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23051  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 07, 2009, 07:02:13 PM
Cindy promises me she will have the updated registered fighters list up , , , soon  embarassed
23052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hall of Shame on: September 07, 2009, 06:55:52 PM
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/6140801/Jack-Straw-admits-Lockerbie-bombers-release-was-linked-to-oil.htm
Jack Straw admits Lockerbie bomber's release was linked to oil
Jack Straw has reignited the row over the release of the Lockerbie bomber by admitting for the first time that trade and oil were an essential part of the Government’s decision to include him in a prisoner transfer deal with Libya.
23053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 07, 2009, 02:30:11 PM
It was an effort at humor, apparently unsuccessful cheesy
23054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: September 07, 2009, 02:25:55 PM
By FREDERICK W. KAGAN
Winning the war in Afghanistan—creating a stable and legitimate Afghan state that can control its territory—will be difficult. The insurgency has grown in the past few years while the government's legitimacy has declined. It remains unclear how the recent presidential elections will affect this situation.

Trying to win in Afghanistan is not a fool's errand, however. Where coalition forces have conducted properly resourced counterinsurgency operations in areas such as Khowst, Wardak, Lowgar, Konar and Nangarhar Provinces in the eastern part of the country, they have succeeded despite the legendary xenophobia of the Pashtuns.

Poorly designed operations in Helmand Province have not led to success. Badly under-resourced efforts in other southern and western provinces, most notably Kandahar, have also failed. Can well-designed and properly-resourced operations succeed? There are no guarantees in war, but there is good reason to think they can. Given the importance of this theater to the stability of a critical and restive region, that is reason enough to try.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 .Critics of the war have suggested we should draw down our troops and force Pakistan to play a larger role in eliminating radical extremists. American concerns about al Qaeda and Taliban operating from Pakistani bases have led to the conventional wisdom that Pakistan matters to the U.S. because of what it could do to help—or hurt—in Afghanistan. The conventional wisdom is wrong as usual.

Pakistan is important because it is a country of 180 million Muslims with nuclear weapons and multiple terrorist groups engaged in a mini-arms race and periodic military encounters with India—the world's most populous state and one of America's most important economic and strategic partners. Pakistan has made remarkable progress over the last year in its efforts against Islamist insurgent groups that threatened to destroy it. But the fight against those groups takes place on both sides of the border. The debate over whether to commit the resources necessary to succeed in Afghanistan must recognize the extreme danger that a withdrawal or failure in Afghanistan would pose to the stability of Pakistan.

Pakistan's ambivalence toward militant Islamist groups goes back decades. The growth of radical Islamism in Pakistan dates to the 1970s and '80s when the government encouraged radicalism both for domestic political reasons and to combat Soviet encroachment. The Pakistani government, with U.S. support, established bases in its territory for Afghan mujahedeen (religious warriors) fighting the Red Army.

When Afghanistan descended into chaos in the '90s following the Soviet withdrawal, Pakistan intervened by building the Taliban into an organization strong enough to establish its writ at least throughout the Pashtun lands. Links forged in the anti-Soviet war between Pashtun mujahedeen and Arabs from the Persian Gulf remained strong enough to bring Osama bin Laden to the territory controlled by mujahedeen hero and Taliban leader Jalalluddin Haqqani. The 9/11 attacks were planned and organized from those bases.

The 9/11 attacks caught Pakistan by surprise and forced a radical, incoherent and unanticipated change in Pakistan's policies. Under intense pressure by the U.S., including an ultimatum from Secretary of State Colin Powell, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf chose to ally with America against Pakistan's erstwhile Afghan and Arab partners. Mr. Musharraf long tried to channel his own and U.S operations narrowly against al Qaeda while diverting them from the remnants of the Taliban (whom elements of the Pakistani intelligence services continued to support).

But U.S. pressure to act in Pakistan's tribal areas and the inexorable logic of the conflict led Pakistan to take actions that brought it into open conflict with some insurgent groups. Those groups in turn came to see Pakistan itself as their main enemy. By 2004, Pakistan faced a serious and growing insurgency in its tribal areas. By 2008 that insurgency had spread beyond the tribal areas into more settled areas such as the Swat River Valley. By 2009 it had metastasized to the point where Punjabis and not just Pashtuns were fighting the Pakistani government.

Pakistan turned an important—and little noticed—corner in its fight against its own Islamist insurgents this summer. The Pakistani military drove the Pakistani Taliban out of Swat and the surrounding areas, including much of the northern part of the tribal areas. Most recently, Pakistani military operations (with covert American support) decapitated the most dangerous Pakistani Taliban group based in Waziristan by killing its leader, Beitullah Mehsud. He was thought to be responsible for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

In contrast with previous such efforts, the current Pakistani government has retained significant military force in all of these areas and so far appears to be continuing the fight even after these successes. Remarkably, the combat divisions now holding Swat and other areas in the northwest of Pakistan are among those most critical to Pakistan's strategy to defend against the always-feared Indian attack.

But as American and NATO forces in Afghanistan discovered, the fight against the Taliban must be pursued on both sides of the border. Pakistan's successes have been assisted by the deployment of American conventional forces along the Afghanistan border opposite the areas in which Pakistani forces were operating, particularly in Konar and Khowst Provinces.

Those forces have not so much interdicted the border crossings (almost impossible in such terrain) as they have created conditions unfavorable to the free movement of insurgents. They have conducted effective counterinsurgency operations in areas that might otherwise provide sanctuary to insurgents fleeing Pakistani operations (Nangarhar and Paktia provinces especially, in addition to Konar and Khowst). Without those operations, Pakistan's insurgents would likely have found new safe havens in those provinces, rendering the painful progress made by Pakistan's military irrelevant.

Pakistan's stability cannot be secured solely within its borders any more than can Afghanistan's. Militant Islam can be defeated only by waging a proper counterinsurgency campaign on both sides of the border.

Mr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and co-author of "Ground Truth: The Future of U.S. Land Power" (AEI Press, 2008).
23055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 06, 2009, 06:56:31 PM
Woof GM:

Rachel consistently brings excellent contributions to this forum, often from different perspectives than our usual ones.  The relentness nature of martian discourse is not where most venusians prefer to invest their energies.  She's a woman. That's the way it works  cheesy We're glad to have her here.

TAC!
Marc
23056  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 06, 2009, 06:33:28 PM
WOOF!!!
23057  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: protective gear on: September 06, 2009, 01:29:06 PM
Can someone help Keith out by pointing him to any of the existing threads on this?
23058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: September 06, 2009, 09:26:03 AM
I've missed posting here several reports from MY.  Here is today's report:

Helmand, Afghanistan - The West is losing this war. This has been obvious for more than three years. Less obvious is that in 2009, we are down to the wire. Gen. Stanley McChrystal and others will soon recommend to President Obama the latest treatment for a dying patient.

Meanwhile, allies and Americans are asking themselves why we are here. Some are saying that Al Qaeda is still here or is waiting in the wings to return to its home. Yet Afghanistan was never Al Qaeda's permanent home to begin with. Al Qaeda was just renting a little space here, just as it was renting space in places like Germany and Florida.

We must face reality: Our reasons for continuing are not the reasons we came for. We are fighting a different war now than the one that began in 2001. Today's war is about social re-engineering. Given the horrible history of Afghanistan, and the fact that we already are here, the cause is worthy and worthwhile.

The decisions facing us are perilous and immense. On the one hand, we desperately need more troops, while on the other increasing troop levels introduces a host of costs and potential traps.

Yet it seems certain the war will be lost if we do not significantly increase troops. While our enemies grow stronger, years will pass before Afghan forces can replace us. Enemies are gaining ground while we lose the goodwill of the people through disillusionment. In the mostly peaceful Ghor Province, for instance, development is scant and there are no Afghan soldiers.

I just spent more than a month with British combat forces in Helmand. Instead of concentrating on training and operating with Afghan forces, the British are involved in a daily struggle for tiny pieces of real estate.

Last December, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me in a private discussion while flying back to the U.S. from Afghanistan, Bahrain and Iraq, that his greatest concern is that we will lose the goodwill of the Afghan people. Gates is correct and my confidence in his judgment is high. Gates knows that our stock is still okay here, but clearly it is losing value.

The strongest indicator of progress will come in the form of cooperation from the people. In Iraq, especially in about mid-2007, I witnessed a tidal shift in cooperation from the civilians and largely from that was able to report that the surge was working, long before the statistics would support what might have appeared to be a wild claim.

During 2006 in Afghanistan, I witnessed areas where the population was alienated from Kabul and Western forces. Again, long before the statistics would support what appeared to be wild claims, I published 12 reports saying we were losing here. Analysts cannot feel the pulse through statistics; in this sort of war, statistics lag behind the realities. An observer must be on the ground to sense the pulse.

Pundits who are saying we should pull out of Afghanistan today, to my knowledge, are not here.

Having just spent another month with British forces in Helmand, today I am on my own in the same province. During the last month, our great allies the British lost dozens of soldiers who were killed or wounded. Cooperation from locals is almost nonexistent in many places. Interaction between civilians and British soldiers was nearly zero. The British treat the civilians very well, but being polite and respectful is not enough.

Without significant reinforcements, the British likely will be defeated in Helmand within a couple of years. My respect for British soldiers is immense. I have been in combat with them many times in Iraq and Afghanistan, including during the last couple of weeks and would go into battle with them today. Yet it must be said that the average British soldier has practically no understanding of counterinsurgency.

The enemies here cannot defeat the United States, but they can dissolve the coalition. Some allies are ready to tap out, while others are learning that counterinsurgency is difficult. The Germans, for instance, are losing in their battle space. To avoid watching the coalition melt away, we must show progress before the end of 2010.

Today, the war is still worth fighting, yet the goal to reengineer one of the most backward, violent places on Earth, will require a century before a reasonable person can call Afghanistan "a developing nation." The war will not take that long - but the effort will.

There are no short-term solutions to fix this place. We are planting acorns. Oak trees grow slowly.
23059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: What Torture never told us: on: September 06, 2009, 09:21:02 AM
second post of the morning:

By ALI H. SOUFAN
Published: September 5, 2009
PUBLIC bravado aside, the defenders of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques are fast running out of classified documents to hide behind. The three that were released recently by the C.I.A. — the 2004 report by the inspector general and two memos from 2004 and 2005 on intelligence gained from detainees — fail to show that the techniques stopped even a single imminent threat of terrorism.


Times Topics: C.I.A. InterrogationsThe inspector general’s report distinguishes between intelligence gained from regular interrogation and from the harsher methods, which culminate in waterboarding. While the former produces useful intelligence, according to the report, the latter “is a more subjective process and not without concern.” And the information in the two memos reinforces this differentiation.

They show that substantial intelligence was gained from pocket litter (materials found on detainees when they were captured), from playing detainees against one another and from detainees freely giving up information that they assumed their questioners already knew. A computer seized in March 2003 from a Qaeda operative for example, listed names of Qaeda members and money they were to receive.

Soon after Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the 9/11 attacks, was captured in 2003, according to the 2005 memo, he “elaborated on his plan to crash commercial airlines into Heathrow Airport.” The memo speculates that he may have assumed that Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a fellow member of Al Qaeda who had been captured in 2002, had already divulged the plan. The same motivation — the assumption that another detainee had already talked — is offered to explain why Mr. Mohammed provided details about the Hambali-Southeast Asia Qaeda network.

Mr. Mohammed must have likewise assumed that his interrogators already had the details about Al Qaeda’s organizational structure that he gave them. When I testified in the trial of Salim Hamdan, who had been Osama bin Laden’s personal driver, I provided many unclassified details about Al Qaeda’s structure and operations, none of which came from Mr. Mohammed.

Some of the information that is cited in the memos — the revelation that Mr. Mohammed had been the mastermind of 9/11, for example, and the uncovering of Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber — was gained from another terrorism suspect, Abu Zubaydah, by “informed interrogation,” conducted by an F.B.I. colleague and me. The arrest of Walid bin Attash, one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted messengers, which was also cited in the 2005 C.I.A. memo, was thanks to a quick-witted foreign law enforcement officer, and had nothing to do with harsh interrogation of anyone. The examples go on and on.

A third top suspected terrorist who was subjected to enhanced interrogation, in 2002, was Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the man charged with plotting the 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole. I was the lead agent on a team that worked with the Yemenis to thwart a series of plots by Mr. Nashiri’s operatives in the Arabian Peninsula — including planned attacks on Western embassies. In 2004, we helped prosecute 15 of these operatives in a Yemeni court. Not a single piece of evidence that helped us apprehend or convict them came from Mr. Nashiri.

It is surprising, as the eighth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, that none of Al Qaeda’s top leadership is in our custody. One damaging consequence of the harsh interrogation program was that the expert interrogators whose skills were deemed unnecessary to the new methods were forced out.

Mr. Mohammed knew the location of most, if not all, of the members of Al Qaeda’s leadership council, and possibly of every covert cell around the world. One can only imagine who else we could have captured, or what attacks we might have disrupted, if Mr. Mohammed had been questioned by the experts who knew the most about him.

A lack of knowledge perhaps explains why so many false claims have been made about the program’s alleged successes. Many officials in Washington reading the reports didn’t know enough about Al Qaeda to know what information was already known and whether the detainees were telling all they knew. The inspector general’s report states that many operatives thought their superiors were inaccurately judging that detainees were withholding information. Such assessments, the operatives said, were “not always supported by an objective evaluation” but were “too heavily based, instead, on presumptions.” I can personally testify to this.

Supporters of the enhanced interrogation techniques have jumped from claim to claim about their usefulness. They have asserted, for example, that harsh treatment led Mr. Mohammed to reveal the plot to attack the Library Tower in Los Angeles. But that plot was thwarted in 2002, and Mr. Mohammed was not arrested until 2003. Recently, interviews with unnamed sources led The Washington Post to report that harsh techniques turned Mr. Mohammed into an intelligence “asset.”

This latest claim will come as news to Mr. Mohammed’s prosecutors, to his fellow detainees (whom he instructed, at his arraignment, not to cooperate with the United States) and indeed to Mr. Mohammed himself. He told the International Committee of the Red Cross that “I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear.”

The inspector general’s report was written precisely because many of the C.I.A. operatives complained about what they were being ordered to do. The inspector general then conducted an internal audit of the entire program. In his report, he questions the effectiveness of the harsh techniques that were authorized. And he slams the use of “unauthorized, improvised, inhumane and undocumented detention and interrogation techniques.” This is probably why the enhanced interrogation program was shelved in 2005.

Meanwhile, the professionals in the field are relieved that an ineffective, unreliable, unnecessary and destructive program — one that may have given Al Qaeda a second wind and damaged our country’s reputation — is finished.

Ali H. Soufan was an F.B.I. special agent from 1997 to 2005.
23060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: September 06, 2009, 09:12:56 AM
Ahmadinejad's Imam: Islam Allows Raping, Torturing Prisoners
 
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/133214
by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
Follow Israel news on  and .


(IsraelNN.com) A highly influential Shi'a religious leader, with whom Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regularly consults, apparently told followers last month that coercion by means of rape, torture and drugs is acceptable against all opponents of the Islamic regime.
The gathered crowd heard from Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi and Ahmadinejad.
 
Warning: The imam's question-and-answer session, partially reproduced here, contains disturbing descriptions of the sanctioned brutality.

In the wake of a series of publications worldwide regarding the rape and torture of dissident prisoners in Iran's jails, supporters of Ahmadinejad gathered with him in Jamkaran, a popular pilgrimage site for Shi'ite Muslims on the outskirts of Qom, on August 11, 2009. According to Iranian pro-democracy sources, the gathered crowd heard from Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi and Ahmadinejad himself regarding the issue.

According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), an independent Israeli intelligence analysis organization, Mesbah-Yazdi is considered Ahmadinejad's personal spiritual guide. A radical totalitarian even in Iranian terms, he holds messianic views, supports increasing Islamization, calls for violent suppression of domestic political opponents, and, according to the ITIC, "declared that obeying a president supported by the Supreme Leader was tantamount to obeying God."

At the Jamkaran gathering, Mesbah-Yazdi and Ahmadinejad answered questions about the rape and torture charges. The following text is from a transcript alleged by Iranian dissidents to be a series of questions and answers exchanged between the ayatollah and some of his supporters.

Asked if a confession obtained "by applying psychological, emotional and physical pressure" was "valid and considered credible according to Islam," Mesbah-Yazdi replied: "Getting a confession from any person who is against the Velayat-e Faqih ("Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists", or the regime of Iran's mullahs) is permissible under any condition." The ayatollah gave the identical answer when asked about confessions obtained through drugging the prisoner with opiates or addictive substances.

"Can an interrogator rape the prisoner in order to obtain a confession?" was the follow-up question posed to the Islamic cleric.

Mesbah-Yazdi answered: "The necessary precaution is for the interrogator to perform a ritual washing first and say prayers while raping the prisoner. If the prisoner is female, it is permissible to rape through the vagina or anus. It is better not to have a witness present. If it is a male prisoner, then it's acceptable for someone else to watch while the rape is committed."

This reply, and reports of the rape of teen male prisoners in Iranian jails, may have prompted the following question: "Is the rape of men and young boys considered sodomy?"
One aspect of these permitted rapes troubled certain questioners.

Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi: "No, because it is not consensual. Of course, if the prisoner is aroused and enjoys the rape, then caution must be taken not to repeat the rape."

A related issue, in the eyes of the questioners, was the rape of virgin female prisoners. In this instance, Mesbah-Yazdi went beyond the permissibility issue and described the Allah-sanctioned rewards accorded the rapist-in-the-name-of-Islam:

"If the judgment for the [female] prisoner is execution, then rape before execution brings the interrogator a spiritual reward equivalent to making the mandated Haj pilgrimage [to Mecca], but if there is no execution decreed, then the reward would be equivalent to making a pilgrimage to [the Shi'ite holy city of] Karbala."

One aspect of these permitted rapes troubled certain questioners: "What if the female prisoner gets pregnant? Is the child considered illegitimate?"

Mesbah-Yazdi answered: "The child borne to any weakling [a denigrating term for women - ed.] who is against the Supreme Leader is considered illegitimate, be it a result of rape by her interrogator or through intercourse with her husband, according to the written word in the Koran. However, if the child is raised by the jailer, then the child is considered a legitimate Shi'a Muslim." 
23061  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: DBMA DVD en espanol on: September 05, 2009, 08:25:12 PM
Bixen:

Bienvenidos y gracias por tu oferta de ayuda, pero aun con tu ayuda, los costos adicionales en tiempo y dinero (p.e. por editacion/editing) prohibe un projecto asi'.



23062  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Inches on: September 05, 2009, 06:35:51 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myyWXKeBsNk&feature=related
23063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: September 05, 2009, 06:15:15 PM
On their wedding night, the young bride approached her new husband and asked for $20.00 for their first lovemaking encounter. In
his highly aroused state, her husband readily agreed.

This scenario was repeated each time they made love, for more than 30 years, with him thinking that it was a cute way for her to
afford new clothes and other incidentals that she needed.

Arriving home around noon one day, she was surprised to find her husband in a very drunken state. during the next few minutes, he explained that his employer was going through a process of corporate downsizing, and he had been let go. It was unlikely that, at the age of 59, he'd be able to find another position that paid anywhere near what he'd been earning, and therefore, they
were financially ruined.

Calmly, his wife handed him a bank book which showed more than thirty years of steady deposits and interest totaling nearly $1 million. Then she showed him certificates of deposits issued by the bank which were worth over $2 million, and informed him that they were one of the largest depositors in the bank.

She explained that for the more than three decades she had "charged" him for sex, These holdings had multiplied and these were the results of her savings and investments.
 
Faced with evidence of cash and investments worth over $3million, her husband was so astounded he could
barely speak, but finally he found his voice and blurted out, "If I'd had any idea that's what you were doing with the money, I would have given you all my business!"

That's when she shot him.

You know, sometimes, men just don't know when to keep their mouths shut.
23064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 05, 2009, 11:03:05 AM
"Marc at one point told me I could discuss whatever I wanted and not participate in conversations I didn't want to. I'm taking him at his word"

Absolutely!
23065  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: September 04, 2009, 12:11:41 AM
But Night Owl is Canadian!  grin  And I like Canadians!  grin cheesy
23066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gilder's The Israel Test on: September 03, 2009, 08:28:27 AM
What's Israel Got to Do with It? -- By: Clifford D. May

By webmaster@nationalreview.com (Clifford D. May)

Bill Gates famously called George Gilder "very stimulating even when I disagree with him, and most of the time I agree with him." The issues on which Gilder has staked out stimulating positions over more than 30 years as a writer and public intellectual are wide-ranging. They include the causes of poverty and the creators of wealth; the consequences of modern feminism; and the possibilities opened by the high-tech revolution. His arguments are often surprising, always provocative, and generally controversial.

His latest book is titled The Israel Test. Much of what he says is dramatically different from what just about anyone else is saying. In particular: "Either the world, principally the United States, supports Israel, or Israel, one way or another, will be destroyed. There are no other realistic choices. And if Israel is destroyed, capitalist Europe will likely die as well, and America, as the epitome of productive and creative capitalism spurred by Jews, will be in jeopardy."

At this juncture, it is probably not just useful but necessary to note that George Gilder is not Jewish. In other words, the case he makes for Israel has no basis in religious or ethnic affiliation. At the same time, not being tethered to Israel or to Jews allows him to be blunt in a way few of Israel's Jewish defenders dare.

For example, he says that people "who obsessively denounce Jews have a name; they are Nazis." He does not hesitate to apply the term to Arab and Iranian leaders who exhibit such behavior. He contends, as well, that the "most dangerous form of Holocaust denial is not rejection of the voluminous evidence of long-ago Nazi crimes but incredulity toward the voluminous evidence of the new Holocaust being planned by Israel's current enemies. Two Iranian presidents have resolved to acquire nuclear weapons for the specific purpose of 'wiping Israel off the map.'"

What can be done to prevent a second Holocaust and to beat back the jihadis at America's gates? Gilder believes, first, we need to recognize the nature and gravity of the threat; second, we need more resolve; and third, we need more technology of the sort America and Israel have been most adept at producing.

It will require comprehensive missile defense and other high-tech means to prevent our sworn enemies from "infiltrating nuclear weapons into American cities, exploding them offshore near American ports, or detonating bombs above America's critical electronic infrastructure" -- destroying that infrastructure with an EMP (electromagnetic-pulse) attack, an offensive capability that Iran, for one, is known to be developing.

"No nation in history has succeeded in preserving its integrity and sovereignty without meeting the challenge of ever-advancing armaments," Gilder points out. "But many American intellectuals still imagine that the United States is different, that it is possible or desirable for us to negotiate an 'end to the arms race.' Our enemies will always want to end the arms race because they know only free nations can win it.#...#An end to the arms race would deprive the capitalist countries of their greatest asset in combating barbarism."

Gilder is convinced that the forces targeting Israel and America also are "targeting capitalism and freedom everywhere." Capitalism, he says, requires freedom -- for entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers alike. All benefit because "under capitalism the achievements of one group provide markets and opportunities for others."

He goes on to make this unfashionable observation: Any democracy not resting on a solid capitalist foundation is doomed. "Without an expanding capitalist economy," he writes, "democracy becomes dominated by its zero-sum elements -- by mobs and demagogues."

Over the centuries, such mobs and demagogues have, many times, turned against Jews. Today, Gilder adds, "they have turned against Israel." Sometimes, the root cause is simply greed and envy. But often it is the belief that "social justice" necessitates the dispossession of the "haves" and redistribution to the "have-nots" in the interest of "equality of outcome."

Over time, this can only lead to expanding poverty because it is based on a misunderstanding of what wealth is. Fundamentally, wealth inheres not in material resources but in "human minds and creations that thrive only in peace and freedom. In particular, the immiseration of the Middle East stems chiefly from the covetous and crippling idea among Arabs that Israel's wealth is not only the source of their humiliation but also the cause of their poverty."

Gilder has much more to say -- more challenging arguments and perplexing questions than I can summarize in a brief column. But his underlying thesis is straightforward: The future of freedom, democracy, capitalism, America, the West, and the tiny state of Israel are all tied together in a single knot. Israel is "not only a major source of Western technological supremacy and economic leadership -- it is also the most vulnerable source of Western power and intelligence."

Israel is, Gilder contends, "not only the canary in the coal mine -- it is also a crucial part of the mine." If Americans will not defend Israel, they will "prove unable to defend anything else. The Israel test is finally our own test of survival as a free nation."
23067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on: September 03, 2009, 08:19:29 AM
By KARL ROVE
August was the worst month of Barack Obama's presidency. And he seems to know it—he is now planning to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress 232 days into his administration in a desperate attempt to save his biggest domestic priority, overhauling health care.

He has already had the budget-busting $787 billion stimulus package, a budget that doubles the national debt in five years, an earmark-laden appropriations bill that boosted domestic spending nearly 8%, and a cap-and-trade energy tax that limped through the House with dozens of Democratic defections (and which has stalled in the Senate). These achievements are unpopular, so they are boomeranging on him.

Mr. Obama's problems are legion. To start with, the president is focusing on health care when the economy and jobs are nearly everyone's top issue. Voters increasingly believe Mr. Obama took his eye off the ball.

In addition, Mr. Obama is trying to overhaul health care without being able to tap into widespread public unhappiness. Nearly nine out of 10 Americans say they have coverage—and large majorities of them are happy with it. Of the 46 million uninsured, 9.7 million are not U.S. citizens; 17.6 million have annual incomes of more than $50,000; and 14 million already qualify for Medicaid or other programs. That leaves less than five million people truly uncovered out of a population of 307 million. Americans don't believe this problem—serious but correctable—justifies the radical shift Mr. Obama offers.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 .Moreover, he's tried to sell it with promises Americans aren't buying. He says ObamaCare will save money, but Americans believe it comes with a huge price tag because the Congressional Budget Office has said it will.

Workers are also rightly concerned they won't be able to keep their current coverage. Many businesses will drop their health plans and instead pay a fine equal to 8% of their payroll costs, which is less than what they pay for employee coverage.

Families believe they will be pushed into a government plan as the "public option" drives private insurers out of the market.

Health-care providers fear they'll be forced to follow one-size-fits-all guidelines drafted by bureaucrats, instead of making judgments for specific patients.

And seniors are afraid of Mr. Obama's plan to cut $500 billion from Medicare over the next decade, including $177 billion for Medicare Advantage. It's simply not possible to cut that much from Medicare without also cutting services seniors need.

Each of these concerns is energizing opposition among many previously uninvolved voters and political independents. Members of Congress, especially those in closely contested districts, saw this firsthand when they returned home in August.

The administration's problems have been compounded by tactical mistakes. Allowing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to push for a Democrat-only bill shatters any claim Mr. Obama can make to bipartisanship, a core theme of his candidacy. Leaving the legislation's drafting to Congress has tied the president's fortunes to Mrs. Pelosi, who has a 25% approval rating nationwide, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose approval rating is 37% in Nevada.

About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is now writing a book to be published by Simon Schuster. Email the author at Karl@Rove.com or visit him on the web at Rove.com.

Or, you can send him a Tweet@karlrove.
.Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) was inartful but basically correct when he said if Mr. Obama loses on health care, "it will be his Waterloo." It would destroy confidence in the ability of Democrats to govern. Mr. Obama knows this, which is why he will stop at nothing to get a bill, any bill, on which the label "health-care reform" can be stuck.

Given the Democratic congressional margins, Mr. Obama has the votes to do it, but at huge costs to him and his party. Legislation that looks anything like the bill moving through the House will contain deeply unpopular provisions—including massive deficit spending, tax hikes and Medicare cuts—and create enormous ill will on Capitol Hill. This will be especially true if Democrats rely on parliamentary tricks to pass a bill in the Senate with 51 votes. The public's reaction in August showed that the president is creating the conditions for a revolt against his party in the 2010 elections.

On the other hand, if Mr. Obama jettisons the public option, he may spark a revolt within his party. The Democratic base is already grumbling and could block a bill if it doesn't include a public option.

Presidents always encounter rough patches. What is unusual is how soon Mr. Obama has hit his. He has used up almost all his goodwill in less than nine months, with the hardest work still ahead. At the year's start, Democrats were cocky. At summer's end, concern is giving way to despair. A perfect political storm is amassing, and heading straight for Democrats.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
23068  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 03, 2009, 08:03:23 AM
RyanA:

A) I suspect that the hardwood sticks have a greater propensity to break bones

B) How much have you tested what happens when striking full force?  Does the taping you describe prevent the broken-off piece from going flying when you have two adrenalized men going full force?

@All: 

Howie brings up a good idea-- that of having a congregating place the night before.  When the Gatherings were held in Hermosa Beach, this was easy for me to organize, but now that they are in Burbank that is not the case.  Does anyone have any suggestions?
23069  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams: On Children, 1756 on: September 03, 2009, 07:51:05 AM
"It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives." --John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756
23070  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Buchanan on: September 02, 2009, 08:07:05 PM

Hat tip to BBG, re-pasting here from the Rant thread.

http://www.reason.com/blog/show/135847.html
Buchanan: Everything You Know About Hitler's Foreign Policy is Wrong

Michael C. Moynihan | September 2, 2009, 6:19pm

Back in 1996, George Will wrote a column in Newsweek attacking Pat Buchanan's peculiar brand of conservatism; one that replaced the sunniness of Reaganism with a "snarl of resentment about people 'sitting on the corner playing bongo drums' in downtown Washington, about the economic onslaught from mighty Mexico, about the voicelessness of 'Euro-Americans' about the teaching of 'Godless evolution,' and other affronts to this 'Christian country.'" Will reminded readers of Pitchfork Pat's curious fixation on Nazi war criminals, and his revisionist view of how Jews were murdered at Treblinka:

In 1990 Buchanan, blithely misrepresenting "1,600 medical papers," ridiculed the "so-called 'Holocaust Survivor Syndrome'," which he said involves "fantasics" of martyrdom and heroics. He said that "reportedly" half the survivor testimonies on file at Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem are considered "unreliable." He did not say who reported that.

Regarding the use of diesel engine exhaust to asphyxiate Jews at the Treblinka concentration camp where 850,000 died, in 1990 Buchanan wrote: "Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody." How did he know? "In 1988, 97 kids trapped 400 feet underground in a Washington, D.C., tunnel while two locomotives spewed diesel exhaust into the car, emerged unharmed after 45 minutes." The source of that anecdote? "Somebody sent it to me." It had already appeared in a publication specializing in Holocaust denial.

Buchanan's eagerness to use such stuff that comes in, as it were, through his transom is telling. And as Jacob Weisberg wrote in The New Republic: "Carbon monoxide emitted by diesel engines is sufficient to asphyxiate people when they are crammed by the hundreds into thirteen-foot chambers. According to the 'Encyclopedia of the Holocaust,' suffocation at Treblinka took as much as half an hour: Buchanan's comparison only proves that the children he described had sufficient oxygen to survive whatever length of time they were trapped in the tunnel." Even though the tunnel was open at both ends, some children were made sick.

I covered much of the same territory responding to Buchanan's fact-free column on the John Demjanjuk case, in which he misunderstood the German penal code, compared a former concentration camp guard to Alfred Dreyfus, and generally made a hash of the facts surrounding the prosecution's case. And I took on Buchanan's view of the Holocaust—which he viewed as merely a consequence of a war started by Churchill—here.

And now Buchanan is back, with a column arguing that Hitler, the misunderstood Reichsfuehrer, didn't really want war, and could have been negotiated back from the brink. There is so much nonsense here that one barely knows where to begin, but here is a representative sample of Buchanan's argument:

The German-Polish war had come out of a quarrel over a town the size of Ocean City, Md., in summer. Danzig, 95 percent German, had been severed from Germany at Versailles in violation of Woodrow Wilson's principle of self-determination. Even British leaders thought Danzig should be returned. Why did Warsaw not negotiate with Berlin, which was hinting at an offer of compensatory territory in Slovakia? Because the Poles had a war guarantee from Britain that, should Germany attack, Britain and her empire would come to Poland's rescue.

Same was true of the Sudetenland, says Buchanan. These are, coincidentally, the very talking points one would find on the September 2, 1939 editorial page of the Völkischer Beobachter. And like much revisionism, such idiocy requires a significant refutation (which can be found in most any objective study of the war's origins). But let me just address a rhetorical question posed by Buchanan, and designed to convince readers that Hitler had no strategic designs on his neighbors:

But if Hitler was out to conquer the world — Britain, Africa, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, South America, India, Asia, Australia — why did he spend three years building that hugely expensive Siegfried Line to protect Germany from France?

This is pretty thin gruel, even by Buchanan's low standards of evidence. The Siegfried Line (or Westwall), a defensive structure built on Germany's western border, was by no means an indication of Germany's peaceful intentions. During the Sudeten crisis, which resulted in Czechoslovakia's incorporation into the Reich, "Hitler was hoping to prevent British intervention [by building the Westwall], and was certain the French would not act alone," writes historian Ian Kershaw. "A key deterrent, in his view, was the building of [the Westwall]...to provide a significant obstruction to any French invasion." There are piles of evidence to support this uncontroversial argument; simply, the German leadership constructed fortifications in the west in order to move on the east. As one book on the Westwall states flatly, the fortifications were "built not to protect against a French aggression per se but to deter France from attacking in support of her allies when Hitler sought to realize his territorial ambitions in the east."

And full credit to Adam Serwer at The American Prospect for his headline, "Pat Buchanan: Sotomayor? Racist. Hitler? Misunderstood."
23071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 02, 2009, 03:50:57 PM
I would file that one on the Corruption thread.  Nice find.
23072  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 02, 2009, 03:46:03 PM
Thank you Pappy Dog.

Woof!

Cyborg Dog will be fighting! cool
23073  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD: President Kitty at it again on: September 02, 2009, 11:37:57 AM
"The U.S. has abandoned plans to install a missile defense system in Europe, according to a report. If true, this is a major strategic error that will have serious consequences for our allies in Europe and for us. Quoting a U.S. source, the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza says the Obama administration has decided against building a missile shield to protect Poland and the Czech Republic. The reason? Russian opposition. Now, if we want to build a defense system for friends in Europe, we'll have to place it in the Balkans, Israel or somewhere else. That is, if Russia approves. This is a stark reversal of past policy and reneges on promises made by the current administration. Worse, it shows weakness. We got into a staredown with the Russian bear and we blinked. ... We've just weakened America's standing in a critical region of the world -- Eastern Europe -- and let our allies down. We've made them vulnerable, in ways that only we could, to Russia's growing military menace. Polish and Czech friends who had relied on us to stand firm and keep our word no doubt feel betrayed. This diminishes our global influence. What smallish country will now take our word at face value when we promise to protect them? ... Given the threat to millions of American lives -- not to mention millions of our allies -- reducing missile defense is both dangerous and irresponsible." --Investor's Business Daily
23074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: September 02, 2009, 10:48:44 AM
Obama Praises Islam as 'Great Religion'

President says Islam is "part of America," hails the religion's "commitment to justice and progress"

AP
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Sept. 1: President Obama introduces college basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir at a dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room at the White House. (Reuters)

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Tuesday praised American Muslims for enriching the nation's culture at a dinner to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

"The contribution of Muslims to the United States are too long to catalog because Muslims are so interwoven into the fabric of our communities and our country," Obama said at the iftar, the dinner that breaks the holiday's daily fast.

The president joined Cabinet secretaries, members of the diplomatic corps and lawmakers to pay tribute to what he called "a great religion and its commitment to justice and progress." Attendees included Congress' two Muslim members -- Reps. Keith Ellison and Andre Carson as well as ambassadors from Islamic nations and Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.

Obama shared the story of Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, another invited guest, who broke a state record for most career points as a Massachusetts high school student.

"As an honor student, as an athlete on her way to Memphis, Bilqis is an inspiration not simply to Muslim girls -- she's an inspiration to all of us," he said.

Obama also noted the contributions of Muhammad Ali, who was not in attendance, though the president borrowed a quote from famous boxer, explaining religion.

"A few years ago," Obama said, "he explained this view -- and this is part of why he's The Greatest -- saying, 'Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams -- they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do -- they all contain truths."'

Ramadan, a monthlong period of prayer, reflection and sunrise-to-sunset fasts, began Aug. 22 in most of the Islamic world. It is believed that God began revealing the Quran to Muhammad during Ramadan, and the faithful are supposed to spend the month in religious reflection, prayer and remembrance of the poor.

White House dinners marking the holy month are nothing new. Former President George W. Bush held iftars during his eight years in office.
Obama has made a special effort since taking office to repair U.S. relations with the world's Muslims, including visits to Turkey and Cairo. In a June speech at the Egyptian capital, as well as in one to another important Muslim audience, in Turkey, Obama said: "America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam."

Obama also released a video message to Muslims before the start to Ramadan. In the video, he said Ramadan's rituals are a reminder of the principles Muslims and Christians have in common,including advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
23075  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: September 02, 2009, 10:22:20 AM
My seminar in Toronto and a visit to my mom intervened.  Yesterday Night Owl was to give me a disc for my review, but family matters intervened and we weren't able to get together.
23076  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: September 02, 2009, 10:20:50 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjBW7oHVTgU
23077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The case for Afg on: September 02, 2009, 06:23:18 AM
By MICHAEL O'HANLON AND BRUCE RIEDEL
The national mood on the Afghanistan war has soured fast, and it's not hard to see why. American combat deaths have exceeded 100 for the summer, the recent Afghan election was tainted by accusations of intimidation and fraud, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen says the security environment there is "deteriorating."

Meanwhile, congressional leaders worry about the war's impact on the health-care debate and the Obama presidency more generally. Antiwar groups are starting to talk about "another Vietnam." Opposition is mounting to the current policy—to say nothing of possible requests for additional troops from the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

The questions and concerns being raised are legitimate. Clearly, the mission has not been going well. Problems with our basic strategy, especially on the economic and development side, still need immediate attention. Moreover, our Afghan friends have a crucial role to play in both security and development, and if they fail to do so the overall warfighting and state-building effort will not succeed.

View Full Image

Getty Images
 
Children reach for candy from U.S. Marines on patrol near Bakwa in southwestern Afghanistan.
.However, it is important to remember our assets, and not just our liabilities, in the coming debate over Afghanistan policy this fall. Democracies sometimes talk themselves out of keeping up the faith in tough situations, and we should avoid any such tendency towards defeatism, especially so early in the execution of the Obama administration's new military/civilian/economic strategy, which combines stronger and more widespread counterinsurgency measures with increased nation-building efforts. Indeed, the U.S., our NATO allies, and the future Afghan government—be it another Hamid Karzai presidency, or a new administration—have a number of major strengths in this mission. Consider:

• The Afghan people want success. There is frankly too much talk of Afghanistan as the graveyard of empires, as land of a xenophobic and backward people who will always resist efforts to enter the modern world. Afghans fought against the British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th century because these imperialist powers were pursuing their own agendas. Today, Afghans consistently show a desire for progress, and their support for the Taliban hovers just above 6%, according to an ABC News/BBC/ARD poll taken in February; support is essentially zero among the non-Pashtun majority of the population.

• Afghans are still largely pro-American. As the war slipped away from us in recent years, U.S. favorability ratings fell too, winding up at about 30% last winter, according to polls conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI). But the new Obama strategy, combined with at least some modest excitement about the presidential elections, has changed that. IRI polls this summer show that Afghans now give the U.S. (and NATO) favorability ratings of 60%. A similar percentage express optimism about their own future, despite all the challenges of current life.

• The Afghan Army is reasonably effective. It is too small, with roughly 90,000 total soldiers. But by most accounts, the Afghan Army is fighting well, and cooperating well with NATO forces. Gen. McChrystal's new approach to training Afghan troops will greatly strengthen and deepen this cooperation. Not only will NATO finally field enough personnel to embed with each Afghan unit in mentoring teams, but its combat units will partner with Afghans at every level on every major operation—living, planning, operating, and fighting with each other in one-to-one formal partnerships.

• Even the Afghan police show some hope. This force is too intertwined with drug dealers, underequipped, and overstressed by the hazards of combat, taking up to 100 or more fatalities a month. But it is willing to fight. As a member of an IRI observing team on election day, I was impressed with their professionalism. They did a passable job securing voting sites, and while there were many insurgent attacks that day, there were very few civilian casualties. Also the reform efforts promoted by the very able Interior Minister Hanif Atmar are showing signs of progress.

• The economy is better. Afghanistan remains poor, its economy remains dominated by opium, and the twin scourge of corruption and insecurity plagues efforts to revitalize the agricultural system. Despite all that, legal GDP has been growing up to 10% a year, health care reaches much larger segments of the population than before, and seven million children are in school (in contrast to a nationwide total of less than one million during Taliban rule). What's more, the Afghan people know these things, perhaps helping explain why they are guardedly optimistic about the future despite worsening security.

• The elections were not all bad. Whether President Karzai secures the 50% vote total needed to avoid an October runoff in the presidential race or not, the tainted election process has nonetheless had many impressive attributes. The campaign this summer was serious and focused largely on the issues. Although the state-run media favored Mr. Karzai, Afghanistan's flourishing private media provided balanced coverage, and millions watched or listened to presidential debates. Poll workers were well prepared and serious about their jobs on election day. Independent election groups are now carefully scrutinizing ballots and investigating claims of fraud, and I believe they will probably do their jobs well.

To be sure, our strategy is not perfect yet. Gen. McChrystal may not yet have the resources he needs to connect what counterinsurgency theorisists call "oil spots"—pockets of government control and stability—in the crucial south and east of the country with adequate numbers of NATO and Afghan forces. Economic donors do not yet coordinate their efforts adequately, or involve Afghan businesses sufficiently in the development effort. Pakistan's commitment to its own related fight has improved but remains tenuous. And we do not yet have a sufficiently sophisticated approach to improving law and order. We must still establish a network of courts that work with local and tribal justice systems.

These problems need to be corrected soon. Even then, it will take at least 12-18 months to see results. Our chief challenge in Afghanistan is building state institutions and that is an inherently slow process. But as we debate new changes to our strategy this fall, we would do well to remember all that is working in our favor in this crucial effort.

Mr. O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is author of "The Science of War" (Princeton University Press, 2009) and author, with Hassina Sherjan, of the forthcoming Brookings book "The Case for Toughing It Out in Afghanistan." Mr. Riedel chaired President Obama's review on Afghanistan and Pakistan policy.
23078  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Baltic Dog's daughter on: September 02, 2009, 06:05:45 AM
Jura Gingko Klimanis

(pronounced Yura which means "Sea" in Latvian and the sound of flowing back and forth in Japanese)

Born on August 17, 2009
8 lbs. 12 oz. (3.9 kg)
20.75"

Pix:  http://www.pbase.com/sting333/jura_birth

Gints, Maya, little Bolveys
23079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson in 1800 on: September 02, 2009, 05:58:14 AM
"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, 1800
23080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Kremlin's long arm on: September 02, 2009, 04:59:21 AM

The Long Arm of the Kremlin
ON TUESDAY, THE LEADERS OF SEVERAL EUROPEAN COUNTRIES will be in Gdansk, Poland, for the 70th anniversary of the day Warsaw considers to have been the beginning of World War II. This anniversary has taken an unusual turn, in that Warsaw is using the occasion to extend an olive branch to Moscow. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is in Poland for the ceremonies and will meet privately with his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk. In June, Tusk called the anniversary an opportunity for Warsaw and Moscow to mend their relationship — a major overture by the Poles, who traditionally have had an aggressive foreign policy toward Russia. But Poland is under pressure at the moment — fearing abandonment by the United States, while Russia is resurging and commanding influence in Central Europe, and the relationship between Berlin and Moscow is growing closer.

“A year ago, it was not clear how effective Russia would be in re-establishing its influence on the Continent.”
For Russia, the anniversary is more than a chance to woo Poland; it is an opportunity for Moscow to demonstrate that it has rebuilt relationships across Europe. Putin will meet not only with Tusk, but also with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and new Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. These leaders are from countries that are part of Russia’s overall plan to turn the tide of pro-Western sentiment in Eastern and Central Europe – something that has been in effect since basically the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A year ago  (i.e. until BO's probable electoral victory: Marc), it was not clear how effective Russia would be in re-establishing its influence on the Continent. Although its successes are not set in stone, some are now apparent: Over the past year, Ukraine and Bulgaria have become pro-Russian, Germany has become Russia-friendly and Poland is at least considering how to tolerate a stronger Russia. Tuesday’s meetings in Gdansk are Putin’s chance to solidify Russia’s gains and show the world that Russia can roll back Western influence, even in a country like Poland.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the West began working to push its boundaries in Europe rapidly eastward, destroying Russia’s ability to influence the region. The pro-Western lines have continued moving to the east for the past two decades, via NATO and EU expansion, until they pushed hard up against Russia’s borders. But this was before the United States became preoccupied with other parts of the world and its relationships with European countries began to fracture. The vacuum left by Washington’s inattentiveness to Europe has given Russia a chance to start pushing back against pro-Western sentiment in the former Soviet sphere.

Officials in Moscow know there is only limited time before Washington’s focus returns to Russia, and that now is the time to solidify Russian influence in the former Soviet states and then neutralize or partner with states just beyond that sphere. Once the United States decides to counter Russia, things will get messy on the European geopolitical battlefield once again.

But for now, it seems Russia is making some progress in its roll back across Europe. A question we are considering in Russia’s resurgence is how much longer the United States will allow Russia a window of opportunity. Washington has a full plate right now – with issues including Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan — but the Americans are aware of Moscow’s moves in the former Soviet region. The next thing to watch for is whether Poland can maintain a neutralized position between Russia and Germany — two countries that historically have invaded Poland in the process of invading each other.

If Poland can be neutralized and the United States’ influence in Europe remains low, what will Russia’s next move be? Which countries are next on Moscow’s list as it seeks to rebuild influence in the region? These are questions that many Baltic and Central European countries will be asking on the 70th anniversary of World War II.
23081  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / DBMA DVD en espanol on: September 01, 2009, 07:32:50 PM
Guau:

El plan es filmar un DVD en espanol con Mauricio Sanchez.

La Aventura continua!
Crafty Dog
23082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Patrick Henry on: September 01, 2009, 03:59:17 PM
"Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated...Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt...In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!"

Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775
23083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AWNAA on: September 01, 2009, 02:46:45 PM
The Americans With No Abilities Act of 2009 (H.R 00) Washington, DC
   
President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress are considering sweeping legislation that will provide new benefits for many Americans.
   
The Americans With No Abilities Act (AWNAA) is being hailed  as a major legislative goal by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition.
 
"Roughly  60 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to  carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society," said California  Senator Barbara Boxer. "We can no longer stand by and allow People of Inability (POI) to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation, employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they are competent and have some  idea of what they are doing."
   
In a Capitol Hill press conference, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed to the success of the U.S. Postal  Service, which has a long-standing policy of providing opportunity without regard to job performance. Approximately 74 percent of postal employees lack any job skills, making this agency the single largest U.S. employer of  Persons of Inability (POI).  Private-sector industries with good records of non-discrimination against "the inept"
 include retail sales (72%), the airline industry (68%), and home improvement warehouse stores (65%). All levels of the state government, especially the Department of Motor Vehicles also has an excellent record of hiring Persons of Inability (63%).
 
Under AWNAA, more than 25 million mid-level positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real
 responsibility, thus providing an illusory sense of purpose and performance. Mandatory non-performance-based raises and promotions will be given so as to guarantee upward mobility for even the most unremarkable employees.
 
The legislation provides substantial tax breaks to corporations that promote a significant number of Persons of Inability into
middle-management positions, and gives a tax credit to small and medium-sized businesses that agrees to hire one clueless worker for every two talented hires.
   
Finally, the AWNAA contains tough new measures to make it more difficult to discriminate against the non-able, banning, for
example, discriminatoryinterview questions such as, "Do you have any skills or experience that relate to this job?"

"As a non-able person, I can't be expected to keep up with those frigging people who have something going for them," said Mary Lou Gertz, who lost her position as a lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint, Michigan, due to her inability to remember rightey-tightey, lefty-loosey."This new law should be real good for people like me," Gertz added. With the passage of this bill,Gertz and millions of other untalented citizens will finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.
 
Said Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), "As a Senator with no abilities, I believe the same privileges that elected officials enjoy ought to be extended to every American with no abilities. It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and every American citizen, regardless of his or her inadequacy, with some sort of space to take up in this great Nation."
23084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager on: September 01, 2009, 12:25:11 PM
The Bigger the Government, the Smaller the Citizen
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
ShareThis
Those of us who oppose a massive increase in the role the national government plays in health care ("ObamaCare") do so because we fear the immense and unsustainable national debt it would incur and because we are certain that medical care in America would deteriorate. But there is a bigger reason most of us oppose it: We believe that the bigger the government becomes, the smaller the individual citizen becomes.



Here are five reasons why bigger government makes less impressive people.

1. People who are able to take care of themselves and do so are generally better than people who are able to take care of themselves but rely on others. Of course, there are times when some people have absolutely no choice and must rely on others to take care of them. Life is tragic and some people, despite their best efforts and their commitment to being a responsible person, must have others support them.

Even if one believes, as the left does by definition, that the ideal society is one in which the state takes care of as many of our needs as possible, one must acknowledge that this has deleterious effects on many, if not most, citizens' moral character. The moment one acknowledges that the more one takes care of oneself, the more developed is his or her character, one must acknowledge that a bigger state diminishes its citizens' characters.

Presumably one might argue that there is no relationship between character development and taking responsibility for oneself. But to do so is to turn the concept of character, as it has been understood throughout Judeo-Christian and Western history, on its head. The essence of good character is to care of oneself and then take of others who cannot take care of themselves.

2. The more people come to rely on government, the more they develop a sense of entitlement -- an attitude characterized by the belief that one is owed (whatever the state provides and more). This is a second big government blow to character development because it has at least three terrible consequences:

First, the more one feels entitled, the less one believes he has to work for anything. Why work hard if I can look to the state to give much of what I need, and, increasingly, much of what I want? Second, the more one feels entitled, the less grateful one feels. This is obvious: The more one expects to be given, the less one is grateful for what one is given. Third, the more entitled and the less grateful one feels, the angrier one becomes. The opposite of gratitude is not only ingratitude, it is anger. People who do not get what they think they are entitled to become angry.

3. People develop disdain for work.

One of the effects of the welfare state on vast numbers of European citizens is disdain for work. This is in keeping with Marx's view of utopia as a time when people will work very little and devote their large amount of non-working time writing poetry and engaging in other such lofty pursuits. Work is not regarded by the left as ennobling. It is highly ennobling in the American value system, however.

4. People become preoccupied with vacation time.

Along with disdain for work, one witnesses among Western Europeans a preoccupation with not working. Vacation time has become a moral value among many Europeans. There have been riots in countries like France merely over working hours. In Sweden and elsewhere, more and more workers take more and more time off from work, knowing they will be paid anyway. In Germany and elsewhere, it is against the law to keep one's store open after a certain hour, lest that give that store owner an income advantage and thereby compel a competing store to stay open longer as well. And, of course, Americans are viewed as working far too hard.

5. People are rendered more selfish.

Not only does bigger government teach people not to take care of themselves, it teaches them not to take of others. Smaller government is the primary reason Americans give more charity and volunteer more time per capita than do Europeans living in welfare states. Why take care of your fellow citizen, or even your family, when the government will do it for you?

This preoccupation with self includes foreign policy: Why care about, let alone risk dying for, another country's liberty? That is the view of the world's left. That is why conservative governments are far more supportive of the war efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan than left-wing governments of the same country. The moment the socialists won in Spain, they withdrew all their forces from Iraq. The new center-left government in Japan has promised to stop helping the war effort in Afghanistan.

Of course, there are fine idealistic individuals on the left, and selfish individuals on the right. But as a rule, bigger government increases the number of angry, ungrateful, lazy, spoiled and self-centered individuals. Which is why some of us believe that increased nationalization of health care is worth shouting about. And even crying over.

23085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Holder 2 on: September 01, 2009, 12:17:25 PM
fourth post of the morning:
==========================

Put it all together and it’s really not that hard to figure out what is going on here.

Transnationalists from outside and, now, inside our government have been ardent supporters of prosecutions against American officials who designed and carried out the Bush counterterrorism policies that kept this country safe after 9/11. The U.N.’s top torture monitor is demanding legal action, almost certainly as a prelude to calling for action by an international tribunal — such as the ICC — if the Justice Department fails to indict. Meantime, law-enforcement authorities in Spain and elsewhere are weighing charges against the same U.S. officials, spurred on by the CCR and human-rights groups that now have friends in high American places. In foreign and international courts, the terrorist-friendly legal standards preferred by Europe and the U.N. would make convictions easier to obtain and civil suits easier to win.

Obama and Holder were principal advocates for a “reckoning” against Bush officials during the 2008 campaign. They realize, though, that their administration would be mortally wounded if Justice were actually to file formal charges — this week’s announcement of an investigation against the CIA provoked howls, but that’s nothing compared to the public reaction indictments would cause. Nevertheless, Obama and Holder are under intense pressure from the hard Left, to which they made reckless promises, and from the international community they embrace.

The way out of this dilemma is clear. Though it won’t file indictments against the CIA agents and Bush officials it is probing, the Justice Department will continue conducting investigations and releasing reports containing new disclosures of information. The churn of new disclosures will be used by lawyers for the detainees to continue pressing the U.N. and the Europeans to file charges. The European nations and/or international tribunals will make formal requests to the Obama administration to have the Justice Department assist them in securing evidence. Holder will piously announce that the “rule of law” requires him to cooperate with these “lawful requests” from “appropriately created courts.” Finally, the international and/or foreign courts will file criminal charges against American officials.

Foreign charges would result in the issuance of international arrest warrants. They won’t be executed in the United States — even this administration is probably not brazen enough to try that. But the warrants will go out to police agencies all over the world. If the indicted American officials want to travel outside the U.S., they will need to worry about the possibility of arrest, detention, and transfer to third countries for prosecution. Have a look at this 2007 interview of CCR president Michael Ratner. See how he brags that his European gambit is “making the world smaller” for Rumsfeld — creating a hostile legal climate in which a former U.S. defense secretary may have to avoid, for instance, attending conferences in NATO countries.

The Left will get its reckoning. Obama and Holder will be able to take credit with their supporters for making it happen. But because the administration’s allies in the antiwar bar and the international Left will do the dirty work of getting charges filed, the American media will help Obama avoid domestic political accountability. Meanwhile, Americans who sought to protect our nation from barbarians will be harassed and framed as war criminals. And protecting the United States will have become an actionable violation of international law.

I’m betting that’s the plan.
23086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Holder's hidden agenda on: September 01, 2009, 12:15:39 PM
Third post of the morning

August 28, 2009, 4:00 a.m.

Eric Holder’s Hidden Agenda
The investigation isn’t about torture, but about transnationalism.

By Andrew C. McCarthy


‘This is an administration that is determined to conduct itself by the rule of law. And to the extent that we receive lawful requests from an appropriately created court, we would obviously respond to it.”

It was springtime in Berlin and Eric Holder, a well-known “rule of law” devotee, was speaking to the German press. He’d been asked if his Justice Department would cooperate with efforts by foreign or international tribunals to prosecute U.S. government officials who carried out the Bush administration’s post-9/11 counterterrorism policies. The attorney general assured listeners that he was certainly open to being helpful. “Obviously,” he said, “we would look at any request that would come from a court in any country and see how and whether we should comply with it.”

As the Associated Press reported at the time, Holder was “pressed on whether that meant the United States would cooperate with a foreign court prosecuting Bush administration officials.” He skirted the question in a way Americans ought to find alarming. The attorney general indicated that he was speaking only about “evidentiary requests.” Translation: The Obama administration will not make arrests and hand current or former American government officials over for foreign trials, but if the Europeans or U.N. functionaries (at the nudging of, say, the Organization of the Islamic Conference) want Justice’s help gathering evidence in order to build triable cases — count us in.

Hue and cry followed Holder’s decision this week to have a prosecutor investigate CIA interrogators and contractors. The probe is a nakedly political, banana republic-style criminalizing of policy differences and political rivalry. The abuse allegations said to have stunned the attorney general into acting are outlined in a stale CIA inspector general’s report. Though only released this week — a disclosure timed to divert attention from reports that showed the CIA’s efforts yielded life-saving intelligence — the IG report is actually five years old. Its allegations not only have been long known to the leaders of both parties in Congress, they were thoroughly investigated by professional prosecutors — not political appointees. Those prosecutors decided not to file charges, except in one case that ended in an acquittal. As I outline here, the abuse in question falls woefully short of torture crimes under federal law.

Americans are scratching their heads: Why would Holder retrace this well-worn ground when intimidating our intelligence-gatherers so obviously damages national security? The political fallout, too, is palpable. Leon Panetta, the outraged CIA director, is reportedly pondering resignation. President Obama, laying low in the tall grass on his Martha’s Vineyard vacation, is having staffers try to put distance between himself and his attorney general. It is unlikely that many will be fooled: Both Obama and Holder promised their antiwar base just this sort of “reckoning” during the 2008 campaign. But the question remains, Why is Holder (or, rather, why are Holder and the White House) instigating this controversy?

I believe the explanation lies in the Obama administration’s fondness for transnationalism, a doctrine of post-sovereign globalism in which America is seen as owing its principal allegiance to the international legal order rather than to our own Constitution and national interests.

Recall that the president chose to install former Yale Law School dean Harold Koh as his State Department’s legal adviser. Koh is the country’s leading proponent of transnationalism. He is now a major player in the administration’s deliberations over international law and cooperation. Naturally, membership in the International Criminal Court, which the United States has resisted joining, is high on Koh’s agenda. The ICC claims worldwide jurisdiction, even over nations that do not ratify its enabling treaty, notwithstanding that sovereign consent to jurisdiction is a bedrock principle of international law.

As a result, there have always been serious concerns that the ICC could investigate and try to indict American political, military, and intelligence officials for actions taken in defense of our country. Here it’s crucial to bear in mind that the United States (or at least the pre-Obama United States) has not seen eye-to-eye with Europe on significant national-security matters. European nations, for example, have accepted the 1977 Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, while the United States has rejected it. Protocol I extends protections to terrorists and imposes an exacting legal regime on combat operations, relying on such concepts as “proportional” use of force and rigorous distinction between military and civilian targets. That is, Protocol I potentially converts traditional combat operations into war crimes. Similarly, though the U.S. accepted the torture provisions of the U.N. Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), our nation rejected the UNCAT’s placing of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” on a par with torture. By contrast, Europe generally accepts the UNCAT in toto.

#pageAs long as we haven’t ratified a couple of bad human-rights treaties, why should we care that Europe considers them binding? Because of the monstrosity known as “customary international law,” of which Koh is a major proponent. This theory holds that once new legal principles gain broad acceptance among nations and international organizations, they somehow transmogrify into binding law, even for nations that haven’t agreed to them. That is, the judgment of the “international community” (meaning, the judgment of left-wing academics and human-rights activists who hold sway at the U.N. and the European Union) supersedes the standards our citizens have adopted democratically. It is standard fare among transnational progressives to claim that Protocol I is now binding on the United States and that what they define as cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment is “tantamount to torture.”

And the transnational Left has still another treat in store: its notion of “universal jurisdiction.” This theory holds that individual nations have the power to prosecute actions that occur in other countries, even when they have no impact on the prosecuting nation. The idea is that some offenses — such as torture and war crimes — so offend the purported consensus of humanity (i.e., so offend left-wing sensibilities) that they may be prosecuted by any country that cares to take the initiative. In fact, many countries (the United States included) open their justice systems to civil suits against government officials — again, even if the country where the suit is filed has nothing to do with the alleged offenses.

So we come back to Holder in Berlin. Two months before the attorney general’s visit, the U.N.’s “special rapporteur on torture” told German television that the Obama administration had “a clear obligation” under the UNCAT to file torture charges against former president George W. Bush and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The rapporteur was relying on documents produced because of American investigations — including a nakedly partisan report by the Democrat-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee.

Meanwhile, as I detailed here in March, Spain’s universal-justice crusader Baltasar Garzón is pursuing his own torture case against Bush administration lawyers who weighed in on interrogation policy. Garzón is the Spanish investigating magistrate who, with the help of a terrorist turned human-rights lawyer, had Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet arrested in England for crimes against humanity. The same terrorist-lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, is helping Garzón on the Bush case. The Brits, by the way, eventually decided not to send Pinochet to Spain, but not before the law lords ruled that they could, a decision enthusiastically hailed at the time by U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. That would be the same Mary Robinson of Durban infamy — the one President Obama just honored with the Medal of Freedom.

And then there is the Center for Constitutional Rights, a Marxist organization that for years has coordinated legal representation for terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay. The CCR has been attempting to convince Germany, France, Spain, and other countries to file war-crime indictments against former Bush administration officials, including President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary Rumsfeld. In representing America’s enemies, CCR has collaborated with many private lawyers, who also volunteered their services — several of whom are now working in the Obama Justice Department. Indeed, Holder’s former firm boasts that it still represents 16 Gitmo detainees (the number was previously higher). And, for help shaping detainee policy, Holder recently hired Jennifer Daskal for DOJ’s National Security Division — a lawyer from Human Rights Watch with no prior prosecutorial experience, whose main qualification seems to be the startling advocacy she has done for enemy combatants.
23087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 2 on: September 01, 2009, 12:14:38 PM
The delegation of judicial power is another open question today. There’s no doubt that the U.S. can agree to arbitrations of disputes with foreign countries, as we did as early as the 1790s with the Jay Treaty. But it’s another thing altogether to say that the rights of American citizens in the U.S. can be determined by foreign courts. This would seem to be a delegation of the judicial power, which Article 3 of the Constitution says "shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." This became an issue last year in the case of Medellin v. Texas, which considered an International Court of Justice ruling that Texas could not execute a convicted murderer, because he had not been given the chance to consult the Mexican consulate before his trial, as he had the right to do under an international treaty. The Supreme Court, after much hand-wringing, concluded that it didn’t think the Senate had intended to give the International Court of Justice the power to decide these questions of American law as applied by American courts. I would go further and say that no matter what the Senate intended, this is not a power which can be delegated under the Constitution. But it is no longer clear that a majority on the Supreme Court would agree.
Or consider the Spanish judges who want to arrest American politicians if they venture into Europe, in order to try them for war crimes. This is preposterous. It is akin to piracy. And not only has our government not protested this nonsense, but it has contributed to building up an international atmosphere in which this sort of thing seems plausible—an atmosphere where the old idea of a jury of one’s peers and the idea of Americans having rights under the Constitution give way to the notion of some hazy international standard of conduct that everyone in the world can somehow agree upon and then enforce on strangers.

The Loss of Sovereignty

It is important to think about these issues regarding sovereignty today, because it is possible to lose sovereignty rather quickly. Consider the European Union. The process that led to what we see today in the EU began when six countries in 1957 signed a treaty agreeing that they would cooperate on certain economic matters. They established a court in Luxembourg—the European Court of Justice—which was to interpret disputes about the treaty. To make its interpretations authoritative, the Court decreed in the early 1960s that if the treaty came into conflict with previous acts of national parliaments, the treaty would take precedence. Shortly thereafter it declared that the treaty would also take precedence over subsequent statutes. And in the 1970s it said that even in case of conflicts between the treaty and national constitutions, the treaty would take precedence. Of course, judges can say whatever they want. What is more remarkable is that all the nations in the EU have more or less grudgingly accepted this idea that a treaty is superior to their constitutions, so that today whatever regulations are cranked out by the European Commission—which is, not to put too fine a point on it, a bureaucracy—supersede both parliamentary statutes and national constitutions. And when there was eventually a lot of clamor about protection of basic rights, the court in Luxembourg proclaimed that it would synthesize all the different rights in all the different countries and take care of that as well.

So on the one hand the European Union has constitutional sovereignty, but on the other it doesn’t have a constitution. When its bureaucrats recently attempted to write a constitution and get it adopted, a number of countries voted it down in referendums. Apart from lacking a constitution, the EU doesn’t have an army or a police force or any means of exercising common control of its borders. In effect, it claims political superiority over member states but declines to be responsible for their defense. Indeed, I think inherent in this whole enterprise of transcending nation-states through the use of international institutions is the idea that defense is not so important.

All of this has happened in Europe in a very short period, and is the reason we should be concerned about the loss in our own country of a consensus regarding constitutional sovereignty. Think of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which many of our leading politicians now say we should have ratified. Doing so would have delegated the authority over huge areas of important public policy to international authorities. It would have been a clear delegation of the treaty-making power. Nevertheless, the Obama administration is aiming to negotiate a new treaty along those lines.

Of even more urgent concern is the increasing sense that human rights law transcends the laws of particular countries, even those pertaining to national defense. Of course, the idea that there should be standards that all countries respect when engaged in armed conflict is fair enough. But who is going to set the standards? And who is going to enforce them—especially against terrorists who refuse to act like uniformed professional soldiers? What we once called the "law of war" is now commonly referred to as "international humanitarian law." Many today say that we need to follow this law as it is defined by the International Red Cross. But who makes up this organization in Geneva, Switzerland, and what gives them the authority to supersede national statutes and constitutions? Currently the International Red Cross thinks it is a violation of humanitarian standards for the U.S. to hold prisoners in Guantanamo Bay—not on the basis of any claim that these prisoners are mistreated, but based on the argument that they cannot be held indefinitely and should be put on trial in ordinary criminal courts. Even the Obama administration is not yet willing to conform to this particular standard of so-called international law, believing that holding these prisoners is vital to national defense and that the right to self- defense is morally compelling.

* * *
Where does this trend away from the sovereignty of national constitutions lead? I do not think the danger is a world tyranny. I think that idea is fantastical. Rather what it will lead to, I think, is an undermining of the idea that national governments can protect people, with the result that people will start looking for defense elsewhere. We saw this in an extreme way in Iraq when it collapsed into chaos before the surge, and people looked for protection to various ethnic or sectarian militias. A similar phenomenon can be seen today in Europe with the formation of various separatist movements. We’re even hearing loud claims for Scottish independence. And it’s not surprising, because to the extent that Britain has surrendered its sovereignty, Britain doesn’t count for as much as it used to. So why not have your own Scotland? Why not have your own Wales? Why not have your own Catalonia in Spain? And of course the greatest example of this devolution in Europe is the movement toward Muslim separatism. While this is certainly driven to a large extent by trends in Islam, it also reflects the fact that it doesn’t mean as much to be British or to be French any more. These governments are cheerfully giving away their authority to the EU. So why should immigrants or children of immigrants take them seriously?

At the end of The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton writes: "A nation, without a national government, is, in my view, an awful spectacle." His point was that if you do not have a national government, you can’t expect to remain a nation. If we are really open to the idea of allowing more and more of our policy to be made for us at international gatherings, the U.S. government not only has less capacity, it has less moral authority. And if it has less moral authority, it has more difficulty saying to immigrants and the children of immigrants that we’re all Americans. What is left, really, to being an American if we are all simply part of some abstract humanity? People who expect to retain the benefits of sovereignty—benefits like defense and protection of rights—without constitutional discipline, or without retaining responsibility for their own legal system, are really putting all their faith in words or in the idea that as long as we say nice things about humanity, everyone will feel better and we’ll all be safe. You could even say they are hanging a lot on incantations or on some kind of witchcraft. And as I mentioned earlier, the first theorist to write about sovereignty understood witchcraft as a fundamental threat to lawful authority and so finally to liberty and property and all the other rights of individuals.
__________________
Aut vincere, aut mori. Sic itur ad astra.
23088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sovereignty on: September 01, 2009, 12:11:41 PM
 http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis.asp):

The Constitution and American Sovereignty


"WOULD WE be far wrong," President Lincoln asked in a special message to Congress in 1861, "if we defined [sovereignty] as a political community without a political superior?" Maybe that’s not exhaustive, but it comes on good authority. And notice that for Lincoln, sovereignty is a political or legal concept. It’s not about power. Lincoln didn’t say that the sovereign is the one with the most troops. He was making a point about rightful authority.

By contrast, sovereignty wasn’t an issue in the ancient world. Cicero notes that the ancient Romans had the same word for "stranger" as for "enemy." In the ancient world, people didn’t interact with foreigners enough to think about their relation to them except insofar as it meant war. Nor was sovereignty an issue in medieval Europe, since the defining character of that period was overlapping authority and a lot of confusion about which authority had primary claims. No one had to think about defining national boundaries. This became an issue only in the modern era, when interaction between different peoples increased.

The first important writer to address sovereignty was Jean Bodin, a French jurist of the late 16th century. In his work, Six Books of the Republic, Bodin set out an understanding of sovereignty whereby the King of France represented an independent political authority rather than owing allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor or to the Pope. In the course of developing this argument, Bodin also advocated religious toleration and insisted that a monarch can neither seize property except by law nor raise taxes except by the consent of a representative body. He was in favor of free trade, and he insisted on the monarch’s general obligation to respect the law of nature and the law of God. His main practical point was that the government must be strong enough to protect the people’s rights, yet restrained enough not to do more than that. Subsequently, I might add, Bodin wrote a book about witchcraft—which he very much opposed. Witches are people who think they can make an end run around the laws of nature and of God using magical spells, and Bodin saw them as a menace.

It was not until the 17th century that the word "sovereignty" became common. This was also when people first came to think of representative assemblies as legislatures. Indeed, the word "legislature" is itself a 17th century term reflecting the modern emphasis on law as an act of governing will rather than impersonal custom. It is therefore related to the modern notion of government by consent. Significantly, it was also in this same era that professional armies came into being. Before the 17th century, for instance, there was no such thing as standard military uniforms. Uniforms indicate that soldiers have a distinct status and serve distinct governments. They reflect a kind of seriousness about defense.

The 17th century is also the period when people began thinking in a systematic way about what we now call international law or the law of nations—a law governing the relation of sovereign nations. The American Declaration of Independence refers to such a law in its first sentence: "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them . . . ." The Declaration assumes here that nations have rights, just as individuals do.

The Sovereign Constitution

Returning to Lincoln, his understanding was that in an important sense American sovereignty rested in the Constitution. Article 7 of the Constitution declares that it will go into effect when it is ratified by nine states, for those nine states. And once ratified—once the people of those states have entered into the "more perfect Union’’ described in its Preamble—the Constitution is irrevocable. Unlike a treaty, it represents a commitment that cannot be renegotiated. Thus it describes itself unambiguously as "the supreme Law of the Land"—even making a point of adding, "any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

The Constitution provides for treaties, and even specifies that treaties will be "the supreme Law of the Land"; that is, that they will be binding on the states. But from 1787 on, it has been recognized that for a treaty to be valid, it must be consistent with the Constitution—that the Constitution is a higher authority than treaties. And what is it that allows us to judge whether a treaty is consistent with the Constitution? Alexander Hamilton explained this in a pamphlet early on: "A treaty cannot change the frame of the government." And he gave a very logical reason: It is the Constitution that authorizes us to make treaties. If a treaty violates the Constitution, it would be like an agent betraying his principal or authority. And as I said, there has been a consensus on this in the past that few ever questioned.

Let me give you an example of how the issue has arisen. In 1919, the United States participated in a conference to establish the International Labour Organization (ILO). The original plan was that the members of the ILO would vote on labor standards, following which the member nations would automatically adopt those standards. But the American delegation insisted that it couldn’t go along with that, because it would be contrary to the Constitution. Specifically, it would be delegating the treaty-making power to an international body, and thus surrendering America’s sovereignty as derived from the Constitution. Instead, the Americans insisted they would decide upon these standards unilaterally as they were proposed by the ILO. In the 90 years since joining this organization, I think the U.S. has adopted three of them.

Today there is no longer a consensus regarding this principle of non-delegation, and it has become a contentious issue. For instance, two years ago in the D.C. Court of Appeals, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental group, sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), claiming that it should update its standards for a chemical that is thought to be depleting the ozone layer. There is a treaty setting this standard, and the EPA was in conformity with the treaty. But the NRDC pointed out that Congress had instructed the EPA to conform with the Montreal Protocol and its subsequent elaborations. In other words, various international conferences had called for stricter emission standards for this chemical, and Congress had told the EPA to accept these new standards as a matter of course. The response to this by the D.C. Court of Appeals was to say, in effect, that it couldn’t believe Congress had meant to do that, since Congress cannot delegate its constitutional power and responsibility to legislate for the American people to an international body. This decision wasn’t appealed, so we don’t yet have a Supreme Court comment on the issue.
23089  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Olympic shot-putter killed on: September 01, 2009, 11:57:35 AM
Olympic shot-putter David Laut is killed at his Oxnard home
The 1984 bronze medalist is shot after confronting prowlers outside his house in what police say is a good area of town.
 
Shot-putter David Laut takes the bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. After his glory days, he returned to Oxnard and taught in the local public schools. "He was a local boy who did well and came back to share his talents with the community," said neighbor Carter Laurie. (Tony Duffy / Getty Images)

 
By Catherine Saillant
 
August 29, 2009
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David Laut traveled the world as an Olympic shot-put medalist, but he never forgot his roots in Oxnard.

When his glory days ended, Laut -- who earned a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles -- bought a home in south Oxnard, taught in the local public schools and raised a son with his wife, Jane, his high school sweetheart.

About midnight Thursday, Laut, 52, stepped outside his home to confront prowlers and was gunned down, according to law enforcement officials and neighbors.

Police called to the scene found him lying in the side yard of his tidy beige-and-white stucco home, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. No arrests have been made and police have no suspects, said Oxnard Police Sgt. Ron Whitney.

The neighborhood of well-kept tract homes built in the 1980s is about two miles from the beach, and police rarely are called there for violent crime, Whitney said.

"I consider it a good area of town," the police sergeant said.

Neighbors and colleagues on Friday were reeling at the news that Laut, a 6-foot-3 "gentle giant," had been taken from them.

"It was an honor to know him," said Carter Laurie, Laut's next-door neighbor, wiping away tears. "He was a local boy who did well and came back to share his talents with the community."

Laurie said he had gone to bed early with a cold. But his wife heard three shots about midnight. The couple dismissed the disturbance as firecrackers until police arrived a few minutes later, Laurie said.

Laut had insisted that his wife stay inside while he checked on some noise in the yard, Laurie said he was told by Laut's mother-in-law.

Laut's wife "heard him say, 'What the hell are you doing here?' and then she heard 'bang, bang, bang,' " Laurie said.

Laut was athletic director at nearby Hueneme High School, a post he took a year ago, said Principal Adrian Palazuelos. Before that, he served for eight years as track coach at Hueneme High, and then left for one year to take a coaching job at a school in Ventura.

Laut's late father was a longtime science teacher at Hueneme High, Palazuelos said.

"His roots to south Oxnard and Hueneme go back fairly deep," Palazuelos said.

Laut had spent several hours on campus Thursday helping arrange sports physicals for students who would be starting classes next week, the principal said, adding that Laut was well liked by students and staff.

"He was a gentle giant, compassionate and student- focused," Palazuelos said. "And he was a competitor like no other."

Born in Ohio but reared in Ventura County, Laut played football, basketball and baseball at Santa Clara High School. But he excelled most at the shot put, winning two NCAA titles at UCLA.

He won a gold medal at the 1979 Pan American Games and picked up the bronze medal at the Coliseum.

Jim Kiefer, Laut's throwing coach at UCLA, called him a wonderful guy with a great sense of humor.

At one Pac-10 conference meet, Laut put the shot in the finals and walked out of the ring, thinking it was a poor effort. In fact, it was a winning distance, but he fouled by walking out of the ring. Kiefer warned him not to do that again.

"Then, he won the NCAA title and he ran over to me and he picked me up and had me over his head and I weighed 220 pounds. He just said, 'Wow,' " Kiefer recalled. "I remember what I said too. I said, 'Put me down.' "

Laut worked out every day in his garage, which he had converted into a gym, Laurie and other neighbors said. He was modest about his past sports accomplishments, said neighbor Chet Thomas.

"I never knew he was a medalist until somebody told me," Thomas said. "He never changed."

catherine.saillant @latimes.com

Times staff writer Bill Dwyre contributed to this report.
23090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: FCIC on: September 01, 2009, 10:31:53 AM
Americans are about to re-learn that bank deposit insurance isn't free, even as Washington is doing its best to delay the coming bailout. The banking system and the federal fisc would both be better off in the long run if the political class owned up to the reality.

We're referring to the federal deposit insurance fund, which has been shrinking faster than reservoirs in the California drought. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported late last week that the fund that insures some $4.5 trillion in U.S. bank deposits fell to $10.4 billion at the end of June, as the list of failing banks continues to grow. The fund was $45.2 billion a year ago, when regulators told us all was well and there was no need to take precautions to shore up the fund.


.The FDIC has since had to buttress the fund with a $5.6 billion special levy on top of the regular fees that banks already pay for the federal guarantee. This has further drained bank capital, even as regulators say the banking system desperately needs more capital. Everyone now assumes the FDIC will hit banks with yet another special insurance fee in anticipation of even more bank losses. The feds would rather execute this bizarre dodge of weakening the same banks they claim must get stronger rather than admit that they'll have to tap the taxpayers who are the ultimate deposit insurers.

It isn't as if regulators don't understand the problem. Earlier this year they quietly asked Congress to provide up to $500 billion in Treasury loans to repay depositors. The FDIC can draw up to $100 billion merely by asking, while the rest requires Treasury approval. The request was made on the political QT because, amid the uproar over TARP and bonuses, no one in Congress or the Obama Administration wanted to admit they'd need another bailout.

But this subterfuge can't last. Eighty-four banks have already failed this year, and many more are headed in that direction. The FDIC said it had 416 banks on its problem list at the end of June, up from 305 only three months earlier. The total assets of banks on the problem list was nearly $300 billion, and more of these assets are turning bad faster than banks can put aside reserves to account for them. The commercial real-estate debacle is still playing out at thousands of banks, even as the overall economy bottoms out and begins to recover.

Meantime, even as it "resolves" and then sells failed banks, the FDIC is also guaranteeing the buyers against losses on tens of billions of acquired assets. This is known in the trade as "loss sharing," which is another form of taxpayer guarantee that taxpayers aren't supposed to know about. Most of the losses won't be realized if the economy recovers. But this too is a price of taxpayers guaranteeing deposits. Even as Treasury and the press corps broadcast that the feds are making money on TARP repayments, these guarantees go largely unnoticed.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair continues to say that deposits will be covered up to the $250,000 per account insurance limit, and of course she's right. But we wish she'd force Congress—and the American public—to face up to the reality of what deposit insurance costs. Amid the panic last year, Congress raised the deposit limit from $100,000. While this may have calmed a few nerves—though the worst runs were on money-market funds, not on banks—it also put taxpayers further on the hook.

The $250,000 limit was supposed to expire at the end of 2009, but in May Congress extended it through 2013, and no one who understands politics thinks it will return to $100,000. The rising bank losses mean that the FDIC's ratio of funds to deposits is down to 0.22%, far below its obligation under the insurance statute to keep it between 1.15% and 1.50%.

Rather than further soak capital from already weak banks, the FDIC ought to draw down at least $25 billion from its Treasury line of credit. Ms. Bair is going to have to ask for the cash sooner or latter, and she might as well do it before the fund hits zero and we get another round of even mild depositor anxiety. We suppose Congress could raise a faux fuss, but these are the same folks who ordered the FDIC to broaden the insurance limit. They need to face the political consequences of their promises.
23091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bolton on: September 01, 2009, 10:29:07 AM
By JOHN BOLTON
Last week, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed elBaradei attempted to whitewash Iran's nuclear weapons program by issuing a report ignoring substantial information about weaponization activities and downplaying continued noncooperation.

Even the Obama administration apparently now understands that resuming the long-stalled "Permanent-Five plus-one" negotiations (the U.N. Security Council's permanent members plus Germany) with Iran is highly unlikely to halt Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Accordingly, President Obama is readying two alternatives. One is to characterize "freezing" Iran's nuclear program at existing levels as a "success." However, this less than complete termination of Iran's nuclear program would run contrary to years of determined clandestine efforts. Such a freeze is utterly unverifiable and amounts to surrender. This will result in a nuclear-armed Iran.

The other Obama administration ploy is "strong sanctions" imposed by the United States and other countries. This will also be a "success" only in the sense that it will allow the administration to claim a win. It won't actually prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

One idea for robust sanctions now before Congress is to prohibit exports of refined petroleum products—such as gasoline—to Iran. Today, Iran imports 40% of its daily refined petroleum consumption. Other proposals include international financial and insurance-related sanctions.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
A Tehran oil refinery
.These ideas are well-intentioned and worth pursuing. If imposed, they will create shortages that will likely increase internal dissatisfaction with Iran's regime, thereby hopefully contributing to its ultimate demise. But no one should believe that tighter sanctions will, in the foreseeable future, have any impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Six years ago more stringent measures against Iran might have worked, but today they are an idea whose time has come and gone. Their inadequacy stems from several causes.

First, the U.N. Security Council is no more likely now to approve strict sanctions against Iran than in the past. The prospects for Russian and Chinese support are between slim and none, since endorsing sanctions would harm their own economic and political interests in Iran. The most to expect from the council is a fourth sanctions resolution, as weak and ineffective as its predecessors, and only after weeks or months of agonizing negotiations.

Second, for those who understand the Security Council reality, most talk of enhanced sanctions envisages a coalition of the willing, consisting essentially of America, Japan and the European Union. But the EU's record to date, and Japan's likely policy under its new government (soon to be run by the Democratic Party of Japan), are hardly likely to produce a stiff, serious and sustained effort. Iran itself will offer countless reasons why sanctions should be suspended, reduced or ignored, and a disquieting amalgam of Western governments, businesses and commentators will agree at every step. It is very likely that EU resolve will fracture and Japan will follow suit. Moreover, many other countries will use the lack of a Security Council imprimatur to conduct business with Tehran, shredding the coalition's sanctions, and thereby weakening EU resolve still further.

Third, Iran is hardly standing idly by while sanctions that target its refined petroleum products are debated by the U.S. and other countries. Tehran's leaders are acutely aware of their vulnerability and are moving to address it. Iran, with extensive Chinese involvement, has already begun building new refineries and expanding existing facilities with the aim of approximately doubling domestic capacity by 2012. This will more than compensate for its current refining shortfall. Whether Iran can complete these projects on schedule remains to be seen, but the level of effort is intense and serious.

Tehran is also eliminating government subsidies that make retail gasoline cheaper than it otherwise would be. This will raise prices and thereby reduce consumption. Slashing consumer benefits is rarely popular, but this step alone will substantially reduce the pressure on Iran's refineries to produce. One can also be sure that the Revolutionary Guards' access to gasoline will not be diminished. Iran claims to have substantially increased its strategic gasoline reserves over the past year (though that increase has not been confirmed).

Most significantly, Iran's estimated natural gas reserves (948 trillion cubic feet in 2008) are second only to Russia's, and more than quadruple the U.S.'s. Here is "energy independence" for Iran that would make T. Boone Pickens envious, since relatively small capital expenditures can refit large motor-vehicle fleets (such as Iran's military and security services) to run on compressed natural gas. Iran also plans to increase subsidies for natural gas, thus diminishing consumer anger over lost gasoline subsidies.

For Washington, the question should not be whether "strict sanctions" will cause some economic harm despite Iran's multifarious, accelerating efforts to mitigate them. Instead, we must ask whether that harm will be sufficient to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Objectively, there is no reason to believe that it will.

Adopting tougher economic sanctions is simply another detour away from hard decisions on whether to accept a nuclear Iran or support using force to prevent it.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
23092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / locational privacy on: September 01, 2009, 10:27:55 AM
A Casualty of the Technology Revolution: ‘Locational Privacy’ Sign in to Recommend
           ADAM COHEN
Published: August 31, 2009
NYTimes
When I woke up the other day, I went straight to my computer to catch up on the news and read e-mail. About 20 minutes later, I walked half a block to the gym, where I exercised for 45 minutes. I took the C train to The New York Times building, and then at the end of the day, I was back on the C train. I had dinner on my friends Elisabeth and Dan’s rooftop, then walked home seven blocks.

I’m not giving away any secrets here — nothing I did was secret to begin with. Verizon online knows when I logged on, and New York Sports Club knows when I swiped my membership card. The M.T.A. could trace (through the MetroCard I bought with a credit card) when and where I took the subway, and The Times knows when I used my ID to enter the building. AT&T could follow me along the way through my iPhone.

There may also be videotape of my travels, given the ubiquity of surveillance cameras in New York City. There are thousands of cameras on buildings and lampposts around Manhattan, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, many near my home and office. Several may have been in a position to film dinner on Elisabeth and Dan’s roof.

A little-appreciated downside of the technology revolution is that, mainly without thinking about it, we have given up “locational privacy.” Even in low-tech days, our movements were not entirely private. The desk attendant at my gym might have recalled seeing me, or my colleagues might have remembered when I arrived. Now the information is collected automatically and often stored indefinitely.

Privacy advocates are rightly concerned. Corporations and the government can keep track of what political meetings people attend, what bars and clubs they go to, whose homes they visit. It is the fact that people’s locations are being recorded “pervasively, silently, and cheaply that we’re worried about,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a recent report.

People’s cellphones and E-ZPasses are increasingly being used against them in court. If your phone is on, even if you are not on a call, you may be able to be found (and perhaps picked up) at any hour of the day or night. As disturbing as it is to have your private data breached, it is worse to think that your physical location might fall into the hands of people who mean you harm.

This decline in locational privacy, from near-absolute to very little in just a few years, has not generated much outrage, or even discussion.

That is partly because so much of it is a side-effect of technology that people like. Drivers love E-ZPasses. G.P.S. enables all sorts of cool smart phone applications, from driving directions and find-a-nearby-restaurant features to the ever-popular “Take Me to My Car.”

And people usually do not know that they are being monitored. The transit authority does not warn buyers that their MetroCards track their subway use (or that the police have used the cards in criminal investigations). Cameras that follow people on the street are placed in locations that are hard to spot.

It is difficult for cellphone users to know precisely what information their devices are sending about their current location, when they are doing it, and where that information is going. Some privacy advocates were upset by recent reports that the Palm Pre, which has built-in G.P.S., has a feature that regularly sends its users’ location back to Palm without notifying them at the time.

What can be done? As much as possible, location-specific information should not be collected in the first place, or not in personally identifiable form. There are many ways, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes, to use cryptography and anonymization to protect locational privacy. To tell you about nearby coffee shops, a cellphone application needs to know where you are. It does not need to know who you are.

When locational information is collected, people should be given advance notice and a chance to opt out. Data should be erased as soon as its main purpose is met. After you pay your E-ZPass bill, there is no reason for the government to keep records of your travel.

The idea of constantly monitoring the citizenry’s movements used to conjure up images of totalitarian states. Now, technology does the surveillance — generally in the name of being helpful. It’s time for a serious conversation about how much of our privacy of movement we want to give up.
23093  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering on: September 01, 2009, 10:09:19 AM
Cindy tells me she has a number of fighter names to post in the cue.
23094  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Commercial Real Estate on: September 01, 2009, 10:06:02 AM
By LINGLING WEI and PETER GRANT
Federal Reserve and Treasury officials are scrambling to prevent the commercial-real-estate sector from delivering a roundhouse punch to the U.S. economy just as it struggles to get up off the mat.

Their efforts could be undermined by a surge in foreclosures of commercial property carrying mortgages that were packaged and sold by Wall Street as bonds. Similar mortgage-backed securities created out of home loans played a big role in undoing that sector and triggering the global economic recession. Now the $700 billion of commercial-mortgage-backed securities outstanding are being tested for the first time by a massive downturn, and the outcome so far hasn't been pretty.

The CMBS sector is suffering two kinds of pain, which, according to credit rater Realpoint LLC, sent its delinquency rate to 3.14% in July, more than six times the level a year earlier. One is simply the result of bad underwriting. In the era of looser credit, Wall Street's CMBS machine lent owners money on the assumption that occupancy and rents of their office buildings, hotels, stores or other commercial property would keep rising. In fact, the opposite has happened. The result is that a growing number of properties aren't generating enough cash to make principal and interest payments.

 .The other kind of hurt is coming from the inability of property owners to refinance loans bundled into CMBS when these loans mature. By the end of 2012, some $153 billion in loans that make up CMBS are coming due, and close to $100 billion of that will face difficulty getting refinanced, according to Deutsche Bank. Even though the cash flows of these properties are enough to pay interest and principal on the debt, their values have fallen so far that borrowers won't be able to extend existing mortgages or replace them with new debt. That means losses not only to the property owners but also to those who bought CMBS -- including hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds and other financial institutions -- thus exacerbating the economic downturn.

A typical CMBS is stuffed with mortgages on a diverse group of properties, often fewer than 100, with loans ranging from a couple of million dollars to more than $100 million. A CMBS servicer, usually a big financial institution like Wachovia and Wells Fargo, collects monthly payments from the borrowers and passes the money on to the institutional investors that buy the securities.

CMBS, of course, aren't the only kind of commercial-real-estate debt suffering higher defaults. Banks hold $1.7 trillion of commercial mortgages and construction loans, and delinquencies on this debt already have played a role in the increase in bank failures this year.

But banks' losses from commercial mortgages have the potential to mount sharply, and the high foreclosure rate in the CMBS market could play a role in this. Until now, banks have been able to keep a lid on commercial-real-estate losses by extending debt when it has matured as long as the underlying properties are generating enough cash to pay debt service. Banks have had a strong incentive to refinance because relaxed accounting standards have enabled them to avoid marking the value of the loans down.

"There is no incentive for banks to realize losses" on their commercial-real-estate loans, says Jack Foster, head of real estate at Franklin Templeton Real Estate Advisors.

CMBS are held by scores of investors, and the servicers of CMBS loans have limited flexibility to extend or restructure troubled loans like banks do. Earlier this month, it was no coincidence that CMBS mortgages accounted for the debt on six of the seven Southern California office buildings that Maguire Properties Inc. said it was giving up. "During most of the evolution [of CMBS] no one ever thought all these loans would go into default," says Nelson Rising, Maguire's chief executive.

 
Maguire Properties
 
Among the office buildings that Maguire will turn over to creditors is Stadium Towers Plaza.
.Indeed, many property developers and investors complain there is no way to identify the investors that hold their debt and that it is difficult to negotiate with CMBS servicers. In light of the complaints, the Treasury is considering guidance that would allow servicers to start talking about ways to avoid defaults and foreclosures sooner, according to people familiar with the matter. But investors in CMBS bonds argue that the servicers are ultimately bound contractually to the bondholders.

So Maguire will soon have a lot of company. In a study for The Wall Street Journal, Realpoint found that 281 CMBS loans valued at $6.3 billion weren't able to refinance when they matured in the past three month, even though 173 such loans worth $5.1 billion were throwing off more than enough cash to service their debt.

Mounting foreclosures in the CMBS sector would likely depress values even further as property is dumped on the market. And this would put pressure on banks to write down loans. "What's going on in the CMBS world is a precursor for what might be seen in banks' books," predicts Frank Innaurato, managing director at Realpoint.

The commercial-real-estate market could yet be salvaged by an improving economy and bailout programs coming out of Washington. In addition, capital markets are starting to ease for publicly traded real-estate investment trusts. Since March, more than two dozen REITs have managed to raise more than $13 billion by selling shares.

Still, most of the $6.7 trillion in commercial real estate is privately owned. Also, it is unlikely commercial real estate will benefit much from an early stage of an economic recovery. What landlords need is occupancy and rents to rise, and that means employers have to start hiring and consumers need to shop more. So far, there are few signs this is happening.

Write to Lingling Wei at lingling.wei@dowjones.com and Peter Grant at peter.grant@wsj.com
23095  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Government can on: September 01, 2009, 09:56:50 AM

http://theblogprof.blogspot.com/2009/08/video-tim-hawkins-government-can.html
23096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: Federalist #1 on: September 01, 2009, 09:40:36 AM
"
  • f those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1
23097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Very punny on: August 31, 2009, 05:39:13 PM

Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers were asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.) describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) It is an Emergency vehicle that will pick you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Jewish phrases.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), the belief that when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

In a second category, The Washington Post's Style Invitational asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
Here are this year's winners:
1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stop bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
9. Karmageddon (n): its like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
10 Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things those are good for you.
11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an ass.
23098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO bullies Honduras on: August 31, 2009, 12:12:13 PM
In light of Glenn Beck's report of the FCC Czar referring to Chavez"s "wonderful revolution" (or something like that) the following is subject to sinister interpretations , , ,
===========
If the Obama administration were a flotilla of ships, it might be sending out an SOS right about now. ObamaCare has hit the political equivalent of an iceberg. And last week the president’s international prestige was broadsided by the Scots, who set free the Lockerbie bomber without the least consideration of American concerns. Mr. Obama’s campaign promise of restoring common sense to budget management is sleeping with the fishes.

This administration needs a win. Or more accurately, it can't bear another loss right now. Most especially it can't afford to be defeated by the government of a puny Central American country that doesn't seem to know its place in the world and dares to defy the imperial orders of Uncle Sam.

I'm referring, of course, to Honduras, which despite two months of intense pressure from Washington is still refusing to reinstate Manuel Zelaya, its deposed president. Last week the administration took off the gloves and sent a message that it would use everything it has to break the neck of the Honduran democracy. Its bullying might work. But it will never be able to brag about what it has done.

View Full Image

Reuters
 
Supporters of Honduran President Roberto Micheletti (August 24.). The U.S. continues to implement punitive measures against the country.
.The most recent example of the Obama-style Good Neighbor Policy was the announcement last week that visa services for Hondurans are suspended indefinitely, and that some $135 million in bilateral aid might be cut. But these are only the public examples of its hardball tactics. Much nastier stuff is going on behind the scenes, practiced by a presidency that once promised the American people greater transparency and a less interventionist foreign policy.

To recap, the Honduran military in June executed a Supreme Court arrest warrant against Mr. Zelaya for trying to hold a referendum on whether he should be able to run for a second term. Article 239 of the Honduran constitution states that any president who tries for a second term automatically loses the privilege of his office. By insisting that Mr. Zelaya be returned to power, the U.S. is trying to force Honduras to violate its own constitution.

It is also asking Hondurans to risk the fate of Venezuela. They know how Venezuela's Hugo Chávez went from being democratically elected the first time, in 1998, to making himself dictator for life. He did it by destroying his country's institutional checks and balances. When Mr. Zelaya moved to do the same in Honduras, the nation cut him off at the pass.

For Mr. Chávez, Mr. Zelaya's return to power is crucial. The Venezuelan is actively spreading his Marxist gospel around the region and Mr. Zelaya was his man in Tegucigalpa.

The Honduran push-back is a major setback for Caracas. That's why Mr. Chávez has mobilized the Latin left to demand Mr. Zelaya's return. Last week, Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández joined the fray, calling for Honduras to be kicked out of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta). Mr. Fernandez is a close friend of Mr. Chávez and a beneficiary of Venezuela's oil-for-obedience program in the Caribbean.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.Mr. Obama apparently wants in on this leftie-fest. He ran for president, in essence, against George W. Bush. Mr. Bush was unpopular in socialist circles. This administration wants to show that it can be cool with Mr. Chávez and friends.

Mr. Obama's methods are decidedly uncool. Prominent Hondurans, including leading members of the business community, complain that a State Department official has been pressuring them to push the interim government to accept the return of Mr. Zelaya to power.

When I asked the State Department whether it was employing such dirty tricks a spokeswoman would only say the U.S. has been "encouraging all members of civil society to support the San Jose 'accord'"—which calls for Mr. Zelaya to be restored to power. Perhaps something was lost in the translation but threats to use U.S. power against a small, poor nation hardly qualify as encouragement.

Elsewhere in the region there are reports that U.S. officials have been calling Latin governments to demand that they support the U.S. position. When I asked State whether that was true, a spokeswoman would not answer the question. She would only say that the U.S. is "cooperating with the [Organization of American States] and [Costa Rican President] Oscar Arias to support the San José accord."

In other words, though it won't admit to coercion, it is fully engaged in arm-twisting at the OAS in order to advance its agenda.

This not only seems unfair to the Honduran democracy but it also seems to contradict an earlier U.S. position. In a letter to Sen. Richard Lugar on Aug. 4, the State Department claimed that its "strategy for engagement is not based on any particular politician or individual" but rather finding "a "resolution that best serves the Honduran people and their democratic aspirations."

A lot of Hondurans believe that the U.S. isn't using its brass knuckles to serve their "democratic aspirations" at all, but the quite-opposite aspirations of a neighborhood thug.
23099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Star Wars on: August 31, 2009, 11:36:12 AM
"Now more than ever it is vital that the United States not back down from its efforts to develop and deploy strategic defenses. It is technologically feasible, strategically necessary and morally imperative. For if our nation and our precious freedoms are worth defending with the threat of annihilation, we are surely worth defending by defensive means that ensure our survival." --Ronald Reagan
23100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hints of religious pluralism in Egypt? on: August 31, 2009, 09:31:54 AM
nts of Pluralism in Egyptian Religious Debates
NYT
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN
Published: August 30, 2009
CAIRO — Writing in his weekly newspaper column, Gamal al-Banna said recently that God had created humans as fallible and therefore destined to sin. So even a scantily clad belly dancer, or for that matter a nude dancer, should not automatically be condemned as immoral, but should be judged by weighing that person’s sins against her good deeds.


Gamal al-Banna, 88, is a religious writer in Cairo. He has found a broader audience on the Internet for his liberal Islamic views.
This view is provocative in Egypt’s conservative society, where many argue that such thinking goes against the hard and fast rules of divine law. Within two hours of the article’s posting last week on the Web site of Al Masry al Youm, readers had left more than 30 comments — none supporting his position.



“So a woman can dance at night and pray in the morning; this is duplicity and ignorance,” wrote a reader who identified himself as Hany. “Fear God and do not preach impiety.”



Still, Mr. Banna was pleased because at least his ideas were being circulated. Mr. Banna, who is 88 years old and is the brother of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been preaching liberal Islamic views for decades.



But only now, he said, does he have the chance to be heard widely. It is not that a majority agrees with him; it is not that the tide is shifting to a more moderate interpretative view of religion; it is just that the rise of relatively independent media — like privately owned newspapers, satellite television channels and the Internet — has given him access to a broader audience.



And there is another reason: The most radical and least flexible thinkers no longer intimidate everyone with differing views into silence.

“Everything has its time,” Mr. Banna said, seated in his dusty office crammed with bookshelves that stretch from floor to ceiling.

It is a testament to how little public debate there has been over the value of pluralism, or more specifically of the role of religion in society, that so many see the mere chance to provoke as progress. But now, more than any time in many years, there are people willing to risk challenging conventional thinking, said writers, academics and religious thinkers like Mr. Banna.



“There is a relative development, enough to at least be able to present a different opinion that confronts the oppressive religious current which prevails in politics and on the street, and which has made the state try to outbid the religious groups,” said Gamal Asaad, a former member of Parliament and a Coptic intellectual.



It is difficult to say exactly why this is happening. Some of those who have begun to speak up say they are acting in spite of — and not with the encouragement of — the Egyptian government. Political analysts said that the government still tried to compete with the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned but tolerated Islamic movement, to present itself as the guardian of conservative Muslim values.



Several factors have changed the public debate and erased some of the fear associated with challenging conventional orthodoxy, political analysts, academics and social activists said. These include a disillusionment and growing rejection of the more radical Islamic ideology associated with Al Qaeda, they said. At the same time, President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world has quieted the accusation that the United States is at war with Islam, making it easier for liberal Muslims to promote more Western secular ideas, Egyptian political analysts said.



“It is not a strategic or transformational change, but it is a relative change,” said Mr. Asaad, who emphasized that the dynamic was for Christians as well as Muslims in Egypt. “And the civil forces can unite to capitalize on this atmosphere and invest in it to raise it to become a more general atmosphere.”



Two events this summer highlighted the new willingness of a minority to confront the majority — and the overwhelming response by a still conservative community.



In June, a writers’ committee affiliated with the Ministry of Culture gave a prestigious award to Sayyid al-Qimni, a sharp critic of Islamic fundamentalism who in 2005 stopped writing, disavowed his own work and moved after receiving death threats for his writing.



Muhammad Salmawy, a committee member and president of the Egyptian Writers’ Union, said he thought Mr. Qimni had been honored in part because “he represents the secular direction and discusses religion on an objective basis and is against the religious current.”



What happened next followed a predictable path, but then veered. Islamic fundamentalists like Sheik Youssef al-Badri asked the government to revoke the award and moved to file a lawsuit against Mr. Qimni and the government.



“Salman Rushdie was less of a disaster than Sayyid al-Qimni,” said Mr. Badri in a television appearance on O TV, an independent Egyptian satellite channel. “Salman Rushdie, everyone attacked him because he destroyed Islam overtly. But Sayyid al-Qimni is attacking Islam and destroying it tactfully, tastefully and politely.”



But this time Mr. Qimni did not go into hiding. He appeared on the television show, sitting beside Sheik Badri as he defended himself.

A second development involved a religious minority, Bahais, who face discrimination in Egypt, where the only legally recognized faiths are Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Nine years ago the state stopped issuing identification records to Bahais unless they agreed to characterize themselves as members of one of the three recognized faiths. The documents are essential for access to all government services.



An independent group, The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, won a court order on behalf of the Bahais that forced the government to issue records leaving the religious identification blank. The first cards were issued this month. While the decision was aimed specifically at solving the problem faced by the Bahai community, the case tapped into the evolving debate, said the group’s executive director, Hossam Bahgat.



“It is an unprecedented move to recognize that one can be Egyptian and not adhere to one of these three religions,” Mr. Bahgat said. Still, he remains less than optimistic; most of the public reaction to the Bahais’ legal victory was negative, Mr. Bahgat said.



“It is known that you are apostates,” read one of many comments posted on Al Youm Al Sabei, an online newspaper.



But there has been at least a hint of diversity and debate in response to Mr. Banna’s remarks on belly dancers. Hours after they were posted, some readers began, however tentatively, to come to his defense. “Take it easy on the man,” an anonymous post said. “He did not issue a religious edict saying belly dancing is condoned. But he is saying that a person’s deeds will be weighed out because God is just. Is anything wrong with that?”

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting
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