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23051  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Drills on: July 19, 2009, 07:04:17 PM
Can I explain our "Prison Riot Drill"?

, , ,  drum roll , , ,

Yes I can.

 cheesy

, , , A little more seriously, it is both a warm up and a 360 multi-player training.
23052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rest in Peace on: July 19, 2009, 01:27:19 PM
Ex-Mossad chief Meir Amit dies at 88
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

General (res.) Meir Amit, the former head of the Mossad who is credited with modernizing Israel's feared intelligence agency, died on Friday. He was 88 years old.

Amit, who headed the organization from 1963 to 1968, also served as the head of the Israel Defense Forces intelligence branch.

Amit, who was born Meir Slutzki in the town of Tiberias, grew up in a family that identified with the pre-state Labor movement. At a young age, he joined Kibbutz Alonim in the lower Galilee and enlisted in the Haganah. During the War of Independence, he served as an officer and commanded a company of soldiers. Following the war, he decided to leave the kibbutz to pursue a military career. He said he had convinced himself that the army, not just the kibbutz, is vital for the young state.

He commanded infantry and armored corps units before rising through the ranks and becoming a trusted aide to then-chief of staff Moshe Dayan. The relationship between the two men grew closer over the years, and Amit came to be regarded as a protege of one of the country's most charismatic military heroes.

By the end of the 1950s, he was sent to Columbia University in New York, where he completed a degree in economics. Upon his return, he was appointed head of Military Intelligence.

In 1963, after then-prime minister David Ben Gurion forced Isser Harel to resign the top post at the Mossad, he named Amit to head the organization. Amit was the only figure in Israel's history to hold the position of Mossad chief and head of military intelligence at the same time. He remained in the IDF for nine months after being tapped to run the Mossad before leaving the military and focusing solely on heading the agency.

During his tenure, he introduced new modes of operation and oversaw the transfer of a special unit which coordinated espionage activity in Arab states from military intelligence to the Mossad. Amit also contributed to the Mossad's standing as a key intelligence organ whose precise information aided in Israel's victory in the Six-Day War.

On the eve of the war, he was sent on a secret mission to brief top U.S. administration officials. Upon his return, he reported to the government that, in contrast with the assessments given by then-foreign minister Abba Eban, the administration would not oppose a pre-emptive military strike against the Egyptian army.

Other notable achievements of his term included the theft of a Mig-21 which was flown into Israel by a deserting Iraqi pilot, his efforts to reach a peace agreement with Egypt, the contacts and aid provided to the Kurdish rebellion in Iraq, and the expansion of Mossad's cooperation with foreign spy agencies.

"Generations of Israelis, entire generations of children owe Meir Amit a debt of gratitude for his immense contribution - a large part which remains secret - in building the strength and deterrence of Israel," President Shimon Peres said in a statement. "He was a natural leader, whom people trusted, and at the same time he was a visionary for the state."
23053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Thomas Friedman: May we leave now? on: July 19, 2009, 01:23:42 PM
Marc: The Greg Mortenson book IMHO required reading for any serious student of the situation in Afg.

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

Thomas Friedman
Teacher, Can We Leave Now? No.

AfghanistanI confess, I find it hard to come to Afghanistan and not ask: Why are we here? Who cares about the Taliban? Al Qaeda is gone. And if its leaders come back, well, that’s why God created cruise missiles.

But every time I start writing that column, something stills my hand. This week it was something very powerful. I watched Greg Mortenson, the famed author of “Three Cups of Tea,” open one of his schools for girls in this remote Afghan village in the Hindu Kush mountains. I must say, after witnessing the delight in the faces of those little Afghan girls crowded three to a desk waiting to learn, I found it very hard to write, “Let’s just get out of here.”

Indeed, Mortenson’s efforts remind us what the essence of the “war on terrorism” is about. It’s about the war of ideas within Islam — a war between religious zealots who glorify martyrdom and want to keep Islam untouched by modernity and isolated from other faiths, with its women disempowered, and those who want to embrace modernity, open Islam to new ideas and empower Muslim women as much as men. America’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were, in part, an effort to create the space for the Muslim progressives to fight and win so that the real engine of change, something that takes nine months and 21 years to produce — a new generation — can be educated and raised differently.

Which is why it was no accident that Adm. Mike Mullen, the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — spent half a day in order to reach Mortenson’s newest school and cut the ribbon. Getting there was fun. Our Chinook helicopter threaded its way between mountain peaks, from Kabul up through the Panjshir Valley, before landing in a cloud of dust at the village of Pushghar. Imagine if someone put a new, one-story school on the moon, and you’ll appreciate the rocky desolateness of this landscape.

But there, out front, was Mortenson, dressed in traditional Afghan garb. He was surrounded by bearded village elders and scores of young Afghan boys and girls, who were agog at the helicopter, and not quite believing that America’s “warrior chief” — as Admiral Mullen’s title was loosely translated into Urdu — was coming to open the new school.

While the admiral passed out notebooks, Mortenson told me why he has devoted his life to building 131 secular schools for girls in Pakistan and another 48 in Afghanistan: “The money is money well spent. These are secular schools that will bring a new generation of kids that will have a broader view of the world. We focus on areas where there is no education. Religious extremism flourishes in areas of isolation and conflict.

“When a girl gets educated here and then becomes a mother, she will be much less likely to let her son become a militant or insurgent,” he added. “And she will have fewer children. When a girl learns how to read and write, one of the first things she does is teach her own mother. The girls will bring home meat and veggies, wrapped in newspapers, and the mother will ask the girl to read the newspaper to her and the mothers will learn about politics and about women who are exploited.”

It is no accident, Mortenson noted, that since 2007, the Taliban and its allies have bombed, burned or shut down more than 640 schools in Afghanistan and 350 schools in Pakistan, of which about 80 percent are schools for girls. This valley, controlled by Tajik fighters, is secure, but down south in Helmand Province, where the worst fighting is today, the deputy minister of education said that Taliban extremists have shut 75 of the 228 schools in the last year. This is the real war of ideas. The Taliban want public mosques, not public schools. The Muslim militants recruit among the illiterate and impoverished in society, so the more of them the better, said Mortenson.

This new school teaches grades one through six. I asked some girls through an interpreter what they wanted to be when they grow up: “Teacher,” shouted one. “Doctor,” shouted another. Living here, those are the only two educated role models these girls encounter. Where were they going to school before Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute and the U.S. State Department joined with the village elders to get this secular public school built? “The mosque,” the girls said.

Mortenson said he was originally critical of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he’s changed his views: “The U.S. military has gone through a huge learning curve. They really get it. It’s all about building relationships from the ground up, listening more and serving the people of Afghanistan.”

So there you have it. In grand strategic terms, I still don’t know if this Afghan war makes sense anymore. I was dubious before I arrived, and I still am. But when you see two little Afghan girls crouched on the front steps of their new school, clutching tightly with both arms the notebooks handed to them by a U.S. admiral — as if they were their first dolls — it’s hard to say: “Let’s just walk away.” Not yet.
23054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GM's post moved here on: July 19, 2009, 12:43:07 PM
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j4PYGKun8FwQE1yOv3xp0SYIgM9AD99GNCF00

Obama losing some support among nervous Dems
By BETH FOUHY (AP) – 1 day ago

NEW YORK — Could it be that President Barack Obama's Midas touch is starting to dull a bit, even among members of his own party?
Conservative House Democrats are balking at the cost and direction of Obama's top priority, an overhaul of the nation's health care system. A key Senate Democrat, Max Baucus of Montana, complains that Obama's opposition to paying for it with a tax on health benefits "is not helping us."

Another Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, tells his local newspaper that Obama is too liberal and is "very unpopular" in his district.

From his first days in office, Obama's popularity helped him pass the landmark $787 billion stimulus package and fueled his ambitious plans to overhaul the nation's health care system and tackle global warming.

Obama continues to be comparatively popular. But now recent national surveys have shown a measurable drop in his job approval rating, even among Democrats. A CBS news survey out this week had his national approval rating at 57 percent, and his standing among Democrats down 10 percentage points since last month, from 92 percent to 82 percent.

With the economy continuing to sputter and joblessness on the rise, many of Obama's staunchest Democratic supporters are anxious for his agenda to start bearing fruit.

"We are eager and impatient, so you're seeing a little bit of that," said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "Elections have results, and those in the base are the most anxious to achieve what's promised in the election. That's why Democrats are showing some impatience in reaching our goal."

Obama won Ohio, a key swing state, by 4 percentage points in 2008 over Republican John McCain. But the one-time industrial powerhouse has been hit hard by the weak economy, and a Quinnipiac University poll released this month showed Obama with a lackluster approval rating of 49 percent.

Redfern argued that the stimulus program has begun to show tangible results in his state and people shouldn't expect the economy to turn around instantly.  A similar argument came from Nevada, another swing state Obama carried. Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross counseled patience, saying that voters in his state want Obama to succeed and that their support would be solidified once they saw stimulus-driven building projects under way.

"Generally, folks in Nevada are waiting to see the effects of the stimulus package," Ross said. "I think the president is probably just as impatient to get this money out in the country to employ people as anyone."

In Missouri, which Obama narrowly lost to McCain, Democratic strategist Steve Glorioso said hardcore base voters were as enthusiastic as ever for Obama but that there was a sense of disappointment about him among less committed Democrats and independents.

"People are scared," Glorioso said. "This is the worst economic time anyone under the age of 80 has ever experienced, and you can't discount people being afraid. Now that we are in July, the fear is turning to disappointment that the president hasn't fixed everything yet. I don't know why they thought he could change everything by now, but some did."

Glorioso said an open Senate race next year in Missouri, where Democrat Robin Carnahan is likely to face former Republican Rep. Roy Blunt, will be a crucial test of Obama's appeal.

"If the economy gets better and they pass a reasonable health care bill, his popularity will be way back up and Carnahan will win," Glorioso said. "If none of that happens, it's a moot point."

In Michigan, where the near-collapse of the auto industry has driven the unemployment rate to 14.1 percent, the nation's worst, the state's Democratic chairman, Mark Brewer, said support for Obama among Democrats has remained strong.

"People are very worried and concerned, I don't want to dispute that," Brewer said. "But they voted for the president in overwhelming numbers and want to support the things he's trying to do."

Obama traveled to Michigan this week to unveil a $12 billion program to help community colleges prepare people for jobs. There, he made an audacious declaration.

"I love these folks who helped get us in this mess and then suddenly say, 'Well, this is Obama's economy,'" the president said. "That's fine. Give it to me!"

Redfern, the Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said he welcomed that statement but cautioned it came with a price.

"When it's the president's economy, it's the president's trouble," Redfern said. "Americans are eager for the change that they voted into office. They support him, they just want to see results sooner rather than later."
23055  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Study: 3 vs. 1 in BC on: July 19, 2009, 02:33:21 AM

Please discuss:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIjG4OJEHnI

I'd like to suggest commenting after watching only one time (e.g. like you might have to do as a witness) then comment after watching as much as you like. AFTER you make your initial comments, you may wish to view this.

background info:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIjG4OJEHnI
23056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 18, 2009, 07:39:22 PM
Abridged version: (for full version see: http://www.stumblingontruth.com/main.aspx# )

What We Know That Ain't So

Will Rogers famously said, "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so." So it is with the health care debate in this country. Quite a few "facts" offered to the public as truth are simply wrong and often intentionally misleading.

There are large groups of people in this country who want socialized medicine and they sense that the stars are aligning, and now is their time to succeed. They rarely call it socialized medicine, but instead "single payer health care" or "universal coverage" or something that their public relations people have told them sounds better. Whatever they call it, they believe (or pretend to believe) a lot of wrong-headed things, and they must be stopped. Step one is understanding how and why they are wrong. Step two is kicking their asses back to Cuba where they can get in line with Michael Moore and Al Gore for their free gastric bypasses.

Myth #1 Health Care Costs are Soaring

No, they are not. The amount we spend on health care has indeed risen, in absolute terms, after inflation, and as a percentage of our incomes and GDP. That does not mean costs are soaring.

You cannot judge the "cost" of something by simply what you spend. You must also judge what you get. I'm reasonably certain the cost of 1950's level health care has dropped in real terms over the last 60 years (and you can probably have a barber from the year 1500 bleed you for almost nothing nowadays). Of course, with 1950's health care, lots of things will kill you that 2009 health care could prevent.

In the case of health care, the fact that we spend so much more on it now is largely a positive. We spend so much more on health care, even relative to other advances, mostly because it is worth so much more to us.

In summary, if one more person cites soaring health care costs as an indictment of the free market, when it is in fact a staggering achievement of the free market, I'm going to rupture their appendix and send them to a queue in the UK to get it fixed.

Myth #2 The Canadian Drug Story

The general story is how you can buy many drugs in Canada cheaper than you can buy them in the US. This story is often, without specifically tying the logic together, taken as an obvious indictment of the US's (relatively) free market system. This is grossly misguided.

Here's what happens. We have a (relatively) free market in the US where drug companies spend a ton to develop new wonder drugs, a non-trivial amount of which is spent to satisfy regulatory requirements. The cost of this development is called a "fixed cost." Once it's developed it does not cost that much to make each pill. That's called a "variable cost." If people only paid the variable cost (or a bit more) for each pill the whole thing would not work. You see, the company would never get back the massive fixed cost of creating the drug in the first place, and so no company would try to develop one.

Drug companies that spent the enormous fixed costs to create new miracles are charging a relatively high cost in the free and still largely competitive world (the US) to recoup their fixed cost and to make a profit. But socialist societies like Canada limit the price they are allowed to charge. The US-based company is then faced with a dilemma. What Canada will pay is not enough to ever have justified creating the miracle pill. But, once created, perhaps Canada is paying more than the variable cost of each pill. Thus, the company can make some money by also selling to Canada at a lower price as it's still more than it costs them to make that last pill.

If we all tried to be Canada it's a non-working perpetual motion machine and no miracle pills ever get made because there will be nobody to pay the fixed costs.

Myth #3 Socialized Medicine Works In Some Places

This is a corollary to the "Canada as parasite" parable above. The funny part is socialized medicine has never been truly tested. Those touting socialism's success have never seen a world without a relatively (for now) free US to make their new drugs, surgical techniques, and other medical advancements for them.

To put it simply, right now the US's free system massively intellectually subsidizes the world's unfree (socialized) ones. That sucks. The only thing that would suck worse is joining them without anyone to subsidize us all.

Myth #4 A Public Option Can Co-Exist with a Private Option

Part of the current junta's plan is to add a "public option" for health insurance. That is health insurance provided by the government (actually provided by you and your neighbors). They claim this "public option" can co-exist fairly alongside private health insurance, increasing competition and keeping the private system "honest," and not deteriorate to a single payer (socialized medicine) system. They are wrong, or very dishonest, as in unguarded moments they admit that the single payer socialized system is what they really want.

By their logic the government must be a major player in every industry. Ah, just when you think you have them, you remember, they are socialists … dismantling liberty piece by piece.

The government does not co-exist or compete fairly with private enterprise. It does not play well with others. The regulator cannot be a competitor at the same time. Finally, it cannot be a fair competitor if when the "public option" screws up (can't pay its bills), the government implicitly or explicitly guarantees its debts.

Perhaps the best example of the destructive "public option" is our nation's schools. Here we clearly have a government provided "public option" competing with (and in fact dominating in size) private schooling. But, is it fair? Does it work well? Not by a long-shot.

With a "public option" things inevitably would go the horrific way of our public schools. It will be like looking in a funhouse mirror and seeing a doctor where you used to see a teacher.

Finally, let's worry a bit about the end game. We are not here yet, but in a world where the "public option" replaced all private options, would we still be allowed, if we had the resources, to pursue private medical alternatives? Some socialized countries say yes, some say no. Imagine the answer is no in this country, where freedom is valued more than anywhere else in the world. Imagine a person is to be prevented from spending their hard earned money on their or their children's health care, or a doctor was prevented from earning what he could in a parallel free system after all his training and work.

It takes literally seconds to realize that this "public option" cannot co-exist with liberty and thus will indeed lead to full-on socialization. Since the simplest answer is usually best, and the President has already declared his preference for a "single-payer" system, and since this "public option" leads there with near certainty, might I be forgiven for assuming he knows this and is lying, and has a socialized medicine end-game in mind?

Myth #5 We Can Have Health Care Without Rationing

Rationing has to occur. This sounds cold and cruel, but it is reality. If you have a material good or service, like health care, that is ever increasing in quality, and therefore cost, there is no way everyone on Earth can have the best at all times (actually the quality increases are not necessary for rationing to be needed, it just makes the example clearer). It's going to be rationed by some means. The alternatives come down to the marketplace or the government. To choose between those alternatives you judge on morality and efficacy.

It is an uncomfortable truth that tough choices will have to be made. There is no system that provides for unlimited wants with limited resources. Our choice is whether it should be rationed by free people making their own economic calculations or by a bureaucracy run by Congressional committee (whose members, like the Russian commissars, will, I guarantee you, still get the best health care the gulag hospitaligo can provide). Free people making their own choices only consume what they value above price, using funds they have earned or been given voluntarily. With socialized medicine health care is rationed by committees of politicians trying to get re-elected and increase their own power, and people consume as much of it as the commissars deem permissible. I do not find these tough alternatives to choose between.

Myth #6 Health Care is A Right

Nope, it's not.

This is more philosophy than economics, and I'm not a philosopher. But, luckily it doesn't take a superb philosopher to understand that health care simply is not a "right" in the sense we normally use that word. Listing rights generally involves enumerating things you may do without interference (the right to free speech) or may not be done to you without your permission (illegal search and seizure, loud boy-band music in public spaces). They are protections, not gifts of material goods. Material goods and services must be taken from others, or provided by their labor, so if you believe you have an absolute right to them, and others don't choose to provide it to you, you then have a "right" to steal from them. But what about their far more fundamental right not to be robbed?
So why do people scream health care is a "right" if it so obviously is not? If not a right it can still be willingly provided as charity by society.

So, Why Are These Crazy Things Believed (Or, Pretended to Be Believed)?

Lots of politicians understand that the simple free system leaves them out in the cold. No power for them. No committees to sit on to decide people's lives. No lies to tell their constituents how they (the government) brought them the health care they so desperately need. No fat checks from lobbyists as the crony capitalists pay dearly to make the only profits possible under this system, those bestowed by the government.

Finally, if the above is not enough, the rush to pass a huge expansion of government now, and limit debate and discussion, is indicative of a group that knows it is wrong, and if people have time to think they will refuse to go along, but is attempting an exercise of naked power, to impose dictatorship before the people wake up. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth puts on its shoes. They are counting on this, and they don't want to give the truth time to be shod.

And In Conclusion

We do not need a single payer (socialized medicine) system to cut confusion and inefficiency. On the contrary we need unfettered competition and clear legal standards. Another major concern is provision of basic healthcare to the needy. This is an important issue, but not an expensive one in the scheme of things, and not one that should drive the trillion-dollar healthcare debate. You do not reorganize the entire housing industry and tax policy around the need for homeless shelters, you just build enough shelters and let the market take care of, and discipline, the people who can pay for their own housing.
Finally there is the concern that healthcare costs make US workers too expensive to compete in global markets. As long as workers get full value for their healthcare dollars, it shouldn't matter whether companies pay in cash or in health benefits.
23057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Don't mess with Texas on: July 18, 2009, 12:16:05 PM
Texas Appellate Court Deals Another Blow to Islamist Lawfare—Upholds Free Speech Rights of Internet Journalist; Islamic Groups Lose Appeal



ANN ARBOR, MI – On July 16, 2009, seven Texas-area Islamic organizations lost an appeal of the unanimous ruling of the Texas Second Court of Appeals at Forth Worth, which protected the free speech rights of internet journalists and at the same time dealt a blow to the legal jihad being waged by radical Muslim groups throughout the United States. The Islamic groups asked for a reconsideration of the appellate court’s recent decision through what is known as an en banc opinion (appeal to the whole court, not just a panel of the court). The Court ruling, in a per curiam (in the name of the whole court) two page opinion, upheld the dismissal of the libel lawsuit filed against internet reporter Joe Kaufman by the seven Islamic organizations.
The lawsuit against Kaufman was funded by the Muslim Legal Fund for America. The head of that organization, Khalil Meek, admitted on a Muslim talk radio show that lawsuits were being filed against Kaufman and others to set an example. Indeed, for the last several years, Muslim groups in the U.S. have engaged in the tactic of filing meritless lawsuits to silence any public discussion of Islamic terrorist threats. This tactic, referred to by some as Islamist Lawfare uses our laws and legal system to silence critics and promote Islamic rule in America.
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan provided the lead attorney to represent Kaufman, at no charge. The Law Center attorney, Brandon Bolling, was assisted by Texas attorney Thomas S. Brandon, Jr. who acted as local counsel, and Los Angeles, CA attorneys William Becker, Jr. and Manuel S. Klausner.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, “It is gratifying to see our client’s First Amendment rights being upheld by this entire Texas Appeals Court. We do not yet know if these Islamic groups will try another appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, but this ruling is an indication of how strong this First Amendment case is.”
Kaufman, a full-time investigative reporter, has written extensively on Radical Islamic terrorism in America. He was sued because of his September 28, 2007 article titled “Fanatic Muslim Family Day” published by Front Page Magazine, a major online news website. Kaufman’s article exposed the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Association of Northern Texas (IANT) ties to the radical terrorist group Hamas.
Kaufman’s article called ICNA a radical Muslim organization that has ties to Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Kaufman, ICNA is an umbrella organization for South Asian-oriented mosques and Islamic centers in the United States created as an American arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Pakistan.
Significantly, neither ICNA nor IANT, which were mentioned in Kaufman’s article, sued Kaufman. It is speculated that ICNA and IANT were afraid of being subjected to pretrial discovery. On the other hand, none of the seven plaintiffs that sued Kaufman were even mentioned in his article. The seven Islamic organizations that sued Kaufman are the Islamic Society of Arlington, Texas, Islamic Center of Irving, DFW Islamic Educational Center, Inc., Dar Elsalam Islamic Center, Al Hedayah Islamic Center, Islamic Association of Tarrant County, and Muslim American Society of Dallas. All are affiliated with CAIR, one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the successful federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation.
In what should be welcome news to internet journalists, the Appellate Court specifically rejected the Plaintiffs’ contention that Kaufman is not a “media defendant.” The Court held that the Texas statute that gives procedural protections to traditional electronic and print media, including the right to a pretrial appeal, also covers internet journalists. Thus, the Texas Statue entitled Kaufman the right to appeal the lower court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the frivolous libel claim before a time-consuming and expensive trial. Most parties have to wait until after a trial before they can appeal an unfavorable lower court ruling.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America. The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.
23058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Central Europe's fears on: July 18, 2009, 10:03:51 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Central Europe's Longstanding Fears
July 17, 2009
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Munich on Thursday. The meeting produced talk of a Russian-German manufacturing alliance, a 500 million-euro ($704.7 million) joint investment agreement, several business deals that included infrastructure and transportation development, and a lot of chatter on Europe’s energy issues, such as the proposed Nord Stream and Nabucco natural gas pipelines. The business deals are further evidence of a burgeoning relationship between Moscow and Berlin that is evolving into more than just a partnership of convenience based on German imports of Russian natural gas.

More important than the nitty-gritty details of the talks (none of which were wholly unexpected) was the fact that the German and Russian leaders were meeting shortly after both met with U.S. President Barack Obama. If one was ignorant of Germany’s status as an unwavering U.S. ally, with troops in Afghanistan and nearly 70 years of pro-American foreign policy, it might be tempting to conclude that Merkel and Medvedev were comparing notes on their visits with Obama — which could constitute a level of geopolitical coordination far more important than deals to build new rail cars. In other words, Berlin and Moscow could be seen as getting quite close to each other, to a degree that cannot be accounted for solely by Germany’s energy dependence on Russia.

But this is exactly how ex-communist states in Central Europe perceive the relationship between Berlin and Moscow, precisely because they do not consider Germany to be a staunch and unwavering U.S. ally. In fact, Central European states — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania — see much in German foreign policy that might be drifting away from the United States. For this group of countries, the NATO alliance has not proved to be the warranty against geopolitical instability they had hoped it to be. In fact, since Central European states have been taking part in NATO, Russia has freely manipulated domestic politics in Ukraine and the Baltics, intervened militarily in Georgia and played energy politics with the entire region, through natural gas cutoffs to Ukraine.

Through each episode of Russian brinkmanship, NATO has remained on the sidelines, unwilling to intervene. During the Russian intervention in Georgia in August 2008, Germany even tried to minimize NATO’s reaction and, since then, has vociferously opposed expanding the alliance to include Ukraine and Georgia.

In light of concerns about Germany’s commitment to their defense and NATO’s ability to stand up to Russia, a group of 22 former leaders from Central and Eastern European states wrote a letter to Obama on Thursday, imploring him not to abandon them in the face of continued Russian meddling in the region. The letter specifically referred to the U.S. plans to build ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, stating that canceling the program “can undermine the credibility of the United States across the whole region.”

For now, the United States is remaining silent on the BMD issue in order to see whether it can win any short-term concessions from Russia, particularly where Afghanistan and Moscow’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions are concerned. Central European states fear that their concerns about Russian power and their own security could be overruled by American interests in the Middle East. Leaders therefore want a firm commitment from the United States to the region, exemplified through the positioning of the BMD system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russian and German domination are familiar themes for Central Europe. Since both Germany and Russia historically have had interests in the region, states often looked to outside protectors with no immediate designs for the territory — examples include the inter-war U.K.-Polish and Little Entente (between France and Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia) alliances. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a similar arrangement was made with the United States through NATO, or so the states of Central Europe had hoped.

However, the reality is that neither the Little Entente concept of the 1920-1930s nor the U.K.-Polish alliance prevented the region from being overrun by combined Russian and German invasions. Now, the Central Europeans are feeling abandoned by the one power that could provide security against the traditional German-Russian threat: the United States. The question, however, is whether Central European leaders will perceive the U.S. stall as a temporary realpolitik move or permanent abandonment. And if they perceive permanent abandonment, will the region’s leaders continue to write concerned letters to the U.S. president, or will they begin forming a security alliance amongst themselves — with the implicit purpose is countering Russia’s presence in the region?

23059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism: on: July 18, 2009, 09:29:00 AM
In my own thinking more and more I find myself turning to the word fascism to describe what is going on today.  Typically, to distinguish it from certain associations, I will specify "economic fascism".

The destruction of the American Creed which I fear we now undergo is, as I see it, fascism.  There is liberal fascism (the Dems and Liberals) and corporate fascism (the Reps and the Dems-- see e.g. Goldman Sachs).  The Reps used to have a strong strand of the American Creed, but it appears to be a dead man walking at this point.

 cry
23060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: July 18, 2009, 05:55:49 AM
Me too.
23061  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Now by sea on: July 18, 2009, 05:54:48 AM
SAN DIEGO — They move north in rickety fishing boats, often overloaded and barely seaworthy, slipping through the darkness and hidden from the watchful radar of American patrols.

Federal agents said a man spotted last month paddling a surfboard north from Mexico was found to be carrying almost 25 pounds of marijuana.
 
Along beaches north of here, the migrants from Mexico and beyond scramble ashore, in groups of a dozen or two, and dash past stunned beachgoers, sometimes even leaving behind their boats, known as pangas. Drug smugglers, too, take this sea route, including one last month found paddling a surfboard north with a duffel bag full of marijuana on it.

As the land border with Mexico tightens with new fencing and technology, the authorities are seeing a sharp spike in the number of people and drugs being moved into the United States by sea off the San Diego coast.

Law enforcement authorities in the United States said the shift demonstrated the resolve of smugglers to exploit the vastness of the sea, the difficulty in monitoring it, and the desperation of migrants willing to risk crossing it.

“It’s like spillover from a dam,” said Cmdr. Guy Pearce, who oversees the antismuggling effort for the Coast Guard in San Diego.

For generations, people have tried to swim, surf and ride boats, sometimes carrying contraband, into the United States from south of the border.

But Commander Pearce and other officials in the Department of Homeland Security say those sporadic efforts have accelerated to unprecedented levels recently — a doubling in the number of illegal immigrants — more than 300 in the last two years — caught on boats or beaches and a sevenfold increase in maritime drug seizures, principally several thousand pounds of marijuana.

The authorities have taken note that the increase coincides with the near completion of new, more fortified border fencing along a 14-mile stretch from the ocean inland.

New smuggling rings have also emerged, operating out of beach towns south of the border and islands off the Mexican coast, convincing migrants that the passage is safe and the ocean too wide open for maritime law enforcement to catch them.

A recent patrol with the Coast Guard showed they may have a point.

All night and into the morning, the Coast Guard cutter Petrel dashed across the seas looking for suspect boats. A tip that a suspect boat was due to pass miles off the coast around 1 a.m. sent the cutter, nearly all of its lights off to avoid detection, searching by the faint glow of a half moon. The boat was not found.

Later, just after 4 a.m., a radar sweep picked up two boats moving quickly south, prompting the crew to cut off the classical music wafting from overhead speakers on a bridge lighted only by navigation monitors.

As the roaring engines sent the cutter crashing over swells for more than 20 minutes after the boats were first noticed, the crew could see the boats speeding without their lights on.

A boarding team mobilized with body armor and rifles and raced in a small craft from the cutter to check out the boats. Just early-morning fishing, said the people on the boats, who insisted they did not realize their lights were off. With no evidence of contraband, they were let go.

But Chief Petty Officer Gary Auslam, in charge on this watch, had his doubts as he watched the boats quickly motor on. Gunrunners bringing weapons from the United States move swiftly.

“Boy, they got out of here pretty quick, didn’t they?” Chief Auslam said, gazing out the bridge.

It falls mainly to the Coast Guard and the Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security to patrol the seas with a mix of cutters, aircraft and a few small high-speed boats.

The authorities arrested 136 illegal immigrants sneaking in by sea in the fiscal year that ended Oct. 30, double the 66 marine arrests in 2007. Since October, more than 100 illegal immigrants have been arrested, bringing the marine arrests of illegal immigrants in the past couple of years to unprecedented levels, said Michael Carney, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in San Diego who oversees a task force on marine smuggling.

The seizure of drugs, principally marijuana, has similarly skyrocketed. In the fiscal year that ended in October, the authorities seized 6,300 pounds of marijuana in the coastal waters north of the border, a sevenfold increase from the 906 pounds confiscated in 2007. This fiscal year, 6,100 pounds have been found.

“This is somewhat of an alarming trend,” Mr. Carney said. “It has opened our eyes. There is still a lot we need to learn about how these organizations operate.”

The Department of Homeland Security is responding to this surge with orders for more boats and equipment.

Generally, the flow of migrants north has slowed as the economy here has withered and the United States has bolstered patrols and fencing. But people still make the journey and the desire for drugs keeps smugglers busy.

Victor Clark Alfaro, director of the Binational Center for Human Rights in Tijuana, Mexico, who has studied smuggling, said he doubted the fence was causing the spike. Instead, Mr. Clark Alfaro said, “a new generation” of smugglers have simply had success ferrying people over the seas and are encouraging migrants to go their way. The charge is more than $4,000, roughly double what a smuggling guide would charge to lead somebody over land, he said. Marijuana smugglers, likewise, have gotten wise to the sea route.

“It’s always,” Mr. Clark Alfaro said, “a fight between technology and the ingenuity of smugglers.”

Coast Guard officials said they knew of no boats that had sunk but they worry about that prospect. In March they seized a 25-foot boat with 22 people aboard.

The biggest adversary at times, though, is the darkness.

Petty Officer First Class Pablo Mendoza picked up night-vision binoculars and scanned the horizon. When it was suggested that the equipment might offer an advantage, Petty Officer Mendoza replied, “Yeah, the problem is they have these, too.”

Crew members said they did not believe the guard or Customs and Border Protection had enough fast boats to get to suspected smuggling boats in time, though the agencies, as well as the Navy and civilian law enforcement, are making an effort to coordinate their patrols.

In the end, said Petty Officer First Class Jason Tessier, another supervisor on the Petrel, “it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

23062  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GS to buy Treasury on: July 17, 2009, 10:50:40 PM


Goldman Sachs in Talks to Acquire Treasury Department
Sister Entities to Share Employees, Money

>


In what some on Wall Street are calling the biggest blockbuster deal in the history of the financial sector, Goldman Sachs confirmed today that it was in talks to acquire the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

According to Goldman spokesperson Jonathan Hestron, the merger between Goldman and the Treasury Department is “a good fit” because “they’re in the business of printing money and so are we.”

The Goldman spokesman said that the merger would create efficiencies for both entities: “We already have so many employees and so much money flowing back and forth, this would just streamline things.”

Mr. Hestron said the only challenge facing Goldman in completing the merger “is trying to figure out which parts of the Treasury Dept. we don’t already own.”

Goldman recently celebrated record earnings by roasting a suckling pig over a bonfire of hundred-dollar bills.

Elsewhere, conspiracy theorists celebrated the 40th anniversary of NASA faking the moon landing.

And in South Carolina, Gov. Mark Sanford gave his wife a new diamond ring, while his wife gave him an electronic ankle bracelet.


23063  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA series VHS/DVD's on: July 17, 2009, 08:28:01 AM
Looks like it is the one we did (Pappy was the director) badly misdescribed (the DVD has more content IIRC).  I've emailed him and will get back to you here when I hear back from him.
23064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison, 1792 on: July 17, 2009, 08:08:36 AM
"As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions."

--James Madison, National Gazette Essay, March 27, 1792
23065  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA series VHS/DVD's on: July 16, 2009, 10:47:29 PM
URL?
23066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / LATimes: Congressman helping La Familia on: July 16, 2009, 04:44:24 PM
Congressman-elect Julio Cesar Godoy is suspected of helping protect La Familia, accused of killing 16 officers recently. That has brought pressure on his half-brother, Michoacan Gov. Leonel Godoy.
By Ken Ellingwood
July 16, 2009

Reporting from Mexico City -- Last week, Julio Cesar Godoy was a congressman-elect. This week, he is a fugitive.

Mexican authorities say Godoy, a half-brother of Michoacan state Gov. Leonel Godoy, helped provide protection for La Familia, the drug-trafficking gang that has waged war on federal police across the state in recent days, killing at least 16 officers.
 
Officials have an arrest warrant but apparently can't find the younger Godoy, an attorney who was elected to Congress on July 5 as a candidate of the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD.

Feeling political heat, Gov. Godoy on Wednesday called on his sibling to turn himself in and confront the accusations. Godoy said his half-brother lived in a modest house, drove a used Volkswagen and showed no signs of links to organized crime. The two last spoke weeks ago, the governor said.

"He has to present his evidence if he is innocent," Godoy said in a radio interview. "If he is guilty, let them punish him with the full weight of the law."

The younger Godoy has not been seen in public since the campaign closed July 1. He didn't show up to vote on election day nor, after his victory, to collect the official notification that he had been elected to Congress.

Authorities, who did not specify when the arrest order was granted, announced the allegations Tuesday as part of the investigation into a string of attacks in Michoacan against federal police officers since Saturday. The attacks, including the slayings of 12 federal officers whose bodies were dumped near a highway, appeared to be in retaliation for the arrest of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, described as one of the gang's top three figures.

Officials say Saul Solis, a failed Green Party candidate for Congress, is also being sought for his alleged role as liaison between the crime group and officials and businessmen in Michoacan.

The allegations add new force to concerns over how thoroughly drug traffickers have infiltrated Mexico's political system, especially in smuggling crossroads such as Michoacan.

"Cartels like La Familia are born, grow and reproduce thanks to narco-politics, thanks to the complicity of those in power and the cloak of impunity that protects them," columnist Ricardo Aleman wrote Wednesday in El Universal newspaper.

The charges against Julio Cesar Godoy brought fresh pressure on his half-brother. Gov. Godoy, a member of the same political party, already faced questions after the state's attorney general and other aides were among 30 local and state functionaries arrested in May over suspected ties to La Familia.

The governor has dismissed the arrests as an election-season stunt by the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party. And he rejected fresh calls to resign.

"I won't give them the pleasure," Godoy said Wednesday.

Monte Alejandro Rubido, a national security spokesman, said that a senior gunman arrested in the recent attacks revealed details about La Familia's structure. He said Julio Cesar Godoy and Solis worked for the group's alleged operations chief, Servando Gomez Martinez, who lives in Michoacan.

A man who said he was Gomez Martinez phoned a public affairs television show in Michoacan on Wednesday and called on Calderon to reach an accord with La Familia.

Hours later, Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont rejected the purported overture, saying Mexico would not negotiate with any criminal group.

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com
23067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fallujah on: July 16, 2009, 01:03:09 PM
http://shock.military.com/Shock/videos.do;jsessionid=26F40AC4E0566E724DD335F4655D5BAB?displayContent=140289&page=1
23068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sotomayor on: July 16, 2009, 01:01:41 PM
I found S's refusal to agree that there is a right to Constitutional right to self-defense mind-boggling.
23069  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 16, 2009, 12:41:41 PM
http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnal...aspx?id=482329
23070  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: July 16, 2009, 11:12:59 AM
My son Conrad, his friend Greg and Greg's two brothers have made a youtube clip that addresses the following matters:

1) What is worth fighting over?
2) Gun disarms, and
3) Gun safety

 wink

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGGUccucuic
23071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Optional"?!? Those lying SOBs on: July 16, 2009, 10:01:23 AM
A friend writes:
=======================

Here it is, Page 16 of the Health Care bill
 
"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law."
 
You leave a company with health care and go to a different company with a different carrier,  you are screwed.  You must go into the government plan. 
 
Start up your own company, you are forced into the government plan.
 
Obamism is alive and well

Here it is, Page 16 of the Health Care bill
 
"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law."
 
You leave a company with health care and go to a different company with a different carrier,  you are screwed.  You must go into the government plan. 
 
Start up your own company, you are forced into the government plan.
 
Obamism is alive and well
-----------------------------

SEC. 102. PROTECTING THE CHOICE TO KEEP CURRENT COVERAGE.

(a) Grandfathered Health Insurance Coverage Defined- Subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, for purposes of establishing acceptable coverage under this division, the term `grandfathered health insurance coverage' means individual health insurance coverage that is offered and in force and effect before the first day of Y1 if the following conditions are met:

(1) LIMITATION ON NEW ENROLLMENT-

(A) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day of Y1.

(B) DEPENDENT COVERAGE PERMITTED- Subparagraph (A) shall not affect the subsequent enrollment of a dependent of an individual who is covered as of such first day.

(2) LIMITATION ON CHANGES IN TERMS OR CONDITIONS- Subject to paragraph (3) and except as required by law, the issuer does not change any of its terms or conditions, including benefits and cost-sharing, from those in effect as of the day before the first day of Y1.

(3) RESTRICTIONS ON PREMIUM INCREASES- The issuer cannot vary the percentage increase in the premium for a risk group of enrollees in specific grandfathered health insurance coverage without changing the premium for all enrollees in the same risk group at the same rate, as specified by the Commissioner.

(b) Grace Period for Current Employment-based Health Plans-

(1) GRACE PERIOD-

(A) IN GENERAL- The Commissioner shall establish a grace period whereby, for plan years beginning after the end of the 5-year period beginning with Y1, an employment-based health plan in operation as of the day before the first day of Y1 must meet the same requirements as apply to a qualified health benefits plan under section 101, including the essential benefit package requirement under section 121.

(B) EXCEPTION FOR LIMITED BENEFITS PLANS- Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to an employment-based health plan in which the coverage consists only of one or more of the following:

(i) Any coverage described in section 3001(a)(1)(B)(ii)(IV) of division B of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).

(ii) Excepted benefits (as defined in section 733(c) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974), including coverage under a specified disease or illness policy described in paragraph (3)(A) of such section.

(iii) Such other limited benefits as the Commissioner may specify.

In no case shall an employment-based health plan in which the coverage consists only of one or more of the coverage or benefits described in clauses (i) through (iii) be treated as acceptable coverage under this division

(2) TRANSITIONAL TREATMENT AS ACCEPTABLE COVERAGE- During the grace period specified in paragraph (1)(A), an employment-based health plan that is described in such paragraph shall be treated as acceptable coverage under this division.

(c) Limitation on Individual Health Insurance Coverage-

(1) IN GENERAL- Individual health insurance coverage that is not grandfathered health insurance coverage under subsection (a) may only be offered on or after the first day of Y1 as an Exchange-participating health benefits plan.

(2) SEPARATE, EXCEPTED COVERAGE PERMITTED- Excepted benefits (as defined in section 2791(c) of the Public Health Service Act ) are not included within the definition of health insurance coverage. Nothing in paragraph (1) shall prevent the offering, other than through the Health Insurance Exchange, of excepted benefits so long as it is offered and priced separately from health insurance coverage.
23072  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 1826 on: July 16, 2009, 08:16:03 AM
"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride legitimately, by the grace of God."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826
23073  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh , , , on: July 16, 2009, 08:09:02 AM
Greetings,

After 18 days with Lithuanians in Ghor Province, have made it back to Kabul.  We are very short on aircraft in Afghanistan; I was delayed by about a week just waiting for airplanes that never came.  Some U.S. soldiers in Ghor told me that a child who was badly wounded in one of our air strikes had to wait three days for a medevac aircraft.  Apparently the child's leg was badly mangled.

The Afghan war has become more deadly -- on a per capita basis -- than Iraq ever was.  This was predictable a long time ago and is presented in my dispatches starting in 2006.  We are losing the war.  At this rate we will lose the war.

A friend at Soldiers' Angels started a Twitter page and I have started with real time uploads.  Don't be surprised if I start Twittering during a boring Shura or an unfortunate firefight where I am pinned down and have nothing to do.  The Twitter page is Michael_Yon (not Michael Yon).  Please follow that for immediate news.

The latest photo dispatch is up.  Lots of pretty pictures.

--
Very Respectfully,

Michael Yon
23074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: July 15, 2009, 06:32:39 PM
A Jewish boy comes home from school and tells his mother he's been given a part in the school play.
"Wonderful. What part is it?"
The boy says,"I play the part of the Jewish husband."
The mother scowls and says, "Go back and tell the teacher you want a speaking part."
23075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brits in Helmland on: July 15, 2009, 06:25:53 PM
'It was like Saving Private Ryan': British soldier recalls Helmand rocket grenade

Trooper Anthony Matthews describes being hit and having to apply tourniquet during Afghanistan offensive

Richard Norton-Taylor
guardian.co.uk
Wednesday 15 July 2009 18.06 BST


A British soldier injured in fierce fighting in the biggest offensive against the Taliban since the start of the conflict in 2001 has given a first-hand account of his ordeal.

Trooper Anthony Matthews, 20, of the Light Dragoons, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during Operation Panther's Claw in Helmand province last week. He described how he managed to apply a tourniquet to his leg wound and to that of an injured comrade as he returned gunfire.

On that day, 7 July, Matthews's close friend Christopher Whiteside, 22, was killed by an improvised bomb in a separate operation in Gereshk.

The number of British soldiers seriously wounded rose significantly last month, according to figures released todayby the Ministry of Defence. A total of 13 were "very seriously" or "seriously" wounded in action, with their lives being "imminently in danger" or their injuries a cause for "immediate concern".

A further 46 soldiers were admitted to field hospitals last month. However, the figures do not reveal the total number of soldiers with injuries conventionally regarded as serious, including the loss of limbs. The figures for July are likely to be worse, defence officials acknowledge.

Matthews, nicknamed "Bulletproof Tony", has returned home to Dunston, Gateshead, with a cricket ball-sized wound after a month of fighting that has claimed the lives of 17 British soldiers.

Recovering from surgery to the blast wound on his left leg, Matthews said he had feared for his own life.

He said: "There aren't many people can tell the tale of getting hit by a grenade. I've just been very lucky. We came out of the compound we had taken over, and there was a tree line that we used as cover. My mates were beside me at either side, and then all I remember is hearing a massive bang.

"There was dirt all over their faces and they were screaming. It was like a scene out of Saving Private Ryan. My ears had gone and I looked at my friend and I could see he had been hit badly. I turned and looked down at my leg and my pants were all broken. I put a tourniquet on while I was still shooting."

The Light Dragoons were based near Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital. During the early hours of 7 July, his platoon stepped into an ambush. A rocket-propelled grenade seriously wounded Matthews and his friend, Trooper Aaron Bradley.

"When the bullets are whizzing past it's terrifying," said Matthews. "They sound like bees flying past your ears, and then you hear them land and it sounds like someone clapping their hands."

After being hit, he said, "it was just adrenaline. I didn't feel anything. I stabbed myself with morphine and held on until the helicopters came. They got us back to Camp Bastion in four minutes."

After treatment there he was flown to Birmingham's Selly Oak hospital, where an operation sealed a deep wound across the back of his left leg. A few days before he was hit by the grenade, Matthews had been on a foot patrol behind a Scimitar tank which was blown up by a roadside bomb. His arms were hit by shrapnel.

He said: "No one was killed or even injured badly that time, amazingly. A team came out to clear the area and make sure it wasn't a 'daisy chain', where a number of bombs are linked to a single command and control wire.

"It's proper war out there. One time it took us from first light until last light just to move 800 metres. We were in constant contact with the enemy."

His house was decked out in Union flags to welcome him home, and he is now recuperating alongside his mother, Karine, brother Kallum, 13, and girlfriend Sam, 20.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/ju...anistan-ordeal
23076  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: July 15, 2009, 03:00:13 PM
Too bad they quote DEBKA, even as disparagingly as they do-- DEBKA IMHO is lunatic fringe.
23077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO-Panetta castrate US in yet another way on: July 15, 2009, 02:42:38 PM
U.S.: Reaction to the CIA Assassination Program
July 15, 2009




By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

On June 23, 2009, Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta learned of a highly compartmentalized program to assassinate al Qaeda operatives that was launched by the CIA in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. When Panetta found out that the covert program had not been disclosed to Congress, he canceled it and then called an emergency meeting June 24 to brief congressional oversight committees on the program. Over the past week, many details of the program have been leaked to the press and the issue has received extensive media coverage.

That a program existed to assassinate al Qaeda leaders should certainly come as no surprise to anyone. It has been well-publicized that the Clinton administration had launched military operations and attempted to use covert programs to strike the al Qaeda leadership in the wake of the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings. In fact, the Clinton administration has come under strong criticism for not doing more to decapitate al Qaeda prior to 2001. Furthermore, since 2002, the CIA has conducted scores of strikes against al Qaeda targets in Pakistan using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like the MQ-1 Predator and the larger MQ-9 Reaper.

These strikes have dramatically increased over the past two years and the pace did not slacken when the Obama administration came to power in January. So far in 2009 there have been more than two dozen UAV strikes in Pakistan alone. In November 2002, the CIA also employed a UAV to kill Abu Ali al-Harithi, a senior al Qaeda leader suspected of planning the October 2000 attack against the USS Cole. The U.S. government has also attacked al Qaeda leaders at other times and in other places, such as the May 1, 2008, attack against al Qaeda-linked figures in Somalia using an AC-130 gunship.

As early as Oct. 28, 2001, The Washington Post ran a story discussing the Clinton-era presidential finding authorizing operations to capture or kill al Qaeda targets. The Oct. 28 Washington Post story also provided details of a finding signed by President George W. Bush following the 9/11 attacks that reportedly provided authorization to strike a larger cross section of al Qaeda targets, including those who are not in the Afghan theater of operations. Such presidential findings are used to authorize covert actions, but in this case the finding would also provide permission to contravene Executive Order 12333, which prohibits assassinations.

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Bush and the members of his administration were very clear that they sought to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and the members of the al Qaeda organization. During the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections in the United States, every major candidate, including Barack Obama, stated that they would seek to kill bin Laden and destroy al Qaeda. Indeed, on the campaign trail, Obama was quite vocal in his criticism of the Bush administration for not doing more to go after al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan. This means that, regardless of who is in the White House, it is U.S. policy to go after individual al Qaeda members as well as the al Qaeda organization.

In light of these facts, it would appear that there was nothing particularly controversial about the covert assassination program itself, and the controversy that has arisen over it has more to do with the failure to report covert activities to Congress. The political uproar and the manner in which the program was canceled, however, will likely have a negative impact on CIA morale and U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Program Details
As noted above, that the U.S. government has attempted to locate and kill al Qaeda members is not shocking. Bush’s signing of a classified finding authorizing the assassination of al Qaeda members has been a poorly kept secret for many years now, and the U.S. government has succeeded in killing al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

While Hellfire missiles are quite effective at hitting trucks in Yemen and AC-130 gunships are great for striking walled compounds in the Somali badlands, there are many places in the world where it is simply not possible to use such tools against militants. One cannot launch a hellfire from a UAV at a target in Milan or use an AC-130 to attack a target in Doha. Furthermore, there are certain parts of the world — including some countries considered to be U.S. allies — where it is very difficult for the United States to conduct counterterrorism operations at all. These difficulties have been seen in past cases where the governments have refused U.S. requests to detain terrorist suspects or have alerted the suspects to the U.S. interest in them, compromising U.S. intelligence efforts and allowing the suspects to flee.

A prime example of this occurred in 1996, when the United States asked the government of Qatar for assistance in capturing al Qaeda operational mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was living openly in Qatar and even working for the Qatari government as a project engineer. Mohammed was tipped off to American intentions by the Qatari authorities and fled to Pakistan. According to the 9/11 commission report, Mohammed was closely associated with Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani, who was then the Qatari minister of religious affairs. After fleeing Doha, Mohammed went on to plan several al Qaeda attacks against the United States, including the 9/11 operation.

Given these realities, it appears that the recently disclosed assassination program was intended to provide the United States with a far more subtle and surgical tool to use in attacks against al Qaeda leaders in locations where Hellfire missiles are not appropriate and where host government assistance is unlikely to be provided. Some media reports indicate that the program was never fully developed and deployed; others indicate that it may have conducted a limited number of operations.

Unlike UAV strikes, where pilots fly the vehicles by satellite link and can actually be located a half a world away, or the very tough and resilient airframe of an AC-130, which can fly thousands of feet above a target, a surgical assassination capability means that the CIA would have to put boots on the ground in hostile territory where operatives, by their very presence, would be violating the laws of the sovereign country in which they were operating. Such operatives, under nonofficial cover by necessity, would be at risk of arrest if they were detected.

Also, because of the nature of such a program, a higher level of operational security is required than in the program to strike al Qaeda targets using UAVs. It is far more complex to move officers and weapons into hostile territory in a stealthy manner to strike a target without warning and with plausible deniability. Once a target is struck with a barrage of Hellfire missiles, it is fairly hard to deny what happened. There is ample physical evidence tying the attack to American UAVs. When a person is struck by a sniper’s bullet or a small IED, the perpetrator and sponsor have far more deniability. By its very nature, and by operational necessity, such a program must be extremely covert.

Even with the cooperation of the host government, conducting an extraordinary rendition in a friendly country like Italy has proved to be politically controversial and personally risky for CIA officers, who can be threatened with arrest and trial. Conducting assassination operations in a country that is not so friendly is a far riskier undertaking. As seen by the Russian officers arrested in Doha after the February 2004 assassination of former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, such operations can generate blowback. The Russian officers responsible for the Yandarbiyev hit were arrested, tortured, tried and sentenced to life in prison (though after several months they were released into Russian custody to serve the remainder of their sentences).

Because of the physical risk to the officers involved in such operations, and the political blowback such operations can cause, it is not surprising that the details of such a program would be strictly compartmentalized inside the CIA and not widely disseminated beyond the gates of Langley. In fact, it is highly doubtful that the details of such a program were even widely known inside the CIA’s counterterrorism center (CTC) — though almost certainly some of the CTC staff suspected that such a covert program existed somewhere. The details regarding such a program were undoubtedly guarded carefully within the clandestine service, with the officer in charge most likely reporting directly to the deputy director of operations, who reports personally to the director of the CIA.

Loose Lips Sink Ships
As trite as this old saying may sound, it is painfully true. In the counterterrorism realm, leaks destroy counterterrorism cases and often allow terrorist suspects to escape and kill again. There have been several leaks of “sources and methods” by congressional sources over the past decade that have disclosed details of sensitive U.S. government programs designed to do things such as intercept al Qaeda satellite phone signals and track al Qaeda financing. A classified appendix to the report of the 2005 Robb-Silberman Commission on Intelligence Capabilities (which incidentally was leaked to the press) discussed several such leaks, noted the costs they impose on the American taxpayers and highlighted the damage they do to intelligence programs.

The fear that details of a sensitive program designed to assassinate al Qaeda operatives in foreign countries could be leaked was probably the reason for the Bush administration’s decision to withhold knowledge of the program from the U.S. Congress, even though amendments to the National Security Act of 1947 mandate the reporting of most covert intelligence programs to Congress. Given the imaginative legal guidance provided by Bush administration lawyers regarding subjects such as enhanced interrogation, it would not be surprising to find that White House lawyers focused on loopholes in the National Security Act reporting requirements.

The validity of such legal opinions may soon be tested. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, recently said he was considering an investigation into the failure to report the program to Congress, and House Democrats have announced that they want to change the reporting requirements to make them even more inclusive.

Under the current version of the National Security Act, with very few exceptions, the administration is required to report the most sensitive covert activities to, at the very least, the so-called “gang of eight” that includes the chairmen and ranking minority members of the congressional intelligence committees, the speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives and the majority and minority leaders of the Senate. In the wake of the program’s disclosure, some Democrats would like to expand this minimum reporting requirement to include the entire membership of the congressional intelligence committees, which would increase the absolute minimum number of people to be briefed from eight to 40. Some congressmen argue that presidents, prompted by the CIA, are too loose in their invocation of the “extraordinary circumstances” that allow them to report only to the gang of eight and not the full committees. Yet ironically, the existence of the covert CIA program stayed secret for over seven and a half years, and yet here we are writing about it less than a month after the congressional committees were briefed.

The addition of that many additional lips to briefings pertaining to covert actions is not the only thing that will cause great consternation at the CIA. While legally mandated, disclosing covert programs to Congress has been very problematic. The angst felt at Langley over potential increases in the number of people to be briefed will be compounded by the recent reports that Attorney General Eric Holder may appoint a special prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogations and ethics reporting.

In April we discussed how some of the early actions of the Obama administration were having a chilling effect on U.S. counterterrorism programs and personnel. Expanding the minimum reporting requirements under the National Security Act will serve to turn the thermostat down several additional notches, as did Panetta’s overt killing of the covert program. It is one thing to quietly kill a controversial program; it is quite another to repudiate the CIA in public. In addition to damaging the already low morale at the agency, Panetta has announced in a very public manner that the United States has taken one important tool entirely out of the counterterrorism toolbox: Al Qaeda no longer has to fear the possibility of clandestine American assassination teams.
23078  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fixing Airport Security on: July 15, 2009, 07:32:51 AM
      Fixing Airport Security



It's been months since the Transportation Security Administration has
had a permanent director. If, during the job interview (no, I didn't get
one), President Obama asked me how I'd fix airport security in one
sentence, I would reply: "Get rid of the photo ID check, and return
passenger screening to pre-9/11 levels."

Okay, that's a joke. While showing ID, taking your shoes off and
throwing away your water bottles isn't making us much safer, I don't
expect the Obama administration to roll back those security measures
anytime soon. Airport security is more about CYA than anything else:
defending against what the terrorists did last time.

But the administration can't risk appearing as if it facilitated a
terrorist attack, no matter how remote the possibility, so those
annoyances are probably here to stay.

This would be my real answer: "Establish accountability and transparency
for airport screening." And if I had another sentence: "Airports are one
of the places where Americans, and visitors to America, are most likely
to interact with a law enforcement officer - and yet no one knows what
rights travelers have or how to exercise those rights."

Obama has repeatedly talked about increasing openness and transparency
in government, and it's time to bring transparency to the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA).

Let's start with the no-fly and watch lists. Right now, everything about
them is secret: You can't find out if you're on one, or who put you
there and why, and you can't clear your name if you're innocent. This
Kafkaesque scenario is so un-American it's embarrassing. Obama should
make the no-fly list subject to judicial review.

Then, move on to the checkpoints themselves. What are our rights? What
powers do the TSA officers have? If we're asked "friendly" questions by
behavioral detection officers, are we allowed not to answer? If we
object to the rough handling of ourselves or our belongings, can the TSA
official retaliate against us by putting us on a watch list? Obama
should make the rules clear and explicit, and allow people to bring
legal action against the TSA for violating those rules; otherwise,
airport checkpoints will remain a Constitution-free zone in our country.

Next, Obama should refuse to use unfunded mandates to sneak expensive
security measures past Congress. The Secure Flight program is the worst
offender. Airlines are being forced to spend billions of dollars
redesigning their reservations systems to accommodate the TSA's demands
to preapprove every passenger before he or she is allowed to board an
airplane. These costs are borne by us, in the form of higher ticket
prices, even though we never see them explicitly listed.

Maybe Secure Flight is a good use of our money; maybe it isn't. But
let's have debates like that in the open, as part of the budget process,
where it belongs.

And finally, Obama should mandate that airport security be solely about
terrorism, and not a general-purpose security checkpoint to catch
everyone from pot smokers to deadbeat dads.

The Constitution provides us, both Americans and visitors to America,
with strong protections against invasive police searches. Two exceptions
come into play at airport security checkpoints. The first is "implied
consent," which means that you cannot refuse to be searched; your
consent is implied when you purchased your ticket. And the second is
"plain view," which means that if the TSA officer happens to see
something unrelated to airport security while screening you, he is
allowed to act on that.

Both of these principles are well established and make sense, but it's
their combination that turns airport security checkpoints into
police-state-like checkpoints.

The TSA should limit its searches to bombs and weapons and leave general
policing to the police - where we know courts and the Constitution still
apply.

None of these changes will make airports any less safe, but they will go
a long way to de-ratcheting the culture of fear, restoring the
presumption of innocence and reassuring Americans, and the rest of the
world, that - as Obama said in his inauguration speech - "we reject as
false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

This essay originally appeared, without hyperlinks, in the New York
Daily News.
http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2009/06/24/2009-06-24_clear_common_sense_for_takeoff_how_the_tsa_can_make_airport_security_work_for_pa.html
or http://tinyurl.com/kwa2pd

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/06/fixing_airport.html
23079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 12 undercover feds killed on: July 15, 2009, 07:26:21 AM
By DAVID LUHNOW
MEXICO CITY -- Twelve undercover federal police agents were captured, tortured, and executed by a relatively new and dangerous Mexican cartel calling itself La Familia, or The Family, officials said Tuesday.

The killings are a major psychological blow to President Felipe Calderón's war on drugs. The bodies of 11 men and one woman were found by locals on the side of a highway in Mr. Calderón's home state of Michoacán on Monday. The victims had their hands and feet tied, showed signs of torture, and had all been shot in the head at close range.

The agents had been in Michoacán to gather intelligence on the cartel, said Monte Alejandro Rubido, the government's top spokesman on security issues. Officials said they believed the killings were connected to the weekend capture of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, one of the cartel's major operators. "We have reinforced our operations in several states and we will not retreat a single step in our fight against organized crime," Mr. Rubido said at a news conference.

Since the Saturday arrest, gunmen believed to be working for the cartel have gone on a rampage, attacking police stations, army patrols and hotels in several different cities in Michoacán with grenades, AK-47s and AR-15 semiautomatic rifles. The attacks killed two soldiers and six other federal police agents, and wounded a further 18 agents.

Together with the executions, the toll from three days of violence climbed to 18 federal police agents killed, as well as the two soldiers -- not including about a dozen other civilian victims, police said. That would mark one of the bloodiest single episodes against federal forces since Mr. Calderón launched a crackdown on drug cartels shortly after taking power in December 2006.

The violence highlights the increasing power, brazenness, and operational capability of Mexican cartels like La Familia. Within a day of Mr. Rueda's arrest, gunmen attacked a hotel where police were staying in Apatzingán, federal police barracks in the tourist town of Pátzcuaro, a police base in Huetamo, and a police convoy on a rural road -- all in different parts of the state.

Since Mr. Calderón took power, more than 12,000 people have died in Mexico in drug-related killings.

The killings could raise political pressure on Mr. Calderón to retreat in the battle against drug lords. While the war on drugs is popular, many opposition politicians say it is only stirring up trouble and causing more violence. On Monday, leftist senator Carlos Navarrete called on Mr. Calderón to scale back the war on drugs, partly because traffickers could target senior law-enforcement and government officials.

The killings are also a major blow to the Federal Police. Mr. Calderón's government has invested millions in training, technology and arms for the agency, a two-year-old institution being fashioned after the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. It has been part of a national effort to clean up police agencies that have traditionally been corrupted by drug cartels.

Federal police have been dispatched across Mexico in joint operations with the military to take on drug organizations in areas where the local and state police are suspect. The officers work in two- to three-month shifts before being sent to a new hot spot. The reasoning is that if they are there any longer, the risk that the officers might succumb to offers of money or threats by the drug gangs becomes too great.

Responding to the violence, Mr. Calderón said that the cartels were increasingly desperate due to the crackdown by the federal government, which has included sending 45,000 troops to patrol cities. "In these cowardly attacks, brave members of our federal forces have lost their lives," Mr. Calderón said Tuesday. "They have fallen thinking it is possible to construct a safer Mexico. They have fallen fighting for the safety of all of us." A new poll by Mexican pollster GCE, however, showed that 51% of Mexicans believe the cartels have the upper hand in the drug war, while only 29% think the government is winning.

Of Mexico's major drug cartels, perhaps none is as dangerous as La Familia, a relatively obscure trafficking organization that has gained notoriety in the past year. Founded in part by a charismatic leader who preaches family values, the cartel first gained attention in 2006 in grisly fashion: By rolling the severed heads of five men onto a dance floor at a Michoacán disco, along with a hand-scrawled note warning off rival traffickers.

La Familia has tried to cast itself as a Robin Hood-type cartel, a quasi-legitimate business that gives back money to the poor, abides by a code of ethics such as not selling certain drugs like methamphetamines in Michoacán, and metes out justice to its enemies only when it is double-crossed. Experts say it recruits heavily among recovering drug and alcohol addicts. It has published manifestoes in local newspapers. One golden rule: "family" members of traffickers should be off-limits to both other traffickers and the federal government.

"It's a bit like a cult, a mixture of evangelicals with new-age self-help that gives members a sense of belonging and creates a very disciplined organization," says Alberto Islas, a security consultant based in Mexico City.

Federal officials say the cartel has infiltrated the state government to a shocking degree. Soldiers arrested 10 mayors in Michoacán, as well as 17 police chiefs, in May.

—Paul Kiernan and John Lyons contributed to this article.
Write to David Luhnow at david.luhnow@wsj.com

23080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Water on: July 15, 2009, 06:54:08 AM
This seems like a good idea to me:
https://www.getecocanteen.com/?mid=547814&a=55971&s=1226097887

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

By JAKE SHERMAN
WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing to raise about $10 billion a year to fix aging water and sewer systems by taxing the biggest users.

The legislation, which has sparked significant opposition from industry, is expected to be unveiled Wednesday at a news conference on Capitol Hill.

The bill calls for a 0.15% tax on any corporation earning a profit of more than $4 million a year. Manufacturers of any water-based beverages, excluding alcohol, would see a four-cent tax per container. Soaps, detergents, toiletries, toilet tissue, water softeners and cooking oils would face a 3% tax on wholesale prices. Pharmaceuticals would be taxed at 0.5% of the wholesale price.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.), the main sponsor of the Water Protection and Reinvestment Act, said he believed the bill was necessary to repair an aging system used by all Americans. The taxes, he said, would target some of the biggest users of water and companies that have the biggest stake in the efficiency of the system. He called the fees modest and fair.

The federal government has paid an average of $2.3 billion each year since 2000 to help maintain the water system. A spokeswoman for Mr. Blumenauer said the trust fund created under the bill would bring in about $10 billion a year.

Concerns about the safety and integrity of water systems is a perennial concern, particularly in older cities. Recent water-main breaks in New York City have disrupted traffic and transit.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative, Janet Kavinoky, said: "Anytime there's a broad base of general taxes being used to fund infrastructure, the chamber is going to take a close look at how that affects our members."

The chamber also has concerns that a federal subsidy for infrastructure repair could send a signal to local municipalities that they don't need to charge the real cost of providing water.

Representatives of the industries that would be hardest hit by the proposed fees said they feel unfairly targeted.

Joe Doss, president and chief executive of the International Bottled Water Association, said the proposal singled out one product category, while other water users wouldn't see tax increases.

Kevin Keane, senior vice president of the American Beverage Association, said beverage companies would almost certainly raise their prices to help compensate for the tax. This is just another example of "raising taxes on the middle class," Mr. Keane said. [It] would just add to the burden of taxpayers at a time they are already facing economic struggles," he said.

A representative from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said they have not yet developed an opinion on the legislation.

Mr. Blumenauer is set to testify on the legislation Wednesday in front of a panel of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Write to Jake Sherman at Jacob.Sherman@wsj.com

23081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Texas curriculum on: July 15, 2009, 06:50:46 AM
By STEPHANIE SIMON
The fight over school curriculum in Texas, recently focused on biology, has entered a new arena, with a brewing debate over how much faith belongs in American history classrooms.

The Texas Board of Education, which recently approved new science standards that made room for creationist critiques of evolution, is revising the state's social studies curriculum. In early recommendations from outside experts appointed by the board, a divide has opened over how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history.

Three reviewers, appointed by social conservatives, have recommended revamping the K-12 curriculum to emphasize the roles of the Bible, the Christian faith and the civic virtue of religion in the study of American history. Two of them want to remove or de-emphasize references to several historical figures who have become liberal icons, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall.

 
Associated Press
 
Don McLeroy, a member of the Texas State Board of Education.
"We're in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it," said Rev. Peter Marshall, a Christian minister and one of the reviewers appointed by the conservative camp.

Three other reviewers, all selected by politically moderate or liberal members of the board, recommended less-sweeping changes to the existing curriculum. But one suggested including more diverse role models, especially Latinos, in teaching materials. "We have tended to exclude or marginalize the role of Hispanic and Native American participants in the state's history," said Jesús F. de la Teja, chairman of the history department at Texas State University.

Social studies teachers from Texas are meeting this summer to write new standards. They can accept, reject or modify the six reviewers' suggestions, all of which were made individually. The teachers' recommendations are sent to the 15-member board of education, a conservative-dominated body that has authority to revise standards.

The three reviewers appointed by the moderate and liberal board members are all professors of history or education at Texas universities, including Mr. de la Teja, a former state historian. The reviewers appointed by conservatives include two who run conservative Christian organizations: David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, a group that promotes America's Christian heritage; and Rev. Marshall, who preaches that Watergate, the Vietnam War and Hurricane Katrina were God's judgments on the nation's sexual immorality. The third is Daniel Dreisbach, a professor of public affairs at American University.

Discuss
Have there been any curricula debates in your communities? Have you ever looked at your children's history texts? Discuss the issues with other readers in WSJ's Juggle blog.
The conservative reviewers say they believe that children must learn that America's founding principles are biblical. For instance, they say the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution stems from a scriptural understanding of man's fall and inherent sinfulness, or "radical depravity," which means he can be governed only by an intricate system of checks and balances.

The curriculum, they say, should clearly present Christianity as an overall force for good -- and a key reason for American exceptionalism, the notion that the country stands above and apart.

"America is a special place and we need to be sure we communicate that to our children," said Don McLeroy, a leading conservative on the board. "The foundational principles of our country are very biblical.... That needs to come out in the textbooks."

But the emphasis on Christianity as a driving force is disputed by some historians, who focus on the economic motivation of many colonists and the fractured views of religion among the Founding Fathers. "There appears to me too much politics in some of this," said Lybeth Hodges, a professor of history at Texas Woman's University and another of the curriculum reviewers.

Some outside observers argue that curriculum analysts should be trained academics. "It's important to have trained historians establishing the framework," said David Vigilante, associate director of the National Center for History in the Schools at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The conservative Christian reviewers, in turn, are skeptical of the professional historians' emphasis on multiculturalism, views stated most forcefully by Mr. de la Teja but echoed by Ms. Hodges. Reaching for examples of achievement by different racial and ethnic groups is divisive, Mr. Barton said, and distorts history.

The standards that the school board eventually settles on won't dictate day-to-day lesson plans; that is up to individual teachers. But they will offer clear guidelines for educators -- and also for publishers.

Nearly every state has its own curriculum standards, and there are scores of social studies texts to choose from at most grade levels, so what happens in Texas won't necessarily affect other states. But the Texas market is huge, so most big publishers aggressively seek approval from the board, in some cases adopting the majority's editing suggestions nearly verbatim.

While the battle in Texas is just heating up, the tug-of-war over how to present history dates back nearly 150 years, said Jonathan Zimmerman, a New York University professor of education. A single paragraph in a third-grade text might seem insignificant. But it is a powerful symbol, he said, "because schools remain the most important venue for teaching our kids who we are."
23082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / So? on: July 15, 2009, 06:31:27 AM
Here's a different POV:

      North Korean Cyberattacks



To hear the media tell it, the United States suffered a major
cyberattack last week.  Stories were everywhere. "Cyber Blitz hits U.S.,
Korea" was the headline in Thursday's Wall Street Journal. North Korea
was blamed.

Where were you when North Korea attacked America?  Did you feel the fury
of North Korea's armies?  Were you fearful for your country?  Or did
your resolve strengthen, knowing that we would defend our homeland
bravely and valiantly?

My guess is that you didn't even notice, that -- if you didn't open a
newspaper or read a news website -- you had no idea anything was
happening.  Sure, a few government websites were knocked out, but that's
not alarming or even uncommon. Other government websites were attacked
but defended themselves, the sort of thing that happens all the time. If
this is what an international cyberattack looks like, it hardly seems
worth worrying about at all.

Politically motivated cyber attacks are nothing new. We've seen UK vs.
Ireland. Israel vs. the Arab states. Russia vs. several former Soviet
Republics. India vs. Pakistan, especially after the nuclear bomb tests
in 1998. China vs. the United States, especially in 2001 when a U.S. spy
plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet. And so on and so on.

The big one happened in 2007, when the government of Estonia was
attacked in cyberspace following a diplomatic incident with Russia about
the relocation of a Soviet World War II memorial. The networks of many
Estonian organizations, including the Estonian parliament, banks,
ministries, newspapers and broadcasters, were attacked and -- in many
cases -- shut down.  Estonia was quick to blame Russia, which was
equally quick to deny any involvement.

It was hyped as the first cyberwar, but after two years there is still
no evidence that the Russian government was involved. Though Russian
hackers were indisputably the major instigators of the attack, the only
individuals positively identified have been young ethnic Russians living
inside Estonia, who were angry over the statue incident.

Poke at any of these international incidents, and what you find are kids
playing politics. Last Wednesday, South Korea's National Intelligence
Service admitted that it didn't actually know that North Korea was
behind the attacks: "North Korea or North Korean sympathizers in the
South" was what it said. Once again, it'll be kids playing politics.

This isn't to say that cyberattacks by governments aren't an issue, or
that cyberwar is something to be ignored. The constant attacks by
Chinese nationals against U.S. networks may not be government-sponsored,
but it's pretty clear that they're tacitly government-approved.
Criminals, from lone hackers to organized crime syndicates, attack
networks all the time. And war expands to fill every possible theater:
land, sea, air, space, and now cyberspace. But cyberterrorism is nothing
more than a media invention designed to scare people. And for there to
be a cyberwar, there first needs to be a war.

Israel is currently considering attacking Iran in cyberspace, for
example.  If it tries, it'll discover that attacking computer networks
is an inconvenience to the nuclear facilities it's targeting, but
doesn't begin to substitute for bombing them.

In May, President Obama gave a major speech on cybersecurity.  He was
right when he said that cybersecurity is a national security issue, and
that the government needs to step up and do more to prevent
cyberattacks. But he couldn't resist hyping the threat with scare
stories: "In one of the most serious cyber incidents to date against our
military networks, several thousand computers were infected last year by
malicious software -- malware," he said. What he didn't add was that
those infections occurred because the Air Force couldn't be bothered to
keep its patches up to date.

This is the face of cyberwar: easily preventable attacks that, even when
they succeed, only a few people notice.  Even this current incident is
turning out to be a sloppily modified five-year-old worm that no modern
network should still be vulnerable to.

Securing our networks doesn't require some secret advanced NSA
technology.  It's the boring network security administration stuff we
already know how to do: keep your patches up to date, install good
anti-malware software, correctly configure your firewalls and
intrusion-detection systems, monitor your networks. And while some
government and corporate networks do a pretty good job at this, others
fail again and again.

Enough of the hype and the bluster. The news isn't the attacks, but that
some networks had security lousy enough to be vulnerable to them.

This essay originally appeared on the Minnesota Public Radio website.
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/07/10/schneier/

A copy of this essay, with all embedded links, is here:
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/07/north_korean_cy.html
23083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Security, Group Size, and the Human Brain on: July 15, 2009, 06:27:37 AM
      Security, Group Size, and the Human Brain



If the size of your company grows past 150 people, it's time to get name
badges. It's not that larger groups are somehow less secure, it's just
that 150 is the cognitive limit to the number of people a human brain
can maintain a coherent social relationship with.

Primatologist Robin Dunbar derived this number by comparing neocortex --
the "thinking" part of the mammalian brain -- volume with the size of
primate social groups. By analyzing data from 38 primate genera and
extrapolating to the human neocortex size, he predicted a human "mean
group size" of roughly 150.

This number appears regularly in human society; it's the estimated size
of a Neolithic farming village, the size at which Hittite settlements
split, and the basic unit in professional armies from Roman times to the
present day. Larger group sizes aren't as stable because their members
don't know each other well enough. Instead of thinking of the members as
people, we think of them as groups of people. For such groups to
function well, they need externally imposed structure, such as name badges.

Of course, badges aren't the only way to determine in-group/out-group
status. Other markers include insignia, uniforms, and secret handshakes.
They have different security properties and some make more sense than
others at different levels of technology, but once a group reaches 150
people, it has to do something.

More generally, there are several layers of natural human group size
that increase with a ratio of approximately three: 5, 15, 50, 150, 500,
and 1500 -- although, really, the numbers aren't as precise as all that,
and groups that are less focused on survival tend to be smaller. The
layers relate to both the intensity and intimacy of relationship and the
frequency of contact.

The smallest, three to five, is a "clique": the number of people from
whom you would seek help in times of severe emotional distress. The
twelve to 20 group is the "sympathy group": people with which you have
special ties. After that, 30 to 50 is the typical size of
hunter-gatherer overnight camps, generally drawn from the same pool of
150 people. No matter what size company you work for, there are only
about 150 people you consider to be "co-workers." (In small companies,
Alice and Bob handle accounting. In larger companies, it's the
accounting department -- and maybe you know someone there personally.)
The 500-person group is the "megaband," and the 1,500-person group is
the "tribe." Fifteen hundred is roughly the number of faces we can put
names to, and the typical size of a hunter-gatherer society.

These numbers are reflected in military organization throughout history:
squads of 10 to 15 organized into platoons of three to four squads,
organized into companies of three to four platoons, organized into
battalions of three to four companies, organized into regiments of three
to four battalions, organized into divisions of two to three regiments,
and organized into corps of two to three divisions.

Coherence can become a real problem once organizations get above about
150 in size.  So as group sizes grow across these boundaries, they have
more externally imposed infrastructure -- and more formalized security
systems. In intimate groups, pretty much all security is ad hoc.
Companies smaller than 150 don't bother with name badges; companies
greater than 500 hire a guard to sit in the lobby and check badges.  The
military have had centuries of experience with this under rather trying
circumstances, but even there the real commitment and bonding invariably
occurs at the company level. Above that you need to have rank imposed by
discipline.

The whole brain-size comparison might be bunk, and a lot of evolutionary
psychologists disagree with it. But certainly security systems become
more formalized as groups grow larger and their members less known to
each other. When do more formal dispute resolution systems arise: town
elders, magistrates, judges? At what size boundary are formal
authentication schemes required? Small companies can get by without the
internal forms, memos, and procedures that large companies require; when
does what tend to appear? How does punishment formalize as group size
increase? And how do all these things affect group coherence? People act
differently on social networking sites like Facebook when their list of
"friends" grows larger and less intimate. Local merchants sometimes let
known regulars run up tabs. I lend books to friends with much less
formality than a public library. What examples have you seen?

An edited version of this essay, without links, appeared in the
July/August 2009 issue of IEEE Security & Privacy.

A copy of this essay, with all embedded links, is here:
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/07/security_group.html
23084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Persons and property on: July 15, 2009, 06:13:10 AM
"It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated."

--James Madison, Speech at the Virginia Convention, December 2, 1829
23085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / How to die? on: July 15, 2009, 06:03:25 AM
Woof All:

Question presented:  How would you like to die?

The Adventure continues,
Marc
===================================

With Help, Conductor and Wife Ended Lives
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy JOHN F. BURNS
Published: July 14, 2009
LONDON — The controversy over the ethical and legal issues surrounding assisted suicide for the terminally ill was thrown into stark relief on Tuesday with the announcement that one of Britain’s most distinguished orchestra conductors, Sir Edward Downes, had flown to Switzerland last week with his wife and joined her in drinking a lethal cocktail of barbiturates provided by an assisted-suicide clinic.

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Toby Wales
Sir Edward Downes conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in 1999.

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Although friends who spoke to the British news media said Sir Edward was not known to have been terminally ill, they said he wanted to die with his ailing wife, who had been his partner for more than half a century.

The couple’s children said in an interview with the London Evening Standard that on Tuesday of last week they accompanied their father, 85, and their mother, Joan, 74, on the flight from London to Zurich, where the Swiss group Dignitas helped arrange the suicides. On Friday, the children said, they watched, weeping, as their parents drank “a small quantity of clear liquid” before lying down on adjacent beds, holding hands.

“Within a couple of minutes they were asleep, and died within 10 minutes,” Caractacus Downes, the couple’s 41-year-old son, said in the interview after his return to Britain. “They wanted to be next to each other when they died.” He added, “It is a very civilized way to end your life, and I don’t understand why the legal position in this country doesn’t allow it.”

Sir Edward, who was described in a statement issued earlier on Tuesday by Mr. Downes and his sister, Boudicca, 39, as “almost blind and increasingly deaf,” was principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra from 1980 to 1991. He was also a conductor of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London, where he led 950 performances over more than 50 years.

Lady Downes, who British newspapers said was in the final stages of terminal cancer, was a former ballet dancer, choreographer and television producer who devoted her later years to working as her husband’s assistant.

“After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems,” the Downes children said in their statement.

Scotland Yard said in a statement on Tuesday that it had been informed on Monday “that a man and a woman” from London had died in Switzerland, and that it was “looking into the circumstances.” The information that prompted the police inquiry appeared to have been given voluntarily by the Downes family, which, Caractacus Downes said, “didn’t want to be untruthful about what had happened.”

“Even if they arrest us and send us to prison, it would have made no difference because it is what our parents wanted,” he said.

Attempting suicide is a criminal offense in Britain, as is assisting others in killing themselves. But since the Zurich clinic run by Dignitas was established in 1998 under Swiss laws that allow clinics to provide lethal drugs, British authorities have effectively turned a blind eye to Britons who go there to die.

None of the family members and friends who have accompanied the 117 people living in Britain who have traveled to the Zurich clinic for help in ending their lives have been charged with an offense. Legal experts said it was unlikely that that would change in the Downes case.

But British news reports about the Downes’ suicides noted one factor that appeared to set the case apart from most others involving the Dignitas clinic: Sir Edward appeared not to have been terminally ill. There have been at least three other cases similar to the Downes’, in which a spouse who was not terminally ill chose to die with the other.

Sir Edward was known for his support for British composers and his passion for Prokofiev and Verdi. After studying at the Royal College of Music in London, he joined the Royal Opera House in 1952. His first assignment was prompting the soprano Maria Callas. He traveled widely as a conductor and became music director of the Australian Opera in the 1970s.

Friends of Sir Edward said that his decision to die with his wife did not surprise them. “Ted was completely rational,” said Richard Wigley, the general manager of the BBC Philharmonic. “So I can well imagine him, being so rational, saying, ‘It’s been great, so let’s end our lives together.’ ”

Jonathan Groves, Sir Edward’s manager, called their decision “typically brave and courageous.”

But even among those who support decriminalizing assisted suicide, Sir Edward’s death raised troubling questions. Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said in a BBC interview that the growing numbers of Britons going abroad to die, and the manner of their deaths, made it more urgent to amend Britain’s laws. There are “no safeguards, no brakes on the process at all,” she said.

The British Medical Association voted this month against legalizing assisted suicide, or lifting the threat of prosecution from “friends and relatives who accompany loved ones to die abroad.” Last week, the House of Lords defeated a bill that would have allowed people, subject to safeguards, to travel abroad to help people choosing to die.
23086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: July 14, 2009, 10:55:42 PM
 cool
23087  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / More on our success on: July 14, 2009, 03:47:28 PM
Friday, July 10, 2009 Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.

The measure would exempt assisted-opening knives that can only be opened with "exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist or arm" from a federal law that criminalizes commerce in switchblades. Assisted opening knives are highly desired by hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, firefighters, law enforcement and emergency personnel and others who may need to open a knife with only one hand.

"The Senate sent a strong message and made clear that the 35 million Americans who own pocketknives are free to continue using them without the threat of federal agency intrusion," Sen. Cornyn said in a statement today. "While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposed changing that, my colleagues joined in a unanimous, bipartisan effort to ensure assisted-opening pocketknives are protected by the law. What's more, the CBP reversal would have inflicted serious economic harm to sporting goods manufacturers and retailers."

In the same statement, Sen. Hatch said, "Without this amendment, there is a real danger that 80 percent of the pocketknives sold in the U.S. could be classified as illegal switchblades, which would hurt knife and tool manufacturers across the nation. The unintended consequences of the CBP's definition could be that state and federal criminal courts could construe Leatherman-type multi-tools equipped with one-hand opening features, as well as folding utility knives with studs on the blunt portions of the blade to assist with opening, to be illegal. That is absurd."

Thursday's Senate action puts us one step closer to passing this common-sense measure into law. The measure now heads to a House-Senate Conference Committee.

To view the amendment, please click here: http://www.kniferights.org/SAmdt%201447.pdf
23088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items on: July 14, 2009, 03:46:43 PM
More on the success of our ACTION:

Friday, July 10, 2009 Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.
The measure would exempt assisted-opening knives that can only be opened with "exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist or arm" from a federal law that criminalizes commerce in switchblades. Assisted opening knives are highly desired by hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, firefighters, law enforcement and emergency personnel and others who may need to open a knife with only one hand.
"The Senate sent a strong message and made clear that the 35 million Americans who own pocketknives are free to continue using them without the threat of federal agency intrusion," Sen. Cornyn said in a statement today. "While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposed changing that, my colleagues joined in a unanimous, bipartisan effort to ensure assisted-opening pocketknives are protected by the law. What's more, the CBP reversal would have inflicted serious economic harm to sporting goods manufacturers and retailers."
In the same statement, Sen. Hatch said, "Without this amendment, there is a real danger that 80 percent of the pocketknives sold in the U.S. could be classified as illegal switchblades, which would hurt knife and tool manufacturers across the nation. The unintended consequences of the CBP's definition could be that state and federal criminal courts could construe Leatherman-type multi-tools equipped with one-hand opening features, as well as folding utility knives with studs on the blunt portions of the blade to assist with opening, to be illegal. That is absurd."
Thursday's Senate action puts us one step closer to passing this common-sense measure into law. The measure now heads to a House-Senate Conference Committee.
To view the amendment, please click here: http://www.kniferights.org/SAmdt%201447.pdf
23089  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Good news? on: July 14, 2009, 01:20:35 PM
http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Fe...d.aspx?id=5043

Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.
23090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Success in preventing bad knife regulation? on: July 14, 2009, 01:11:17 PM
It appears our efforts (see knife law thread on martial arts forum) have succeeded  cool cool cool

http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Fe...d.aspx?id=5043

Late Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed anamendment to the Federal Switchblade Act as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), changes the federal law under which one agency had tried to redefine many common knives as switchblades.
23091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Zero % Solution on: July 14, 2009, 01:05:20 PM
By PETER FERRARA
The federal income tax code is now so mangled that we can probably increase federal revenues with a 0% income tax rate for a majority of Americans.

Long before President Barack Obama took office, the bottom 40% of income earners paid no federal income taxes. Because of refundable income tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), in 2006 these bottom 40% as a group actually received net payments equal to 3.6% of total income tax revenues, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office data. The actual middle class, the middle 20% of income earners, pay only 4.4% of total federal income tax revenues. That means the bottom 60% together pay less than 1% of income tax revenues.

This actually resulted from Republican tax policy going all the way back to the EITC, which was first proposed by Ronald Reagan in his historic 1972 testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on the success of his welfare reforms as governor of California. Besides calling for workfare, Reagan proposed the EITC to offset the burden of Social Security payroll taxes on the poor. As president, Reagan cut and indexed income tax rates across the board and doubled the personal exemption. The Republican majority Congress, led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, adopted a child tax credit that President George W. Bush later expanded and made refundable, while also reducing the bottom tax rate by 33% to 10%.

President Bill Clinton expanded the EITC in 1993. But it was primarily Republicans who abolished federal income taxes for the working class and almost abolished them for the middle class. Now Mr. Obama has led enactment of a refundable $400 per worker income tax credit and other refundable credits, which probably leaves the bottom 60% paying nothing as a group on net.

Many conservatives are deeply troubled by this, arguing that everyone should be contributing something to the tax burden. They worry that, not paying for any of the tab, this majority will see no reason not to vote for limitless spending burdens. But are conservatives now going to campaign on increasing taxes on the bottom 60%, arguing that is good tax and social policy? Steve Lonegan recently demonstrated in the New Jersey gubernatorial primary that this is not a viable political position. He proposed a 3% state flat tax which, while very good tax policy, would increase taxes slightly for the bottom half of income earners. His victorious opponent Chris Christie pounded away in advertising on that point.

But what if Republicans proposed a federal tax reform with a 0% income tax rate for the bottom 60% of income earners? With that explicit 0% tax rate framing the issue, abolishing the refundable tax credits that actually ship money to lower income earners through the tax code would become politically viable. Trading an explicit 0% tax rate for the bottom 60% in return for eliminating the refundable tax credits would likely be at least revenue neutral, and probably result in a net increase in revenue.

Such tax reform can and should be combined with overall welfare reform based on work that would ensure an adequate safety net for the poor. Considering the success of the 1996 reform to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, further reform could result in huge overall savings. Besides AFDC, there are 85 more federally administered welfare programs that could benefit from reform.

Moreover, we should then be free to adopt sound tax policy for the top 40% of earners who make 75% of total income. Suppose we tax all of the income of those top 40% once with a 15% flat tax? That would be close to revenue neutral on a dynamic basis (i.e. counting work incentive effects).

The usual distribution arguments against such a flat rate would not apply because the bottom 60% would bear a 0% rate. All flat tax proposals effectively try to do the same through generous personal exemptions that are tax neutral for low- and moderate-income workers. But the explicit 0% rate would make the reform more easily understood.

This -- rather than adopting still more refundable tax credits as some conservatives are advocating -- is also the way to eliminate the distorting tax preference for employer-provided health insurance. For the bottom 60%, there would no longer be any health insurance tax preference, and for the rest the favoritism would be reduced to a minimal 15%. Or the tax exclusion for employer provided health benefits could be eliminated altogether, affecting only the top 40%. The economic distortions caused by every other tax preference in the code would be minimized or eliminated entirely in this same way.

Contrary to the fears of conservatives, this tax system would sharply limit the size of government. No politician would dare suggest imposing income taxes anew on the bottom 60%. While the last two Democratic presidents won by running on a tax cut for the middle class, that game would be over. Instead conservatives can argue for middle-income and working-class votes to protect the 0% tax rate from big government liberals. As the Obama administration will soon learn, higher income earners have flexibility in their taxable income and increasing revenues by raising taxes on them is not easy.

Mr. Ferrara is director of entitlement and budget policy for the Institute for Policy Innovation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan.
23092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sotomayor seeks to undermine US sovereignty on: July 14, 2009, 01:01:40 PM
By COLLIN LEVY

Sonia Sotomayor will parry a wide range of questions about her judicial philosophy during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the Senate this week. The most revealing line of inquiry may be about her views on the use of foreign and international law when judging cases.

Like several of the judges on the left branch of the court, Judge Sotomayor has said she favors a broader consideration of foreign and international law in U.S. judicial opinions. While she rarely had occasion to dip into foreign sources during her time on the Second Circuit, she recently went out of her way to embrace the concept and its applications by the high court.

In a speech to the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico in April, Judge Sotomayor explained that "ideas have no boundaries," and that "international law and foreign law will be very important in the discussion of how to think about the unsettled issues in our own legal system." To discourage the use of foreign or international law, she added, would "be asking American judges to close their minds to good ideas."

That's political quicksand for a judge Democrats are eager to portray as a moderate inclined to narrow reading of text and precedent.

Of particular interest to the confirmation hearings will be Judge Sotomayor's favorable reference in the ACLU speech to the Supreme Court's reasoning in two recent cases citing foreign and international law: Roper v. Simmons and Lawrence v. Texas. In Roper, the Court drew on international criticism of the death penalty to buttress the argument that it should be prohibited for juveniles under the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

In Lawrence v. Texas, the court overturned a Texas statute against sodomy on the grounds that it violated due process. In his opinion for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited the European Court of Human Rights to show that the court's earlier decision in Bowers v. Hardwick was incorrect. In both those cases, Judge Sotomayor said, the court was using the foreign or international law to "help us understand what the concepts meant to other countries and . . . whether our understanding of our own constitutional rights fell into the mainstream of human thinking."

Cases like Roper and Lawrence fit squarely into that area of overseas law most sought after for borrowing by the more liberal justices of the court -- that is, the realms of moral or social policy. The problem with such inspiration is that it is inherently subjective and arbitrary. The laws of the world are infinitely diverse, and praising one necessarily condemns another. Cherry-picking desirable law introduces the very kind of legal chaos our Constitution was designed to prevent. If one judge may look to the courts of Western Europe for expansion of liberal thoughts on human rights, why may another not look to decidedly less liberal ideas?

Iran allows women who appear without a hijab on the streets to be lashed 74 times. China limits families to bearing one child. Even the democracies of Western Europe have laws that differ broadly from ours. Few countries, for instance, share our rules protecting the rights of the accused, or have the U.S.'s constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

In his dissent from the court's reliance on foreign law in Roper v. Simmons, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that "The Court should either profess its willingness to reconsider all these matters in light of the views of foreigners, or else it should cease putting forth foreigners' views as part of the reasoned basis of its decisions. To invoke alien law when it agrees with one's own thinking and ignore it otherwise is not reasoned decision making, but sophistry."

There are plenty of ways to use foreign law appropriately -- most obviously in comparing standards for implementation in the case of treaties. Some judges have also looked to Constitutional antecedents like English jurist William Blackstone to help better understand the context and thinking of the Founders and their foundations in English common law.

Outside of that, using foreign law as a guidepost or inspiration raises issues of both sovereignty and democracy by permitting jurists outside the U.S. system to guide the trajectory of our democracy. The proper place for the consideration of whatever "good ideas" may be found in foreign law is not the courts but the Congress.

Judge Sotomayor insists in the ACLU speech that the brouhaha about foreign and international law is due to a misunderstanding about how she and others like Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg would propose to use it. The point, she says, isn't that judges actually use foreign decisions as precedent (er, well, of course they don't), but that they open their minds to the intellectual force of their foreign counterparts.

But either foreign ideas carry weight by butressing judicial arguments, or they don't. Judicial opinions are written with great precision and care because they matter, and each strand of argument becomes a part of the grit and texture of American law.

No one is suggesting that judges stop reading or learning in ways that help expand their understanding of the law and the cases they are hearing. But that is an altogether different matter than official citation in a decision.

Our system of government has stood the test of time not in spite of but because it is uniquely drawn from the priorities of our own citizens, and them alone. The responsibility of the Supreme Court is neither to win an international beauty pageant, nor to encourage the export of our ideas. It is to extend principles of the Founders and the words of the Constitution into a world that still needs their wisdom.

Ms. Levy is a senior editorial writer for the Journal, based in Washington.
23093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / N Y Times: Water crisis: Euphrates at record lows on: July 14, 2009, 10:42:34 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

July 14, 2009

Iraq Suffers as the Euphrates River Dwindles

By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON


JUBAISH, Iraq — Throughout the marshes, the reed gatherers, standing on land they once floated over, cry out to visitors in a passing boat.

“Maaku mai!” they shout, holding up their rusty sickles. “There is no water!”

The Euphrates is drying up. Strangled by the water policies of Iraq’s neighbors, Turkey and Syria; a two-year drought; and years of misuse by Iraq and its farmers, the river is significantly smaller than it was just a few years ago. Some officials worry that it could soon be half of what it is now.

The shrinking of the Euphrates, a river so crucial to the birth of civilization that the Book of Revelation prophesied its drying up as a sign of the end times, has decimated farms along its banks, has left fishermen impoverished and has depleted riverside towns as farmers flee to the cities looking for work.

( Added by Lightfighter, Revelation 16:12 NIV / Verse 12: The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. )

The poor suffer more acutely, but all strata of society are feeling the effects: sheiks, diplomats and even members of Parliament who retreat to their farms after weeks in Baghdad.

Along the river, rice and wheat fields have turned to baked dirt. Canals have dwindled to shallow streams, and fishing boats sit on dry land. Pumps meant to feed water treatment plants dangle pointlessly over brown puddles.

“The old men say it’s the worst they remember,” said Sayid Diyia, 34, a fisherman in Hindiya, sitting in a riverside cafe full of his idle colleagues. “I’m depending on God’s blessings.”

The drought is widespread in Iraq. The area sown with wheat and barley in the rain-fed north is down roughly 95 percent from the usual, and the date palm and citrus orchards of the east are parched. For two years rainfall has been far below normal, leaving the reservoirs dry, and American officials predict that wheat and barley output will be a little over half of what it was two years ago.

It is a crisis that threatens the roots of Iraq’s identity, not only as the land between two rivers but as a nation that was once the largest exporter of dates in the world, that once supplied German beer with barley and that takes patriotic pride in its expensive Anbar rice.

Now Iraq is importing more and more grain. Farmers along the Euphrates say, with anger and despair, that they may have to abandon Anbar rice for cheaper varieties.

Droughts are not rare in Iraq, though officials say they have been more frequent in recent years. But drought is only part of what is choking the Euphrates and its larger, healthier twin, the Tigris.

The most frequently cited culprits are the Turkish and Syrian governments. Iraq has plenty of water, but it is a downstream country. There are at least seven dams on the Euphrates in Turkey and Syria, according to Iraqi water officials, and with no treaties or agreements, the Iraqi government is reduced to begging its neighbors for water.

At a conference in Baghdad — where participants drank bottled water from Saudi Arabia, a country with a fraction of Iraq’s fresh water — officials spoke of disaster.

“We have a real thirst in Iraq,” said Ali Baban, the minister of planning. “Our agriculture is going to die, our cities are going to wilt, and no state can keep quiet in such a situation.”

Recently, the Water Ministry announced that Turkey had doubled the water flow into the Euphrates, salvaging the planting phase of the rice season in some areas.

That move increased water flow to about 60 percent of its average, just enough to cover half of the irrigation requirements for the summer rice season. Though Turkey has agreed to keep this up and even increase it, there is no commitment binding the country to do so.

With the Euphrates showing few signs of increasing health, bitterness over Iraq’s water threatens to be a source of tension for months or even years to come between Iraq and its neighbors. Many American, Turkish and even Iraqi officials, disregarding the accusations as election-year posturing, say the real problem lies in Iraq’s own deplorable water management policies.

“There used to be water everywhere,” said Abduredha Joda, 40, sitting in his reed hut on a dry, rocky plot of land outside Karbala. Mr. Joda, who describes his dire circumstances with a tired smile, grew up near Basra but fled to Baghdad when Saddam Hussein drained the great marshes of southern Iraq in retaliation for the 1991 Shiite uprising. He came to Karbala in 2004 to fish and raise water buffaloes in the lush wetlands there that remind him of his home.

“This year it’s just a desert,” he said.

Along the river, there is no shortage of resentment at the Turks and Syrians. But there is also resentment at the Americans, Kurds, Iranians and the Iraqi government, all of whom are blamed. Scarcity makes foes of everyone.

The Sunni areas upriver seem to have enough water, Mr. Joda observed, a comment heavy with implication.

Officials say nothing will improve if Iraq does not seriously address its own water policies and its history of flawed water management. Leaky canals and wasteful irrigation practices squander the water, and poor drainage leaves fields so salty from evaporated water that women and children dredge huge white mounds from sitting pools of runoff.

On a scorching morning in Diwaniya, Bashia Mohammed, 60, was working in a drainage pool by the highway gathering salt, her family’s only source of income now that its rice farm has dried up. But the dead farm was not the real crisis.

“There’s no water in the river that we drink from,” she said, referring to a channel that flows from the Euphrates. “It’s now totally dry, and it contains sewage water. They dig wells but sometimes the water just cuts out and we have to drink from the river. All my kids are sick because of the water.”

In the southeast, where the Euphrates nears the end of its 1,730-mile journey and mingles with the less salty waters of the Tigris before emptying into the Persian Gulf, the situation is grave. The marshes there that were intentionally reflooded in 2003, rescuing the ancient culture of the marsh Arabs, are drying up again. Sheep graze on land in the middle of the river.

The farmers, reed gatherers and buffalo herders keep working, but they say they cannot continue if the water stays like this.

“Next winter will be the final chance,” said Hashem Hilead Shehi, a 73-year-old farmer who lives in a bone-dry village west of the marshes. “If we are not able to plant, then all of the families will leave.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/14/wo...euphrates.html
23094  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Chabad on: July 14, 2009, 05:14:30 AM
Mixtures


Once we ate from the tree of knowing good with evil, our world became a place of compounds and mixtures. You will not find beauty without ugliness, joy without sorrow, pleasure without pain. You cannot invent a thing that will provide benefit without threat of harm, or a man on this earth who does only good without fault.

Wherever you will find one form of good, you will find another sort of evil. And where that evil does not lie, another will take its place. Rare it is, so rare, to find pure and simple goodness in a single being.

Therefore, do not reject any thing for the harm it may render, nor despise any man for the ugliness within him. Rather, use each thing towards the purpose G-d conceived it for, and learn from each man all he has to offer.


23095  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / New SF manual on: July 13, 2009, 04:46:16 PM
From a post on the WT forum:

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

The Latest Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook



Jim,
Among the books listed by the recent "favorite books" survey respondents was the US Army Special Forces Medical Handbook (ST31-91B). This book is obsolete and has been supplanted by the Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook.

The best summaries as to why the one is obsolete I've found are:
“That manual is a relic of sentimental and historical interest only, advocating treatments that, if used by today’s medics, would result in disciplinary measures,” wrote Dr. Warner Anderson, a U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) and former associate dean of the Special Warfare Medical Group.
“The manual you reference is of great historical importance in illustrating the advances made in SOF medicine in the past 25 years. But it no more reflects current SOF practice than a 25 year-old Merck Manual reflects current Family Practice. In 2007, it is merely a curiosity.”

“Readers who use some of the tips and remedies could potentially cause harm to themselves or their patients.”


JWR Adds: The new manual is a massive 680 pages. Here is the table of contents:
PART 1: OPERATIONAL ISSUES
PART 2: CLINICAL PROCESS
PART 3: GENERAL SYMPTOMS
PART 4: ORGAN SYSTEMS
Cardiac/Circulatory
Blood
Respiratory
Endocrine
Neurologic
Skin
Gastrointestinal
Genitourinary
PART 5: SPECIALTY AREAS
Podiatry
Dentistry
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Zoonotic Diseases Chart
Infectious Diseases
Preventive Medicine
Veterinary Medicine
Nutritional Deficiencies
Toxicology
Mental Health
Anesthesia
PART 6: OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENTS
Dive Medicine
Aerospace Medicine
High Altitude Illnesses
Cold Illnesses and Injuries
Heat-Related Illnesses
Chemical
Biological
Radiation
PART 7: TRAUMA
Trauma Assessment
Human and Animal Bites
Shock
Burns, Blast, Lightning, & Electrical Injuries
Non-Lethal Weapons Injuries
PART 8: PROCEDURES
Basic Medical Skills
Lab Procedures
APPENDICES
Thanks, - Frankie

JWR Replies: Thanks for mentioning the new manual! I have updated both the survey results post and the SurvivalBlog Bookshelf page, accordingly. OBTW, I have had difficulty finding an original copy of the new manual at a reasonable price. The copies that are presently listed on Amazon are "secondary market", at grossly inflated prices. But the good news is that the GPO also publishes a paperback edition for $59. I would prefer the military 9.7" x 6.4" edition that is three-hole punched (and hence will lay flat when open--making it a better "working" reference), but the GPO paperback edition should suffice. There are also electronic editions available for PDAs and Windows for $73, and for Palm PDAs for $60. The Special Forces.com online store sells a smaller 7.5" x 4.75" format edition (a bit harder to read), but they do sell it in combination with a CD-ROM.



www.survivalblog.com
23096  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article on: July 13, 2009, 12:28:16 PM
The key of course is achieving the outside angle and having the ability to read that the front hand is a jab and not a hook  shocked cheesy  which is why I (and you?) prefer to have an engagement with the front hand.
23097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Down the memory hole on: July 13, 2009, 07:38:11 AM
Obama Rewrites the Cold War
The President has a duty to stand up to the lies of our enemies.Article Comments (44) more in Opinion »Email Printer
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By LIZ CHENEY
There are two different versions of the story of the end of the Cold War: the Russian version, and the truth. President Barack Obama endorsed the Russian version in Moscow last week.

Speaking to a group of students, our president explained it this way: "The American and Soviet armies were still massed in Europe, trained and ready to fight. The ideological trenches of the last century were roughly in place. Competition in everything from astrophysics to athletics was treated as a zero-sum game. If one person won, then the other person had to lose. And then within a few short years, the world as it was ceased to be. Make no mistake: This change did not come from any one nation. The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful."

The truth, of course, is that the Soviets ran a brutal, authoritarian regime. The KGB killed their opponents or dragged them off to the Gulag. There was no free press, no freedom of speech, no freedom of worship, no freedom of any kind. The basis of the Cold War was not "competition in astrophysics and athletics." It was a global battle between tyranny and freedom. The Soviet "sphere of influence" was delineated by walls and barbed wire and tanks and secret police to prevent people from escaping. America was an unmatched force for good in the world during the Cold War. The Soviets were not. The Cold War ended not because the Soviets decided it should but because they were no match for the forces of freedom and the commitment of free nations to defend liberty and defeat Communism.

It is irresponsible for an American president to go to Moscow and tell a room full of young Russians less than the truth about how the Cold War ended. One wonders whether this was just an attempt to push "reset" -- or maybe to curry favor. Perhaps, most concerning of all, Mr. Obama believes what he said.

Mr. Obama's method for pushing reset around the world is becoming clearer with each foreign trip. He proclaims moral equivalence between the U.S. and our adversaries, he readily accepts a false historical narrative, and he refuses to stand up against anti-American lies.

The approach was evident in his speech in Moscow and in his speech in Cairo last month. In Cairo, he asserted there was some sort of equivalence between American support for the 1953 coup in Iran and the evil that the Iranian mullahs have done in the world since 1979. On an earlier trip to Mexico City, the president listened to an extended anti-American screed by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and then let the lies stand by responding only with, "I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for the things that occurred when I was 3 months old."

Asked at a NATO meeting in France in April whether he believed in American exceptionalism, the president said, "I believe in American Exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." In other words, not so much.

The Obama administration does seem to believe in another kind of exceptionalism -- Obama exceptionalism. "We have the best brand on Earth: the Obama brand," one Obama handler has said. What they don't seem to realize is that once you're president, your brand is America, and the American people expect you to defend us against lies, not embrace or ignore them. We also expect you to know your history.

Mr. Obama has become fond of saying, as he did in Russia again last week, that American nuclear disarmament will encourage the North Koreans and the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. Does he really believe that the North Koreans and the Iranians are simply waiting for America to cut funds for missile defense and reduce our strategic nuclear stockpile before they halt their weapons programs?

The White House ought to take a lesson from President Harry Truman. In April, 1950, Truman signed National Security Council report 68 (NSC-68). One of the foundational documents of America's Cold War strategy, NSC-68 explains the danger of disarming America in the hope of appeasing our enemies. "No people in history," it reads, "have preserved their freedom who thought that by not being strong enough to protect themselves they might prove inoffensive to their enemies."

Perhaps Mr. Obama thinks he is making America inoffensive to our enemies. In reality, he is emboldening them and weakening us. America can be disarmed literally -- by cutting our weapons systems and our defensive capabilities -- as Mr. Obama has agreed to do. We can also be disarmed morally by a president who spreads false narratives about our history or who accepts, even if by his silence, our enemies' lies about us.

Ms. Cheney served as deputy assistant secretary of state and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs from 2002-2004 and 2005-2006.
23098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: More Predator strikes on: July 13, 2009, 07:34:13 AM
Several Taliban training camps in the Pakistan hinterland were hit last week by missiles fired from American unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, reportedly killing some 20 terrorists. Remarkably, some people think these strikes are a bad idea.

To get a sense of what U.S. drone strikes have accomplished in the past two years, recall the political furor that followed a July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which found that al Qaeda had "protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland [i.e., U.S.] attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership. . . . As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment." The media declared we were losing the war.

Less than a year later, then-CIA director Michael Hayden offered a far more upbeat assessment to the Washington Post.

 
Associated Press
 
Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-i-Islami rally in Lahore on July 3rd against reported U. S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas along the Afghanistan border.
What changed? At least part of the answer is that the U.S. went from carrying out only a handful of drone attacks in 2007 to more than 30 in 2008. According to U.S. intelligence, among the "high-value targets" killed in these new strikes were al Qaeda spokesman Abu Layth al-Libi, weapons expert Abu Sulayman al Jazairi, chemical and biological expert Abu Khabab al-Masri, commander and logistician Abu Wafa al-Saudi, al Qaeda "Emir" Abu al-Hasan al Rimi, and, in November, Rashid Rauf. Rauf, who had escaped from a Pakistan jail the previous year, was a coordinator of the summer 2007 plot to blow up passenger planes over the Atlantic.

Is the world better off with these people dead? We think so. Then again, Lord Bingham, until recently Britain's senior law lord, has recently said UAV strikes may be "beyond the pale" and potentially on a par with cluster bombs and landmines. Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen says "the Predator [drone] strikes have an entirely negative effect on Pakistani stability." He adds, "We should be cutting strikes back pretty substantially."

In both cases, the argument against drones rests on the belief that the attacks cause wide-scale casualties among noncombatants, thereby embittering local populations and losing hearts and minds. If you glean your information from wire reports -- which depend on stringers who are rarely eyewitnesses -- the argument seems almost plausible.

Yet anyone familiar with Predator technology knows how misleading those reports can be. Unlike fighter jets or cruise missiles, Predators can loiter over their targets for more than 20 hours, take photos in which men, women and children can be clearly distinguished (burqas can be visible from 20,000 feet) and deliver laser-guided munitions with low explosive yields. This minimizes the risks of the "collateral damage" that often comes from 500-pound bombs. Far from being "beyond the pale," drones have made war-fighting more humane.

A U.S. intelligence summary we've seen corrects the record of various media reports claiming high casualties from the Predator strikes. For example, on April 1 the BBC reported that "a missile fired by a suspected U.S. drone has killed at least 10 people in Pakistan." But the intelligence report says that half that number were killed, among them Abdullah Hamas al-Filistini, a top al Qaeda trainer, and that no women and children were present.

In each of the strikes in 2009 that are described by the intelligence summary, the report says no women or children were killed. Moreover, we know of planned drone attacks that were aborted when Predator cameras spied their presence. And an April 19 strike on a compound in South Waziristan did destroy a truck loaded with what the report estimates were more explosives than the truck that took out Islamabad's Marriott Hotel last September. That Islamabad attack killed 54 people and injured more than 260 others, mostly Pakistan civilians but also Americans.

Critics of the drone strikes ought to ask whether, based on this information, the April 19 strike was worth the bad publicity. We'd say yes. We'd also say that the Obama Administration -- which, to its credit, has stepped up the use of Predators -- should make public the kind of information we've seen. We understand there will always be issues concerning sources and methods. But critics of the drone attacks, especially Pakistani critics, have become increasingly vocal in their opposition. They deserve to know about the terrorist calamities they've been spared thanks to these unmanned flights over their territory.

We're delighted to see that Pakistan's military is finally taking the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda after ill-conceived truces that were a source of the country's recent instability. When Pakistan's government can exercise sovereignty over all its territory, there will be no need for Predator strikes. In the meantime, unmanned bombs away.
23099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Seinfeld Hearings on: July 13, 2009, 07:30:29 AM
By RANDY E. BARNETT
If you suspect this week's Senate confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor will be, like "Seinfeld," a show about nothing, you are probably right. To understand why, we need to revisit an era that remade how lawyers and the public think about law, and especially the Constitution.

In the 1930s, academics developed a philosophy they called "legal realism" to undercut judicial resistance to "progressive" statutes such as laws restricting the hours a baker or a woman could work. Legal realism elevated just results over the rule of law. It saw analysis of "the law" as an after-the-fact rationalization that allowed reactionary judges to conceal their empathy for the oppressed. Because legal realists believed judges inevitably made law when they ruled, they thought judges should decide cases with progressive ends in mind.

 
Getty Images
 At the same time, and somewhat inconsistently, realist progressives also condemned judges who declared progressive federal and state laws to be unconstitutional as judicial activists who were thwarting the will of the people. Never mind that the Supreme Court was only tepidly enforcing the original meaning of the Constitution and was upholding the vast majority of enlightened regulations. Any interference of the will of the people was deemed to be undemocratic.

Today we live in a legal world in which many progressives and conservatives share the legal realists' preoccupation with results. So justices must be chosen who will reach the politically correct results or opposed because they will reach the wrong results. Judicial confirmation hearings are thereby turned into a game of gotcha, with questioners trying to trip up the other side's nominees, and nominees quite properly refusing to reveal the only thing their inquisitors truly care about: how they would rule in particular cases that are likely to come before the Court.

But postures must be assumed and questions must be asked. So senators and nominees opine about two empty concepts. The first is "stare decisis" or precedent: Will the nominee follow the hallowed case of U.S. v. Whatchamacallit or not?

Of course, the legal realists detested precedent, which in their time stood in the way of their progressive agenda. Nothing has really changed. Both sides only want to respect the precedents that lead to the results they like. No one thinks justices should follow every precedent, so the crucial issue is picking and choosing which to follow and which to ignore. But how? Well, by the results, of course.

Now, when it comes to the meaning of the Constitution, I agree that precedent should not bind the Supreme Court. The written Constitution remains fixed, regardless of whether past decisions have gotten its meaning wrong. I am grateful that the Supreme Court reversed Plessy v. Ferguson -- the 1896 case that gave us "separate but equal" and an unconstitutional system of racial apartheid. Unfortunately, neither Democratic nor Republican senators will decry the post-New Deal rulings that transformed our constitutional order from what Princeton professor Stephen Macedo has called "islands of [government] powers in a sea of rights" to "islands of rights in a sea of [government] powers." Unless they can explain how we know which precedents to follow and which to reverse -- apart from liking the results -- all pontificating about "stare decisis" is really about nothing.

The second empty issue to be discussed is the bugaboo of "judicial activism" and its conjoined twin, "judicial restraint," which today's judicial conservatives have inherited from New Deal progressives. But what exactly is "activism"? Is it activism when any popularly enacted law is held unconstitutional? Neither Democrats or Republicans truly believe this, however, since they want judges to strike down laws as unconstitutional when doing so leads to the ["]right result["] (but not when it doesn't). So judicial activism means thwarting the "will of the people" when critics agree with the people, while they complain about the "tyranny of the majority" when they disagree.

We can do better.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings do not have to be about either results or nothing. They could be about clauses, not cases. Instead of asking nominees how they would decide particular cases, ask them to explain what they think the various clauses of the Constitution mean. Does the Second Amendment protect an individual right to arms? What was the original meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment? (Hint: It included an individual right to arms.) Does the 14th Amendment "incorporate" the Bill of Rights and, if so, how and why? Does the Ninth Amendment protect judicially enforceable unenumerated rights? Does the Necessary and Proper Clause delegate unlimited discretion to Congress? Where in the text of the Constitution is the so-called Spending Power (by which Congress claims the power to spend tax revenue on anything it wants) and does it have any enforceable limits?

Don't ask how the meaning of these clauses should be applied in particular circumstances. Just ask about the meaning itself and how it should be ascertained. Do nominees think they are bound by the original public meaning of the text? Even those who deny this still typically claim that original meaning is a "factor" or starting point. If so, what other factors do they think a justice should rely on to "interpret" the meaning of the text? Even asking whether "We the People" in the U.S. Constitution originally included blacks and slaves -- as abolitionists like Lysander Spooner and Frederick Douglass contended, or not as Chief Justice Roger Taney claimed in Dred Scott v. Sandford -- will tell us much about a nominee's approach to constitutional interpretation. Given that this is hardly a case that will come before them, on what grounds could nominees refuse to answer such questions?

Of course, inquiring into clauses not cases would require senators to know something about the original meaning of the Constitution. Do they? It would be interesting to hear what Sen. Al Franken thinks about such matters, but no more so than any other member of the Judiciary Committee. Such a hearing would not only be entertaining, it would be informative and educational. After all, it would be about the meaning of the Constitution, which is to say it would be about something.

Mr. Barnett teaches at Georgetown Law and is the author of "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty" (Princeton, 2005).
23100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams on: July 13, 2009, 07:27:59 AM
"If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave."

--John Adams, Rights of the Colonists, 1772
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