Europe, where the drugs are worth almost $2 billion, according to the U.N. report.
“Organized crime is a business that looks for opportunity to expand their market enterprise,” Mr. Hughes said. “When you have a breakdown in police and courts and corrections, organized crime is ripe. We also see the toxic effect of corruption, because they are able to corrupt officials, which makes it difficult to build a functioning society.”
In Afghanistan, where heroin and hashish trafficking is also a thorny issue, NATO announced plans this month to start training the local police — a move it has avoided in the past to concentrate on military responsibilities.
But Mr. Noble of Interpol says he takes a dim view of transforming warriors into beat cops, because the mind-sets are so different.
“We caution on making the delegation of civil police development tasks to military structures,” Mr. Noble said, citing the example of an attack that freed hundreds of Taliban from a prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan, last year. Although Interpol immediately asked for information about the missing prisoners, he said, “we were really shocked and dismayed to learn there were no fingerprints and photographs despite billions spent to train police there.”
With the meeting of justice ministers on Monday, which coincides with a general assembly of Interpol police members, the group is expected to debate the global police issue and to craft a declaration that would lead to an action plan for international police peacekeeping within 12 months.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Twas the night
on: December 20, 2009, 06:53:14 PM
Twas the night before Christmas
By "Dangerous" Dave Workman
`Twas the night before Christmas, cold, dark and foreboding,
As I sat at the work bench, quite busy reloading.
The empties from autumn were polished so clear
For primers and powder, and bullets from Speer
And Hornady softpoints, and Nosler's Partitions
(MY bench ain't no place for brand name omissions!)
All sat in their boxes, right next to the press
With dies from Pacific, and RCBS
When all of a sudden there came such a jolt,
I grabbed for my Mossberg, and whipped out my Colt.
As I spilled Hodgdon's powder all over the shelf
I scrambled for cover, just to protect myself
From up on the rooftop, came hoofbeats and snorting
Like the noise out of L'il Rock, from Clinton's cavorting!
I eased off the safety, to press-check my auto
With 230-hardball, I'd knock 'em all blotto
Were these rogue federal agents, sent by Schumer and Reno?
Or a staggering Ted Kennedy, in bad need of Beano?
My question was answered with a knock, and some sneezing,
"It's Santa, you moron, lemme in, I'm freezing!"
I flipped off the dead-bolt and threw the door wide,
To find St. Nick a'shivering, Rudolph by his side
He eyeballed my Springfield, with a nod of approval
"You're all set," he said, "for dirtball removal."
"But this is no raid, we're not here to harm you
Or persecute, prosecute or even disarm you"
Instead, said dear Santa, he needed to borrow
My .357, 'till day after tomorrow
"It's okay," he assured me, with a hint of frustration.
"I'm enrolled in the National Rifle Association"
He showed me his card, 'twas a Life Member rating
"I've had this since me and the missus were dating!"
"And you see, Dave ol' buddy, I've gotten real nervous
"Since Feinstein was elected, with a promise to serve us
"So henceforth as I'm out there, my presents a'stackin'
"I want to assure you, I'm legally packin'
"And my gift for you this year, should give you a hoot
"I've told the Supreme Court to give Brady the boot!
"Now, Rudy and I must be on our way"
He said, as he climbed back on the seat of his sleigh
With the reins in his hand, and my Smith in his pocket
He jingled the sleighbells and was off like a rocket
With a pair of speedloaders, and ammo to spare
I knew he'd be safe, he was loaded for bear
As he faded from view, I could still hear him calling
"From D.C., where 'P.C.' is already falling
"To bad guys in L.A., Detroit and Atlanta
"I'm licensed to carry. Don't be messin' with Santa!"
. . . and then, The Sequel . . .
'Twas the day after Christmas when Santa returned
He was looking quite happy, all trim and sunburned
His sleigh had been emptied, and I'll bet you're all
If he did the same thing to his borrowed Smith & Wesson
Well the fact of the matter is in need of reporting,
Like the press oughta do about Clinton's cavorting!
Seems Santa encountered some trouble 'long the way,
'Cause some not-too-bright dirtbags tried to hijack his sleigh
When he left Christmas Eve, he was ready for action
And he made real good time, thanks to reindeer hoof traction
He had rag dolls, and capguns, baseballs and bats.
New dresses, toy airplanes, and a few dogs and cats.
Seems these wannabe grinches thought they were hot shooters
So's a bunch of 'em tried to be Christmas gift looters
But the one thing they hadn't expected to meet
Was a licensed St. Nick, packin' full magnum heat.
The night was still young, when these dipwits appeared
Their caps all turned backwards; at least one had a beard.
They were trying to look vicious, as they stood in his path
He could tell in an instant that they needed a bath
One fool made a grab for Comet and Cupid,
But froze when St. Nick had yelled "Hold it, there, stupid!"
When he leveled my sixgun at this crazy-eyed fellow
The snow at his feet turned a pale shade of yellow
"It was over real quick," Santa said with a chuckle
As he hauled out my Smith from behind his belt buckle
"Never fired a shot, never pulled back the hammer
"Got the cops on my cell phone, and sent 'em all to the slammer"
After that much excitement, 'twas a rest Santa needed
So with his gift-giving, he quickly proceeded
And when he was finished, Santa issued this order:
"Rudolph, old pal, take us south of the border!"
So now he was rested, and this stop was his last one
And he made it real clear, that it must be a fast one
With my piece back in lockup, he said "Thanks for the loan
"Next year, rest assured, I'll be packin' my own"
And just what, did I wonder, might then Santa unlimber?
A Colt, Sig or Taurus, a Glock or a Kimber?
Perhaps Heckler & Koch, a Kahr or a Ruger?
A wheelgun from Rossi, a Walther or Luger?
"I'm not sure," replied Santa, as he scoped out the weather,
"But I'll contact your buddy, Mitch Rosen, for leather.
"And now, I must leave you, until late next December
"But Dave, I assure you, I will always remember
"You did me a favor, and that's one I owe you
"So when I get my own gat, I'll be certain to show you
"In the meantime, ol' buddy, I'll scream it, I'll shout it
"If you're licensed to carry, don't you leave home without it!"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops
on: December 20, 2009, 08:49:39 AM
I awoke this Saturday morning at PT time (0430), and looked at my surroundings. The worst winter storm in DC for a number of years had arrived in force. Snow, and lots of it. Roads are closed, planes are grounded, and people are huddled comfortably inside their homes or foolishly out trying to learn how to drive in snow.
Rather than roll over, I put some warm clothes on, leashed the dogs, and out we went for some exercise and introspection. As I walked, I was trying to imagine being in those winter camps and fights so long ago.
I thought of Washington's Christmas raid at Trenton, and his last, lonely winter camp. I thought of the soldiers at Fort Niagara. I thought of the bitter cold of the Argonne, the Huertgen Forest and Bastogne, the Aleutians, the Chosin Reservoir, the Sava River, and Tora Bora.
As I thought of those heroes of our past, those legendary Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen that we regularly honor and pay tribute to, I thought of those quiet professionals in current fights that we don't speak of often enough.
Look around on any forward operating base or outpost in Afghanistan, the Philippines or Iraq. Watch the Soldiers passing through our airports coming home on or returning from R&R. Listen to speeches during a deployment or redployment ceremony. Stand silently and render honors to one of our fallen (something which is hardly more sincere than on Disney Road and at that airfield!).
Modern American heroes (not our over-indulged athletes or actors) are hardly given their due. They walked or still pass quietly among us, never seeking acknowledgement or fame, but simply doing their duty as they have sworn oaths to do. We already know some of their names:
- Smith, Murphy, Monsoor, Dunham, McGinnis - Medal of Honor;
- Hollenbaugh, Cooper, Nein, Sanford, Coffman - Distinguished Service Cross;
- Hester, Birch, Roundtree, Kandarian, LaFrenz - Silver Star;
- Kopp, Shumney, Kuban, DeLeon, Gentry - Bronze Star for Valor;
- Biggs, Carbone, Turecheck, Rushing, Berwald - Army Commendation for Valor.
And, I submit, for every warrior we acknowledge in a ceremony, there are a hundred or a thousand more who are never acknowledged for the difference they make every day.
So as I finished my peaceful walk in the snow, I thought of the Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors that are carrying the fight away from home so that I could have this walk in peace, and I am forever grateful. I thought of those in MRAPs slowly searching roadways for hidden dangers, others working with local police to secure a village, and yet others moving quietly and quickly to eliminate or capture a hidden enemy, and I am filled with pride.
Wherever you are, and whatever you do or did to continue to guarantee my safety and freedom, I thank each of you in, headed to, returning from, or supporting the fight. You are my heroes, and I thank you.
CSM Jeff Mellinger